Survey: Majority of Americans Afraid of Expressing Political Beliefs


Graham Piro – JULY 22, 2020 2:42 PM

A majority of Americans say they are worried about facing social or professional consequences for their political views, a new survey from the Cato Institute found.

The survey, conducted by Cato in collaboration with YouGov, found 62 percent of Americans self-censor their political expression out of fear of offending others. Majorities across the political spectrum said they are worried about sharing their political opinions, including 52 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents, and 77 percent of Republicans.

Thirty-one percent of liberals, 30 percent of moderates, and 34 percent of conservatives said they are specifically worried about professional retribution for political speech. The only respondent group with a majority confident in sharing political opinions was the “strong liberal” group, 58 percent of whom said they were confident. Fifty-two percent of respondents who identified as “liberal” said the political climate prevents them from sharing some of their beliefs, while 64 percent of “moderate” respondents and 77 percent of “conservative” and “strongly conservative” respondents said the same.

Respondents with stronger ideological leanings expressed support for punishing business executives who engage in political speech, although the sentiment was higher for strong liberals than strong conservatives. Half of “strong liberals” and 36 percent of “strong conservatives” said they support punishing business executives who donate to the opposing party’s presidential candidate.

A Politico survey found that more Americans are becoming aware of so-called cancel culture, a social trend in which views are regulated through public shaming and self-censorship. Almost half of respondents told the outlet cancel culture had “gone too far,” and only a quarter of respondents said they were not familiar with or had no opinion on the matter.

Cancel culture has gained prominence as more private citizens have faced real-world consequences for controversies that grew online. Recent examples include a high school teacher and coach who said he was fired for writing that “Trump is our president” on social media, a power company worker falsely accused of flashing a “white-power” sign, and an immigrant owner of a catering company whose daughter had written offensive social media posts as a teenager.

New York Times opinion editor James Bennet resigned from the paper after the opinion section ran an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) that a group of staffers claimed put black Times employees “in danger.” Opinion editor Bari Weiss also resigned from the paper, citing harassment she experienced from her colleagues, and Andrew Sullivan said he left New York magazine because he has “no idea what version of conservatism could ever be tolerated” in the future.

At the beginning of the month, an open letter in Harper’s Magazine defending the free exchange of ideas roiled progressives online and caused three of the letter’s signers to withdraw their signatures. A response letter argued that the Harper’s letter was a “caustic reaction to a diversifying industry” and accused free speech advocates of using “nebulous concepts and coded language” to uphold institutional norms that protect bigotry.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Survey: Majority of Americans Afraid of Expressing Political Beliefs”

Note: This is Washington Free Beacon’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China party mouthpiece says no Internet freedom without order, as US TV shows pulled


The company logo of Sina Corp is seen atop their headquarters in Beijing, April 17, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/China Daily

The company logo of Sina Corp is seen atop their headquarters in Beijing, April 17, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/China Daily

There can be no Internet freedom without order, China’s top Communist Party newspaper said on Monday after several U.S. television shows were pulled from Chinese video sites, the latest signs of Beijing’s tightening grip on online content.

The removal of the shows coincides with a broad crackdown on online freedom of expression that has intensified since President Xi Jinping came to power last year and drawn criticism from rights advocates at home and abroad.

Authorities last week also stepped up their battle against pornography, revoking some online publication licenses of one of China’s largest Internet firms, Sina Corp, for allowing “lewd and pornographic” content.

“While ordinary people and governments have enjoyed the conveniences brought by the Internet, they have also in turn experienced the Internet’s negative effects and hidden security dangers,” the People’s Daily, the party’s main mouthpiece, said in a commentary.

It was published under the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, meaning “Voice of China”, often used to give views on foreign policy.

“If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom? Anyone enjoying and exercising their Internet rights and freedoms must not harm the public interest and cannot violate laws and regulations and public ethics,” the paper said.

Four U.S. television shows, The Big Bang Theory, The Practice, The Good Wife and NCIS, were ordered removed from video websites at the weekend by the government, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The series are all popular and it was not clear why these particular programs had been singled out.

Searches on Youku Tudou, Sohu and Tencent, which provide the shows, produced messages that the content was temporarily unavailable.

“I believe it’s a standalone event and it doesn’t represent a policy change toward American TV shows,” Sohu CEO Charles Zhang told a conference call with reporters.

The directive, he said, gave no explanation for the take-down notice and he declined to comment further. Youku Tudou and Tencent declined comment on the order.

Earlier on Monday, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) told Reuters it had acquired the exclusive broadcasting rights for The Big Bang Theory, but did not specify whether or not the license was only for TV.

TIGHTER REGULATIONS

The removal of the shows followed a directive from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) last month that tightened the process for broadcasting television programs and short films online.

