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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Your call has been placed in a queue...

China sets up human rights hotline to catch abusing officials.

China Daily reports that China's Supreme Procuratorate has established two hotlines to hear reports from the public of job- related human rights violations by officials.

Human Rights violations in this context, the report says, is defined as

".. dereliction of duty that causes serious life and property losses, illegal detention and search of people, extorting confessions and collecting evidence by violence, sabotaging elections and infringing on civil rights of citizens, and maltreating detainees. "

The 'hotline" is intended to be another tool for use by the government in it's drive to make government officials more responsible for their actions.

Well one has to applaud the Procuratorate and I am sure that it is a well meaning gesture but, can you imagine some of the call conversations?

"Yes? What? Your name is Muhhamad? And your calling from where? Xinjiang? Ohh! Well, er, this is a very terrible line! Would you, er, mind calling back some other time? Say June 2009?"

Or, what is more likely with only two lines available

" Thank you for calling the human rights hotline. Your call is important to us. We are experiencing heavy traffic at the moment and your call has been placed in a queue. Present indicators are that one of our helpful operators should be with you within 2,628,000 minutes. We apologise for the delay. Whilst you are waiting please enjoy listening to the complete works of Chairman Mao"

It is not good to joke about such things but really, "two lines"?

It is unlikely such a limited service can be of real help to the many affected by Chinese official's abuse of power such as the thousands of miners forced to work in unsafe conditions and millions of migrant workers abused on a daily basis over pay and conditions.

It's only real positive is that it's existence may provide another deterrent to such activity and, along with other iniatiatives, work to slowly change the "corporate culture" of China's bureaucracy.

"Hotlines hear human rights complaints" China Daily. 27/06/04 (Viewed 27/06/04)

How China prepares For A Human Rights Inspection

China Human Rights
China Support network has an excellent article on how China prepares for visits by reporters, human rights organisations and the UN investigating abuses in China.

Particularly it has some first hand reports of prisoners who experienced such inspections from the inside.

Nothing really new here in terms of original ideas, nothing the nazis would not have applied to Red Cross visits in the Second World War but still an interesting read.

I particularly liked the allegory the author uses concerning film making.

A case of "lights, everyone take your positions please, Action!"

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:

"FDI reports difficultiesgetting at the torture issue" China Support Network. Undated Viewed 27/6/04

Attempted Cover Up of Coal Mining Deaths

China Mining Tragedy

9 people charged with plotting to burn miners bodies to avoid detection

In what has to be seen as a serious indictment of the culture of the whole Chinese mining industry 9 mine managers have been arrested on what is tantamount to a conspiracy to cover up the deaths of 11 miners.

What is most serious however is that the mine's management allegedly planned to secretly cremate the miner's bodies in an attempt to keep the tragedy from Chinese officials.

The mine's management planned to cover up the accident by reporting that the mine gas explosion on June 3 resulted in the death of only one miner and not the eleven that actually died. Then in a bizarre move they proposed to secretly cremate the bodies of the other 10 and negotiate quietly with the miner's relatives, mainly poor rural families, for a compensation payout requiring an agreement as to their silence.

The motivation for this bizarre plan was fear of the mine being investigated and closed by Chinese Mine officials and the resultant loss of income.

China's coal mining industry is officially responsible for thousands of deaths each year. In 2003 the official tally was 7,200 but many informed observers believe that this is grossly underestimated and may, through deceptions such as this, actually be upwards of 10,000 per annum.

The very fact that this mine's management would even consider such an incredible plan to deceive authorities shows the mindset and culture of an industry were workers safety and their very lives are a secondary consideration to profits and the need to supply China's ever increasing energy demands.

No-one would embark on such an outlandish and macabre plan unless such practices were rife and commonplace in the industry to a point that this mine's management expected to succeed in their ruse.

China's coal mining industry and output is of extreme importance to China. Coal fuels 75% of the nations energy requirements, demand that is growing in double figure percentages each year. On top of this in order to satisfy her agreements with the European Union China is committed to supplying a minimum export quantity of coal to Europe.

All this is expected from an industry already at capacity and where workers rights, their training and work safety levels are almost non existent.

Drawing their workers mainly from the poor, rural unemployed, Chinese private and non State owned coal mining enterprises have virtual free reign over the treatment of their workers. Where there even exists government oversight on mine safety issues it is patchy at best or susceptible to corruption at worse.

The central government whilst aware of the issues chooses to ignore them and has obviously made a conscious decision to trade off human lives for increased production to lessen the energy shortages plaguing China and to satisfy international trade agreements. In other words Beijing has implicity condoned the risks to miner's lives as a "cost of doing business"

As an aside what was the worth of these miners lives to mine management? According to Xinhuanet between 75,000 yuan (9,000 US dollars) to 144,000 yuan (17,000 US dollars) for each miner killed was offered to grieving relatives.

Good work if you can get it!
:: Xinhuanet - English ::

Dalai Lama For Spain

 Dalai Lama: Spiritual Leader of the Tibetan Buddhists Clocking up some very serious "Frequent Flyer Points " this year the 14th Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and general international celebrity, will visit Barcelona Spain in early July where he will celebrate his 69th birthday among Spain's Tibetan Buddhists and Spanish admirers.

The Lama, whose celebrity among non Buddhists has soared in these troubled times, has visited several countries this year with many more trips planned including one to Central America in October. The only sour point for this jetsetting deity has been Russia's bowing to Chinese pressure and refusing him a visa to visit among Buddhists in that country.

"H. H. the Dalai Lama to visit Barcelona" - www.phayul.com june 26 2004 (Viewed 27.6/04)

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Is China abandoning the soft touch?

Implications for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Human Rights

A United Press International analysis suggests that China is starting to caste off it's "soft touch" approach to relations with Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Essentially, that the soft approach embodied in China's policy of "peaceful rising" has not been working and that Taiwan, for example, is moving further away from possible unification as a result.

As such, a return to a hardline approach to Taiwan would mean that China could abandon any pretence of holding up Hong Kong as a showcase to entice Taiwan to the fold. The ramifications for Hong Kong and democracy are obvious.

Whilst I do not focus on these issues as a rule I have noticed a general hardening of Beijing's posture on international relations of late. Use of flattery and cajoling as a policy tool of international relations, especially as it concerns trade, has given way ever so slightly to a seemingly harder "take it or leave it" attitude.

In areas such as foreign countries' relations with the Dalai Lama, for example, Beijing has on occasion been downright threatening in it's diplomatic posturing. Internally the recent detention of Chinese Doctor Jiang Yanyong, the SARS hero, is certainly a thumb to world opinion as is the cancellation of a UN Torture investigators visit and the apparent increased harassment of Catholic clergy.

It has been suggested that the Chinese Communist party is re-examining it's "Peaceful Rising" strategy of international relations to the extent that some believe that it is now a dead duck. What will replace it could be rather interesting.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:
United Press International: "Analysis: Is China losing its soft touch?" June 26 2004 (Viewed 26/6/04)

Friday, June 25, 2004

A Monument To A Monumental Problem

A quadripod in Guandong

Xinjiang's Social and Humanitarian Crisis

A bronze Chinese quadripod, a replica of an ancient Chinese sacrificial vessel, was erected in Urumqi capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in north western China on Thursday to commemorate the International Day of Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to be observed today, June 26.

The quadripod is a symbolic article used in China to commemorate significant events.

The picking of Urumqi and Xinjiang by the Chinese government for the observance of this particular day is twofold.

Firstly China's first "anti-drug crusader" Lin Zexu (1785-1850) died in Xinjiang after being exiled there from the east in 1842. According to the Xinhua newsagency Lin seized 1,000 tons of smuggled opium from foreign merchants in 1839 and oversaw it's destruction to fight China's drug problem. His anti-drug and anti-foreigner stance later was to bring him to loggerheads with those wishing to appease foreign governments and as a result he was exiled to Xinjiang.

It is next to a statue of Lin that the quadripod has been erected and the area around it is set to become an anti-drug educational base.

The second reason one would think for choosing Xinjiang is that according to a report by Prof. Justin Rudelson to the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Uyghur Panel, June 10, 2002, Xinjiang has become the most seriously affected region in China for AIDS brought about mainly as a result of dug addiction and the consequent needle usage among Xinjiang's Uygur population.

