Posts tagged ‘accountability’

Friday, March 16, 2018

OPCW: the Place to Investigate a Nerve Agent sample

One can only wish Sergei Skripal and his daughter a good and complete recovery. Skripal once helped a good cause, and suffered for it in the past. He deserves gratitude, and all former agents living under similar circumstances as he does (or did, until March 4), deserve protection. One thing is for sure: Russia’s political culture encourages lawlessness in the name of “patriotism” – suspicions as aired by Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson*) aren’t made up out of thin air. But a plausible narrative is still just a narrative, and even thick air is still only air.

In situations like these, anger and “highly likely” accusations are useless at best, and highly likely, they are damaging for all parties involved.

If Jan von Aken‘s comments in a Deutschlandfunk interview on Thursday are something to go by, there would be no need for the escalation that is under way – at least not yet. The established procedure would be to turn to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to get their assistance in clarifying any situation which may be considered ambiguous or which gives rise to a concern about the possible non-compliance of another State Party with the chemical weapons convention. In the Skripal case, Russia would have to answer to the OPCW’s executive committee “as soon as possible, but in any case not later than 10 days after the receipt of the request” to clarify.

What Theresa May said on Wednesday is anything but evidence:

Mr Speaker, on Monday I set out that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Novichok: a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations – including against former intelligence officers whom they regard as legitimate targets – the UK Government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act. And there were only two plausible explanations. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or conceivably, the Russian government could have lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

In a conflict, the two immediate parties are rarely the best candidates to sort things out – not, when there is a history of conflict, or when, as the Economist has put it, Britain’s relationship with Russia is poisoned already.

Britain’s ultimatum for an explanation from Moscow had been contemptuously ignored,

writes the Economist. That may be so. Many Russian citizens have their rights ignored, too. But on a day-to-day basis, few people in the West would care. And if I were a Russian, I would probably find the British ultimatum just as comtemptuous – no matter if pro-Putin, anti-Putin or either.

After a first round of escalations, London now seems to be doing the right thing: they have sent (or will send) a sample of the Novichok nerve agent to the OPCW. That looks like a promising first step. The OPCW should also take care of further procedures, if there should be a chance to come to real conclusions.

Van Aken believes that both the British prime minister and the Russian president may have an interest in the current escalation. But May’s chances to rise to the “challenge” don’t look great, and Putin is going to “win the elections” anyway.

Rather, both of them appear to have concluded that they must serve their constituencies with instant certainties.

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Note

*) “The message is clear: We will find you, we will catch you, we will kill you – and though we will deny it with lip-curling scorn, the world will know beyond doubt that Russia did it.”

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Chairman Unlimited

Xi Jinping‘s speech at the 19th central committee’s fourth collective study session on Sunday, rendered there by Xinhua newsagency, contained the usual buzzwords from building a modern socialist country, making the great regjuvenation of the Chinese nation real, a country ruled according to the law (依法治国), and the moderately prosperous society (小康社会). Apart from that, Xi reportedly also pointed out that “the constitution is the superstructure and must therefore suit the changes at the economic base (宪法作为上层建筑,一定要适应经济基础的变化而变化).

Xi also seems to have gone to some length to emphasize the legitimacy derived from the constitution, and from constitutional behavior. No wonder: the CCP’s politburo has sent a draft of constitutional changes to the “National People’s Congress'”  standing committee, according to the second Xinwen Lianbo newsitem last night.

The amendment that has caught most of the international attention on Sunday is actually a reduction:

14. Article 79, para 3, “The People’s Republic of China chairperson’s and vice chairperson’s terms in office are identical with the terms of each National People’s Congress, and must not exceed the duration of two terms.” The amendment reads: “The People’s Republic of China chairperson’s and vice chairperson’s terms in office are identical with the terms of each National People’s Congress.”