Programs and films lacking licenses are not permitted to be shown online, according to the SARFT directive. Penalties include a warning and a fine and, in serious cases, a five-year ban on operations and investment in online programming.

But there are no specific regulations governing overseas TV programs licensed by Chinese websites, said one person who works at an online video site, adding that regulation was expected at some point but with a minor impact on the industry.

Nonetheless, the lack of clarity from both the government and the companies involved raises questions about whether foreign programs will be subject to greater scrutiny.

China’s online video market was worth 12.8 billion yuan ($2.05 billion) in 2013, according to Chinese data firm iResearch. Market value is expected to almost triple by 2017.

SARFT has been in discussions with online video sites about greater control of their content since 2009, according to people familiar with the matter.

China maintains tight control over the media. Censorship is widespread, and Internet users cannot access information about many topics without special software to circumvent restrictions.

Online video sites are extremely popular and can act as a lodestone for comment on social issues.

The Communist Party last year renewed a campaign on online interaction, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumors on microblogs like Sina Weibo, are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.

The campaign has muted online demands from advocates of transparency, who see it as a tool to punish Party critics.

($1 = 6.2536 Chinese yuan)

Source: Reuters “China party mouthpiece says no Internet freedom without order, as US TV shows pulled”

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Man confesses in first public trial in China’s rumor crackdown: Xinhua


A popular internet microblogger confessed in court to spreading rumors about the Chinese government, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday, in the first public trial since China began cracking down on online rumors last year.

Rights advocates say China’s campaign to quash online rumors, which began last summer, is tantamount to crushing free expression. The government says the crackdown is necessary to preserve social stability.

Online rumors are particularly pervasive in China, where traditional media is heavily regulated by the government and public trust in the media is low.

Qin Zhihui invented a story that the Chinese government gave 200 million yuan ($32.5 million) in compensation to the family of a foreign passenger killed in a high-speed train crash in 2011, Xinhua said.

He posted the rumor on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblog, and the story was shared widely by other microblog users, Xinhua said.

According to the Xinhua report, Qin also told false stories about a popular television starlet and other celebrities.

No comment was available from Qin and Xinhua gave no indication of any defense he raised in court. The trial is continuing, Xinhua said.

The ruling Communist Party’s campaign to control online discourse threatens criminal penalties against those who spread rumors on microblogs that are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 users.

Source: Reuters “Man confesses in first public trial in China’s rumor crackdown: Xinhua”

China, rumor crackdown, freedom of expression, Qin Zhihui, online rumor

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Taiwan protesters dig in over China trade bill


Protesters are seen outside Taiwan's legislature in Taipei, March 21, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Patrick Lin

Protesters are seen outside Taiwan’s legislature in Taipei, March 21, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Patrick Lin

Thousands of young people in Taiwan waved banners and shouted slogans on Friday, marking the third day of their occupation of parliament to protest against a trade pact with China they fear could further swell Beijing’s economic influence.

Parliamentary approval of the pact would pave the way for greater economic integration between the two former geopolitical foes, by opening 80 of China’s service sectors to Taiwan and 64 Taiwan sectors to China.

Protesters demanding a presidential audience and brandishing sunflowers as a symbol of hope flooded parliament and the surrounding streets.

They held up signs opposing both the pact on trade in services with mainland China, the island’s biggest export destination, and what they called the undemocratic methods used to push the bill over an initial legislative hurdle.

“We oppose the abuse of power by a small political body to ram through this bill,” said college student Blink Lin, 25, one of hundreds of protesters crowding the floor of parliament.

The protesters had used chairs to blockade the chamber doors, and strung its walls with posters condemning President Ma Ying-jeou.

Ma and his ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT) have promoted the pact, which faces a final review in parliament on April 8, as necessary to maintain Taiwan’s competitiveness and status as an export powerhouse.

They have called it a precondition for Taiwan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade deal among 12 countries, spearheaded by the United States.

“We’re scared of the effect China’s influence could have on our freedom of speech,” said Yoyo Wu, who has been camping on the floor of parliament since Tuesday, when protesters smashed doors and repulsed police efforts to remove them.

Taiwan is a former dictatorship that made a peaceful transition to democracy in the late 1980s, and now boasts one of Asia’s most freewheeling democracies. Fights in parliament are common, and protests are almost a daily occurrence.

NO TIMETABLE FOR MEETING

In a statement on Friday, Ma did not set a timetable for meeting with student leaders, but said he wanted to build consensus and urged the protesters to let parliament resume.

On its website, his KMT party condemned efforts by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to block the pact, and characterized the students as pawns of the DPP.

The pact is an economic matter, not a political matter, it said, blaming the DPP for stirring up the protest out of a “knee-jerk desire” to block everything related to China.

