Emily Feng

Polls show widespread distrust toward China is growing in the U.S. over how China initially handled its coronavirus outbreak and ongoing human rights abuses.

At the same time, Chinese attitudes toward the U.S. are souring — while popular satisfaction with the Chinese state has grown since the central government quickly brought the pandemic under control through sometimes brutal methods.

China has sentenced an influential property magnate and outspoken critic of the Communist Party and President Xi Jinping to 18 years in prison on corruption charges – a hefty sentence that is likely to further deter dissent among the nation's intellectual and business elite.

On Tuesday, a Beijing court announced that it had found Ren Zhiqiang, 69, guilty of embezzling public funds and taking bribes totaling about $2.9 million over the course of 14 years. He was sentenced in a trial closed to the public. Ren has also been fined $620,000 and his assets seized.

Early this month, parents and students across the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia streamed back to school campuses, not to attend classes, but instead to protest.

They gathered by the hundreds outside dozens of schools in rare acts of civil disobedience, protesting a new policy that sharply reduces their hours of Mongolian-language instruction. For several days, schools across Inner Mongolia stood empty as parents pulled their children out of class, the largest demonstrations in Inner Mongolia in more than three decades.

Across China, life has largely returned to normal. Domestic travel is picking back up as a coronavirus pandemic brought under control recedes from memory. Businesses and factories have reopened.

Except in Xinjiang. A sweeping, western region nearly four times the size of California, Xinjiang remains largely cut off from the rest of the country and its some 22 million residents under heavy lockdown, an effort officials say is needed to contain a cluster of more than 800 officially diagnosed cases.

Textbooks censored. Teachers investigated for improper speech. Students arrested and charged with secession for their social media posts.

Just over a month after Beijing imposed a national security law in Hong Kong, authorities are targeting in rapid succession figures at all levels of Hong Kong's civil society and education sectors, despite assurances from Beijing officials and Hong Kong's top leader that the law would only be used to target a small minority of people.

A farmer from Shandong province along China's east coast, Liu recalls how during Chinese Lunar New Year in January, he went out for a walk and came home to discover local officials preparing to demolish his home.

When he called the police on the demolishers, they arrested him instead, saying that the police would "assist the work of the local government."

"To demolish my home, about 100 security officers surrounded and subdued me, and detained me," Liu said on a recent visit to his village, Liushuanglou, near the city of Heze. He was released from detention the next day.

Updated at 9:12 p.m. ET

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai and several executives at the media company he founded have been arrested. They're accused of colluding with foreign forces, the highest profile arrests thus far under a sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing just over a month ago.

First China was hit by the novel coronavirus. Now it is dealing with the worst flooding in more than 20 years across vast swaths, from its southwestern interior to its east coast.

Zeng Hailin is one of an estimated 3.7 million people displaced or evacuated because of floods in China largely since June.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET

The Chinese government ordered the United States on Friday to close its consulate in the southwestern city of Chengdu in retaliation for the U.S. shutting down China's consulate in Houston. Ties between the two countries have plummeted to their lowest point in more than 30 years.

Updated at 6:10 p.m. ET

The U.S. has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, in what China called an "unprecedented escalation."

In a statement early Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said: "We have directed the closure of [People's Republic of China] Consulate General Houston, in order to protect American intellectual property and American's (sic) private information."

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NOEL KING, HOST:

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Updated 12:50 p.m. ET

Beijing's top legislative body has unanimously passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong, a controversial move that could effectively criminalize most dissent in the city and that risks widening the rift between China and Western countries that have criticized the law.

It was a dramatic crackdown, even by China's standards: Dozens of young labor organizers and student activists were rounded up and disappeared in 2018 and 2019. Now, at least 15 of the activists have been released from detention, some taking on new identities and jobs, according to five acquaintances of the activists.

This year was supposed to be a good year for selling bamboo rats to eat. Prices had been rising steadily as had their popularity as a delicacy when grilled.

Then the coronavirus hit.

