Posts Tagged ‘social order’

Women assaulted, bottles hurled at chaotic German town festival — sexual harassment and alcohol-fuelled weekend disturbances

July 17, 2017

AFP

© DPA/AFP | Matthias Klopfer (L), mayor of the southwestern German village of Schorndorf, and Aalen police president Roland Eisele give a press conference on July 17, 2017 in the city hall in Schorndorf to comment on disturbances at a local festival

BERLIN (AFP) – German police said Monday several assaults and cases of sexual harassment were reported in alcohol-fuelled weekend disturbances that saw youths rampage through a small town and hurl bottles at police.

No arrests had been made over the alleged harassment, but police were treating as a suspect a 20-year-old Iraqi man and, in a separate case in which a 17-year-old girl was groped, three Afghan asylum seekers aged 18-20.

Police chief Roland Eisele urged other women to come forward if they were abused on Friday or Saturday night during the chaotic scenes that started at a local festival in the southwestern town of Schorndorf, Baden-Wuerttemberg state.

Eisele said “the aggression and escalation of violence” were unprecedented and unexpected in the town of about 40,000 people, located near Stuttgart, and that the local police force had to request backup from other cities.

Police said in a statement that many youths “with migrant backgrounds” were seen in the crowd, but Eisele said that it was impossible to estimate a percentage.

Officers in riot gear moved into a crowd of about 1,000 Saturday night in the town centre to detain a suspect on charges of dangerous physical assault but came under attack as others hurled bottles at them.

Witnesses had reported small groups of youths, some armed with knives or replica handguns that can fire flares and teargas, roving through the medieval town centre, police said.

Several police cars were sprayed with graffiti or otherwise vandalised in the small town also dubbed “Daimler city” because automotive inventor Gottlieb Daimler was born there in 1834.

In a press conference Monday, Eisele evoked the chaos of Cologne’s infamous 2015 New Year’s Eve celebrations when men of North African and Middle Eastern appearance groped and assaulted hundreds of women, sparking widespread public outrage.

He stressed that the rowdy scenes in Schorndorf were less intense than those in Cologne or the riots in the northern port-city of Hamburg before and during the July 7-8 Group of 20 summit, when far-left and anarchist militants burnt street barricades and threw rocks from rooftops.

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In Africa, Pope Francis talks poverty, forgiveness, reconciliation

November 25, 2015

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AFP

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Nairobi (AFP) – Pope Francis warned Wednesday that poverty fuels “conflict and terrorism” as he kicked off a landmark first trip to Africa, landing to a rapturous welcome from cheering crowds and traditional dancers.

After joyous celebrations in Nairobi where some greeted Francis in traditional feather headdresses, bright clothes, and beads, the 78-year-old pontiff went to Kenya’s presidential palace to deliver a more sombre message.

“Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration,” he said alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity,” he said in comments alluding to the corruption and inequality that blights the country.

Kenyatta called corruption a scourge and said his administration was committed to fighting it. “We sacrifice our people and our environment in the pursuit of illegal profit,” he said.

Days before a key UN climate change summit in Paris, COP21, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics warned the world was facing a “grave environmental crisis”.

“There is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order,” said Francis who has taken on a vocal role in environmental issues.

His message is likely to resonate in Africa where climate change is already felt and where wildlife poaching is rampant.

– ‘More worried about the mosquitoes’-

The pontiff will also visit Uganda and troubled Central African Republic (CAR) before flying back to Rome on Monday.

On a trip fraught with security concerns, thousands of police and troops have been deployed, with key roads closed in the capital Nairobi to ensure the visit is peaceful.

Al-Qaeda’s East Africa branch, the Shebab, have launched a string of attacks against Kenya because they have troops deployed in Somalia.

But Francis said he had come with “joy” to make his first visit to Africa, and played down safety fears, joking he was “more worried about the mosquitoes.”

Over a million people are expected to attend a giant open air mass led by Francis in Nairobi on Thursday, which has been declared a public holiday.

A packed schedule will see the pope visit a Nairobi slum, a shrine to Christian martyrs in Uganda and both a mosque and a refugee camp in CAR. He will make a total of 19 speeches, including one on the environment.

Security chiefs in Kenya and Uganda insist all preparations have been made, although the CAR leg of the trip remains more risky.

Until now, the plans remain in place despite warnings from French peacekeepers that they cannot guarantee the pontiff’s security.

– In John Paul II’s footsteps –

Vatican officials say a last-minute change of programme will only take place if Francis is made aware of a precise threat that could endanger the thousands of believers expected to come and see him, many of whom will be travelling long distances from neighbouring countries.