The DPP supported the students’ freedom of expression, a party spokesman said, but denied instigating the protest.

The DPP has said it fears the pact will hurt small service companies and damage Taiwan’s economy. But it lacks the numbers to block the bill’s final passage.

China has made no official comment on the protests, though the influential Global Times tabloid said in an editorial on Friday the protest “shames Taiwan democracy”.

Taiwan and China have been ruled separately since the Communists took power on the mainland in 1949, though relations have warmed considerably since the China-friendly Ma won the presidency in 2008 and secured re-election in 2012.

China still regards Taiwan as a renegade province, to be regained by force if necessary, and many in Taiwan are wary of the warming ties Ma’s administration promotes.

Source: Reuters “Taiwan protesters dig in over China trade bill”

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Censors were at WeChat offices before crackdown on accounts


Censors were stationed for a week at the offices of Tencent’s popular social media service WeChat before dozens of prominent accounts were closed or suspended, a source has said.

The move, on the closing day of the National People’s Congress, marked an intensification of the internet crackdown under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, observers said.

Internet users noticed on Thursday evening that at least 35 WeChat public accounts, many known for carrying commentaries on current affairs, were no longer available due to what a system message said was “violation of regulations”.

A source told the South China Morning Post that a team of internet censors had been sent to WeChat’s Guangzhou office, where they remained for about a week before the crackdown.

The Beijing-based industry insider, who asked not to be named, said the censors asked WeChat to conduct self-censorship in relation to popular public accounts that provided sensitive content on national politics, while they also named some accounts to be shut down.

“It might be related to some sensitive articles published by Tencent recently,” the source said. “It feels like a punishment of Tencent, and we expect the censorship on WeChat will be stricter.”

Zhang Lifan, a Beijing-based political affairs analyst, said: “Of course the shutdown is ordered from above.Tencent is a victim too.”

Zhang said some account holders may have been tipped off about the crackdown, as he noticed they had stopped posting sensitive content two or three days ago.

“The closing day of important meetings seems to have become a regular time to clamp down on freedom of expression,” said Zhang, whose WeChat public account, Sina Weibo account and blogs were shut in November on the day the party Central Committee’s third plenum ended.

Another account holder affected is Xu Xin, a law professor at BeijingTechnologyUniversity. Xu, who had more than 30,000 subscribers, said the move was unwarranted. His recent postings were only about films and law. “Which one of my article is sensitive? Which law did I violate? Who reported me? Why can’t I appeal?” he asked.

Owners of affected accounts and their followers have been quick to turn to alternative platforms. Xu said he had since authorised Lawside, another WeChat public account to publish his articles “at [their] own risk”.

Xu Danei, whose WeChat account, with an estimated 200,000 subscribers, was also shut, encouraged his followers to turn to a content-delivery app he had developed.

The South China Morning Post reported that foreign media were warned ahead of Premier Li Keqiang’s press conference on Thursday not to raise the graft investigation into ex-security tsar Zhou Yongkang .

“The warning and the WeChat crackdown on the same day may be linked”, Zhang said. “[The crackdown] is possibly a pre-emptive muting as part of a round of intensified censorship as the party prepares to make the announcement [of Zhou’s fate].”

Tencent’s investor relations director, Yuntao Huang, did not comment on the reasons for the crackdown.

Source: SCMP “Censors were at WeChat offices before crackdown on accounts”

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China’s Xi to run Internet security body: state media


China's President Xi Jinping waves from the presidential tribune at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, February 7, 2014.   Credit: Reuters/Lionel Bonaventure/Pool

China’s President Xi Jinping waves from the presidential tribune at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, February 7, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Lionel Bonaventure/Pool

Chinese President Xi Jinping is to take the reins of a government body for Internet security and aims to turn China into a “cyber power”, official state media reported on Thursday, as the country steadily tightens its grip online.

Since coming to power, Xi has presided over an intensifying online crackdown that has drawn criticism from rights groups and dissidents at home and abroad.

China has also faced growing accusations of carrying out state-sponsored hacking attacks around the world, charges the government strongly denies.

Among the security body’s aims would be to coordinate Internet security among different sectors, and to draft national strategies, development plans and major policies, Xi was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

“Efforts should be made to build our country into a cyber power,” he said, adding that without Internet security, there was no national security.

Last year a secretive Chinese military unit believed to be behind a series of hacking attacks was brought to light by a U.S. security group [ID:nL4N0BJ3QA], and in December another security firm said Chinese hackers had spied on European foreign ministries before a G20 meeting. [ID:nL1N0JP0BY]

Xi also said that working on public opinion online was a long-term responsibility, and the Internet could be used to “spread discipline”.

Laws would be drawn up to “perfect Internet information content management”, to help manage cyberspace and protect people’s legal rights, he said.

