Murong Xuecun: Corruption in China Today

New Media, New Threats – Remarks by Li Xiaorong from CIMA on Vimeo.

In his latest New York Times op-ed, via China Digital Times reports, the writer Murong Xuecun writes about the impact that persistent surveillance of government critics has on Chinese society. He writes about Hao Jian, a professor at the Beijing Film Academy:

The police tap his phone, read his email and follow him. On special occasions, like for several months after Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, the government forbids him to leave China. “To me, your life is totally transparent,” a police officer told Mr. Hao during one of his recent chats.

Among my acquaintances and friends like Hao Jian, dozens are compelled to lead transparent lives. And in addition to government critics, the authorities watch organizers of church services held in private homes, Falun Gong practitioners and simple petitioners. No one knows how many people are under surveillance. We can’t even be sure which agency oversees that daunting task.

 [...] My internal battle to fight off the constant fear of not knowing what could happen to me at the hands of the government affects my judgment. I don’t know if this has affected my writing. Intuition tells me it hasn’t, but I have trouble trusting my intuition. It is the breakdown of trust — trust of oneself, trust of others — that is the worst consequence of living a transparent life.

Read more by and about Murong Xuecun.

CDT is a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Corruption takes many forms in China, from corrupt officials at all levels using their public office for private gain and seizing land for development to corrupt state-owned enterprises gaming the system to their advantage. Corruption also continues to be among the root causes of rights abuses against Chinese citizens. Senior leaders acknowledge that corruption threatens the legitimacy of the Communist Party and contributes to citizen dissatisfaction, and President Xi Jinping has stated that fighting corruption is a high priority.

But Chinese authorities continue to crack down on independent and citizen-led efforts to combat corruption. Panelists will discuss corruption among Chinese high-level officials and recent anti-corruption efforts, and explore corruption’s role in human rights violations. Panelists also will examine corruption linked to state-owned and other enterprises and explore the implications for commercial rule of law.

“Corruption in China Today: Consequences for Governance, Human Rights, and Commercial Rule of Law”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 209-208

Capitol Hill

Washington, DC


Joseph Fewsmith, Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Boston University

Li Xiaorong (above), Independent Scholar

Andrew Wedeman, Professor, Department of Political Science, Georgia State University

Daniel Chow, Professor of International Law, Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law

Click here to download a copy of the Commission’s full 2013 Annual Report.

*No RSVP is required but please arrive early and bring ID for check-in. 

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China, established by the U.S.-China Relations Act of 2000 as China prepared to enter the World Trade Organization, is mandated by law to monitor human rights, including worker rights, and the development of the rule of law in China. The Commission by mandate also maintains a database of information on political prisoners in China-individuals who have been imprisoned by the Chinese government for exercising their civil and political rights under China’s Constitution and laws or under China’s international human rights obligations.

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Libya’s second revolution – against the militias?

Militia groups from the Libyan city of Misrata have been ordered to leave the capital, Tripoli, within three days following deadly clashes there, the BBC reports. Tripoli is now observing a three-day strike in protest at Misrata gunmen who opened fire on demonstrators trying to evict them from their headquarters.

Libya’s government is mobilizing public pressure against the militias, but even with public support, Tripoli will have a hard time incorporating local armed groups into the regular security forces, says the Stratfor geopolitical intelligence group.


“There are some power plays to come about who will replace the militias; clearly it is a fragile situation. It is also clear that they cannot go on delaying a decision on how to deal with the militias,” a western diplomat told Reuters:

Misrata’s militias were among the first to move into Tripoli as the war drew to a close in 2011. Misrata men are in the Libyan Shield Force linked to the defense ministry. Across the city are the powerful Zintanis, more secular-leaning and mostly drawn from the Bedouin tribes. Their al Kaka brigade is among the country’s most powerful militia groups.

Local militias from Tripoli including the Tajoura brigades and the Islamist-leaning Supreme Security Council, which are aligned with the interior ministry, have sought to position themselves as a legitimate force.

Militia rivalries mirror divisions in Libya’s government, where the secular National Forces Alliance is deadlocked with a wing of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood over the country’s direction after Gaddafi’s fall. Competition among armed groups with regional and tribal agendas is expected to continue as long as Libya’s transition to democracy, its constitution and the distribution of its vast oil reserves remain unresolved.

“Violence and insecurity are likely to remain a key feature of politics and society for years to come, at least until the new constitution is approved and fresh elections,” said Riccardo Fabiani at Eurasia Group.

The state’s inability to rein in Islamist and other militias threatens to undermine Libya’s democratic prospects, as anticipated in a report from the National Endowment for Democracy.

