Posts tagged ‘Hong Kong’

Saturday, February 15, 2014

World Radio Day, and how did Li Wai-ling get Fired?

February 13 (Thursday) was World Radio Day. That was an adequate day for the Hong Kong Journalists Association to bring Li Wai-ling (or Li Wei-ling, 李慧玲) and the press together. But let’s go through the issues one by one.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

If everyone is happy, who needs a free press?

China’s growing economic weight is allowing it to extend its influence over the media in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, writes Reporters without Borders, in their 2014 report, published earlier this week. The BBC added a palpable story on Friday, about the sacking of Li Wei-ling, a radio talk show host at a commercial station in Hong Kong who has been sacked and who, on a press conference on Thursday, accused the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of having put pressure on her employer.

Organizations like Reporters without Borders have their merits. This may be even more true for the Hong Kong Journalists Association who organized Ms Li Wei-ling’s press conference. Reporters, talk show hosts and all the people who are critical and daring in the face of power deserve solidarity.

But this goes for reporters and journalists in Western countries, too. The problem with stories like the BBC’s, served to an American or European audience, seems to be that they blind people for problems at home. Here, too, broadcasters need to apply for frequencies. Here, too, they need to rely on political decisions when they are public broadcasters. On licence fees, or on public budgets. Advertisers, too, may exert influence.

My window on press freedom is small. The case I really looked at rather closely during the last years was that of the Chinese department at Deutsche Welle. I’m looking at these issues as a listener to and reader of the media.

This post might serve as the short version, and here is a longer one. They are about German politics, and the media.

The freedom of the press isn’t necessarily the freedom of a journalist to speak or write his mind, or to publicly highlight whatever scandal he or she may discover. This depends on a reporter’s or journalist’s employer, and frequently, reporters and editors-in-chief in the free world are very aware of when to better censor themselves, so as to keep their jobs.

This tends to be particularly true when a journalist’s contract is non-permanent. You don’t need state authorities to censor journalists when journalists’ employment is as precarious as is frequently the case in Western countries.

There is no point in pitting Chinese journalists against Western journalists, or the other way round. But there is a point in looking at every situation without ideological blinkers. Suppression of freedom from commercial organizations (and, sometimes, public-private networks) may still allow media that offer valid criticism of suppression in totalitarian countries – after all, that’s “them”, not “us”. Media in totalitarian countries can also, at times, provide valid criticism of media in freer countries. It is useful to read and listen to as many different outlets from as many different political systems as you can.

But there is no need or justification to blindly trust either of them. Without a broad global audience that develops criteria to judge press reports, freedom will get under the wheels of authoritarianism, even in – so far – free societies. The internet has become a place where journalists and their listeners and readers should meet, and be as honest with each other as they can. Its also the place where the struggle for freedom on the airwaves has to begin, time and again, whenever powers of whichever color try to weigh in on them.

____________

Related

» Radio Sparsam, Jan 26, 2014
» Authentic, Feb 16, 2013

____________

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bo Xilai Trial: “Party Resolved, Nobody above the Law”

The following is a translation of a Xinhua newsagency account of Bo Xilai‘s first day in court, on Thursday. Probably because of the judicial nature of the article, I found it quite complicated. Objections and advice to improve the translation will be welcome.

Like many (online) papers and websites, Huanqiu Shibao carried the Xinhua account.

Xinhua Net, Jinan, August 22 (reporters Huo Xiaoguang, Yang Weihan). The intermediate people’s court in Jinan, Shandong province, heard the case of Bo Xilai bribery, corruption, and abuse of authority. Bo Xilai is standing trial. Witnesses appeared in court and gave testimony. Close relatives of the defendant, National People’s Congress delegates, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference members, media journalists and members of the masses from all walks of life – more than one-hundred overall – were sitting in and following the trial.

新华网济南8月22日电(记者霍小光、杨维汉)山东省济南市中级人民法院22日一审公开开庭审理被告人薄熙来受贿、贪污、滥用职权一案。薄熙来出庭受审。相关证人出庭作证。被告人亲属、人大代表、政协委员、媒体记者及各界群众一百余人旁听了庭审。

At 8:43, presiding judge, vice president Wang Xuguang of Jinan intermediate people’s court, struck the gavel and opened the hearing.

8时43分,审判长、济南市中级人民法院副院长王旭光敲响法槌,宣布开庭。

The prosecutor read out the indictment. The indictment reads: From 1999 to 2012, Bo Xilai used his offices as Dalian mayor, Dalian municipal party secretary, Liaoning provincial governor, minister of commerce and other offices to obtain property amounting to more than 21,790,000 Yuan RMB directly or through his wife Gu Kailai and his son Gu Guagua, after accepting requests from  Dalian International Development Company general manager Tang Xiaolin (case handled separately), Dalian Shide Group Ltd. chairman Xu Ming (case handled separately) to help their companies or them individually with applying for car import quotas, reporting petrochemical project(s). The amount(s) was/were particularly big in 2002, when Bo Xilai made use of his office as Liaoning provincial governor and, together with others, embezzled Dalian city funds of 5,000,000 Yuan, and in January and February 2012, when Bo Xilai, as Chongqing municipal CCP secretary, violated regulations to obstruct investigations concerning Bo Gu Kailai’s intentional homicide, before and after the defection of deputy mayor Wang Lijun, approving the false public information that Wang Lijun “was on vacation and receiving treatment” and other ways of abusing authority. His behavior was a major cause in making it impossible to handle the above case timely in accordance with the law, and in the defection of Wang Lijun. This created a particularly abominable effect on society, major losses for the country’s and the people’s interests, under particularly serious circumstances. The prosecutor believes Bo Xilai should be prosecuted [on the basis of] crime of accepting bribes, crime of corruption, and crime of abuse of authority.

