Posts Tagged ‘political reforms’

Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Launches New Political Party — First statement condemns Beijing’s rule as “authoritarian” and illegitimate

April 11, 2016

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Joshua Wong, center, and Agnes Chow, left, attend the launching ceremony of their new political party Demosistō in Hong Kong on April 10, 2016. Photo by Bobby Yip, Reuters

By Nash Jenkins
Time Magazine

The party’s launch will intensify the political debate over Hong Kong’s autonomy from China

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Joshua Wong, the Hong Kong student activist who emerged as a figurehead of the city’s pro-democracy protest movement in 2014, has launched a new political party to demand further political reforms to counterbalance mainland Chinese rule.

The party, which Wong inaugurated on Sunday, is called Demosistō — a crude portmanteau of the Greek word demos, which means people (and is the etymological base for democracy), and the Latin word sistō, or standing. In a stridently worded statement — condemning Beijing’s rule as “authoritarian” and Hong Kong’s constitution as illegitimate — Wong and his collaborators called on Hong Kongers to “regrasp ‘our’ political agenda through democratic self-determination.”

Wong told TIME on Monday morning that members of the party would run for office in Hong Kong’s forthcoming Legislative Council election, scheduled for this September. Wong himself is too young to run for elected office in Hong Kong: the minimum age of candidacy here in 21; he is 19.

The launch of the party brings a new voice to an amplifying political discussion here over the matter of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The dialogue has resurged in recent months following the dubious detention of five controversial Hong Kong publishers in mainland China, which led many to fear that the constitutional dynamic known as “one country, two systems” — structured to preserve the sociopolitical spirit of China’s freest city — was floundering. Some activists are now working for Hong Kong’s outright independence from China.

Hong Kong Activist Joshua Wong Launches New Political Party

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Germany and France push Minsk peace plan for Ukraine

February 22, 2016

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German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) welcomes his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault for talks at Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany February 22, 2016, before flying to Kiev for talks on implementing Minsk accord. REUTERS/Markus Schreiber/Pool

BERLIN (Reuters) –  on Monday called for the implementation of the Minsk peace plan for Ukraine, urging both Moscow and Kiev to set aside differences and push forward with reforms.

“We need the support from the Russian side to implement this Minsk deal and convince separatists to go along,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at a news conference in Berlin with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault, shortly before flying to Kiev for political talks.

“But we also need Ukraine’s domestic policy, especially in light of the turbulences of the last weeks and calls for the prime minister to step down,” Steinmeier added.

Steinmeier and Ayrault both urged the Ukrainian government to press ahead with political reforms such as agreeing on a new election law and special rights for regions.

“There’s simply not enough progress when it comes to implementing the political agreements”, Steinmeier said.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon and Michael Nienaber)

Vietnam kicks off secretive political transition

January 21, 2016

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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (C) attends the opening ceremony of the 12th National Congress of Vietnam’s Communist Party, in front Hanoi City’s Party Chief Pham Quang Nghi (L) and Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh, in Hanoi, on January 21, 2016 (AFP Photo/KHAM)

By Cat Barton
AFP

Hanoi (AFP) – Vietnam began a crucial political transition Thursday as the five-yearly Communist Party congress convened to pick new leaders amid a bitter factional fight, the outcome of which could set the pace of key economic reforms.

Police closed roads and jammed mobile phone signals as communist leaders and some 1,500 party delegates met in Hanoi for week-long closed-door talks.

The country’s top three positions — party general secretary, president and prime minister — are up for grabs.

As delegates gathered in a vast hall under portraits of revolutionary leaders Ho Chi Minh, Marx and Lenin, there were indications that the party old guard would push out pro-market leaning reformers led by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

“Nguyen Tan Dung’s political career can be declared ‘clinically dead,'” one senior communist party official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

Dung, who presided over Vietnam joining the World Trade Organization and the US-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, had been tipped by analysts to move up to the powerful position of party general secretary.

While many cautioned it was too early to rule him out entirely, they said his name does not appear on a leaked list of candidates for the top leadership posts.

Any sidelining of Dung would be a victory for incumbent party leader Nguyen Phu Trong — a conservative apparatchik who has been manoeuvring to extend his term and install allies in top positions.

“The path of socialism is still suitable to the reality in Vietnam,” Trong, who is seen as closer to Beijing, said as he opened the meeting Thursday.

Dissidents had warned that Dung risked becoming “Vietnam’s Putin” if he was promoted to party leader, in reference to his hanging on to power beyond the two-term limit he has served as Prime Minister.

Despite prior allegations of corruption, he is the preferred choice for the top post of most foreign investors, eager for greater access to the rapidly growing consumer market of some 90 million people.

Vietnam’s secretive Communist Party, which has ruled since the 1975 end of war, is to reshuffle its top brass, with 10 out of 16 politburo members, including the party general secretary, president and prime minister, technically due to retire (AFP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam)

– Slow economic reforms? –

To ordinary Vietnamese the congress is a bloated re-run of internal party battles with little bearing on their day-to-day lives.