Many Libyans see the government and oil ministry as too much under the sway of the country’s offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which lost the popular vote in historic July 2012 legislative elections but is seen as exercising undue political influence, the FT’s Borzou Daraghi writes:

“The perception is that the ministry of oil is for the Muslim Brotherhood” says Abdel-Hamid el-Jadi, a Libyan banker.

Corruption scandals that have emerged since the uprising have also contributed to the sense that some Libyans have gained more than others from the revolution. Though Ibrahim Jadran, a militia leader once in charge of protecting the oil facilities he has now seized, is viewed as an outlaw by the central government, he is a Robin Hood figure to his loyalists.

“The basis of his legitimacy and why he has so much traction is because they believe that oil was being sold under the previous regime and its successor through various means of rigging the system,” says Claudia Gazzini, the Libya researcher for the International Crisis Group, a conflict resolution and advocacy organization. “They don’t see themselves as criminals. They see themselves as saviors.”

At the Sharara oilfield, local members of Libya’s Tuareg minority arrived at the sprawling facility on October 27 and demanded it be shut down until the government addressed their grievances, which include not being allowed to register as citizens, not being allocated enough of the nation’s resources and the central government’s rejection of local council members they had elected this year. …For now, the central government has ruled out dispersing such sit-ins with force of arms out of concern it would spark cycles of tribal violence or simply prove ineffective.

“They don’t want to get into bloody confrontations; that is the policy of the government right now,” says Hashem Bishar, a former leader of the Supreme Security Council, a division of the interior ministry, in Tripoli. “You have to create a fertile ground for being able to confront the sit-ins. Without building disciplined state institutions, what can you do?”

Libya is now in the throes of a second popular uprising. But this time, it is against the militias – all of them parochial and many of them Islamist – that have carved the country into a series of disparate fiefdoms, bullied and blackmailed the weak central government, and, most recently, once again opened fire on unarmed protesters resisting their abuses, writes Hussein Ibish, a Senior Fellow with the American Task Force on Palestine:

What’s at stake is not just the public and disempowered government’s battle against militias and the anarchy they represent, but also the question of law and order and basic governance. Libya’s territorial integrity may ultimately be at risk….

We have now entered a prolonged battle of wills between the Libyan general public and hyper-empowered, and often extremist, gangsters. As things stand, the thugs basically have the upper hand. But it’s strongly in the interests of the region and the world to support the Libyan people in their second revolution, this time not against an entrenched, centralized dictator, but against highly localized and disparate criminal gangs.

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Venezuela’s authoritarian tendencies: Maduro jails 100 businessmen in ‘economic war’

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has jailed 100 ‘bourgeois’ businessmen on grounds of alleged economic sabotage.

But the man deemed public enemy No. 1 in the regime’s “economic war” blames its discredited state-driven economic model for soaring inflation and chronic shortages.

“We profoundly disagree that this model, which has failed the world over, can be successful in Venezuela,” said Jorge Roig, head of the umbrella business group Fedecamaras.

“It makes me ashamed. I feel we’re a bit of a laughing stock round the world,” he told Reuters, citing a World Bank ‘Doing Business’ study that ranked Venezuela 181 of 189 countries.

Growing radicalization

“It seems the radicals have won the economic match and the government has finally opted for the radicalization of a model that has excessive control over the economy,” says Henkel García, a director at the Caracas-based consultancy, Econométrica. “Ahead of elections, it makes sense because the economic power is translated into political power.”

Maduro is also pressing for a new enabling law in order to wage his economic war, a move opposition leader Henrique Capriles has described as an act of “immorality.”

“Maduro has tried to frame this as an economic war being carried out against his government,” David Smilde, a Caracas-based expert at the Washington Office on Latin America think-tank recently wrote. “Polling shows that Maduro’s various conspiracy theories only convince between 5 and 20 per cent of the population.”

Maduro ‘has staying power’

“Given that the overall direction of economic policy is unlikely to change, economic and social conditions will likely continue to deteriorate,” saidDaniel Kerner, a Latin America analyst at Eurasia Group. “This does not mean, however, that the country is rapidly heading into a major political crisis that could threaten Nicolas Maduro’s political survival. Maduro has more staying power than many appreciate.”

Creeping authoritarianism in Venezuela is not a new development, analyst Brian Sherry writes for the Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy:

Freedom House’s 2013 Freedom in the World Report details the various ways in which authoritarian tendencies permeate Venezuela, including: a lack of separation of powers; an electoral system which favors the governing party; a significant role played by the government in the economy (which breeds corruption); and the routine harassment of opposition media outlets and NGOs operating within the country.

“It is not the democracy component of liberal democracy that is in danger so much as the liberal part: the checking of personal rule by representative institutions and a free press,” he notes.

