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HomeOpinionChinascopeRestricting citizens’ entry-exit to targeting academia, China grows more authoritarian

Restricting citizens’ entry-exit to targeting academia, China grows more authoritarian

China stopped issuing new passports for non-essential travel in 2021. Citizens have to come up with fake job offers to get a new passport.

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Beijing defends its ‘entry-exit policy’ for citizens. Chinese antitrust authority targets academic database company CNKI. Tibet Airlines Flight TV9833 suffers damage during take-off. India redeploys troops to check China’s military exercise. Chinascope brings you the key stories from China – and the world.

China over the week

The Chinese government’s long arm was seen at work in Shanghai, as the National Immigration Administration wants to restrict citizens from leaving the country. “It is necessary to strictly implement entry and exit policies, strictly restrict non-essential exit activities of Chinese citizens, and strictly approve and issue exit and entry documents,” said the agency in a WeChat post. The decision followed President Xi Jinping’s speech on epidemic control work.

Critics pointed out that Chinese travellers and students returning home have had their passports clipped. The immigration authority refuted media claims about the entry-exit policy.

China stopped issuing new passports for non-essential travel in 2021, media had reported earlier. Chinese citizens are to come up with fake job offers to get a new passport issued because only ‘essential’ travel is considered for new applications.

There is no end to airline-related tragedies in China. It’s only been 54 days since Flight MU5735 crashed after taking off from Kunming. Now, another plane was severely damaged after skidding from the runway. On 12 May, Flight TV9833, with its 113 passengers and nine crew members, caught fire while preparing to take off from the Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport. Media reports say more than 40 passengers suffered slight injuries.

China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) is an indispensable academic database for accessing dissertations and research by Chinese academics. Now, CNKI is being investigated for selling articles by experts such as Zhong Nanshan, available to readers for free elsewhere.

The regulators have alleged that CNKI’s monopoly on the academic market allows the database company to collect over 53 per cent profit margin. Even the leading Chinese universities, such as Peking University, have complained. The restriction on academic freedom has grown under Xi, and we will have to wait to find out if the investigation into CNKI is part of that trend.

In another academia-related development, three major Chinese universities — Renmin, Nanjing, and Lanzhou — have withdrawn from the international university rankings systems. The move has garnered support from some sections of the Chinese society who believe the rankings system is a pyramid scheme.

“The international ranking of universities is a commercial pyramid scheme, and it is a wise move to withdraw,” said Sima Nan, a media personality. “The path taken by Chinese universities is slightly different from that of foreign countries. The ranking needs to be in line with the interests of the Chinese people. We must put away the mentality of being a slave,” said a social media user.

In 2019, over 703,500 Chinese students had enrolled in universities outside of China. The Chinese government has been trying to promote homegrown educational institutions.

The world may have forgotten Hong Kong’s plight, but things got even worse this week.

A 90-year-old Cardinal, Joseph Zen, was arrested under the National Security Law and accused of colluding with foreign forces. Cardinal Zen was detained along with singer Denise Ho Wan-sze and former opposition lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, and cultural studies scholar Hui Po-keung. The four individuals were arrested in connection with 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, where all were trustees. The Hong Kong court said the fund colluded with foreign forces.

Cardinal Zen isn’t just a religious figure but a known activist as well. Zen was granted bail on Thursday. “We are firmly opposed to any act that denigrates the rule of law in Hong Kong and interferes in Hong Kong affairs.” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

Also read: In China, a growing pressure to find a scapegoat for disastrous Covid handling in Shanghai

China in world news

The current phase of cold peace between India and China may appear uneventful, but there are border stand-off related developments every week.

Times Now reported, citing sources, that the Indian Army has completed a ‘precautionary deployment’ to mirror the presence of PLA in Eastern Ladakh. A few units of the army and air force had moved back from the border during the winter months when it was virtually impossible to keep a significant force on the ground.

China has informed India about its military exercise across the border this year, according to Times Now.

The reporting on the redeployment of troops was further confirmed by new Indian Army chief Manoj Pande’s visit to review “operational preparedness” in the “forward areas”. Additional Directorate General of Public Information posted images on Twitter showing General Pande interacting with troops in Ladakh.

General Pande has previously said that addressing the security challenge from China would be the priority of his tenure. If the army chief’s visit to Ladakh wasn’t enough, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave a statement on China.

“We are not concerned about the ‘parinaam’ (consequences), but we will never compromise on our ‘swabhimaan’ (self-respect),” Singh said in Lucknow during an event.

Avril Haines, the Director of National Intelligence, sits on top of a gargantuan bureaucracy of spooks, and her job isn’t easy by any stretch. This week, Haines testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the global threats to the United States. Haines had something to say about China.

“It’s our view that (China is) working hard to effectively put themselves into a position in which their military can take Taiwan over our intervention,” Haines said during the hearing.

There is a debate raging in the Japanese parliament, also known as Diet, about developing counter-strike capabilities against the threat from China.

Japanese Communist Party member Keiji Kokuta asked the House of Representatives Committee of Foreign Affairs if Japan plans to target the Central Military Commission and the Five Theatre Commands as part of the counter-strike capability. The question came after the ruling Liberal Democratic Party suggested to the Prime Minister that Japan develop a counter-strike capability to attack “enemy bases and command and control functions”.

Must read this week

A Teacher in China Learns the Limits of Free Expression – Peter Hessler

Experts this week

“As far as South Asia’s current domestic political turmoil is concerned, China generally must wait and watch what happens. In fact, constant political disputes are common in South Asian countries. The ‘rotation’ of different political forces is often like a pendulum, with obvious periodicity. On the other hand, we also need to think about how to be proactive in major changes. China’s diplomacy toward South Asian countries has been mainly based on economic assistance for a long time. Therefore, our strategy has been to maintain contact with multiple political forces. This approach has worked in the past, and no matter which political force comes to power, it will generally return to the track of a rational China policy. However, the geopolitical environment we are currently facing has undergone tremendous changes, which requires us to consider whether we should consider making adjustments and how to safeguard our interests more constructively,” wrote Lin Minwang, a researcher at the Institute of International Studies, Fudan University.

The author is a columnist and a freelance journalist, currently pursuing an MSc in international politics with a focus on China from School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He was previously a China media journalist at the BBC World Service. He tweets @aadilbrar. Views are personal.

This is a weekly round-up that Aadil Brar writes about what’s buzzing in China. This will soon be available as a subscribers’-only product.

(Edited by Prashant)

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