Friday, December 10, 2004

Tribute to Iris Chang

Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking, died last month. Alex Higgins has posted a brief tribute on his superb Bring on the Revolution blog. As usual when I quote from him, I reproduce the whole thing here because on Alex's blog you have to scroll a lot to find it.
I feel a further note is due for the US historian and writer, Iris Chang. Born in New Jersey in 1968, Iris trained as a journalist but left journalism to begin her own writing career. In 1997, her history of the Japanese army's fantastically brutal and genocidal destruction of the Nanking area in China in 1937, The Rape of Nanking, became an international bestseller and revived interest in, and controversy over, a crime against humanity that was terrible even by 20th century standards. Last year she published a history of Chinese immigrants in the US, 'The Chinese in America', another neglected story worthy of attention.

Iris suffered a breakdown while on a recent research trip in the Philippines and was hospitalised. Sadly, she did not recover from her depression and on November 11th, she was found in a car on a highway near Los Gatos, California, having shot herself in the head. She was 36. A friend said of her, "She felt other people's suffering to the point that it made her suffer."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Huge demonstrations in China

One of the first articles at ZNet's new China Watch section discusses this:

Unrest Sharply Increasing Through Much Of China

by Jonathan Manthorpe
November 09, 2004

Away from the shimmering facade of its golden coastal cities, China is seething with violent discontent.

New figures published in the Communist party magazine Outlook say that last year there was an average of 160 major incidents of social unrest every day in China's hinterland.

Many of these outbursts of peasant outrage involved tens of thousands of people and some carried on for days as riot squads using batons and tear gas attempted to restore order.

There is a common thread that sparks these uprisings. About 800 million of China's 1.3 billion people have yet to see any benefit from market reform while the corruption of local Communist party officials is ever more onerous. ... Read the rest of the article...

There is also a recent Japan Times editorial on the same subject, taking much the same line:

In recent weeks, angry Chinese have reportedly taken to the streets not only in underdeveloped interior regions but also in prosperous coastal areas in the south of the country. The communist government in Beijing faces serious challenges as it pursues an aggressive policy of economic expansion that represents an odd mixture of socialist and capitalist principles.

According to reports, many have expressed their anger in violent ways and for various reasons. In the industrial city of Chongqing in Sichuan province, 50,000 rioters laid siege to a municipal building in protest against bureaucratic abuses. In Henan province, an ethnic clash erupted between members of the majority Han group and the Islamic minority group [Hui], causing heavy casualties.

Farmers have protested violently against giant construction projects that they thought would deprive them of their land and livelihood. In Shanxi province, scores of people were wounded, some fatally, in a bloody demonstration against an economic development project that would force hundreds of farmers to evacuate. In Sichuan province, 100,000 farmers rallied against a dam construction project, inviting military intervention. In Fujian province, droves of peasants marched on City Hall in opposition to expressway construction.

Other demonstrations were peaceful, but participants were hardly content. In Guangdong province, the coastal "sun belt" in the south, residents protested against highway tolls. In the city of Shenzhen, a mecca for foreign businesses, many workers staged street sit-ins to demand wage increases.

These incidents make it clear that farmers and residents are increasingly dissatisfied with the high-handed ways in which local government officials deal with them. Those officials, long accustomed to the autocratic leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, are seen as neglecting the wishes of local people. The incidents thus would appear to frame the problem as one of an economic juggernaut trampling the grass roots. ...

An Epoch Times article from 10th November gives details of the demonstration against forced relocation connected with the construction of a dam in Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province:

... tens of thousands of people in Hanyuan County, Sichuan Province protested the government’s forced relocation: relocation made possible by tearing down their homes under orders issued by corrupt officials. Thousands lined the Pubugou Power Station on Dadu River to stop operation there.

In response, police injured several dozen people and beat one man to death.

In the areas surrounding Hanyuan County, police clashed with farmers and local students. After the police contained the situation, all lines of communication, including Internet, were cut off and traffic was tightly controlled.

According to reports from Hong Kong and Taiwan, the origin of the conflict was the Hanyuan’s county government’s forced relocation of a hundred thousand residents to build Pubugou Power Station, a hydroelectric power plant.

According to sources, local government officials and developers collaborated by reducing the compensation of property. They did so by downgrading its productive fertile farm land - claiming that it was arid, dry land near the mountains - and paying out type-five compensation that was in place 14 years ago. Those who refused to move in advance were arrested by police and public security guards.

Farmers had believed that they could still retain their fertile farmland. However, they were forced to give up the land and move to land on the hillside where only corn could be grown. Farmers were only compensated half the value of their home while corrupted officials at different levels of the government filled their pockets with the other half.

Several months ago, the farmers appealed to government officials in Hanyuan County by collecting petitions but received no response. In response to this, within several days of the dam starting operation, fifty to sixty thousand farmers living by the Dadu River broke through the armed police guarding the station and stopped operation of the dam.

The Apple Daily reported on October 31st that Li, a farmer living in Qingfu Town, Hanyuan County, said, “50,000 to 60,000 villagers in towns such as Qingfu Town, Dashu Town, Shunhe Town, who are affected by the project at Pubugou Power Station, protested outside the station Wednesday night. Villagers held banners such as “Overthrow corrupt officials!” Hoping to delay the operation of the dam, protesters braved the cold weather for two nights as temperatures dropped to 35 degrees.

“At that time, a lot of armed police and public security guards arrived. A man started to argue with police after they assaulted a seventy year-old woman. He was struck with a brick by the police which caused his death,” said Li.

On the following two days, October 28 and 29th, nearly 100,000 farmers and students marched to the county administration building and damaged the government facility, causing the government offices to shut down. Authorities urgently mobilized over 10,000 armed police to Hanyuan County. In the conflict that ensued, at least seven armed police were injured and were all sent to Ganluo County hospital. This was because it was believed that the safety of the police officers would be compromised if they were sent to the Hanyuan county hospital near the demonstration site.

Japan to export arms to US, continue Iraq mission

In case anyone thought Japan was a functioning democracy, the LDP administration has decreed that it will export arms for the first time since the 1940s and keep 600 troops in Iraq. Without a vote in parliament, and contrary to public opinion.

First, the extension of the SDF's participation in the US-UK occupation of Iraq, in a Japan Time article:

Key members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet effectively agreed Tuesday to keep ground troops in Iraq for another year, and are preparing to make a formal decision possibly Thursday.

"I think it's OK to extend the dispatch (of the Ground Self-Defense Force troops)," Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura told reporters Tuesday morning.

Machimura made the comment after emerging from a meeting with Koizumi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda and Defense Agency chief Yoshinori Ono at the Prime Minister's Official Residence.

Read the rest of the article...

Even the Japan Times does not think that "it is OK" to keep troops in Iraq on Machimura, Ono and Koizumi's say-so. Here's their editorial:

The government is set to extend Japan's troop deployment in Iraq beyond Dec. 14 for another year, although Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has not adequately explained why an extension is necessary. Nor has the Diet debated the question in detail. A joint opposition bill aimed at ending the dispatch has been scrapped without being put to a vote.

Nearly 600 Self-Defense Force troops are stationed in Samawah, southern Iraq, to support humanitarian and reconstruction efforts in the area. But the security situation in Iraq remains volatile, even as the country prepares for its first free elections in January. What is needed now is a fundamental review of the SDF mission. A troop withdrawal should not be ruled out.

The mission, which started a year ago, has raised various issues. Perhaps the most important one is that the dispatch stems from Tokyo's support of a war -- an invasion launched by the United States without an explicit mandate from the U.N. Security Council -- whose international legitimacy was questioned. The war has strained international relations, casting a shadow over Japan's aid activities as well.

It is the first time that SDF troops have been dispatched to a foreign country in conflict. The government has taken pains to explain that the troops are performing noncombat duties in a noncombat area, but the Japanese public is increasingly skeptical. The lack of safety assurances makes the dispatch essentially different from previous SDF missions abroad, including the U.N.-backed peacekeeping operation in Cambodia and the logistic support (fuel supply) of the U.S. antiterrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

In fact, the continued insurgency in Iraq is making the SDF presence there more difficult to sustain. Adding to the difficulty is the international perception that the war was not quite justified -- a perception reinforced by a U.S. government confirmation that no weapons of mass destruction existed at the time of the invasion. Japan -- which supported the military action as a member of the "coalition of the willing" -- is finding itself in an uncomfortable position. ...

"Not quite justified" might be the understatement of the year.

The second item is the dropping, without any interest in public opinion, of the ban on arms exports, which has limited the damage Japanese foreign policy has done over the years.