Francis is expected to use his open-topped Popemobile during the trip, although he rode from Nairobi’s airport in a simple saloon car.

Aides say he is determined to press ahead with his plans, particularly in CAR where he is due to open a “Holy Door” in Bangui’s cathedral 10 days before the start of a Catholic Jubilee Year dedicated to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Francis is the fourth pope to visit Africa, a continent which now counts one in six of the world’s Catholics and whose importance to the Church is set to grow significantly over the coming decades.

Paul VI became the first pope of modern times to set foot in Africa when he visited Uganda in 1969, while John Paul II, dubbed “The African” by a senior cleric, managed to visit a total of 42 countries on the continent during his long papacy.

With the Paris summit due to begin on November 30, there will be particular interest in Francis’s remarks on the environment Thursday when he visits the Nairobi headquarters of the UN’s Environment Programme (UNEP) and Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

In Uganda, he will honour Christian martyrs, celebrating a mass to commemorate the first African saints — 22 young men burned alive in 1886 by royal order because they refused to renounce their faith or become sexual slaves.

China sentences ‘cult’ leader to life in prison amid crackdown

October 31, 2015

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BEIJING (Reuters) – China has sentenced the head of what it calls a cult to life in prison on charges including rape and fraud, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday, continuing a crackdown on what it views as dangerous illegal movements.

After a probe lasting more than a year, a court in the southern province of Guangdong on Friday sentenced Wu Zeheng, founder and leader of the Buddhist-inspired Huazang Dharma group, and fined him 7.15 million yuan ($1.13 million), Xinhua cited the court as saying.

Three others were also sentenced to up to four years in prison for fraud and perverting the course of justice. Wu intends to appeal, according to Xinhua.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan U.S. government commission, says Wu and his followers are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Reuters was not immediately able to locate a lawyer for Wu.

The Huazang Dharma has said on its website, which is blocked in China, that he is a purely religious figure facing cooked-up accusations, and has appealed for international help.

Xinhua previously reported that Wu had already been jailed at least twice, and set up his group in 2010 upon his last release from jail.

“In the name of charity and life science and through inflammatory preaching, Wu lured a growing number of followers who were interested in Buddhism, were suffering diseases or thought association with the cult would ward-off ill fortune, according to the police,” the state news agency said on Saturday.

“Wu slept with many women by saying he could give them ‘supernatural power’. He was also found to have amassed more than 6.7 million yuan in ill-gotten gains, according to the court,” said Xinhua.

China’s officially atheist Communist Party does not tolerate challenges to its rule. It prizes social stability and religious activities must be state sanctioned.

Authorities have gone after what they view as cults, which have multiplied in recent years, and demonstrations have been put down with force and some sect leaders executed.

(Reporting by Paul Carsten and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Economically Wounded and Paranoid China Seen In Spying Accusations Against Japanese in Beijing — Communist Party really worried about domestic stability

October 17, 2015

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Japanese analysts ask whether detention of four residents may be an attempt to divert attention from impending Chinese economic woes

“I’d certainly steer clear of visiting China at the moment.”

By Julian Ryall in Tokyo

Japanese analysts ask whether detention of four residents may be an attempt to divert attention from impending Chinese economic woes

The arrest in China of three Japanese and a North Korean defector living in Japan on charges of spying is a heavy-handed ploy designed to distract public attention from Beijing’s looming economic crisis, according to analysts in Japan.

In announcements on September 30 and October 11, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing revealed that it had detained the four, who include a woman in her 50s, since May and that they had been charged with conducting espionage on behalf of Tokyo.

One of the men was detained close to an air base and had apparently taken photos of aircraft through the perimeter fence. The female detainee is reportedly the owner of a language school who had business interests in China and had visited the country frequently.

The Japanese government has denied that the four were working for the country’s Public Security Agency and were spying on Chinese interests.

“Our country has never done such a thing,” said chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga following the second Chinese announcement. He added that China should release all four immediately.

“Beijing has clearly become more sensitive to the activities of foreigners on its soil, but my sense is that these arrests are more of a reflection of the concerns within the Chinese Communist Party over domestic stability,” an analyst with close ties to Japan’s Ministry of Defence told the Sunday Morning Post.

The analyst, who declined to be named, said the Chinese government’s accusations were based on fears that the present economic downturn might be structural rather then merely cyclical and that there was potential for a full-blown financial crisis which could trigger public unrest and calls for political reform.

