Chinese tech giants, government under fire for ‘men only’ job ads

Baidu has been named as among Chinese companies that deterred female applicants or objectified women, said Human Rights Watch in a report released on Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 24 April 2018
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Chinese tech giants, government under fire for ‘men only’ job ads

  • The country’s #MeToo movement has been gaining momentum on university campuses since late last year
  • 19 percent of the Chinese civil service job adverts reviewed were “men only” or at least said men were preferred
0Top Chinese tech firms and some government departments have been singled out in a report that says discriminatory hiring practices based on gender are widespread in China and are linked to a shrinking proportion of women in the labor force.
Job ads posted by Alibaba Group Holding, Baidu and Tencent Holdings were among those that deterred female applicants or objectified women, said Human Rights Watch in a report released on Monday.
In many of the adverts, prospective employers boasted of “beautiful girls” at their workplace as a selling point for new employees, while others included specific height, appearance and temperament requirements for women that were unrelated to the roles.
“We have investigated these incidents and are making immediate changes. We are sorry they occurred and we will take swift action to ensure they do not happen again,” Tencent said in a statement.
An Alibaba spokeswoman said the company “will conduct stricter reviews of the recruiting advertisements to ensure compliance with our policy.”
A Baidu spokeswoman said the postings were “isolated instances.”
The report comes amid a larger Chinese movement against gender-based discrimination and harassment, buoyed by the global #MeToo movement, which has since been heavily censored online in the country.
The #MeToo movement began last year as victims of discrimination and sexual harassment took to social media to share their stories under the hashtag #MeToo. Silicon Valley firms have since been accused of discriminatory behavior, turning the focus on tech worldwide.
Human Rights Watch, which analyzed 36,000 Chinese job advertisements largely posted since 2013, also criticized adverts for government roles, construction workers and kindergarten teachers.
It said that so far in 2018, 19 percent of the Chinese civil service job adverts it reviewed were “men only” or at least said men were preferred. Only one job posting this year listed a preference for a female candidate, it said.
Reuters sent a fax seeking comment to the Ministry of Public Security, a bureau mentioned in the report, but did not receive a response.
Some firms looked to avoid scrutiny of their practices, including using code words to show a male preference, Human Rights Watch said. One used the Chinese word for south, “nan,” which in Chinese has the same pronunciation as the word for “man,” it said.
It added discriminatory hiring behavior was a key issue behind the relatively low numbers of women in the workforce and growing gender disparity over urban pay.
Chinese laws ban discrimination based on gender, but “enforcement is low and Chinese authorities rarely proactively investigate companies that repeatedly violate relevant laws,” Human Rights Watch said in the report.
The country’s #MeToo movement has, however, been gaining momentum on university campuses since late last year, and several schools have cut ties with professors amid claims of harassment and assault dating back decades.
The Human Rights Watch report received a muted response on Chinese social media on Tuesday, with almost no posts commenting on the issue on popular microblog platforms such as Alibaba-backed Weibo or Tencent’s mobile chat app WeChat.
Chinese social media firms are often required to censor civil rights discussions, including previous Human Rights Watch findings and posts related to the #MeToo movement.


China says interning Muslims brings them into ‘modern’ world

In this Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, Uighur security personnel patrol near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in western China's Xinjiang region. (AP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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China says interning Muslims brings them into ‘modern’ world

  • Despite growing alarm from the US and the United Nations, China has maintained that Xinjiang’s vast dragnet of police surveillance is necessary for countering latent extremism and preserving stability