According to the professor

"..heroin started coming into Xinjiang in 1994 from Burma. Uyghurs initially smoked it but over the past few years began injecting it, creating a nightmare AIDS crisis. Within a drastically short time, Xinjiang has emerged as China's most seriously affected region and the Uyghurs are the most affected of all of China's peoples."

According to a BBC report carried in China Study group the first case of HIV was diagnosed in Xinjiang in 1996 and by September 2003 there were 7,893 reported cases. This figure however is believed to be the tip of the iceberg with officials estimating the real figure to be between 20,000 and 60,000, and tests in government detoxification centres indicate around 70% of intravenous drug users to be HIV positive.

As stated many of Xinjiang's drug users are Uygurs and the problem is prevalent in 69 cities of 16 counties in Xinjiang. As with indigenous people supplanted by colonists in the likes of Australia and the Americas the Uygur youth suffer high levels of unemployment and feel marginalised in an increasingly Han Xinjiang. Turning to drugs and alcohol is a means of escape from the reality of their situation.

With the culture of their people crumbling everywhere as a result of Han Government policy and faced with a rapidly changing society brought on by Han immigration and economic dislocation the normal support mechanisms of family and religious beliefs, so important to the Uygur culturally and historically, are being eroded leaving Uygur youth feeling hopeless and directionless.

Medical and psychiatric treatment facilities in Xinjiang are almost non existent and are totally inadequate to deal with the AIDS problem let alone the root problem of drug abuse and dependence from which 96% of AIDS cases are reported to be as a result of.

Drug addiction is a crime in China and for a majority of drug addicts "treatment" is limited to a sixty day stint in a state run detox center and then release without any ongoing support. As a result, treated like criminals and thrown back into the very environment that caused their addiction in the first place many return to their old habits.

So serious is the drug, AIDS and alcohol problem among the Uygur that Prof. Justin Rudelson stated to the Congressional Committeee that the current situation has

"...brought the most devastating threat to Uyghur survival as a people".

What the problem needs is attention, funding and proper treatment of the root cause of the drug and AIDS problem but the task seems too big for the Chinese government to handle. With an estimated 6 million drug addicts in the country effective treatment is expected to cost US$1 billion dollars, an amount the Chinese government is either unable or unwilling to part with.

Putting up Chinese quadripods next to statues of Han hero's, apart from being totally insensitive to the very people most affected by the drug problem the Uygur, will not go far to alleviate this considerable social and humanitarian problem existing in Xinjiang today.

China: Different Degree of 'Fear'

Due my interest in the Uygur people of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in north western China I have developed many friendships with Uygurs living there as well as those living in diaspora.

Through the media of emails, instant messaging and the occasional old fashion post and telephone call I keep as up to date with things in Xinjiang as much as is possible.

I say "as much as possible" because knowing the situation of the Uygur in China I consciously have taken the decision that I would not allow my friendship with my Uygurs friends to place them in any danger. Accordingly I will not directly ask them questions of a political nature as I do not know for certain just how effective Chinese internet spying is.

I do know however that I and my websites are known to Beijing.

Whilst China Letter is automatically blocked from being viewed in China because it is hosted on Blogspot which has been banned holus bolus for some time by Chinese censors my Uygurworld site is also banned.

In the early days of Uygurworld my site was visited daily by Beijing officials of what ilk I do not know. I know this firstly because I was banned generally and could not be viewed by the general populace and secondly all the "hits" according to my traffic logs came from Beijing and were not always 'hits" from another computer browser but sometimes actual "spiders" similar I suppose to what internet search engines employ. They were by thier frequency apparently some sort of scheduled thing as if they were pre-programmed.

It could have been the censors but after banning the site what was the use? It could have been higher level Chinese officials and party members who can circumvent the blocks placed on viewing banned websites by ordinary Chinese or it could have been some Security division checking to see if the my site was transmitting hidden "call to arms" type messages.

Regardless I must have some profile because in a twist on the usual Chinese censorship I am actually banned from viewing Xinhua's news website from Australia. Thankfully they must not share information because I am ok (touch wood) with China Daily, People Daily and some other English language mainland news sites.

So in knowing that I am known and in not knowing how effective they are at eavesdropping I do not ask political questions of my friends. But there are innocuous questions that can be asked to get a feel for the general climate and occasionally, without prompting, my friends will get a "feeling" across to me in an indirect way, though even this is a rarity.

But my friendships in China are not limited to the Uygur. I also have developed one strong friendship in particular with a Han fellow who lives in Shanghai but hails, co-incidently as it turns out, from Xinjiang. I say co-incidently because I can not remember exactly how we came to meet on the net and maybe it was in somehow related to my interest in Xinjiang. I do recall however that the manner of the first contact was peculiar enough at the time for me to be rather wary of what I said.

Regardless of his ethnicity, out of consideration of this mans friendship and well being, I do not initiate political conversation for the same reasons as the Uygur.

I mention all of this as background because it struck me last evening, after a late and long conversation with my Han friend, the difference between him and my Uygur friends in terms of "fear". The fear of talking about anything but the weather and the number of foreign tourists in town.

And the difference is very palpable, you can feel it being transmitted down the line.

Whereas my Uygur friends are very circumspect in what they say and will try to say something, that could even vaguely be construed as being political, in a very obtuse manner, my Han friend shows none of this reticence. Whilst he stops short of denouncing the current regime he is not adverse to being critical.

What got my train of thought working on the subject of this post was when my Han friend, who in no way could be considered a political animal, related to me a story of the persecution his parents suffered at the hands of Mao Zedong and his Cultural Revolution, persecution that ultimately forced their removal form Shanghai to Xinjiang. It was delivered with such open contempt of Mao to the extent that I suggested to him that if he kept on he might get a rather loud knock at the door to which he replied that I should not worry so much.

Juxtaposed to this I thought was an email communication with an Uygur university student in Urumqi I had over a several week period about a year ago. He contacted me initially, probably through Yahoo's personal directory where I am listed as being interested in the Uygur people. As a result we swapped stories of our lives, again, as with my other China situated friends, there was absolutely no mention of politics in any shape or form.

After several weeks of this correspondence I received an email asking whether I had given his email address out to anyone that might be "bad people" to which I assumed him to mean of "separatist" or anti Chinese inclination. When I replied in the negative he almost pleaded with me that I keep his email address confidential.

This was strange in itself but sometime later I received another email in which, almost incoherently and for no obvious reason, he talked about his love of China, how China was the motherland and that he was patriotic and loyal. Fearing something was amiss I emailed back and said to the effect that yes his love of China always shone through in his emails and that he must be a true patriot. I never heard from him again despite some follow ups. Whether someone told him of my associations with human rights activism or something more sinister I do not know suffice to say something seriously spooked him.

Whilst obviously my "sample, being based on limited numbers as it is, would not hold up to scientific analysis, I have personally ruled out education or economic situations as being a factor in this difference in "fear" levels.

My Han friend is university educated and part of the new Chinese Yuppie class. Young, upwardly mobile and displaying discretionary spending characteristics. My Uygur friends on the other hand comprise a more eclectic group and range from a non tertiary educated street tour guide (the ones that pick you up and walk you places for a modest fee) who when asked how he survives from day to day responds that "Allah provides" which I take (with no disrespect of Allah) as meaning "just", through to members of a more elite and educated class though by no means monied by eastern Chinese standards.

Without exception they all act in the same manner in communications.

I can only put the differences down to cultural and ethnic reasons and as evidence of the very real level of fear felt by the Uygur of Han government reach and authority.

Fear that is ingrained perhaps from birth as a result of the Uygurs cultural interaction with the Han or of actually witnessing China's persecution in all aspects of their life.

Actually as a result of knowing the extent of Han authority and its inherent danger to them rather than just thinking it possible.

It is like a dog which, being institutionally mistreated, harbours a fear that causes it to cower even at an innocently raised hand or voice or at an implied threat of punishment.

Whatever the reason it is an inhumane way for a person or a people to live.

Dalai Lama World Tour: Central American Itinerary

 Dalai Lama: Spiritual Leader of the Tibetan People
In a world tour that would put the Rolling Stones to shame the 69 year old Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the world's Tibetan Buddhists, is believed to be planning to travel to Central America in October of this year.

The San Diego Tribune quotes a member of the Mexican Tibetan community as saying that during the planned Oct 3 to Oct 8 visit, the Dalai Lama will participate in a multi-faith ceremony at the city's main cathedral which will include Roman Catholic Cardinal Norberto Rivera and members of the city's Jewish, Muslim and Hindu communities.