Last year, China’s Communist Party renewed a heavy-handed campaign to control online interaction, threatening legal action against people whose perceived rumors on microblogs such as Sina Weibo are reposted more than 500 times or seen by more than 5,000 people.

Rights groups and dissidents have criticized the crackdown as another tool for the party to limit criticism and to further control freedom of expression.

The government says such steps are needed for social stability and says every country in the world seeks to regulate the Internet.

China has the world’s most sophisticated online censorship system, known outside the country as the Great Firewall. It blocks many social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others, along with many sites hosted in Taiwan and those of rights groups and some foreign media agencies.

Source: Reuters “China’s Xi to run Internet security body: state media”

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Wife of jailed Chinese Nobel Laureate appeals for his retrial


Workers prepare the Nobel Peace Prize laureate exhibition ''I Have No Enemies'' for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo December 9, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

Workers prepare the Nobel Peace Prize laureate exhibition ”I Have No Enemies” for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo December 9, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Toby Melville

The wife of jailed Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo has filed an extraordinary appeal for his retrial, his lawyer said on Tuesday, in a move that could renew the focus on China’s human rights record.

The news comes two weeks ahead of a visit to China by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, during which human rights will likely be raised amid a broader crackdown on dissent and freedom of speech and assembly.

Liu, a veteran dissident involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests crushed by the Chinese army, was jailed in 2009 for 11 years, on subversion charges for organizing a petition urging the overthrow of one-party rule.

He was the organizer of “Charter 08”, a manifesto for political reform.

His wife Liu Xia, who has been under effective house arrest since he won the Nobel Prize in 2010, met Liu in October in prison in northeastern Liaoning province and got his approval for the appeal, prominent human rights lawyer Mo Shaoping told Reuters.

“Whether Liu Xiaobo’s viewpoints in his articles are correct or wrong, whether he drafted “Charter 08″ and whether those views are wrong or right, this is a citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression,” Mo said.

“This is the constitutional right granted to every citizen and does not constitute a crime, so we are requesting that the courts hear this case again and find Liu Xiaobo not guilty.”

Liu Xiaobo’s imprisonment has drawn the condemnation of Western governments and fellow Nobel Laureates, who have been lobbying for his release.

Mo said his colleague, Shang Baojun, another prominent human rights lawyer, traveled last week to Jinzhou prison, where Liu Xiaobo is jailed, to request a meeting with him.

Prison officials said they could not decide in such an “extremely sensitive” case, and would consult with higher-ranked leaders, Mo said, but he has not heard back from authorities.

Prison officials at Jinzhou could not be reached for comment.

Mo said Liu Xia chose to file the appeal at this time because of the treatment suffered by her brother, Liu Hui, whose appeal was rejected in August by a Chinese court that upheld his 11-year sentence on fraud charges. The case is seen as another example of official retribution inflicted on the Liu family.

China has denounced the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, calling it a “political farce” that did not represent the majority of the world, and especially not developing nations.

China called the award an “obscenity” that should not have gone to a man it calls a criminal, and exerted diplomatic pressure on countries not to attend the award ceremony in Oslo.

Liu Xia is rarely allowed out of her home, except for occasional visits to her husband and family, and is almost never permitted visitors. She has not been convicted of any crime.

Source: Reuters “Wife of jailed Chinese Nobel Laureate appeals for his retrial”


Netizens Decry Subversion Charges over Critique of Party Ideology


SCMP reports: “A laid-off teacher who criticised state-sanctioned political ideologies on mainland blogging sites has been charged with inciting subversion of state power, sparking outrage among netizens.

“Chen Pingfu, 55, published more than 30 articles ‘attacking the Communist Party and government, and defaming and tarnishing the socialist system’, according to state charges.”

“Chen also called for Western-style democracy, according to the indictment, which was posted on Sina’s popular micro-blogging site.”

At his trial, he “said all the articles were based on the right of freedom of expression, enshrined in the country’s constitution.”

“Internet users have come out in support of Chen, compiling lists of his articles that are still available online, and the case has sparked concern among other bloggers that they could face similar charges.”

For details of the report, please visit SCMP website at:

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1031956/internet-users-decry-subversion-charges-over-ex-teachers-blog-articles


SCMP.com – Morality campaign ‘doomed to fail’


SCMP says, “Beijing authorities yesterday published a collection of books on moral values as part of a new campaign to rein in growing corruption among Communist Party cadres.

 

“However, analysts say that is unlikely to work in the absence of the rule of law and the freedom for citizens to criticise the government.

 

“The four-volume set, entitled The Study of Officials’ Moral Integrity in Ancient and Contemporary China, will be used as educational material for party cadres, the state-run Beijing Daily said.”

via SCMP.com – Morality campaign ‘doomed to fail’.