Posts tagged ‘accountability’

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Radio or the Internet? It’s both or neither

Why are “social media” so successful? Seems to me that the most obvious reason is that they give you a chance to speak out publicly, to make a difference in political ways. You can compliment the actress of your choice (ahem), you can shout at your region’s members of parliament, at top politicians, or at industrial managers.

(Those who appoint the managers won’t usually do Facebook or Twitter, though. They may not even bother to hire some ghostwriters.)

Then there may be a need to network. When all people relevant for your career are on Facebook or Twitter, you may have to be there, too. There may be a real need to follow them there, if you want to succeed in your job, or in “smashing the system”, or whatever your mission may be.

If both these motivations – making yourself heard and networking – are important, this could help to explain why “social media” haven’t helped to make our societies more democratic. What they have produced is a crude dialectics, though I’m not sure if there’s a never-ending synthesis, or if synthesis is completely out when sloganeering (with some more or less original variations of peoples’ credos) is the only thing that matters.

Bertolt Brecht doesn’t come across as an optimist. He usually saw the potential in new developments, including radio broadcasting – in 1932 and one year before the Nazis seized control of it. Brecht also knew – or learned – that newly-emerging media wouldn’t necessarily help the cause that he held dear.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is a guy who is talking about the Internet, not radio,

writes a headphones guy in California.

Sounds logical, but it isn’t. Just as radio has become a mostly linear medium, so has the internet – at least on its commercial side, i. e. Twitter, Facebook, etc.. Yes, people can voice their opinions there. But I can’t see how they would shape things in a way different from the old days*). No matter if radio or internet, their democratic effectiveness depends on how they are organized, or how people organize themselves while using radio or the internet as their media.

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Note

*) Except for a more intense cultivation of enmity on the internet, maybe.

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Related

My first ten days on Twitter, Jan 30, 2020

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Thursday, June 4, 2020

June 4 Anniversary and Hong Kong: Broke Horses and Resisting Horses

I think there have been two moments when Chinese people of my age basically told me two things.

a) Yes, they had been among the 1989 protesters, be it in Beijing, be it in other places in China.

b) They had come to understand since how wrong they had been back in 1989, and what a calamity they had all been spared by the crackdown.

In both cases, I listened, nodded, and didn’t argue. I didn’t believe them a word. And I felt I was listening to another chapter from a universal story of human weakness, just as Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago had, again, many decades earlier, and who had said that “it was like listening to a horse describing how it broke itself in.”

I didn’t argue because I felt that I hadn’t been in their place, that I still wasn’t in their place, and because I knew them beyond their (rather pathetic) political point of view. We were friends, or sort of friends. Hadn’t we known each other personally, and had it been an online encounter, we would probably have had a fierce debate.

Work style – CCTV evening news on July 24, 2013.

This comes to my mind when I read triumphant Chinese news articles about how many signatures had been collected by now, in support of the “security law for Hong Kong”. Obviously, I have no way of knowing if the numbers are real – and I don’t know how many bosses have “nudged” their staff to sign, or else.

People have to survive. There seems to be a rule: a majority of people will only be prepared to fight for their freedoms when they see a chance to succeed at it. That hope is waning in Hong Kong. It is, on the other hand, very much there in Taiwan. The rule that bleak situations break morals isn’t universal, as shown by exceptions. But it is often broad enough to work in favor of those who abuse their powers.

I can’t blame anyone. But I’m critical of a certain kind of “self-broke horse”. That’s the horse that denies the pressures and the threats, that argues that it recognized a necessity, acted accordingly, and that those horses that continue to resist the necessity would be obnoxious or dangerous. That’s a likely pattern of argument once the self-broke horse has “seen the light”, because every horse that remains noticeably free – or resisting – challenges, by its mere existence, not only the people in power, but also the broke horse itself.

A society could be more relaxed if broke horses could admit – even if only to themselves or in private – that they simply don’t want to live a – supposedly too difficult or painful – dissident’s life, or that they want to be happy, and that their happiness requires a certain monthly income, i. e. a favorable career. The problems begin to explode when they try to link their rather personal desires to “something greater”, and when freedom and conscience aren’t the “greater things” of choice, it will most probably be “the motherland”.