“I don’t like any of this country’s leaders but if I could choose, I’d pick the business-minded ones,” Duc Trung, 37, told AFP, rather than the ideologues “with their theories which have no bearing on reality”.

Yet if the star of 66-year-old Dung wanes, analysts say it will be bad news for reformers and the Vietnamese economy.

While neither side is likely to dramatically change course, Dung’s faction is broadly more competent and pro-market.

“With Dung, the country will move much further and much more quickly,” on issues like market reforms, free trade deals, and security ties with the US, Vietnam expert Carl Thayer told AFP.

Dung is also seen as more outspoken on a maritime dispute with China, which this week moved an oil rig into waters claimed by Hanoi.

“China always keeps up the pressure on the Vietnamese leadership, especially before and during the party congress,” said Duong Danh Dy, a retired Vietnamese diplomat who spent 14 years at the embassy in Beijing.

China last moved the rig into contested waters in 2014, triggering protests and riots in Vietnam that left at least three people dead, and prompting Hanoi to move closer to its former wartime foe the United States.

The party congress will also approve a five-year economic blueprint, which will seek to build on recent impressive economic growth of nearly seven percent annually, a rate that is one of Asia’s strongest.

With a slew of foreign trade agreements including the US-led TPP pact ahead, experts and foreign investors are urging Vietnam’s leadership to pursue long-stalled domestic reforms.

Those include overhauling the banking sector and moving more aggressively on privatising state-owned companies.

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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko: Staying out of NATO is a “criminal” policy — Ukraine Should Join NATO

September 22, 2015

The Associated Press

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has told the country’s security council that staying out of the NATO alliance was a “criminal” policy that his government is ready to reverse.

Ukraine has been fighting with separatist rebels in the east since April 2014 in which more than 8,000 have died. Russia backed the rebels, fearing that the pro-Western course of the new Kiev government will make it a NATO ally.

Poroshenko, who on Tuesday chaired the security council with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in attendance, said he intends to change the decision against joining NATO. He added, however, that it will up to a popular vote to decide on the membership.

NATO officials have made clear that Ukraine needs to enact political, economic, social and military reforms to be considered for membership.

Jens Stoltenberg

Iran Nuclear Deal Could Help Iranian Opposition Leaders — Domestic Pressure Inside Iran Could Flare Up

June 29, 2015

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — Credit Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, via Associated Press

Reuters

VIENNA — A final deal to resolve the Iranian nuclear dispute could heighten domestic political tensions with two major elections looming in the Islamic Republic, analysts and officials said.

Easing economic sanctions if a deal is reached will bolster President Hassan Rouhani’s position within Iran’s complex power structure bringing a political boost for liberal candidates in 2016 elections for parliament and for the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body with nominal power over the supreme leader.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, has backed Rouhani’s efforts to pursue a nuclear settlement and his dealings with the United States so as to improve the parlous state of Iran’s economy.

But Khamenei, who took over in 1989 from the founder of the Islamic Republic late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, has also worked to ensure that no group, including among his own hardline allies, gains enough power to challenge him.

Khamenei will not want pragmatist President Rouhani to gain too much power and influence ahead of the important elections, an Iranian official said.

“The leader has always made sure not to give too much authority to any official because it will damage the political establishment,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

“He is above all political factions and only acts based on Iran’s interests.”

Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are trying to end a more than 12-year standoff over Tehran’s nuclear programb y striking an agreement to halt Iranian nuclear work in return for sanctions relief. The West says Iran is seeking to build weapons but Iran says its nuclear program is to produce power.

Negotiators from all sides are gathering in Vienna in the hopes of striking a deal by a self-imposed deadline of Tuesday.

Rouhani, who represented Khamenei on the Supreme National Security Council for over two decades, will continue to enjoy Khamenei’s blessing as long as his growing prestige at home and abroad does not threaten Khamenei’s authority, analysts say.

An economic dividend could tip the balance of power in favor of Rouhani, whose allies could well be rewarded at the ballot box, to the detriment of other groups, including security hawks close to Khamenei.

“The deal will fuel domestic tension and pressure will increase inside the country,” said Iran-based analyst Saeed Leylaz.

“There will be two powerful minorities in the next parliament, reformists and conservatives. And one weak minority of hardline conservatives,” said Leylaz. “No group will have the final say.”

Inflation, unemployment and other economic hardships persuaded Khamenei to support Rouhani on the nuclear question, but success in the early 2016 elections could be seen as a challenge to the leader’s authority, said a former senior Iranian diplomat.

“In order to clip his wings, pressure will mount on Rouhani’s government in other fields like human rights, disqualifying pro-reform election candidates and so on,” said the former diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

ROUHANI IN JEOPARDY?

Iran’s top post wields immense power, controlling the judiciary, the security forces, the Guardian Council which vets laws and election candidates, public broadcasters and foundations that own much of the economy.

If the pro-Rouhani camp wins the elections, it will be the first time in the history of the Islamic state that one faction controls all the key institutions.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

“It might even jeopardize Rouhani’s position. It might be the end of Rouhani’s honeymoon with Khamenei,” said analyst Mansour Marvi.

