satanically un-islamic black metal fatwa

Superstitious religious imbecility coupled with public displays of mental feebleness and decrepitude are almost universally guaranteed to make for high-class comedy. But pre-meditated vindictiveness and a vicious campaign of fear, lies and incitement to hate has always been the keystone of religion, and it makes scant difference if the targets are heathens, sodomites or if you hang out in Malaysia, Black Metal.

I found out early last year my grandmother was Turkish Muslim. I like surprises, and this was an especially good one. Well, Turkey is a long way from Malaysia, and I guess the difference in Islam between the two countries is comparable to the difference in Christianity between say, Australia and Europe, but I wondered what they would make of me in Malaysia, who on the weekend presented 45 minutes of Metallic adoration, and who surpasses their criteria for murtad in a lazily over-acheiving way. To save you clicking of the link, the penalty for apostasy is death. Or not. Depending on what kind of Muslim you are.

Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council has decided Black Metal is against Islamic principles, and their implicit attitude in conceiving such a stance tends to point to a less than benevolent outcome for people who like to head bang, so I guess I won’t be touring hell there any time soon.

Prof Shukor said although Black Metal was just a form of music, its culture often led its followers to worship Satan, to rebel, kill and incite hatred and irreligion.

Black Metal culture, he said, also influenced its followers to perform controversial rituals such as drinking one’s blood mixed with goat blood and burning the Quran.

— The Star

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how to blog anonymously

Reporters sans Frontières have just released a booklet Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, in several languages including Chinese. Alot of it is pretty basic stuff, but there is a cool section of personal accounts, including Yan from Glutter in Hong Kong. The technical stuff gives a pretty thorough introduction, and also covers all the shortcomings of the various methods of anonymity.

Create your own blog, remain anonymous and get round censorship !

See the Handbook

Blogs get people excited. Or else they disturb and worry them. Some people distrust them. Others see them as the vanguard of a new information revolution. Because they allow and encourage ordinary people to speak up, they’re tremendous tools of freedom of expression.

Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest.

Reporters Without Borders has produced this handbook to help them, with handy tips and technical advice on how to remain anonymous and to get round censorship, by choosing the most suitable method for each situation. It also explains how to set up and make the most of a blog, to publicise it (getting it picked up efficiently by search-engines) and to establish its credibility through observing basic ethical and journalistic principles.

Many Internet experts helped produce this manual, including US journalist Dan Gillmor, Canadian specialist in Internet censorship Nart Villeneuve, US blogger Jay Rosen and other bloggers from all over the world.

The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-dissidents will be on sale in bookshops from 22 September for €10. It can also be downloaded in five languages (English, French, Chinese, Arabic and Persian) from the Reporters Without Borders website : www.rsf.org.

— reporters sans frontières

antonioni in china

Having made some of the most striking films of the new wave in L’Avventura, then setting The Yardbirds on fire in Blow Up, filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni then took off for China to document the revolution in Chung Kuo – Cina. Despite having the blessing of the communist party, the film was banned and has not been officially screened in China until now. The Globe and Mail look at the screening and the audience reaction, and EastSouthWestNorth has an excellent essay by Susan Sontag on the Chinese press’ attacks after it’s release.

Chung Kuo bears all the marks of Mr. Antonioni’s distinctively oblique style, the same enigmatic approach that caused such controversy in the cinema world when L’Avventura was released in 1960. The film contains not a single interview and not a single sentence of political analysis. The filmmaker deliberately rejected the conventions of script or story.

“I went to China not in order to know it but to have a look and to record what was passing in front of my eyes,” he said later.

The film succeeds as an artistic work and as a portrait of ordinary life in an isolated country. With his customary detached tone and extremely long takes, the camera gazes at the Chinese people, their faces and movements. Long scenes pass without a word beyond the hubbub of background conversation and the sound of bicycle bells and street noise.

hackers reveal china’s forbidden words

Here’s why hackers are are an invaluable part of the internet. China Digital News has an amazing piece on what exactly you can’t say over the internet in China.

It is an open secret that all Chinese Internet hosting services, including wireless and instant messenger services, filter user communication through key word blocking mechanisms. But overly vague and broad Chinese internet laws and the internet police force never made the forbidden words explicit — Not until some Chinese hackers located a document within the installation package of QQ instant messaging software. The file contains over one thousand words, most of them in Chinese, which will be blocked by the service.

