Archive for the ‘China’ tag
When Twitter battles work, Happy Friday! (some of you may be under martial law), Jamie performs Atlas Shrugged
Two of crazy Fred Phelps’ granddaughters have left the Westboro Baptist Church (the God Hates Fags people), Jamie gives advice to older people looking to become vegan, Arkansas town’s martial law plans, FoxConn workers are organizing in China, and an Idaho State Senator has introduced a bill requiring students to read Atlas Shrugged.
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Ten year anniversary of Guantanamo, Jamie celebrates his second birthday, reports of a mass suicide threat by workers at Xbox plant in China, and more Listener mail.
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More than 4,000 Uyghurs have been arrested by the Chinese government since July 5. Hundreds of civilians have been killed. Thousands have been injured. This violence follows the pattern of arbitrary detention, imprisonment, torture and execution that has enraged Westerners when it has occurred in places like Iran. Yet there is little attention being paid to the suppression of the Uyghurs, a Muslim minority, in the western media. The Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) is now concerned that mass executions of Uyghurs will soon be carried out, as promised by Chinese officials.
“We believe that the Chinese government’s spin has influenced the reaction of the world community… causing Uyghur repression to receive less attention than events such as the suppression of the Iranian people,” wrote Amy Reger, a researcher at UHRP, during our email correspondence. The Chinese government has also been successful in cutting access to cell phones and the Internet, including Twitter. The government did this “in order to prevent a spread of citizen journalism such as that which occurred in Iran. We believe that, had this not occurred, news of the mass killing of Uyghurs by Chinese security forces may have been able to reach the outside world more effectively,” Reger added.
UHRP is also concerned that there have been no reported arrests of Han Chinese who have reportedly beaten and killed Uyghurs in two days of violence in Urumchi. In early July, Han Chinese residents of Urumchi took to the streets with clubs, sticks and other weapons to seek revenge on Uyghurs who had injured and killed Chinese people on the previous day. “We condemn the killings and injuries of Han Chinese people. However, we also believe that large numbers of Uyghurs were killed and injured on July 6 and 7, and their deaths have not been reported,” says Reger.
Reger and UHRP accuse the Chinese government of engaging in spin by providing only images of violence instigated by Uyghurs against Han Chinese, in an effort to “fan the flames of nationalism and divert attention from the serious, underlying grievances that drove Uyghurs to protest, at first peacefully.” Reger cautions western journalists to critically analyze any information given to them by the Chinese government and media as it is likely state propaganda.
The two trends of Uyghur coverage in the media are exclusion and suppression. In addition to the deaths of Uyghur activists being almost completely whitewashed from the news, the Chinese government is publicly calling for the censorship and suppression of Uyghur activists. Most recently, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei has called for the U.S. government to “restrict the activities” of Uyghur activist Rebiya Kadeer. The Chinese government blames Kadeer for instigating the violence in one of its most volatile regions, Xinjiang. Kadeer is a human rights activist who spent five years in jail in China and now lives near Washington, and has accused the Chinese government of repressing Uyghurs, destroying their culture and curbing their religious freedom.
The political pressure from Beijing isn’t limited to heads of states. Richard Moore, head of the Melbourne International Film Festival, said two Chinese directors have boycotted Australia’s biggest film festival over the screening of a documentary about Kadeer. The directors pulled their films after Moore ignored political pressure from Beijing. “It makes me feel angry, annoyed and irritated all at the same time, that they would try to interfere with our programme for blatantly political ends,” Moore told the AFP news agency.
Reger stresses that subdued media coverage stifles the possibility of western solidarity movements. It’s not that Americans don’t care about Uyghurs. They just don’t hear about the systematic slaughter of the Uyghur people by the Chinese government. “We ask the Chinese government to allow journalists access to East Turkestan and Uyghurs without any conditions to investigate the unrest in Urumchi and its aftermath. This access to East Turkestan will be critical in the coming days as looming executions of Uyghurs on political charges come ever nearer.” (Urumchi Party Secretary Li Zhi said at a press conference on July 8 that authorities would use the death penalty for crimes connected to events on July 5. “To those who have committed crimes with cruel means, we will execute them.”)
Reger adds, “We fear that a number of Uyghurs are going to be executed unnoticed by the world. In order to prevent such state-sanctioned killing we require the eyes of the world’s media and the world’s governments to remain on East Turkestan and to speak out against a further abuse of the Uyghur people’s human rights.”
The United States government could aid human rights activists by flexing its diplomatic muscle and exerting pressure on the Chinese government to opens its borders to foreign journalists. Only with the presence of a free and open press can a proper western solidarity movement form for the repressed Uyghur people.
Update: The original article read that 200 Uyghurs have been killed. This Chinese government’s figure is made up mostly of Han Chinese people. UHRP believes that hundreds of Uyghurs were killed in the unrest of Urumchi, and their deaths have not been officially reported.
One of China’s most famous bloggers was stabbed at the weekend.