Iran has suffered under economic sanctions for decades, and especially over the last three years, when much tighter U.S. and European measures drastically cut the oil exports that are the engine of its economy.

While a deal may improve the economy, many Iranians who supported Rouhani’s 2013 election remain frustrated, fearing that his diplomatic triumph is likely to put him on a shorter leash on internal reforms and improvements in human rights.

“Giving carte-blanche to Rouhani to carry out cultural and political reforms is not on the leader’s agenda,” said analyst Hamid Farahvashian.

ALLIES UNDER PRESSURE

There are already signs that the pendulum is swinging against Rouhani’s allies.

Since February, Iran’s judiciary has banned media from publishing the pictures of reformist former president Mohammad Khatami, whose support was crucial to Rouhani’s election win.

Khatami ran foul of the establishment by supporting opposition leaders Mirhossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karoubi, key figures in anti-regime street protests after the disputed 2009 presidential election. The two men remain under house arrest.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi

The son of former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, another supporter of Rouhani, was given jail sentences in March on corruption and security charges.

A recent U.S. government report harshly criticized Iran’s human rights record, citing severe restrictions on freedom of expression, religion and the media as well as the country’s having the second-highest number of executions.

Members of the Iranian opposition abroad are losing hope for change because Rouhani has not met his promises to create a freer society, including loosening Internet restrictions. Access to social media remains officially blocked, though Rouhani and Khamenei have their own Twitter accounts.

“More international recognition means more domestic pressure inside Iran,” said Reza, who has been living in exile in Europe since 2010, when he was released from prison in Tehran for participating at 2009 demonstrations.

“I have no hope of returning,” said Reza, who would not give his surname. “Rouhani will not or cannot change the situation.”

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Arshad Mohammed and Peter Millership)

The Coming Chinese Crackup — The endgame of communist rule in China has begun

March 8, 2015

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The endgame of communist rule in China has begun, and Xi Jinping’s ruthless measures are only bringing the country closer to a breaking point

Chinese President Xi Jinping, front center, and other Chinese leaders attend the opening meeting on Thursday of the third session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.  
Chinese President Xi Jinping, front center, and other Chinese leaders attend the opening meeting on Thursday of the third session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Photo: Xinhua/Zuma Press
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By David Shambaugh
The Wall Street Journal
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On Thursday, the National People’s Congress convened in Beijing in what has become a familiar annual ritual. Some 3,000 “elected” delegates from all over the country—ranging from colorfully clad ethnic minorities to urbane billionaires—will meet for a week to discuss the state of the nation and to engage in the pretense of political participation.

Some see this impressive gathering as a sign of the strength of the Chinese political system—but it masks serious weaknesses. Chinese politics has always had a theatrical veneer, with staged events like the congress intended to project the power and stability of the Chinese Communist Party, or CCP. Officials and citizens alike know that they are supposed to conform to these rituals, participating cheerfully and parroting back official slogans. This behavior is known in Chinese as biaotai, “declaring where one stands,” but it is little more than an act of symbolic compliance.

Despite appearances, China’s political system is badly broken, and nobody knows it better than the Communist Party itself. China’s strongman leader, Xi Jinping , is hoping that a crackdown on dissent and corruption will shore up the party’s rule. He is determined to avoid becoming the Mikhail Gorbachev of China, presiding over the party’s collapse. But instead of being the antithesis of Mr. Gorbachev, Mr. Xi may well wind up having the same effect. His despotism is severely stressing China’s system and society—and bringing it closer to a breaking point.

Predicting the demise of authoritarian regimes is a risky business. Few Western experts forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union before it occurred in 1991; the CIA missed it entirely. The downfall of Eastern Europe’s communist states two years earlier was similarly scorned as the wishful thinking of anticommunists—until it happened. The post-Soviet “color revolutions” in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan from 2003 to 2005, as well as the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, all burst forth unanticipated.

China-watchers have been on high alert for telltale signs of regime decay and decline ever since the regime’s near-death experience in Tiananmen Square in 1989. Since then, several seasoned Sinologists have risked their professional reputations by asserting that the collapse of CCP rule was inevitable. Others were more cautious—myself included. But times change in China, and so must our analyses.

The endgame of Chinese communist rule has now begun, I believe, and it has progressed further than many think. We don’t know what the pathway from now until the end will look like, of course. It will probably be highly unstable and unsettled. But until the system begins to unravel in some obvious way, those inside of it will play along—thus contributing to the facade of stability.

Communist rule in China is unlikely to end quietly. A single event is unlikely to trigger a peaceful implosion of the regime. Its demise is likely to be protracted, messy and violent. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Mr. Xi will be deposed in a power struggle or coup d’état. With his aggressive anticorruption campaign—a focus of this week’s National People’s Congress—he is overplaying a weak hand and deeply aggravating key party, state, military and commercial constituencies.