His October trip is also expected to take in Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala.

The sheer scope of the Dalai Lama's travels this year and the very positive reception he has received from both politicians and ordinary people alike is believed to be behind a concerted propaganda campaign by the Chinese government over the last two months attempting to lessen the Lama's obvious impact and show the world that Chinese involvement in Tibet has brought nothing but positives to the Tibetan people.

A sure sign of Beijing's concerns as to the Dalai Lama's influence is it's release in May of a "White Paper" on Tibet which attempted to counter the Dalai Lama's calls for increased autonomy for Tibet by demonstrating that the Tibetans already enjoy a high degree of political self determination.

"White Papers" historically are rolled out by Beijing when it feels particularly vulnerable to international scrutiny over a topic.

2004 has been a big year for the traveling Lama. Already he has had widely successful visits to the likes of Canada, Taiwan, Great Britain and France where he was attended not only by large audiences but numerous examples of Chinese diplomatic ire. In one instance of pettiness the Chinese threatened to cancel a sister city relationship with English city Liverpool if they offcially entertained the Lama.

There has ben one setback though. Succumbing to pressure from Beijing Moscow has denied issuing a visa to the Lama for a planned Russian leg of his world tour. According to a Xinhua report Beijing is highly appreciative of Moscow's support in banning the Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile the European Union (EU) has placed additional pressure on China by calling for Beijing to actively pursue dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives in an attempt to resolve their differences.
"In response to an outpouring of concern from European citizens about Tibet, the European Commission has issued a statement (June 15, 2004 ed.) expressing its concern regarding the situation of human rights in Tibet and also extending its support to the ongoing dialogue between Dharamsala and Beijing."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

First rail tracks laid in Tibet

First rail line laid in Tibet. Pic courtesy China Daily

A new era dawns for Tibet and Tibetans

As the China Daily points out two centuries after the Industrial Revolution and the invention of the steam engine by James Watt a railway line has been laid on the "Roof of The World"; Tibet

"At about 11:30 am Tuesday, two 25-metre-long rails were laid at the Amdo Station, some 440 kilometres from Lhasa, at the foot of the Tanggula mountain range in Amdo County of Tibet."

The 1,142-kilometre link is scheduled to be completed in 2007 and will link Golmud City of Qinghai Province and Lhasa, capital of Tibet. At the risk of stating the obvious the rail line will be the highest above sea level in the world.

As history has proven the opening up of a rail line means rapid increases in economic activity and mobility within the area serviced. It brings wealth and people.

For some this is a good thing, for others like the American Indians in the 19th century it spelt the beginning of the end of their culture. For the Uygur of Xinjiang the advent of a rail to Urumqi in the early sixties and later to Kashgar brought mixed blessings. Along with an increase in economic activity and ultimately greater wealth it brought to an end the Uygurs isolation and hegemony by facilitating the movement of several million Han Chinese to the region.

It is hoped that in the case of Tibet and the Tibetans the result will be nothing but positive.

"First rail tracks laid in Tibet" China Daily 23/6/04 (viewed 24/06/04)

"China Daily" News Criticises Internet Censorship

Official Chinese New Agency criticises Government Policy

China Daily: One of China's Top Five News SourcesIn what has to be a red letter day (excuse the pun) one of China's top five news agencies the China Daily has criticised the government's decision to ban children from internet cafes in the upcoming summer holiday period.

Whilst showing understanding for the central government's rationale for the ban the China Daily says there are better ways to protect the young from the potential evil influences of the net whilst still giving them opportunities to take advantage of this "new" medium to broaden their horizons and knowledge.

In what has to be an understatement or perhaps a backhand criticism the China Daily "innocently" says

"A better way to protect China's youth and at the same time respect their right to Internet access is to strengthen control on the cyber content provided by public Internet outlets. It is technically feasible to use software to block pornographic or excessively violent content. "

Well I have to agree with the China Daily that in this modern time and with the wealth of technology out our fingertips there must be a way to ban certain sites from access.

I wonder if the Chinese government has cottoned on to this novel idea!!

"Blanket Internet ban not the best solution" China Daily 23/6/04 (24/6/04)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Jiang Yanyong

One name should be on the lips of every blogger, human rights activist, commentator, political analyst, diplomat and freedom espousing politician and country in the world right now. Jiang Yanyong

Why should this seventy something Beijing doctor be of such importance?

Of course his bravery should be acknowledged as the doctor who had the courage to blow the lid on China's SARS epidemic but he is not imprisoned is he? He is not sentenced to 15 years on some trumped up charge of "subversion" or trading in "state secrets"

It is true that he is not in danger of a bullet in the back of the head kneeling in the mud of some forlorn field or an injection in a mobile death chamber as a result of his expose.

His stand on Tiananmen Square was also something honorable but he is not being tortured due to that is he? Being bashed to within an inch of his life or electrocuted with cattle prods or one of the many ways China has of breaking someone's spirit and imposing it's will.

More than likely they even have him even in a place of reasonable comfort, just keeping him out of the world's view over the time of the Tiananmen anniversary. After all they allowed him to obtain some personal effects after his disappearance to provide him some comfort.

Why then should this doctor's case be of such importance? Why should his name be on everyone's lips? People get detained in China all the time. Look at the "Tiananmen Mothers", some of them were put away for a little "holiday" in the lead up to the 15th anniversary but were released unharmed after a little while.

And China is always doing it to underground priests and bishops, a swift little detention just to let everyone know who is in charge and then release. Each year around National People's Conference time and anniversaries like Tiananmen this sort of thing happens as a matter of course, barely rippling the international waters. They are not killing them after all!

The same will happen to the good doctor, he will be released back to his loving family, nothing really to worry about.

Why then should his name be on everyone's lips?

Because his detention proves without doubt that everything China does and every thing China says to the world as to how it is changing or how it has changed is nothing but a lie.

It demonstrates that everything they plead with us to understand about their "special circumstances" about not being able to "turn the ship on a dime" and how we must give them time as regards human rights is nothing but a ruse, a method of deflection, and obfuscation.

Each trade deal we have signed with them in the belief, or more to the point the self delusion, that we are helping them change is shown to be nothing but a mockery.

As we walk away from the diplomatic or trade negotiating table slapping ourselves on the back as to what fine fellows we are the Chinese side is holding back a belly laugh. Amused at our gullibility and our self serving and selective morals.

Why? Because they can take someone as high profile as Jiang Yanyong, a person of international stature, a person that the world knows is innocent of any wrong doing and, without one concern or fear of adverse international opinion, detain him against his will.

We in the west are shown by this detention exactly how we are viewed by the Chinese and that is that we are of no importance, of no real consequence other than as a necessary evil with whom to trade.

Our opinions hold no sway in the Politburo halls of power. Yes the Chinese will flatter, they will cajole our leaders and captains of industry. They will nod with empathetic understanding at our concerns about human rights and promise, ad nauseum, that they are really working on making positive change but all the while they must be muttering under their breath, laughing at us for our self righteousness and the mosquito bite of discomfort we cause them.

What does this man's detention mean?

It is tantamount to a person spitting at your feet and telling you were to shove it and then laugh with malevolence in your face.

Everyone of us who have ever stood up for China is betrayed, is mocked, is laughed at for our gullibility. Everyone of us who has given China the benefit of the doubt has been proven wrong. Everyone of us who has ever pleaded with others to take a soft approach, to give China more time is shown to be a pipe-dreamer. Everyone of us who has ever signed a trade deal can no longer sleep easy in the belief that China has and is changing and that the pen handed to us was, or is not, inked in blood.

As to the advocates of free trade and lifting of arms embargos you are shown to be either gullible fools or greedy pimps.

The leopard has not changed it's spots it has just hid them behind a business suit. The torturer has not taken long overdue retirement he has just been redressed as a bon vivant.

This detention is so much more than one man having his liberty taken away from him for a short time. The name Jiang Yanyong should become a mantra upon our lips not only because of the man but as constant reminder of the real China. Not the China we continually delude ourselves we know.

We have to understand that this detention is not as a result of some local police cadre taking it upon himself to lock up a couple of poor unknown Uygurs or Tibetans or Falun Gong followers. This detention is not as a result of some unfounded belief among the lower echelons of the party that religion or ethnicity or speaking up poses threats to national security.

