As the Chinese, as well as those that admire the history and traditions of the Chinese people, gear up to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Chinese government immediately went to work taking advantage of the holiday to issue its own propaganda.
On December 29th, the Ministry of Culture of the PRC issued a press release announcing the development of its very own iTunes application called the “Happy Chinese New Year” App.
According to the PRC press release, the iTunes app comes complete with “multimedia texts, images, video, animation, sound files, and other media”.
Interesting Use of Social Media by PRC
The point of the application is unclear from the description, but it appears to offer a way for people across the world to track Chinese performing arts troupes that will be performing around the world throughout the first half of 2012, as well as various festivities that will be going on around the world.
It is fascinating to note that the PRC also incorporated the use of a social-networking aspect to the app - an electronic greeting card feature where users can wish each other a "Happy Chinese New Year" and, as the press release puts it, "....help others get to know China's wonderful traditional culture."
It is a unique approach for a government that continues to block most of the major websites on the Internet, replacing them with government-friendly alternatives.
A Culture of Censorship Causes Application Problems
Because of this, it will be interesting to see just how well the "greeting card" feature works on both sides of the great Chinese firewall. One user on the official Facebook page for the 2008 version of the app reported problems with receiving greetings from all friends.
"I have received wishes from four people, but only two are showing up on my profile. I thought the application just needed time to refresh, but I've waited and waited, but nothing has changed. How do I get all the wishes to show up?"
No one really knows whether those issues - whether introduced by the app itself, or some other technical glitch - will remain in the 2012 version.
The press release encourages people to share the app with others in order to promote more "harmonious living."
"By sharing the App, you can also help others get to know China's wonderful traditional culture, understand the aspiration of the Chinese people to strive for harmonious living, and appreciate China's development and progress."
China's Human Rights Abuses Continue
What the PRC failed to include in the app is information related to how the PRC itself fails to assist the Chinese people in achieving harmonious living. Such as the following human rights abuses that have taken place during the buildup to the Chinese New Year.
--> On December 28th in Western China, members of the Uighur minority group were attempting to cross China's western border. The Chinese authorities shot and killed seven members of the group and captured five Uighur children aged 7 to 17. The Children's whereabouts are still unknown, though local sources believe that they are still in custody. (1)
--> China courts are due to sentence Ni Yulan in about a week. In 2002, she had the audacity to use her law degree to help neighbors in Xicheng fight eviction. Authorities beat her so badly that she was left unable to walk. Yulan's lawyer, Cheng Hai, told the New York Times that, "I’m afraid the sentence this time will be especially heavy." Charges include "picking quarrels" and disturbing public order. (3)
--> On December 26th, a China court sentenced human rights activist Chen Xi to ten years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power." (4)
--> On December 23, another China court convicted Democracy activist Chen Wei to nine years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power" as well, calling him a repeat offender and stating that his crime was, "heinous" and his influence "vile". (5)
These are only a few examples of continued human rights abuses of the kind detailed in the U.S. State Department's 2009 report on the state of human rights in China.
"Other serious human rights abuses included extrajudicial killings, executions without due process, torture and coerced confessions of prisoners, and the use of forced labor, including prison labor. The government continued to monitor, harass, detain, arrest, and imprison journalists, writers, dissidents, activists, petitioners, and defense lawyers and their families, many of whom sought to exercise their rights under the law." (6)
So, while the People's Republic of China may like to promote a sense that it would like to help the Chinese people experience the "harmonious living" that they so desire, the Chinese government may be better served investing its time and resources into ending such human rights abuses against the Chinese people, rather than distributing iTunes applications falsely claiming that they actually care about Chinese citizens.