The Chinese have a proverb, waiying, neiruan—hard on the outside, soft on the inside. Mr. Xi is a genuinely tough ruler. He exudes conviction and personal confidence. But this hard personality belies a party and political system that is extremely fragile on the inside.

Consider five telling indications of the regime’s vulnerability and the party’s systemic weaknesses.

First, China’s economic elites have one foot out the door, and they are ready to flee en masse if the system really begins to crumble. In 2014, Shanghai’s Hurun Research Institute, which studies China’s wealthy, found that 64% of the “high net worth individuals” whom it polled—393 millionaires and billionaires—were either emigrating or planning to do so. Rich Chinese are sending their children to study abroad in record numbers (in itself, an indictment of the quality of the Chinese higher-education system).

Xi Jinping

Xi Jinpig sent his own daughter Xi Mingze, to study at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Xi himself went to college in the U.S.

 

Just this week, the Journal reported, federal agents searched several Southern California locations that U.S. authorities allege are linked to “multimillion-dollar birth-tourism businesses that enabled thousands of Chinese women to travel here and return home with infants born as U.S. citizens.” Wealthy Chinese are also buying property abroad at record levels and prices, and they are parking their financial assets overseas, often in well-shielded tax havens and shell companies.

Meanwhile, Beijing is trying to extradite back to China a large number of alleged financial fugitives living abroad. When a country’s elites—many of them party members—flee in such large numbers, it is a telling sign of lack of confidence in the regime and the country’s future.

Second, since taking office in 2012, Mr. Xi has greatly intensified the political repression that has blanketed China since 2009. The targets include the press, social media, film, arts and literature, religious groups, the Internet, intellectuals, Tibetans and Uighurs, dissidents, lawyers, NGOs, university students and textbooks. The Central Committee sent a draconian order known as Document No. 9 down through the party hierarchy in 2013, ordering all units to ferret out any seeming endorsement of the West’s “universal values”—including constitutional democracy, civil society, a free press and neoliberal economics.

A more secure and confident government would not institute such a severe crackdown. It is a symptom of the party leadership’s deep anxiety and insecurity.

A protester is pushed to the ground by a paramilitary policeman in Beijing on Wednesday before the opening of the National People’s Congress nearby.   
A protester is pushed to the ground by a paramilitary policeman in Beijing on Wednesday before the opening of the National People’s Congress nearby. Photo: Associated Press

Third, even many regime loyalists are just going through the motions. It is hard to miss the theater of false pretense that has permeated the Chinese body politic for the past few years. Last summer, I was one of a handful of foreigners (and the only American) who attended a conference about the “China Dream,” Mr. Xi’s signature concept, at a party-affiliated think tank in Beijing. We sat through two days of mind-numbing, nonstop presentations by two dozen party scholars—but their faces were frozen, their body language was wooden, and their boredom was palpable. They feigned compliance with the party and their leader’s latest mantra. But it was evident that the propaganda had lost its power, and the emperor had no clothes.

In December, I was back in Beijing for a conference at the Central Party School, the party’s highest institution of doctrinal instruction, and once again, the country’s top officials and foreign policy experts recited their stock slogans verbatim. During lunch one day, I went to the campus bookstore—always an important stop so that I can update myself on what China’s leading cadres are being taught. Tomes on the store’s shelves ranged from Lenin’s “Selected Works” to Condoleezza Rice’s memoirs, and a table at the entrance was piled high with copies of a pamphlet by Mr. Xi on his campaign to promote the “mass line”—that is, the party’s connection to the masses. “How is this selling?” I asked the clerk. “Oh, it’s not,” she replied. “We give it away.” The size of the stack suggested it was hardly a hot item.

Fourth, the corruption that riddles the party-state and the military also pervades Chinese society as a whole. Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign is more sustained and severe than any previous one, but no campaign can eliminate the problem. It is stubbornly rooted in the single-party system, patron-client networks, an economy utterly lacking in transparency, a state-controlled media and the absence of the rule of law.

Moreover, Mr. Xi’s campaign is turning out to be at least as much a selective purge as an antigraft campaign. Many of its targets to date have been political clients and allies of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin . Now 88, Mr. Jiang is still the godfather figure of Chinese politics. Going after Mr. Jiang’s patronage network while he is still alive is highly risky for Mr. Xi, particularly since Mr. Xi doesn’t seem to have brought along his own coterie of loyal clients to promote into positions of power. Another problem: Mr. Xi, a child of China’s first-generation revolutionary elites, is one of the party’s “princelings,” and his political ties largely extend to other princelings. This silver-spoon generation is widely reviled in Chinese society at large.

Mr. Xi at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency during his visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany in Berlin on March 28, 2014.  
Mr. Xi at the Schloss Bellevue presidential residency during his visit to fellow export powerhouse Germany in Berlin on March 28, 2014. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Finally, China’s economy—for all the Western views of it as an unstoppable juggernaut—is stuck in a series of systemic traps from which there is no easy exit. In November 2013, Mr. Xi presided over the party’s Third Plenum, which unveiled a huge package of proposed economic reforms, but so far, they are sputtering on the launchpad. Yes, consumer spending has been rising, red tape has been reduced, and some fiscal reforms have been introduced, but overall, Mr. Xi’s ambitious goals have been stillborn. The reform package challenges powerful, deeply entrenched interest groups—such as state-owned enterprises and local party cadres—and they are plainly blocking its implementation.

