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FCC Hong Kong deeply concerned over disappearance of photojournalist Lu Guang

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club is deeply concerned over the disappearance of award-winning photojournalist Lu Guang in Xinjiang, amid concerns he has been detained by authorities.

Mr Lu, who is best known for documenting serious social and environmental issues in China such as the AIDS villages of Henan, had reportedly been invited to a number of photography events in the Xinjiang capital Urumqi in late October but has not been heard from since he talked to his wife, Xu Xiaoli, last on November 3.

Ms Xu said she was told that her husband had been taken away by national security officers but she has been unable to get any confirmation from the authorities in Xinjiang, despite repeated attempts.

“It is our 20th wedding anniversary (next week). We should be celebrating it together. I can only hope for his safe return,” Ms Xu told the BBC.

Xinjiang, in the far northwest of China, has been under increasingly repressive government control over the last five years as the authorities seek to crackdown on unrest among the region’s ethnic Uighur population. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has reported that more than one million Uighurs are now being held in internment camps in the region.

China has sought to stifle international criticism and reporting of its policies in the region through a range of measures, including the harassment and detention of dozens of family members of Uighur journalists at Radio Free Asia.

The FCC calls on the Chinese authorities to, at the very least, confirm Mr Lu’s whereabouts, and ensure that he is safe, and, if he has not broken any laws, be allowed to leave China and return to his family in the United States as soon as possible.

Lu Guang has been recognised for his work with a number of top awards in the industry, including multiple World Press Photo awards (First Prize in Contemporary Issues in 2004), the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund in 2009, and a National Geographic Photography Grant in 2010. In 2005, he became the first photographer from China invited as a visiting scholar to the United States by the State Department.

NYT publisher A.G. Sulzberger on how technology disrupted the truth

New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger spoke of the dangers facing journalists around the world since President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press.

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Statement from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong on Victor Mallet

The FCC is shocked and baffled that the government of Hong Kong has denied entry to Victor Mallet, Asia news editor for The Financial Times and 1st Vice-President of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

Since the Hong Kong government refused to renew Mallet’s work visa in early October, the FCC has been asking for a reasonable explanation, to no avail.

The FCC is now reiterating its demand for an immediate explanation for this aggravated and disproportionate sanction that seems completely unfounded.

This action places journalists working in Hong Kong in an opaque environment in which fear and self-censorship may replace the freedom and confidence essential to a free society, and guaranteed by the Basic Law.

Hong Kong, 9 November 2018

Petition demanding authorities explain Victor Mallet’s visa refusal: English version, Chinese version

Why feminism poses a threat to the Chinese government

China’s efforts to quash feminism have in fact galvanised the movement as women across the country choose not to have children in the face of a government propaganda campaign to try to boost failing birth rates, according to a new book.

Author Leta Hong Fincher lifted the lid on China's feminist movement when she appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Author Leta Hong Fincher lifted the lid on China’s feminist movement when she appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

The male-dominated Communist Party sees the control of women and their bodies as key in preventing social unrest and maintaining stability across the country, said Leta Hong Fincher, author of Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China.

Since 2015, the Chinese government has been cracking down on feminism, beginning with the jailing of five feminist activists for 37 days. The Feminist Five became a global cause célèbre, not least because President Xi Jinping was about to co-host a UN conference in New York on women’s rights. Activists inundated social media with #FreetheFive messages and Hillary Clinton even spoke out on their behalf, tweeting: “Xi hosting a meeting on women’s rights at the UN while persecuting feminists? Shameless.”

However, despite apparently bowing to international pressure the clampdown goes on, most recently with the case of Yue Xin, the #MeToo activist and recent graduate of Peking University who has been missing – presumed detained – since trying to unionise workers two months ago.

“I would argue that the subjugation of women is absolutely key to Communist rule, exerting control over the entire population particularly in the last few decades with the advent of market reforms,” Hong Fincher said. “The government sees women primarily as reproductive tools and so they need to be confined to the home, to be baby breeders, raise children, take care of the elderly and tame the violent urges of men.”

Women in China are tired of the sexism they face in their daily lives, she said, and many wanted to pursue careers and further education rather than marry and have families. And more alarmingly for the government, they are willing to stand up for themselves.

Hong Fincher said the #MeToo movement was also spreading across China despite growing internet censorship and a lack of press freedom. Hong Fincher predicted that the crackdown on feminism would intensify as China’s economy slows and the workforce shrinks due to failing birth rates.

Watch the full talk here.

1MDB: The story behind the biggest corruption scandal in decades

The dogged investigation into the biggest and most far-reaching corruption scandal in recent history was revealed by the lone journalist who relentlessly pursued the story in the face of intimidation.

Clare Rewcastle Brown, the journalist whose probing of 1MDB corruption became a world scoop. Photo: Sarah Graham Clare Rewcastle Brown, the journalist whose probing of 1MDB corruption became a world scoop. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Clare Rewcastle Brown worked for years on the scoop that exposed the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a government-run strategic development fund designed to help improve the country’s infrastructure, as nothing more than a slush fund directly channelling millions of dollars into the accounts of President Najib Razak, tycoon Jho Low and other officials.

The exposé had repercussions around the world as it emerged that top banks and lawyers had facilitated the movement of money through their institutions, creaming massive profits for themselves.

Yet, despite figures like Low “operating in plain sight”, no news organisations were picking up the story, said Rewcastle Brown, author of the book The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé.

“Why was that? Not just the cost factor of dedicating investigative journalists to long and expensive stories… the diplomatic and commercial issues – big outfits didn’t want to get kicked out of KL, as I was told on one occasion.

