Sunday, October 30, 2005

News; mothballs

Regular readers - if there are any - will have been disappointed at the lack of updates and annoyed by the proliferation of spam comments. I have tightened things up so that spurious comments are harder to post and I'll gradually remove the ones that are already here.

As for new posts, I can't promise. I'm trying to get my PhD thesis written, so updates will be infrequent at best. If you use rss, please subscribe to my rss or atom feed so you will see when I do manage a new post without having to check back at the website.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Taiwan, China and maps

Time magazine recently printed a map with Taiwan and China in the same colour, prompting protest from the Taiwanese government, according to an article from The Age, collected on Asia Media. National Geographical has done the same in the past and printed a correction.

It's not so long since maps in Taiwan showed Taiwan, China and Mongolia as one country, with a capital city at Nanjing and Beijing still labelled Peping, I think.

Eric Hobsbawm on US hegemony

There's only one part which mentions East Asia, in the first paragraph:

Three continuities link the global US of the cold war era with the attempt to assert world supremacy since 2001. The first is its position of international domination, outside the sphere of influence of communist regimes during the cold war, globally since the collapse of the USSR. This hegemony no longer rests on the sheer size of the US economy. Large though this is, it has declined since 1945 and its relative decline continues. It is no longer the giant of global manufacturing. The centre of the industrialised world is rapidly shifting to the eastern half of Asia. Unlike older imperialist countries, and unlike most other developed industrial countries, the US has ceased to be a net exporter of capital, or indeed the largest player in the international game of buying up or establishing firms in other countries, and the financial strength of the state rests on the continued willingness of others, mostly Asians, to maintain an otherwise intolerable fiscal deficit.


Read the complete article on ZNet (originally in The Guardian)

I agree with this, and with pretty much everything in the rest of the article, although I would go for a less certain tone on the current and future workings of the global economy (but then, I'm not a Marxist).

There's a biographical article on Hobsbawm, also at the Guardian, from 2002.

he still believes that asking Marxist questions is the way to understand the world - to tackle the big questions, to fit things together into a pattern , "even if it may not be the right pattern". He adds: "I used to believe you could predict the direction in which history goes. But contingency is clearly more important than we used to allow."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Cyber War in East Asia

There is a cyber war in East Asia, according to the Japan Times:

If comments on bulletin boards were bullets and hacking attacks real skirmishes then East Asia would probably be a war zone now.

Mirroring offline diplomatic clashes, Internet users in Japan, China and Korea have been posting verbal assaults and hackers launching determined cyber-attacks.

Internet technology has also been at the core of recent frictions over textbook and territorial disputes.

In China, mobile phones and the Internet were used to organize protests against Japanese diplomatic missions and businesses. In Korea, citizens debated the row through blogs and bulletin-boards. In Japan, irate netizens reacted with sometimes jingoistic attacks on their country's neighbors.

As tensions peaked this Spring, numerous sites in Japan were targeted by hackers -- presumed to be based in China and Korea. Government ministries, universities, local authorities and the national police agency Web site were affected.

Yasukuni Shrine posted a notice on its Web site reporting that as many as 15,000 DOS (denial of service) attacks a second had been launched against its home page. The shrine described them as "a base act . . . terrorism that is a fundamental negation of Internet law and order."

Despite some reports of counter-attacks by Japanese hackers, it seems that Japan generally came off the worse in the cyber skirmishes.

Until recently Japan's digital security has been weak, says Naoki Miyagi of the National Information Security Center, a 26 strong department set up this April.


The Chinese government was also caught out by changing Internet technology.

During domestic protests against Japanese diplomatic missions and businesses organizers employed text messages, blogs, Web sites and online messaging systems.

"If it wasn't for the Internet then such large and widespread demonstrations wouldn't have taken place," says Qi Jing Ying, a researcher into the Chinese Internet at the University of Tokyo.

Chinese Internet users have become increasing adept at breaching the so-called Great Firewall of China.

"My friends and teachers in China can use proxy servers instead to access banned sites," says Qi Jing Ying. Denied many other democratic freedoms, the Chinese have thrown themselves into political debate on the Internet, she says.

Qi contrasts the tone of the Chinese Internet to that in Japan, where the content of bulletin boards like the popular 2 Channel is often dismissed as trivial.

"Even Chinese foreign office officials and political leaders look at Chinese political Web sites. I doubt that Koizumi is watching 2 Channel."

Meanwhile, in South Korea the Internet has hosted public reaction to the territorial and textbooks disputes.

South Korea has the highest broadband penetration rate in the world. Sites like the popular Daum Web portal and its bulletin boards are a venue for debate and protest.


Hacking attacks on Japan and other countries are well publicized in Korea. During a previous Japanese textbook controversy in 2001, three South Korean high school students going by the nom-de-net "anti-Japan" attacked the server of the rightwing revisionist "tsukurukai" textbook association, disabling it for several days.


Read the complete article

The most interesting thing here for me is the differences between young people in the three countries: in South Korea, generally high levels of activism and high technical literacy; in China, a small proportion of mainly young people getting around the government's restrictions; in Japan, complacency.

What the article ays about young Koreans fits well with what Charles Armstrong says on OhmyNews about changing attitudes in Korea (I quoted a different part of this article in my previous post here):

In a country that had been almost unique in its overwhelmingly pro-American popular opinion a generation earlier, statistics reflected a sharp change of attitude. For example, a poll by the Joongang Ilbo newspaper, taken in December 2002, revealed that 36.4 percent of South Koreans viewed the U.S. unfavorably, only 13 percent favorably, and 50 percent were neutral. Within these statistics, there were striking differences according to age: only among those in the over-50 age group did the majority express a favorable opinion. Furthermore, 62 percent of South Koreans in their 20s and 72 percent in their 30s wanted to restructure the U.S.-ROK alliance to make it more equal; only 21 percent of those in their 60s agreed with this.

Again, there is more going on here than simply the general rise of "anti-Americanism." Several factors contribute to this changing Korean attitude toward the U.S., 60 years after liberation from Japanese colonialism. First, there has been a generational change, with the rise to power of the "386" generation (Koreans in their 30s, who entered university in the 1980s and were born in the 1960s), who had come of age in the era of democratic protest, a time when criticism of the authoritarian ROK governments, and of the Americans who had backed them, went hand-in-hand. With the rise of this generation came the decline in influence of the conservative and reflexively pro-U.S. political establishment that had dominated South Korean politics since liberation. While the current conservative opposition is by no means insignificant, it seems unlikely that a simplistic "pro-Americanism" will ever return as the dominant mode in South Korea.

Second, there has been the growth of a vocal and critical civil society, and with it a re-examination of historical events and memories both by the government and various non-governmental organizations. Historical investigation commissions have been formed to examine various aspects of the Japanese colonial period, as well as events in which the U.S. played a direct or indirect role: the Gwangju Massacre of 1980, the bloody suppression of the Jeju Island uprising in April 1948, missing persons from the period of military rule, and so on, inspired in part by similar such commissions formed in the post-authoritarian states of South Africa, Argentina, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere.

Significantly, investigators are probing not only the role of the U.S., but also of the former ROK government and citizens. Citizens' activism and participatory democracy have become part of the political landscape and everyday vocabulary of today's South Korea, with the explosive growth of NGOs, many quite critical of U.S. policy. The organization of such groups and activities has been greatly facilitated by the use of the Internet, in which South Korea ranks among the highest in the world, and the concomitant rise of what Koreans call "Netizens."

Third, with the relative decline of South Koreans' sense of affinity with the U.S., there has been a strong turn toward Asia, especially China but also, in complex ways, Japan. China has replaced the U.S. as South Korea's largest trading partner; more Korean students now study in China than in America; South Korean popular culture has become all the rage in Japan, China, and Southeast Asia, while Japanese culture -- long banned by the South Korean government -- has taken off in Korea. On the other hand, the current dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima, as well as the controversy over the Japanese textbook issue and war memories more generally, reflect underlying differences between Korea and Japan that need to be resolved before relations between the two countries can become stable and friendly over the long term. And yet, despite these tensions, Koreans have increasingly warmed to the idea of an East Asian free trade area, and even a European Union-style economic and political community, although these may be only be a distant dream at this point.

Armstrong and others on S. Korea-US split

There have been more replies and replies to replies on North Korea Zone.