These five increasingly evident cracks in the regime’s control can be fixed only through political reform. Until and unless China relaxes its draconian political controls, it will never become an innovative society and a “knowledge economy”—a main goal of the Third Plenum reforms. The political system has become the primary impediment to China’s needed social and economic reforms. If Mr. Xi and party leaders don’t relax their grip, they may be summoning precisely the fate they hope to avoid.

In the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the upper reaches of China’s leadership have been obsessed with the fall of its fellow communist giant. Hundreds of Chinese postmortem analyses have dissected the causes of the Soviet disintegration.

Mr. Xi’s real “China Dream” has been to avoid the Soviet nightmare. Just a few months into his tenure, he gave a telling internal speech ruing the Soviet Union’s demise and bemoaning Mr. Gorbachev’s betrayals, arguing that Moscow had lacked a “real man” to stand up to its reformist last leader. Mr. Xi’s wave of repression today is meant to be the opposite of Mr. Gorbachev’s perestroika and glasnost. Instead of opening up, Mr. Xi is doubling down on controls over dissenters, the economy and even rivals within the party.

But reaction and repression aren’t Mr. Xi’s only option. His predecessors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao , drew very different lessons from the Soviet collapse. From 2000 to 2008, they instituted policies intended to open up the system with carefully limited political reforms.

They strengthened local party committees and experimented with voting for multicandidate party secretaries. They recruited more businesspeople and intellectuals into the party. They expanded party consultation with nonparty groups and made the Politburo’s proceedings more transparent. They improved feedback mechanisms within the party, implemented more meritocratic criteria for evaluation and promotion, and created a system of mandatory midcareer training for all 45 million state and party cadres. They enforced retirement requirements and rotated officials and military officers between job assignments every couple of years.

In effect, for a while Mr. Jiang and Mr. Hu sought to manage change, not to resist it. But Mr. Xi wants none of this. Since 2009 (when even the heretofore open-minded Mr. Hu changed course and started to clamp down), an increasingly anxious regime has rolled back every single one of these political reforms (with the exception of the cadre-training system). These reforms were masterminded by Mr. Jiang’s political acolyte and former vice president, Zeng Qinghong, who retired in 2008 and is now under suspicion in Mr. Xi’s anticorruption campaign—another symbol of Mr. Xi’s hostility to the measures that might ease the ills of a crumbling system.

Some experts think that Mr. Xi’s harsh tactics may actually presage a more open and reformist direction later in his term. I don’t buy it. This leader and regime see politics in zero-sum terms: Relaxing control, in their view, is a sure step toward the demise of the system and their own downfall. They also take the conspiratorial view that the U.S. is actively working to subvert Communist Party rule. None of this suggests that sweeping reforms are just around the corner.

We cannot predict when Chinese communism will collapse, but it is hard not to conclude that we are witnessing its final phase. The CCP is the world’s second-longest ruling regime (behind only North Korea), and no party can rule forever.

Looking ahead, China-watchers should keep their eyes on the regime’s instruments of control and on those assigned to use those instruments. Large numbers of citizens and party members alike are already voting with their feet and leaving the country or displaying their insincerity by pretending to comply with party dictates.

We should watch for the day when the regime’s propaganda agents and its internal security apparatus start becoming lax in enforcing the party’s writ—or when they begin to identify with dissidents, like the East German Stasi agent in the film “The Lives of Others” who came to sympathize with the targets of his spying. When human empathy starts to win out over ossified authority, the endgame of Chinese communism will really have begun.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-coming-chinese-crack-up-1425659198?mod=WSJ_hp_RightTopStories

Dr. Shambaugh is a professor of international affairs and the director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His books include “China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation” and, most recently, “China Goes Global: The Partial Power.”

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Chinese Nobel Laureate Sends Message From Jail — Forgives His Tormentors

December 12, 2014

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Imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo

The Associated Press

Imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo has told an overseas friend that he is relatively healthy and wants the world to pay more attention to other Chinese activists, in a rare message smuggled out of prison.

“The aura around me is enough already. I hope the world can pay more attention to other victims who are not well known, or not known at all,” said a message sent by Liu to dissident writer Liao Yiwu, who lives in exile in Berlin.

Liao, who posted the message Thursday on Facebook, did not say how he received it from Liu, who is serving an 11-year sentence on charges of inciting state subversion, but Liu’s friends have said the message is genuine.

While in prison, Liu was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for his calls for political reforms. The Nobel committee held Liu’s award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, with an empty chair on stage to mark his absence. Beijing condemned the award and put his wife, Liu Xia, under house arrest.  

