Hong Kong reform dispute persists

Hong Kong’s government is receiving final submissions of public proposals for how to introduce universal suffrage for the election of the autonomous Chinese territory’s next leader in 2017, writes VOA’s Michael Linn

Officials will end the five-month consultation exercise on Saturday, and will release their own electoral reform plan sometime in the next year. That plan must win the approval of two-thirds of Hong Kong’s legislators before it can take effect for the 2017 election of the chief executive, the city’s top job….
Pro-democracy activists fear the government will propose forming a nominating committee dominated by pro-establishment members who will block the candidacies of anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to Beijing.
Lobbying campaign
Veteran pro-democracy campaigners and former lawmakers Anson Chan and Martin Lee raised that concern in meetings with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and members of Congress in Washington in early April. 

In an interview with VOA at Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy, Chan accused Beijing officials of trying to exert undue influence over the electoral reform process. In recent months, those officials have said chief executive candidates must “love the country (China) and Hong Kong,” a controversial phrase not explicitly stated in the Basic Law….. 

She said Chinese “interference” is eroding the “core values” of Hong Kong, an international financial center whose residents enjoy greater freedoms of the press, religion and assembly than citizens of mainland China.  
“We share these core values with the United States and many other trading partners,” Chan said. “And if we can no longer maintain these core values, then our business prospects at the end of the day will be adversely affected.”


China charges labor activist after Yue Yuen strike


Credit: China Labour Bulletin

Credit: China Labour Bulletin

Chinese police have charged a labor activist with creating a public disturbance over the internet during a major strike at a factory that supplies Nike and Adidas, The Financial Times reports:

Zhang Zhiru, a fellow activist, said on Tuesday the police had informed him of the move against his colleague Lin Dong. Both men were detained last week after helping some of the 40,000 workers striking at Yue Yuen, the world’s largest sports shoe manufacturer, in the southern city of Dongguan. Mr Zhang was released a few days later.

Since Xi Jinping came to power, China’s government has increasingly clamped down on the spread of online rumors that it views as a threat. Duan Li, a labor lawyer, said Mr Lin would be the first labor activist to face such charges since the law was changed last year to target the spread of unverified information online. Earlier this month, a court convicted blogger Qin Zhihui of the same crime.

Mr Zhang, who founded Shenzen’s Chunfeng Labor Dispute Service Center, said the police claimed Mr Lin had spread unverified information about a strike at another company to Yue Yuen workers using QQ, a popular instant message service.

Geoffrey Crothall of the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin says the strike – estimated to have cost as much as $60 million – has been the largest in a non-state factory over social-security payments. But protests over such issues are becoming more common, he tells The Economist, which notes that the strike shows that migrant workers are starting to demand more than just higher wages:

The workers accuse Yue Yuen of failing for years to make due contributions to their pensions, which are administered by the local government. Lax application of social-security laws is common, since local authorities do not want to drive away business. “The government is corrupt,” calls out one man among a group of strikers who have gathered near a row of factories. Such comments—directed at local officialdom, not Beijing—are almost as commonly heard as tirades against Yue Yuen itself. Workers fume at the heavy deployment of police, and the beating of some of the thousands of strikers who have been marching through nearby streets, most recently on April 18th.

China Labour Bulletin is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.


Journalist missing ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

Gao_YuThe Committee to Protect JournalistsBob Dietz reports the disappearance of veteran Chinese journalist Gao Yu ahead of the 25th anniversary of the 1989 June 4th crackdown, China Digital Times notes:

[…] Gao Yu, 70, who is known for speaking frankly and who has been regularly quoted in foreign media, cannot be found, and people are looking for her. Her normally active Twitter feed has been silent since April 23. Deutsche Welle, for which she worked, says it has not been able to contact her. Her publisher Mirrorbooks, for which she writes frequently, said it tried various methods to contact her but did not succeed. Her lawyer, Teng Biao, tweeted on Sunday that she has been missing for four days and four nights.

Gao Yu was first arrested on June 3, 1989, and was held for 450 days. She was sent to prison in 1994 for writing candidly and authoritatively–though not especially critically–about Chinese economic and political affairs for the Mirror Monthly, a Hong Kong magazine known for its generally pro-mainland editorial line, CPJ reported in 1997. In that year she was presented a $25,000 press freedom award in absentia by UNESCO Director General Fernando Mayor. Beijing reacted with furor, calling Gao Yu a criminal and threatening to close UNESCO’s China office or quit the U.N. agency altogether. [Source]

According to South China Morning Post’s Verna Yu, Gao failed to appear at a gathering on Saturday to mark the anniversary of a People’s Daily editorial widely seen as a turning point in the events of 1989.