China’s rulers understood that, and they fostered such tensions. That’s why they pushed “patriotic education” in mainland China in the 1990s – to fill the void left behind by the crushed hopes of 1989, and to cater to nationalist feelings that had been there anyway – among many 1989 protestors, too.

Here in Germany, I have sometimes heard people vent anger about Wolf Biermann, an East German singer and songwriter who was stripped of his citizenship and exiled by the East German authorities in 1976, while he was on a pre-approved tour of  West Germany.

Biermann had been a vocal critic of East Berlin – a dissident. He hasn’t been much of a critic of Western flaws after 1976. In fact, he embraced all the good and bad things the West had to offer – imperialism included.

One should be aware of that. Biermann is no saint. But he has done more than most of us. He opposed a regime. That may not be enough for a lifetime – but it’s more than what most of us would be prepared to do.

So let’s be grateful for the courageous. Not to hate them for their integrity is a good first step into the right direction. To learn from them – within the realms of our abilities – should be a good second step.

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Updates / Related

365 days, Tsai Ing-wen, June 4, 2020
Sacrificed and gained, Sui Muqing, June 2, 2020

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

“Someone has falsified the Chinese Embassy’s official Twitter Account”

PARIS (AFP) – China’s embassy in Paris said Monday (May 25) its Twitter account had been “falsified” after a tweet portraying the US as a bloodthirsty grim reaper sparked disquiet over the diplomatic mission’s conduct on social media.

Clarification: Someone has falsified the Chinese embassy’s official Twitter account by publishing a drawing titled “‘Who is next”? The embassy makes a point of condemning it and is always committed to truth, objectivity and reason of information.

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Update / Related

French embassy says that “such a drawing is against the French law”, and refers to itself as a “victim of disinformation”.

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Friday, May 15, 2020

Uyghur Human Rights Bill passed by U.S. Senate

Click picture for Tweet

The following is a translation of a news article published by the China Times, a Taiwanese pan-blue-leaning newspaper. Links added during translation.

Main link: Senate passes Uyghur Human Rights bill, mentions Xinjiang Party Secretary by Name

The human rights situation of the Uyghurs in China Xinjiang has become one of the major issues of US Congress. The U.S. Senate passed a “2020 Uyghur human rights policy bill on Thursday (May 14), demanding that President Trump exert more pressure on China, concerning Uyghur human rights issues.

中国新疆维吾尔族人权状况成为美国国会关注重点之一,美国参议院周四(14日)通过《2020年维吾尔人权政策法案》,要求总统川普就新疆人权问题,向中国施加更大压力。

The bill, proposed by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, received cross-party support and was unanimously passed by the Senate on Thursday. The bill demands Washington to sanction officials who suppress Uyghurs and Islamic groups, and also mentions Xinjiang Autonomous Region’s party secretary Chen Quanguo by name, accusing him of “serious violations of human rights,” and demanding once again that Washington impose sanctions. The bill also indicates that former Xinjiang Political and Legal Affairs Commission secretary Zhu Hailun must be directly held responsible for the suppression of human rights.

由共和党参议员鲁比欧提出的法案获得跨党派支持,周四在参议院表决中获一致通过。法案要求华府制裁打压维吾尔族和回教团体的官员,更点名指控新疆自治区党委书记陈全国「严重违反人权」,再次要求华府加以制裁。法案又指,新疆前政法委书记朱海仑就新疆人权打压问题需负直接责任。

The bill calls on US companies and individuals with business in Xinjiang to take measures to avoid issues of forced labor in the local supply chains. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman James Risch and Ranking Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Bob Menendez described the  passage of the bill as “an important step in fighting against China’s totalitarian government’s extensive and atrocious suppression of human rights,” and called on the House of Representatives to pass the bill as soon as possible, to pass it on to Trump for signing it into law.

法案呼吁,在新疆有业务的美国企业或个人应採取措施,避免当地的供应链有强迫劳工问题。共和党参议院外交关系委员会主席里施(James Risch)及委员会首席民主党成员梅南德斯(Bob Menendez)形容,法案获通过是「对抗中国极权政府广泛而可怖地打压人权的重要一步」,呼吁眾议院尽快通过法案,交予特朗普签署成法。

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Related

Uyghurs and Muslim minorities, Aug 19, 2018

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Guangdong Province: Implementing “Equal Treatment and no Discrimination” measures

China News Service (CNS, 中新网) with an article on Guangdong Provincial party committee’s and government’s open letter to nationals and foreigners of April 17, and a package of rules based on that open letter, obliging nine trades to treating nationals and foreigners equally and without discrimination.