十四、宪法第七十九条第三款“中华人民共和国主席、副主席每届任期同全国人民代表大会每届任期相同,连续任职不得超过两届。”修改为:“中华人民共和国主席、副主席每届任期同全国人民代表大会每届任期相同。”

With me in charge, you are at ease, are you not? – click photo above for Xinwen Lianbo video

At the central committee’s collective study session, Xi, the beneficiary (and arguably author) of this amendment, was keen on pointing out how important a constitution is, provided that it contains the correct amendments:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the constitution has the highest legal status, legal authority, and legal force. Above all, our party must set an example in venerating and implementing the constitution, and by leading the people in drawing up and implementing constitutional law, and [by leading the people in] persisting in unified action with the party within the scope of constitutional law. No organization or individual must have prerogatives beyond the law. All acts that violate constitutional laws must be investigated. […]

习近平强调,宪法具有最高的法律地位、法律权威、法律效力。我们党首先要带头尊崇和执行宪法,把领导人民制定和实施宪法法律同党坚持在宪法法律范围内活动统一起来。任何组织或者个人都不得有超越宪法法律的特权。一切违反宪法法律的行为,都必须予以追究。 […..]

The constitution is a matter for the “National People’s Congress”, China’s ersatz parliament. As for Xi’s function as CCP secretary general and head of the central military commission (officially, there is one CMC by the state, and one by the party, but they are in fact identical), there appear to be no term limits anyway.

Foarp has started a discussion on his blog.

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Related

How safe will he be in 2023, Dec 13, 2014
Xi Jinping’s first time, Nov 29, 2012
你办事,我放心, People’s Daily, July 4, 2012

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Headlines 2017 (2) – Li Xuewen

Li Xuewen (黎学文), a writer from Guangzhou, was arrested on December 19China Change, a website focused on news and commentary related to civil society, rule of law, and rights activities in China, reported earlier this month. China Change also published a personal statement by Li Xuewen (same page, following the article).

According to the website, Li was arrested for having attended

a seaside memorial in Xinhui, Guangdong, on July 19, 2017, four days after the eventual death of China’s most known dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. At least a dozen or so people took part in it, ten have been detained and then released “on bail.”
[…]
Li Xuewen believes that he was recognized by China’s sophisticated surveillance and facial recognition system.

Liu Xiaobo had died of liver cancer on July 13 this year, still serving an 11-years sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.

China Digital Times wrote in May that Li Xuewen moved to Guangzhou from Beijing, in 2016, after losing a publishing job in the Chinese capital in 2014 due to alleged official pressure.

Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia who is under house arrest in Beijing, apparently without any official charges against her, was reportedly granted an excursion into the city on Christmas Eve with her younger brother, who visited from Hong Kong.

Apparently earlier on the day of his arrest, Li Xuewen took part in an exchange of messages on Twitter, about the importance of giving equal emphasis to morality, and to utility. His message refers to the memory of late dissidents like Liu Xiaobo, and Yang Tongyan. My Chinese isn’t good enough to translate Li’s tweet into English, but this is the wording:

我想说的是:刘晓波杨天水等人被那么残酷的虐死,民间几十年代价可谓昂贵惨烈,一味的道义标举固然无可非议,但难道不应该提出功利问题了么?功利事关目标,合理的手段,也是合格的反对者应有的责任伦理,谈功利并不意味着放弃道义,只是要强调两者不可偏废。

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Updates/Related

Linked to Gathering, IC Pen, July 16, 2014

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Xinhua: “First Tiger after 19th Party Congress under Investigation”

The CCP’s former Propaganda department deputy director Lu Wei (鲁炜), once also in charge of “internet security”, has been advertised by Xinhua newsagency as the first tiger to be investigated after the CCP’s 19th national congress.

中宣部原副部长鲁炜接受审查|十九大后“首虎”

中宣部原副部长鲁炜接受审查|十九大后“首虎”

The joyful and triumphant headline isn’t repeated in the one-line article, however, stating that

this journalist has learned from the central disciplinary department that former Propaganda Department deputy director Lu Wei is suspected of seriously violating discipline and is now under the organizations investigation.

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Related

De machtige partijbons, Volkskrant, Nov 22, 2017
Lu Wei namedropped, Sept 20, 2016

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Xi Jinping’s “Press Briefing”: BBC, Guardian, New York Times giving way to Borrowed Boats?

