Posts tagged ‘Liu Xiaobo’

Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, 1955 – 2017

It won’t be long before Liu Xiaobo‘s first post-mortem biography will be published. But it won’t have the last word. There will be further biographies, and each of them will be contested. That’s because of the man himself, and because of his country. He was a man with a conscience, and his country has been a totalitarian dictatorship for nearly seven decades – if you count the KMT’s martial law in, it’s been a dictatorship for much longer than that.

Liu Xiaobo’s political lifespan lasted for three or four decades. That doesn’t count as long in China. The Communist Party’s propaganda works tirelessly to create and sustain the “People’s Republic’s” population’s imagination of a civilizational history of five or more millenia. And at the same time, the party needs to sustain the notion that the most recent seven decades had been the best in China’s history. Not only the past fourty, after the leadership’s decision to “reform and to open up”, but the past seven decades, including Maoism. CCP propaganda’s aim is to build an image of its rule where the pre- and post-1978 decades are one political unit, without substantial contradictions within.

In all likelihood, Liu Xiaobo had foreseen that trend. Many Chinese dissidents, no matter if opponents of China’s cultural restauration, or opponents of the KMT’s military dictatorship on Taiwan, saw a Chinese complacency at work, considering itself the center of the universe.

Cultural criticism is rarely a rewarding trade, but in China, it can be lethal, as shown in Liu Xiaobo’s case.

Liu’s last camp and prison term, which began in 2009 and ended with his relase on medical parole, with cancer in its final stage, had been based on the accusation that he had “incited subversion of state power”. But the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court’s verdict – passed on Christmas day of 2009, probably to keep the level of international attention as low as possible –  only reflected the CCP’s fear of Liu, not the likely divide between the dissident and his people. A likely divide only, because in a totalitarian dictatorship, these things are more uncertain than in an open society. Hu Jia, himself a dissident who spent more than three years in prison from 2007 to 2011, noted during Liu’s dying days that only about one out of a hundred Beijingers knew who Liu Xiaobo was. Michael Bristow, the BBC’s China correspondent  in 2011, made a similar observation back then.

The 1980s mostly came across as a period of economic optimism, but accompanied by phenomena that were viewed negatively – particularly corruption, which was one of the factors that propelled the June-4 movement at its beginning.

Liu’s answer to what was frequently seen as China’s ailments was “westernization”. Stays in Western countries seem to have intensified his idea, just as Deng Xiaoping is said to have had his own cultural shock when visiting Singapore, in 1978.

But there lies a difference between the great statesman, and the great dissident. Singapore, a highly developed city state led by a family clan, is a model not only for authoritarian Chinese nationals – Taiwanese law-and-order-minded people tend to prefer Singapore as a holiday destination, rather than “messy” Hong Kong.

Liu Xiaobo’s model of development was Hong Kong of the 1980s. It was also the crown colony that provided the intellectual in his early thirties with some public resonance. In one of the interviews, given by Liu to a magazine named Kaifang at the time, Liu made statements that astonished the interviewer:

Q. Under what circumstances can China carry out a genuine historical transformation?
A. Three hundred years of colonialism.  Hong Kong became like this after one hundred years of colonialism.  China is so much larger, so obviously it will take three hundred years of colonialism.  I am still doubtful whether three hundred years of colonialism will be enough to turn China into Hong Kong today.

Q. This is 100% “treason.”
A. I will cite one sentence from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Workers do not have motherlands.  You cannot take away what they don’t have.”  I care about neither patriotism nor treason.  If you say that I betray my country, I will go along!  I admit that I am an impious son who dug up his ancestors’ graves and I am proud of it.

Both the “insults” and Liu’s expressly stated pessimism probably made for a divide between him and many Chinese (as far as they got to know his story). Or, as Roland Soong, a blogger from Hong Kong, noted next to his translation of the 1988 interview, as of 2010, “I suggest that unless Charter 08 (or any other message) can connect with many people in other social strata, it will remain a mental exercise among ‘public intellectuals.'”