Japan to lift arms-export ban for U.S. missile shield project

Staff writer

The government's new basic defense policy will limit arms exports to missile defense-related products developed with the United States, and America would be the only recipient, politicians and government officials involved in this issue said Tuesday.

The policy will be adopted later this week.

The officials said sales of weapons and equipment concerning missile defense will be made possible as an exception to Japan's self-imposed ban on arms exports.

In announcing the new policy, which will come in the form of a statement issued by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda, the government will clearly state that Japan will adhere to a "cautious policy" concerning arms exports, they said.

This was the most cautious among the options considered within the ruling coalition and the government on the issue of whether to lift the decades-old export ban. The Liberal Democratic Party, under strong pressure from the domestic defense industry, had been demanding that weapons exports to all nations be allowed in principle.

Based on the LDP position, the government initially planned to let firms participate in weapons development and production outside of the joint missile defense project. It also planned to allow sales of equipment deemed purely defensive, including flak jackets and night-vision goggles, to all nations in principle.

But the LDP's coalition partner, New Komeito, which is backed by the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, insisted that arms exports be limited to areas related to missile defense projects with the U.S.

Read the rest...

EU losing chance to keep peace in Korea

In a sensible article, Glyn Ford, British Labour Member of the European Parliament - and one of the few British politicians to care or know much about East Asia - argues that the EU should spend the money required to keep the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO) alive. This is part of the framework negotiated in 1994 under which North Korea suspended operations at its plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor at Yongbyon in return for two replacement light-water reactors and fuel oil to keep the country running in the meantime, plus diplomatic relations with the US and an end to the 50-year-old trade embargo.

The EU has been involved from the beginning, paying in a few million Euros each year. Since the US suspended the deal in 2002 the EU has paid the admin costs. Now there is apparently a threat that this money will be cut off and the deal will die completely, leaving the fearful North Korean administration isolated. I will not attempt to predict the consequences.


EU frittering away influence in Korea

BRUSSELS -- One of the last best hopes for securing a solution to the current crisis on the Korean Peninsula is being killed by U.S. politicking and EU penny- pinching. U.S. neoconservatives are determined to drive North Korea into a corner, while the European Union bickers over "small change"' rather than take the initiative in providing an alternative vision for Northeast Asia. ...

By the summer of 2002 the LWR project was already running nine years late [mainly because the US was waiting for North Korea to collapse, an outcome it preferred to keeping its side of the bargain, as argued here previously - Nick], while the projected costs had more than doubled to around $10 billion. Things were about to get worse.

The October 2002 nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula was triggered when the U.S. claimed that, during a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kang Suk Ju confessed that North Korea was breaking the 1994 Framework Agreement by clandestinely pursuing an alternative highly enriched uranium (HEU) route to nuclear weapons production.

The result was that the U.S. cut off HFO deliveries and LWR construction was suspended, thus leaving the North Koreans no alternative but to reopen their Yongbyon plant, particularly since none of America's other promises had been kept.

It now turns out that the U.S. was on shaky ground. There was neither a transcript of Kang's statement nor any record of the meeting. The North Koreans claim that the vice foreign minister was misinterpreted, and that what he really said was that North Korea had the right to an HEU program -- not that it had such a program.

In Korean the difference is subtle, but rather than ask for clarification the representative of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff in the delegation to Pyongyang led an immediate walkout.

More important than what Kang said is the current status of Pyongyang's HEU program. Pakistan's foreign minister has never denied that A.Q. Khan, the head of Pakistan's nuclear program, provided North Korea with the blueprints for a HEU plant -- a prudent stance in view of the fact that Khan showered the plans on Iran, Libya and others. Khan may have added some sample gas centrifuges.

Yet some voices in the U.S. State Department have become increasingly skeptical of the program's existence. North Korea neither has obtained the aluminum to construct the thousands of gas centrifuges necessary to produce HEU nor -- most tellingly -- does it even have a reliable power station capable of providing enough electricity at constant current for a medium-size city.

However, as a result of the U.S. crying wolf, a cascade of events has threatened regional stability. The inevitable reopening of the Yongbyon plant enabled North Korea to reprocess fuel rods and, according to reports, extract enough weapons-grade plutonium to produce five or six nuclear weapons with the potential to produce another one every few months.

The knock-on effects of a nuclear North Korea threaten to destabilize the whole region. In the meantime, the U.S. has refused to engage in bilateral talks with Pyongyang and, instead, has used China to convene "six-party talks" with North and South Korea, Japan and Russia.

The U.S. administration is tightening the screws with talk of fixing a deadline for concluding the six-party negotiations, even though North Korea would almost certainly accept a new freeze in exchange for a restoration of HFO deliveries. That would prevent the crisis from deteriorating while a comprehensive step-by-step solution is pursued.

As for KEDO, the U.S. seems determined to kill it. The executive board will formally endorse a further year's suspension, but the U.S. has already announced it will not provide any funding for the costs of administration let alone suspension. The U.S. will also make a unilateral declaration that as far as it's concerned the KEDO project is dead.

South Korea and Japan want it to continue, but Japan, under pressure from public opinion, has said it will only fund the suspension costs if someone other than South Korea also makes a contribution.

This leaves the EU. Since the original suspension, the EU has paid the administration costs. Although the European Commission was reluctant to contribute toward suspension costs, the Commission and Parliament during the summer proposed spending 4 million euros.

But self-interest and parsimony are about to put the final nail in KEDO's coffin. In the Council of Ministers, the German Finance Ministry, against the advice of its Foreign Ministry, is saying no to save money. The French have joined because the nuclear industry did not receive the orders it had expected from KEDO.

For the cost of half a dozen London semis, Europe may lose the chance to enhance its status in Northeast Asia while letting the American neocons run amok in global diplomacy.

North Korea is an unlovable regime, but it is changing. The introduction of a market economy two years ago and the recent liberation of industry from state control bode well for those who see North Korea following a Vietnamese-style evolution.

More recent rumors of North Korea wanting to follow Iraq and apply for observer status at the World Trade Organization as well as reports that the Kim Jung Il cult is tailing off with the removal of his portraits from some public buildings all suggest that it is time to augment engagement rather than abandon it. Here Europe should lead rather than follow.

A very informative article. One or two caveats: it would have been more honest to point out the main reason why KEDO was falling apart by 2002, and better still to remind the reader that the US almost started a war on the Korean peninsula in 1994, as I mentioned in my first ever post on this blog. Still, Ford is good on the current diplomatic situation. I wonder if the EU has been warned off supporting KEDO by the US administration, given that they are indeed "determined to kill it" and not without influence in European elites.

It is also far from clear that introduction of a market economy in any conventional sense or liberation of industry from state control are on the agenda. Rather, I would expect North Korea to follow the Japanese state capitalist model of development, partly with its own capital, and partly by continuing to encourage inward investment from South Korea and Japan. If and when North Koreans get rid of the current regime they stand a good chance of being shielded from the worst effects of the WTO and IMF by South Korea, much as West Germany would hardly stand by and allow the economists to push East Germany into the third world after reunification.

Glyn Ford's homepage is here.

Reporters sans frontiers - Asia page

Reporters Without Borders has an excellent website with huge amounts of information. Just since the start of this month, there are five news items relating to China on their Asia page:

7 December 2004

Cyberdissident Ouyang Yi released at the end of his sentence

Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release at the end of his sentence on 4 December of cyberdissident Ouyang Yi, who had been in prison for two years after setting up a pro-democracy website.

But the worldwide press freedom organisation protested that he was now serving a "second sentence", since he is banned from publishing for two years and will be under close police supervision. ...

6 December 2004

Arrest of poet and journalist Shi Tao

Reporters Without Borders condemned the arrest of journalist Shi Tao and urged the EU delegation to the 8 December EU-China summit in the Netherlands to press China's Premier Wen Jiabao to stop unfair arrests of journalists.

The worldwide press freedom organisation also called on the Chinese authorities to release Shi, arrested at his home in Taiyuan in Shanxi province in the north-east on 24 November 2004 for "disclosing confidential government information".

This latest arrest only adds to the relentless pressure suffered by journalists in China, the organisation said. ...

Five resign from editorial board in solidarity with dismissed magazine editor

Five of the six members of the board that provides editorial advice and recommendations to the magazine Tong Zhou Gong Jin ("Solidarity in the same boat") have resigned in protest against editor Xiao Weibin's dismissal on 2 September.

All local political figures known for pro-reform positions, the five announced their resignation on 18 October. Their names disappeared from the magazine's organisation chart in November. They are Ren Zhongyi, the former Communist Party chief in Guangzhou, Wu Nansheng, Zheng Qun, Qi Feng and Yang Yingbin.

