Monthly Archives: 12月 2015

Vivienne Zeng:Where is legal sector’s conscience and courage, asks Beijing law professor after Pu trial

Peking University law professor He Weifang has spoken out against a Beijing court’s decision to sentence prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang to a three-year suspended jailed term over social media posts.

In an op-ed titled “Where is the legal sector’s conscience and courage?” the Chinese legal heavyweight argues that the charges against Pu – inciting ethnic hatred and “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” – are baseless.

Pu Zhiqiang0

pu zhiqiangPu Zhiqiang. Photo:

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Ai Weiwei: Courage on Trial in China

Reprinted from the New York Times 

BERLIN — In April 2011, I was kidnapped by the Chinese undercover police at a Beijing airport and detained at a secret location for 81 days. After my release, the government charged me with tax evasion, even though most of the questions during my confinement centered on my political activities. They demanded that I pay back taxes and a fine totaling $2.4 million, and when I asked why the shakedown, one official replied, “If we don’t penalize you, you won’t give us any peace.” Continue reading

156. PU ZHIQIANG (released)

Pu Zhiqiang1Pen name              

Sex                              Male

Birth date                1965-01-17

Birth place               Luan County, Tangshan City, Hebei Province

Resident place         Beijing City Continue reading

Pu Zhiqiang: China rights lawyer gets suspended jail sentence

Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has been released from detention after receiving a suspended jail sentence.

Mr Pu was found guilty by a Beijing court earlier on Tuesday for “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels” in social media posts.

The court sentenced him to three years in prison but also said the sentence would be suspended.

He is the latest to be tried in a crackdown on dissidents in China.

Mr Pu was released from Beijing’s Number One Detention Centre on Tuesday afternoon, where he had been held for 19 months.

He is now under “residential surveillance”, and has 10 days to decide whether to appeal against his conviction and sentence, his lawyer says.

Experts say the suspended sentence means Mr Pu can avoid serving time in jail – but could be monitored during the suspension period. The guilty verdict means he can no longer practise law.


A female activist was dragged away by plainclothes police

Mr Pu could have faced a maximum sentence of eight years in prison.

State news agency Xinhua said that during his sentencing Mr Pu had “acknowledged the reality of his crimes”, apologised, and accepted his sentence. However, his lawyers said he had not pleaded guilty.

Rights group Amnesty International said that the sentence was “a deliberate attempt by the Chinese authorities to shackle a champion of freedom of expression”.

However, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Mr Pu’s case had been handled “in accordance with the law” and that “foreign governments should respect China’s judicial sovereignty”.


Mr Pu was swiftly driven away from the detention centre on Tuesday afternoon. Photo provided to BBC

Mr Pu has been in detention since May 2014, after he posted several messages on microblogging platform Weibo that were critical of the government.

He had questioned the “excessively violent” crackdown on Uighurs in the restive Xinjiang region, alleged the Chinese Communist Party was an untruthful party, and mocked government rhetoric over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Supporters say his arrest was politically motivated, as he is known for representing dissidents in sensitive human rights cases.

Pu Zhiqiang represented artist Ai Weiwei in a tax evasion case that critics complained was politically motivated. He also campaigned for the eventual abolition of the labour camp system, under which suspects could be detained for years without trial.


Ai Weiwei (left) has condemned the sentence. AFP


Prior to the sentencing, a small group of activists and foreign journalists gathered in front of the court. There were brief scuffles with the police, in a repeat of scenes seen last week during Mr Pu’s one-day trial.

A BBC team witnessed supporters and journalists being dragged away by dozens of plainclothes policemen. The BBC team was later asked to leave.

Amnesty said at least 12 activists were detained on Tuesday.

Human rights activist Hu Jia told the BBC that China’s authorities had “attacked a leading human rights lawyer… as a warning to other rights lawyers [in China].”

International interest in his case could have contributed to his jail sentence being suspended, Mr Hu said, but added that Mr Pu was still at risk of being persecuted by the authorities.

At the scene: Stephen Evans, BBC News, Beijing

Pu Zhiqiang is something of a celebrity as a lawyer. He’s a big, bear-like man with a baritone voice who has defended a range of causes, especially those involving freedom of speech and detention in labour camps.