And nothing works in the modern middle kingdom, unless it comes with a festive up-with-people sound. (In that sense, China is globalizing indeed.)

When Soong translated the interview quoted from above, and added his assessment of the Charter 08, the global financial crisis had been wreaking havoc on Western economies for about two years, and at least one of the Charter’s demands had fallen from the tree since: #14 called for

Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

There wasn’t necessarily a conflict on this matter, between the party leadership and the authors of the Charter – time will show how the CCP is going to handle the remaining state sector of the economy. But among everyday Chinese people, this demand would hardly strike a chord. Besides, who can imagine a transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership “in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner”?

In the Charter’s preface, the authors wrote:

The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

It was a cautious description of the status quo: Liu and his co-authors understood that only a critical minority would side with them. And indeed, there was more to endure in the pipeline. The educational dictatorship China is now entering encourages anticipatory obedience rather than awareness, and it is likely to succeed. When you keep beating people up long enough – and provide them with a hopeful perspective for the future -, there is little that can help people of conscience to counter the propaganda.

This may be the main difference between Liu and his enemies (and many of his admirers, too): in the eyes of many, only hard power – no matter if you refer to it as “the people’s power” or as the “authorities” -, creates reality. If the realities are good, you don’t need to get involved. If they are evil, you can’t get involved. And when realities come in many shades of grey, you either needn’t or can’t get involved. The power of the powerless is no reality in these peoples’ world – unless they begin to tilt, so that re-orientation appears advisable.

That’s a stabilizing factor, so long as realities remain what they appear to be.  But appearances can be deceiving, often until the very last hour. Who of the Egyptians who ditched their longtime president in 2011, in colossal demonstrations, had known weeks before that he wanted to get rid of him? A mood had capsized. It wasn’t about awareness.

A manipulated and intimidated public tends to be unpredictable, and that can turn factors around that were originally meant to add to “stability”.

China’s leaders feared Liu Xiaobo. They feared him to the extent that they wouldn’t let him leave the country, as long as he could still speak a word. But in all likelihood, they fear China’s widespread, politically tinged, religious sects even more, which have a tradition at least as long as Chinese scholarship. Falun Gong is only one of its latest manifestations.

By suppressing public intellectuals not only before 1978, but after that, too, they provided space for nervous moodiness. The Communists themselves want to “guide” (i. e. control) public awareness, without leaving anything to chance.

But chance is inevitable. Totalitarian routine may be able to cope for some time, but is likely to fail in the long run, with disastrous consequences.

In that light, the CCP missed opportunities to reform and modernize the country. But then, the party’s totalitarian skeleton made sure that they could only see the risks, and no opportunities, in an opening society.

What remains from Charter 08 – for now – is the courage shown by its authors nine years ago, and by the citizens who affirmed it with their signatures.

Each of them paid a price, to varying degrees, and often, their families and loved ones did so, too: like Liu Xia, who had hoped that her husband would not get involved in drafting the Charter, but who would never dissociate herself from him.

Nobody is obligated to show the same degree of courage, unless solidarity or conscience prescribe it. In most cases, making such demands on oneself would be excessive. But those who hate the Lius for their courage – and for lacking this courage themselves – should understand that their hatred is wrong. One may keep still as a citizen – but there is an inevitable human duty to understand the difference between right and wrong. By denying our tolerance toward despotism and by repressing awareness of our own acquiescence, we deny ourselves even the small steps into the right direction, that could be taken without much trouble, or economic hardship.

May Liu Xiaobo never be forgotten – and may Liu Xia find comfort and recovery.

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Updates/Related

再生:致刘晓波, Woeser, July 13, 2017
Rebirth, Woeser/Boyden, July 16, 2017
Wiedergeburt, Woeser/Forster, July 27, 2017
The abuse hasn’t stopped, Wu Gan, July 25, 2017

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chinaplus

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Country’s Jails

There’s an old saying, and it goes like this: when you want to judge a country, look into its jails.