“The fact that the ideology with which we are dealing is not classic authoritarianism but a semi-authoritarian variant of popular democracy makes any potential action on the part of the US difficult.”

Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

Human rights abuses ‘rampant’ in Burma

While there has been much change in Burma over the past two years, the glowing talk one hears in Washington is at odds with the reality on the ground, says Nang Lao Liang Won (aka Tay Tay, above, left), a member of the advisory team of the Shan Women’s Action Network.

Shan state, where I am from, and other ethnic areas continue to experience intense political and armed conflicts, she writes for The Washington Post:

Burmese authorities’ dismissal of an outrageous Aug. 19 mob attack on Tomás Ojea Quintana, the United Nations’ special human rights rapporteur in Burma, should have drawn condemnation from the international community rather than silence — or, worse, sympathy for the “challenges” authorities face.

Human rights violators have gotten away with crimes in Burma for decades. The Burmese people had hope for justice as long as the international community documented and condemned their abuses. As the U.N. General Assembly writes its annual resolution against Burma, it must make serious recommendations that accurately reflect the realities in my country. If countries that long supported our struggle for human rights and democracy instead decide that the status quo is “good enough” and turn a blind eye to ongoing abuses, our dream of justice may never be part of Burma’s future.

Nang Lao Liang Won was a 2013 Reagan Fascell democracy fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest

The Anglosphere, democracy and the most important geopolitical question of the 21st century

Perhaps the most important geopolitical question of the 21st century is this: Will India define itself primarily as a member of the Anglosphere or as an Asian power?

“We often use the word ‘Western’ as shorthand for liberal-democratic values, but we’re really being polite. What we mean is countries that have adopted the Anglo-American system of government,” says Daniel Hannan, the author of Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World:

What made the Anglosphere different? Foreign visitors through the centuries remarked on a number of peculiar characteristics: the profusion of nonstate organizations, clubs, charities and foundations; the cheerful materialism of the population; the strong county institutions, including locally chosen law officers and judges; the easy coexistence of different denominations (religious toleration wasn’t unique to the Anglosphere, but religious equality—that is, freedom for every sect to proselytize—was almost unknown in the rest of the world). They were struck by the weakness, in both law and custom, of the extended family, and by the converse emphasis on individualism. They wondered at the stubborn elevation of private property over raison d’état, of personal freedom over collective need.

“The conceit of our era is to assume that these ideals are somehow the natural condition of an advanced society—that all nations will get around to them once they become rich enough and educated enough,” Hannan writes for The Wall Street Journal. “In fact, these ideals were developed overwhelmingly in the language in which you are reading these words. You don’t have to go back very far to find a time when freedom under the law was more or less confined to the Anglosphere: the community of English-speaking democracies.”

The history of the 20th century provides a salutary reminder of the fragility of democracy, he notes, especially the 1930s:

Across the Eurasian landmass, freedom and democracy had retreated before authoritarianism, then thought to be the coming force. Though a small number of European countries had had their parliamentary systems overthrown by invaders, many more had turned to autocracy on their own, without needing to be occupied: Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain.

“The democratic world is no longer primarily Anglo-American or even Western,” according to Johns Hopkins University’s Daniel Deudney, and Princeton University’s G. John Ikenberry, writing in a recent paper for the Council on Foreign Relations:

It now includes countries in every region of the world, spanning civilizational lines (Japan, South Korea, India, and Turkey), former rivals (Germany and Japan), historical allies (Canada, Britain, and France), former colonial states (India, Indonesia, Ghana, and South Africa), and hemispheric neighbors (Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina). Democracies are old and new, Western and non-Western, colonial and postcolonial, and highly developed, rapidly developing, and underdeveloped.

“The American is the Englishman left to himself,” said Alexis de Tocqueville, but liberty a matter of cultural affinity rather than genetic inheritance, Hannan contends:

Freedom under the law is a portable commodity, passed on through intellectual exchange rather than gene flow. Anyone can benefit from constitutional liberty simply by adopting the right institutions and the cultural assumptions that go with them. The Anglosphere is why Bermuda is not Haiti, why Singapore is not Indonesia, why Hong Kong is not China—and, for that matter, not Macau….

The owl of Minerva, wrote Hegel, spreads its wings only with the gathering of the dusk. Since the middle of the 18th century, the hegemony of the English-speaking peoples has drawn many other nations into a uniquely free, democratic and wealthy world order. The Anglo-American imperium is, by most measures, reaching its twilight. But the values of the Anglosphere, particularly the unique emphasis on individualism, ought to be perfectly suited to the Internet age. And such values can take root anywhere.


Print Friendly
Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on Pinterest