The Chinese government had, he pointed out, been swift in the past to focus citizens’ attentions on perceived external threats at a time when it felt under pressure on domestic issues.

That sentiment was echoed by Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University.

“The present Chinese government has been widely criticised for carrying out cyberespionage against the United States and Japan,” said Shimada, pointing to the similarities between the technology incorporated in China’s Chengdu J-20 fighter and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

China’s Chengdu J-20 fighter

“The issue was raised when [President] Xi Jinping visited Washington for talks with [Barack] Obama, so now the Chinese want to pretend they are also the victims of espionage by foreign countries,” he added.

Shimada expected Beijing to attempt to “extort economic concessions” from Tokyo for the release of the four detainees, although any agreement may never be made public and China may simply release the four suspects.

Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at the Japan campus of Temple University, said it was “inconceivable” that four “amateur agents” were dispatched with mobile phone cameras to spy on China’s massive military machine.

“I have to assume that this has been made up by the Chinese authorities,” he said. “What could one person standing outside a military base hope to learn about the secrets of the Chinese military?

“It makes no sense,” he added. “Satellites would gather far better images of what is going on inside a military base.

“There’s no indication these were anything other than people who were being anything more than curious and, possibly, naive in getting too close to Chinese bases at a time of heightened tensions between the two nations and shortly after Beijing introduced new spying laws,” Dujarric said.

The Chinese legislation came into force in November. It incorporates a catch-all clause that cites “any other spying activity”.

“It stretches credulity that these four were James Bond-type agents,” Dujarric added. “But if I was a Japanese planning a holiday, I’d certainly steer clear of visiting China at the moment.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as China’s spying arrests questioned

http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/1868970/it-makes-no-sense-japanese-analysts-question-chinas-arrest-four

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BBC News

Two Japanese men are being held in China on accusations of spying, China’s foreign ministry has confirmed.

China has not given details, but Japanese media reports said the men had been held since May, one in northern Liaoning province, the other in coastal Zhejiang province.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, Japan’s top government spokesman denied Tokyo spies on foreign countries.

“Our country is not engaged in such activity,” Yoshihide Suga said.

The chief cabinet secretary also declined to comment on reports about the ages and other personal details of the men.

“I’m not going to comment on individual cases,” he said.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei confirmed the detentions, and said China had “notified Japan on the relevant situation”.

The reports, which first appeared in the Asahi newspaper (in Japanese), said one suspect was detained close to a military facility and the other near the North Korean border.

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers remarks at the United Nations General Assembly on 28 September
President Xi Jinping has toughened China’s stance towards both internal dissent and foreign espionage. Getty Images

Along with a crackdown on corruption and political opposition, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken a tough line on national security, creating a new national security commission and strengthening a counter-espionage law.

Reports of the Japanese detentions come not long after news emerged that an American woman, Sandy Phan-Gillis, had been held in China since March, also accused of spying.

Mrs Phan-Gillis was accompanying a US trade promotion trip to the country when she was arrested.

In 2010, four Japanese men were detained in the northern province of Hebei for filming in a military area, during preparations for a bid by Japanese company Fujita to dispose of chemical weapons left in China by Japanese troops in the 1930s.

They admitted the filming but denied they knew they were in a restricted area, and were later released.

While those arrests came at a time of escalating tension between the two neighbours, the latest detentions come amid a relative warming of relations, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meeting President Xi twice since November.

China’s President Xi Jinping looks powerless in the face of economic forces

August 26, 2015

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While China’s stock markets plunged in June, the government took a number of steps to actively intervene and stop the slide. On Monday, China shares dropped 9%, with ripple effects quickly felt across the globe, and the slide continued Tuesday morning. So far, the government has not responded as aggressively this time, as some question whether Xi Jinping is equipped to manage the Chinese economy and whether too much attention has been focused on the fight against corruption at the expense of the country’s financial management.

Before Monday’s crash, Michael Forsythe and Jonathan Ansfield of the New York Times wrote:

Mr. Xi has positioned himself as the chief architect of economic policy — usually the prime minister’s job — and has vowed to reshape the economy, exposing himself to blame if growth continues to sputter. At the same time, Mr. Xi is making enemies with an anticorruption drive that has taken down some of the most powerful men in the country and sidelined more than a hundred thousand lower-ranking officials.

Senior party officials are said to be alarmed by the state of the economy, which grew at the slowest pace in a quarter century during the first half of the year, and now seems to be decelerating further. In a sign of its anxiety, the leadership this month implemented the biggest devaluation of the Chinese currency in more than two decades, sending global markets into plunges.

