Sunday 25 October 2009

It was twenty years ago today . . .

[Cross-posted from GongShangFa]

Well, not quite. We'll have to wait until next month to celebrate the fall of the Berlin wall. One group of 'netizens' (a term I have only ever heard used seriously in China), however, aren't waiting, and have hijacked this commemorative site to stage their own protest highlighting the continued division of China from the rest of the world by the Great Fire Wall. Well worth having a look if you have time.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Sentencing in Shishou

[Cross-posted at GongShangFa]

Remember Shishou? It was before Urumqi, but after Lhasa. Well, the five people who the local authorities have accused of "organising and inciting" the riots in which more than 60 police officers were injured have been sentenced, and the sentences seem to have been quite light - 5 years imprisonment being the longest. German Sino-blogger JustRecently has a good round-up of the coverage here. Noteworthy points?

1) Not insubstantial compensation was paid to the family of the man who allegedly committed suicide even after family members were arrested for inciting disturbances.

2) The local party chief was forced to resign.

3) Upwards of ten thousand people took to the streets, dozens of policemen were injured, yet only five people were punished.

What does this tell us? Where ethnic minorities upon which the government is not reliant for support protest they are punished severely as the ultimate cause which they seek is greater autonomy, which severely risks the unity of the Chinese state as it stands. However, where Han protest both the methods of policing deployed against them and the punishments used against those who lead the protest will be much less harsh - why? It is because no Chinese government can afford the kind of loss of prestige that would result from the use of harsh methods against the very people that the Chinese government truly relies on for support and which it truly represents. For the events of 20 years ago to be repeated would mean the death-knell of the Chinese state as it stands.

"No Explosives"

[Cross-Posted at GongShangFa]

This fascinating, if not exactly information-rich account written by a Canadian journalist covering the trial of six dissidents in Vietnam caught my eye:

"Floral bouquets brightened the dark wood. Steaming glasses of tea were poured.

"Good morning," an official said as she walked past. Everyone seemed to be polite and smiling, except the man who delivered the briefing about how we should behave at court.

"No explosives," he reminded us.

No cellphones either.

And don't try to do anything outside of the court, which seemed to mean don't talk to anybody.

He spoke with a white bust of Ho Chi Minh behind him next to a hammer and sickle, and a red banner that said, "Forever the glorious Communist Party of Vietnam.""