The empty chair with a diploma and medal that should have been awarded to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo  stands in Oslo City Hall

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The empty chair with a diploma and medal that should have been awarded to Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo stands in Oslo City Hall Photo: 2010 AFP

Liu Xia still can visit her husband in prison, although their meetings are under tight watch. Because she is kept largely incommunicado, it is rare for the public to hear from the Nobel laureate. The message to Liao is possibly the first of its kind.

Liao said it was the first time he had heard from Liu in more than six years.

“My eyes are suddenly moist,” Liao said on Facebook.

In the message, Liu said he was doing well and had been reading and thinking.

“Through studies, I have become even more convinced that I have no personal enemies,” Liu said, repeating a statement from his trial five years ago that he held no grudge against those who prosecuted him.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping took power two years ago, the stifling of dissent has been on the rise, with authorities hauling away human rights lawyers, social activists, journalists, writers, scholars and artists, most of whom are largely unknown to the outside world.

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Photo: Chinese people wear face masks with “No to Kunming PX,” paraxylene, written, chant slogans as they hold protest against a planned refinery project in downtown Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province Saturday, May 4, 2013. After word spread about an environmental protest that was planned for Saturday in the central Chinese city of Chengdu, drugstores and printing shops were ordered to report anyone making certain purchases. Microbloggers say government fliers urged people not to demonstrate, and schools were told to stay open to keep students on campus. Meanwhile, hundreds of people – many wearing mouth masks – gathered in Kunming to protest a planned refinery project in the area. The demonstrators demanded information transparency and that public health be safeguarded. (AP Photo)

Chinese human rights activist Cao Shunli died after falling critically ill in police detention in China

Officials in eastern China must abandon plans to demolish churches and crosses and stop their

Parishioners line up outside the Sanjiang church in Wenzhou hoping to save it from demolition by the Chinese Communist government Photo: Tom
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U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China

U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama on her way to deliver a speech at the Stanford Center at Peking University on March 22, 2014 in Beijing, China Photo: GETTY IMAGES
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Beijing's No 1 detention centre

Outside Beijing’s No 1 detention centre. Photograph: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

China’s Xi Jinping

Former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s extended family has controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion, the New York Times reported, citing corporate and regulatory records and unidentified people familiar with the family’s investments.

Hong Kong student protesters urge Chinese President Xi Jinping to consider democratic reforms

October 11, 2014

As a warning to the rank-and-file, President Xi Jinping has taken down several high-profile targets once considered untouchable, including a former member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee

China’s President Xi Jinping. Photo: MOHAMED SHARUHAAN/AFP

By SYLVIA HUI
Associated Press

HONG KONG — Students leading pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong issued an open letter Saturday to Chinese President Xi Jinping, urging him to consider political reforms in the city and blaming the city’s unpopular leader for the demonstrations.

The letter, issued by two student groups leading the protests, said Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was responsible for a civil disobedience campaign that has seen tens of thousands of people throng the semiautonomous city’s key thoroughfares over the past two weeks.

Thousands of demonstrators showed up in the main protest zone on Saturday, two days after Hong Kong’s government called off scheduled negotiations with students who are demanding voters have a greater say in choosing the city’s leader in 2017 elections.

The protesters have vowed to keep up the demonstrations until the government responds to their demands.

“Students walked out of classes and are occupying different places now because Leung and others have repeatedly ignored what the people want,” the letter read. “If the central government is confident, it should not be afraid to let Hong Kong people elect their own chief executive.”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Friday that he was confident Hong Kong’s government can preserve “social stability.” He did not directly mention the protests, but stressed that Beijing won’t change its “one country, two systems” approach to running Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, a Chinese state-run newspaper blamed the United States for being behind the protests — a claim the U.S. State Department strongly rejected.

In a commentary published on the front page of the Communist Party-run People’s Daily’s overseas edition Friday, the newspaper said the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group, became involved in the Hong Kong protests as part of a U.S. strategy to undermine foreign governments in the name of promoting democracy.

Citing unidentified media reports, the commentary claimed that Louisa Greve, a director at NED, met with Hong Kong protest leaders months ago to discuss the movement.

The group did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment Saturday. According to its website, the organization is devoted to “the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world,” and is funded largely by the U.S. Congress.

When asked about the U.S. State Department’s role in the protests, department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Friday that U.S. officials “categorically reject accusations that we are manipulating the activities of any person, group or political party in Hong Kong.”

“What is happening there is about the people of Hong Kong, and any assertion otherwise is an attempt to distract from the issue at hand, which is the people expressing their desire for universal suffrage in an election that provides a meaningful choice of candidates representative of their own voters’ will,” Harf said.

I, Too, Will Stand Up for Tiananmen — 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre Nears

May 22, 2014

By Murong Xuecun
The New York Times

SYDNEY, Australia — On May 6 three of my friends were arrested in Beijing on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” They are Xu Youyu, a scholar and former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Prof. Hao Jian of the Beijing Film Academy, and Pu Zhiqiang, a prominent human rights attorney.