One might add: and look at who they jail.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Deutsche Welle’s “Emotionally Appealing Content”

Emotionally appealing …

The German federal government plans to increase its funding of Deutsche Welle (DW) by 11.2 mn Euros in 2018,  Medienkorrespondenz (MK), a media news magazine from Bonn, reports. That would be a total of 325.6 mn Euros. In addition, DW has earnings from sponsors, according to Deutsche Welle law (article 11). Originally a foreign broadcaster, DW wants to develop into a “digital media corporation”, with a priority on “mobile utilization situations” and “social media”. Apparently, the linear television programs are doomed to become a platform for feature stories and clips that would also be useful for DW’s “Facebook” account, and vice versa.

Some of the quotes from the press release read like a jargon outside the command of their adopters themselves. According to MK, DW wants to increase its audience from currently 135 mn users to a target of 150. On its digital media, DW wants to “put a stronger focus on emotionally appealing content and on DW profile themes” (“einen stärkeren Fokus auf emotional ansprechenden Content und auf DW-Profilthemen setzen”).

MK appears to have had a question, and got a reply:

By “emotionally appealing content”, the broadcaster means topics that can be experienced on an emotional level”, it explained on inquiry. This was about “empathy with protagonists, or a narrative level at eye level.” Deutsche Welle denotes, for example, reports about human rights, freedom of expression, equal rights and democratic values as “profile themes”.

Unter „emotional ansprechendem Content“ versteht der Sender, wie er auf Nachfrage erläuterte, wenn in Beiträgen Themen „auf einer emotionalen Ebene erlebbar“ seien. Es gehe um „Empathie mit Protagonisten oder eine Erzählebene auf Augenhöhe“. Als ihre „Profilthemen“ bezeichnet die Deutsche Welle beispielsweise Berichte über Menschenrechte, freie Meinungsäußerung, Gleichberechtigung und demokratische Werte.

The trend has emerged for some time. And when you are sufficiently emotive, concerning Deutsche Welle “profile themes”, you don’t even have to know who Liu Xiaobo is, as shown in a “news story” named “Beauty Queen and Activist fight for human rights in China” (“Beauty-Queen und Aktivist kämpfen für Menschenrechte in China”). The story initially contained a Liao Yiwu photo, while the caption was referring to Liu Xiaobo. Sounds all alike anyway.

Liao Yiwu, mistaken for Liu Xiaobo

DW caption, February 2016: he’s here, not there

… and better off

After so much emotion, it’s time to meditate on some numbers. DW’s budget was reportedly at about 321 mn Euros in 1998, it decreased considerably in the years after that, and began to rise to new heights after Peter Limbourg, a former news anchor on German commercial television, had become the broadcaster’s new director.

The following numbers are sort of my guesswork, even if based on sources – they may, at times, include special budgets (funding programs targeted at refugees living in Germany, for example, or the Deutsche Welle Akademie), and sometimes they may not. (The drop from 321 mn to 302 mn from 2015 – 2016, for example, doesn’t look logical to me.) The 2016 – 2018 numbers are from the same source – Medienkorrespondenz -, these two reports, covering three fiscal years, follow the same formula and make it easy to compare the three years.

All numbers shown below (rounded) are millions.

Year
Operational
Investment
Total
Source
1998 321  Die Welt
2010 261  BMF
2011
2012  271  Bundestag
2013  296  BT WiWi
2014  311  DW
 2015  321  DW
 2016  285  17  302  MK 16
 2017  299  27  325  MK 16
 2018  305  32  336  MK 17
 2019

DW is a publicly owned broadcaster – it could actually afford to be a showcase for solid, trustworthy journalism. But a goal of this kind doesn’t appear to define the mission. In an interview in November 2014, Limbourg told German television that we obviously have to see to it that the German perspective and German values for which we stand, i. e. democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, that these are heard in the world.

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Related

Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Angela Merkel’s 8th Visit: another two Days in China

Angela Merkel was to meet Xi Jinping on Thursday, her office’s website wrote earlier this week, referring to the state chairman and party secretary general as “president”. That’s routine in German federal and regional authorities’ contacts with China; party affiliations and roles are mostly ignored.