He mixes popular street speech with allusions to classical literature in a powerful rhetorical fashion. “Feisty” is an adjective often used to describe him.

He has also been a thorn in the side of the authorities since his imprisonment in 1989 as a student pro-democracy protester.

His defenders say his current treatment is not because of the content of the seven posts on social media cited by the authorities. Rather, they say, it is to send a warning to dissidents – and the lawyers of dissidents.


Michael Mitchell: Chinese Law on Trial

John SudworthInfluential civil rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is finally set to face trial this coming Monday in Beijing for his politically controversial online comments.

“[But] he said he didn’t think he had incited ethnic hatred or provoked trouble”.

Friends and supporters of Pu Zhiqiang attempted to hold up placards defending him, and chanted “Pu Zhiqiang is innocent”, before being set upon by security forces in plain clothes.

Police forcefully barred observers – including diplomats, journalists and supporters – from entering the courtroom. A year after his detention, Chinese authorities began a major crackdown that led to the arrest of at least 230 lawyers across the country, some of whom are still missing.

“Lawyers and civil society leaders such as Mr. Pu should not be subject to continuing repression, but should be allowed to contribute to the building of a prosperous and stable China”.

A spokesperson for the United States Embassy in Beijing reportedly expressed “great concern” over the incident, while the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China condemned “the harassment of and violence against” reporters covering the trial.

China routinely prosecutes activists and dissidents under a law forbidding “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and dismisses any criticism of its rights record. Dan Biers, an official at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, was jostled down the street by police as he tried to read out a statement denouncing the lawyer’s treatment.

Police tried to prevent Biers from reading out a statement near the courthouse, pushing him and foreign reporters out of the way.

“Pu’s trial is extremely important – he’s the ultimate canary in the coal mine”, Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch said. We need freedom of speech! One accused the Communist Party of “secrecy, cheating, passing the buck, delay” and another criticised its policies towards the troubled Muslim, Uighur-minority province of Xinjiang. On WeChat, a popular messaging service similar to Facebook, some users shared posts in support of the lawyer, while others switched their profile pictures to an image of Pu.

In a trial that lasted less than four hours, another defence lawyer, Si Weijiang, said Beijing’s Number Two Intermediate People’s Court considered the evidence – seven posts Pu made on a microblog between 2011 and 2014.

Pu took up the law after joining the pro-democracy demonstrations on Tiananmen Square in 1989, which were violently broken up by the army. He said Pu was not asked whether he admitted to his guilt during the trial. Pu also mocked Mao Xinyu, who is Mao Zedong’s grandson.

The charges against Pu Zhiqiang are based on seven of his 20,000 messages on the microblogging site Weibo.

Also on Monday, a Beijing court has recommended a suspended death sentence for the wife of disgraced Politburo member Bo Xilai be commuted to life in prison, after she showed repentance and committed no further crime, Chinese media said on Monday.


Nobel winning writer Svetlana Alexievich returns to Belarus

Born in Ukraine in 1948 Alexievich was recognised for her portrayal of life in the Soviet Union

Nobel literature prize winner Svetlana Alexievich has been greeted by her fans on her return to Belarus. At Minsk airport she answered well-wishers who said she had made them cry with happiness. Continue reading

The best feasts quotes in literature

From Keats to Harry Potter to Christina Rossetti to Wind in the Willows, we have mouthwatering quotes from the greatest literary feasts to whet your appetite for Christmas indulgences.

favourite literary feast

What’s your favourite literary feast? Photograph: alamy

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The real future of electronic literature

Nov 23rd 2015, 13:58 by A.C.

20151128_bkp502IAIN PEARS’s new novel “Arcadia” comes as a 600-page hardback, as befits the current trend for literary doorstoppers. But that’s not how the book was conceived and written. “Arcadia” the app, came first, and is another creature altogether. The e-novel gathers up ten characters in three different worlds, and presents them as a skein of coloured, intersecting lines. Short bursts of text propel the characters onward, or across into another storyline: the choice depends upon the reader.