Xiao, who had been a member of the magazine's editorial board since its creation in 1988, was fired for publishing an interview with Ren in which he advocated political reforms and criticised the authorities for censoring the print media and Internet. ...

3 December 2004

Reporters Without Borders backs European Coalition appeal not to lift China arms embargo

Open Letter to the European Union from the European Coalition Against the Lifting the EU's Embargo on Weapons Sales to China

Friday 3 December 2004 :

In the lead up to the seventh EU-China Summit on 8 December 2004 in The Hague, our organisations call on the EU to retain the weapons sales embargo on China. An end to the embargo cannot be justified without significant improvement of human rights in China.

We regret that some European Union leaders have seemingly dismissed the repeated concerns of the European Parliament, human rights groups and the citizens of Europe by indicating that they are "ready to give a positive signal to China" with regard to lifting its embargo on weapons sales.

The arms embargo was imposed as a direct response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989 and following the similarly brutal quelling of civil unrest by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet in the same year. The international outrage over the killings and arrests of thousands of students and workers by the PLA prompted the European countries to react with firmness.

Any lifting of the arms embargo would potentially lead to European weapons technology being used to suppress peaceful resistance by the people of Tibet, East Turkistan (now known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region), Inner Mongolia, against Taiwan, or end up in the hands of the North Korean, Burmese and/or Sudanese military, who are privileged recipients of Chinese arms. ...

Reformist journalists and intellectuals punished and censored

Reporters Without Borders has alerted the European delegation to the EU-China summit in the Netherlands on 8 December that China has launched a new crackdown against reformists.

The Propaganda Department blacklisted six renowned political commentators from the state-owned press in November 2004. The authorities have also curbed coverage on the role of intellectuals in the development of China. Journalist Wang Guangze has been sacked under official pressure.

As Prime Minister Wen Jiabao attends the EU-China summit, a new wave of censorship and repression has been unleashed, said the worldwide press freedom organisation.

These sanctions from another age, sidelining liberals from political life, threatened to damage the credibility of reforms instituted by Wen Jibao's government, it said.

Some 25 Chinese journalists and 62 cyberdissidents are currently imprisoned, the organisation pointed out. ...

2 December 2004

Journalist Yu Dongyue reportedly loses his mind after being tortured

Reporters Without Borders called today on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to use the upcoming EU - China Summit to urge the Chinese authorities to free journalist Yu Dongyue after reports that he has gone insane as a result of being tortured in prison.

The worldwide press freedom organisation expressed shock at the news, which came from another Chinese dissident and friend, who said Yu had been tortured and harassed by his guards. "Very lengthy imprisonment of dissidents is a feature of the repression in China and it is vital that this should be raised at the Summit," it said.

"The release last week of journalist and dissident Liu Jingsheng is sadly eclipsed by the plight of Yu, whose situation shows that ill-treatment continues in China's prisons despite the government's efforts to hide its terrible human rights record."

Dissident Lu Decheng, who demonstrated at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, recently told Radio Free Asia after escaping from China that he had visited Yu in prison and that he was "barely recognisable." He had "a totally dull look in his eyes, kept repeating words over and over as if he was chanting a matra. He didn't recognise anyone," Lu said.

"He had a big scar on the right side of his head. A fellow prisoner said Yu had been tied to a electricity pole and left out in the hot sun for several days. He was also kept in solitary confinement for two years and that was what broke him." ...

In the face of such horror, it is hard not to feel powerless. One small practical step is to sign the petition for the release of Huang Qi, here. You may help to save a life.

Huang Qi, tortured in prison

When state security police came to arrest Huang Qi at his home on 3 June 2000, he just had time to send a last e-mail message saying : "Goodbye everyone, the police want to take me away. We've got a long road ahead of us. Thanks to all those helping to further democracy in China."

Huang, founder of the website, waited for nearly three years before finding out he had been sentenced to five years in prison for "subversion" and "incitement to overthrow the government." He was accused of allowing articles about the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre to appear on his website (based in the United States after being banned in China).

Cyber-dissident Huang, worn out by prison interrogators and bad detention conditions, fainted at the first court hearing in February 2001. A Western diplomat who was present said he had a scar on his forehead and had lost a tooth after being beaten by guards. The trial was adjourned when International Olympics Committee officials came to Beijing to look at the city's candidacy to host the 2008 Olympics. Beijing was awarded the Games a few months later.

He is held at the high security prison of Chuan Zhong (near Nanchong, 200 kilometres east of Chengdu). Many blows to the groin have left him impotent and he regularly finds blood in his urine. The police forced him to sleep on the bare floor for a year. He was also kept handcuffed in a dark room for one year.

He told his wife he did not think he would be released at the end of his sentence. He said he was afraid he would "disappear".

Click here to go to the petition

Following Google self-censorship, China censors Google's English News

At the end of September it was widely reported (including here) that Google's Chinese news page did not present items that were blocked by the Chinese authorities. Now it has emerged that China is blocking Google's English news site.

The Epoch Times reports:

The popular online search engine company Google launched its Chinese news service. A few weeks later, China began a massive firewall blockade of English language news, according to Paris-based Reporters without Borders.

“China is censoring Google News to force Internet users to use the Chinese version of the site, which has been purged of the most critical news reports,” Reporters Without Borders said. “By agreeing to launch a news service that excludes publications disliked by the government, Google has let itself be used by Beijing.” ...

There's also a BBC article on this:

... China is believed to extend greater censorship over the net than any other country in the world.

A net police force monitors websites and e-mails, and controls on gateways connecting the country to the global internet are designed to prevent access to critical information.

Popular Chinese portals such as and maintain a close eye on content and delete politically sensitive comments.

And all 110,000 net cafes in the country have to use software to control access to websites considered harmful or subversive. ...

I suspect that North Korea allows much less web access than China, but I suppose the BBC are technically right to say that China censors more: in North Korea it is simply forbidden to connect to the net at all.

Reporters Without Borders' press release is here:

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the action of the Chinese authorities in blocking access to Google's news website, Google News, for the past ten days or so, starting a few weeks after the launch of an expurgated Chinese-language version of Google News.

The press freedom organisation also urged the US company to react by stopping the filtering of its Chinese-language site and opening it to the news banned by Beijing. ...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Japanese schools to indoctrinate children

In two ways, reported in two Japan Times articles. First, patriotism is going to be written into the national curriculum, secondly, a far-right 'historian' has been appointed to the education board of Saitama, a prefecture near Tokyo.
The first article reports remarks by Shinzo Abe:

Shinzo Abe, deputy secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, said Monday that patriotism should be clearly stated in the revised Fundamental Law of Education.

"It is only natural for a person who is brought up in Japan to love the country," he said. "Why can't we write it" into law?

"The spirit in which (Japanese) have held on so lovingly to the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education, which were created when we were occupied by the Allied forces and before we became independent, only proves that we are still under the mind control of the Occupation forces," Abe said, referring to the 1945-1952 U.S.-led Allied Occupation of Japan.

A panel of the LDP and its coalition ally, New Komeito, has been working on ways to refer to patriotism in the education law, stirring public concerns over a possible revival of nationalism, as seen under the nation's military rule before and during World War II.

In June, the panel compiled an interim report that used two alternate expressions to refer to patriotism. One used the phrase "love one's country" and the other used "treasure one's country."

The second article covers the appointment of Takahashi Shiro to the Saitama prefecture board of education.

The Saitama Prefectural Government will nominate to its board of education one of the authors of a controversial history textbook criticized for having a nationalist bias, it was learned Monday.

Shiro Takahashi, a Meisei University professor and former deputy chairman of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, has agreed to take up the post at the request of Saitama Gov. Kiyoshi Ueda.

The governor will make the recommendation to the prefectural assembly Dec. 20.

Takahashi would be the first senior member of the group that penned the contentious textbook to sit on a prefectural education panel, according to group members.

Ueda and Takahashi are acquaintances, and the governor asked the professor to join the panel in October, according to the scholar, who added that he replied that he was willing to accept.

Takahashi was a founding member of the textbook group and was its deputy chairman from 1999 to last month, when he quit because he "would be required to be neutral as a member of an education board," he said.

But Takahashi added that he does not intend to leave the group.

In September, Ueda praised the group's history textbook, calling it a "new exercise that stimulates the education community as a whole."

The textbook, published by Fuso Publishing Co., has been criticized for lacking a reference to "comfort women," and for portraying World War II in the Pacific theater as a war "aimed at liberating other Asian countries."

During the war, Japan used a large number of women, mostly from Korea, as sex slaves for its soldiers.

The textbook passed the education ministry screening in April 2001, adding fuel to a fierce domestic debate on how Japan's history should be portrayed in school texts.