Bao Tong, a friend of Gao and a former top aide of reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, said he was anxious about her apparent disappearance. “If the government has made her lose her freedoms, it should by law announce the reasons,” he said.

[…] Bao, 82, who was jailed for seven years over the Tiananmen movement, lives mostly under house arrest. In past years, he had been taken away ahead of protest anniversaries. When asked whether he would be similarly treated this year, Bao said: “If they can illegally strip others of their freedoms, they can illegally strip me of my freedoms”.

…. [Source]

To mark the 25th anniversary, CDT is reposting a series of contemporary news articles from 1989, beginning with the death of Hu Yaobang on April 15 and continuing through the tumultuous spring.

CDT is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.


Human Rights and Chinese Interests

At The Diplomat, the Project 2049 Institute’s Julia Famularo writes of the need to persuade China that upholding human rights is in its own national interest, China Digital Times reports:

Beijing has consistently justified human rights abuses in the pursuit of “social stability,” argued Dr. Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch. She highlighted the role of “civil society groups and advocates,” who “continue to slowly expand their work despite their precarious status,” as well as the “informal but resilient network of activists,” which “monitors and documents human rights cases as a loose national ‘weiquan’ (rights defense) movement. These activists endure police monitoring, detention, arrest, enforced disappearance, and torture.”

[…] The United States and its democratic partners need to think more creatively about how to best promote and protect human rights as well as achieve the release of political prisoners. U.S. leaders must continue to speak out publicly and privately in meetings with their Chinese counterparts to make our principles and aspirations clear. However, we should also increase the number of academic exchanges and Track II dialogues to constructively engage China at all levels of society. Through measures designed to build trust, enhance transparency, and share best practices, the United States can make it clear to China that we have mutual interests in elevating human rights. For example, legal and judicial exchanges have already provided China with the resources and knowledge it needs to make positive legal reforms to its criminal code.

China acts—and will continue to act—in its own national interests. The U.S. must convince China that a sustained focus on human rights does not constitute diplomatic containment. […] [Source]

Ian Johnson highlights another example at The New York Review of Books, in a wide-ranging review of Geoff Dyer’s The Contest of the Century: The New Era of Competition with China–and How America Can Win, Stephen Roach’s Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China, David Shambaugh’s China Goes Global: The Partial Power, and Geremie Barmé and Jeremy Goldkorn’s China Story Yearbook 2013: Civilising China. Johnson argues that China’s domestic human rights record undermines its trustworthiness, and therefore influence, on the international stage:

One could argue that human rights don’t matter to China’s rise—that these are domestic issues that won’t affect expansion abroad. And yet China’s narrow political system is clearly one reason for its neighbors’ suspicions. If the government continues to lock up moderates then many abroad will wonder if China is the sort of country that can make a long-term stable friend.

The most recent case was the conviction of rights activist Xu Zhiyong. In late January, he was sentenced to four years in prison on charges of “gathering a crowd to disturb public order,” stemming from his work to organize the New Citizens Movement. […] Harshness like this at home won’t prevent China from cutting resource deals—China has money, and these goods are for sale—but it will make it hard for any developed (and, by extension, democratic) country to treat China like a true long-term partner.

This theme is picked up with gusto in David Shambaugh’s China Goes Global: The Partial Power. Shambaugh is one of the most influential analysts of China–US relations. His book shows the flip side of China’s military rise: its inability to use its new power to influence the world. […]

What Shambaugh makes clear is that for all the bluster, China actually accomplishes little diplomatically. Except for events directly affecting its territory, it stays on the sidelines of most international conflicts, never shaping outcomes. Instead, its main foreign policy tool seems to be the ritualized state visit by foreign dignitaries. [Source]


Assignment China: Tiananmen Square

US China Tiananmen PhotoThe Tiananmen Square crisis in 1989 was a turning point for China. Weeks of student-led demonstrations ended in a bloody military crackdown, with far-reaching consequences not only for China’s development but for its relations with the rest of the world. 

Assignment China: Tiananmen Square, produced by the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California and narrated by former CNN Beijing bureau chief Mike Chinoy, tells the behind-the-scenes story of the reporters who covered the dramatic events in Beijing that spring. It features interviews with most of the leading American journalists who were there, as well as diplomats and scholars, and contains rare video clips and photos from that tumultuous time. 

Interact at the post-screening discussion with these experts: 

Edward McCord (moderator), Director, Sigur Center for Asian Studies; Associate Professor of History and International Affairs; Director, Taiwan Education and Research Program 

Dan Southerland, Executive Editor, Radio Free Asia 

Jim Mann, former Beijing correspondent for the Los Angeles Times



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