It was Merkel’s eighth visit to China, Xinhua newsagency informed statistics-obsessed readers. She first visited in August 1997, then as minister for environment protection and nuclear reactor safety. Visits as chancellor followed in May 2006, August 2007, October 2008, July 2010, February 2012, August 2012, and in July 2014.

An End to the “Golden Decade” of German-Chinese Cooperation?

Germany’s press is diverse at first glance, but much of what ends up in regional papers is written by relatively few correspondents or editorialists in Berlin, pooled in news agencies and correspondent’s offices that offer their services to any paper in the market. “Die Krisen reisen mit” (Crises travel along), written by two Deutsche Presseagentur (DPA) correspondents, was published by a number of small or medium-sized regional papers. Sebastian Heilmann, a sinologist, is quoted as saying that London had assumed the leading role in relations with China (this probably refers to the leading role in the European Union).

But the DPA article doesn’t want to leave Heilmann’s remarks uncontested:

That Cameron, all of a sudden, only leers at business doesn’t necessarily suggest convictions and reliability, as can be read from internet users’ sardonic remarks. The chancellor enjoys much greater esteem. But Xi was probably happy to see the human-rights topic basically dropped under the table in London, and the Europeans being split. The [German] federal government takes no stock in this kind of policy changes and remains firm in its critical China policy. Chinese people appreciate reliability. Even the strength of Germany’s industries alone would ensure Germany’s position as China’s “definitely strongest trading partner”, the chancellery believes.

Dass Cameron plötzlich nur noch auf das Geschäft schielt, spricht auch aus chinesischer Sicht nicht unbedingt für Überzeugungen und Verlässlichkeit, wie aus hämischen Kommentaren von Internetnutzern erkennbar wird. Da genießt die Kanzlerin viel größere Wertschätzung. Aber Xi dürfte sich gefreut haben, dass das Thema Menschenrechte in London praktisch unter den Tisch gefallen ist und hier ein Keil zwischen die Europäer getrieben werden konnte. Die Bundesregierung hält von solchen Kurswechseln aber nichts und bleibt in ihrer kritischen China-Politik standhaft. Die Chinesen wissen Zuverlässigkeit zu schätzen. Schon wegen der Stärke der deutschen Industrie werde Deutschland auch “mit Sicherheit der stärkste Handelspartner” der Chinesen  bleiben, glaubt man im Kanzleramt.

Deutsche Welle’s Mandarin service is more elaborate, drawing on a press release from the Mercator Institute for China in Berlin, r rather on the institute’s trade magazine “China Flash”. In an interview with the magazine, Heilmann, the institute’s director, said that Chinese demand for industrial commodities was going down, and at the same time,

there’s a certain disillusionment on the Chinese side, because jointly agreed projects are stagnating: from the Chinese perspective, German industry is too passive in technological cooperation, and the federal government has given too little profile to the issue.

auf chinesischer Seite eine gewisse diplomatische Ernüchterung, weil gemeinsam vereinbarte Projekte stocken: Aus Sicht der Chinesen ist die deutsche Industrie in der Technologiekooperation zu passiv, und die Bundesregierung hat das Thema Innovationspartnerschaft zu niedrig aufgehängt.

As for an action framework for innovation partnership, adopted in Berlin in October 2014, with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang and Merkel in attendance, Merkel would “need to cheer up disappointed interlocutors in Beijing”:

Peking had hoped that German companies would procure Chinese companies with innovative know-how on networked production. However, German companies are understandably skeptical: Industry 4.0 is about fundamental, sensitive future technology. The question if this kind of know-how can be protected in the Chinese context must be answered in the negative, at present.

Peking hatte gehofft, dass deutsche Unternehmen chinesischen Firmen innovatives Wissen zur vernetzten Industrieproduktion beibringen. Doch deutsche Unternehmen sind verständlicher Weise skeptisch: Bei Industrie 4.0 geht es um elementare, sensible Zukunftstechnologien. Und die Frage, ob solches Know-how im chinesischen Kontext geschützt werden kann, muss man derzeit klar verneinen.