Activists for Japanese-Latin Americans interned in WWII

It has become well known that the US interned many people of Japanese origin during the second world war. It is not so well known that many of these internees were actually citizens of countries in South America, some of whom were deported to Japan. Others were not allowed by their own countries to return after the war. There's an article about it on the Japan Times site, coinciding with the visit to Japan of activists from the US campaigning for compensation and an apology equal to that given to Japanese internees.

Three U.S. activists assisting Japanese-Latin Americans interned during World War II urged Japan and public Thursday to heighten their awareness of the issue and support their quest for more redress from Washington.

Grace Shimizu, a founding member of the California-based Campaign for Justice, said former Japanese-Latin American internees have not received "a proper apology and acknowledgment" from the U.S. government for the violation of their human rights.

Shimizu, a daughter of a former Japanese-Peruvian internee, and two other group members are visiting Japan to boost information about their efforts to help Japanese-Latin Americans living here, and to show a 28-minute documentary featuring a former Japanese-Peruvian internee.

The United States forcibly took 2,264 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry from 13 Central and South American countries to internment camps in the U.S. between 1941 and 1945, according to the group, which was founded in 1996 by former internees and their families.

More than 800 of these internees were deported to Japan during the war in exchange for U.S. prisoners of war taken by Japan, it said. After the war, 900 out of some 1,800 Japanese-Peruvian internees came to Japan and another 300 remained in the U.S., because the Peruvian government refused to let them return, it added.

In 1998, the U.S. government and the Japanese-Latin Americans reached an out-of-court settlement that included compensatory payments of $5,000 per internee and a letter of apology from then U.S. President Bill Clinton.

However, given that Washington decided in 1988 to give $20,000 to each Japanese-American interned during the war, several former internees opted out of the agreement and are calling for equal reparations and the establishment a fund to help educate people about the events.

"We would like to inform the (Japanese) public" about what happened to the Japanese-Latin Americans, Shimizu said.

The group also said it wants to draw more attention to other related forms of discrimination still being exercised in the U.S., including the way Muslims were treated immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"What's really important is also to have dialogue within a society about the issues that are raised here (regarding the internment issue) so that people can see how things in the past are tied to issues of the present day," Shimizu said.

The group said it hopes to win more support for its cause from the international community by expanding grassroots education activities and filing a petition at the Inter-American International Commission on Human Rights, which promotes rights with the Organization of American States

Ukraine, Russia and Asia

"Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire. Russia without Ukraine can still strive for imperial status, but it would then become a predominantly Asian imperial state, more likely to be drawn into debilitating conflicts with aroused Central Asians, who would then be resentful of the loss of their recent independence and would be supported by their fellow islamic states to the south. China would also be likely to oppose any restoration of Russian domination over Central Asia, given its increasing interest in the newly independent states there. However, if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources, as well as its access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state, spanning Europe and Asia."

- Zbigniew Brzezinski, on page 92 of the Grand Chessboard, 1997, a book whose main thesis is that the US "must perpetuate [its] own dominant position for at least a generation and preferably longer" (quoted on backcover), in the world, and therefore on its strategically most important continent, Eurasia, where "it is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges, capable of dominating Eurasia and thus also of challenging America" (p. xiv). Brzezinski was National Security Adviser in the late 1970s and boasted (in an interview with Nouvel Observateur magazine in 1998) that US intervention in Afghanistan at that time had drawn the USSR into an unwinnable war. He found this entirely justifiable, since it undermined the Soviet Union, regardless of the human costs to Afghans, Russians and others (thus displaying the same moral - i.e. immoral - stupidity as supposed leftists who now joyfully chant 'George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam').

All of which is just to say that Brzezinski is an extremely immoral agent, an man who acted to preserve and deepen US global hegemony not despite the suffering caused, but absolutely regardless of it. He is also well-informed, intelligent and generally realistic (he is not a neo-con like Wolfowitz or Perle). So what he says about Ukraine may be worth our attention.

Brzezinski classes Ukraine as a geopolitical pivot (along with Azerbaijan, Turkey, South Korea and Iran). These are "states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location and the consequences of their potentially vulnerable condition for the behaviour of geopolitical players" (p. 41). That is, they are the vital squares on the 'Eurasian chessboard', control over which will improve the position of the only real players, countries like the US, Russia, China, France and Germany, whose 'reach exceeds [their] grasp' (p. 40, quoting Robert Browning).

Brzezinski's thesis makes some sense of the concentrated focus on the Ukrainian election - and subsequent popular revolution - from Russia on one side and the US on the other, with both 'players' making resources available via front organisations like (on the US side) Freedom House. It is worth noting in passing that Russia's involvement on the side of Yanukovitch had them supporting the chosen successor of Kuchma, a politician who had made his country's independence from Russia clear and thereby encouraged independent action among smaller post-Soviet states. Russia was fighting a rearguard action, in other words. The US, on the other hand, is pushing forwards, and with its military bases in Central Asia since late 2001 (after Brzezinski was writing) is leaving Russia with no sphere of influence. (But see this Japan Focus article about the multi-billion dollar China-Iran gas deal for argument that the situation in Central Asia is multipolar - between the US, China, Russia and Iran, I suppose, in order from global to regional players.)

One might wonder if Russia would try to project power in North-East Asia since it is blocked to its west and south. I doubt that it has the ability to do this. Those who still see things, inadvertently, in Cold War terms, should note that, as President Roh of South Korea says, it is China which is sustaining North Korea, wishing to avoid the consequences of its collapse. The most influence Russia has been able to bring to bear on the region is probably in ongoing negotiations over whether a gas pipeline will go to China or to the Russian coast near to Japan. Nonetheless, it is likely that loss of influence in a key state on Russia's west side will have implications for Russia's objectives and policies on its other borders.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Tokyo prosecutes pensioner activist

A retired teacher in Tokyo, Fujita Katsuhisa, is being prosecuted for activism by the city government. He handed out fliers and asked parents at a high-school graduation ceremony not to stand for the national anthem. According to the prosecutors he said: "I ask for your understanding, and if possible, I would like to ask you to stay seated," which makes him sound rather sweet, but to the ultra-right Tokyo administration he is, no doubt, a dangerous radical.

I've written here before (Amnesty asks Japanese gov't not to force anthem or flag on schools) about the sanctions taken against teachers who have the guts not to stand during the national anthem, noting that racist Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro's administration is in the lead in persecuting public servants for acting according to their consciences, as the Japan Times report on Fujita's case confirms:

On Oct. 23 last year, the board of education issued an order requiring metropolitan government-run schools, including schools for disabled people, to display the Hinomaru national flag and to sing "Kimigayo," unofficially translated as "His Majesty's Reign," during enrollment and graduation ceremonies.

The board stipulated that teachers who failed to comply with the order would be subject to penalties, prompting criticism that the move violates freedom of thought and conscience as provided for under the Constitution.

The Japan Times report also mentions that Fujita says he didn't disrupt the graduation ceremony - unless handing out fliers and talking to parents counts, I guess - and his lawyers note that the District Prosecutor's office, which issued the indictment, didn't interview Fujita first, breaking with standard procedure.

Legal cases in Japan run very slowly, so this one is likely to take years, unless pressure can be brought to bear on the Tokyo government so that they drop it. As a service to readers, here's an email address from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government website:

Please forward any comments, suggestions or opinions you may have regarding the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to us at:

If you do email them, please be polite. I very much doubt this address goes directly to Ishihara, and I imagine that anyone working for him has a hard enough time without abuse from activists. The people I've met who work in local government in Japan have all been very helpful. They are motivated by considerations of public service, and the ones who learn English so they can work with non-Japanese speakers are usually enthusiastic internationalists, predictably.

I'll do my best to keep up with developments in the case here.

Kaohsiung Incident - anniversary; documentary

The Kaohsiung Incident's 25th anniversary on 10th December should be marked in the English-speaking world, since it was an important pro-democracy demonstration. Inconveniently, though, what happened was part of a struggle against one of our military dictatorships, rather than a communist regime, so most Europeans and North Americans have never heard of it.

Newspapers and school history books tell us about Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the massacre of the Tiananmen protestors in Beijing on June 4th 1989, but not the '228' massacre in Taiwan on February 28th 1947, in which at least 30,000 people were killed by the US-backed Nationalist forces (an archive of US sources is here), South Korea's Cheju uprising, which started in 1948 and in which mainland forces killed between 30,000 and 80,000 islanders, consolidating the grip on power of US favourite Syngman Rhee, or the April 1960 revolution which finally forced him from power, the massacre at Kwangju in South Korea in May 1980, when perhaps 2000 people died, Venezuela's Caracazo (February 1989) in which some 2000 were killed, riots against British rule in Hong Kong in 1952, '56, '66 and '67, or many others.

