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China Weekly Update (Week of September 18th)

China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station to Crash into Earth in Late 2017

Tiangong-1, known in English as Heavenly Palace-1, is expected to fall back to Earth in late 2017 (The Guardian). This station, launched in 2011, served as one of many symbols of China’s rise on the world stage. It is currently unknown whether China has lost control of the station or not. Xinhua News reported on the story, glossing over whether or not the government has lost control of the station (NPR). This has caused many speculators, such as satellite tracker Thomas Dorman, to believe that China has indeed lost control; Dorman says that “China will wait until the last minute to let the world know it has a problem.” To continue gathering data, China has recently launched Tiangong-2 to replace Tiangong-1 (Space).

(The Guardian, September 20th, 2016) (NPR, September 21st, 2016) (Space, September 15th, 2016)

Ai Weiwei’s Lawyer Jailed for 12 Years

Xia Lin, a human rights lawyer based out of China, has been sentenced to 12 years of jail time for fraudulently obtaining $700,000 to pay off debts (BBC). This move has been described as an attempt to oppress the human rights community in China. He, as well as his supporters, wife, and lawyers, was shocked at the verdict: “After he heard the verdict, Xia Lin said the case had been procedurally unfair and he was being persecuted for his rights defense work, for the cases he took on… he’s planning to appeal” stated defense lawyer Ding Xikui (New York Times). His case is part of the struggle between human rights lawyers and Chinese officials; starting July 2015, hundreds of human rights activists and lawyers were rounded up and arrested for stirring social discontent against the Communist Party. 100 Chinese lawyers have recently signed a petition in response to end police crackdowns and government harassment, as this issue, if left unchecked, takes away the ability for the Chinese people to punish officials for corrupt practices. Xia Lin is known for representing Ai Weiwei, famous Chinese dissident artist (Financial Times). Additionally, he has represented countless other individuals against the government overstepping its boundaries of power and officials participating in corruption.

(New York Times, September 22nd, 2016) (BBC, September 22nd, 2016) (Financial Times, September 22nd, 2016)