Mr. Xi’s reputation was also dented this summer by panicked official efforts to prop up the Chinese stock market after a sharp dive in share prices. His government had promoted the market as a good investment to the public for months.

[…] “Everyone understands that the economy is the biggest pillar of the Chinese government’s legitimacy to govern and win over popular sentiment,” said Chen Jieren, a well-known Beijing-based commentator on politics. “If the economy falters, the political power of the Chinese Communist Party will be confronted with more real challenges, social stability in China will be endangered tremendously, and Xi Jinping’s administration will suffer even more criticism.” [Source]

Likewise, in Slate, Joshua Keating writes about the confluence of stock market woes with global tensions of which China is at the center:

These ongoing tensions are worrying enough in normal times, but are even more dangerous when China’s leaders feel insecure and challenged by domestic enemies. Which is how they must feel right now. The economic turmoil of the past few weeks has dealt a blow to the image of China’s leaders as competent stewards of the country’s economic rise, and President Xi Jinping looks powerless in the face of economic forces. Reports are already emerging about grumbling within senior ranks of the Communist Party over whether Xi and his advisers are up to the task of managing China’s next economic transition. If Xi feels threatened by a lack of support at home, he could ramp up his purge of potential rivals.

The bigger fear if there’s a long-turn economic downturn is social instability. Under the country’s unspoken post-Tiananmen grand bargain, China’s population hasn’t significantly challenged the autocratic one-party state, so long as the party continues to deliver economic progress and increasing prosperity. This is not to say that Chinese society is entirely harmonious—while the authorities have been adept at managing dissent, the country still sees tens of thousands of “mass incidents” every year, sparked by causes ranging from labor disputes, to environmental degradation, to land seizures. But thanks to steady growth, public anger over economic conditions hasn’t been a major problem over the last 25 years. It could be soon: Chinese investors, who were strongly encouraged by the state-run media to put money in the market during the country’s boom, are already venting their anger online. [Source]

China’s geopolitical role is currently in the spotlight as the country prepares for a major military parade to mark the end of World War II and to showcase Beijing’s power. But the economic troubles threaten to sideline China’s achievements in recent decades. Fergus Ryan reports in The Guardian:

The V-Day celebrations, due to occur on 3 September, are designed to be a showcase of Xi’s power and credibility and are clearly aimed at a domestic audience. But increasingly, when it comes to the economy, his and the government’s credibility are taking a hammering. Beijing’s reputation as skilful and competent economic managers – built up over years of breakneck economic growth – is in tatters after a two-month long stock market rescue operation has faltered.

More so than anywhere else, China’s stock market is disconnected from the economic fundamentals of the country, experts say, but nonetheless the rapid decline shows that market sentiment has fallen off a cliff.

“It is a key moment for China. The equity market in freefall, the banking system increasingly starved of liquidity, rising capital outflows, and a rapidly slowing economy,” Angus Nicholson, of IG Group, wrote in a note on Monday.

Global markets were already reeling from last week’s data, which showed the country’s manufacturing output had dipped to its lowest point since the global economic crisis. Experts say there’s a sense that it no longer matters what the government says or does, as the market is now adjusting to what it believes the reality is. [Source]

Chinese authorities issued notice to state media to censor negative market reports

Authorities have attempted to manage the response to the stock market crash by censoring news and social media posts. Propaganda officials have issued directives to the media on how to report the news, according to the South China Morning Post’s George Chen:

And Baidu search results have been censored as well, according to the Feichang Dao blog and Chen.

Read more about the individuals who are tasked with helping Xi manage the economy, from Bloomberg.
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From Monday, August 24, 2015 and earlier:

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When Will China Stop Stock Market Intervention? Regulators Want To Withdraw 1 Trillion Yuan-Plus “Invested for Stability”

July 20, 2015

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Speculation over securities regulator’s plans to withdraw rescue funds — “It’s very difficult to have confidence in the market.”

By Daniel Ren in Shanghai and George Chen in Singapore
South China Morning Post

As mainland stock markets scramble to their feet after three weeks of massive falls, investors and analysts wonder how the government will begin to lift its hand after its heavy intervention, with mainland media saying the authorities will be withdrawing its rescue funds.

The speculation came after financial news portal Caijing reported yesterday that the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) was studying how to withdraw the estimated 1 trillion yuan-plus (HK$1.26 trillion) in funds that it had invested to stabilise the market.

The regulator denied the Caijing report.