In Heilmann’s view, Germany losing its status as an “anchor state” for Chinese engagement in Europe shouldn’t simply be attributed to London’s “fulminant diplomatic campaign”, but to intensifying Chinese interest in international financial markets and tertiary-industry-related know-how.

Meantime, the federal government, in its announcement of Merkel’s visit to China, stated that Berlin’s goal was a balance between economic/technological, and social issues, and to include issues of global order, as well.

Human Rights: “Huanqiu Shibao” pities Merkel

Heilmann doesn’t seem to agree that China’s leaders would appreciate the federal government’s “critical China policy” (see first blockquote). It would be quite possible, Heilmann told “China Flash”, that Chinese government representatives wouldn’t listen to German expostulations “as patiently as they did last year”.

One had to pity Merkel, Huanqiu Shibao wrote in a slightly satirical article, republished here by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) on Thursday:

Today and tomorrow; German chancellor Angela Merkel visits China. So-called human-rights organizations like Amnesty International responded right away, on receipt of the news. This organization, which frequently causes China trouble, as well as the disreputable organizations “World Uyghur Congress” and “International Campaign for Tibet” recently published a joint open letter to Merkel and demanded that she should voice “concern regarding the situation in Chinese judiciary” and to voice her “support for suppressed Uyghur human rights lawyers”.

德国总理默克尔今明两天正式访问中国,大赦国际等所谓人权组织闻风而动。这家经常向中国发难的组织与臭名昭著的“世界维吾尔大会”及“世界声援西藏组织”日前联名给默克尔发公开信,要求后者在访华期间提出“对中国司法现状的担忧”,表达“对被打压维权律师的支持”。

“Tibetan-independence” and “Xinjiang-independence” organization in Western exile have apparently learned something new, adding new concepts like “situation in Chinese judiciary” and “Uyghur human rights lawyers”. That’s very amusing.

流亡西方的“藏独”和“疆独”组织看来最近加强了学习,用上了“司法现状”和“维权律师”等新词,还与大赦国际搞到一起“抱团取暖”,联合挑事,蛮是有趣。

From the perspective of the large public in mainland China, Western leaders who sing the praise of human rights every time when visiting China, come across as somewhat strange. Above all, what they mean by human rights is often different from what Chinese the common people mean. For example, Chinese people are above all concerned by social justice, with educational justice and fair access to medical treatment, home ownership, care for the elderly, etc..

对中国大陆数量庞大的公众来说,西方领导人每次到中国访问时总要像念经背书一样谈谈人权问题,有些怪怪的。尤其是他们说的人权与中国老百姓最关心的权利常常不是一回事,比如中国人最关心社会公平,包括受教育公平、医疗资源公平等,还希望居者有其屋,人人老有所养等等。

Chinese people also want rule by law, they hope for unrestricted freedom of speech, and more democratic government. As far as these [issues] are concerned, the country has a diversity in practice, keeps summing up experiences, and indeed, there are problems on government level that need to be solved. Concepts like democracy and rule by law have found their way into socialist core values. In fact, Chinese society, more than any external force, is more concerned with doing this well, and engages in exploring these issues.

中国人还要求法治,希望言论开放,国家治理更加民主。关于这些,国家有种种实践,不断总结经验,也的确有些治理层面的问题需要破解。民主、法治这些词汇都进入了社会主义核心价值观,究竟怎么做好,中国社会比任何外部力量都更加关心,也在实际探索并努力。

When foreigners talk to China about human rights, this frequently refers to the tiny minority of people who are in jail for challenging China’s political system, defined by the constitution and rules, in a way that  is relevant under criminal law. Our strong impression is that they [foreign visitors] aren’t concerned about Chinese human rights which are constantly improving, that they aren’t concerned for the growing prosperity of a majority of Chinese people, but that they [my translation for the rest of this line may be rather vague or inaccurate – JR]  want to help those who seek confrontation with the Chinese system. By this, they want to cause China trouble and force China to adopt government methods that don’t fit this country.