公诉人宣读起诉书。起诉书指控:1999年至2012年间,薄熙来利用担任大连市人民政 府市长、中共大连市委书记、辽宁省人民政府省长、商务部部长等职务便利,接受大连国际发展有限公司总经理唐肖林(另案处理)、大连实德集团有限公司董事长 徐明(另案处理)的请托,为相关单位和个人在申请进口汽车配额、申报石化项目等事项上提供帮助,直接或者通过其妻薄谷开来、其子薄瓜瓜收受上述二人给予的 财物共计折合人民币2179万余元,数额特别巨大;2002年,薄熙来担任辽宁省人民政府省长期间,利用职务便利,伙同他人侵吞大连市人民政府公款人民币 500万元,数额巨大;2012年1月至2月,薄熙来作为中共重庆市委书记,在有关人员揭发薄谷开来涉嫌故意杀人及时任重庆市人民政府副市长王立军叛逃前 后,违反规定实施了阻碍对薄谷开来涉嫌故意杀人案重新调查、批准对外发布王立军接受“休假式治疗”的虚假消息等一系列滥用职权行为,其行为是导致上述案件 不能及时依法查处和王立军叛逃事件发生的重要原因,并造成了特别恶劣的社会影响,致使国家和人民利益遭受重大损失,情节特别严重。公诉人认为,对薄熙来应 以受贿罪、贪污罪、滥用职权罪追究刑事责任。

Bo Xilai denied the indictment charges, made a statement and denied the charges. The court investigated the charges. Prosecutors and defenders respectively questioned the defendant, and cross-examined Dalian Shide Group Ltd. chairman Xu Ming [who attended] as a witness. The prosecutors showed evidence, testimonies, used evidence such as audio and video recordings, and prosecutors and defenders carried out ample evidence. The court put forward all permissions for Bo Xilai to to speak and to file motions.

在审判长主持下,被告人薄熙来对起诉书指控的受贿犯罪事实进行了陈述,并否认了指控。法庭就起诉指控薄熙来受 贿的事实进行了法庭调查。公诉人、辩护人分别讯(询)问了被告人,并对出庭作证的证人大连实德集团有限公司董事长徐明进行了交叉询问。公诉人当庭出示了书 证、证人证言、询问证人同步录音录像等有关证据,控辩双方进行了充分质证。法庭对薄熙来当庭提出的所有发言申请均予以准许。被告人及其辩护人充分发表了意 见。

The defendant, Bo Xilai, was emotionally stable in the court proceedings, his physical condition was normal. There was order among those sitting in and following the hearings.

被告人薄熙来在庭审过程中情绪稳定,身体状况正常。法庭旁听秩序井然。

At about six p.m., the presiding judge announced an adjournment, and the continuation of the hearings on August 23.

下午6时许,审判长宣布休庭,23日继续开庭审理。

During the trial, Jinan intermediate people’s court’s official microblog channel [Weibo] covered the trial. After the morning session and the afternoon session, Jinan intermediate people’s court spokesman [or spokespeople] reported to the media.

庭审期间,济南市中级人民法院官方微博对庭审情况及时作了播报。22日上午和下午休庭后,济南市中级人民法院新闻发言人向媒体通报了庭审有关情况。

According to the emoticons underneath, eleven reading voters are “frightened”, 37 are “angry”, 573 are “saddened”, three are “moved”, 28 “delighted”, none are “happy”, sixteen are “bored”, and 145 pushed the “ridiculous” button.

Huanqiu Shibao itself published an article today (Friday) that focuses on how the public follows the hearings, with an emphasis on international media: “Bo Xilai’s appearance in court attracts international attention” (薄熙来出庭受审引国际关注).

The BBC reported that Jinan people’s intermediate court’s offical microblog channel provided timely coverage. From the announcement of the trial and access provided to the audience, to the verification of the defendant’s identity, every step [in the proceedings] was published on the microblog.

英国广播公司报道说,济南市中级人民法院官方微博对庭审情况及时作了播报。从预告案件以及旁听人员入场到核实被告人身份等,每一步都有微博发布。

Agence France-Presse (opening time of the hearings) and Singapore’s Lianhe Morning Post (orderly public listening to the proceedings), Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao online and WenWei Po  are also quoted – none, however, with news or commentary that would add information to that provided by Xinhua (see first translation).

Two Russian sources get the last word in Huanqiu’s press review:

Russian newspaper “Independent” says that China’s trial of Bo Xilai shows that  nobody can put himself above the law. Any criminal at any level will be punished. Russian “Information” website says that the trial clearly shows the CCP’s determination to fight against corruption.