I probably should have quoted the last two paragraphs of an article 'South Korea and the US 60 years on' by Charles Armstrong on the superb OhmyNews, since they say part of what I was trying to say better than I did:

South Korean views of North Korea have changed markedly in recent years, and stand in striking contrast to the hardline policy of the Bush administration. While there are many differences within South Korea about how to deal with the North, there is a growing consensus that North-South cooperation is beneficial to both sides, that gradual reunification is preferable to sudden collapse and absorption of North Korea by the ROK, that the North Korean threat can be managed, and that it is better to change North Korea's undesirable behavior by persuasion rather than by coercion. Such views in broad form are shared across much of the political spectrum in South Korea, including the conservative Grand National Party, led by Park Geun Hye, daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee. The Bush Administration approaches North Korea very differently, creating a deep unease among many in South Korea.

One hears that Korea is the last outpost of the cold war, but that may be true only for Americans. For a growing number of South Koreans, their cold war -- a North-South conflict that began in the aftermath of colonial liberation and destroyed the universal hope for a peaceful, independent and unified post-colonial Korea -- is already over. Sixty years marks the end of a life cycle in East Asian tradition, a time for reflection, re-evaluation, and recognition that things can never be the same. Koreans have already begun this process; it remains for outsiders, Americans in particular, to recognize that a new cycle is underway.

And from the far-right, another voice in agreement:

"This meeting [between Roh and Bush in Washington last Friday] is a short-term-issue kind of thing because there isn't a lot of consideration of President Roh within the Bush administration as a serious alliance partner," says Doug Bandow, a Korean expert at the Cato Institute in Washington. "The problem there is that long term, things in South Korea are trending against America," he adds, referring to growing public suspicions of US foreign-policy goals.

From a Christian Science Monitor article, whose writer seems to agree too--

...South Korean suspicions of a militaristic and unilateralist US foreign policy - fears that color both the South's approach to the North, and its perception of regional issues.

At a luncheon this week with the commander of US forces in Korea, Roh said, "The successful democracy, market economy, and peace and prosperity in South Korea are all based on the alliance between South Korea and the United States." But he also thanked the US military for understanding what he said had been "unavoidable changes" in the US-Korean alliance.

Gi-Wook Shin, an expert in Northeast Asian issues at the Stanford Institute for International Studies, says South Koreans' concerns about US "arrogance" color how the South views two factors: China's emergence as an economic and security power, and Japan's higher profile in security issues. "Many South Koreans are favorable" to a rising China, "but they are concerned about Japan expanding its security role by working more closely with the US," he says.

Experts also say South Koreans increasingly feel a sense of "entrapment" from a close association with US foreign policy. "The US used to fear it could be trapped into a war [on the Korean peninsula]," says Richard Bush, an Asian expert at the Brookings Institution. "Now it's the South Koreans who fear they could get entrapped in a conflict they don't want" - either with the North, or someday with China over Taiwan.

One more piece of supporting evidence for my argument: a Korea Herald article from last week shows how the South Korean government has to struggle to tone down the US's military plans:

Defense minister rules out U.S. pre-emptive strikes

Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said yesterday the United States will not initiate preemptive strikes against North Korea at this time and in any case a consensus between Seoul and Washington is a precondition to any military action.


"A preemptive strike or a military action is out of the question at this stage. ...Countries around the world have tendencies to consider and establish operational plans, but the CONPLAN 8022 does not exist,: as far as he knows, Yoon said on local CBS radio.

He was referring to reports about a plan, known as CONPLAN 8022-02, that reportedly directs the military to assume and maintain readiness to attack hostile countries that are developing weapons of mass destruction, specifically Iran and North Korea.

"The United States used to send weapons and personnel to allies to train on terrain as part of rotation," Yoon said.

His comments came as Pyongyang hinted it might come back to the six-party talks, though it did not set a specific date.

South Korean officials, including President Roh Moo-hyun, have often made clear opposition to a possible U.S. pre-emptive strike on North Korea in the event of failure of the multilateral talks, noting there would be heavy casualties on the peninsula.

Referring to his decision with Rumsfeld not to include specific military measures in a plan for emergencies in the communist North, Yoon said the driving force is for research, not for execution.

In 2004, Washington proposed developing the joint contingency plan further, but Seoul rejected this, saying it would undermine the Korean government's sovereignty and complicate the North Korean situation.

Instead, Seoul proposed in April to Washington that the two allies supplement or develop a conceptual plan only, without going into specifics.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Microsoft joins Google and Yahoo in failing to avoid evil in China

From a BBC article:

Microsoft censors Chinese blogs

Chinese bloggers posting their thoughts via Microsoft's net service face restrictions on what they can write.

Weblog entries on some parts of Microsoft's MSN site in China using words such as "freedom", "democracy" and "demonstration" are being blocked.

Chinese bloggers already face strict controls and must register their online journal with Chinese authorities.

Microsoft said the company abided by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates.

Banned words

The censorship is thought to have been introduced as a concession to the Chinese government.

Also being restricted on the free parts of the site are journal entries that mention "human rights" and "Taiwan independence".

Those using these banned words or writing entries that are pornographic or contain sensitive information get a pop-up warning that reads: "This message contains a banned expression, please delete this expression."


China recently introduced stringent regulations that require all blog owners to register their web journal with the state by 30 June.

The regulations require the writer of a blog to identify themselves to the authorities.

According to Reporters Without Borders, China is using a system called Night Crawler to patrol web journals and make sure that only registered blogs are published. Unregistered blogs will be shut down.

"Following Yahoo, here is a second American internet giant giving way to the Chinese authorities and agreeing to self-censorship", said the group in a statement.

"The lack of ethics on the part of these companies is extremely worrying. Their management frequently justifies collaboration with Chinese censorship by saying that all they are doing is obeying local legislation."

"We believe that this argument does not hold water and that these multinationals must respect certain basic ethical principles, in whatever country they are operating."


Read the complete article

See the complete briefings from Reporters without Borders:

Microsoft censors its blog tool

Authorities declare war on unregistered websites and blogs

From the former:

The Chinese authorities are trying to impose self-censorship on all search engines and blog tools that that wish to operate on its territory. Yahoo !, which was the first, agreed to remove all "subversive" news and information from its search results. Despite repeated requests from Reporters Without Borders, the company's management always declined to discuss the issue.

Google, which has so far refused to censor its search engine, now looks likely to follow in the footsteps of its competitor. When the company announced it was opening an office in China, Reporters Without Borders wrote to its two founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, asking them to respond clearly to the question : "Would you agree to censorship of your search engine if Beijing asked you to". Google never replied.

Reporters Without Borders also wrote, on December 2003, to the CEO and founder of Microsoft, Steven A.Ballmer and Bill Gates, to bring to their attention their freedom of expression responsibilities, particularly in a country like China. This appeal, like the others, went unanswered.

So Google doesn't censor Blogger/Blogspot in China yet, but it does censor Google News, as I reported last September:

Google China helps Chinese government to censor the web

This left the way open for the Chinese authorities to block Google's English news site:

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

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Kim Jong-il 'America's Poster Boy of Evil'

From the Digital Chosunilbo:

Kim Jong-il 'America's Poster Boy of Evil'

The International Herald Tribune reported Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has displaced former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as the No.1 bad guy in U.S. pop culture, including movies, TV, video games and magazines.

Puppet Kim Jong-il

... In the puppet film “Team America: World Police”, Kim shoots his translator in the head and then feeds UN weapons inspector Hans Blix to sharks. In a recent edition of the magazine “Parade”, Kim topped the list of the world’s 10 worst dictators. In the family film “The Pacifier”, Vin Diesel is a U.S. Navy Seal who watches over five kids while taking on the couple next door, who just happen to be North Korean spies.

Besides Kim, North Korea and its nuclear facilities feature as favorite targets for destruction by the good guys. In a video game by LucasArts, players can blow up a building with red Korean letters that read, “Yeongbyeon Nuclear Material Reprocessing.” The IHT said that while the U.S. government has vowed it will not attack North Korea, psychologists point out that by designating Kim Jong-il as “evil”, U.S. President George W. Bush has given the green light to the demonization of North Korean leaders.

Even the IHT can see it...

Korean woman run over and killed by US tank

Bush wins this week's prize for disgusting insincerity:

From a Hankooki Times article


"We send our deepest sympathies to the woman’s families. And, (President Roh), I just want you to know our heart -- our hearts are sad as a result of this incident," Bush said.

A 51-year-old woman surnamed Kim was hit and killed by a U.S. military 2.5-ton truck in Tongduchon, north of Seoul, Friday afternoon.

The quick responses from the U.S. to the tragic death is obviously designed to smoothly pass the third anniversary of the death of two schoolgirls run over by a U.S. armored vehicle, which falls today, observers say. [Shim Mi-son and Shin Hyo-sun, junior high school girls, on their way to a birthday party when they were run over.]

Hundreds of civic group members held candlelight vigils in Kwanghwamun, central Seoul on Saturday and Sunday to mark the death of the two schoolgirls. The protestors demanded that the U.S. troops withdraw from the Korean Peninsula.

The accident taking the two schoolgirls’ lives in June 2002 caused massive anti-American protests across the nation, following the U.S. court-martial’s decision to acquit two G.I.s who drove the armored vehicle.

Read the complete article

Note that the Hankooki -- at least in its English edition -- uses the ridiculous term 'anti-american', picked up from the US press, for demonstrations demanding withdrawal of US troops and a proper trial. Why not 'pro-justice' or 'pro-independence'?

Uneasy alliance

An AP picture from the Washington Post:

Korean protestors as Bush and Roh

South Korean protesters perform as they wear masks of U.S. President George W. Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun during an anti-US rally in front of U.S. Embassy in Seoul, Friday, June 10, 2005. (Lee Jin-man - AP)

You can see how difficult it is to be president of South Korea in this Taipei Times story:

President George W. Bush and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun pressed North Korea to rejoin deadlocked talks on its nuclear weapons program and tried to minimize their own differences over how hard to push the reclusive communist regime.

"South Korea and the United States share the same goal, and that is a Korean peninsula without a nuclear weapon," Bush said with Roh at his side in the Oval Office.

Roh, whose government has resisted the tougher approach advocated by the Bush administration toward ending the impasse, said he agreed that six-nation talks remain the best way to persuade Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

While Bush emphasized that the two allies "are of one voice" on the issue, Roh, who is presiding over a South Korea newly assertive about its role in the region, raised the issue of remaining differences.

"There are, admittedly, many people who worry about potential discord or cacophony between the two powers of the alliance," he said through a translator.

Roh opposes military action if diplomacy with North Korea fails. South Korea also is cool to the idea of taking the North Korean standoff to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. South Korea instead is pursuing a policy of engagement with the communist North and supports a security guarantee or economic incentives to entice North Korea to return to six-nation talks it has boycotted for nearly a year.

Bush, however, wants South Korea -- as well as China -- to take a more aggressive stance. The president said Friday he had no new inducements for North Korea beyond those offered last June, when the North was told it could get economic and diplomatic benefits once it had verifiably disarmed. Anything else, in the US view, would amount to a reward for nuclear blackmail.

While insisting the US has no intention of launching a military strike, Bush also has steadfastly refused to take that option off the table. And the administration is increasingly hinting it is closer to pursuing UN sanctions.


With a unified stand the goal of the Bush-Roh meeting, diplomatic language ruled the day.

Bush said five times that Seoul and Washington either "share the same goal" or are speaking with "one voice." Roh said that the "one or two minor issues" between the longtime allies could be worked out "very smoothly."

The South Korean indicated he and Bush were on the same page on "the basic principles."

Bush administration officials have recently aimed harsh rhetoric at Pyongyang, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying North Korea is "a living hell" for all but its elite and Vice President Dick Cheney calling North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "one of the world's most irresponsible leaders."

Washington believes the North should be feared, not trusted, as a potential supplier of dangerous weapons worldwide.

There are skirmishes over the 50-year-old US military presence in South Korea, due to fall by a quarter to about 24,500 troops.

The two countries also just signed an agreement for Seoul to shoulder less of the cost of US military personnel on its soil.

In April, South Korea vetoed plans to grant American command of forces on the Korean Peninsula if the North's government falls.

None of those issues came up publicly.

"How do you feel, Mr. President? Wouldn't you agree that the alliance is strong?" Roh said at the end of his opening statement, apparently startling his host.

"I would say the alliance is very strong, Mr. President," Bush quickly replied.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon noted that Bush had reiterated that the US has no intention of invading Pyongyang. He urged North Korea to respond by giving up its nuclear weapons, which he said would be "a wise decision."

Right wing critics of Roh's policy towards North Korea accuse him of appeasement, but the real appeasement here is aimed at the US. South Korea can defend itself against the North since it has much better technology to counter North Korea's huge army (although there is no defence against nuclear weapons, of course), and would probably reunite with the North through gradual detente if tensions were lower, but like all other countries it can't afford to upset the US too much. So Roh would probably like to get US troops out of Korea -- and that would be very popular, according to opinion polls -- but he is making the strategic decision that what you call a 500 kg gorilla is 'Sir'.

Congressional Resolution on North Korean Abductees

There's a post on North Korea Zone about this. As usual, their stance seems very gung-ho to me. The North Korean regime is an abomination, but so is US foreign policy, and a new Korean war would be still worse. So I posted a comment. The original post, by OneFreeKorea:

The full text is here. Several observations:

1. It's hard to argue that abducting citizens of a nation with which you're at peace for political reasons isn't terrorism. Congress is clearly sending a signal that North Korea doesn't come off the terrorism list until it releases these abductees.

2. The United States is talking about South Korean abductees and Japanese abductees. Japan is talking about Japanese abductees. South Korea is not talking about South Korean abductees.

3. It is not a coincidence that this is introduced the same week that Roh Moo-Hyun is in town. Although it isn't binding, it's still an extraordinary statement of congressional displeasure with South Korea's policies toward the North.

Thanks to the North Korea Freedom Coalition for Forwarding.

I replied:

On the points made in the original post:

1) Terrorism is "the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature. This is done through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear" (from a US army manual), so while it is evil and illegal, North Korea's kidnapping is probably not terrorism, since it was not done to achieve goals through fear or intimidation of the rest of the populace. North Korea employs massive state terror against its own citizens, but doesn't usually terrorize inhabitants of other countries. (At least, no worse than most other nations, and considerably less than the really heavily armed ones.)

The list of terrorist states maintained by the US Congress is notoriously politically biased: most of those on it deserve to be, but lots of US clients and allies are left off, unjustifiably.

2) The South Korean administration is -- rightly -- afraid of US violence or diplomatic heavy-handedness on the Korean peninsula causing massive destruction with casualties in the hundreds of thousands or millions. It also fears a sudden collapse of the Northern regime, again, with good reason. This explains, although it may not justify, the Southern government's reluctance to upset the Northern government.

It's a bit like being a bystander to a drunken argument: if you care about the parties involved and the neighbourhood, you don't do anything to make either side mad enough to start throwing punches. I'm sure the South Korean government is as appalled by the horrors of the North as anyone else, but they are in the unenviable position of having to calm the Northern regime down every time the US threatens something stupid. If the US administration would back off a bit, the Southern government would have some space to criticise the North. As things are, they must perceive doing that as too big a risk.

3. Here I agree. Congress has certain elements who want to be gung-ho about North Korea, don't care about Koreans and see the South Koreans as disobedient pip-squeaks who must be put in their place. It shows the usual contempt for democracy from US elite figures. (Compare it with Donald Rumsfeld's remarks on Turkey's parliament's decision to respect 90% of Turkish people's views and not to join in the assault on Iraq, for example.)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Amnesty: Tragedy of Tiananmen remains alive

As Amnesty International said yesterday, there has of course been no inquiry into the June 1989 Beijing massacre; an unknown number of activists from those times are still in prison and people are still being given harsh sentences for discussing the events.

On the eve of the 16th anniversary of the crackdown on the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing, Amnesty International calls for justice for those who lost their lives on June 3-4, who remain in prison since then for their involvement in these tragic events, and who have subsequently been imprisoned for their calls for a reassessment of the events of 1989.

"Tiananmen clearly remains very much alive today for the Chinese public and the demands by Chinese citizens for justice continue," said Amnesty International.

"We reiterate call on the Chinese government to conduct an independent inquiry into the killing of unarmed students and demonstrators. Those found responsible should be tried and brought to justice. We also call on the government to release all those who are still imprisoned in connection with the Tiananmen crackdown and who never received fair trials."

The government must stop new arrests and harsh treatment of individuals who express their views and share information on the internet and elsewhere regarding Tiananmen.


Numerous Chinese citizens have been detained and imprisoned for such activities. To name only a few:

• Shi Tao: a writer and journalist, was sentenced on April 30, 2005 to 10 years imprisonment for providing an overseas Web site with an official document alerting journalists to possible social instability around the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. He was charged with "illegally revealing state secrets abroad."

• Kong Youping, a former trade union activist was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in September 2004 after he had posted articles and poems on the internet calling for a reassessment of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

• Huang Qi, was sentenced in 2003 to 5 years imprisonment for hosting an online discussion forum on Tiananmen and human rights abuses by the Chinese government.

The Tiananmen Mothers (set up by Ding Zilin after her son was killed in Beijing on June 4, 1989) have never ceased to call for an independent review of the events of 1989 or to seek justice for the 126 relatives whose loved ones were killed, despite persistent harassment and intimidation including periodic detention and house arrest by the authorities in an effort to prevent them from exercising their legal rights.


The fact that international opinion still considers the events of 1989 and China's human rights record today of relevance was recently demonstrated in the EU's decision in May of this year not to lift its embargo on arms sales to China. EU ministers specifically pointed to the need for the release of individuals still held in prison for their involvement in Tiananmen, along with other improvements in human rights such as reform of the Chinese system of detention without trial known as 'Re-education through Labour'.

Moreover, as Chinese premier Wen Jiabao himself stated in New Delhi on 12 April 2005, "only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history and wins over the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibilities in the international community."

Read the complete press release

I think it is a bit dangerous for Amnesty to use the EU's continuing arms embargo as a gauge of continuing international concern. The Chinese government will be able to claim that the international community no longer cares if the EU ends the embargo -- as I fear it soon will.

Whoever wrote the press release is implicitly accusing Wen Jiabao of hypocrisy because the remark they quote in the last paragraph was about Japan. It is darkly amusing how well it applies to China.

Thirty to forty thousand demonstrate in Hong Kong

crowd with candles in Hong KongThere are reports all over the web, but mostly duplicates of the same AP story, except for the BBC.


The AP story on the CTV site:

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters raised candles in the air and sang solemn songs Saturday as they marked the 16th anniversary of China's bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations.

In Beijing, however, security was tight and there were no signs of public commemorations on the giant square, where the 1989 student-led protests ended when soldiers and tanks attacked, killing hundreds of people.

China's Communist party has eased many of the social controls that spurred the Tiananmen protests, but the government still crushes protests against the event -- or any activity that it worries might threaten its monopoly on power.


"My heart is heavy," said Shum Ming, 58, a construction worker. "Hong Kong people will not forget this history when a government uses guns and tanks to crush students. It's very atrocious.''

Protester Henry Ho, 19, a Hong Kong University student, said: "If the Chinese government can say what happened that night and can say that they're sorry, it can show that they are not the same government from the past.''

Many feel a duty to speak out because they have freedoms of speech and assembly that don't exist on the mainland. Hong Kong is ruled under a "one country, two systems'' formula that promises the city a wide-degree of autonomy.

Banners and signs said: Don't Forget June 4, Democracy Fighters Live Forever, and Using History As Proof.

Vigil organizer Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance, said, "Our slogan is `Recognize history' and we're asking Beijing to do just that.''

But Donald Tsang, the front-runner campaigning to become Hong Kong's next leader, urged the public on Saturday to be rational about the event, saying China has made great strides in improving its economy and people's livelihood.

"I had shared Hong Kong people's passion and impetus when the June 4 incident happened. But after 16 years, I've seen our country's impressive economic and social development,'' Tsang said. "My feelings have become calmer.''

Mine haven't. For some reason it doesn't seem to help me to calm down when I see Hong Kong's future leader say that a massacre is OK if it is followed by economic growth.

Here are some pictures:

demonstrators with candles

crowd of demonstrators with candles

man holding his head

replica of statue of democracy

I imagine that there must have been smaller demonstrations around the world, but I can't find any reports online. I know there were some demonstrations at the Chinese embassy in London because I was there this afternoon. I'll post pictures and a brief report here and on UK Indymedia once they are ready.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Global vigil on June 3rd for victims of Beijing massacre

Alex Higgins emails:

There is a global vigil for the victims of the 1989 Beijing massacre tomorrow. To take part, wherever in the world you are, all you need to do is put a candle in some safe and visible place in your house at 8pm tomorrow (June 3rd) (perhaps with a poster in the window to explain or something - just a handwritten slogan will do, or maybe print something off the Internet) - marking the sixteenth anniversary of the beginning of the killing. This, hopefully, will be happening all over the world - but not enough people know about it!

It has been organised by Olympic Watch, which scrutinises workers' rights and human rights in the context of the Olympic Games, which will be held in Beijing in 2008. Below are some more details and something I wrote last year for the fifteenth anniversary of the massacre. Please take part and tell others - it costs you almost nothing and takes very little time!

Cheers, Alex H

Global Vigil for the victims of the Beijing Massacre of 1989

June 3rd is the 16th anniversary of the beginning of the massacre that raged over the next couple of days in Beijing in 1989, when the People's Liberation Army (as it is called with grim irony) drove the students and protestors from all over China out of Tiananmen Square and killed people by the hundred in the backstreets of the city - the regime's final answer to the growing campaign for democracy, reform, human rights and economic justice.

Petr Kutilek, the Executive Secretary of the excellent Olympic Watch (click to visit! Do it!) wrote to tell me of the Global Tiananmen Vigil which we can all participate in. It's a simple gesture - at 8pm (wherever you are in the world) on June 3rd, please put a candle in some place where it is visible and won't burn your house down, to remember the thousands killed and as a sign for hope for the future. Tiananmen Vigil's website states:

"We hope to create a rolling light of hope around the world, expressing our solidarity for the oppressed people in China." Tell other people about it - there are two days left!

People around the world will be going to their local Chinese embassy or consulate on Saturday to demonstrate. Alex, Jui Chu and I will be at the one in London (UK).

Here's what I posted last year about the massacre (mainly borrowed from Alex, again).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Anger, not pity, is best response to poverty

The title comes from an excellent article in the Japan Times by Philip Brasor about poverty and its representation in the media:

Anger, not pity, is best response to poverty

In his new book, "Planet of Slums," the American urban historian Mike Davis paints a bleak picture of a world in which the poorest have become so marginalized that they have dropped off the economic radar. Over the past 20 years or so, globalization and the neoliberal policies of the International Monetary Fund have conspired to drive peasants subsisting off their land into cities that can't absorb them. The bottom line is something like a billion people living hand-to-mouth on a daily basis.


Well-meaning media accounts of abject poverty often avoid source problems altogether. Fuji TV has been broadcasting an annual special for the past three years called "If the World Were a Village of 100 People," which is the title of a popular children's book that attempts to make the Earth's 6.2 billion people more comprehensible by reducing their various lifestyles to that of a village of 100 residents.

This year's special was broadcast two weeks ago. A group of celebrities sitting in a studio watched reports about four children in stunned amazement. In the first, a 12-year-old Filipino girl supports her ill mother and two younger brothers by sifting through mountains of garbage for recyclables in the outskirts of Manila. The family lives in a makeshift hovel and once every three days eats a meal of watery rice gruel. The girl makes about 30 yen a day, part of which she has to spend on medicine for her mother.

The girl's situation is appalling, but the celebrities limit their comments to tearful commiserations and clueless questions. "Why doesn't she look for work somewhere else?" asks a former boxer, as if it were all a matter of personal choice, but in any case the program makes no attempt to explain the socioeconomic circumstances that keeps this family where it is.


Exploiting poor kids for the sake of greater awareness of their plight is not a bad thing in and of itself, but Fuji TV's purpose is to evoke pity, which has no lasting effect since it doesn't make people think about the cause of the problem. The emotion that needs to be stimulated is anger.


Read the complete article

Japanese TV is not greatly worse in this respect than TV in Western Europe, I think, although there is a genre of brain-dead reportage in Japan which is less common elsewhere: the 'wide show'. Short reports are presented within the framing device of celebrities watching those reports, so you get five minutes of (shallow) reportage followed by five minutes of celebrities telling you what they think about it. Predicably the comments made are often as irritatingly lacking in comprehension as the boxer's "Why doesn't she look for work somewhere else?"

For those interested in Japanese TV -- and I warn you that it is even less interesting than I have managed to describe it as here -- there's a pretty good article in the Chicago Tribune which mentions wide shows:

According to an article in the Hollywood Reporter, the Japanese watch the most television -- an average of five hours a day, which far outpaces Americans, in second place at a paltry 4 hours and 19 minutes.


A staple of Japanese television is the chat show, known here as a "wide show" for the wide variety of topics they cover. However, these consist almost exclusively of sensationalistic crime stories and recipes.

Hosts and panelists convene informally to talk, interview special guests and per-form silly stunts. To accentuate that homey feeling, a tall glass of iced tea is placed in front of each guest. But it's not cool to really take a sip. That would be rude.

The granddaddy of these programs is "The Wide." It's my favorite because I was once interviewed for a segment on a horrific school murder. But I was videotaped at my office. I didn't get a glass of tea.

Are war criminals still war criminals if the trial was unsound?

The Japan Times reports that:

Masahiro Morioka, parliamentary secretary for health, labor and welfare, said Thursday that Class-A war criminals convicted by the Tokyo War Crimes trial after World War II are not criminals because the tribunal was "one-sided."

Japanese government leaders have said that Morioka's position does not represent the government, saying that Tokyo has accepted the results of the tribunal.

Morioka is on the right wing of the ruling LDP, which puts him very close to the unpleasant militaristic, racist elements in Japanese political life, and his comments should be understood as the insult to other Asian countries that they were probably intended as. (See the Japan Times report for the reaction of the Chinese authorities, who never sound so reasonable or representative as when right-wing Japanese politicians give them this kind of chance.)
Having said that, the trials were undoubtedly not as carefully conducted as they should have been, nor did they have a wide enough remit.

one of the judges [in the Tokyo war crimes trials], Radhabinod Pal of India, issued a blistering dissent, attacking the Tokyo trial as an instrument of U.S. political power and argued that neither war crimes or conspiracy had been proven.

Pal condemned the court's decision not to allow the defendants to bring evidence about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and compared then president Harry Truman's use of nuclear weapons to Germany's atrocities in World War I and II.

"If any indiscriminate destruction of civilian life and property is still illegitimate in warfare, then, in the Pacific war, this decision to use the atom bomb is the only near approach to the directives of the German emperor during the first world war and of the Nazi leaders during the second world war," he wrote. "Nothing like this could be traced to the credit of the present accused."

(from a rather odd article on the Asia America site)

Japanese jingoists like Morioka tend to agree with Pal (for all the wrong reasons, no doubt). A criticism they would not make is equally important. Many people who may have committed war crimes were never brought to trial, from the emperor (a political decision by the US administration) to low-ranking soldiers, as documented for example by Michael Goodwin, in his excellent book 'Shobun: A Forgotten War Crime in the Pacific' about the shobun ('disposal') policy of summary execution for captured airmen -- "by beheading, gunshot and even poisoning."

So the trials of the leaders in Tokyo were largely show trials: carried out by the US authorities for their effect on Japanese and US public opinion. But that doesn't mean that those convicted were not guilty: most of them undoubtedly were. In particular those who were cabinet members during the war were obviously culpable.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Amnesty report 2004: Japan mistreated refugees; executed prisoners in secret

After a few days of fairly concerted local activity helping to promote and make placards for a demonstration against the massacres in Uzbekistan, it's back to normal here: drawing attention to the misdeeds of East Asian governments and giving exposure to activism there.

For some reason the criminal behaviour of the Japanese government always riles me most. I suppose that although I hate what the Chinese authorities do I can see why they stamp out dissent. With the Japanese elites it seems so gratuitous: why does the second-richest country in the world insist on treating so many people with such contempt? And why are the people that they treat worst almost always among the most obviously deserving of consideration and aid? -- Korean-Japanese pensioners, Vietnamese refugees, the families of mentally ill prisoners and so on and on.

What triggered my rant is the publication of Amnesty International's report for 2004 (confusingly called the 2005 report). The summary of the part about Japan is here. There's a brief Japan Times article with some of the allegations here.

I intend to cover what the report has to say about other East Asian countries -- much worse in the case of China and North Korea, of course -- in future posts.

For now, though, here are some pieces of the report on Japan:


Two men were executed in 2004 in secret by hanging. At least 61 prisoners remained on death row. Refugee recognition procedures failed to meet international standards. The issue of reparations for forced sexual slavery during World War II remained unresolved.



Japan executed two death row inmates in September. Both executions – by hanging – were carried out in secret. The prisoners were informed only a few hours before the execution and their families and lawyers were told after the executions had taken place. The executions were carried out while parliament was in recess in an attempt to avoid public debate or criticism.

• Mamoru Takuma, who murdered eight schoolchildren in Osaka in 2001, was executed with unusual speed, less than a year after his death sentence had been finalized. He was reported to have a history of mental illness.

Death row inmates were kept in solitary confinement and communication with the outside world was very restricted. At least 25 prisoners whose sentences have been finalized have spent more than 10 years on death row awaiting execution. Ten per cent of death row inmates were reportedly victims of miscarriages of justice.

• In August the Tokyo High Court rejected a request for retrial by Hakamada Iwao, who had spent over 38 years in detention and always protested his innocence.


The crackdown on illegal immigrants was strengthened after the government announced its security policy at the end of 2003. Businesses reportedly employing undocumented migrants were raided. The government also manipulated fear of “terrorism” to facilitate the forcible repatriation of thousands of foreign workers.

This crackdown was followed by an amendment to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law which raised the maximum fine for undocumented migrants and extended the maximum re-entry ban on deported foreigners from 5 to 10 years.

The new law scrapped the requirement that refugees apply for refugee status within 60 days of arrival. However, concerns regarding the detention of asylum-seekers remained. Mentally ill asylum-seekers continued to be detained without appropriate medical care and reports of suicide attempts continued. Some asylum-seekers were detained and thereby separated from their children. Several people were detained for years and were suddenly forcibly repatriated while their appeals were still pending. In 2004, of 426 people who applied for refugee status, only 15 were granted asylum.

• In February, the Tokyo District Court upheld the decision to reject refugee status for a gay Iranian man known as Shayda, despite numerous reports of homosexuals being executed in Iran. Shayda was recognized as a refugee by the UN refugee agency UNHCR in 2001. The Tokyo Court acknowledged that under Iran’s Islamic penal law, those accused of same-sex acts face punishment, including the death penalty. However, the Court stated that Shayda could live in Iran safely as long as he did not “overtly” engage in such activities and that a person could find ways to avoid persecution. Shayda’s application for refugee status was rejected in 2000, and he was then detained for 19 months for overstaying his visa.

• In November, a Vietnamese woman was forcibly repatriated to Viet Nam even though her husband (a refugee) and baby remained in Japan.

In August Japanese officials, assisted by the Turkish police, visited Turkey to investigate the families of those seeking asylum in Japan. Such investigations exposed asylum-seekers and their families to increased danger as information regarding individual applications was given to Turkish authorities.


The issue of reparations for former “comfort women” – women forced into sexual slavery during World War II – remained unresolved. In February, Tokyo’s High Court rejected compensation claims by seven Taiwanese former “comfort women”. The women claimed that they were victims of systematic sexual abuse by the Japanese Imperial Army and suffered discrimination after the war. They had demanded compensation and an official apology from the Japanese government. There were originally nine plaintiffs, but two died during the case.

In May Japan enacted a law against domestic violence providing protection not only to spouses but also to former spouses and children. The law allowed courts to order perpetrators from their homes and to stay away from spouses, former spouses and children.

In the whole report only two good results: "The new law [on immigration] scrapped the requirement that refugees apply for refugee status within 60 days of arrival", plus the law on domestic violence mentioned in the last paragraph. On the other hand, it's good news that so many people are continuing to struggle.

Uzbekistan demo pics on Indymedia

If you would like to see how our demo went last Saturday, please click here for the report on UK Indymedia. (Many thanks to Tim Jones for getting soaked taking the pictures and being understanding and responsible about obscuring faces. The photo below is one of his, published here under CopyLeft -- see below for details.)

uzbek demo

As I wrote to a friend: The demo was pretty good. I met several really nice Uzbeks and their friends from all over the place. We were videoed by two different but equally creepy KGB types -- one with the Uzbek embassy, the other apparently a sort of freelance and just a kid, really. Craig Murray was there and seemed pleasant, although I didn't spend much time talking to him. Most of the time I was trying to block the cameramen from filming the Uzbeks.

An organisation for Uzbeks and their supporters in the UK is in the offing. I'll post details here once we have a website.

The photo in this post is 'CopyLeft'. This means you are free to copy and distribute it under the following license:

Copyright ©2005 Tim D Jones

Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute copies of these photographs, in any medium, for personal and not-for-profit purposes, provided that this copyright notice and permission notice are preserved, and that the distributor grants the recipient permission for further redistribution as permitted by this notice.

Modified versions may not be made.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Demonstration this Saturday in London

Not a news item, but a call to action (if you happen to be in or near London -- the one in the UK, that is).

Demonstrate against the Uzbek massacres

- London, 12 noon, Saturday 21st May 2005

Assemble at the Uzbek Embassy, 41 Holland Park Road, London W11 3RP. Nearest tubes: Holland Park (Central Line) / Notting Hill Gate (Central/District Line).

*Support Uzbekistan's democratic opposition.

*Demand justice for the hundreds murdered by Karimov in Andizhan this week.

*Call for an end to Western support for this brutal regime.