“The related media was irresponsible for making such a major market-moving report without checks with the supervisory department,” regulator spokesman Zhang Xiaojun said.

Even so, investors and analysts said it was an appropriate time to consider an exit strategy.

Levin Zhu Yunlai, son of ex-premier Zhu Rongji and former chief of China International Capital Corporation, said the government had to come up with a more systemic approach to deal with challenges in the capital market, including how to rebuild investors’ confidence.

“For China’s capital market to function well, we still have a long way to go,” Zhu said at a forum in Singapore yesterday.

In response to a question about the government’s recent actions to stabilise the market, he said: “I don’t think the suspension of the initial public offerings is a good measure.”

The Shanghai Composite Index dropped more than 31 per cent after June 15, with US$3 trillion of market value evaporating within three weeks, prompting Beijing to step in with a series of stabilising measures.

This month, major brokerages, under the CSRC’s directive, set up a 120 billion yuan fund to buoy the index before the central bank gave liquidity support to the China Securities Finance Corporation to replenish stock purchases. Beijing also suspended new listings.

“If they don’t exit in the near future, they will cash out some time later,” Shanghai Shiva Investment hedge fund manager Zhou Ling said. “It’s advisable for the CSRC to consider exit strategies … But it wasn’t politically correct for Caijing to report the news.” Caijing, citing unidentified sources, said the China Securities Finance Corporation – the CSRC-controlled platform that lends money to brokerages for margin financing businesses – was estimated to have borrowed about 1 trillion yuan of shares.

Police are also investigating what the authorities have termed “malicious short-selling”. Analysts said the move showed the top leadership was concerned that the stock market slide would threaten social order.

The Shanghai index has regained 13.8 per cent since July 8 after the CSRC urged parents of listed firms not to sell shares for a period of time while encouraging them to increase holdings in their listed subsidiaries.

But the index opened about 0.8 per cent lower yesterday, an inauspicious sign for retail investors who want the government rescue measures to remain.

“The bad news came just too soon,” retail investor Miao Miao said, referring to concerns about the government’s rumoured exit. “It’s very difficult to have confidence in the market.”

http://www.scmp.com/news/article/1842331/chinas-authorities-urged-mull-stock-market-exit-strategy

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Crackdown on China’s Human Rights Lawyers: 1.3 billion Chinese lose national governance based on law

July 20, 2015

Editorial

Asahi Shimbun

July 10 is now known as “Black Friday” by people concerned about human rights in China.

On that day, police detained human rights lawyers and activists in various parts of the nation in a large-scale concerted crackdown on people working for the cause.

Chinese authorities have continued the roundup in the ensuing days, interrogating more than 200 people so far. This is an outrageous act that cannot be overlooked.

The main target of the crackdown is Fengrui, a law firm in Beijing. People linked to Fengrui are still being held in custody.

Those who were rounded up in other parts of the nation, such as Hunan province, Shanghai and Henan province, are suspected to have links to Fengrui.

These civil-rights lawyers have been acting as defenders of the rights of ordinary people petitioning the authorities in various cases, including forced evictions from their homes.

The lawyers play an important role for improving the human rights situation in China, and such an attack on these lawyers and activists could cause serious damage to the rights of the entire Chinese public.

Beijing has used the state-controlled media to demonize the law firm as “a criminal organization that has disturbed social order.”

The accusation refers to Fengrui’s use of the Internet to draw public attention to cases of civil rights violations concerning disputes between police and local residents.

According to the government’s logic, all protests against the actions of authorities qualify as “anti-government” activities.

The latest move against civil-rights lawyers came just about two months after Pu Zhiqiang, a widely known human rights lawyer, was formally indicted in May.

Nearly 1,000 human rights activists were detained in China last year, according to some reports.

The administration of President Xi Jinping has been suppressing, with unprecedented harshness, people working for the protection of human rights in the country.

Since China started reforming its economy and opening its door to the outside world, two main forces have been fighting each other for dominance.

One is the newfound power of citizens supported by the rising standards of living and education. While they certainly have a conservative side, Chinese citizens have grown increasingly conscious of their life-related rights and have acquired the ability to take action.

Pitted against the power of citizens is the Communist Party’s political power to suppress dissenting voices in order to protect its one-party rule. This political power has been asserted aggressively by the Xi administration.

China’s 2004 constitutional amendments added a provision stipulating, “The state respects and preserves human rights.” The Constitution also guarantees freedom of speech, assembly and association.

But there is no system in place to ensure that these constitutional provisions are enforced. As a result, they are effectively dead provisions.