俄罗斯《独立报》称,中国审判薄熙来表明,任何人都不能将自己凌驾于法律之上,任何级别的犯罪分子都将受到惩罚。俄“消息”网站则称,审判清晰表明中共进行反腐斗争的决心。

According to the emoticons, 34 (emote-voting) readers are “frightened”, 52 are “angry”, 392 “saddened”, eleven are “moved”, 45 “delighted”, seven “happy”, 58 “bored”, and 1409 appear to find the article, the topic, situation, or else, “ridiculous”.

Xinwen Lianbo, China’s main evening news broadcast, apparently carried no news about the trial on Thursday, but an (apparently) unrelated one about cleaning the internet of “rumors”.

____________

Related

» Trial resumes, CNN, Aug 23, 2013

____________

Updates/Related

» Press verdicts, BBC, Aug 23, 2013
» Censorship instructions, China Digital Times, August 22, 2013

____________

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Xi Jinping’s New Work Style in Action

There were no formalities and extravaganzas when Xi Jinping revisited Zhengding Town in Hebei Province on July 11, Hebei Daily (via Enorth, Tianjin) reported. No police motorcades, only two small or medium-sized buses, quietly like the rain (雨悄没声). And Xi even recognized the party branch secretary in the village from his first visit, in 2008.

Later, the party and state leader “spontaneously” visited a family:

“The General Secretary has come to our home”, 18-year-old Jie Jinkai wrote on QQ. The General Secretary had randomly chosen Jin’s family to visit there. “Village cadres knocked on the door, and the General Secretary just came in. I was on the internet, my younger sister was watching television, and Grandma, Mum and Dad were busy with other things – I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“总书记来我家了。”这是18岁的解金凯11日更新的QQ签名。总书记是随机选择来到他家的。“村干部敲开门,总书记就走了进来。当时我正在上网,妹妹正在看电视,奶奶、爸爸、妈妈都在忙着别的事,当时简直不敢相信自己的眼睛。”

The kids airing their heels, and Granny working her ass off: this was extremely realistically choreographed moderate-prosperity stuff, and the message was clear: The party’s new work style is in full swing, with modesty, cloeseness to the masses, small meals, and small people.

Xi Jinping listens closely and conscientiously takes notes - CCTV evening news (Wednesday) on a conference with provincial leaders in Wuhan, Hunan Province. Click picture for video.

Xi Jinping listens closely and conscientiously takes notes – CCTV evening news (Wednesday) on a conference with provincial leaders in Wuhan, Hunan Hubei Province.
Click picture for video.

Xi speaking, cadres taking notes - CCTV evening news on Wednesday.

Xi speaking, cadres taking notes – CCTV evening news on Wednesday.

Will President Xi Jinping turn out to be a reformer in the vein of Taiwan’s Chiang Ching-kuo, the South China Morning Post (SCMP, Hong Kong) asked on July 18. Or will he walk a more conservative path, becoming a leader in the mould of Communist Party helmsman Mao Zedong?

Conventional wisdom has it that a new leader needs to consolidate power before making decisive political moves (if he has any on his mind). But the SCMP quoted members of liberal circles in China who believe the opposite: that Xi could only move before his successor (who would only succeed him in about nine or ten years, if you go by the experience of Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao) becomes known. That’s to say, Xi’s window of opportunity would be during his first five-year term.

But rather, the SCMP quoted another liberal, Xi had moved to the “left”, i. e. Maoist tradition.

On July 19, People’s Daily (online) reported on Xi’s activities as chairman of the Central Military Commission. The CMC is both an organ of the party and the state, and formally, they are therefore two different bodies. However, membership of both of them is identical, and only during the transition between Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, when Xi had become the CCP’s general secretary, and Hu remained head of state (and therefore the “state CMC”), their functions could count as slightly different from each other.

With Xi’s approval, People’s Daily wrote, the Central Military Commission has recently published the “Army implementation of the Party’s regulations on building the system of incorrupt government”.  (经中央军委主席习近平批准,中央军委日前印发《军队实行党风廉政建设责任制的规定》。)

The “Regulations” thoroughly implement the spirit of the 18th National Congress of the CCP, and under the guidance of the Deng Xiaoping Theory, the important thoughts of the “Three Representatives” [Jiang Zemin] and of scientific development [Hu Jintao] resolutely implement Chairman Xi’s important series of instructions, closely centered around the party’s goal, in the new situation, of a strong military, in accordance with the Central Committee’s and the CMC’s relevant rules concerning
the Party’s regulations on building incorrupt government. [The "Regulations"] combine the troops’ reality, clearly stipulated the concrete responsibilities of all levels within the party committees, of the commissions for discipline inspection of the CCP, and of leading cadres, as well as measures for inspection, supervision, responsibility and investigation.