Three days earlier my three friends and a dozen other people had gathered at Hao Jian’s home to discuss the Tiananmen Square crackdown 25 years ago, when a huge number of students and other protesters took to the streets calling for democracy and an end to dictatorial rule and official corruption. The peaceful protests lasted nearly two months, but in the end the government sent troops and tanks, killing several hundred — possibly several thousand — unarmed citizens. Hao Jian’s cousin was among the dead.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/opinion/23iht-edmurong23.html

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A blood-covered protestor holds a Chinese soldier’s helmet following violent clashes with military forces during the demonstrations  Photo: SHUNSUKE AKATSUKA/REUTERS
China: Activist arrested for planning 25th anniversary Tiananmen hunger strike

Several pro-democracy dissidents have disappeared in China — Human Rights Advocates say China Is Doing A Crackdown in Conjunction With 1989 Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary

China Arrests Pro-Democracy, Human Rights Supporters in Conjunction With Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary

Chinese police try to silence 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests

File:Tank Man Long Shot by Stuart Franklin.jpg

Type 59 tanks on Tiananmen Square. “Tank Man” is visible in the lower left.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989

Tank Man, Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989. Photo by Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener

Photo: Enthusiastic demonstrators are cheered by bystanders as they arrive at Tiananmen Square to show support for the student hunger strike, on May 18, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)

Photo: Pro-democracy protesters link arms to hold back angry crowds, preventing them from chasing a retreating group of soldiers near the Great Hall of the People, on June 3, 1989 in Beijing. Protesters were angered by an earlier attack upon students and citizens using tear gas and truncheons. People in the background stand atop buses used as a roadblock. (AP Photo/Mark Avary)
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The photos taken after China’s army was unleashed against the protesters are horrific.

Dangerous memories of Tiananmen Square — “Lacking the right to remember, we choose to forget.”

May 19, 2014

By Louisa Lim
The Washington Post

I wrote my book on a brand-new laptop that had never been online. Every night I locked it in a safe in my apartment. I never mentioned the book on the phone or in e-mail, at home or in the office — both located in the same Beijing diplomatic compound, which I assumed was bugged. I took these extreme measures because I was writing about that most taboo of topics in China: the Tiananmen Square crackdown of 1989, when soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians on the streets of Beijing, killing hundreds of people, maybe even more than 1,000.

I stuck to my rules doggedly. When I decided to throw out the structure I had outlined in my proposal and take a completely different approach, I waited until I left China months later to tell my patient editor. I didn’t tell any of my colleagues what I was working on in my off-hours. For weeks I didn’t even tell my children — then ages 7 and 5 — for fear they might blurt something out at home. Later on, when they began to ask why I didn’t have time to play, I swore them to secrecy.

Chen Guang, a former People’s Liberation Army soldier turned Beijing-based artist, has been in police detention since May 7.  Ng Han Guan/AP

They managed to keep their side of the bargain. But I realized the strain this had placed on them only after we left China last summer for a fellowship at the University of Michigan. Then, almost giddy with this sudden freedom to voice her thoughts, my little one would approach strangers on the streets of Ann Arbor to tell them, “My mummy’s writing a book!”Perhaps these precautions were unnecessary. After all, I was in a privileged position as a journalist with a press card and a foreign passport that offered an exit route none of my interviewees could share.For them, the decision to speak out was made with the understanding that the risks couldn’t be fully anticipated. At the same time, they believe that silence amounts to collusion with a government seeking to control memories. As one outspoken film professor, CuiWeiping, wrote, if people continue to stay silent, “June 4 will no longer be a crime committed by a small group of people, but one in which we all participated.”This year the pre-anniversary crackdown has come early, revealing how relevant the events of June 4, 1989, remain to China’s Communist Party 25 years later.

The first round of arrests centered on a group of activists, dissidents and lawyers who held a “June 4 commemoration seminar” at a private home in Beijing on May 3 . Posing for a group photo, their expressions were neither defiant nor celebratory, but solemn — as if they were preparing themselves for what lay ahead. Within days, five of the 15 participants were in criminal detention, accused of “picking quarrels and creating a disturbance.” One veteran journalist, Gao Yu, never even made it to the seminar, having been arrested beforehand on charges of leaking state secrets. Nine others, including Zhang Xianling, who lost her 19-year-old son to an army bullet in 1989 and whom I profile in my book, were detained for questioning, then released. Of the seminar, a state-run newspaper, the Global Times, wrote dismissively, “It is obvious that such an event, which is related to the most sensitive political issue in China, has clearly crossed the red line of law.”

Judging the exact position of that line is almost impossible, since the law remains subservient to ever-shifting political dictates. Artist Chen Guang didn’t expect any trouble when he invited a dozen or so friends to an empty building on the outskirts of Beijing for the staging of a performance-art piece in late April. Chen, whom I also write about in my book, was one of the martial-law troops deployed to clear Tiananmen Square in 1989, and that experience informs his artwork. But this performance was especially innocuous. It opened with a small girl shining a flashlight around a darkened room, illuminating dates painted on the walls ranging from 1989 to 2014. When the lights came on, Chen appeared with a mask muzzling his mouth. He then whitewashed the walls, obliterating the years. For this, he has been detained by police since May 7. No charges have been made public.