外国人向中国一谈人权,指的往往是为挑战中国宪法规定 的政治制度而触犯刑法,并因此坐了监狱的极少数人。给我们的强烈印象是,他们不是关心中国人权基本面 的不断改善,不是关心绝大多数中国人的福祉,而是要帮助能数得过来的与中国体制搞对抗的人,他们是要以这种方式找中国麻烦,逼中国采取不适合自己的国家治 理方式。

 Many people from the West say that they are sincerely concerned about human rights and that they can’t ignore the arrests of “dissidents”. But apparently, they don’t understand what those “dissidents” did, that they weren’t seized for “differing opinions”, but for doing things, because of their “different opinion”, that are banned by Chinese law.1)

One had to understand that China frequently gave cause to misunderstandings, Huanqiu Shibao wrote. After all, this was a big world, and far-away China was therefore not easy to understand. However, Western people with strong views about intervention in China should know how to behave in delicate situations. This wasn’t the era of the eight-nation alliance, and China wasn’t in the [weak] position anymore to beg for capital or technology.

Self-confident as Chinese society is today, people know that there are individual Western leaders who visit China with the tic of discussing “human rights”. Therefore, [Chinese people] feel a bit sorry and pity visitors who need to grit their teeth and shoulder the task of discussing “human rights”, so as to report to their superiors at home afterwards. Apparently, Chinese society is more generous than societies that exert pressure on their leaders, and are at times understanding.

中国社会如今自信了,知道西方有个别领导人访华谈“人权”的怪癖,因此对来访领导人要硬着头皮说句“人权”回去交差,有那么点同情和怜悯。怎么办呢,中国社会看来比在后面逼那些领导人的社会大度些,有时也就谅解了他们。

If the Western societies didn’t know how rotten the game in question was, remained unknown, wrote, Huanqiu Shibao. But if the window speeches absolutely had to continue, China would be of help.

“People’s Daily”: Japan should learn from Germany, and from Britain, too

If the Sino-British era is to become about as successful as the preceding Sino-German tandem, remains to be seen. Either way, much seems to suggest that human rights issues are now considered useless obstacles for relations with China.

Hua Yiwen (华益文), an author for the party’s central newspaper People’s Daily, thinks that both sides, Beijing and London, have given a sincere representation of Sino-British relations, with a strategic positioning and a harmonic diversity that made the Chinese public’s positive view of Britain rocket upwards.2)

That said, Hua isn’t as dissatisfied about Germany either. The really bad guys are the Japanese. If one saw how actively both Britain and Germany developed their ties with China, one couldn’t help but think of Japan. Different from Germany, Japan hadn’t dealt with its history, and that was affecting Sino-Japanese relations. And while London’s policies were marked by strategic far-sightedness and political courage, the Abe government had decided “to join the US and to bang the gong of a ‘Chinese threat’, thus paving the way for a Japanese military security policy of its own, and thus adding a complication factor to Sino-japanese relations.

Human Rights: Merkel meets Activists

Angela Merkel reportedly held a private meeting with nine activists at the German embassy in Beijing on Thursday evening, risking host’s ire.

The risk of the CCP leadership’s ire is exaggerated: after all, this isn’t the first meeting of this kind, and if China’s leaders had seriously objected, and considered it worth the price, they could have barred all nine activists from the meeting, as Mo Shaoping, who was invited to such a meeting in February 2012, can tell from his own experience.

Next in the visitors’ line is French president Francois Hollande, scheduled to arrive in Beijing on November 2. State council foreign-language website china.org quotes Zhou Yongsheng (周永胜) of the Chinese University for Foreign Affairs. interprets the visits, closely following each other, as “illustrating the growing influence and the position of power held by China, as acknowledged and appreciated by numerous great countries”.

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Notes

1) Probably, the Chinese dissident who is most prominent abroad should be Liu Xiaobo. (He’s hardly known or remembered within China.) He has been under arrest continuously since December 2008, and was sentenced in December 2009, for “inciting subversion of state power”. As far as I can tell, there were no clear-cut reasons given for the judgment. A conjecturable motive for seizing Liu Xiaobo could be the Charter 08, co-authored by Liu and about to be published at the time.