Meanwhile, a sweeping new national security law that came into force on July 1 could only reinforce the government’s inclination to restrict the rights of citizens under the pretext of national security. In early July, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein expressed concern about the human rights implications of the new security law.

In a key party conference held last autumn, the Xi administration pledged to promote wholeheartedly national governance based on law.

If what is happening in China is any indication, however, the law here actually means a stick to suppress citizens rather than a shield to protect them.

We are deeply concerned about the prospect that China’s 1.3 billion people will remain trapped in a miserable human rights situation that is far from the rule of law.

–The Asahi Shimbun, July 19

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(Contains links to several related articles)

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By , Epoch Times and , Epoch Times

If you’re a Chinese lawyer who has accepted a client facing prosecution for his faith, expect obstacles at every turn.

For attorneys who choose to represent practitioners of the persecuted spiritual discipline Falun Gong, interruptions, harassment, court detention, and beating are among the methods used by court and police staff to undermine the legal process. Many Falun Gong trials are conducted in secret; attendance for relatives and friends of the accused is prohibited or limited.

200 Meters to the People’s Court

In a recent episode from Hebei Province in north China, four Falun Gong practitioners, detained illegally for over a year, stood trial on June 19. According to local witnesses, family members of the practitioners planning to attend the trial were greeted by a 200 meters wide (about 218-yard) perimeter outside the entrance to the People’s Court in the city of Sanhe.

Police shoving several women into police cars.  (Photo provided by witnesses)

Police shoving several women into police cars. (Photo provided by witnesses)

At around 8 a.m., police and court bailiffs formed a cordon manned by hundreds of personnel backed up by dozens of vehicles around the court building. On site were officials from Communist Party and the 610 Office, an agency created in 1999 for the suppression of Falun Gong.

Defendants Wang Zhenqing, Wen Jie, Ma Weishan, and Kang Jingtai, all Falun Gong practitioners from Sanhe, were represented by lawyers Wang Yu, Feng Yanqiang, and Hu Guiyun.

When the lawyers tried to enter the courtroom, the police delayed the start of the trial by leading them to different gates of the building and haranguing them over proper documentation. Only at 9:50 a.m. were the attorneys let in.

Seen at the court building directing the law enforcement personnel were Cui Haoquan, Party secretary of a local Communist Party political agency, Guo Lichen, head of Sanhe’s 610 Office branch, and Liu Xiuwen, a political commissar attached to the local police.

Chinese officials Shi Liandong, Gu Zhixue and  Liu Xuewen are seen outside the People's Court in Sanhe, Hebei Province. (Photo provided by witnesses)

Chinese officials who harassed lawyers are seen outside the People’s Court in Sanhe, Hebei Province. (Photo provided by witnesses)

The Trial

Visitors who tried to gain entry to the court were harassed and beaten. Only eight of the defendants’ relatives succeeded in witnessing the trial.

An elderly woman tried to check into the court to sit in on the trial, but was repeatedly questioned about how she had heard about the trial and how she had gotten an invitation. Then the onsite personnel removed her and others from the perimeter.

When a bespectacled man in his fifties attempted to gain entry, the police first misdirected him to a false entrance, then demanded his identification. The man in turn asked the officers for their identification and admonished them for their treatment of Falun Gong.

Four officers responded by beating the man and detaining him for a day.

The defendants had been abducted and held in detention by local Sanhe police since April 2014. That December, they were charged with “using superstitious sects to undermine the implementation of the law.” Such charges are typically levied using Article of 300 of Chinese criminal law, a commonly used statute created in 1999 to facilitate the suppression of Falun Gong, started that July by order of then-Communist Party head Jiang Zemin.

During the trial, dozens of plainclothes police sat in the visitor section with the few relatives allowed in.

When the court was adjourned for a recess, Guo Lichen (the 610 Office chief) and domestic security officers Shi Liandong and Gu Zhixue, entered the courtroom to discuss plans with court officials. Inside sources indicate that Guo even monitored the trial via CCTV.

“Who are you people? Why are you here?” one of the practitioner’s relatives sitting near the plainclothes police in the courtroom asked. “Don’t you know that because of you, family members of the [Falun Gong practitioners] are standing outside?”

The relative went on to criticize the persecution of Falun Gong, whereupon the plainclothes police left the court.

Might Makes Right

Sometimes violence is used to deny a legal defense to Falun Gong practitioners standing trial, as in the recent case of lawyer Wang Quanzhang, who was hospitalized with multiple injuries he sustained after being beaten by court bailiffs acting on orders of the presiding judge.