China Global Television Network (CGTN or CCTV) published a video on Youtube on Wednesday, with the full remarks by CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping at a press briefing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday following the 19th CPC National Congress. The first groupies have already issued ringing endorsements:

Endorsements from all over the world - click screenshot above for Xi's speech

Applause from all over the world – click screenshot above for Xi’s speech

 

The video provides English subtitles to Xi’s speech. A written Xinhua account (in Chinese) can be found there.

Access to the show was reportedly denied to the BBC, the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Guardian, “in some cases for the first time in more than two decades”. The Guardian’s Beijing correspondent wrote on Wednesday that

[a] series of heavily scripted “press conferences” have been organised, which were attended by a large number of foreign reporters on the payroll of party-run media outlets. Many of the questions appeared to have been pre-screened.

This could refer to China’s innovative guidance of public opinion (abroad). When the Great Hall of the People’s East Hall is full of borrowed boats, access needs to be denied to some of the traditional troublemakers foreign vessels.

No wonder then that the reappointed secretary general was full of praise for the reporters in front of him:

Many of you have come afar. All of you have provided numerous and ample coverage of the congress, and aroused the global public’s attention. You have worked hard, and I give you my heartfelt thanks.

这次来了很多记者朋友,许多是远道而来。大家对会议作了大量、充分的报道,引起了全世界广泛关注。你们辛苦了,我向你们表示衷心的感谢。

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Chairman Xi – the Old Normal Cult

“How did one man come to embody China’s destiny?”, asks the BBC‘s China correspondent, Carrie Gracie. Part of the answer lies in the way the BBC designs her article – The Thoughts of Chairman Xi. Opening it, you feel as if you enter that Yan’an “cave” museum yourself. And as this is a global village, the design also resembles CCTV’s doxology.

Editors and designers – click picture above for CCTV webpage

Now, what made Xi Jingping the man who “embody’s China’s destiny”?

I’m forever a son of the yellow earth,

Gracie quotes Xi.

But the real explanation is much more simple. Xi is his father’s son. That’s not just one aspect of the story – it’s the one that really matters. The rest is useful flattery, written by the man’s hand-picked propagandists.

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Related

How yellow was my Hometown, Febr 14, 2015
How safe will he be in 2023, Dec 13, 2014
Towering, March 18, 2013
Cross-legged on the kang, Jan 13, 2013
How they cried, Dec 24, 2012
Outgoing and incoming dictators, Jan 6, 2012

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Upates

No heir apparent, BBC News, Oct 25. 2017

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Notebook: Tsai’s recent Speeches

Focus Taiwan (CNA newsagency’s English-language website) has President Tsai Ing-wen‘s full  Double-Ten address, (the original script can be found on the presidential website), and on October, she gave a speech in English, to the Yushan Forum, an “Asia Innovation and Progress Dialogue”, including remarks about the “New Southbound Policy”.

Yushan Forum, Oct 2017 – please click picture for video

Tsai Ing-wen’s approval ratings have recently seen a modest surge – or a significant one, when looking at where they have come from, since summer this year.

In July, an L. A. Times correspondent reported the nasty numbers of that month – an approval rating of 33 per cent -, but added that this didn’t necessarily mean that her supporters were abandoning her.

Indeed, it has become a Taiwanese tradition to keep presidents under the opinion-poll waterline most of the time – when Ma Ying-jeou, Tsai’s predecessor, was re-elected early in 2012, four years of submergence lied behind him, with another four years waiting.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Huanqiu Shibao: the Bottomline for maintaining Framework of Sino-NK Relations

The following is my translation of a  Huanqiu Shibao editorial. It is currently not available on the paper’s website, but – main link –  via China News Service (中國新聞網). Links within blockquotes added during translation — JR

Original title: How should China react to North Korea’s latest Nuclear Test?
原標題:社評:中國該如何應對朝鮮新核試

On the afternoon of September 3, following the latest North Korean nuclear test at noon that day, the Chinese foreign ministry said that the Chinese government firmly opposed and strongly condemned the test.