The CNS article was published on Saturday, and a thread of tweets (by a Xinhua employee in Brussels) provides a translation. No warranty for accuracy.

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Related

Hearts and Minds, Febr 13, 2009
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Friday, April 24, 2020

The science of making the most of a rumor without confirming it

The following is a Q & A between a reporter of Pengpai News (literally: “Surge”, aka “The Paper”) from Shanghai, and Shi Yi, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology, at a regular press conference held by the State Council’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism at Guo’erzhao Guest House in Beijing, on Thursday afternoon local time.

State Council info,
click photo for source

Main link: State Council transcript

Pengpai News reporter [“The Paper”, Shanghai]:
Recently, foreign media have reported that the American military has restarted the biochemical base at Fort Derrick in Maryland. After the news, obtained by many people there, later began to emerge, America believes that there is a lot of evidence that the cause for the emergency closure of Fort Derrick biochemcial base last year in August was absolutely fishy, and it is believed that said virus may be the origin of the new coronavirus, and may also have created the autum-winter influenza epidemic. After that, said virus [is said to have] occured in China again, as a variation of the virus, because of US military taking part in the Wuhan 2019 Military World Games. May I ask how the experts view this issue? Thank you.

[澎湃新闻记者]近期,有境外媒体报道美军重启为马里兰州的德特里克堡生化研究基地,那里很多民众得到消息以后开始外逃,美国认为有多个证据表明,德特里克堡生化研究基地去年8月被紧急关闭的原因十分蹊跷,认为该疾病可能是新冠病毒的源头,并在美国造成秋冬季节流感大流行,之后病毒通过参加武汉军人运动员美国军人在中国发生变异后再次暴发,请问台上专家如何看待这个问题?谢谢。2020-04-23 15:34:02

Shi Yi:
Thank you for your question. Actually, we are have noticed the related information of this idea on the internet, too, about Americans suspecting that Fort Derrick biochemical base may be the source of the new coronavirus. There hasn’t been a public American response, and we have no way of judging this. Investigating the origins of a virus science in itself, whose main objective is to avoid another outbreak of similar epidemic situations, causing harm to humankind. Currently, scientists from all countries of the world are researching the origins of the virus, and they have put forward numerous learned points of views and hypothesis and guesses. Chinese scientists have also carried out conscientious relevant research, so as to find the origins of the new coronavirus as soon as possible, with a focus on good prevention and control, and to provide a scientific basis.

[施一]谢谢这位记者的提问。其实,我们注意到互联网上相关信息,美国有人怀疑德特里克堡生化研究基地可能是新冠病毒来源的说法,美国方面对此没有公开回应,我们无从做出判断。病毒溯源本身是科学问题,其主要目的是防止再次发生同类疫情对人类社会造成危害。目前,世界各国科学家都在开展病毒源头的研究,对新冠病毒的来源提出了许多学术观点及假设、猜想。中国科学家目前也在认真开展相关研究,为早日找到新冠病毒的起源,有针对性的做好防控,提供科学依据。

Still Shi Yi:
As seen from the process of tracing the origins of tracing a virus, this is a scientific problem that requires a relatively long time and comes with uncertainties. It will take quite a chain of biological information and epidemiological evidence put together, confirming each other, to really complete this task. Many viral diseases in human history, such as AIDS, SARS etc. have required decade-long searches for their origins, but although there has been progress, all results are speculative, without a final answer, research is still continuing. The current new corona pneumonia is wreaking havoc on the entire world, and hopefully, all countries of the world will focus their energy and attention on the major work of prevention and control. The scientific issue of tracing the origins of the virus will require deep research by scientists from all countries. Thank you.