Xu Lai, the writer behind Pro-State in Flames, was speaking at the One Way Street bookshop in Beijing on Saturday afternoon when he was attacked, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported. He had been speaking for a couple of hours and was answering questions when a fracas erupted.
His wife said that two men forced Xu Lai into the men’s toilet. She chased after them and found that one was holding a vegetable knife and the other a dagger. The men escaped, leaving Xu Lai on the ground with a cut to his stomach.
A report on the English-language blog Black and White Cat noted that “Xu Lai may not have the megastar status of Han Han, but he’s very much an A-list blogger.”
The Southern Metropolis Daily said: “Xu Lai is a low-key sort of person and he’s just a science journalist who wouldn’t provoke anyone. However, there are many things on his blog that can touch a nerve and he has probably made enemies that way.”
The newspaper quoted a witness as saying that they heard one of his attackers say: “You brought this on yourself. You know why we’re doing this, don’t you?”
However, this could also refer to a personal feud as much as to any ideological vendetta over views expressed in his blog.
Mr Xu is famous for his biting and often sarcastic style in commenting on social and political issues. He is an editor at the popular Beijing News daily and his book Fanciful Animals was published last November. His blog is believed to carry many entries penned by other contributors.
Blogs are extremely popular in China, where newspapers are heavily censored. Cyberspace police patrol the internet, swiftly closing sites deemed too risqué, but they remain the most important medium for self-expression in China.
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia
Before Barack Obama and his team act on their talk about “labor standards,” I’d like to offer them a tour of the vast garbage dump here in Phnom Penh.
This is a Dante-like vision of hell. It’s a mountain of festering refuse, a half-hour hike across, emitting clouds of smoke from subterranean fires.
The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn. Then the smoke parts and you come across a child ambling barefoot, searching for old plastic cups that recyclers will buy for five cents a pound. Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage.
Mr. Obama and the Democrats who favor labor standards in trade agreements mean well, for they intend to fight back at oppressive sweatshops abroad. But while it shocks Americans to hear it, the central challenge in the poorest countries is not that sweatshops exploit too many people, but that they don’t exploit enough.
Talk to these families in the dump, and a job in a sweatshop is a cherished dream, an escalator out of poverty, the kind of gauzy if probably unrealistic ambition that parents everywhere often have for their children.
“I’d love to get a job in a factory,” said Pim Srey Rath, a 19-year-old woman scavenging for plastic. “At least that work is in the shade. Here is where it’s hot.”
Another woman, Vath Sam Oeun, hopes her 10-year-old boy, scavenging beside her, grows up to get a factory job, partly because she has seen other children run over by garbage trucks. Her boy has never been to a doctor or a dentist, and last bathed when he was 2, so a sweatshop job by comparison would be far more pleasant and less dangerous.
I’m glad that many Americans are repulsed by the idea of importing products made by barely paid, barely legal workers in dangerous factories. Yet sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty. At a time of tremendous economic distress and protectionist pressures, there’s a special danger that tighter labor standards will be used as an excuse to curb trade.
When I defend sweatshops, people always ask me: But would you want to work in a sweatshop? No, of course not. But I would want even less to pull a rickshaw. In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, sweltering at a sewing machine isn’t the bottom.
My views on sweatshops are shaped by years living in East Asia, watching as living standards soared — including those in my wife’s ancestral village in southern China — because of sweatshop jobs.
Manufacturing is one sector that can provide millions of jobs. Yet sweatshops usually go not to the poorest nations but to better-off countries with more reliable electricity and ports.
I often hear the argument: Labor standards can improve wages and working conditions, without greatly affecting the eventual retail cost of goods. That’s true. But labor standards and “living wages” have a larger impact on production costs that companies are always trying to pare. The result is to push companies to operate more capital-intensive factories in better-off nations like Malaysia, rather than labor-intensive factories in poorer countries like Ghana or Cambodia.
Cambodia has, in fact, pursued an interesting experiment by working with factories to establish decent labor standards and wages. It’s a worthwhile idea, but one result of paying above-market wages is that those in charge of hiring often demand bribes — sometimes a month’s salary — in exchange for a job. In addition, these standards add to production costs, so some factories have closed because of the global economic crisis and the difficulty of competing internationally.
The best way to help people in the poorest countries isn’t to campaign against sweatshops but to promote manufacturing there. One of the best things America could do for Africa would be to strengthen our program to encourage African imports, called AGOA, and nudge Europe to match it.
Among people who work in development, many strongly believe (but few dare say very loudly) that one of the best hopes for the poorest countries would be to build their manufacturing industries. But global campaigns against sweatshops make that less likely.
Look, I know that Americans have a hard time accepting that sweatshops can help people. But take it from 13-year-old Neuo Chanthou, who earns a bit less than $1 a day scavenging in the dump. She’s wearing a “Playboy” shirt and hat that she found amid the filth, and she worries about her sister, who lost part of her hand when a garbage truck ran over her.
“It’s dirty, hot and smelly here,” she said wistfully. “A factory is better.”