Archive for June 8th, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Arrests and Releases: One in, One out

In November last year, Hu Jia‘s wife Zeng Jinyan had reportedly been threatened with arrest, and faced suggestions that her family would be put under strict house arrest once Hu Jia were released. June 26 could be the day when Hu Jia’s prison term ends.

House arrest would amount to something similar to the situation Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) has been living in ever since he had served a term of several years (apparently four years and three months). Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing (袁伟静), appears to be under semi-official watch much of the time, as news of April 2009 would suggest.

He Peirong, from Nanjing, reportedly tried to see Chen at his home in Shandong Province last week. Under the Jacaranda translated a Chinese-language account of her effort and its results, which can be found here.

In April this year, Beijing-based human rights lawyer Li Fangping (李方平) was reportedly kidnapped by unidentified individuals outside the offices of the health rights NGO Beijing Yirenping Center. Li was apparently released within days, while another rights lawyer, Li Xiongping, had reportedly “disappeared” since.

Li Fangping was himself detained just as yet another rights lawyer, Teng Biao (滕彪), was released from custody, in a move some called, “One In, One Out”,

the China Digital Times quoted AP on May 4.

Li has legally

represented a number of high-profile victims of political and religious persecution, including, among others, Chen Guangcheng, Yang Chunlin (杨春林), Hu Jia (胡佳), and Zhao Lianhai (赵连海)

in recent years, Chinese Human Rights Defenders wrote in April.

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Related

» Wen Jiabao’s Endgame – neither Law, nor Order, April 21, 2011
» Diluting the Intimidation: the Tea Partisans, March 14, 2010

Update/Related

» A Visit to Chen Guangcheng’s Family, ESWN, March 17, 2009

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Democratic International Relations, in Tune with the Current Era

Democratic international relations (民主的國際關係) is what Chinese state councillor and defense minister Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) reportedly called for on the annual Asia-Pacific Forum in Singapore on Sunday (aka the Shangri-La Dialogue). An excerpt from his speech, as quoted by Huanqiu Shibao, the Chinese side of the Global Times:

A new era calls for a new way of thought. Zero-sum concepts and cold-war thought is growingly out of tune with the current era. If the objective facts are not looked at, and only ideologies and differences in social systems, arbitrary conjectures and misrepresentations of other countries’ strategic intentions will be depended upon, this will lead to [the creation of] man-made enemies.

新的时代呼唤新的思维方式,安全上的零和观念和冷战思维越来越和当今时代格格不入。如果无视客观事实,仅凭意识形态和社会制度的差异,主观揣测和曲解别国的战略意图,就会人为制造敌人。

Liang had met with outgoing U.S. secretary of defense Robert Gates on Friday. Gates left the conference prior to Liang’s speech, for a farewell visit to Afghanistan, reports France 24. Liang told the conference that China would never seek hegemony or military expansion.

Meeting American reporters on the way to Singapore, Gates – as quoted by the Taipei Times – had stated that

We do have obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA] and we have this discussion in virtually every meeting that we have with the Chinese. I would say that I think under both the [former US president George W.] Bush and Obama administrations, we have tried to thread the needle pretty carefully in terms of Taiwan’s defensive capabilities, but at the same time being aware of China’s sensitivities. I think both administrations have done this very thoughtfully and very carefully. By the same token, just as the Chinese are very open with us about their concerns, we are also open with them about our obligations.

Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington, suggested that Gates had opened a very destabilizing question. “Are US arms sales to Taiwan determined by obligations under the TRA or by China’s sensitivities? Where in the TRA does it state that the US will be mindful of China’s sensitivities regarding arms sales to Taiwan?”, a Taipei Times editorialist quotes Fisher.

It may take diplomatic or particular political training to assess how far the implications of Gate’s statement would reach – if there are any. I can’t see where Gates denied US obligations under the TRA, or made the subject to Chinese agreement. It would seem strange to think that US officials should refuse to discuss the TRA when Chinese officials raise the topic. Gates may have stated the obvious explicitly for the first time, but he stated nothing new.

That said, the Obama administration has an agenda of rebuilding America, rather than building nations – and this may help to explain as to why Gates chose to state the obvious. If the US can dampen an arms race with China, it should be in America’s interest to do just that. And if there should be no way to avoid an arms race with China, America has every right to expect China’s neighbors to contribute to their own defense. Taiwan itself will need to do more. Singapore, too. Think tanks and arms corporations may look at it differently, but America is treading a fine line between helping committed regional countries to defend their sovereignty on the one hand, and becoming their useful idiot on the other.

In December 2009, US president Barack Obama told an audience in West Point:

Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy. It taps the potential of our people, and allows investment in new industry. And it will allow us to compete in this century as successfully as we did in the last. That’s why our troop commitment in Afghanistan cannot be open-ended — because the nation that I’m most interested in building is our own.

South China Sea: You can ring my Belle

South China Sea: You can ring my Belle

For matters of sovereignty (i. e. democracy in international relations, rather than at home), a strong American military presence in the region is welcomed by Vietnam, too. A US Navy video speaks volumes:

“This great warship is a testament to our country’s resolve and promise that we will always remain throughout all the international waters in the Pacific Rim, trying to help every country together ensuring that it stays a very stable environment”,

commanding officer David Lausman of the USS George Washington told visiting Vietnamese dignitaries last summer.

Great idea. But if America’s role in the Western Pacific is meant to be sustainable, the region will probably need something like an “Asian NATO”. The emphasis needs to be on ensuring a stable environment together.

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Related
“Liang’s ‘olive branch’ is a threat”, Taipei Times, June 7, 2011
Gates’ visit to Beijing, Communiqué, January 10, 2011
START: First Steps into a Multi-Polar World, December 23, 2010

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