China: activist filmmaker faces prison

Police in China have charged Chen Pin Lin, director of documentary Not the Foreign Force, with "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," according to Chinese human rights monitors Weiquanwang and Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch. The charge, an offense under Article 293 of China's Criminal Act, has been widely criticized for its elusive definition and use against dissidents and human rights defenders.

The film, also known as Ürümqi Road in Chinese, depicts the nationwide protests against COVID-19 lockdown measures in China in 2022. The demonstrations erupted that November and quickly spread nationwide after a fire killed 10 people in Ürümqi, Xinjiang, where lockdown policies had slowed down fire services. During the rallies, colloquially known as the "White Paper Revolution," participants held a piece of blank paper over their heads as a symbolic protest against censorship. The protests ultimately prompted the Chinese government to lift all COVID-19 restrictions in December 2022.

Chen published the video via YouTube under the pseudonym "Plato." It was republished by California-based China Digital Times in November 2023, one year after the demonstrations started, although it has since been removed from the latter patform. The film criticizes the Chinese government for attempting to blame foreign forces for the protests. "The more the government tries to mislead, forget and conceal, the more we should speak out, remind and remember," Chen wrote in the caption for the video on China Digital Times. "Remember the White Paper Protests."

From Jurist, Feb. 25. Used with permission.

See our last reports on the ongoing crackdown on dissent in China, and the White Paper Protests.

China apologizes for blocking reportage on Hebei blast

The Deflagration Accident Disposal Headquarters of Hebei Province, China, issued a statement on March 14 apologizing for blocking media correspondents from reporting on an explosion that occurred in a four-story building in Hebei province, near Beijing. The body pledged to establish a robust communication platform with the media and protect journalists' rights. The incident resulted in seven fatalities and 27 injuries. According to the Investigation Team, the preliminary assessment indicates that the cause of the explosion was likely a gas pipeline leak. (Jurist)

There has been a spate of deadly industrial explosions in China in recent years.