This is not only about the detention of a man who has committed no crime, endangered no lives. A man who has done nothing more than exercised a right that we in the west take for granted. It is much much more than this.

Just as Tiananmen was not crushed at the whim of a tank corps commander nor was this decision taken by some lowly party official.

The decision to detain this particular man, considering who he is, has to have gone all the way to the top. All the way to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jaibao and to all the other politburo members. Worse still, and seemingly impossible for our leaders in the west and many of us to grasp, is that this decision, more than likely, and for whatever misguided reason, came down from them.

They must have given approval for it. They have sat around a table, much as the politburo did when arguing over what action to take against the students in Tiananmen, and made a decision. A conscious and deliberated decision to deprive an innocent human being of his liberty. The same cold blooded and detached decision making of a Mao, a Stalin or a Hitler.

Think of it. Who else would have the authority, nay, the audacity to detain a man of such international stature and in doing so knowingly give a thinly veiled two fingered salute to the world?

These are the men that we invite to sit in the Oval Office or Number 10. These are the men we shake hands with and break bread with at diplomatic functions. These are the men that we see experienced world leaders and captains of industry fawning over and kowtowing too.

These smiling ever so gracious men, this "new generation" of leadership, these men of a million platitudes dressed in their western suits and power ties, these supposed men of the people have, with this one act, taken all of our trust, all our beliefs and all of our hopes in them and shattered them as nonchalantly as they would snub a cigarette.

The problem is that we just do not realise it yet.

No, Jiang Yanyong will not be tortured, he will not be executed and ultimately he will be returned to his family. He will have suffered some deprivations but he will get over them.

But what will not be returned, if we only realise our loss in the first place, is our innocence, our trust, and the loss of these things we should never allow ourselves to get over.

We have to stand up once and for all and say we will not be treated so. We have to say forcibly at all levels government, press and trade that we will not have our hand of friendship spat upon and defiled so blatantly and so wantonly. That we will no longer be as gullible or accepting of empty promises and vacillation.

Jiang Yanyong name should be on everyone's lips not for what he as done or even for what is being done to him, the man. He should not be lionised. As honorable and courageous as he has been there are many who have been just as courageous and have sacrificed far greater.

But his name should be on our lips now, from every blog and newspaper, from every congress and chambers of government for what his detention should now have beyond doubt have proven to us. That, because of our hope and kindness and optimism as to the basic goodness of humanity we are allowing ourselves to be duped.

We should utter Jiang's name often as a reminder especially when the Chinese Communist Party talks of Taiwan and Hong Kong,of Xinjiang and Tibet.

A mirror has been held to our face as a result of Jiang Yanyong's detention. The question now is what will we choose to see reflected and how will we react?

Radio Free Asia. 23/6/04 (23/06/04)

Guantanamo Uygurs Not To Be Returned to China

China Human Rights

China torture fears hamper jail releases

The Financial Times reports a US official source as stating that the US has ruled out the return of 22 Uighur prisoners held at its Guantanamo Bay detention centre to China because of fears they could be tortured or executed.

The Uygurs, natives of Xinjaing Uygur Autonomous Region in north western China, were captured in Afghanistan as part of the US intervention in that country and apparently have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing and are free to be released. The problem apparently is that no country has of yet offered to provide them refuge.

China has an extremely poor record in the treatment of Uygurs they consider to be "terrorists", a euphenismm in reality for those Uygurs that harbour "Separatist" leanings. Since 1997 Amnestyy International claims that it has documented the execution of 124 Uygurs and the imprisonment of thousands more on various charges relating to "terrorism" and "separatism."

Mistreatment of Uygur prisoners including torture has also been noted. As recently as October 2004 an executed Uygur had released a journal he had written documenting his horrendous treatment at the hands of the Chinese before escaping to Nepal only to be returned and executed. (Executed Uyghur Refugee Left Torture Testimony Behind)

Several Human Rights groups have voiced concerns about the fate of the Guantanamo Uygurs if forced to return to China and it appears their pleas have been heard by US officials.

"China torture fears hamper jail releases" FT.com Home US. 22/6/04 (23/6/04)

Now Thats A Fire!

Xinjiang  Uygur China mapAccording to a report in ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Commission) there are several fires in Xinjiang one of which has been burning non stop for 30 years.

The fire in a coal mine started in 1975 and has consumed 20 million tonnes of the precious black mineral and belched countless tonnes of noxious fumes into the atmosphere.

The good news is that authorities have set themselves a target of having all fires extinguished by 2018.

Well that's a comfort at least.

"China tackles 30-year coal mine fire" RADIO AUSTRALIA 23/6/04. (23/6/04)

Game Of Chess On The Roof Of The World

Tibet Map

Tibet and Beijing's machinations

As another part of a concerted international campaign being waged by Beijing over the last several months to assure the world that China is positively impacting on Tibet Chinese authorities announced on June 21 that they have established an organization to be called the Association for the Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture to promote and develop Tibetan culture.

In the last two months China has released a "White Paper" arguing that Tibet enjoys considerable autonomy, sponsored a visit to the United States by Chinese promoted Tibetan scholars as well as having rolled out numerous "advertorials", through the official news organ Xinhua, trumpeting the economic and social marvels China has been instrumental in conjuring since taking over the country in 1955.

According to a Xinhua report via Phayul.org, the Tibetan news portal, this newly formed association

"... aims to carry researches into the history, status quo and development trend of Tibetan culture, advise the government and other organizations on how to protect and develop Tibetan culture, sponsor exhibitions and symposiums on Tibetan culture in the world, and engage in international exchanges so as to enable the world to know Tibet better and raise funds for the protection of fine traditional culture in Tibet."

The preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture has been one of the main objectives of the Dalai Lama in his calls for greater autonomy for the Tibetan people within the Chinese state and is a major hoped for outcome in attempts by the Dalai Lama to open official dialogue with Beijing.

This latest move by the Chinese government together with the recent "White Paper" purporting to demonstrate that Tibetan autonomy already exists and "justification" press releases as to the great improvements in the Tibetan economy, infrastructure and social indicators, is an attempt to effectively reduce the Dalai Lama's position to a non sequitur. In other words Beijing by its recent machinations is attempting to paint the picture of the Dalai Lama seeking an outcome that already exists and, hopefully by doing so, diminish his relevancy to the Tibet debate.

This overall strategy could be for one of two reasons. Either it could be setting the stage for a final repudiation of the Dalai Lama's overtures seeking official dialogue with Beijing over the future of Tibet or it could quite possibly be setting the stage for an olive branch to be offered the Lama without loss of face for the Chinese Communist Party.

Essentially with this latest announcement all the Dalai Lama's objectives have theoretically been met and therefore offering an olive brach to the him would not be seen as a backdown or concession from the Chinese side. The desire to save face is a vitally important consideration for the CCP and should not be overlooked.

The indicator as to which way China will jump will be whether a suggested official meeting between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Beijing mooted for October this year gets the go ahead.

China Announces Association to Promote Tibetan Culture - www.phayul.com

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Beijing Agrees To Meet Dalai Lama Representatives

Doomed meeting gets go-ahead

Tibet MapAccording to a Radio Free Asia (RFA) report the government in Beijing has agreed to meet a a "non official" delegation of Tibetans as a further step in opening up dialogue between the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan government in exile and Beijing with a view to Tibet achieving a greater degree of autonomy within the Chinese state.

The main objective of the visit is to create an environment conducive to dialogue in accordance with the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, To do that we are to meet and talk with as many of the old Tibetan government officials, and Chinese as possible.

RFA reports Tibetan spokesperson Kalon Sonam Topgyal and former Tibetan Government in exile cabinet leader as saying when confirming the meet to be held in Beijing and Tibet in late June or July.

RFA reports also that a second meeting which will include the Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, is planned for October.

This current round of meetings will follow on from two held last year and are aimed at reaching agreement with the Chinese government for the self determination and autonomy of the Tibetan people. In exchange the Dalai Lama has indicated that he will renounce his role as political leader of the Tibetan people and continue on only as spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists. Also the Tibetans would renounce once and for all any desire for total independence from the Chinese state.