On 10th December 1979, police attacked a pro-democracy protest in Kaohsiung (高雄 - the second biggest city in Taiwan, after Taipei) then arrested a number of activists. Since the demonstration was partly organised by Formosa magazine, the Chinese name is Formosa (or 'beautiful island') incident: 美麗島事件.

According to Wikipedia, the incident followed

... the police raid of Formosa Magazine, an illegal publication designed to support the end of Kuomintang monopolization of power in Taiwan. The ROC Government Information Office under the leadership of James Soong hoped to chill opposition voices through heavyhanded methods. The protest disintegrated into a brawl as protesters, police and undercover agents collided. Soong addressed the public in a speech condemning the protesters, labelling one of the leaders, Shih Ming-teh, "King of Bandits."

The incident publicized the oppressive tactics of the government in ruling Taiwan and the trial of eight leaders of the protest allowed a team of lawyers to publicly question the practices of torture used by the KMT to extract confessions. Most defense attorneys and defendants were members of the Chinese Comparative Law Society (中國比較法學會), which is now the Taiwan Law Society (台灣法學會).

One of the accused, Lin Yi-Hsiung, was routinely tortured by police interrogators. Then, on February 28, 1980, while Lin's wife was discussing his case, Lin's mother and twin 7 year old girls were murdered in his home. The event, known as the "Lin Family Murders," remains unsolved.

Today the China Post reports:
The Eastern Multimedia Group... will release a documentary on a bloody crackdown on democracy activists 25 years ago crucial to the creation of Taiwan democracy.

The protest against martial law, known as the "Kaohsiung Incident", is a milestone in Taiwan's modern history — but paradoxically many Taiwanese are not familiar with it.

"We hope that from an objective viewpoint we can help the nation's people understand the real events and give a historic record of the most important event in Taiwan's democratization," said ETTV president Wang Lin-ling.

The protest challenged the harsh one party dictatorship first imposed on the island by the Kuomintang's Chiang Kai-shek after his forces fled from China and Mao Zedong's Communists in 1949.

"The Kaohsiung Incident ... started Taiwan's politics moving from one party rule towards a multiparty (system)

"It was a turning point in the process of Taiwan's democracy with a vast influence," Wang said.

For a long time the clash was shrouded in ignorance as martial law was not lifted until eight years after the event, newspapers for years exercised self-censorship and, until very recently, there were no plans to put it in official school text books.

The crackdown on the protest organized by opposition political leaders and the underground Formosa magazine to commemorate Human Rights Day on the evening of December 10, 1979 saw eight protest leaders jailed for their ideals and a further 33 tried in military courts.

Wang said the protesters experience of fighting for democracy against the odds was a lesson all Taiwanese could learn from.

"It will allow the younger generation to learn from Taiwan's past and deeply reflect on Taiwan's future," Wang said. The crackdown lead to the formation of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party seven years later, with many of the leaders of the historic protest now the nation's political luminaries.

Vice President Annette Lu, who delivered a 20-minute speech at the historical rally, was jailed by the regime until 1985. President Chen Shui-bian, as a young lawyer, also defended leaders in the protest movement.

ETTV played parts of the 100-minute documentary at a press conference yesterday attended by Lu, surrounded by over a score of security guards, and other former protest leaders, including former Democratic Progressive Party chairman, now independent legislative candidate Hsu Hsin-liang, Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen and DPP legislator Chang Chun-hong.

There is apparently an English language version of the documentary, which I'd very much like to see.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

NKZone article - negative impact of North Korea Human Rights Act

I posted this in response to an article on NKZone:

This item implies that viewing the

the North Korean Human Rights Act, recently passed by the Senate, as a violation of Korean sovereignty and "an excuse to invade."
as the DLP [South Korean Democratic Labour Party] does, is somehow incompatible with being in favour of the downfall of the North Korean regime.

But on the contrary, many people who would like to see regime change in North Korea and the chance for non-violent reunification of Korea also want to see a less bellicose approach from the US administration to the problems of the region. Historically, US Human Rights Acts and similar pieces of legislation _have_ been used as excuses to invade other countries, or to infiltrate them using the CIA, so it's not crazy to suppose that one or both of these will be among the consequences this time.

As the article about the DLP [that the NKZone article quoted] says,

"In particular, the DLP took examples of the Iraq Liberation Act and Iran Democracy Act and expressed concern that even within the NKHRA, there was a hidden U.S. intention to invade North Korea. In fact, the U.S. enacted the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998 with the intention of making the Saddam Hussein regime collapse, and five years later, the U.S. carried out its invasion of Iraq."
Something similar seems to be happening now with last December's "Syria Accountability Act" passed almost unanimously in Congress, and partially implemented by Bush on 11th May this year. There's criticism of Bush's imposition of sanctions by the right-wing Cato Institute here and a better piece on the leftist site, Counterpunch, here.

It's only good sense to oppose totalitarian regimes AND to oppose US foreign policy which seems likely - at best - to entrench the power of the dictator, and not unlikely to lead to violent confrontation, given the US's record. There's no inconsistency there, just the humanitarian/leftist principle of putting first the interests of the people likely to be most affected - in this case Koreans and others in the region.

Here's a summary of the Act, which was presented to the US president for his signature yesterday. Section (302) is pretty bizarre. I don't recall anyone saying during the cold war that East German refugees shouldn't be treated as citizens of West Germany if they wanted.

Rep. Lee Yeong-sun (second from right) and other DLP members short slogans protesting the passing of the NKHRA by the U.S. Senate in front of the U.S. embassy on Sejong-no, Thursday morning.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

New cruise missiles for China

Jane's email news service sent me this joyous news today:

China tests new land-attack cruise missile

China has test-fired a new land attack cruise missile (LACM) designated Dong Hai-10 (DH-10), or East China Sea-10, writes Wendell Minnick. A US defence source identified the DH-10 as a ground-launched second-generation LACM with a range of more than 1,500km. He said it is likely to be equipped with an integrated inertial navigation system/Global Positioning System, supplemented by a terrain contour mapping system and digital scene-matching terminal-homing system able to provide a circular error probable (CEP) of 10m. [Jane's Missiles & Rockets - first posted to (You can't read the article on their website unless you subscribe to Jane's - and I'd be amazed - and amused - if anyone reading this blog did.)- 22 September 2004]

See how they've called it the East Sea missile - a nice touch, that, just in case Taiwan can't read between the lines. Also good for Japanese nationalists who would like to rearm. (The Japanese military, for all of its faults, doesn't have missile systems capable of hitting targets in other countries: but there has been some debate about it in the last week...)

Another point to consider is whether this will convince EU leaders who want to lift the arms embargo on China that perhaps there are enough weapons in East Asia already. ... I doubt it too.There was a demonstration on 1st October in Taipei (that is, purposely on China's national day) calling for the EU to keep its sanctions. China already has some 600 missiles aimed at Taiwan, or so Taiwanese sources report. Germany's chancellor Schroeder, the UK's PM Blair, and, particularly, France's president Chirac want to start selling weapons to the Chinese. The US administration is against the lifting of the sanctions.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Discrimination limits Chinese tourism in Japan

An interesting op-ed piece in the Japan Times picks up on a report on NHK TV's Tokuho Shutoken (i.e. 'Capital Newsflash', I think):

Discrimination keeps Chinese tourists at bay


Japan's neglect of its tourism potential could be called a sidelight of its overall self-image. On the international stage, Japan sees itself as culturally impenetrable and overpriced. Moreover, the xenophobia that many people accuse it of fostering has become accepted by the citizens as a national trait, even by those people who object to xenophobia on principle.


Since Japan prides itself on being one of the most powerful economies in the world, it tends to look upon tourism as a secondary industry, or at least not as important as IT, kaigo (nursing care), or other vanguard industries that have received government stimulation. In terms of tourist volume, Japan is 35th in the world (France is No. 1) and ninth in Asia. However, the government not only neglects international tourism, in some sectors it seems to be purposely discouraging it, despite the 3.2 billion yen it has spent on the "Visit Japan" campaign.

The sector that's been most neglected is China. Since 1994, the average annual growth rate in the number of Chinese people traveling abroad has been 14 percent, culminating in 20 million overseas Chinese travelers in 2002 alone. The World Tourism Organization predicts that 100 million Chinese will be going abroad in 2020. Given China's population and economic development, this shouldn't be surprising. What is surprising is that Japan, one of its closest neighbors both geographically and culturally, isn't taking advantage of this.