《规 定》深入贯彻落实党的十八大精神,以邓小平理论、“三个代表”重要思想、科学发展观为指导,坚决贯彻习主席一系列重要指示,紧紧围绕党在新形势下 的强军目标,依据党中央、中央军委关于党风廉政建设的有关规定,结合军队实际,明确规定了各级党委、纪委和领导干部在党风廉政建设中的具体责任,以及检查 监督和责任追究的制度措施。

The CMC requires all levels to thoroughly study the spirit of the 18th National Congress of the CCP, to conscientiously implement the Central Committee’s, the CMC’s and Chairman Xi’s important instructions on incorrupt government and anti-corruption work, conscientiously implement the Politburo’s eight rules of the CPC Central Committee on improving work style and maintaining close contact with the people, and the spirit of the CMC’s ten regulations  for strengthening the work style, centered around the goal of a strong military, to do good work by strictly implementing the Party’s regulations on building incorrupt government. Measures of different forms must be taken for propaganda and education to create a good atmosphere for the implementation of the “Regulations”. The responsibility of the party work style of incorrupt government must be carried out earnestly, and concerted efforts must truly take shape.

中 央军委要求,各级要深入学习贯彻党的十八大精神,认真贯彻党中央、中央军委和习主席关于加强党风廉政建设和反腐败工作的重要指示,认真落实中央政治 局关于改进工作作风、密切联系群众八项规定和中央军委加强自身作风建设十项规定精神,紧紧围绕强军目标,把严格执行党风廉政建设责任制作为一项重要政治任 务切实抓紧抓好。要采取多种形式搞好宣传教育,营造学习贯彻《规定》的良好氛围。要切实履行抓党风廉政建设的责任,真正形成齐抓共管的合力。

Still within the third paragraph, but in bold characters, i. e. emphasized, the People’s Daily article says that

Right from the sources, corruption must be fought, in accordance with the “Regulations”, concrete measures and methods must be improved, systems to control and supervise with complete power must be built, and the power be impounded in a systematic cage. The edcuational activities for the development of the party’s mass line [or ampaign on mass line education and practice] must be deepened, we must concentrate on solving the four working-style problems of formalism, bureaucratism, hedonism and extravagance. Searching our way step by step, 抓铁有痕的劲头, clutching the building of the work style, we must achieve. We must adhere to the principle that where there’s where there is a [criminal? corruption?] case, there needs to be an investigation, where there’s corruption, there needs to be punishment, we must adhere to the principle of striking both at tigers and flies, and conscientiously rectify and deal with our [respective] units’ problems at party work style building, and corruption problems. By strict and impartial discipline, we guarantee the Party’s regulations on building the system of incorrupt government.

要 从源头上有效防治腐败,依据《规定》制定完善具体措施办法,健全权力运行制约和监督体系,把权力关进制度的笼子里。要深入开展党的群众路线教育实践活动, 集中解决形式主义、官僚主义、享乐主义和奢靡之风这“四风”问题,以踏石留印、抓铁有痕的劲头,把作风建设一抓到底、抓出成效。要坚持有案必查、有腐必 惩,坚持“老虎”“苍蝇”一起打,认真纠正并严肃处理本单位在党风廉政建设和反腐败工作中存在的问题,以严明的纪律保证党风廉政建设责任制的贯彻落实。

Not only the liberals quoted by the South China Morning Post on July 18 are pessimistic. Willy Wo-Lap Lam, once himself an SCMP editor, interprets Xi’s language as reminiscent of the Great Helmsman’s masterly blend of the vernacular and the metaphysical. And rather than establishing institutions such as universal-style checks and balances, [...] Xi is resorting to Cultural Revolution-era ideological and propaganda campaigns to change of mindset of cadres, observes Lam.

This doesn’t necessarily amount to an allegation that Xi would be a Maoist himself. Rather, independent commissions against corruption might target the alleged wealth of China’s “first families”, not least Xi Jinping’s own family.

Institution-building could pose personal risks. But then, maybe the Xi’s aren’t that rich after all. Or maybe the new work style will truly take shape.

Until then, authority needs to be inherited.

____________

Related

Ban on new Government Buidlings, Herald Sun / AAP, July 23, 2013

____________

Updates/Related

Charges against Bo Xilai, BBC, July 25, 2013

____________

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reforming China’s Financial System: who will bear the Costs?

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

This is not the first time that a “financial crisis” is predicted for China, and certainly not so in Western media, which seem to have become aware of problems in China’s financial system by 2011. It doesn’t seem unlikely that the times of export-led growth in China are coming to an end – a new policy needs to be found, and it will need to be more specific than these.

The third wave of the global financial crisis is likely to occur in the emerging markets, and it is in its preliminary (or brewing) stage in China, Hong Kong’s Beijing-leaning Wen Wei Po (文匯報) quoted Guan Qingyou (管清友), assistant dean of the Minsheng Securities Research Institute, on June 21. However, it hadn’t started yet, Guan added, and there were two reasons for that. America’s Federal Reserve Bank hadn’t sufficient reason yet to exit its quantative easing policy, and the Bank of Japan, Japan’s central bank, was firm in its radical easing policies.