The Dalai Lama has longed believed that it is in the best interests of Tibet that it remains within the Chinese state citing major improvements to the Tibetan economy. He does however desire autonomy so as Tibetans may have full control over their cultural destiny. This however is not a view held by all Tibetans particularly Tibetan youth in diaspora many who see the Lama's position as a "sell out" demanding nothing less than complete independence by whatever means.

These meetings however have little chance of success and have most probably been agreed to by Beijing to evidence it'd reasonableness over it's position on Tibet.

In a recent "White Paper" on Tibet released in May of this year the Chinese government argued that Tibetans and Tibet already enjoy considerable autonomy and could not conceivably obtain any more despite the calls from the Dalai Lama who they continue to brand a "Separatist".

As well the Dalai Lama, despite the offer to renounce his temporal role, would remain in Beijing's eyes a continuing threat to their absolute authority by not only being a living reminder to the Tibetan people of their lost independence but also due to his international prominence.

If real autonomy where ever to be given to the Tibetan people it is unlikely that it will occur within the current Dalai Lama's lifetime.

Radio Free Asia

Criminal's Human Rights To Be Respected

Justice in ChinaIs it the translation or does it show just how badly prisoners sentenced to death in China are treated when Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court of China has to urge all Chinese judges to respect criminals' human rights

'Judges must strictly follow legal procedures when depriving or putting limitations on criminals' rights. Even if criminals are sentenced to death, they should not be humiliated.'

That aside senior Chinese judges have for some time now been sending the message down the line to give fairer treatment to detainees, arrested persons and convicted criminals.

Whilst stopping short of Habeas Corpus they have for example been urging over the last six months or so that detainees be officially charged and brought to trial within a "reasonable" period and that defense lawyers get "reasonable' access to their clients. It is not unknown for defense lawyers to meet their clients for the first time at the actually court case even for serious charges.

To be a criminal of any ilk in China is to be the lowest of the low so such attention to this class of person's human rights perhaps is indicative of some real and positive cultural change in Chinese society.

Criminal Human rights To Be Protected Xinhuanet - English 18/6/04:::

Friday, June 18, 2004

The Coming Chinese Jihad?

I link to an interesting but somewhat confusing article by a Stephen Schwartz who leads in by talking about the fourth annual general meeting of the Uyghur American Association a Washington based Uygur diaspora group representing American based Uygurs and active in lobbying the U.S government over the situation of the Uygur people in China.

The meeting over the June Memorial day weekend in the United States involves elections, budgets and cultural events the latter being attended by politicians supportive of the Uygur cause.

I say it is an interesting article because it sheds some more light on what China refers to as "Uygur terrorism" particularly the fact of some 22 Uygurs being caught in Afghanistan and shipped to Guantanamo Bay.

It is also interesting in that it talks about Islam in China and the apparent preference the Chinese Government has for Hui Muslims as distinct from Uygur Muslims.

What is totally confusing to me is how the author jumps from a diaspora group meeting to entitling his piece "The Coming Chinese Jihad"

Firstly as to the Uygurs and Afghanistan.

The UAA meeting was addressed by one Erkin Alptekin an Uygur now resident in Europe who is the son of a deceased hero of the Uygur independence movement Isa Alptekin. Alptekin senior was a minister in the short lived Eastern Turkistan Republic that controlled 25% of Xinjiang in the death throes period of the Nationalist government and before the Communist takeover.

Erkin junior, whom like his father has devoted his life to the Uygur cause, escaped China with his family after the Communist takeover and is presently president of the World Uighur Congress based in Munich which is an umbrella group comprising Uygur diaspora groups world wide.

Alptekin believes that the existence of Uygurs among the Taliban in Afghanistan was as a result of several reasons. He is reported to have said that some Uighurs were trained by the Chinese, in tandem with the Pakistanis, to fight the Russians in Afghanistan and remained after the Soviet withdrawal.

Others he claims were driven out of Xinjiang by Chinese repression whilst others were sent to Pakistan as children to escape communist indoctrination and to learn Islam only to be driven out by the Pakistani authorities at the behest of China. These people, Alptekin was reported to have said, were natural targets for al Qaeda and Taliban recruitment.

Whilst I believe that this is certainly the case there were undoubtedly some small minority that were voluntarily there with the express objective of taking the independence fight to China and to think elsewise would be naive.

The UAA meeting was also addressed by the slightly discredited Wu'er Kaixi an Uygur student leader of the Tiananmen protest in 1989 ( I say discredited because he maintained at one time that he had witnessed scores of students shot dead around him in Tiannamen square when in fact no such shootings as he described occurred and he was later found not to have even been in the Square at the time he claimed).

Then we jump to the "Coming Jihad" and this is where it gets confusing because this bears no association with either the UAA or what was said at the meeting and as an argument rates very poorly.

The author starts out by quoting professor Dru Gladney a well respected expert on the Uygurs, Xinjiang and Chinese Islam talking about the influence of Wahhabism, a more radical manifestation of Islam, on the Hui (pronounced whee) Muslims and China's tacit support of them.

The Hui are found all over China and are ethnically and culturally closer to the Han Chinese than the Uygurs.

Then, drawing a rather long bow, Schwartz reasons that the Government's support of the Hui, with their supposed Wahhabi leanings, and it's oppression of the sufi Uygur muslims will ultimately push both camps closer to those proponents of Islamic jihad and presto a "Chinese Jihad".

Not likely Mr Schwartz.

Anyway back to the UAA meeting Alptekin did also give some good advice

"The United States should raise the problem of the Uighurs to the same level as that of the Tibetans, and pressure China to open dialogue with all its minorities,"

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Coming Chinese Jihad by Stephen Schwartz: "The Coming Chinese Jihad
By Stephen Schwartz
Weekly Standard | June 17, 2004

Chinese Premier Visits drug Clinic

Chinese Leader demonstrates humanity or political savvy?

Chinese Premier Wen touring flood devastated areas. Pic People's DailyIn what must be a first for a serving Politburo member and senior government leader China's premier Wen Jaibao has visited a drug clinic in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, central China.

The clinic is one of the largest drug rehabilitation centers in the country and has 1,360 beds mainly filled with young people. All are considered criminals under Chinese law.

During the visit the Chinese Premier apparently reduced many to tears as he gave them some advice such as to remember China's historical drug problem, that they consider their parents and that they ponder their future and try to envisage a bright drug free one.

Proving however that paternalism dies hard in the CCP Wen told the patients:

"Please keep in mind my words and the day June 10, when the premier said them to you,"

Wen has surprised many since taking office in early 2003 by demonstrating a humanitarian streak uncommon in China's leaders. This visit follows similar episodes such as when he became the first Politburo member to visit an AIDS clinic , visited flood devasteated rural areas trudging in mud and rain, went into the fields of Rural China and emphasised with poor farmers and when he personally involved himself in the plight of "migrant workers", that class of Chinese that move from their home towns in search of employment and who are often cruelly exploited by employers.

This populist approach has won Wen many admirers internationally but no doubt many detractors within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the hardliners among whom may see such acts as signs of weakness.

Whether Wen is really demonstrating by this "humane" approach a fundamental change in the new generation of Chinese leaders or whether it is just evidence of a more modern party adopting a little western political nous and savvy is yet to be seen. Suffice to say that it can do no harm.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

UN Visit Cancelled

Postponement of Torture Mission 'Disappointing' says HRIC

According to a June 16 press release by Human Rights In China (HRIC) China has once again canceled an inspection tour by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Theo Van Boven.

HRIC claims that this eleventh hour cancellation of the planned June visit is further evidence of China's strategy of immediately responding to international pressure but once the initial pressure has subsided agreements are either forgotten or conveniently postponed.

HRIC claims that this visit was first asked for by the United Nations in 1995 and initially agreed to by China but the latter has continually found excuses to cancel or "re-schedule" planned meetings.

As HRIC states in their press release admonishing the Chinese

"The PRC government has engaged in a recurring strategy of responding to international pressure and scrutiny with well-timed overtures that it and other governments can point to as indicators of China's progress in human rights reforms and willingness to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms. Once the pressure recedes, these overtures are all too often withdrawn."

This should come as no surprise to people who regularly watch China. The government employs this strategy in a variety of areas not only international relations. How many times after a major mining accident for example have we witnessed the government respond quickly by announcing new reforms or crackdowns only for all to be forgotten once the bodies are buried so to speak. Even one of the official news organs China Daily has on more than one occasion very respectfully reminded the government that it's follow through on policy announcements was often found wanting.