“With global news to cover and budgets depleted, newsrooms are simply forced to avoid taking on the sorts of targets who can afford lawyers who cost them money to defend their journalism. And for criminals in the business of ripping off the public, it simply is a business expense necessary to shut up comment and scrutiny.

“During the 1MDB exposes I watched it happen time and again as news organisations were silenced by big gun lawyers brought in to argue the toss by people who are now thankfully facing prosecution,” she said.

As she began to follow more leads in her investigation, Rewcastle Brown found herself at the centre of a fake news campaign on social media funded by the corrupt people she was examining, trying to smother the story she was working on.

Thanks to her determined coverage on her website, The Sarawak Report, the story was eventually picked up by international news organisations and became a global scandal that led to the fall of Malaysia’s political regime as well as officials and corrupt businessmen associated with abusing the fund.

And the repercussions of the story continue, with new arrests and charges making headlines every week.

Watch the full talk below.

Jonathan Miller on why murderous President Rodrigo Duterte is still so popular in the Philippines

He killed more of his citizens in 18 months than died in the Northern Ireland conflict over 30 years – yet Filipinos continue to support rough-talking President Rodrigo Duterte, largely because they believe he is building a better Philippines.

Jonathan Miller of Channel 4 News gave insights into President Rodrigo Duterte at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Jonathan Miller of Channel 4 News gave insights into President Rodrigo Duterte at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Elected in a landslide victory in 2016, no-nonsense Duterte came from nowhere to sweep to victory, ousting the more liberal President Benigno Aquino III having led a presidential campaign based on stoking the fears of his people. Sound familiar?

“He (Duterte) is what Trump would be if there were no constraints on him at all,” said Channel 4 News Asia Correspondent, Jonathan Miller, at a November 5 club lunch where he talked about his latest book, a deeply researched biography of Rodrigo Duterte.

A man who uses disgusting language and has made numerous inappropriate comments about rape, Miller said Duterte’s worst crime is to normalise killing. Yet he remains popular among his people: “He does make Filipinos proud of their nation after years of this feckless, liberal leadership,” he added.

Miller, who holds the dubious honour of Duterte calling him a “son of a whore” – the same insult he threw at former US President Barack Obama, said Duterte encapsulates the very worst that an authoritarian populist leader can deliver.

Known as Duterte Harry during his reign as Mayor of Davao City after the Clint Eastwood character, he created death squads targeting drug dealers and other criminals that he said had “cleaned up the city “- a claim he continued to peddle as he made his bid for the presidency. However, the truth is that Davao City has the highest murder and rape rates in the country, according to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

This was the type of lie, said Miller, that convinced the majority of Filipinos to elect Duterte. Despite promising to protect the country’s poorest, it is those very people that are dying in his murderous war on drugs, Miller said. Although numbers are difficult to confirm, independent estimates put the number killed by the police at 20,000.

Another campaign promise to “reach the hands of my opponents” to bring an end to animosity resulted in his political opponent and fiercest critic, Leila de Lima, being arrested and jailed on trumped up drug charges. She has been designated a ‘prisoner of conscience’ by international human rights groups.

Duterte has also aligned himself with despots at home and abroad, declaring Russian president Vladimir Putin as his hero, and rehabilitating the Marcos family by allowing the reburial of ousted former dictator Ferdinand, and apparently paving the way for his only son, Ferdinand Jr., to become vice-president.

A 1998 psychiatric report on Duterte, compiled by a former president of the International Council of Psychologists at the request of his estranged wife while she petitioned for an annulment, concluded that Duterte was suffering from Antisocial Narcissistic Personality Disorder characterised by “gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centredness… a grandiose sense of self-entitlement… and a pervasive tendency to demean, humiliate others and violate their rights and feelings”, Miller said.

He went on to quote the report findings as detailed in his book, Duterte Harry: Fire and Fury in the Philippines: “For all his wrongdoings, he tends to rationalise and feel justified. Hence, he seldom feels a sense of guilt or remorse.”

Watch the full event here.

The challenges of being a writer called Geoff Dyer

When you’re a writer trying to find interesting topics to cover, it helps if there’s not another writer with exactly the same name.

Writer Geoff Dyer - no, not that one - talked about his work at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC Writer Geoff Dyer – no, not that one – talked about his work when he appeared at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

This has proved both detrimental and beneficial over the years, says author Geoff Dyer – although whether the same can be said for the Financial Times reporter Geoff Dyer is a mystery.

“I feel I should articulate the disappointment that some of you may have felt when it turned out that it was this Geoff Dyer and not the other one,” he said, adding: “Our lives have really overlapped to an embarrassing degree.”

The Geoff Dyer who spoke at the November 1 club lunch (entitled Not a Reporter’: A Lunch with Writer Geoff Dyer) is the author of four novels and numerous non-fiction books – some of which have won literary awards – including travel books Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi, and Yoga for People Who Can’t be Bothered to Do It.

One of his other books, Another Great Day at Sea, detailed his short time spent on American aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush on active service in the Iranian Gulf – a job that was originally commissioned with the other Geoff Dyer in mind, and Dyer’s only attempt at ever being a reporter.

“For me it was, in some ways, the most boring book I’ve ever written, for a very simple reason. It was a bit like doing that most basic kind of journalism whereby you go and stay at a lovely please, you have the experience and then you write up your feelings about it. I had this amazing experience, it was absolutely incredible, so fascinating, then all I had to do really was transcribe the experience which is almost exactly what I’m not interested in doing as a writer. I’m not a reporter.

“It was only really quite late in the day that I started to enjoy it as I could put more and more of a stylistic spin on it,” Dyer said.

A man with a self-deprecating sense of humour, Dyer recalled amusing anecdotes from his career, including the time when he was commissioned by publishers to write a book on tennis but ended up turning in a book on the Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.

Watch the full event here.

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