But that was no reason to lean back, Wen Wei Po continues to quote Guan Qingyou. The longer the brewing stage of the crisis lasted, the more fiercely it would become once it broke out. For the time being, there were three firewalls, Guan suggested: China’s current account suprlus with a corresponding amount of foreign-exchange reserves, a capital account that hadn’t yet been completely liberalized, and short-term capital flight would therefore be limited, and thirdly, China’s financial system was relatively stable – this third aspect had allowed China to escape the Asian financial crisis (of 1997) rather unharmed. Despite these reassuring short-term “firewalls”, an aging population, growing financial risks and excess production capacity stemming from overinvestment as well as high housing/property prices were burdens that made it difficult for China to prosper.

It would therefore be possible to avoid an acute currency crisis, Wen Wei Po quotes Guan Qingyou.

On July 2, China News Service quoted excerpts from Hong Kong’s Ming Pao‘s (明報) July 2 edition. Here, too, the Federal Reserve got a mention: there was no fixed end to the third round of quantative easing, and it would continue until the US economy’s recovery was really steady. This positive change would occur later this year, the Federal Reserve is quoted as predicting – “we hope that the Fed is right”, China News Service quotes Ming Pao.

The Fed’s “quantative easing” was at times cussed in the Chinese media (I can’t tell if that was also true for Hong Kong media) during the first years of the financial crisis, for destabilizing the global economy (and, presumably, for devaluing both the dollar and the U.S. bonds China holds  as America’s creditor). But few Chinese observers appear to be waiting for an end to quantative easing too impatiently.
Ming Pao, according to China News Service, uses some stronger language than Wen Wei Po in describing the need for Chinese financial market reforms: just as the economy was slowing down in China, and while the global markets weren’t stable, the Chinese central bank was trying to defuse the bomb in China’s financial system:

To meet their needs for working capital, mainland private enterprises are often seriously dependent on short-term funding. And if Chinese everywhere scramble for working capital, the whole Asian supply chain may become affected. This is bad news for the close regional ties between exporting and processing enterprises in mainland China. If the tightening period drags on, this will also negatively affect northeast Asian countries depending on Chinese growth.

内地的私营企业为满足营运资金的需求,往往 严重依赖短期资金。因此,若中国供货商到处争夺营运资金,整条亚洲供应链都可能会受到干扰。对于与内地出 口加工企业关系密切的地区出口商来说,这是个坏消息。若内地的紧缩周期拖长,对于那些俨如中国经济增长寒暑表的东北亚国家来说,将会不利。

The more resolute China’s [financial?] reform plans, the more painful the labor pain will be. The decision makers will try to increase the efficiency of capital use within the financial system. There is no “painless” way of dealing with the problem of debt dependence.

中国的改革计划愈有决心,这种阵痛的时间就愈长。决策者试图提高资金在金融系统内的运用效率。要处理之前遗留下来的债务依赖问题,实在没有“无痛”的方法。

Access to loans had long been a problem for smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Occasionally even the press seemed to confront the central bank with the issue. A Zhejiang Satellite TV reporter asked People’s Bank of China (PBoC)  governor Zhou Xiaochuan in March 2011 how, under a tightening policy, harm for the SMEs can be avoided, given that banks could easily raise interest rates, and the SMEs had absolutely no bargaining power. Zhou’s answer amounted to a speech, rather than to an answer, and the only “practical advice” it contained basically amounted to a one-liner: We also encourage small companies to choose from the market.

The central bank hasn’t earned itself better grades very recently either, at least not by the Economist‘s standards: stirred by one trillion yuan added to the commercial banks’ loanbooks during the first ten days of June, the PBoC concluded that some banks were expecting a fresh government stimulus to revive a slowing economy and had “positioned themselves in advance”. But rather than going into another illicit lending orgy, the commercial banks had – arguably – only recognized existing loans in deference to the regulator’s instructions.

The message the BBC‘s Laurence Knight reads into the PBoC’s decisions is that the newly-ensconced government of President Xi Jinping is deadly serious about “rebalancing” China’s economy. (Knight’s story also contains a history of China’s recent “cheap-money era”, i. e. the stimulus package, and how small borrowers have been marginalised from the mainstream financial system.

But if the Xi leadership is indeed deadly serious about addressing the reform of the financial system, the question remains who will need to bear the pain Ming Pao (as quoted by China News Service) predicted on July 2. Michael Pettis, finance professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, can think of one sector which must not take the burden:

You can only resolve a bad debt problem by assigning the cost to some sector of the economy. In the past it was the household sector that implicitly paid to clean up the debt, but if we expect rapid growth in household consumption to lead the economy going forward, and this is what rebalancing means in the Chinese context, we cannot also expect the household sector to clean up the bad debt in the same way it has done so over the past decade.

But if growth led by domestic demand – instead of export-led growth – is indeed the goal, neither Guan Qingyou’s comments as quoted by Wen Wei Po nor Ming Pao’s article as quoted by China News Service seem to hint at such a solution.  And when it comes to China’s colonial possessions, investment appears to remain the only answer, to economic and political problems alike. But then, excess production capacity may hardly be the main issue there, in the short run.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo: Edward Snowden coverage

Edward Snowden‘s statement that NSA spied on computers and networks in Hong Kong and mainland China is among the headlines mentioned at the beginning of CCTV‘s main daily newscast, Xinwen Lianbo, and gets an almost two-minutes’ slot towards the end of the program. CCTV quotes from a one-hour interview conducted by the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Edward Snowden - is she surprised? Xinwen Lianbo co-anchor Li Ruiying

Is this presenter surprised? Xinwen Lianbo co-anchor Li Ruiying.