The most worrying thing about this case however is that it has to be viewed as an indictment on the efficacy of the United Nations. That almost ten years have elapsed since their initial overtures to have a Special Rapporteur visit the country and still no result says a great deal not only about China's stalling strategies but also about UN impotence..

HRIC Inspection tour cancelled

High Priests And A Sacrificial Lamb

Stalin's Foreign minister Molotov and Hitler pictured in 1940There is something rather chilling about seeing a picture of two leaders of highly repressive and oppressive regimes shaking hands and smiling, cherub like, to a camera. The ever present entourage of appreciative admirers, the national flags. It always reminds me of photos of Hitler and Mussolini or Hitler and Molotov, Stalin's foreign Minister.

Recently the Presidents of two modern totalitarian and oppressive regimes met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and had their picture taken. One a former Communist now heading up a corrupt and repressive regime rife with nepotism and the other a current communist with similar credentials.

What was on the agenda was the usual diplomatic topics of trade and bi-lateral relations but also and not surprisingly "terrorism".

President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan and President Hu Jintao of China were caught just like this for the cameras at a joint press release recently as reported in the Xinua link..

Karimov a former Soviet shining light came to power over the newly independent Uzbekistan upon the demise of the former Soviet Union. Rather than seizing the opportunity to throw of the yoke of repression from around the neck of his newly independent country Karimov took what was a relatively benignly ruled country under the Soviets and turned it into a personal fiefdom where religious persecution is rife and human rights violations are aplenty; where political opposition or dissent is not tolerated and where like so many before him in the history of the world he has set up a nice little arrangement riddled with nepotism and cronyism.

Basking in the patronage of the United States as a "frontline fighter" in the war on terrorism Karimov, not unlike China, has used the guise of the ubiquitous and nebulous "War on Terror" to inflict his own brands of "state terror" on Uzbek religious, political opposition and minority groups to cement his position of power in Uzbekistan.

To hear then at the joint press release that these two have strengthened their already strong ties was something unsettling to say the least. But what was most concerning was their statement on the "war on terrorism". According to Xinhua the leaders stated that

The two countries agree that the crackdown on the terrorist force of "Eastern Turkistan" is a major part of the international anti-terrorism campaign.

"East Turkistan" terrorism is a "major part of the international anti-terrorism campaign"? Not for them obviously the likes of al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiya or any number of other dangerous international terrorist organisations but the little known and unidentified "Eastern Turkistan" terrorists!

"Eastern Turkistan" is the historic name for what is now called Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China's northwest and is home to some 9 million Uygurs a turkic Muslim people.

The Uygur people unknown to 98% of the world outside these two countries and central Asia, consider Han Chinese presence in their motherland as an "occupation" and have long held a desire to achieve "separation' though they have not backed this desire with any real concerted attempt to achieve same.

But despite almost non existent world knowledge of the Uygur or the "Uygur Question" or any real evidence of terrorist activities conducted by them these two shining lights of democracy, freedom and international peace and tranquility have specifically named the Uygur as a major threat to regional and world peace.

The ramifications are many not the least being that Uzbekistan has a considerable Uygur population that moved there either when the Soviets pulled out of Xinjiang in the early part of the 20th century and in doing so enticing a considerable number of Uygurs to follow suit or, more recently, to escape Chinese oppression.

Already these people are treated like pariahs by the Karimov government and such statements by these two leaders can only alienate and isolate them more and set them up for further oppression.

Karimov's motivation is all too clear. As a self serving sycophantic leader he panders to the great nations to help shore up his regime and to line his coffers.

The Chinese are more enigmatic however. Just as they appear to have an irrational precoccupation with, and even hatred for, Tibet's Dalai Lama so to do they have a manic obsession with the Uygurs and for all intents and purpose the non existent terrorist threat they pose.

But by keeping up this illusion of an Uygur terrorist threat they do at least keep their powder dry for when it may be needed to cover up some new crackdown or progrom against this hapless and blighted people .

:: Xinhuanet - English. Presidents press conference::

Keywords: China, Uzbekistan, Uygur (Uighur) terrorism, Tibet, Dalai Lama, Karimov, Hu Jintao.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Chinese official gets life in prison

China: Official CorruptionChina certainly seems to be demonstrating that it is taking official corruption very seriously. It is reported that the former manager of the Shenzens Subway System was sentenced to life in prison on retrial for receiving bribes and official corruption.

Not only is the sentence seen to be a very strong message to officials concerning corruption but also to those convicted appealing their decisions. The official, Ma Gongyuan was originally sentenced to only 16 years for taking $3000,000 in bribes and concealing $500,000 in foreign bank accounts however on retrial this was increased to life. No reasons were given by the court for this change in sentencing.

Whilst a life sentence would appear harsh the problem of corruption is endemic in Chinese officialdom with considerable adverse ramifications for human rights of Chinese citizens. From forced evictions as a result of corrupt collusion with property developers to preventable coal mining deaths as corrupt officials look the other way to operational illegalities, corruption is a blight on China's human rights landscape.

Recently China has shown greater acknowledgement of the problem and has demonstrated a willingness to combat it resulting, as in this case, with high level officials receiving considerably lengthy custodial sentences and even capital punishment.

Boston.com / News / World / Asia / Chinese official gets life in prison:

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

How Chinese censor online chat

State of the art technology and old fashioned weight of numbers.

Internet Censorship I posted earlier on the jailing of a Chinese man convicted of posting "subversive" articles on the internet. I thought it might be appropriate then to dig out an old Reporters Without Borders report from last year as to a study undertaken to guage the extent and effectiveness of China's Internet censorship policies.

According to the study that tested government official's response to varying degrees of chatline posts ranging from the from benign to ones highly critical of Chinese policy only 30% of controversial messages made it on to the internet for any length of time.

Researchers for the group prepared and posted messages rated on a scale of one to 10 according to how provocative they were from the governments point of view and then analysed whether the posts even made it in the first instance or if they did how long they managed to stay "posted" before being deleted.

China reportedly employs some 30,000 people to censor the internet utilising state of the art technology as well as requiring internet service providers to dedicate resources to censor their subscribers posts. Failure to comply with self censorship usually results in the service provider being taken "off the air" as was seen with some Chinese "blog" providers earlier this year.

Further results of the survey can be found at the linked article and it goes to show that despite the enormous number of internet users in China "Big Brother" is still preetty vigilant.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:

BBC NEWS | Technology | "Chinese censor online chat" May 19, 2003

Forced Evictions: 50 Detained in Xinjiang

 Forced Evictions in China. An Uygur outside a demolished homeRadio Free Asia reports that up to 50 people have been detained by local police in the Illi region in Northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region after protests as to compensation levels for some 18,000 farmers and nomadic herdsmen forced to leave their properties to accommodate a new water resorvoir and power station.

Many of those detained are reported to be local Uygur Turkic people once the ethnic majority of Xinjiang, known by them as Eastern Turkistan.

As in all parts of China forced evictions to make way for new developments is all too common but the major problems concern a lack of reasonable notice and compensation.

Some forced evictions are as a result of corruption as greedy officials and land developers connive to make a quick "buck". There are numerous cases of these evictions turning ugly when residents refuse to leave and it is not unknown for standover men and bulldozers to be used to force compliance. As recent as early this year an elderly Uygur man was crushed to death in his Kashgar (Kashi) home by a bulldozer after refusing to leave.

In the current instance it would appear that the dispossessed were promised 38,000 yuan (U.S. $4,600) as compensation for moving but received only 880 yuan (U.S. $106) each and thus the protest outside government offices which culminated in the detentions.

The Illi region, northwest of Urumqi the capital of Xinjiang, was the scene of "riots" by Uygurs in February 1997 that had dire consequences for the Uygur people. It is claimed by Uygur sources that hundreds died and thousands were arrested during and after a demonstration by Uygur youths which was brutally crushed by local authorities and the army. Whilst officially only 8 people died according to Amnesty International over 100 Uygurs were executed as a direct result of the riot in the Illi city of Yining (Gulja) the last as late as October 2003.

The "riots" resulted in a huge region wide crackdown on the Uygur with martial law being introduced and severe restrictions being placed on the Uygurs freedom of religion and association.

Radio Free Asia

Hebei Coal Mine Accident Arrests

China Mining TragedySeveral people have been arrested over the deaths of eleven miners who were among fifty-six miners caught when gas exploded in a coal mine in Handan County in north China's Hebei Province on June 3 of this year.

