Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Big Tech Companies Back Global Plan to Shield Online Speech

NYTIMES: SAN FRANCISCO — Google, Microsoft and Yahoo and a group of human rights and public interest organizations plan to introduce Wednesday a global code of conduct that they say will better protect online free speech and privacy against government intrusion.

The principles are the starting point for a new effort, called the Global Network Initiative, which commits the companies to “avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression,” according to a final draft of documents obtained by The New York Times.

Stating that privacy is “a human right and guarantor of human dignity,” the initiative commits the companies to try to resist overly broad demands for restrictions on freedom of speech and overly broad demands that could compromise the privacy of their users.

The initiative was begun after human rights groups and Congress criticized the Internet companies for cooperating with Chinese government censorship and demands for information on dissidents. In addition to laying out the code of conduct, the initiative will provide a non-governmental forum for the companies and human rights groups to jointly resist demands for censorship. It will also establish a system of independent auditors to rate the companies’ conduct.

“This is an important first step in providing standards for free expression and privacy that obligate companies to do more to challenge government restrictions,” said Michael Posner, president of Human Rights First, who agreed to discuss the initiative after The Times obtained the documents. “It sets up an accountability mechanism that will allow each of the companies to be evaluated over time.”

In addition to the three American companies, two European telecommunications companies, France Télécom and Vodafone, are also considering participating. And members of the initiative are hoping to recruit additional companies.

So far, AT&T, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel, which were embarrassed in 2005 after it was discovered they were cooperating with the National Security Agency in a warrantless surveillance scheme by the Bush administration, have not signed on.

The principles have the backing of prominent human rights organizations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights in China. Business for Social Responsibility and the Center for Democracy and Technology helped lead the two-year talks, and organizations like Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and the Calvert Group, a socially responsible money manager, also participated.

But the effort is already being criticized by some human rights activists.

“After two years of effort, they have ended up with so little,” said Morton Sklar, executive director of the World Organization for Human Rights USA. “It is really very little more than a broad statement of support for a general principle without any concrete backup mechanism to ensure that the guidelines will be followed.”

Currently Google, Microsoft’s MSN division and Yahoo’s Chinese affiliate are all cooperating with the Chinese government’s demands that search results be filtered. This month, Canadian researchers revealed that the Chinese version of the Skype Internet chat and telephony client had been modified to permit the logging of chat sessions and storage of the information on server computers belonging to Skype’s Chinese partner, Tom, a wireless and Internet company.

Yahoo has been harshly criticized for its decision in 2004 to help Chinese authorities identify Shi Tao, a Chinese business reporter, who had sent a brief of a government document calling for press censorship to his private Yahoo e-mail account. Mr. Shi is now serving a 10-year prison sentence.

Asked whether the principles would have made a difference in the Shi case, Mr. Sklar said, “My guess is it wouldn’t have had any effect at all.”

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In Taiwan, Mass Protest Against China Policies

By Matthew Robertson
Epoch Times Staff Oct 26, 2008
Share: Facebook icon Facebook Digg icon Digg del.icio.us icon del.icio.us StumbleUpon icon StumbleUpon

Protesters were out in force, but remained staid throughout the day, with no reports of violent outbursts. (Wu Baihua/The Epoch Times)
TAIWAN—An estimated half a million supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) took to the streets on Saturday October 25, voicing their opposition to the Kuomintang administration’s China policies. They complain that the current government has increased ties with Mainland China at the cost of Taiwan’s status as a sovereign nation.

The large scale demonstration comes before Chen Yunlin, the Chairman of Mainland China’s Association for Relations across the Taiwan Strait, plans to visit next month. The government organization he heads up was created by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), currently ruling Mainland China, to deal with Taiwan.

The regime in Mainland China still regards Taiwan as its territory, and thus doesn’t recognize President Ma Ying-jeou as the President of a nation. At the same time, many Taiwanese feel the President fails to stand up to the Beijing regime.

Wong Rei-jun, a Computer Engineer at the protest shared his views: “He is called President Ma, yet even he doesn’t call himself President Ma, he calls himself Mr. Ma. When Chen Yunlin comes, what is he going to call himself? I think Mr. Ma himself has forgotten. Is he President Ma or Governor Ma or Mr. Ma?”

Many of the protestors here feel the government is sacrificing Taiwan’s sovereignty by developing relations with Mainland China. “I feel in Taiwan we need our own sovereignty and independence and our own way of thinking,” one woman commented to New Tang Dynasty Television.

Among other issues involved, contaminated products from Mainland China entering the Taiwanese market have also given the citizenry reason to take to the streets. Protesters resorted to presenting lewd depictions on their banners in an attempt to get the message across.

DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen was present at the rally, who had told President Ma that they were protesting against the “evil-mindedness” of the regime in China in selling melamine-tainted foods to Taiwan.

