Internet, Politics And Sex: Meet China's Answers To Anthony Weiner

It's not just the disgraced former New York Congressman: philandering Chinese politicians are being caught out online too. Exposed in naked chat rooms and saucy blogs, they remind Chinese of...Bill Clinton

Zhang Yilan

This new form of public entertainment has also landed in China: the digital political sex scandal. The starring role, as always, goes to a respectably married middle-aged man in an important position. The script includes the usual wealth of spicy details to prolong the pleasure.

Take the hapless Xie Zhiqiang, Director of Jiangsu Province's Bureau of Health. Someone told him that emails and texting were old hat and that he should get into Twitter-style microblogging. They neglected to mention that his updates would be visible to everyone. Xie's communications with his mistress, a married woman, were laid bare for all to see, including the meeting time, hotel room number, and preliminary discussions of what they'd be busy doing. For the delighted readers, it was a carnival. Not only that, but he told his paramour to bring along any receipts she had so he could get them refunded.

The municipal government and the commission for discipline promptly intervened, immediately suspending Xie from his position and putting him under investigation for corruption. Online supporters expressed sympathy for the unfortunate Mr. Xie, convinced he was truly in love with the lady, and just an idiot when it comes to new technology. Some were even inclined to forgive his attempts to claim expenses with his dodgy invoices.

In another case, Liu Ning, a section chief in the local administration of the city of Guangzhou, got in the habit of joining internet chat rooms where participants are naked, but their faces are hidden. As you may guess, in this man's case his face was clearly visible. Embarrassment is painful but rarely fatal.

Then there's the case of Han Feng, director of the Tobacco Monopoly Bureau in Guangxi province, who was using his elevated status to enjoy the favors of no fewer than six women subordinates. However, a disloyal husband should always beware of revenge. Han's private diary mysteriously found its way online, dripping with saucy details. After each encounter with one of his ladies, he wrote a blow-by-blow account – what he called his "hunting bounty". These appeared on the web, and became a very popular read.

Going back to Director Xie's situation, (while much of the West would think right away of recently disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner) the Chinese thought first of the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal. Looking back, we understand that in party politics, a president's moral flaws will be ruthlessly attacked by the opposition party. The U.S. Congress started impeachment proceedings, and the Republicans were eager to kick Clinton out.

But at a crucial juncture, Hilary Clinton saved her husband by publicly supporting him, so changing the minds of those who had been in favor of his ouster. Clinton kept his job not because Americans accept lax moral standards in their officials. On the contrary, due to the media muckraking in party politics, the public sets a very high moral threshold in selecting officials. And even more important, in the Clinton affair, this "philandering" president was not guilty of abusing his powers: Lewinski did not get a job in the White House after her internship ended.

By contrast, Xie's affair has provided some conclusive evidence that this director-valentine offered to reimburse his lover's invoices for personal purchases. This is corruption. Most people who sympathize with him are basing their reasoning on their presumption that Xie is indeed corrupt, but not to an extreme degree. He was only trying to cheat on a few expense claims. The biggest grief would be that this kind of "tolerance" becomes the common public attitude.

Read the original article in Chinese.

Photo - shizhao

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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