According to a report in Xinhuanet police are still hunting the deputy head of the coalmine who went missing shortly after the tragedy.

It is indicative of the culture of coal mine owners and managers in China that in an attempt to cover up the seriousness of the tragedy initial reports from the site by management was that there was only one death involved.

China's official death toll from coal mining "accidents" was 7,200 in 2003 but informed sources quote incidents such as this as pointing to a much higher real toll, upwards of 10,000, as many incidents go unreported or are covered up by local officials.

China has however shown a willingness of late to use the full extent of the law to punish those responsible for coal mining accidents whereas prior many were given nothing but light admonishment.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:
'Coalmine heads detained for gas blast' Xinhua Chinese News 13 June 2004

Cyber-dissident Du Daobin sentenced

Four Years House Arrest Considered "Light Sentence"

China InternetA sentence of four years of house arrest was handed down on June 11 to cyber-dissident Du Daobin by a court in Xiaogan (in the central province of Hubei) for posting essays on the internet calling for democracy and freedom of speech.

According to Reporters Without Borders the four year sentence on the charge of posting "subversive articles " is lenient compared with the long jail terms usually imposed on cyber-dissidents in China.

It is claimed that neither Du , arrested in October 2003, or his lawyers was allowed to say a word during the 15 minutes court appearance. Du is required as part of his sentence to report weekly to the local police statement.

As Reporters without Borders notes in the linked article China leads the world in the number of people in jail for using the internet as a means of voicing dissent. Currently there are 61 "cyber dissidents" in custody.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:

"Cyber-dissident Du Daobin sentenced to four years of house arrest",
Reporters without Borders, June 11, 2004

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Terror Attack In Afghanistan

Xinjiang  Uygur China map

Let not this tragedy become a pretext for any crackdowns on the Uygur of Xinjiang

As with any news of acts of terror involving innocent people it is extremely sad to hear of the death of ten Chinese workers in north east Afghanistan. The death of these Chinese citizens must be deplored as a despicable and cowardly act perpetrated by small men who derive their "bravery" only from having a gun in their hands and sneaking under the cover of darkness.

It is hoped that the perpetrators can be quickly caught and brought to justice and Afghan officials are encouraged to pull out all stops to achieve this end.

It is also hoped that just because the incident occurred close to the border Afghanistan shares with China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region that the Chinese government does not employ a "knee jerk" reaction and automatically associate this incident in any way with the Uygur people.

Let there be a full and exhaustive investigation of the incident carried out and then and only then should accusational fingers be pointed as to the suspected perpetrators.

Until such time let us be vigilant that this tragedy is not used by the Chinese government as pretext for any crackdown on the Uygurs whom they constantly refer to as having Separatist and Islamic terrorist associations despite there being very little tangible evidence as to the latter.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:
:: Xinhuanet - English ::

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

..human rights should not affect the development of relations

EU Arms EmbargoAnd why should something as insignificant as human rights cloud a good business relationship?

As seems typical of so many countries today the President of Poland Kwasniewski told a joint news conference attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao who is on a visit to Poland drumming up the support of the European Union (EU) member that

"differing opinions concerning value systems and human rights should not affect the development of Polish-Chinese relations".

Nice one Poland. As China has forgotten Tiananmen as South Africa has forgotten Apartheid now you have forgotten Solidarity.

EU Business - Polish-Chinese leaders agree to intensify contacts: "human rights should not affect the development of Polish-Chinese relations"

Chinese rule-of-law website shut down

Internet CensorshipAccording to an AFP report Chinese Internet authorities have shut down a leading website campaigning for greater constitutional protections, in a further sign of a crackdown on web content.

The website of the Open Constitutional Initiative (OCI) run by Xu Zhiyong, a Beijing-based lawyer was closed on Sunday without warning. The site is a portal for Chinese intellectuals concerned with constitutional issues and protection of citizen rights.

Xu Zhiyong is the defence lawyer for three newspaper editors in custody for corruption allegations. Two have already been found guilty and given custodial sentences whilst the third is awaiting trial. Their case came to international prominence when human rights groups and Reporters Without Borders claimed they were being falsely accused as a payback for several news articles that Beijing found embarrassing including the high profile death in custody of a young student arrested on "vagrancy" type charges and SARS coverup allegations.

Another lawyer and group member Zhang Xingshui was quoted as saying

"It's hard to say why they shut us down, but you cannot rule out that it is because of the (newspaper editors) trial,"

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:
Yahoo! News - Chinese rule-of-law website shut down, lawyer says

120,000 Signature Petition on Tibetan "Living God"

French National Assembly Committee on Tibet presents petition to French President on Panchen Lama.

11th Pancen Lama of TibetAccording to a report in Students For A Free Tibet a 120,000-signature petition on Tibet was delivered to the French president's office, calling for the release from detention of the teenaged Panchen Lama, the second-highest figure in Tibetan Buddhism.

The 11th Panchen Lama, now a 15 year old boy was kidnapped by Chinese officials two weeks after being named by the Dalai Lama in 1995.

Despite international pressure for his release the Chinese government until recently has been silent as to his fate. Some believe that he may even be dead.

A recent statement from the CCP State Council denies that Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (pictured above) is the real 11th Panchen Lama claiming that this "living god" actually is one Gyaincain Norbu dubbed by Tibetans as the "Beijing Panchen Lama" due to Beijing engineering his selection by Pro Chinese Tibetan lamas.

The Council further stated that Gedhun was alive and well and living the life of an ordinary "Chinese citizen" under the protection of the state against "kidnap" attempts by "separatist" elements.

China is fearful that the true Panchen Lama if allowed his freedom would become a rallying point for Tibetan independence groups which combined with the world stature of the Dalai Lama would constitute a force Beijing would find hard to deal with.

Link: Additional Information Read Rating:
Students For a Free Tibet:"120,000 SIGNATURE PETITION ON TIBETAN "LIVING GOD" HANDED TO FRENCH LEADER" 3 June 2002. (June 8, 2004)

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

China's Students "confident in political prospects"

What a difference 15 years makes?

Not without some coincidence, given the time of the year, the Peoples Daily, one of the several official Chinese news organs, carries a report on the findings of a survey conducted among 3,000 students randomly selected from universities in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

Unlike perhaps 15 years ago the current crop of students reportedly are

"confident in China's political prospects and satisfied with the country's goal of building a well-off society in an all-round way."

The survey supposedly showed that "80.19 percent of the respondents said they agreed that the socialism was an inevitable option for the development of China."

It is also claimed that the

"Young people believed they lived in an era that allowed everybody to speaking their minds frankly. "(sic)

There are concerns apparently about corruption and some other matters but all in all it would appear, according to the survey at least, that Chinese students are a studious bunch and politically happy unlike their counterparts a mere decade and a half ago.

I probably am sounding a bit cynical mainly as a result of the timing of the release of this very "positive" result but I have no doubts that it is pretty much reflective of the feelings of a majority of at least the Han students.

The future must undoubtedly look rosy to them.

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Some other related articles appear on the People's Daily as well.
College students confident in political prospects

Monday, June 07, 2004

Propaganda Art: The Selling of the Communist Ideal

Happy minorities of China

If there is one thing that springs quickly to mind when one thinks "Communism" (for those of us over 40 at least) it is those heroic and patriotic worker propaganda posters that seemed to permeate all aspects of life and culture in the communist world and the old U.S.S.R in particular.

But China too used this medium as a way of enlisting the Chinese people in it's great experiment. It was marketing with a capital M.

Images of those handsome, young, virile boys and girls embracing with faces of rapture, forthrightness and above all hope and courage, the communist ideal.

Though they depict people of good 'peasant' stock, part of the great masses, the subjects invariably appear well fed, rosy cheeked, well muscled (or womanly endowed) and display impossible 'Hollywood" white teeth.

Then there are the happy minorities embracing communism and brotherhood with the Han liberators whose patriotic tanks had rolled into (or over depending on which side of the fence you sit) the welcoming arms of the likes of the Tibetans and Uygurs.

And don't forget the wonderful inspired and inspirational leaders. Mao has got to be the most represented human visage in the history of mankind.

It did not matter to the commissioners of such propagandist art that millions were dying in the Great Leap Forward or that the Cultural Revolution was anything but or even that it was a moot point as to how welcoming some minorities actually were. They had some propaganda to disseminate and nothing small like the truth was going to stand in their way.