Ex-President Chen Shui-bian was also present, who received cheers from the crowd. Chen faces corruption charges, accused of laundering millions from public funds during his presidency. Notwithstanding, protesters say they would still prefer to support Chen over the current government, for his pro-independence views.

Tens of thousands of protesters from around Taiwan are later expected to converge on the capital, according to the China Post, in an attempt to derail the visit of the Chinese regime’s cross-strait envoy, Chen Yunlin.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Citizens in Macao Against Communist Legislation

By An Qi and Ye Yingshi
The Epoch Times Oct 24, 2008
Share: Facebook icon Facebook Digg icon Digg del.icio.us icon del.icio.us StumbleUpon icon StumbleUpon

Citizens protest Chinese Communist Party sponsored legislation
Civil groups in Macao are strongly against legislating Article 23. (Xu Xia/The Epoch Times)
MACAO—Governor Edmund Ho Hau-wah officially started the legislative process of implementing Basic Law Article 23 on October 22. Ho announced that the comment period for the draft ends in November. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pushed for Article 23 in Hong Kong in 2003. This triggered a massive demonstration of a half million people in 2003, and the legislative process was stopped in Hong Kong indefinitely.

Since the reunion of Hong Kong and Macao, Beijing has never stopped attempting to implement Article 23, the anti-subversion law that prohibits foreign political groups from conducting activities that jeopardize "state security." It also restricts local political groups from establishing connections with foreign political groups that engage in activities that jeopardize state security.

The most highly contested feature of Article 23 is its vague definition of a “political group,” which could include any religious or human rights group.

It also requires Hong Kong and Macao to adopt the CCP’s state security concept used on the mainland, basically, whatever is labeled a threat to state security on the mainland should also be adopted in Hong Kong or Macro.

Violators of the law may be sentenced up to 25 years in prison.

After the Macao government announced the beginning of the legislative work several days ago, members of the Democratic Initiative, a local human rights group, delivered a letter to the government. In the letter, it states, “Legislation of Article 23 must conform to international human rights standards and the two treaties of the Johannesburg Convention. [The legislation] should not incriminate or conduct political investigations based on speeches and should implement universal suffrage as quickly as possible, so citizens can effectively supervise the government.”

Lei Kin-lun, a member of the Democratic Initiative said, “We cannot tolerate political investigations and incriminate [people] based on what they say using Article 23. Furthermore, we absolutely cannot accept a political tool that suppresses dissidents and different voices.”

Lei worries that freedom of speech, demonstration and political activities in Macao would not be allowed once the legislation is passed, “The [proposed] law involves everyone’s freedom of speech.”

Ms. Lin, a resident in Macao, describes Article 23 as a knife on every citizen’s throat that restricts freedoms now enjoyed by every Macao citizen.

Ms. Song, a Falun Gong practitioner in Macao said, “In any democratic society, criticizing a political party would never be construed as criticizing the country. However, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) intentionally obscures this concept and blends the CCP and the country together. If anyone criticized the CCP, it will become criticizing and subverting the country.”

"Take the gathering of Falun Gong practitioners in Macao. Macao police continue to interfere with their legal gatherings without the base of any law. The unlawful action of the Macao police would intensify once Article 23 passed," said Song.

Au Kam-sun, representative of the Macao Legislative Council, said that there is no clear definition on “political groups” in the Law and it creates a hole. There is a need to make clear regulations.

Read original Chinese article

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

US presses China to free EU prize-winning dissident

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Washington said Thursday it hopes Beijing will move to free Chinese dissident Hu Jia from prison, after the European Parliament awarded him a human rights prize on the eve of an EU-Asia summit.

"We are deeply concerned about the imprisonment of human rights activist Hu Jia and have pressed the Chinese authorities for his immediate release on many occasions and at the highest level," said State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid.

"We hope that the recognition the European Parliament has given Hu Jia by awarding him the prestigious Sakharov Prize will demonstrate to China's leaders the enormous esteem the international community holds for his important work as a human rights defender and that China will release him immediately."

The European Parliament named Hu, 35, its Sakharov laureate for this year despite pressure from China, which denounced it as "gross interference" in its domestic affairs a day before a two-day Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit in Beijing.

Duguid said: "We will continue to work with others in the international community to encourage China to bring its human rights practices in compliance with international human rights standards."

"No one should be imprisoned for expressing his or her views or for working within China's legal system to improve the life of his or her fellow citizens," the spokesman added.

"We look forward to the day when China will recognize the contribution of Chinese human rights activists who work on some of the most difficult problems facing Chinese society."

Separately, the State Department urged China to swiftly release Beijing house church leader Zhang "Bike" Mingxuan after he was reportedly detained in southwest China and his two sons were beaten in Beijing.

"We call upon the government of China immediately to release pastor Zhang and permit his family members to return home, to condemn the violent acts committed against his sons, and to bring to justice those individuals responsible for such acts," it said.

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, congressmen Frank Wolf and Christopher Smith said Zhang was detained in Kunming city, southwest China, on October 16, followed three days later in Beijing by his wife.