On June 18, Wang and two other lawyers represented seven practitioners at a trial held in the city of Liaocheng, Shandong Province, eastern China. The seven had been arrested for distributing fliers about Falun Gong, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, and were being charged with “undermining the implementation of law.”

Initially, Wang’s attempts at defense were repeatedly interrupted by the judge, who called multiple objections on account of Wang supposedly disrupting court order.

“No matter how calm we were, how well we obeyed the rules, the judge just kept interrupting us and calling out objections, as what we said was undesirable,” said one of the defense lawyers, surnamed Chen, in an interview with New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television.

According to Chen, the court was heavily guarded. As the defense made its case, plainclothes police viewing the trial would yell verbal abuses at them.

“The presiding judge had suppressed [Wang’s] speech from the beginning of the trial. He was interrupted four times. There wasn’t any problem with us lawyers. Instead, it was the court undermining the implementation of law,” Chen said.

Finally, the judge demanded that Wang and the others be expelled from the court. When Wang protested, he received a severe beating from several court bailiffs. The three lawyers were detained by the court for the rest of the day and had their belongings, including computers, stolen.

In March last year, authorities in Jiansanjiang of northern China’s Heilongjiang Province detained four prominent rights lawyers who traveled to the city to investigate claims that the Falun Gong practitioners were being held illegally in a “black jail,” or extrajudicial detention center.

They were detained for more than two weeks before being released. Two of the lawyers reported suffering extreme physical abuse while in detention and another described torture while in custody.

Prominent Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, named one of the top 10 lawyers in China by the Ministry of Justice in 2001, was imprisoned several times after defending disenfranchised groups in China, including Falun Gong practitioners. Gao’s last disappearance was in 2009. At the start of 2012, Gao’s brother said he had received a court document saying Gao was being held in Shayar jail in Xinjiang, northwestern China.

Gao Zhisheng suffered extreme physical torture during detention, including electrical shock to his genitals. He was eventually released on Aug. 7, 2014. He is currently under house arrest and is undergoing physical and psychological recovery.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1407135-in-china-using-court-cases-to-undermine-the-rule-of-law/?photo=1

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Alleged Confessions From Detained Chinese Lawyers Prompt Fears of an Unfair Trial, Torture

July 20, 2015

By Rishi 
TIME Magazine

 

In this Friday, July 17, 2015 photo, a delivery cart and cyclist ride past a building housing the Fengrui law firm in Beijing. Since late May, police across China have detained and called in at least 215 rights lawyers and social activists, including many of Fengrui’s lawyers. State propaganda has kicked into high gear to denounce them as rabble-rousers, criminal gangs, and profit-seeking opportunists. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

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Experts say such admissions are often extracted under torture or duress
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Concerns that several activists and human-rights lawyers detained by China may not be given a fair trial have mounted following the publication of their apparent confessions in Chinese state media on Sunday.

The state-run People’s Daily newspaper said Zhou Shifeng, director of the Beijing-based Fengrui Law Firm, which was the government’s primary target, admitted in custody that the firm was engaged in “criminal activities,” the South China Morning Post reported.

“I condoned and encouraged these unlawful activities … and these have an impact on social stability,” Zhou allegedly told his interrogators. “I have unshirkable responsibilities.”

Zhou is among 14 human-rights lawyers and advocates that remain in custody, after more than 200 were swept up in a sudden crackdown last week. Six others are missing.

The Chinese government accused the detainees of conspiring with “a major criminal gang” in order to “draw attention to sensitive cases, seriously disturbing social order.”

Editorials in various Chinese dailies slammed the “radical lawyers” on Monday; the People’s Daily said that “the confessions of several of the [lawyers] outline how they abused their influence to hype a legal case into a public or mass incident.”
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However, legal analysts and experts said these confessions are often extracted under coercion and torture. William Nee, China researcher at Amnesty International, told the Post he was concerned the detainees had been forced to confess.

Whether forced or not, Nee added that the confessions, coupled with the Chinese media’s portrayal of the lawyers as criminals, “calls into question whether they can get fair trials.”

http://time.com/3963913/china-lawyers-detained-confession-beijing-fengrui-zhou-shifeng/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+timeblogs%2Fmiddle_east+%28TIME%3A+The+Middle+East+Blog%29

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The end of capitalism has begun

July 19, 2015

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By Paul Mason
The Guardian

Without us noticing, we are entering the postcapitalist era. At the heart of further change to come is information technology, new ways of working and the sharing economy. The old ways will take a long while to disappear, but it’s time to be utopian

he red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse.