If these artistic exemplars of the "highest" sentiments of Communism are something you like looking at then I can highly recommend that you visit Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Posters for a trip down memory lane.

Landsberger neatly classifies his many propaganda posters into periods and themes so there is something there for everyone.

Stefan Landsberger's Chinese Propaganda Poster Pages

Xinjiang primeval forest catches fire

Xinjiang  Uygur China map "A forest fire struck a reserve at Altay of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Sunday night, and by Monday noon the flames, fanned by strong winds, had devoured a land area of 150,000 square meters.

Nearly 200 people including rangers and members of the armed frontier defense have rushed to the site, about 20 kilometers from the scenic spot Kanas Lake,(100kms from Urumqi Ed. Note) northwest China.

Local fire-fighting sources said this could be the year's largest forest fire. Causes of the fire are still under investigation.

Earlier this year, the Kanas Nature Reserve was twice hit by fire, mainly because of illegal excavation of the medicinal herb caterpillar fungus."

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NW China Primeval Forest Catches Fire" www.chinaview.cn 2004-06-07 15:09:40(7-6-04)
Xinhuanet - English ::

Tibet: Lifespans, incomes increase.

Map of Tibet According to Xinhuanet China is claiming that since the Communist takeover of Tibet (my words not Xinhua's) both income levels and lifespans have increased markedly.

Xinhua quotes the following facts obtained from the latest government statistics:

  • People's per capita lifespan in Tibet Autonomous Region has nearly doubled in the past 45 years, from 35.5 in 1959 to currently 67, latest government statistics unveiled."
  • The population of Tibet increased from 1.14 million in 1951 to 2.7 million at present, and 92 percent of the population is Tibetans.
  • The central government has given preferential policies for a long time to help Tibet in poverty reduction, and 393 towns of 34 counties were listed as key receptors of state poverty relief aids.
  • The number of people whose per capital net income was below 1,300 yuan (157 US dollars) annually, the local poverty line, has reduced to 1.07 million from 1.48 million three years ago, or down by 28 percent, according to statistics.
  • Per capital net income reached 1,690 yuan (204 US dollars) in 2003 in Tibet and the figure was expected to reach 1,850 yuan (223US dollars) in 2004, or up nearly 10 percent."

As with the Uygur of Xinjiang there is no doubt that Chinese occupation has proven positive for the health standards and income levels of the ethnic minorities under Chinese control. Having said that though the rate of improvement continues to lag behind those experienced by the Han majority.

Now if we can only add to those successes with some freedoms.

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"Tibetans' per capita lifespan doubles" Xinhuanet - English. June 6 2004(June 7)::

2,500 Year Old Blast Blower Found

Xinjiang  Uygur China map Archaeologists claim that as early as 2,500 years ago people living in the current northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region had begun to use blast blowers, as they discovered a bronze blowpipe in the Yanghai Tombs in Turpan.

'The function of the blowpipe is much like that of the blast blowers which people are using now,' said Lu Enguo, a research member with the Xinjiang archaeological research institute. (ed Note; Used in the moulding of bronze)

'Although we discovered bronze blowpipes several years ago in Kuqa County and the northern part of Xinjiang, they were all made in the Han (206 B.C.-220) and the Tang (618-907) dynasties,' said Lu."

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:: Xinhuanet - English ::: "URUMQI, June 6 (Xinhuanet) --

It never rains it pours...

China Plant Shut Over Political Umbrellas

How is a man supposed to make an honest buck in this market? socialist? capitalist? .. whatever! economy when the state just keeps sticking their nose in to a fellow's business?

Had to laugh at this story of Chinese officials closing down an umbrella factory for producing three thousand umbrellas with the slogan "Direct Elections" printed on them and bound for a democracy protest in Hong Kong.

I often look at the "Made in China" stickers on what seems to be everything I buy today but one on an item promoting democracy? Now that I would love to see!

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AP Wire | 06/06/2004 | China Plant Shut Over Political Umbrellas

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Black Coal, Red Blood

World ignores ongoing tragedy of China's Coal Mining industry

China Mining TragedyWhy is it that the world is largely quiet, no deafeningly silent, on the ongoing tragedy of China's Coal Mining industry?

Is it because the 7,000 to 10,000 Chinese coal miners that die each year are paid to die? Is it because it is a "work related" accident that somehow makes it anymore palatable than deaths occurring from tanks being driven over innocent civilians?

On rare occasions a news agency will pick up and run with an editorial piece like that which I link to here, outlining the startling figures of death and destruction of poor, mainly rural, Chinese, sent into 300 meter deep coal mine shafts.

Othertimes the deaths of, say, 35 men drowned in a coal pit, will make a byline in some of the international papers. It is not that they do not have plenty to choose from; gas explosions, mine collapses, deadly gas leaks, flooding, slag heap collapses.

Human interest angles are also there aplenty for the intrepid journalists; families that have lost two generations of menfolk, crippled miners who will never work again subsisting on a pittance of compensation if any. Corruption galore, employment policies that "favour" poor, out of town rural uneducated laborers because their families do not demand huge compensation payouts when their loved ones die.

But even this plethora of "good" news grist does not attract the world's media to the extent that you think it would or should. But the lack of interest from the world's media is nothing as compared to the lack of interest from the world's governments and Human-Rights Groups. Why? I can't answer that, I really just do not know other than to think that because these Chinese miners die in the commission of paid labour that it is somehow ok, that it is acceptable.

The Chinese Government certainly seems to think that it is an acceptable cost of doing business. How else could they explain that in China there are 2.7 miners dying for every one million tons of output. This is compared with .03 for the United States. More Chinese miners can die from one "accident" than die in a whole year in America.

I put asterisks around "accidents" because that is a misnomer when used to describe tragic incidents in China's Coal mining industry. The dictionary definition of an accident is that it is an event without apparent cause or one that is unexpected or can not be foreseen. That does not describe the events leading to the death and destruction in the Chinese instance.

China is aware that for each ton of coal mined to fuel it's seemingly insatiable economy people will die or be injured. They know that with each new demand for increased production (around the mid teens percentage increase each year)that it is inevitable that more deaths will occur at an exponential rate. They know that a large majority of mines do not even meet their minimalistic safety requirements, they know that thousands of mines operate illegally protected by corrupt officials or small mining towns with no other means of income. They know this but are not prepared to do anything substantial other than to mouth platitudes after each "serious' occurrence.

According to the linked article Han Dongfang, director of the Hong Kong-based workers' rights watchdog, China Labor Bulletin is quoted as saying .

"In China right now the most important thing is money,"
"It is more important than the dignity of workers, than the rights of workers, the health of workers and the safety of workers."

We know why the Chinese government turns a blind eye to the tragedy, it is severely energy starved and coal mining fuels 70% of the energy demands of it's burgeoning economy but why the miners? Why do they toil many times for 12 hours per day six days a week without any entitlements that workers in the west are accustomed to as a right such as holiday, sick pay, pensions plans workers compensation and other insurances.

Well they do receive what for many Chinese is the princely sum of 3,000 yuan (362 dollars) a month but for many mine employment is one of the few ways they can beat China's huge rural unemployment problems. They are not unaware of the risks but are willing to take them for the good of their families and because there is no other option.

"Once my kids are out of college, I won't do this anymore. This is all for the next generation,"

the article quotes a miner Wang from Shanxi Province.

It is about time that this issue received the prominence it deserves from Governments, human-rights organisations, labor organisations and international mining associations of employers. Something has to be done.

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Saturday, June 05, 2004

Scotsman.com - Entertainment - Hall is packed for Dalai Lama

Is the location of this piece a reflection of how the Dalai Lama is viewed by the Scotsman? I know he is receiving pop star type treatment on his world tour but....

What next? T-Shirts "The Lama Rocks the World Tour- 2004"

Scotsman.com News - Entertainment - Hall is packed for Dalai Lama

The Tiananmen Mothers Campaign: Online Petition

Tiananmen Square Massacre

Please sign the online petition for accountability over the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre
"Without accountability for the crimes committed in the Beijing massacre, there is no justice for the victims or their families. The bereaved are not even allowed the dignity of public mourning, and may not lay a bouquet in their memory in Tiananmen Square."

The Tiananmen Mothers Campaign- Online Petition