March 28, 2019

At the intersection of 7th and H Streets, north of the Capitol Hill, seats the grand Friendship Archway of D.C.’s Chinatown. Much of the capital’s monuments is about symbolism. The city dedicated this Chinese traditional gate in the 1980s to mark the enduring Sino-US friendship. But lately, this 40-year-long economic partnership has taken a toxic turn with Washington shutting its doors on Chinese investment.

At the epicenter of contention is the fifth-generation cellular network (5G) that promises enhanced internet speeds. A network about 20 times faster than 4G will pave the way for future smart cities and…


December 2018

Featuring bold lyrics of sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and female infanticide, a music video called “China’s Male Scumbags” has taken the Chinese social media by storm. Released in November by feminist composer Youqin Tu, the song is a remake of the “Cell Block Tango” from the Broadway musical Chicago. In the adaptation, Tu played six Chinese female characters with each singing in a regional dialect about their murderous revenge on male partners.

Some denounced it as encouraging mob violence, while others pointed out the six tales resembled real-life cases in China and saw Tu’s work as an artistic…


May 2019

The cell was 1.8 meters high and maybe 80-by-80-centimeters wide. Erkin (pseudonym is used to protect the person’s identity) couldn’t remember the exact size. The four walls were closing in on him so tightly that he felt stuck in a narrow well. His hands were chained, and he could barely move. A guard poured a bucket of water over him as if the harsh winter of Xinjiang wasn’t already cold enough. With a sudden feeling of faintness, he fell.

Erkin was repeatedly punished with solitary confinement for challenging guards over his wrongful detention. During his last visit to China’s northwestern…


April 2019

The day on the tundra starts at five in the morning. A nomadic family is loading their belongings onto a chain of wooden sleds. Each sled is designated to carry specific items for each member of the household. The portable chum, the Russian word for tent, is always the last object to be dismantled and packed. As the group sets off for fresh pastureland, the single-file reindeer ride extends to several kilometers, undulating across the wilderness of Russia’s Arctic.

Located in Northwestern Siberia, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug stretches over three large peninsulas, Yamal, Tazovskiy, and Gydan. The region is…


A Delacorte Review True Short Story

Mia paced in front of the building entrance below a sign that read “Foot Spa.” She wore a gray parka against the New York chill and suede over-the-knee boots. Men walked by and as they did she approached them and said, “Massage?”

A man stopped and followed her inside. They climbed the narrow staircase, passing the travel agency on the second floor. Two sets of massage chairs sat in the dim main room. A wall-mounted multi-screen monitor showed footage from six surveillance cameras overlooking the front entrance, the back door, and two staircases. Above…

Shirley Ying Han

Multimedia journalist in politics & international affairs. Cortado drinker. Columbia Journalism School and SIPA alum. Views are my own.

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