BEIJING: China on Tuesday characterized its mass internment of Muslims as a push to bring into the “modern, civilized” world a destitute people who are easily led astray — a depiction that analysts said bore troubling colonial overtones.
The report is the ruling Communist Party’s latest effort to defend its extrajudicial detention of Central Asian Muslim minorities against mounting criticism.
China’s resistance to Western pressure over the camps highlights its growing confidence under President Xi Jinping, who has offered Beijing’s authoritarian system as a model for other countries.
About 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities have been arbitrarily detained in mass internment camps in China’s far west Xinjiang region, according to estimates by a UN panel. Former detainees say they were forced to disavow their Islamic beliefs in the camps, while children of detainees are being placed in dozens of orphanages across the region.
The report by the official Xinhua News Agency indicated that key to the party’s vision in Xinjiang is the assimilation of the indigenous Central Asian ethnic minorities into Han Chinese society — and in turn, a “modern” lifestyle.
Xinjiang Gov. Shohrat Zakir said the authorities were providing people with lessons on Mandarin, Chinese history and laws. Such training would steer them away from extremism and onto the path toward a “modern life” in which they would feel “confident about the future,” he said.
“It’s become a general trend for them to expect and pursue a modern, civilized life,” Zakir said, referring to the trainees. He said the measures are part of a broader policy to build a “foundation for completely solving the deeply-rooted problems” in the region.
China has long viewed the country’s ethnic minorities as backward, said James Leibold an expert on Chinese ethnic polices at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.
Leibold described Beijing’s perspective on minorities as: “They’re superstitious, they’re deviant, they’re potentially dangerous. The role of the party-state is to bring them into the light of civilization, to transform them.”
Despite growing alarm from the US and the United Nations, China has maintained that Xinjiang’s vast dragnet of police surveillance is necessary for countering latent extremism and preserving stability. The Turkic-speaking Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) have long resented restrictions placed on their religious practices. They say they experience widespread discrimination in jobs and access to passports.
In the Xinhua report, Zakir said authorities provide free vocational training in skills geared toward manufacturing, food and service industries. Zakir said “trainees” are paid a basic income during the training, in which free food and accommodations are provided.
The report appeared aimed at disputing accounts provided by former detainees, who have said they were held in political indoctrination camps where they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party.
Ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs have told The Associated Press that ostensibly innocuous acts such as praying regularly, viewing a foreign website or taking phone calls from relatives abroad could land one in a camp.
Zakir said the training centers were for people “who are influenced by terrorism and extremism, and those suspected of minor criminal offenses” who could be exempted from criminal punishment.
Zakir did not say whether such individuals were ever formally charged with any crime or provided a chance to defend themselves against the allegations. The report also did not say if attendance was mandatory, though former detainees have said they were forcibly held in centers policed by armed guards.
Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the system deprived detainees of basic legal protections such as access to lawyers.
The authorities’ attempts to justify the camps “illustrate what the ‘rule of law’ in China means — that the party bends it to its will and uses it as a weapon against perceived political enemies,” Wang said in an email.
Zakir did not say how many people were in such courses, but said some would be able to complete their courses this year.
Zakir seemed to try to counter reports of poor living conditions within the camps, saying that “trainees” were immersed in athletic and cultural activities. The centers’ cafeterias provide “nutritious, free diets,” and dormitories are fully equipped with TVs, air conditioning and showers, he said.
Omir Bekali, a Xinjiang-born Kazakh citizen, said he was kept in a cell with 40 people inside a heavily guarded facility.
Bekali said he was kept in a locked room with eight other internees. They shared beds and a wretched toilet. Baths were rare.
Before meals, they were told to chant “Thank the party! Thank the motherland!” During daily mandatory classes, they were told that their people were backward before being “liberated” by the party in the 1950s.
The idea that one’s beliefs can be transformed through indoctrination dates back to the Mao Zedong era, when self-criticisms and public humiliation were routinely employed to stir up ideological fervor.
The program’s philosophies can be traced even further back to the late imperial era, when Xinjiang’s “natives” were seen as requiring education in the Confucian way, according to Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Australian National University.
Amnesty International called the Xinhua report an insult to detainees and the families of people who have gone missing in the crackdown.
“No amount of spin can hide the fact that the Chinese authorities are undertaking a campaign of systematic repression,” the human rights group said.