从病毒溯源的科学研究全过程来看,这是一项科学难题,需要较长时间而且存在不确定性,需要将众多生物学信息和流行病学证据汇聚成相互印证的证据链,才能真正完成任务。人类历史上很多疾病比如艾滋病、SARS等,对其源头的探索历经十几年甚至几十年的研究,虽然取得了进展,但研究结果仅是推测,尚未得出最终的答案,研究工作至今仍在继续。当前新冠肺炎疫情正在全球肆虐,希望世界各国把精力和关注点集中放在疫情防控重点工作上,病毒溯源这一科学难题需要各国科学家深入研究。谢谢。2020-04-23 15:34:29

Monday, April 13, 2020

Have a Guess why WHO Director-General Tedros thinks he’s right

First off, I want you to know that I have signed this petition, and that I would like to encourage you to sign it, too. My main reason to ask for Dr. Tedros’ resignation is that he supports a policy of locking more than 20 million Taiwanese people out of the World Health Organization (WHO). That scandal didn’t start with his tenure, and has been WHO policy for a long time, but it is now exacting a price in terms of global health. Taiwan could share its eperience in a so far successful fight against COVID-19. Taiwan could also contribute financially. Taiwan seems to have warned the WHO on December 31, in an email query to the organization. And the WHO leadership appears to be unwilling to take this into account and make a wiser decision than in the past.

I don’t feel a personal dislike for Tedros, and I think that many “social media” remarks about him are inappropriate, and actually false assertions.

But every public official must be accountable to the people he serves, or claims to serve. That’s why I believe that the WHO’s director general should clear the way for a successor with a more inclusive policy than his.

It doesn’t help when people insult each other. Above all, character assassination blinds for the more likely facts and factors in political processes. Both sides are wrong when accusing each other of “politicizing” issues. WHO is inevitably about politics, because it depends on the funding of governments with very different interests, and different economic capabilities to contribute to the WHO’s work. The demands of the world’s poorest, as elementary and obvious as they may be, are also political. And China’s cover-up approach is political, too. Everything is politics – that’s no suitable swearword to use for either WHO officials, or their critics.

It is true however that when you look at the mere numbers – in million US-$ -, China’s influence on the WHO doesn’t seem to make sense:

member state fees1) voluntary2)   total
USA 57.9 401.1 459.0
China 28.7 16.9 45.6
Japan 20.5 46.7 67.2
Germany 14.6 89.9 104.5
United Kingdom 10.9 163.7 174.6

Then why the WHO’s understatement when China covered up their SARS-2 cases, why the blind eyes to Taiwan’s warning query in December 31 (not to mention the WHO’s discrimination of Taiwan in general), and why the WHO director-general’s generally meek interaction with Beijing?

  • Trump is toying with the idea of reducing America’s contributions. Any WHO director general has to plan ahead, especially when the organizations main stakeholder becomes unreliable.
  • Tedros is probably convinced that he is doing the right thing by chumming up to China. Losing people to disease is unacceptable for him, and that much is credible. There is no way that WHO can enforce transparency on the ground – be it in China, be it in any other countries, though smaller countries may be more susceptible to pressure. And conceited leaders (like China’s) are more susceptible to flattery. (That, of course, doesn’t make it right to help them downplay a crisis, neither knowingly nor unknowingly. But it may become a more understandable approach, when you keep in mind that understanding something isn’t the same thing as condoning it.)
  • Then there is a – supposed – trend. While Taiwan would probably contribute as much today as does China, it could be different in future. That’s what most in the global political class expect to happen. They may have to think again – China is regularly overestimated. While questionable statistics have often help its image among foreigners, forgery will backfire when it does damage to the faithful foreigners’ home countries. (Never mind a million “extremist” inmates in Chinese internment camps – that’s far, far away.)

It makes no sense to demonize Tedros. He isn’t much different from most national or business leaders when it comes to dealing with China. The difference of course is that national leaders are usually held accountable, sometimes more, sometimes less, but more so than heads of international institutions. That’s why African politicians do criticize China for the way Africans have been treated in Guangzhou, while Tedros, who had shortly before tried to mobilize African public opinion in his favor and against “Taiwanese racism” remains oddly silent now.

But of course, it makes no sense to defend Tedros’ policies, either.