Owned by Tencent, QQ is China’s most popular Instant Messenger service. On a regular basis, tens of millions of users use their service. On one day, March 13 , there were more than six million users online using QQ at the same time. Because of its high traffic volume, it is technically much harder to build in the key word filtering mechanism on the server’s end. Instead, Tencent sneaked in a filtering program file in their installation package at the client end. When a client installs the QQ2003 software on their own computer desktop, a program file, called COMToolKit.dll, is automatically included. This file contains all the forbidden keywords, which will be automatically blocked when the client runs QQ. The full list is below.

Recently, some Chinese hackers located this file and released it on the Internet. The censored key words list is commonly used not just for QQ, but also for all websites, BBS and text messaging services. One Internet user did a rough breakdown of the list: About 15% of the words are sex related, the rest are all related to politics. About 20% of the words are Falungong related, including “师父” (master) and “弟子” (disciple); about 15% are names of current officials and their relatives; about 10% are words used in the liberal political discourse such as “democracy”, “freedom”, and “dictatorship”; and about 5% are related to certain nationalistic issues, such as “保钓” (defend Diaoyu Island),“中俄边界” (Sino-Russian Border) ,“卖国” (selling out the country) etc. About 15% of the forbidden words are related to anti-corruption, such as “走私”(smuggling, “公款”(public funds)etc. Other censored words include names of dissidents, writers, and intellectuals, and names of certain foreign publications.

southern metropolis daily

What happened in Guangzhou when a graphic design student got arrested by the police for not having a temporary residence visa and dies after getting the crap beaten out of him? Why did the editor and general manager of 南方都市报 Southern Metropolis Daily come off seriously second-best for publishing the story? How many other stories from the paper pissed off corrupt local stooges in the government and what does it all mean for freedom of press in China?

This is a story that’s been going on for a while, which involved the worldwide SARS freakout at its height and the machinations of provincial and city government at its worst which I always found impossible to follow until The Washington Post published this article which brings it all together.

The party is torn about this creeping expansion of media freedoms. It believes a more assertive press can help it fight corruption and improve governance, but is afraid of losing control over an institution critical to its monopoly on power. Regular skirmishing between journalists and officials who want to suppress stories that make them look bad has threatened the party’s unity. And as journalists begin to view themselves as watchdogs for the public rather than lap dogs for the party, the government’s old methods of control are weakening.

stainless steel mouse

I’d heard about the stainless steel mouse for a while now, but didn’t know any details beyond she’s been arrested and imprisoned for “cyber-dissidence”. International Herald Tribune interviewed her a couple of days ago, which brings the personal reality of repression in China out in ways that standardised reporting of it fail to do. The whole article exposes how easy it is to fall foul of China’s censors, and is an especially good read at the moment with the increased censorship of on-line liberties during the current Hu/Wen/Jiang factional battle.

The restaurant in the fashionable Qianhai district is almost empty, courtesy of the afternoon rains, though a small young woman is sitting on an upstairs sofa, slightly uncomfortable in her chic surroundings. With her oval glasses, shy demeanor and slightly hunched posture, Liu Di looks like a bookworm.

What she does not look like is a threat to anything, certainly not the Chinese government. Yet the government has already imprisoned her for a year. And in recent months, during sensitive dates on the political calendar, officials have posted security officers outside the Beijing apartment she shares with her grandmother.

“They think I’m a dangerous figure,” said Liu, 23, giggling slightly at the thought as she picked at a Thai rice dish.

It is Liu’s other identity that has made her a target of the Communist Party. In the cyberspace of China’s burgeoning Internet, she is Stainless Steel Mouse, an online dissident whose incarceration over her writings attracted international attention from human rights groups that demanded, and eventually helped win, her release.

internet under surveillance

Reporters Sans Frontiers recently released their report Internet Under Surveillance, which includes a country-by-country analysis of “Obstacles to the free flow of information online”.

With a total of 61 Internet users in detention at the start of May 2004, China is the world’s biggest prison for cyber-dissidents. It is also the country where the technology for e-mail interception and Internet censorship is most developed. What’s more, the authorities recently decided to tighten the vice and roll back the few gains made by Internet users in recent years.

The Chinese authorities use a clever mix of propaganda, disinformation and repression to stifle online free expression. Initial hopes that the Internet would develop into an unfettered media and help liberalize China have been dashed. What has happened in China has shattered generally accepted ideas. The Internet can indeed become a propaganda media. On its own, it will not suffice to support the emergence of democracy in any significant way. And it can be totally controlled by a government that equips itself to do so.

Indeed, the way the Chinese government has sabotaged online dissent offers a model for dictatorships around the world. Cuba and North Korea stifled online dissent by limiting the Internet’s development. The Chinese government unfortunately proved that the Internet can be developed and sterilized at the same time.