朝鮮於3日中午進行新的核試驗,中國外交部當天下午表示,中國政府對此表示堅決反對並予以強烈譴責。

China’s, South Korea’s and America’s seismic monitoring networks simultaneously measured an earthquake in North Korea’s Punggye-ri area, at 11:30 Beijing time. The magnitude reported by China Earthquake Networks Center was 6.3 on the Richter scale. North Korea announced on the afternoon of September 3 that North Korea’s highest leader, Kim Jong-un, had ordered conducting a hydrogen bomb test, and that the test had been successful.

中國、韓國、美國的地震台網於北京時間3日11時30分同時測定,朝鮮豐溪里一帶發生地震,中國地震台報的震級是里氏6.3級。朝鮮於3日下午宣布,朝最高領導人金正恩下令進行了氫彈試驗,試驗取得成功。

This is another mistake made by North Korea, directed against the UN security council’s and the entire international community’s will. This test will lead to another serious escalation of the tense situation on the Korean peninsula, and to the risk of the East Asian strategy [or strategies] collapsing, increasing the risk of any party misjudging the situation and leading to a situation spinning out of control.

這是平壤逆聯合國安理會和整個國際社會的意志做出了又一次錯誤選擇。這次核試驗將嚴重導致半島緊張局勢新的升級,並有導致東亞戰略出現坍塌的風險,推高各方產生誤判而導致局勢失控的危險。

As for China now, the most important thing is to strengthen monitoring, ensuring that if North Korea’s latest test has produced nuclear leaks, we can detect it at first appearance, timely inform the masses in the Northeastern region, and take all kinds of responsive measures. In fact, analysts have predicted the possiblilty of a new nuclear test by North Korea in recent days, so the [Chinese] government has undoubtedly made emergency preparations in advance, and will launch these mechanisms rapidly.

對中國來說,目前最重要的是加強監測,確保一旦朝鮮這次核爆出現核泄漏,我們能在第一時間發現,及時通報東北地區民眾,並採取各種緊急應對措施。事實上,在這之前分析界對朝鮮可能於近日搞新的核試驗已有預測,政府無疑提前做好了應急準備,而這一機制相信已經迅速啟動。

There were obvious tremors in northeastern regions near North Korea on September 3, with buildings clearly shaking, triggering a great deal of discussion among people. During North Korea’s prior five nuclear tests, there have been no nuclear leakages, and Pyongyang has solemnly vowed that its underground nuclear tests wouldn’t create any such leakage. Pyongyang also said it would be responsible for the North Korean masses. We hope that this isn’t just talk.

3日中午,東北靠近朝鮮的地區多地有明顯震感,建築物搖動明顯,民間出現大量議論。在這之前朝鮮5次核試沒有造成核泄漏,平壤信誓旦旦地宣稱它的地下核試驗不會造成任何泄漏,還表示它會為離核試驗場更近的朝鮮民眾負責。我們希望朝鮮這不僅僅是說一說。

No matter what North Korea says, we believe the Chinese government will be on high alert, and that at this moment, there won’t be the faintest bit of relaxation or taking of chances. “Huanqiu Shibao” has learned that in Baishan (Jilin Province), Mudanjiang (Heilongjiang Province), and other regions. There were wind speeds of 1 from West or Northwest on midday of September 3, blowing from China to outside its borders.

無論朝方如何表示,我們相信中國政府都會提高警惕,在這個時刻不會有一絲一毫的鬆懈和僥倖。據《環球時報》了解,吉林白山、黑龍江牡丹江等地3日中午刮的是1級西風或西北風,風小,且風向是從中國邊境地區向外吹的。

North Korea’s latest nuclear explosion and its recent series of medium- and long-range missile tests have made it clear that Pyongyang, unmoved by force or persuasion, is determined to obtain nuclear strike capability over medium and long ranges. It won’t yield to pressure from outside, and the North Korean nuclear issue is on the brink of becoming intractable.