This is not a standard “choose your adventure” book, however. Mr Pears, the best-selling author of “An Instance of the Fingerpost”, had a more radical project in mind. What is unique about “Arcadia”—and intriguing as an experiment in interactive fiction—is the fact that each reader experiences the story differently. Mr Pears controls the story universe, but how readers weave the three tales—pastoral utopia, 1950s Oxford and dystopian future—is deeply individual. “There are readers who are ‘acrossers’ and others who are ‘up and downers’,” says Henry Volans, director of Faber Press, a division of the app’s publisher, Faber & Faber. “It’s meant to be a rabbit hole that encourages all sorts of reading.”

Until now, most e-reading has been static, or pepped up with audio or video enhancements. Mr Pears’s attempt to break from the physical page is subtle, but nonetheless bold. His time-travelling tale is, among other things, a metafictional meditation on storytelling. What is cause, what effect? Do we make our stories, or do our stories make us? Its digital form brilliantly expresses the parallels, overlapping paths and coincidences that are his story’s subject. Reading forward, then doubling back, following a different character to a point where many paths cross, the reader experiences the same events through multiple eyes. Recognition brings a satisfying shock: a sort of enhanced déjà vu, as the story solders itself in the mind.

“Arcadia” is all the more noteworthy for the fact that large publishers have largely given up experimenting in this realm. Most have turned away from costly innovations that have not paid off, like enhanced e-books, focusing instead on using digital tools to support the broader reading ecosystem. The Kindle, for its part, has stopped evolving, as the book theorist Craig Mod recently glumly noted. The market for e-readers is so saturated that Waterstones no longer stocks the devices. Publishers prefer to explore new ways to marry print and digital. Melville House has a line of “illuminated” novels with QR codes that lead to extra digital content; Picador published “The Kills” in 2013, a “digital-first” thriller that links to online films from characters’ points of view. FSG’s “The Silent History“, a multi-author 2012 serial story in an app, is marketed now as a print novel. Random House, meanwhile, offers a straightforward series of classic stories for mobile phones called “Storycuts“.

This leaves writers and artists to play digitally on their own. The first chapter of David Mitchell’s new novel, “Slade House,” is told in Tweet-length pulses; Jennifer Egan used the platform to serially deliver her story “Black Box”. Neither, however, exploits Twitter’s unique form of public conversation. The same can be said of Wattpad, a site on which writers upload works in progress; for all its millions of users, the fiction it inspires is not especially interactive. Its chief value is as a springboard, as British author Emily Benet learned when 2.2m Wattpad followers helped to land her a publishing contract.

Unsurprisingly, it is creative startups that are experimenting most boldly. The Circumstance art collective in Bristol will soon publish a new version of “These Pages Fall Like Ash”, a combination of a print book and an urban-walking app that overlays an imaginary world onto the physical. “Abra” is a fine book and an app that makes poetry magically form and reform. Software developers, meanwhile, are cooking up apps that combine narrative with games. “Gone Home” is a mystery in which the reader/viewer enters an empty mansion and follows clues to unlock text that tells the story of the vanished occupants. In “Device 6“, readers puzzle out a similar mystery chapter by chapter. Such “story exploration games” reveal narrative through gamelike moves, adding graphics to the text-based genre known as interactive fiction (IF).

Many believe this is the real future of electronic literature. If it’s hard to imagine a truly digital novel, it is because “we already have digital narratives—they’re called videogames,” argues Lincoln Michel of Electric Literature, a web site. Naomi Alderman, an award-winning British novelist who is also the author of “Zombies, Run!” a jogging app that has sold 2m copies, concurs. “There’s nothing like a novel to take you into the individual consciousness of a writer. But there are things that are choice-based that only video games can do.”

New narrative games like the prize-winning “80 Days“, based on Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days”, allow players to experience a story not just as reader, but as protagonist. In these graphically rich narrative worlds, readers both lose and gain. What’s lost is our own imaginative rendering of a story world—arguably literature’s most distinctive feature. But what is gained is a truly empathic connection with the protagonist. “It’s about complicity,” Emily Short, a noted IF writer and critic, recently observed at the London Literature Festival. “You are in the position of being the idiot going into the basement, instead of the one shouting at the screen.”

Homo sapiens has always been a storytelling animal; so is homo digitalis. The difference is that in the digital environment, reading breaks the page, says Tom Abba, a scholar of digital narrative at the University of the West of England. “We’re trying to nudge the reader into a new kind of relationship with the story,” he says. In other words, better hold on: the digital ride is just beginning.