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Outcry as UK publisher censors content for China
London (AFP) Aug 18, 2017

Widow of late Chinese Nobel laureate reappears in video
Beijing (AFP) Aug 19, 2017 - The widow of late Chinese Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo has resurfaced in an online video, weeks after her friends raised concerns about her fate at the hands of the authorities.

Liu Xia was last seen in government-released images of her dissident husband's sea burial on July 15, and China has been under international pressure to free her and let her travel abroad.

Liu Xia, 56, has been under de facto house arrest since her husband won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, despite having never been charged with a crime.

"I am recovering in a province outside of Beijing. I ask you to give me time to mourn," said Liu in the minute-long video posted Friday on YouTube, a website blocked in Communist-ruled China.

Dressed in a black t-shirt and black trousers, Liu Xia was sitting on a sofa next to a coffee table while holding a lit cigarette.

"I will see you one day in top form. While Xiaobo was sick, he also looked at life and death with some distance, so I also have to readjust. I will be with you again when my situation generally improves," she said.

The name of the film-maker, the place and date of filming, were not specified, but it would be unusual for the video to be released without the knowledge of the authorities. Plainclothes security agents guard Liu Xia's Beijing apartment.

"It is certain that she was forced by the authorities to make this video," Hu Jia, a Chinese dissident and friend of the couple, told AFP on Saturday.

"How can anyone who does not even enjoy freedom express her will freely?"

Ye Du, another dissident close to Liu's wife added: "She said that to protect her family, because the current situation is that even her family can not get in touch with her."

Liu Xia's lawyer, who has filed a complaint to the United Nations, has accused the Chinese government of her "enforced disappearance".

But the local authorities have said she is a free citizen who was merely too grief-stricken by her husband's death to be in touch with any friends or lawyers.

Beijing has arrested a string of critics, activists and human rights lawyers as part of a campaign to tighten controls on civil society that began in 2012 when President Xi Jinping took power.

This latest incident comes as the ruling Communist Party prepares for a congress later this year that is expected to cement Xi's position as the most powerful Chinese leader in a generation.

William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong said he thinks Liu Xia will remain under house arrest ahead of the event in the autumn.

"I think they will most likely continue to put her under illegal house arrest and control her movements," he said.

"Especially because the 19th Party Congress is coming up and historically, the government doesn't want any political issues to dominate the news in the months before."

- Global backlash -

Beijing has already faced a global backlash over its treatment of Liu Xiaobo, who became the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in custody since German pacifist Carl von Ossietzky in 1938.

Following his terminal cancer diagnosis, Liu requested to receive treatment abroad -- a wish that friends believe was in reality for his wife's sake -- but the government refused to release him.

A veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, Liu was sentenced to 11 years in jail in 2009 for "subversion" after pushing for democratic reforms.

He died aged 61 while still in custody at a Chinese hospital on July 13, after losing his battle with liver cancer.

His death triggered rage and frustration among the dissident community and an outpouring of grief in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where pro-democracy forces also contend with an increasingly assertive Beijing.

Cambridge University Press, the world's oldest publisher, said Friday it had blocked access to some of its own academic articles in China, prompting an international outcry among scholars.

"We can confirm that we received an instruction from a Chinese import agency to block individual articles from (the journal) China Quarterly within China," the British publisher said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Cambridge University Press (CUP) said it had complied with the request "to ensure that other academic and educational materials we publish remain available to researchers and educators in this market".

CUP, which published its first book in 1584, said it would block access again if asked to do so "when the wider availability of content is at risk".

But the company said it was "troubled by the recent increase in requests of this nature" and was planning to address the issue in meetings with Chinese officials at the Beijing Book Fair next week.

The censorship of the digital version of a respected scholarly journal caused an outcry among international academics, who saw it as a curb on academic freedom and an attempt to censor history.

Christopher Balding, economics professor at Peking University in Shenzhen, China, launched a petition to protest.

"We call upon Cambridge University Press to refuse the censorship request," read the petition.

The China Quarterly's editor Tim Pringle said access to over 300 articles and reviews had been blocked.

"This restriction of academic freedom is not an isolated move but an extension of policies that have narrowed the space for public engagement and discussion across Chinese society," he wrote.

- Accused of being 'complicit' -

Pringle published a list Friday on the journal's website of the censored content, including many articles about the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and the Chinese democracy movement.

"Attaching your name and reputation to a censored history is to be complicit in creating it," said Greg Distelhorst, a professor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in the United States.

"CQ's status as a leading journal is precisely why publishing a politically sanitized edition in China will do so much harm," he wrote on Twitter.

China's internet is already considered one of the most tightly-controlled in the world, with a censorship system known as the "Great Firewall".

Many foreign news and social media websites, such as Facebook and The New York Times, are blocked.

But new restrictive measures have multiplied in recent months, with content such as celebrity gossip blogs and online video streaming sites hit by the regulations.

Last month, the Cyberspace Administration directed the country's biggest technology firms -- including Baidu, Tencent and Sohu -- to shut down accounts on their networks that publish "bad information".

The content was deemed to misinterpret policy directives and distort Chinese Communist Party history.

Another mandate in the new web laws requires online platforms to get a licence to post news reports or commentary about the government, economy, military, foreign affairs and social issues.

There has also been increasing concern among internet users that they will completely lose access to virtual private networks (VPN), software which allows people to circumvent the Great Firewall.


Hong Kong's Umbrella Movement leaders jailed
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 17, 2017
Joshua Wong and two other young leaders of Hong Kong's huge Umbrella Movement rallies were jailed Thursday for their role in the 2014 pro-democracy protests, dealing a fresh blow to the campaign for political reform. The sentences handed down by the city's Court of Appeal came as fears grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city and that rule of law is being compromi ... read more

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