  • Postcapitalism is published by Allen Lane on 30 July. Paul Mason will be asking whether capitalism has had its day at a sold-out Guardian Live event on 22 July. Let us know your thoughts beforehand at theguardian.com/membership.

Read it all:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun

Shanghai Stampede Families Await Answers, Fear Being Silenced

January 6, 2015

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“I fear that once they’ve found me then they will threaten me and stop me talking.”

Reuters

SHANGHAI — Three days after his sister and 35 others were killed in a New Year’s Eve stampede, Wang Jianhua went to Shanghai’s waterfront to take pictures and measurements of the scene, hoping to piece together for himself how the disaster unfolded.

He and other relatives of those who died celebrating the new year on the historic Bund in China’s commercial capital say they have not been getting any answers from the authorities.

Pedestrians caught in a stampede that broke out during a New Year’s Eve celebration on the Bund, a waterfront area in central Shanghai. Credit Reuters

Instead, families are being kept in the dark about the circumstances of the accident and had even been pressured not to air grievances, especially to international media, Wang said.

“This interview could bring me a whole lot of trouble. The pressure is immense,” Wang told Reuters.

The stampede and a heavy-handed response by authorities may tarnish the image of Shanghai as China’s most cosmopolitan and best-managed city, a glitzy home to global companies with ambitions to become a world financial center by 2020.

Police investigations are usually conducted with little or no information made public, so it is not unusual for relatives to be poorly informed of progress.

Wang’s sister was 25 and had recently moved to Shanghai after graduating. She was out with a group of friends.

He said he just wanted straight answers from the police, health officials and government but instead he feels hounded.

“Police are checking into me and some came to my temporary residences to find me. I fear that once they’ve found me then they will threaten me and stop me talking,” he said.

Telephone calls to the Shanghai police press office went unanswered.

At a mourning ceremony on the embankment on Tuesday, sobbing relatives laid flowers and burned ceremonial paper – accompanied by government handlers and under tight security.

Police in uniform and plain clothes tried to keep reporters away from relatives who were shepherded through a labyrinth of barricades to reach a mourning area.

Even relatives who stayed away from the ceremony said they were under supervision.

“We have had people assigned to be with us the whole time and they have advised against speaking to the press,” one woman who lost a relative told Reuters by telephone. She declined to be identified.

A woman grieves at a hospital where those injured by a stampede are being treated in Shanghai, China, Thursday Jan. 1, 2015. Dozens died in a stampede during New Year’s celebrations in downtown Shanghai, city officials said – the worst disaster to hit one of China’s showcase cities in recent years. (AP Photo)

“SHROUDING THE TRUTH”

Another complaint of the relatives is that their loved ones’ bodies have yet to be released for burial.

“We will fight to the end for our dead,” Wang said.

“We have to seek justice, understand what happened and find who is to blame. Otherwise we will have let down this group of departed spirits who have not yet been laid to rest.”

The Shanghai health department said in an emailed statement to Reuters it had been difficult to identify all victims immediately as some of the injured had been unconscious and it had contacted relatives as quickly as possible. It said bodies were being treated properly.

Several dozen relatives banded together on Sunday to go to government offices to get information, three members of the group said. But they got no answers.

“We just couldn’t bear this any more,” said Gu Yinjuan, the elder sister of one of the dead who joined the group.

“All along they haven’t told us anything, we’ve just been waiting and waiting.”

Relatives also said attempts to tell their stories were being blocked. A microblog relatives set up to share information was shut down on Monday, one said.

Another relative said domestic media outlets, many of which are state-run, were ignoring their plight while trying to put a positive spin on the accident.

“Domestic media reports are very proper, shrouding the truth so it doesn’t come out,” said the relative.

People who said they were police but did not identify themselves contacted several Reuters staff by telephone to warn against “being used” by relatives.

There have been critical reports in domestic media, including questions about the number of police on duty and their apparent inability to control the crowd.

“It was a lack of vigilance from the government, a sloppiness,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

Waterfront fireworks that attracted more than 300,000 people the previous year had been canceled but huge numbers still came. One police officer who declined to be identified said they had not expected such a big crowd and had been under-staffed.

Most victims were in their twenties, with 25 of them female, according to a police list.

President Xi Jinping has urged the Shanghai government to get to the bottom of the city’s worst accident since 58 people were killed in an apartment building fire in 2010.

(Additional reporting by John Ruwitch; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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