And the main reason is good old-fashioned institutionalized xenophobia. Most industrialized countries in the world require visas for Chinese tourists, but Japan limits those visas to residents of certain "economic zones." In 2000, the Justice Ministry specified these zones as Beijing, Shanghai and Canton Province. This year, they've added four provinces and one city.

Apparently, the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, which deals with tourism, wanted to add even more zones, but the Justice Ministry and the National Police Agency opposed the plan, saying that there is still a danger of Chinese jumping their group tours and staying in Japan illegally. According to their figures, of the 95,000 tourists who have come to Japan from China since 2000, 362 didn't go back.

Last month, NHK's evening news magazine, "Tokuho Shutoken," looked at Chinese tourism. The show pointed out that Chinese can only obtain tourist visas as members of package tours and that they must produce five documents and a 500,000 yen security deposit when they apply.

However, the restrictions that really matter are those that may take place during the tour itself. The program looked at one tour group of Chinese bankers who were visiting Osaka. The Chinese guide, who lives in Japan, was constantly taking head counts and imploring her charges not to wander. The group was limited to only one store for shopping, and when the members checked into their hotel they had to trade their passports for room keys. There was also a 10 p.m. curfew.

It sounded more like a trip to North Korea, but one should keep in mind that these are the practices of that particular travel agency, not rules laid down by the Japanese government. By focusing on only one tour, NHK was being misleading -- anyone who walks through Ginza these days will certainly run into unsupervised Chinese tourists. The point is that travel agencies who deal with Chinese tourists bear responsibility for anyone who stays behind. According to the program, an agency can have its license suspended or even revoked if tour groups return to China lighter than they were when they left. The government's paranoia may be the source of an agency's Draconian measures, but it's obvious the tour company singled out by NHK doesn't trust Chinese, even when they have money and no logical reason to stay behind.

I removed this paragraph from the text (after the first paragraph above) because it seems only to damage the argument:
In terms of tourism, these qualities can be expressed statistically. According to financial writer Main Koda in the Asahi Shimbun, in 1964, the year that Japan first allowed its citizens to travel abroad, 128,000 Japanese went overseas while 353,000 foreigners visited here. By 1972, the year of the Osaka Expo, these numbers had been reversed, and the gap has increased ever since. In 2003, more than 13 million Japanese traveled abroad, while only about 5 million people visited Japan. This imbalance is translated as a 3.5 trillion yen trade deficit in the area of tourism.
Japan became much richer and much more expensive between 1964 and 1972 - that could account for all of the difference.

Monday, October 04, 2004

"3,000" at Naha rally against US bases

From the Japan Times:

3,000 rally in Okinawa seeking closure of Futenma base

NAHA, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) About 3,000 people staged a rally here Saturday to call for the closure of the nearby U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station following the crash of a helicopter at a university in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, in August.

"We're not looking for lip service, but concrete action -- that is, the return of (the land of) Futenma," said Tokushin Yamauchi, head of the rally organizers, in reference to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's remarks Friday over a plan to relocate U.S. military bases from Okinawa to other parts of Japan.

Koizumi said in a speech in Tokyo that the national government will start efforts to relocate U.S. military bases from heavily burdened Okinawa to other locations in Japan.

Regarding Futenma, Koizumi told reporters after his speech he will continue with the government's plan to relocate the air station's functions to a military-civilian airport to be built off Nago, also in Okinawa.

Participants at the gathering called for the suspension of a seabed drilling survey off Nago that began Sept. 9 in preparation for the offshore facility.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Google China helps Chinese government to censor the web

The excellent independent Chinese news site, The Epoch Times, reveals that

An Internet monitoring group has discovered that the Chinese-language version of The Epoch Times and other independent Chinese news media are not available inside China on the popular search engine Google.

The censorship was discovered by Bill Xia and volunteers at his company, Dynamic Internet Technology.

When asked about the implications of this issue, Xia told The Epoch Times, 'I'm worried that Google is bowing to the pressure from the Chinese government. That's a bad thing. For the users in China, this will reinforce China's media control in creating a fake reality. I call it the China Matrix.' According to Google spokesperson Debbie Frost, the search engine chooses not to display results for sites that are unavailable in China. 'Google has decided that in order to create the best possible search experience for our mainland China users we will not include sites whose content is not accessible, as their inclusion does not provide a good experience for our News users who are looking for information,' she said in a written statement. This explanation worries Xia, who says, 'Even though those websites are themselves blocked, the title and description presented when the search results are returned on Google are very important. It helps Chinese people see that there is something beyond what they are shown by media in China. By blocking that information, it creates an illusion that the whole world is in line with Chinese state-run media.'

An editorial on the Epoch Times goes into the implications:

Josh McHugh in the January 2003 edition of Wired discussed Google's maxim of 'Don't be evil.' This is a pretty good saying, but complicated to carry out, he pointed out, when dealing with, among other things, repressive regimes like China. Many in the U.S., both in government and in the corporate world have the idea that if we do business with a corrupt government, then we'll reform them. It hasn't worked out that way in China. It seems the opposite happens, and the government corrupts you. Yahoo a few years back complied with the PRC's censoring. Cisco equipment forms the backbone of China's Great Firewall. Google had a choice to make when it started its version of Google News for China. It could have displayed all possible news outlets and let the Chinese government make its own choices. Or it could have filtered out sites blocked by the Chinese government. It chose the latter. Google may have thought it was benefiting the user by not showing sites that can't be accessed. But is this true? When you search on Google News, you get a summary of the article. For example, if I search for 'Google news' a number of the results are about the Google 'censoring' issue. From just reading the summaries, you get a sense of what's going on. In China, you don't get that sense, because sites are omitted. Which sites? I asked Google for a list, but was not given them. So in China you get a false sense of reality. Bill Xia of DIT talks about the China Matrix. As in the movie, The Matrix, where people took as real the world presented to them. The official goal for Google News China is 'providing the user with the best search experience possible.' To me, ensuring a 'best search experience' sounds a bit too much like what the Matrix has to offer. What if I'm searching for the truth? Each individual has a choice. Do we want to know the truth or do we want to live in ignorance? Google's decision to censor hinders the ability to make that choice. If Google News would show search results from banned websites then people in China would have an idea that there is something beyond the China Matrix. And then they might try to find the truth

"Don't be evil." It sounds so good, and then someone offers you power and influence... in this case, access to the Chinese market. One more comment: I like the idea of people in the US government and US companies hoping to reform the Chinese government. I'm sure they do hope to do this, but I doubt that most of the reforms they have in mind are the ones Chinese citizens would like...

Anyway, now we have the interesting spectacle of the Chinese government corrupting a US company (or exposing the latent corruption that was there all along) to add to the long history of Western governments and corporations corrupting China. (Anyone remember the East India Company or Jardine and Matheson?) I'm thinking here of pure malevolence like two Opium Wars, the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion, the unequal treaties and forced concession of territory, of course, but also of the presumably unintended consequences of imperial muscle. (One example would be the British anti-piracy drive in the South China Sea in the 1840s which drove pirates inland, making life hell for people living on southern Chinese rivers.)

Anyway, for the moment, I guess our job is to email Google and get them to change policy. If you live in a Western democracy your chances of going to gaol for doing so are just about zero--unlike Chinese cyber-dissidents.

The Chinese government also blocks other informative websites--including this one, perhaps, since it's hosted by blogspot. (See this column from The South China Morning Post, Jan 2003.)

And in North Korea, even computer scientists don't have access to the internet--although Kim Jong Il does, apparently, and is a big fan.

There's more reaction to the Google story, with links, at chinaweb.

Alex Higgins on the Beijing Olympics

Alex Higgins has posted a fantastic article on the human-rights abuses associated with the Beijing Olympics on his Bring on the Revolution blog. As usual, I reproduce the whole thing here because you have to scroll a lot to find it on his blog.
Olympic Spirit The 2004 Athens games ended with some embarassment and controversy, but on the whole the Greek government had succeeded in pulling off the organisation of the games despite the criticisms and fears. In the run up to the Athens' games, there were many alarmed press reports as to whether the organisers would complete the necessary facilities on time, often with a tone of contempt for the Greeks thrown in. Oddly, there is, as yet, much less controversy over the preparations for the 2008 Olympics which are due to be held in Beijing. On its website, the International Olympics Committee gushes excitedly:

"a Beijing Games would leave a unique legacy to China and to sports. The Commission is confident that Beijing could organise an excellent Games".