朝鮮最新核試爆和最近的一系列中遠程導彈試驗顯示,平壤軟硬不吃,它決心獲得中遠程核打擊能力,不會向任何外來壓力屈服,朝核問題幾近成為死結。

Facing this complicated situation, China needs to maintain a high degree of cool-headedness, , take measures based on its national interests, and to limit the risks faced by Chinese society to the greatest possible degree.

中國需面對這一複雜態勢保持高度冷靜,從中國的國家利益出發採取措施,最大限度地減輕中國社會從中面臨的風險。

The safety of China’s Northeast comes first. We need to tell Pyongyang through all kinds of channels that its tests must not contaminate the Northeast of China. China’s strategic and environmental safety is the bottomline for China up to where it will exercise restraint. It has to be hoped that this can be clearly communicated between China and North Korea, and helps North Korea to understand the solemnity and seriousness of China’s approach. If North Korea doesn’t keep to this bottomline, and if its own territory and the involved areas of China’s northeast will suffer contamination, the current framework of Chinese-North Korean relations will no longer exist.

中國東北的安全是第一位的,我們需要通過各種管道明確告訴平壤,它的核試驗不能污染中國東北。中國的戰略安全與環境安全是中國對其採取克制行動的底線。希望中朝之間能夠通過溝通將這一點講清楚,讓朝方充分了解中國這一態度的嚴肅性、嚴重性。如果朝方守不住這條底線,它自己的國土連帶中國東北遭到污染,那麼中朝關係目前的框架將不復存在。

North Korea’s latest test will inevitably lead to new discussions at the [UN] security council, revolving around new sanctions, and adding sanctions will be unavoidable. But we believe that although Chinese society is very angry about this new test, we need to avoid impulsiveness. China must not lightly agree to extreme measures that would be similar to an all-around embargo.

朝鮮的最新核導活動必將導致安理會圍繞對它進行新制裁開展討論,增加制裁將不可避免。但我們認為,儘管中國社會對朝鮮舉行新的核試驗很生氣,我們還是要避免衝動,中國不應輕易同意對朝鮮採取類似全面禁運的極端制裁手段。

In the case that China completely cut off oil supplies to North Korea, and even closed the Chinese-North Korean border, it would remain uncertain if this could block North Koreas’s activities. However, there would be, in all likelihood, open antagonism between China and North Korea. If that happened, the contradictions between China and North Korea would become, at least for some time, the most outstanding contradictions around the Korean peninsula. it would push down and absorb much of the tense energy of the American-North Korean antagonism, Washington and Seoul would achieve their goalof  “outsourcing” the North Korean nuclear issue to China, and this wouldn’t be in line with China’s national interest at all.

一旦中國完全切斷對朝鮮的石油供應,甚至關閉中朝邊界,能否做到阻止朝鮮核導活動尚不確定,但中朝全面、公開的對立將很可能發生。那樣的話,中朝矛盾就將至少成為一段時期內圍繞朝鮮半島最突出的矛盾,中朝對立將壓過美朝對立吸走高度緊張局勢的大部分能量,華盛頓和首爾也就實現了將朝核問題「外包」給中國的目的,這完全不符合中國的國家利益。

Therefore, so long as North Korea’s nuclear activities won’t pollute China’s Northeast, China’s approach to sanctioning North Korea should not avoid the radicalism of America’s or South Korea’s. The origins of the North Korean nuclear issue lie in the military suppression which created Pyongyang’s serious insecurity. Pyongyang erroneously sees the possession of nuclear capability as the only guarantee for government power’s survival, and nuclear striking capability against America’s soil as the key to reaching safety for itself. In this complicated and acute game, China must not run into a position of “charging and breaking through enemy lines”.

所以,在朝鮮核活動沒有污染中國東北的情況下,中國制裁朝鮮的態度應避免像美韓那樣激進。朝核問題的根源是美韓同盟的軍事打壓造成了平壤的嚴重不安全感,平壤錯誤地將擁核看成是政權生存的唯一保障,並且認定獲得對美國本土的核打擊能力是自己安全突圍的關鍵。中國不能在這場複雜、尖銳的博弈中跑到「衝鋒陷陣」的位置上。

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Related

“No Leakage”, Voice of Korea, Sept 4, 2017

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