The headlines’ ranking lists usually depend on how high in Chinese protocol people “making” the news are – starting with party and state chairman Xi Jinping, even if the actual weight of his event is rather small. That’s why news like Snowden’s descriptions of NSA activity wouldn’t appear further up in the program.

Snowden’s comments may be a sweet-sour surprise for Beijing – sweet for supporting China’s claim that China, too, is a victim of hacking activities (which has been Beijing’s reply to U.S. criticism of alleged Chinese hacking attacks in the past), and sour, as Snowden’s stay in Hong Kong may strain relations with Washington – a relationship which are meant to become a new type of relations between big powers.

One outcome would appear hardly conceivable to me, though: that Snowden would be extradited – unless a court in Hong Kong makes such a decision. I’m not sure if the central government has a say in this (given its role in Hong Kong when it comes to diplomacy and defense issues), or if this will be for the Hong Kong courts alone to decide.

But if the decision is a homework for Beijing, extraditing Snowden would be hard to sell to the Chinese audience.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Obituary: Chen Xitong, 1930 – 2013

-

Chen Xitong

Former Beijing mayor Chen Xitong (陈希同) died on Sunday. HK China News Agency (HKCNA, a branch of mainland Chinese China News Service) broke the news on Tuesday, reportedly in a rather scant bulletin.

Chen was born in Sichuan Province, in 1930, and died aged 82, 83, or 84, depending on how you count the years. He was seen as a staunch supporter of the Tian’anmen massacre of June 4, 1989. In 1992, he became a member of the central committee’s politburo, and party secretary in Beijing. In turn, he ended his mayorship after some ten years in office.

His career ended in 1995, when he faced corruption charges. In 1998, he was sentenced to sixteen years in jail, but was released on medical parole in 2006.

According to sources beyond HKCNA – quoted by the Voice of America -, Chen Xitong’s relatives released a bulletin of their own, too. Chen Xitong’s son, Chen Xiaotong (陈小同),  thanked those who had helped the family during the illness of his father. Chen Xitong reportedly died from cancer.

Yao Jianfu (姚监复), a former researcher at the state council’s rural development research center, met Chen Xitong several times after Chen’s release in 2006. In June 2012, he had his accounts of their discussions, Conversations with Chen Xitong, published in Hong Kong.

Chen is said to have contested the notion that his role in the Tian’anmen massacre had been crucial. Deng Xiaoping had had his own sources to make his decision (i. e. didn’t depend on information from the Beijing mayor).

In June 2012, on the occasion of the publication of the Conversations, the Washington Post quoted Chen Xitong as having referred to the 1989 demonstrations as an American-backed conspiracy orchestrated by a “tiny handful of people”  at the time of the movement, 24 years ago. Chen, in his rather recent conversations with Yao Jianfu, is also quoted as comparing his political fate (concerning the corruption charges in 1995) to that of Bo Xilai.

Some allegations against Chen Xitong, regarding his role in 1989, are based on the alleged diary by then chief state councillor Li Peng. But some allegations appear likely, such as Chen having been in charge of the headquarters that oversaw the crackdown. Either way, he certainly played his role well enough to get promoted to the politburo.

-

Candellight Vigil in Hong Kong

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers attended a candellight vigil in Victoria Park on Tuesday night. William Chan, a Youtube user, wrote:

Hong Kong made me proud today. A big crowd braved heavy rain to attend. This was the moment when we all put down our umbrellas to raise our candles. The chants at the end are “Vindicate June 4th!” and “Never give up!”

The erhu music performed is called 江河水 [River Water].

____________

Related

» Ma Ying-jeou’s June-4 remarks, Taiwan Today, June 5, 2013

____________

Monday, June 3, 2013

June 4, 1989: the Unsinkable Boat of Stone

Tiananmen Square has a meaning to China – not just Beijing – as deep as the Place de la Bastille‘s for Paris, or that of the Alexanderplatz for Berlin. On 400,000 square meters, Tiananmen Square – according to relevant tourist information – provides space for one million people. That’s how the square has been used – for gatherings ordered by the Chinese Communist Party, when Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic, for Hua Guofeng‘s eulogy on Mao Zedong in 1976, and for military parades celebrating the People’s Republic’s 35th, 50th, and 60th birthday.

In 1997, on Tiananmen Square, a limited number of people celebrated the return of Hong Kong. The limitation had conjecturable reasons – eight years and four weeks earlier, Chinese army and police troops had quashed a student movement – that movement, too, had its public center in Tiananmen Square.

Ever since 1911, Tiananmen Square had been a place for gatherings outside the scripts of the powers that be. The first, probably, was the May-Fourth movement, sparked by the transfer of formerly German possessions in Shandong Province to Japan, rather than to China, in 1919, after World War One. Chinese intellectuals had begun to perceive their country not just as a civilization, but as a nation, interacting with other nations and falling behind internationally. In 1919, there were no celebrations. There were protests.