As a friend of his told the New York Times, “People want to remember what happened on June 4, but they can’t do it in public spaces. Now apparently you can’t even remember in private.”

Under such strictures, forgetting is the easy option, perhaps even the default choice. As the artist Ai Weiwei wrote on the 20th anniversary of the crackdown, “Lacking the right to remember, we choose to forget.”

After all, to remember what happened is to remember the scope of the protests. There weren’t just thousands of students protesting in Tiananmen Square, but hundreds of thousands of demonstrators from every conceivable occupation paralyzing dozens of cities around China. In the course of my research, I unearthed new details about the violent suppression of protests in the southwestern city of Chengdu, where government accounts admitted that eight people died and 1,800 were injured in three days of chaotic fighting in the streets. Witnesses believe that the death toll was much higher. Remembering those untold stories is dangerous, because how many other untold stories exist in a country of 1.3 billion people?

Remembering the demands of 1989 — the cries for greater democracy and the calls to tackle official corruption, official profiteering and the concentration of power in the hands of a few — is to recognize how they remain unmet. Reporters have tracked down assets worth $2.7 billion controlled by relatives of former premier Wen Jiabao. Yet anti-corruption activists asking government officials to disclose their assets have been jailed on charges of inciting subversion of state power.

The contours of today’s brash, powerful China were shaped by decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen crackdown. It was then that the paramount leader, Deng Xiaoping, pushed economic liberalization without any political reforms, a pattern that continues to this day, allowing disposable incomes to increase 1,700 percent since 1989. He put in place a massive patriotic education campaign, which has fostered a generation of young Chinese nationalists. He also laid the groundwork for the ballooning security apparatus, tasked with preventing the spread of protests by monitoring those from whom the public needs protection — such as bereaved mothers who refuse to forget how the state killed their children.

When 76-year-old Zhang goes to the cemetery to mourn her son, dozens of plainclothes policemen monitor her movements. One year she managed to make offerings at the spot where her son, Wang Nan, died on the sidewalk beside the Avenue of Heavenly Peace. The next year she was forbidden to leave her home. To this day, a closed-circuit camera is trained upon that spot, awaiting her return.

China’s leaders are personally vulnerable because they trace their lineage to the winners of the power struggle that cleaved their party in 1989. When the current generation of leaders took power 18 months ago, some optimists hoped that they might be far enough removed from the events of 1989 to initiate a reassessment of what happened. Instead, party leader Xi Jinping’s refusal to repudiate Chairman Mao Zedong effectively rules out any acts of historical reevaluation. The party’s ultimate goal is ensuring its own survival, and it has clearly decided that it needs to keep a lid on discussion about Tiananmen in public, in private and in cyberspace.

China’s online censors are busy scrubbing allusions, no matter how elliptical, to June 4. As the anniversary nears, judging by precedents set in recent years, the list of banned words and terms will grow to include “64,” “today,” “that year,” “in memory of” and even “sensitive word.” History is apparently so dangerous that China’s version of Wikipedia, Baidu Baike, does not have an entry for the entire year of 1989.

Just days ago, I stumbled across “Tiananmen,” written by the British poet James Fenton less than two weeks after the bloody repression. A quarter-century later, his words are still true, perhaps more so even than before.

 

“Tiananmen

Is broad and clean

And you can’t tell

Where the dead have been

And you can’t tell

What happened then

And you can’t speak

Of Tiananmen.”

 

 

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Related:

A blood-covered protestor holds a Chinese soldier's helmet following violent clashes with military forces during the demonstrations

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A blood-covered protestor holds a Chinese soldier’s helmet following violent clashes with military forces during the demonstrations  Photo: SHUNSUKE AKATSUKA/REUTERS

China: Activist arrested for planning 25th anniversary Tiananmen hunger strike

Several pro-democracy dissidents have disappeared in China — Human Rights Advocates say China Is Doing A Crackdown in Conjunction With 1989 Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary

China Arrests Pro-Democracy, Human Rights Supporters in Conjunction With Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary

Chinese police try to silence 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests

File:Tank Man Long Shot by Stuart Franklin.jpg

Type 59 tanks on Tiananmen Square. “Tank Man” is visible in the lower left.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989

Tank Man, Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989. Photo by Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener

Photo: Enthusiastic demonstrators are cheered by bystanders as they arrive at Tiananmen Square to show support for the student hunger strike, on May 18, 1989. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)

Photo: Pro-democracy protesters link arms to hold back angry crowds, preventing them from chasing a retreating group of soldiers near the Great Hall of the People, on June 3, 1989 in Beijing. Protesters were angered by an earlier attack upon students and citizens using tear gas and truncheons. People in the background stand atop buses used as a roadblock. (AP Photo/Mark Avary)
.
The photos taken after China’s army was unleashed against the protesters are horrific.