2) How sustainable “the Chinese public’s benevolence” and the foundations of the “British-Chinese Golden Decade” can be will also depend on a factor that could sound familiar to a message London received from Washington nearly three years ago. Back then, US president Barack Obama had informed David Cameron that he valued a strong UK in a strong European Union. Same message from Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua last week:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the European Union was China’s partner in a comprehensive strategic partnership. China hoped for a prospering Europe, a united Europe, and for an important EU member country, Great Britain, playing an active and constructive role in promoting and deepening Chinese-European relations.

习近平强调,欧盟是中国的全面战略伙伴和最大贸易伙伴。中国希望看到一个繁荣的欧洲、团结的欧盟,希望英方作为欧盟重要成员国为推动中欧关系深入发展发挥更加积极和建设性的作用。

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Related

» Internet Revolution, Chinese concept, April 17, 2015
» Hometown Diplomacy, China Daily, Oct 30, 2015

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Week (1): If you are Chinese today, can you win a Nobel Peace Prize?

… and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

Alfred Nobel, 1895, defining the scope of the Nobel Peace Prize

====================

A book  – What Nobel really wanted – was

the elephant in the room that official Norway – politicians, most media, academics – are adamant not to see,

Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a humanist and lawyer, wrote in 2010. His campaign probably gained traction in 2010, given that the 2010 winner of the Prize was Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who reportedly, to this day, this day remains in custody, either in prison, or in a labor camp, and given that China’s authorities have taken a great interest in anything that helps to question the legitimacy of the prize. The book became available in Chinese in 2011, published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing.

Publicity helps – even if it comes from a totalitarian regime. When European institutions become unable to perform their acutal duties, any help should be welcome, CCP support included. But it’s a fine line, and a reasonable citizen should try to weigh and understand the factors in power games as carefully and comprehensively as he can.

Kristian Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) (and not directly associated with the committee itself) made a pretty candid statement in an al-Jazeera discussion published on youtube last Wednesday, highlighting Beijing’s influence in Norwegian politics and on the Nobel Committee’s decisions.

Moderator: Do you think if you are Chinese today, you have a chance of winning a Nobel Peace Prize?

Harpviken: Yes, but I think there is one thing that [not readable] against any non-Chinese candidacy at the moment, and that is that the 2010 prize to Liu Xiaobo was so deeply contested by the Chinese government that for the Nobel committee, it is virtually unthinkable to give a prize that would be consistent with the government’s plans and politics, but it is equally inconceivable to give a prize to another dissident in this particular situation …

[Remaining answer unreadable, as it was cut short by moderator]

That, and what follows in a European context, makes it clear that the image of an independent committee, carrying out Alfred Nobel‘s will, is a pretty shaky and highly theoretical concept.

But a list of alternative Nobel Peace laureates, as published by the Nobel Peace Prize Watch, looks no less shaky. For one, it mainly lauds activists who target Western militarism or Western secrecy. The real world isn’t quite that uni-polar.

And there’s another problem. The list explained by its authors, at the bottom of the page, and along with several entries:

Above is the list – based on extensive research – of those who are nominated AND qualified, 
either 1) by direct work for the global disarmament plan Nobel had in mind, or (under a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel)
 2) by peace work with high utility and relevance to realizing the “fraternity of (disarmed) nations,” or
 3) by new ideas and research, developing new methods for civilized, non-violent interrelation between peoples that enables a demilitarization of international relations.

Heffermehl’s point – as I understand it – has so far been that the committee deviates from Alfred Nobel’s will. But then, someone who wants to provide an alternative to the current committee’s practice, should interpret Nobel closely, not with a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel. Edward Snowden would be a particular case in point. The desire to support and encourage him is a good thing. But Snowden is hardly a pacifist, or a peace activist, if you go by this Guardian account of February 2014. Even if we take into account that Snowden, under huge US prosecution (or persecution, for that matter), can’t speak his mind openly enough to convey a full picture of his views and intentions, he should rather be in the alternative list’s waiting list for now.