The May-Fourth movement has since been canonized. CCP historians see the movement as the beginning of progressive processes during the first half of the 20th century, leading to the CCP’s rise to power. But even Hua Guofeng’s eulogy on Mao, in September 1976, had been preceded by expressions of grief months earlier, in April, for the late chief state councillor Zhou Enlai. The more radical followers of Mao Zedong considered that an affront.

Personal impressions from the 1976 “Tian An Men incident” apparently made Wu Renhua, later a dissident, honor Hu Yaobang with a wreath on Tiananmen Square, in April 1989. Hu Yaobang had just passed away, and some points seem to be noteworthy:

When Hu died, he had been removed as the CCP secretary general for more than two years. Apparently, the party leadership had considered him to be too reform-minded. Expressions of grief from the population might be considered an affront by the party leaders, too, and they probably did, even if it took more than six weeks for the party to put an end to the movement of intellectuals and students in  which Wu Renhua had been taking part.

By then, the movement had long gone beyond their original motivation of honoring Hu Yaobang. Through anti-corruption protest, it had turned into a movement for democracy.

Also, Wu Renhua, then an about thirty-three years old lecturer from the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, was part of the movement, but – according to his own account – rather going along with it, than driving it. His actual confrontational attitude towards the CCP  only built after the massacre – an outrage that he had never seemed to expect from his country’s leaders.

And even if the University of Political Science and Law played an important role in the 1989 movement, the Beijing University, the Beida, had the traditional, leading role.

Rivalries among the 1989 dissidents are nothing unusual today. Frequently, they are personal rather than political, accompanied by allegations that X is self-important, that Y is a CCP collaborator, or that Z is remote-controlled by Falun Gong – somehow unpredictable or dangerous.

June 4 has become an unsolved complex in Chinese history. Whoever studied in a major Chinese city in 1989 will know that complex. “Sure”, a Shanghainese told me in the early 1990s, “we were all protesting.” To her, however, the matter was closed with the end of the movement – ostensibly, anyway. Many Chinese people born after 1989 hardly know about the existence of the movement, and among those who do remember it, at least some consider the crackdown a rather lucky outcome: be it because they don’t think that the students were able to handle politics in 1989, be it because they see a foreign conspiracy against China’s stability and China’s rise behind the former movement.

By 2008, a trend had changed. Many Chinese people who used to feel respect for (Western) democracies had changed their mind. Frequently negative coverage by Western media on the Beijing Olympics certainly played a role here – the negative foreign echo was spread selectively, but broadly by Chinese media. Some overseas Chinese in Germany even organized a silent protest against the biased German media who had failed to spread their patriotic message and who had therefore muzzled them. Add how the mighty had fallen in the financial crisis – China’s period of growth still continued, thanks to state stimulus programs that tried to compensate for falling imports by Western economies. Criticism from abroad – that’s how the Chinese public was informed (frequently correctly) – was an expression of foreign envy. The ideas so vigorously discussed in 1989 have given way to the truculent nationalism of new generations, Isabel Hilton noted in 2009.

In 1990, Yang Lian (楊煉), a Chinese poet in exile, published this:

The darker the sky, you say that the boat is old,
the storms it bore are long gone,
it is for us to erase the Self, let the boat of stone rot away.1)

That, of course, is the last thing a boat of stone will do.

What is the role of the 1989 dissidents today? According to C. A. Yeung, an Australian blogger and human rights activist, hardly any role. Dissidents abroad, above all, appear to be out of touch with many activists inside China. This may also be true for Wei Jingsheng, an exiled Chinese who lives in Washington D.C..

Wei wasn’t part of the 1989 movement. At the time, he had been a political prisoner for some ten years. He was only released in 1993, and soon, he was re-arrested. Since 1997, he has been in America.

It requires a strong – and at times probably dogmatic – personality to resist the pressures Wei faced. No confessions, no concessions to the Chinese authorities through all the years of imprisonment. To people like Wei, “foreign interference” in China’s “internal affairs” is no sacrilege, but necessity. Such “interference” may not create space to live for open dissidents in totalitarian countries, but it does, at times, enable dissidents to survive. In that light, it was only logical that Wei attended a hearing of the German federal parliament’s culture and media committee on December 2008, about the alleged proximity of Germany’s foreign broadcaster’s Chinese department (Deutsche Welle, DW)  to the CCP. DW Staff and program should defend human rights and democracy as a matter of principle, Wei demanded.

It turned out that Wei didn’t actually know the DW programs, jeered Xinhua newsagency.  Wei didn’t disagree: “As a matter of fact, I have said from earlier on that I would not listen to the broadcast of the Deutsche Welle’s Chinese service that has been speaking on the CCP’s behalf.”