Hearts of Iron and Ken Park

The story of Hearts of Iron and China’s irony-free Ministry of Culture has been small print for a couple of weeks, and has now become news. The game like all good warfare/strategy games is heavy on accurate super-weapon history-altering blood-splatter and generous in historical adaption, which in their tireless efforts to re-write history with each five-year plan is one giant bug up the Ministry’s arse. Picking up on the story, Wired reports the game is guilty of

“distorting history and damaging China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to China’s Ministry of Culture.

Within the game, territories labeled on a map as “Manchuria,” “West Xinjiang” and “Tibet” are sovereign nations, and Taiwan is portrayed as a Japanese territory.

“All these severely distort historical facts and violate China’s gaming and Internet service regulations, (and) the game should be immediately prohibited,” said a Ministry of Culture spokesman.

The article goes on to outline the usual shutting down of internet cafes and “unspecified punishments” for people who ignore the ban, and Sony’s efforts to get EverQuest to be relevant against such monsters as Counter-Strike. In fairness Wired does point out countries including Australia have banned games, but nothing makes good headlines like a banning of something in China. While Ken Park is available on DVD next to copies of Hearts of Iron in China the moral guardians of Australia with their imagination firmly wedged in the 1950s think Larry Clark is not only not a genius but the number one corruptor of youth and his film remains banned while he is viewed at best as a deranged junkie. For all the hyperbole about censorship in China it sure is easier to lay your hands on a copy of Salo or any other degenerate film.

江湖 Jianghu banned

Eric Tsang has had 江湖 Jianghu banned in China, the triad movie he hoped would reinvent the genre. Tsang chose two unknowns to write and direct, Wong Chin Po on his directorial debut, and writer To Chi Long, who had not yet graduated from college, and a cast of Hong Kong regulars including Andy Lau, Jackie Cheung, and Cecilia Cheung.

The Ministry of Culture’s superficial justification for banning it was that its “theme is dark and negative”, which sounds like me in the morning. EastSouthWestNorth details the main reasons for the ban:

More importantly, the film was deemed to be lacking in any redeeming social values. All the major male characters are members of triad societies and the story was about killings and betrayals. The major female character is a prostitute of mainland-origin. There is an infamous scene in which a male character (Edison Chan) was forced to have sex with a dog.

While of course Divine sucking on a dog turd in Pink Flamingos is perfectly acceptable mainland family viewing. Maybe they are worried all the hairdye, spitting and foreign elements is going to cause an overload of excitement north of the border. But back to the movie, which like all triad movies is not about the spray of blood, fingers and bullets, but about love and honour. 江湖 Jianghu, available now at all good mainland DVD stores.

Reporters Sans Frontiers China Annual Report 2004

Reporters Sans Frontiers China Annual Report 2004

Reporters Sans Frontiers have released their Annual Report on China. The major event of the past 12 months was the change of power to the 第四代 disidai – The Fourth Generation headed by President Hu Jintao. In spite of high hopes this would usher in a more open era of social and political liberties, there has been little evidence of a government prepared t relinquish its absolute control of the population, as evidenced by the worsening press freedom.

“2003 was the year of the corruption of the Chinese media,” said Liu Feng, editor in chief of the weekly Zhongguo Xinwen Zhoukan. He said the Chinese media, dominated by the party, had no choice but to obey the wishes of top officials and to let themselves be corrupted. Bribes are commonplace in the profession, in particular to organise reporting or an article, to attend a press conference. In October, four journalists working for the Xinhua news agency in central Shanxi province were punished for acepting money the previous year from the owner of a mine where there had been a serious accident. The journalists did not report the news.

Although the Beijing government promised that journalists covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics would be able to work freely, foreign and special correspondents remained tightly controlled. The Chinese communist party refuses to allow them to freely investigate dissidence, underground religious movements, corruption, Aids in Hunan province, strikes, the plight of North Korean refugees, natural catastrophes or Tibetan or Uighur separatism. The battle of the airwaves hotted up in 2003 between the Chinese government and international radio stations broadcasting in Mandarin, Cantonese and Tibetan. In Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, several campaigns were launched to counter separatism condemned as “terrorism”.

The lengthy report gives details on all 23 reporters currently in prison, those who were arrested, physically attacked, threatened, and harassment and obstruction. Also covered are the major stories including the cover-up of SARS last year, the Nanfang Zhuomo newspaper issue, and suppression of internet dissidents.