A link below this reassurance offers us - "Find out more on the election of Beijing". The 'election of Beijing' - now there's an interesting turn of phrase. Human Rights Watch, which has launched a campaign - Olympics Watch - reports on the preparations underway to make China's capital ready:

China’s rapid urban development, fueled in Beijing by preparations for the 2008 Olympics, is leading to the eviction of homeowners and tenants in violation of Chinese law and international standards on the right to housing. In many cities, Chinese local authorities and developers are forcibly evicting hundreds of thousands of homeowners and tenants who have little legal recourse. Evicted residents left with few avenues of redress have increasingly taken to the streets to protest, where they have met police repression.

An earlier HRW report on forcible evictions in Beijing begins with this story:

"At 8:45 on the morning of September 15, 2003, forty-five-year-old farmer Zhu Zhengliang and his wife sat down in Tiananmen Square under the portrait of Mao Zedong. As his wife quietly watched, Zhu doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight. Police stationed in the square rushed to his aid, and Zhu was hospitalized in Beijing with minor burns on his arms and back. According to news reports, Zhu attempted self-immolation to protest his family’s forced eviction from their home in a rural region of Anhui province.'Zhu’s was the most prominent, but by no means the only, attempted suicide to protest forced evictions in China in 2003. In August, a Nanjing city man who returned from a lunch break one day to find his home demolished, set himself afire and burned to death at the office of the municipal demolition and eviction department. In September, resident Wang Baoguang burned himself to death while being forcibly evicted in Beijing. On October 1, China’s National Day, Beijing resident Ye Guoqiang attempted suicide by jumping from Beijing’s Jinshui bridge to protest his forced eviction forconstruction related to the 2008 Beijing Olympics.5 These suicides and attemptedsuicides were the most dramatic in a wave of almost daily protests that swept cities across China from September to December 2003."

In a courageous open letter to the Chinese government, a lawyer and tenants' rights advocate, Xu Yonghai, explained:

"Demolition and eviction has several decades of history in China. In the past, ordinary people longed for demolition and eviction [because they were moved to better homes], but now ordinary people fear demolition and eviction, they hate [it], and even use death and suicide to oppose [it]... This hatred, this opposition to demolition and eviction has really only appeared in the last few years."

The reasons for this change is that many Beijing residents can no longer expect to receive compensation when their homes are demolished and the demolition itself is often a callous and violent process with armed gangs carrying out evictions and bulldozers starting their work before people leave the area. Faster, higher, stronger! as the Olympic motto goes. Xu Yonghai has since been imprisoned for "circulating state secrets" (i.e. faxing the above to a human rights organisation). Oh Lord, these people annoy the hell out of me.Athletes are not the only people who will be working faster, higher, stronger. In the deformed worker's state, as some still like to call it, the workers are forbidden to strike or form independent labour unions:

"Many workers also lack minimal health and safety protections and adequate wages. Many are compelled to work long hours. Some contract workers may not even be paid by factories for the work they have done. 'Because they lack the right to organize independently, Chinese workers also lack effective ways to resolve these problems in the workplace. Many workers who have organized protests and demonstrations to improve conditions or demand compensation for injuries in the workplace, as well as those who have demanded unpaid wages and unpaid pensions and severance pay, have faced severe state repression. The ACFTU [government-approved trade union body] has never spoken out against the laws and regulations routinely used to justify imprisoning independent labor activists." (emphasis added)

HRW adds that international companies involved in the Olympics preparations are "generally required to abide by these conditions" - as if they needed to be forced into screwing their workforce! In reality, many multinational corporations love China precisely because its one-party dictatorship is so good for business.Such criminal conduct by the Chinese government helps to expose the fanciful notion that holding the Olympic games in China will help to usher in a new age of political pluralism for the self-serving guff that it is. In electing Beijing, the IOC has made one of its worst decisions since going ahead with the 1936 Olympics in the Berlin of Hitler's Germany.Dictatorships use international sporting events to give themselves legitimacy and to divert attention from social problems, of which China has many. Furthermore, they are aware of the potential for dissenters to use the international media presence to tell the world what goes on in the country's dark corners and respond by taking pre-emptive measures.In one notorious example, the World Cup in 1978 was held in Argentina, then run by a military junta made up of outright Nazis. In the run-up to the international football tournament, the regime stepped up the imprisonemnt and torture and killed hundreds of people, drugging them, tying them up and dropping them out of aeroplanes into the Rio Grande to ensure the World Cup went smoothly. Argentina's team went on to win the cup - now there's a story to warm the heart.Can we expect a similar crackdown in China faced with democrats, persecuted religious minorities, Tibetans, and hundreds of millions of poor people who have had enough? In China a security crackdown is something that might make even John Ashcroft or David Blunkett blink - as with what Amnesty International described as an "execution frenzy" a few years ago when the regime decided to punish criminal offences such as corruption and prostitution with the enthusiastic use of the death penalty.A woman is led to her execution following a crackdown on crime in 1999 Some human rights groups have got together to produce a set of minimal demands that the Chinese government should be obliged to meet before being permitted to host the Olympic Games. Failing that - and this is likely - we should boycott these games. Occasionally in the West our governments go through the motions of pretending to deplore the Chinese government's human rights record or the occupation of Tibet. More usually, they are fairly open about the fact that they don't care (and that they have written off Tibet). The rest of us need to decide whether we share that view. HRW: "There are many ways that people outside of China can support Chinese rights activists—by writing a letter to the government, using the Internet to help Chinese citizens get around censorship restrictions, or by linking up with other Chinese and international activists to help build the movement." It would be wonderful for China to have the Olympics at some point in the future, but not under the current regime. For more information, see the Olympic Watch website.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Sex discrimination and harassment at a US base

From (yet another) Japan Times article:
A former TV anchorwoman at the U.S. Navy's Yokosuka Base [in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan] has accused the base command of failing to address what she calls a hostile work environment that allows "nonstop harassment and reprisals."

Sharon StephensonPino claims she has been repeatedly retaliated against, demoted and suspended, and was finally forced out of her job earlier this month because of a sexual harassment complaint she filed against her immediate supervisor.

Her complaint is corroborated by another ex-employee:
Others familiar with this case say StephensonPino is not the only victim.

Foremost is her former colleague, Brian Hammond, who claims he was removed for trying to support her. A technical director for "The Yokosuka Report," Hammond said he testified "whenever investigations came" and wrote letters to the base command in efforts to help her.

When one of his affidavits was revealed last October, Hammond said, he was given a letter, signed by the base commander, notifying him that his contract would not be renewed and would end last January.

Like StephensonPino, Hammond said the supervisor had given him an exemplary record, and he had won many navy awards for his work, which included developing a system to upload TV programs on the Web site.

Hammond said he filed an EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] complaint in protest, but it was dismissed by the base's EEO office after only the supervisor and another person he identified were interviewed.

"I am done with this place," Hammond recalls thinking, adding "it would look better on my resume if I quit on my own" instead of being fired.
... read the rest of the article

Takato Nahoko: former hostage, still an aid-worker

Japan Focus has an interesting article about Takato Nahoko, one of the three Japanese people taken hostage in Iraq earlier this year. They were criticised at the time by the Japanese government and media.
Takato talks about her nightmarish ordeal, as well as disclosing details of the diary she has kept since visiting Iraq for the first time, in "Senso to Heiwa: Soredemo Iraku-jin o Kirai ni Narenai'' (War and peace: Even now I can't hate the Iraqi people; Kodansha). [I have corrected the article's translation of the title.]
Since the book was published early last month, Takato and her family have received letters from people apologizing for criticizing her and misunderstanding her good intentions, she says. The senders were, of course, referring to the "personal responsibility'' that the Japanese government demanded from the hostages.
Although Takato says she has always been aware of the need to take responsibility upon entering war zones, she felt that she and the government didn't see eye to eye on exactly what "personal responsibility'' meant. But she intends to repay the government for her ticket from Baghdad to Dubai as soon as her lawyers settle other issues with the Foreign Ministry.

Prime Minister Koizumi has not apologised for his remarks which strongly suggested that he resented the trouble the hostages had put him to. Pretty arrogant for a public servant.

Also of interest are Takato's remarks about her background, not least for the light they shed on life in a fairly average Japanese town:
People still wonder why Takato risked her life to help the street children of Iraq. Quite simply, she saw herself in those children, she said in an interview after the Tokyo news conference. The kids, some as young as elementary school age, smoking cigarettes and inhaling paint thinner from dawn until dusk, reminded her of her own youth.
As a child, Takato was a troublemaker who started smoking at 12, got hooked on paint thinner at 13 and soon afterward tried hashish.
It wasn't until she moved to metropolitan Tokyo to attend university that she began to get an idea of what she wanted to do with her life.
"I used to hate children,'' says Takato, who admits she often risked being stabbed with a butterfly knife when she managed a karaoke joint in Chitose that served as a hangout for juvenile delinquents.
But ever since she set off to India on her first humanitarian mission at age 30 to give herself a break from the day-to-day grind of working at the karaoke club, she has found children in need of compassion and affection everywhere she has visited, including Cambodia, Thailand and Iraq. When she returns to Japan to earn travel expenses, she works at a ramen joint and at a cattle ranch.