Such appearances in foreign parliaments may appear fussy, and near-irrelevant. But in 2002, Dutch author and exile observer Ian Buruma had still believed that Chinese dissidents abroad could play a big role:

Let’s say there are suddenly serious splits in the Chinese government. Things start to move rather quickly. All kinds of things are going to happen. And then, it can be that you suddenly need people who know how to operate in Washington, who know which buttons to press and [who] have contacts in Congress, and so on. And this has happened in the case of Taiwan, for example, where you had dissidents in the 60s and 70s who hung around, languished, were considered to be irrelevant until things began to change in Taiwan politically and suddenly, they were important.2)

But maybe, by now, that role has diminuished further – if Buruma’s original observations were correct. Maybe Wei Jingsheng and other dissidents, among them those who had to leave China after June 4, 1989, will play a role similar to the one Wolf Biermann, an East German exile in West Germany, anticipated for himself long before the Berlin Wall came down: at times cheering from the sidelines, providing advice once in a while, but hardly authoritatively. Only on his return to East Germany, Biermann mused, his actual exile would begin, as hardly anyone would recognize him: Dann beginnt erst mein Exil.

The actual historical events of spring 1989 are a different story, however. These days, the CCP neither condemns the events, nor does it condone them. The topic is entirely shunned.

In Hong Kong, people haven’t forgotten. After all, the June-4 crackdown came as a shock for a society that was to return to the motherland eight years and a month later. June 4 is part of tradition there. For many Hong Kong activists who demand more democratic rights for Hong Kongers themselves, solidarity with mainland activists or dissidents is part of their self-image.

The only official evaluation so far: Deng Xiaoping defends his reform policies of economic openness and political repression, June 9, 1989

The only official evaluation so far: Deng Xiaoping defends his reform policies of economic openness and political repression, June 9, 1989 (click picture for video)

In 1995, Deng Xiaoping‘s daughter Deng Rong suggested in an interview with the New York Times  that only later generations could judge the 1989 events. She didn’t know how people thought about it – but my father at least, in his heart, believed that he had no other way.

It may take years before a re-evaluation of the 1989 movements may begin. Or it may only take months. The CCP could initiate one if it feels strong enough, or the citizenry could initiate one if the party gets weaker.

Nobody inside or outside China knows what is being thought about the movement. And many Chinese may only find out what they think once it becomes a topic – when it gets unearthed, gradually or rapidly, in a controlled or spontaneous process.

____________

Notes

1) Yang Lian: Alte Geschichten (I-IV), Der einzige Hafen des Sommers, aus: Masken und Krokodile, Berlin, Weimar 1994, quoted by Joachim Sartorius (Hrsg): Atlas der Neuen Poesie, Reinbek, 1996, S. 67.
天空更加阴暗  你说  这船老了
一生运载的风暴都已走远
该卸下自己了  让石头船舷去腐烂
夏季  是惟一的港口

2) Jatinder Verma: Asian Diasporas, BBC (World Service), Sept 2, 2002

____________

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Human Rights Activism, Updates

-

1. Zeng Jinyan

Zeng Jinyan‘s (曾金燕) blog Liaoliao Yuan came back on March 22, after many months of hibernation:

“Liaoliao Yuan” turned into an important platform to “searching Hu Jia” and to “free Hu Jia”. But to advocate the safety and freedom of defenders of human rights is only part of my work. Under continuously increasing political pressure, to fall “silent” in the public sphere for a long time has been my basic policy. I was silent to avoid interference with my goal of practising what I advocate.

“了了园”长期以来已成为“寻找胡佳”和“释放胡佳”运动的一个重要平台。然而,提倡和保障人权捍卫者的安全自由只是我的工作的一部分。随着不断上升的政治压力,长时间在公共空间“沉默”是我的一项基本策略。沉默是为了身体力行排除干扰实现具体的工作目标。

I went to Hong Kong for half a year, I raised my daughter, focused on research, and I really like the atmosphere of science and research, and the professional support at the University of Hong Kong, but because I was so busy, I had no time to share [the experience] with all of you. Now I want to tell you that I am back, catching up on some scattered old news, and restarting the exchange on academics, life and social movements on online platforms.

赴港半年,抚养女儿,专心研究,我非常喜爱香港大学的学术研究气氛和专业支持,因为忙未能顾得上和大家分享。今天我想说,作为曾金燕,我回来了。补上一些散落各处的旧闻新事,重启基于网络平台的学术、生活和社会运动交流。

Zeng’s March-22 blogpost also contains a list of some past events and articles, and an outlook on activities planned this year.

-

2. Liu Xiaobo and Family

Liu Xia‘s (刘霞) brother Liu Hui (刘晖) stood trial at the Huairou District People’s Court in a northern suburb of Beijing on Tuesday, on charges of fraud linked to a property transaction, Radio Free Asia reported, also on Tuesday. Liu Xia is the wife of Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), who is currently imprisoned in Liaoning Province. Liu Xia attended her brother’s trial on Tuesday.

Charges on commercial or economic offenses are frequently suspected to be politically motivated.

In November 2010, Zeng Jinyan, as the manager of Beijing Loving Source, an AIDS support group, had to close down the organization’s operations under a “tax inquiry”. Such inquiries and investigations had become frequent since summer 2009.

However, the tax office in charge apparently stated in August 2012 that it saw no tax illegality in the NGO’s operations from August 1, 2005 to December 31, 2009 – the period that had apparently been under investigation.
____________

Related

» Liu Xia defiant, Guardian, April 23, 2013
____________

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers