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).