Ironically, when she visits her hometown now it exacerbates the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder she is suffering from: "the roar of fighter planes and the sound of cannon fire at the nearby Self-Defense Forces Chitose Air Base, was like reliving the war in Iraq, she says."

Still, she has managed to achieve a lot since her release:
Though she hasn't yet set foot in Iraq again since her release, she returned to Amman, Jordan, for a month from the end of July to aid the Fallujah reconstruction effort. Between her April release and July, the 34-year-old aid worker helped establish the Iraq Hope Network, whose members include numerous Japanese volunteer groups and individuals, who share information and resources to enable more effective support.
With the help of local volunteers and nongovernmental organizations, the three former hostages and their families decided to contribute some of the 8 million yen in donations they received from benevolent Japanese to rebuild a school in Fallujah, she says. Creating jobs, especially for young men, and schools to keep children occupied will help keep them away from militia recruitment and the violent anti-American movement, she explains.

Chinese slave labourers win settlement from Japanese company

The workers were abducted from Henan Province during the Japanese occupation of China. The company, Tokyo-based Nippon Yakin Kogyo Co., forced 200 people to work at their nickel factory, in Kyoto prefecture. 12 died from lack of proper care:
they were forced to work 14-hour days and were beaten if they did not meet their quotas.

Slave laborers there received no wages and were given measly food and only thin blankets, even in winter, according to their claims.
(All quotes from this Japan Times article.)

The company has not apologised but it has now agreed to pay out 21 million yen (only about 158 thousand euros) following a court case brought by "Liu Zonggen, 72, three other former laborers and the family of two deceased men [who] filed the suit in 1998, seeking a total 130 million yen in compensation and an apology from both the [Japanese] government and Nippon Yakin Kogyo."
The Kyoto District Court ruled in January 2003 that the government and Nippon Yakin Kogyo had acted illegally in abducting the plaintiffs to Japan and putting them to work as slave laborers.

But the court rejected the plaintiffs' demand for compensation, saying their right to claim compensation had expired under a 20-year statute of limitations. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling.
In December, the high court recommended a settlement among the three parties. The government refused to enter settlement talks.

What a surprise! Still, it's nice to have some good news.
Supporters of the plaintiffs said they hope the settlement will have a positive influence on other pending legal battles over the responsibility of Japan and Japanese companies over wartime slave labor.
Wednesday's settlement was the second case involving a Japanese company and wartime slave laborers from China. In 2000, major construction firm Kajima Corp. settled its dispute with Chinese people taken to a mine in Akita Prefecture for slave labor during World War II by contributing 500 million yen to a relief fund for the victims.

US public brainwashed but showing signs of sanity

Evidence for intense propaganda bombardment: 52% think the US should keep bases in Japan; 62% think they should keep troops in Korea.

But a there's a fair amount of common sense too:
The public opinion poll also found 51 percent opposed the use of U.S. forces even if North Korea were to invade South Korea. It also showed 61 percent opposed the use of U.S. forces if China were to invade Taiwan. The poll found that 68 percent think it is necessary for the U.S. to win the approval of the U.N. Security Council if it were to consider using military force to destroy North Korea's nuclear capabilities.

From a Japan Times article with the interesting headline: 40% in U.S. say bases unnecessary.

Incidentally, anyone who thinks members of US elites are always more liberal than average Americans needs to explain away figures like these:
According to poll by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 39 percent replied that the United States should not have long-term military bases in Japan, while 52 percent said the U.S. should maintain them.

The figures were similar to a separate poll of U.S. leaders, including senior government officials and lawmakers, as 38 percent of those respondents said long-term U.S. bases are unnecessary, while 56 percent felt otherwise.

Indoctrination to be written into Japanese Law of Education

Patriotism is where the bad guys hide out, I seem to recall. Anyone putting it into an educational curriculum is attempting to corrupt a generation of children. That includes Nariaki Nakayama, Japanese Minister of Education: "a former Finance Ministry official who last served as deputy secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party before being named head of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry in the new Cabinet formed this week". (Quotes are from this Japan Times article.)
Nakayama also said he hopes to submit a bill to revise the Fundamental Law of Education at the next ordinary Diet session, which starts in January.

The 1947 law set the basic foundation for educational policy in postwar Japan. Last year, the Central Council for Education suggested the law be revised to foster patriotism.

Currently, the LDP is discussing how to revise the law with its coalition partner, New Komeito. But they have yet to agree on some points, including whether patriotism should be included as a key component of the law.

But the two parties decided earlier this month to let the education ministry begin drafting the bill on the points the two parties have agreed on, including further equal education opportunities.

Nakayama voiced his support for revisions to promote patriotism. "I think that as we now live in a globalized society, it's necessary to have an image of the Japanese in which (students) can have pride and confidence," he said.

By implication, Nakayama thinks it's preferable to get them to have that image by propaganda rather than trying to make Japan a country which its young people should actually be proud of. And what logical link Nakayama sees between this and 'living in a globalised society', I simply can't imagine.

In case you were wondering what the rather sinisterly-named Central Council for Education is, there's a not very informative page here. As far as I can make out, they are just a bunch of people the Education Ministry pays to provide policy advice. In this case, the ministry should ask for their money back, but they won't, because the advice is exactly what they wanted to hear...

Monday, August 23, 2004

Japan blocks needed immigration

Another good article in the Japan Times about Japan's unpleasant attitude towards immigrants.
...Asian countries are interested in sending nurses and nursing-care workers to Japan. Thailand is hoping for the employment of Thai-style masseuses, cooks and baby sitters; the Philippines is looking for baby-sitting jobs.

Japanese policies regarding foreign workers are based on the ninth basic plan for employment measures, endorsed by the Cabinet in August 1999. These policies call for the employment of more foreign workers with professional knowledge and skills but recommend caution regarding the introduction of unskilled workers. However, most of the illegal workers in Japan, totaling more than 200,000, are engaged in construction work and other manual labor, showing a glaring gap between policy guidelines and reality.

Foreign graduates of local nursing schools are allowed to undergo four years of on-the-job training in Japan, but only permanent residents may sit for national examinations to become licensed nurses. Only a limited number of foreign nurses work in Japan. Caregivers and masseuses may not work here legally. Japan has no plans to allow the employment of foreign baby sitters.

Yet, taking into account the progress in FTA negotiations, the government's council on comprehensive regulatory reform recommended in its third report published last December that foreigners be allowed to sit for national examinations for licensed nurses. The report also said licensed foreign nurses should be permitted to work anywhere in Japan for an extended period, and that consideration should be given to employing foreign caregivers and masseuses.

The recommendations stirred opposition from groups in those and related professions as well as from some members of the governing Liberal Democratic Party. Basic policies on economic and fiscal management and structural reform, adopted by the Cabinet in June, said vaguely that the introduction of foreign nurses and caregivers should be considered from an "overall viewpoint," leaving the issue to future FTA negotiations.

According to a 1996 health ministry survey, only 73 percent of public hospitals and 43 percent of private hospitals in Japan had sufficient nursing staff, indicating a chronic shortage of nurses. ...
There are a few complications that the article doesn't note. Japanese women are often forced out of work when they marry or simply because they have reached their mid to late twenties. I'm not suggesting that Japanese women should become nurses, of course: the point is that the Japanese workforce could be expanded by introducing real legislation against sexual discrimination so that women who want to work--in whatever job--could do so.
A second complication is that arguably Japan should not take nurses from poor countries like the Philippines. Ironically its racist immigration policy has stopped it from contributing to the drain of key workers away from poorer countries, in contrast to the US, the UK and other European counties.
One final point: there are a lot of young Filipino women in Japan, and women from other parts of Asia, working illegally as bar girls and prostitutes in (I suspect) most parts of Japan, including small remote rural towns. This couldn't happen on such a large scale without cooperation with the gangsters involved from the police and some parts of government, so the restrictions on legal immigration are at best hypocrisy. It's not inconceivable that the current situation is deliberately maintained. It suits Japanese elites fine to deny labour rights, residency and citizenship to these women while using them to keep the huge Japanese sex industry running with less impact on Japanese people.
A report from a US governmental body recently caused mock outrage in Japan (and Singapore) by naming them as countries which do little about human trafficking.