"People nowadays are always talking about poverty alleviation. But now, I'm close to being in extreme poverty," said Liu Ping, a breeder of bamboo rats — plump rodents known for their sharp, bamboo-gnawing incisors and ample flesh.

A seafood vendor among the first people infected by the novel coronavirus has a change of heart over what is important in life.

A doctor who treated some of the first patients still puzzles over why the virus behaves the way it does.

A psychologist worries about the deep, lasting emotional strains from the outbreak.

A survivor seeks justice for his mother's death, though he knows his lawsuit against the authorities will likely never go to trial.

Updated 1:15 a.m. Monday

China's capital of Beijing has discovered 79 symptomatic new cases of the coronavirus since Thursday, leading city authorities to resurrect lockdown measures and elevating fears of a second wave of infections.

Since the coronavirus pandemic battered China's economy, tens of millions of urban and factory jobs have evaporated.

Some workers and business owners have banded together to pressure companies or local governments for subsidies and payouts.

But many of the newly unemployed have instead returned to their rural villages. China's vast countryside now serves as an unemployment sponge, soaking up floating migrant workers in temporary agricultural work on small family plots.

Hong Kong's legislature has passed a bill making it a crime to poke fun at China's national anthem — a move that puts new limits on anniversary events marking the Tiananmen Square massacre. Under the ban, it is illegal to alter the lyrics of the anthem, or to sing it "in a distorted or disrespectful way."

China is moving closer toward imposing a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, which activists and pro-democracy lawmakers say would effectively end whatever autonomy the city enjoys from Beijing.

On Thursday, China's national legislature approved a motion to begin drafting the law, which would prohibit four broad categories of activity in Hong Kong: sedition, subversion of state power, foreign interference and terrorism — as defined by China.

The United States put up another major roadblock this month against Huawei, as China's big telecommunications company moves to set up the latest 5G mobile networks worldwide.

On May 19, the Commerce Department issued new export rules to choke off Huawei's access to semiconductor chips it needs to build cellphones and 5G infrastructure.

Beijing has signaled it will push through sweeping national security legislation for Hong Kong, its most aggressive effort yet to exert its control over the semi-autonomous city since it was returned to Chinese control in 1997.

For months, South Korea has been praised as a model and a beacon of hope for the world in its desperate fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In early February, China's ruling Communist Party was facing one of its biggest political crises in more than three decades. A rapidly spreading outbreak of the new coronavirus was a "massive risk and challenge" to social stability, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned top party officials in an internal speech that was later published publicly.

China's leaders have declared the coronavirus outbreak largely under control within its borders. Now, the authorities are working to control the narrative of how the country contained the virus by questioning and even detaining people who might possess information that challenges the official line.

Those being questioned include Internet-savvy archivists; families and their legal counsel suing the state for damages from the coronavirus epidemic; and even lauded volunteers who staffed critical emergency services from the epicenter city of Wuhan.

China's economy contracted by 6.8% in the first three months of 2020 from the same period a year ago — its biggest drop in nearly three decades, as the country's factory output and domestic spending ground to a halt amid the unprecedented shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China on Friday showed that industrial output was down 8.4% from the year before and retail sales fell by a whopping 19% as the country has been on lockdown for weeks in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

More than two months after he watched his father die of the new coronavirus, Zhang Hai has yet to bury him. The 50-year-old Wuhan native wants to pay his last respects alone — but that's now against government rules.

"[My father's] work unit called and made it very clear that I have to be accompanied when I retrieve the ashes," Zhang recalled. "Maybe they are well-intentioned, but I just want to collect my father's ashes alone before burying him. I do not want to have strangers around."

Tens of thousands of people streamed out of Wuhan by car, train and plane after a 76-day lockdown was lifted Wednesday from the Chinese city where the global coronavirus pandemic began.

Beijing's parks are an oasis in an otherwise dense and sprawling city. They provide a rare public space for people to ribbon dance, play checkers and practice tai chi. But in January and February, they were deserted. More than 80,000 people across China were sickened with the virus and strict quarantine measures locked down villages and cities, including Beijing.

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