I would still prefer some civility in the effort to make him go. One doesn’t need to hate or disdain a man who oppose him. Rather, you can oppose him more effectively when you try to understand him and his supporters.
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Notes

1) Source for obligatory contributions
2) Source for voluntary contributions
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Friday, March 27, 2020

Li Keqiang: Unlike SARS, COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear all of a sudden

The following is a translation of an article published by the Chinese State Council on March 24

Original title / main link
Li Keqian: All regions must report the epidemic situation realistically and transparently, and must not conceal or leave out anything ( 李克强:各地要实事求是公开透明发布疫情信息,不得瞒报漏报 )

“All regions must report the epidemic situation realistically*) and transparently, and must not conceal or leave out anything.” Member of the politburo’s standing committee, chief state councillor, and central small leading group to counter the new coronavirus infection pneumonia epidemic group leader Li Keqiang emphasized that “seeking truth from the facts refers to do the prevention and control work in a focused way, and once an epidemic situation is discovered, accurate control must be carried out immediately, make sure that the range of territory which needs to be controlled for cases and possible infections is big enough to be effective. Openness and transparency means that once a case is discovered, it is reported, and whatever it is, it is. Nothing must be concealed or left out.”

“各地要实事求是、公开透明发布疫情信息。” 中共中央政治局常委、国务院总理、中央应对新冠肺炎疫情工作领导小组组长李克强3月23日在领导小组会议上强调,“实事求是是指有针对性地做好防控,一旦发现疫情,第一时间进行精准管控,把病例和可能传播的场所控制在有效范围;公开透明就是指发现一例报告一例,是什么就是什么,不得瞒报漏报。”

Li Keqiang pointed out that while the national epidemic situation with Wuhan as the main battleground had basically been blocked by now, the risk of sporadic transmission cases and local epidemic outbreaks continues to exist, and in addition, there was a major epidemic globally. The situation therefore remained complicated and serious. By data patterns established by epidemiologists at home and abroad, by trends scientifically researched and judged, it is widely believed that this time’s epidemic is unlikely to disappear all of a sudden, like SARS did at that time. We must therefore be mentally prepared for still more difficult and lasting prevention and control.

李克强指出,当前,以武汉市为主战场的全国本土疫情传播已基本阻断,但零星散发病例和局部暴发疫情的风险仍然存在,加之疫情在全球出现大流行,形势依然复杂严峻。国内外流行病学专家通过建立各类数据模型,对疫情走势进行科学研判,普遍认为,此次疫情不大可能像当年SARS那样突然消失。因此,我们必须做好更加艰巨、更加持久的疫情防控思想准备。

“We can see from the current epidemic situation that that national and foreign experts’ analysis is scientifically founded,” the chief state councillor  said. He said that “this has made the prevention and control work more serious and challenging for us. Although the domestic epidemic situation has been basically blocked by now, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be further sporadic cases of infections spreading. We must resolutely contain the local outbreaks of epidemic situations by practically carrying out the measures of ‘early detection’, ‘early reporting’, ‘early quarantine’, and ‘early treatment’, and keep it from breaking out on an even larger scale.”

“从当前疫情形势看,国内外专家们的分析是有科学依据的。”总理说,“这为我们防控工作提出了更加严峻的挑战。虽然目前国内本土疫情传播已基本阻断,但这并不意味着零星散发病例就不再出现。必须把‘早发现、早报告、早隔离、早治疗’的防控措施落实到位,坚决遏制疫情在局部、甚至更大范围再次爆发。”

Li Keqiang pointed out that currently, most regions continued to report zero new daily confirmed cases, and this was, of course, was what the masses expected. However, one had to bear in mind that statistical data had to be true and accurate and there had to be no strives to report zero cases by concealment and omission.

李克强指出,目前全国大部分地区连续数日新增确诊病例零报告,这当然是人民群众期盼的。但要切记,疫情统计数据一定要及时真实准确,千万不能为追求零报告而瞒报漏报。

Li Keqiang emphasized that prevention and control of infections must always maintain the principles of seeking truth in the facts, openness, and transparency. That way, the masses could develop a more vigilant and active consciousness for being on their guard, and in turn, this wold be beneficial to preventive and control measures to be in place, thus keeping the epidemic situation from emerging once again.

李克强强调,传染病防控必须始终坚持实事求是、公开透明的原则,这样人民群众就会增加警惕性和主动防范的自觉性,反过来这也有利于防控措施落实到位,进而防止疫情出现反弹。

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Note

*) literally: all places must report the epidemic situation by seeking the truth in the facts, and transparently, …

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