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Geopolitics

It’s About Time China Learned Critical Dialogue

Op-Ed: If China indeed wants to be a protagonist on the world stage, it can no longer ignore human rights issues. A good place to start would be the case of artist Ai Weiwei, whose recent release from jail had everything to do with Chinese Premier Wen Jia

An April 17 protest in New York City againt China's decision to detain Ai Weiwei
An April 17 protest in New York City againt China's decision to detain Ai Weiwei
Thomas Schmid

It's always good when someone who has been unjustly detained, such as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, is released. Chinese authorities held him in an unknown place for nearly three months, at first silently and with no reasons given, then on the flimsy pretext that he was suspected of financial crimes.

But if Weiwei is now out on bail (and forbidden to leave Beijing for a year), it is not because the Chinese leadership has suddenly developed some insight or is signaling the way to a more lenient approach. In fact, the motive for Weiwei's release is so clear, and so embarrassingly stereotypical, that one hardly dares mention it: it is so that Premier Wen Jiabao's forthcoming visit to Hungary, the UK and Germany will not be cluttered up by questions and concerns about one lone and cumbersome individual. In its transparency, the move is more than merely basic; it's primitive.

There are a number of reasons why the German government should make the Weiwei case a discussion point when Wen visits Germany. The first is that the Chinese have a very elastic approach to their own laws even as they appear to hold them in very high regard. They should be invited in no uncertain terms to look at the contradictions inherent in that stance.

Secondly, the case should be addressed because it's far from the only one example of repression in China, where people who offend the regime are taken out of circulation and refused the normalcy of getting on with their lives.

Big, proud China, so often and regrettably lacking in self-awareness, is going to have to learn how to deal not only with legal systems but with human rights. Mastering the art of dialogue is essential to anyone who wants to be a major player on the world stage today.

Of course, it's going to take some time to get there. China is a country of explosive growth that is having a hard time matching the pace of its social development to that of its economic development. As Ai Weiwei himself once observed: "the Chinese society serves the powerful and successful—it has very little empathy for the weak." Having experienced this more than once, he knows whereof he speaks. If he were allowed to speak openly, that is. As he told visitors who came to see him after his release: "I'm not allowed to speak."

Every voice, no matter how "weak," counts. Everybody has the right to speak out, to speak openly, to be heard. We need to remind Mr. Wen of that when he comes calling.

Read the original article in German

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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