This demonstration has been called by a group of UK-based Uzbek dissidents, and is supported by Craig Murray, Britain's former Ambassador to Uzbekistan, and anti-war activists.

Confirmed attending:

*Craig Murray, Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan until last year when he was sacked for denouncing torture in Uzbek jails.

*Johann Hari, columnist for the Independent who wrote this week about the connections between the massacre and the 'war on terror'

Last Friday hundreds of people were killed in Andijan in Uzbekistan while peacefully demonstrating. A further 200 were killed the following day in nearby Pakhtahbad.

Uzbekistan is one of the world's worst human rights abusers, with torture regularly used against political opponents of the dictator, Islam Karimov. It is also an ally of the US and UK in the 'war on terror': the US has a military base there and Karimov has received many high-level Bush administration officials in recent years, including Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks, and has visited Bush in the US. (See this page for details.)

Bush and Karimov smiling and shaking hands

Associated Press reported on Wednesday:

an AP reporter and other journalists witnessed troops opening fire on the crowd at Andijan's central square.

[Opposition politician Nigara] Khidoyatova said 542 people were killed in Andijan on Friday and another 203 people died in Pakhtabad, about 30 kilometers to the northeast, on Saturday.

"Soldiers were roaming the streets and shooting at innocent civilians," Khidoyatova said. "Many victims were shot in the back of the head."

In Pakhtabad, virtually all the victims were women and children apparently trying to flee violence by crossing into neighboring Kyrgyzstan, Khidoyatova said. Others gave similar accounts."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Korean minister responsible for investigating 1980s atrocities resigns because implicated in 1980s atrocities

I'm still catching up with news stories from the last week or so.

The Korea Herald reported on 5th May that:

Vice Defense Minister Yoo Hyo-il has resigned amid controversy over his alleged role in the brutal military crackdown on the 1980 Gwangju civic uprising.


Civic groups called on Yoo to resign raising allegations about his role in the so-called Gwangju massacre and military operations against pro-democracy activists in the 1980s.

Yoo was a battalion commander of the 20th infantry division, which was sent to Gwangju to suppress the armed civilian revolt against a military coup by major general Chun Doo-hwan, who later became president.

The government estimates more than 200 civilians were killed during the uprising. Unofficial figures put the death toll at more than 2,000.

Yoo is also alleged to have engaged in the Chun government's forceful conscription of leaders of student activism from 1981-83. An estimated 11,000 students were forced to serve in the military and suffered torture and other forms of abuse.

Yoo's past is particularly problematic because:

Yoo heads the [defence] ministry's fact-finding panel mandated to look into military wrongdoings and suspicious deaths under past authoritarian governments.

He made the decision [to resign] after [President] Roh [Moo-hyun] last Thursday urged the ministry to make more efforts to shed light on the military's wrongdoing.

Read the complete article

Uzbek protests; Russian gas

Some important news stories I wanted to find time to comment on (but didn't):

Out of my area, the BBC reports protests in Uzbekistan, broken up by the police, of course.

'Russia plays down fears it will deprive Japan of oil' -- from the Japan Times.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Chinese administration tries to prevent May protests

From another Japan Times article:

(Kyodo) Police guarded streets, parks and other potential protest hot spots in Shanghai and Beijing on Sunday to head off any further anti-Japan protests after demonstrations last month led to vandalism and a diplomatic rift.

In Beijing, about 200 police officers stood guard at the Hailong Building, a starting point for the April 9 protests that drew upward of 10,000 people and culminated in vandalism to Japanese diplomatic property as well as three Japanese-style restaurants.

About 1,000 Shanghai police officers weathered a downpour to guard the Japanese Consulate, where on April 16 windows were broken with rocks and other projectiles by some of the 20,000 demonstrators who marched there.

I think there may well be protests on May 4th anyway.

This 4th May is the 86th anniversary of the original May 4th Movement, when

"over 3000 students of Peking University and other schools gathered together in front of Tiananmen and held a demonstration. They shouted out such slogans as "Struggle for the sovereignty externally, get rid of the national traitors at home", "Do away with the 'Twenty-One Demands'" [of the Japanese government], "Don't sign the Versailles Treaty". They demanded with one voice to punish such figures as Cao Rulin, Zhang Zongxiang, and Lu Zongyu, who held important posts as diplomats. The enraged students even burnt Cao Rulin's house. The government of the Northern Warlords suppressed the demonstration and arrested many students. ...

"The May Fourth Movement marked the beginning of the New Democratic Revolution in China. It also served as a intellectual turning point in China. It was the seminal event that radicalized Chinese intellectual thought. Previously Western style liberal democracy had a degree of traction amongst Chinese intellectuals. However the Versailles Treaty was viewed as a betrayal." [because of the concessions offered to Japanese imperialism] (from Wikipedia).

Ayako Ishigaki - Communist and feminist

There's a review in the Japan Times of the memoirs of Ayako Ishigaki -- Restless Wave: My Life in Two Worlds -- Communist and feminist activist in Japan and the US in the first half of the twentieth century.


First among the incidents that would jar her out of her complacency were the rice riots of 1918. Ishigaki's wealthy aunt felt that it would be better if the hungry "would request things quietly" rather than throwing stones and kicking in the doors of rice warehouses. "In our house," this aunt complained, "we always contribute to charity and are kind to the people, but still an increasing number of them return evil for good." Ishigaki, who had earlier described her placid family life as "a quiet world, like the mirrored surface of an ancient pool; without motion, without flow, reflecting the clear blue sky," experienced, while listening to her aunt, "the faintly ominous feeling one has . . . when in a corner of the sky the rain clouds boil up suddenly and everything is dark."

It was probably this new awareness that lead her, a year later, to enter Jiyu Gakuen. Although Jiyu Gakuen was the most progressive Japanese high school of its time, Ishigaki was soon disillusioned with the mushy liberalism it offered. "It was the purpose of Jiyu Gakuen to produce women rich in interests, intelligent and cultured," she explains. "Any serious consideration of what to do about the social setup was left to other people." As this was unsatisfactory to Ishigaki, she soon embarked on the radical activism that would fill much of her life.

Ishigaki's activism, however, made things uncomfortable for her in Japan. She became involved with Japan's Farmer-Labor Party (banned by the government three hours after it was founded) and, thanks to that affiliation, spent a night in jail. One imagines that it was the threat of further persecution that made joining relatives in the United States seem like a good idea.

In America her activism continued, most notably in Japanese immigrant communities. Ishigaki was an opponent of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and the increasing militarism that followed. One sees her trying desperately to believe that the Japanese immigrants she worked among "wanted to defend their motherland from being trampled upon and ruined by the militarists," and one shares her heartbreak when she realizes, observing the response to a speech from a visiting militarist, that "these honest, quiet, working people were engulfed in war spirit." She comforts herself with the notion that they were only "for the moment carried away." That they were so easily carried away, however, suggests that their distaste for the war had never run very deep.

"Restless Wave" was written in English and published in 1940. To demonstrate how unfortunate the situation then was, Ishigaki concludes her book with a chapter made up largely of entries from a notebook that had fallen into her hands, the diary of a Japanese soldier in China. Ishigaki reports that when she read the diary, she felt that her "heart was being gouged out and tortured." One understands, and remembers, that before things got better they got worse.


Read the complete article

Japan - China argument: a summary

Hugh Cortazzi, a retired British diplomat, ambassador to Japan in the early '80s, has a sensible article summarizing British comment on recent 'anti-Japanese' demonstrations in China. In typical diplomatic fashion, his comments are not necessarily his own views but introduced with locutions such as 'commentators have suggested that', 'it is probable that' etc.. Comments in square brackets are my own.

On Japan:

1) PM Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Jinja are provocative

2) Koizumi has effectively repeated Murayama's 1995 apology for Japan's war crimes.

3) The fuss is over approved textbooks, but approval of a textbook does not make its use compulsory, merely allows it.

4) "regardless of what a few rightwing nationalists such as Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara may say, Japanese public opinion, even if incensed by anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, remains basically pacific and that the chances of a revival of extreme nationalism and militarism in Japan are remote."

On China:

1) "The general impression is that the recent anti-Japanese demonstrations in a number of Chinese cities were at least condoned, if not actively encouraged and planned, by the party, which could have stopped them if it had wanted to do so"

2) "the demonstrations may have developed rather further than the authorities wished and that reining back the demonstrations was not quite as easy as expected"

3) "Some commentators have even suggested that the demonstrations were allowed to develop as far as they did because Beijing saw them as a way of allowing activists to let off steam in a way that was not directly harmful to the party"

4) "It is also probable that the Chinese authorities wanted to make it clear both within and outside China that they were opposed to a permanent Japanese membership on the U.N. Security Council, which countries such as Britain now firmly support" [as do the US -- of course -- and France].

5) "China's officially approved textbooks tend to play up Japanese atrocities during the war. The textbooks also fail to note the huge changes in Japanese society since the war's end and the pacific nature of the Japanese Constitution and of public opinion." [In fact the textbooks in use in China seem to be as grotesque and distorted as one would expect in an authoritarian one-party state. Japan's education system is an ideological battleground; in China the battle was lost long ago.]

6) "One aim of the anti-Japanese demonstrations is thought to have been to warn the Japanese government to keep off what the Chinese regard as their turf, namely the Senkaku islands and gas reserves in the area."

On possible consequences:

1) "Attention has rightly been focused on economic relations between Japan and China. The Chinese economy, as well as Japanese firms, have greatly benefited from Japanese investment in productive activities in China. Chinese threats to boycott Japanese-made products could well backfire and anti-Japanese strikes in Japanese-owned factories could damage Chinese exports and the Chinese economy."

His final section, on what should happen next, may be close to the views of the British foreign office:

From a London perspective, it is important that Japanese leaders try to avoid being provocative toward China. In particular, Koizumi would be wise to refrain from further official visits to Yasukuni Shrine, and the Ministry of Education and Science should look long and hard at textbooks that play down the behavior of the Japanese Imperial armed forces.

Indeed, there is a strong case for ending the way in which history textbooks are "officially approved" by the ministry. In many other democratic countries, there is no system of censorship and vetting of textbooks. Although this is not in fact the case, the present system tends to suggest that Japanese textbooks are centrally compiled. None of these suggestions, however, means that Japan should condone damage caused by anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. Nor should the Japanese be intimidated from pressing their case for permanent membership on the Security Council or from continuing to cooperate with the Americans in relation to Taiwan.

There is no need for Japan to send troops to the Senkaku islands, as Ishihara apparently advocates. A modus vivendi needs to be sought through bilateral talks between China and Japan. If this fails, outside arbitration might be considered. The relationship between China and Japan in the Far East is too important to be neglected or overlooked by any of us.

Friday, April 29, 2005

China's ties with Iran and Israel

Two more snippets from Jane's:

China issue undermines US-Israeli defence ties

Tensions between the US and Israel over Israeli defence exports to China remain unresolved, despite recent visits by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz to Washington.

No doubt Israel's arms exports to China annoy the US administration -- although they could stop them tomorrow if they wanted, just by threatening to cut US aid and arms exports to Israel. I imagine that China's links with Iran annoy the US adminstration more. Among other reasons, they make it close to certain that China would veto any UN Security Council resolution calling for armed intervention against Iran's nuclear programme.

China, Iran forge closer ties

China and Iran have forged an increasingly close relationship in the last few years, to the extent that they did US$7 billion worth of business in 2004. John Hill examines the international implications of the burgeoning relationship between Beijing and Tehran.

Defence Development Advisory Commission established to reform Korean armed forces

Another story from Jane's:

RoK establishes advisory body

The Republic of Korea (RoK) has established a Defence Development Advisory Commission (DDAC) under President Roh Moo-hyun to simultaneously promote armed forces reform and expand civilian influence over the military.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Japan to buy Hostile Artillery LOcator (HALO) systems from BAE

Here's a sample of the kind of news you get if you sign up for Jane's Defence email briefings. It's annoying that you can't read the whole story without a paid subscription.

Japan seeks further HALO systems

Japan's Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) is looking to buy 15 more BAE Systems Hostile Artillery LOcator (HALO) systems after successfully completing the evaluation of a single system, originally ordered in 2002.

It seems that HALO is a "battlefield-wide system for collecting acoustic signals from many types of source and combining the data in a number of ways [including but not limited to] for computing the position of guns, mortars and shell bursts on the battlefield"

See the manufacturers' sites: Roke, BAE

Monday, April 25, 2005

"Sub wreck could reveal Japanese peace offer"

I missed this interesting story when it appeared in The Guardian last week:

Sub wreck could reveal Japanese peace offer

An American Vietnam veteran could be about to answer one of the most intriguing questions arising from the second world war: was Japan preparing to seek peace with the allies more than a year before the war ended?

Paul Tidwell, a shipwreck salvager, said yesterday he believes wreckage of a Japanese submarine sunk by US warplanes in the Atlantic on June 23 1944 could contain a peace proposal from Tokyo that never made it into the hands of its intended recipient.


Read the complete article

He has been down there twice before and found opium, apparently.

Worst Japanese rail crash in 40 years

The latest news I have is this AP report:

A packed commuter train that was behind schedule and may have been speeding jumped the tracks Monday and hurtled into an apartment complex, killing 57 people and injuring 440 in Japan's worst rail accident in 40 years.


Read the complete article

This has been headline news all over the world, and I have nothing to add, except to collect some photographs:

Friday, April 22, 2005

Japanese group urges commitment to non-proliferation

From a Japan Times article:

Scientists, academics urge major nuclear powers to dispose of weapons

A seven-member group of Japanese scientists and academics has urged the world's five major nuclear powers to stick to a global treaty on nuclear nonproliferation and work toward the complete abolition of nuclear arms.

The Committee of Seven for World Peace Appeal, which includes Nobel physics prize laureate Masatoshi Koshiba, also urged the Japanese government to again examine the situation regarding nuclear weapons and appeal for peace as the only country to have suffered atomic bombings.

Their two statements were issued Wednesday ahead of the Review Conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in New York in May and in light of the 60th anniversary this year of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Read the rest.

Yongbyon reactor shutdown reported

It could be that North Korea is harvesting plutonium for nuclear weapons from the fuel rods. Or it could be that they want the US adminstration to think that. Or perhaps there's a technical fault. Or...

Previously, a shutdown at Yongbyon has tended to damage NK-US relations, because of the first possibility.

Yongbyon reactor from the air

Yongbyon reactor

Reuters report.

Discussion on North Korea Zone (I should say that I am really glad that some of these people don't run US foreign policy. On the other hand, some of the comments are interesting).

Amnesty urges South Korean legislators to abolish death penalty

A Special Bill on Abolishing the Death Penalty is currently before the Legislation and Judiciary Committee (LJC) in the 17th National Assembly. Details are from a press release from Amnesty International:

In December 2004, 175 members of the National Assembly (which consists of 299 members in total) from the ruling and opposition parties proposed the Special Bill to abolish the death penalty on humanitarian and religious grounds. The Special Bill was introduced in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in February 2005. Amnesty International welcomes the large bipartisan support for the Special Bill by the National Assembly members and sees this as reflecting the resolve of the 17th National Assembly members towards abolishing the death penalty in South Korea.


A majority of the countries in the world, 120, have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. Since 1990 over 40 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, all countries except South Korea, Japan, the United States of America (USA) and Mexico have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Mexico has abolished the death penalty for all ordinary crimes.

Since its independence in 1948, at least 900 people have been executed in South Korea, most of them by hanging. The last executions in South Korea took place in December 1997 when 23 people (18 men and five women) were executed at short notice. There has been an unofficial moratorium on executions since President Kim Dae-jung (who was himself sentenced to death in 1980) took office in February 1998. However, at least six people were sentenced to death in South Korea in 2004 and at least 60 prisoners remain under sentence of death at the end of the year.

In November 2001, 155 members of the last National Assembly (which consisted of a total of 273 members) supported a bill calling for the abolition of the death penalty. Despite this support which constituted over 56 percent of the National Assembly members, there was no progress in the status of the bill; it appears to have been stalled in the LJC of the last National Assembly.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

China suppresses Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch published a report, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

According to the accompanying press release,

The Chinese government is directing a crushing campaign of religious repression against China’s Muslim Uighurs in the name of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism...

The 114-page report, Devastating Blows: Religious Repression of Uighurs in Xinjiang, is based on previously undisclosed Communist Party and government documents, as well as local regulations, official newspaper accounts, and interviews conducted in Xinjiang. It unveils for the first time the complex architecture of law, regulation, and policy in Xinjiang that denies Uighurs religious freedom, and by extension freedom of association, assembly, and expression. Chinese policy and law enforcement stifle religious activity and thought even in school and at home. One official document goes so far as to say that “parents and legal guardians may not allow minors to participate in religious activities.”

“The worldwide campaign against terrorism has given Beijing the perfect excuse to crack down harder than ever in Xinjiang,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Other Chinese enjoy a growing freedom to worship, but the Uighurs, like the Tibetans, find that their religion is being used as a tool of control.”

The Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking minority of some 8 million people, whose traditional homeland lies in the oil-rich Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwest China, have become increasingly fearful for their cultural survival and traditional way of life in the face of an intensive internal migration drive that has witnessed the arrival of more than 1.2 million ethnic Chinese settlers over the past decade. Many Uighurs desire greater autonomy than is currently allowed; some wish for a separate state, although there is little recent evidence of violent rebellion.

Highly intrusive religious control extends to organized religious activities, religious practitioners, schools, cultural institutions, publishing houses, and even to the personal appearance and behavior of Uighur individuals. State authorities politically vet all imams on a regular basis and require “self-criticism” sessions; impose surveillance on mosques; purge schools of religious teachers and students; screen literature and poetry for political allusions; and equate any expression of dissatisfaction with Beijing’s policies with “separatism” – a state security crime under Chinese law that can draw the death penalty.

At its most extreme, peaceful activists practicing their religion in ways that the Party and government deem unacceptable are arrested, tortured, and at times executed. The harshest punishments are saved for those accused of involvement in so-called separatist activity, which officials increasingly term “terrorism” for domestic and external consumption.


Click here for the complete press release


Abductees, DNA and Nature

An article by Gavan McCormack for Japan Focus summarises the dispute between North Korea and Japan over the North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 80s, and quotes an alarming series of comments from the journal Nature.

The Japanese government, under considerable pressure from public opinion in Japan, has taken a harder line with North Korea in recent months. One key moment of tension came when DNA analysis in Japan of ashes supposedly belonging to Megumi Yokota, one of the abductees, apparently showed that they were not hers but from the remains of two different people.

Sachie Yokota holding a photograph of Megumi Yokota
Sachie Yokota holding a photograph of Megumi Yokota

Now Nature has cast doubt on these findings, as McCormack describes:

An article in the 3 February 2005 issue of the prestigious international scientific journal, Nature, revealed that the DNA analysis on Megumi's remains had been performed by a member of the medical department of Teikyo University, Yoshii Tomio.[8] Yoshii, it later transpired, was a relatively junior faculty member, of lecturer status, in a forensic department that had neither a professor nor even an assistant professor.[9] Remarkably, he said that he had no previous experience in the analysis of cremated specimens, described his tests as inconclusive and remarked that such samples were very easily contaminated by anyone coming in contact with them, like "stiff sponges that can absorb anything." In other words, the man who had actually conducted the Japanese analysis pronounced it anything but definitive. The five tiny samples he had been given to work on (the largest of them 1.5 grams) had anyway been used up in his laboratory, so independent verification was thereafter impossible. It seemed likely as a result that nobody could ever know for sure what Pyongyang's package had contained.

When the Japanese government's chief cabinet secretary, Hosoda Hiroyuki, referred to this article as inadequate and a misrepresentation of the government-commissioned analysis, Nature responded, in a highly unusual editorial (17 March), saying that:

"Japan is right to doubt North Korea's every statement. But its interpretation of the DNA tests has crossed the boundary of science's freedom from political interference. Nature's interview with the scientist who carried out the tests raised the possibility that the remains were merely contaminated, making the DNA tests inconclusive. This suggestion is uncomfortable for a Japanese government that wants to have North Korea seen as unambiguously fraudulent. ...

The inescapable fact is that the bones may have been contaminated. ... It is also entirely possible that North Korea is lying. But the DNA tests that Japan is counting on won't resolve the issue. The problem is not in the science but in the fact that the government is meddling in scientific matters at all. Science runs on the premise that experiments, and all the uncertainty involved in them, should be open for scrutiny. Arguments made by other Japanese scientists that the tests should have been carried out by a larger team are convincing. Why did Japan entrust them to one scientist working alone, one who no longer seems to be free to talk about them?

Japan's policy seems a desperate effort to make up for what has been a diplomatic failure ... Part of the burden for Japan's political and diplomatic failure is being shifted to a scientist for doing his job -- deriving conclusions from experiments and presenting reasonable doubts about them. But the friction between North Korea and Japan will not be decided by a DNA test. Likewise, the interpretation of DNA test results cannot be decided by the government of either country. Dealing with North Korea is no fun, but it doesn't justify breaking the rules of separation between science and politics."[10]

Apart from a brief reference in one weekly journal, no word of this extraordinary exchange penetrated into the Japanese mass media. Three weeks after it, the Foreign Minister told the Diet, in answer to a question, that he knew nothing about the Nature article.[11] Meanwhile, anger at North Korea mounted and preparations went ahead for what was expected to be the largest-yet protest meeting scheduled to be held in Tokyo, on 24 April. As for Mr Yoshii, one week after the Nature editorial he left Teikyo hospital, promoted from lowly university lecturer to the prestigious position of head of the forensic medical department of the Tokyo metropolitan police department. Nature reported, in its third discussion of the case (7 April), that it had been told Yoshii was therefore not available for media comment.[12] The suggestion, in a parliamentary question on 30 March, that this smacked of government complicity in "hiding a witness" drew outrage and the comment from the Minister of Foreign Affairs that it was "extremely regrettable" for such aspersions to be cast on Japan's scientific integrity.[13]

Beyond the immediate parties to the dispute, South Korean forensic scientists also expressed skepticism about the Japanese findings, on grounds of the low possibility of DNA material surviving cremation and the high probability of contamination,[14] and Time magazine (4 April) reported that the technique that Yoshii had used, known as "nested PCR," was one that professional forensic laboratories in the US avoided because of the risk of contamination.[15]

The only certainty is that both governments are lying. Previously it was obvious that both governments were stalling, but I thought that only the North Korean government was lying.

Japan's Peace Constitution -- documentary

From another excellent Japan Focus article:

Rarely does a documentary film, many months in production, appears as timely as the nightly news when it's released. But the premiere in Tokyo on April 23 of "Japan's Peace Constitution" (Japanese title: "Eiga Nihon-koku Kempo"), directed by Japan Focus associate John Junkerman, comes at a moment when tensions with China and Korea over Japan's war past are at their highest levels in decades. The film, produced by the Tokyo independent production house Siglo, shows that the drive to revise the Japanese Constitution cannot be divorced from an understanding of that history or from the impact revision will have on Japan's relations with its neighboring countries.

In order to provide an international perspective on the constitution, the filmmakers traveled to eight countries, with interviews ranging from American historian John Dower on the making of the constitution to Syrian and Lebanese journalists on the dispatch of the Self Defense Force to Iraq. Chalmers Johnson provides a grounding in the "base world" American empire, and Korean historians Kang Man-Gil and Han Hong Koo appeal to Japan to fully acknowledge its past in order to embrace a future of constructive engagement with Asia.

John Junkerman

John Junkerman, director of Japan's Peace Constitution

If Japan revises the Constitution's war-renouncing Article 9 and officially designates its military as such, other parts of Asia will increase their arms buildups and war will become a possibility, according to American film director John Junkerman.

The Tokyo-based director, who recently completed the documentary "Japan's Peace Constitution," said in an interview that Article 9 has kept Japan from resorting to use of force and reassured other parts of Asia that the country does not pose an aggressive threat.

"But if Article 9 is revised and the Self-Defense Forces are called a military and given that right of being engaged in collective . . . defense, Japan's neighbors are going to say 'there is nothing anymore that constrains Japan, therefore we have to rebuild up our arms as well,' " Junkerman said.

On Tokyo's disputes over South Korea-controlled islets known by Japan as Takeshima, and the Japan-controlled Senkaku islets, which are claimed by China and Taiwan, he said, "They could very easily escalate into increased tensions and to wars."

Junkerman's film tells how the constitutional revision is an international issue, not a domestic one, through views of 12 intellectuals from Japan and overseas, including China, South Korea and the U.S.

Chalmers Johnson, director of the Japan Policy Research Institute in San Diego, said that Japan had apologized for its aggression in East Asia by renouncing the use of force via Article 9.

"To formally renounce Article 9 is to renounce the apology," he said in the film.

The film also shows testimony from South Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Imperial Army, and their protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where they demanded that Tokyo apologize and stop its alleged militarization.

To discuss the Constitution, Junkerman noted it is indispensable to look at the history of Japan's aggression in Asia. He said one of the reasons for making the film was to educate Japanese youth, who are less aware of what happened.

The film traces the process of establishing the Constitution from 1945 to 1947 through interviews with John Dower, an expert on Japan's postwar history and a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and former University of Tokyo professor Rokuro Hidaka.

Although the Liberal Democratic Party claims the Constitution was drawn up by the U.S. and Japan should make its own, the experts argued that citizens' groups and political parties debated the Constitution and the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces incorporated their proposals in its draft.


Read the complete article