You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s either a choice in accordance with Nobel’s will, or it’s an interpretation. If it’s an interpretation, the acting Nobel committee can’t be as wrong as first reported.

Once again: trying to turn public attention to an elephant – even if already in the room – is a difficult undertaking, when deemed undesirable by the establishment. It is also a fine line in terms of ethical standards, and I’m beginning to believe that it is an impossible mission, if undertaken without compromising.

Besides, there’s a predicament any institution – and opposing movement – will face: a too narrow choice of candidates, (nearly) unknown to the public, may not achieve much publicity. But without publicity, even the most sincere political plans and objectives are doomed.

Even if biased, a public list of Nobel Peace Prize candidates as published by Heffermehl and Magnusson, that provides a platform for public debate about possible Nobel Peace Prize candidates, is a good step. One can only hope that – better sooner than later – the acting committee in Oslo will understand this, and follow the example.

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Related

» National Dialogue Quartet, BBC, Oct 9, 2015
» Appeasing China, May 1, 2014
» A Panda is no Polar Bear, June 6, 2012
» Liu Xiaobo, Dec 28, 2010

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Norway: “appeasing China seems to take precedence”

Norway’s prime minister and foreign minister are not going to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits next month, as part of an effort to ease tensions with the world’s second-largest economy, Bloomberg reported on April 23. Views and News from Norway wrote on April 9 that Parliamentary President and a long-time supporter of Tibet, Olemic Thommessen, said he would not be meeting with the exiled spiritual leader because it was more important to repair relations with China. Relations between Oslo and Beijing had been frigid ever since Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, reports the Norwegian English-language website. It was Norway’s – now ruling – Conservative Party, including now prime minister Erna Solberg, who spoke up for human rights issues and Tibet in 2008. The Dalai Lama himself is a Nobel  laureate and visits on the 25th anniversary of being awarded the peace prize.

According to the Views and News report,

Olav Gunnar Ballo, another former leader of the Tibet committee, said it’s a shame Norway’s leading politicians haven’t come out in support of the Dalai Lama, and it’s cowardly that appeasing China now seems to take precedence over human rights issues that were so actively brandished in the past.

According to the Voice of Tibet, a Norway-based broadcaster and website operator, demonstrators protested, on Wednesday, against high-ranking politicians’ decisions not to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among the demonstrators – about 400 according to News and Views -, were Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande, MP Rasmus Hansson of the Green Paerty, and rock musician Lars Lillo-Stenberg. Norway should not cave in to force and threats, one of the organizers reportedly told Norway’s public broadcaster NRK. According to Views and News, Liberal Party leader Grande said that

the Dalai Lama would not be received “in the basement” […] but would be brought to parliament to meet “as many politicians as we can manage to scrape together. We will show that people are concerned about the cowardice shown.”

These are strong words of criticism – and as they come from Norwegians, these words are laudable. But before Europeans elsewhere join the condemnations easily, they should pause and think what they or their countries were doing while Norwegian business was kept in the cold by Beijing. In fact, Oslo resisted the pressures for a remarkably long time.

But it is also true that the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo – independent from government in formal terms, but not when it comes to membership and influence – has made a joke of itself in recent years. Awarding Liu Xiaobo was a brave choice, but the award that had preceded it a year earlier – to Barack Obama -, and the one that followed in 2012,  to the European Union, were silly (to put it mildly).

Are the current (small-scale, but still bigger than elsewhere) protests only the last echoes from Norway’s better days? Or are they an indication that civil society is picking up important issues where the elites are failing? The Dalai Lama himself has turned more to people-to-people diplomacy in recent years, at least formally.

That’s where the future is.

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Related

» press conference, FMPRC (English), April 28, 2014
» press conference, FMPR (Chinese), April 28, 2014
» Dalai Lama in Oslo, schedule May 7-9
» Out of the Flames, Woeser/High Peaks, April 15, 2014

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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.
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Related

» Liu Xia defiant, Guardian, April 23, 2013
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