They also alleged that his son Zhang Jian was "severely beaten" unconscious when police raided the family's home in Beijing, with injuries so serious that he may lose sight in his right eye. A younger son was also beaten, they added.

"Should the administration fail to act on this case, it will serve as a symbol of the broken promises President Bush made to promote freedom and democracy throughout the world," the congressmen said in their letter dated Wednesday.

The State Department said: "We are concerned about a pattern of intimidation of religious freedom and rule of law advocates and their family members.

"We urge China to honor those international human rights instruments to which it is a signatory that protect the rule of law, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion."

Nicknamed Pastor Bike for having travelled China by bicycle to distribute Bibles and preach the Christian gospel, Zhang -- one of best known leaders of China's unofficial house churches -- and his wife were previously detained before the Beijing Olympics.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Hu Jia wins European rights prize


Jailed activist Hu Jia, pictured in January 2007
Hu Jia is serving a jail sentence for subverting state power

One of China's most prominent human rights activists, Hu Jia, has won the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Mr Hu, a democracy, environment and Aids activist, is serving a jail term for inciting subversion of state power.

The parliament's president said Mr Hu was "one of the real defenders of human rights" in China, and that the award would support Chinese activists.

Beijing has criticised the award as an interference in its internal affairs.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said that by awarding the prize to Mr Hu, the parliament "firmly and resolutely acknowledges the daily struggle for freedom of all Chinese human rights defenders".

"The European Parliament is sending out a signal of clear support to all those who support human rights in China," he said.

Mr Hu is credited with chronicling instances of abuse and alerting both fellow Chinese human rights activists and foreign news organisations.

He was convicted last April of inciting subversion, and is now serving a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, is under effective house arrest.

Ms Zeng said she thought her husband would be happy with the award and the validation of his work.

"I have always felt that support for Hu Jia will be helpful to him in the long term," she told AFP.


Green party leaders Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Monica Frassoni said the awarding of the prize to Hu Jia was "a reflection of this very spirit of this prize, which supports free thought and honours human rights defenders fighting repression".

Hu Jia's wife, Zeng Jinyan at her home in Beijing (10/10/08)
Ms Zeng said the prize would help her husband in the long term

Mr Cohn-Bendit and Ms Frassoni also criticised Beijing for failing to respect commitments it made to improve their human rights record prior to the Olympic Games in August.

China, which views Mr Hu as a criminal, reacted angrily to news of the prize, saying it was "a gross interference in China's domestic affairs".

"We express strong dissatisfaction at the decision by the European Parliament to issue such an award to a jailed criminal in China, in disregard of our repeated representations," said foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

In a letter sent to the president of EU assembly earlier this week, China's ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe, said giving the award to Mr Hu would "inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations".

"Not recognising China's progress on human rights and insisting on confrontation will only deepen the misunderstanding between the two sides and is not conducive to the promotion of the cause of world human rights," he said.

Mr Hu was also tipped as a possible winner of the Nobel Peace Prize this year, prompting Beijing to issue a veiled warning that the prize should go to the "right person".

The prize was eventually given to Finnish ex-President Martti Ahtisaari.

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought has been awarded annually since 1988 to "individuals or organisations who have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy".

The prize, which comes with 50,000 euros ($64,000; £39,500), will be awarded in Strasbourg on 17 December.OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wal-Mart cracks down on China suppliers

Oct. 22, 2008
Reuters: By Kirby Chien and Nicole Maestri

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said it will enforce stricter quality and environmental standards for its army of Chinese suppliers, a step likely to shrink margins and raise prices as the world nears recession.

The move by the world's largest retailer comes after a slew of recalls of Chinese-made goods raised fears about the safety and oversight of goods produced under the "made in China" label.
"I firmly believe that a company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and chemicals in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts -- will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products," Wal-Mart Chief Executive Officer Lee Scott said at a company event in Beijing attended by hundreds of its suppliers.

"And cheating on the quality of products is just the same as cheating on our customers. We will not tolerate that at Wal-Mart."

Profit margins for Wal-Mart and suppliers were likely to be hit, Scott said, while customers could also pay higher prices.

"I would guess that all those things to be true in certain categories," he said. "Somewhere down the road, there are hard choices."

China has been swept by a series of food- and product-safety scandals involving goods as diverse as toys, tires, toothpaste, pet food, fish, beans, dumplings and baby cribs. It has been accused of turning a blind eye to child labor in its factories and widespread pollution of its lakes and rivers.
In the latest case, thousands of Chinese children fell ill and at least four died from drinking milk formula contaminated with melamine, which has since been found in a series of drinks and foods and led to products being pulled from shops worldwide.

Wal-Mart, with more than 60,000 suppliers worldwide, procures roughly $9 billion worth of goods directly from China. After millions of Chinese-made goods were recalled in 2007, Scott said earlier this year that Wal-Mart would be tougher with suppliers.

Mike Duke, vice chairman of the international division, said Wal-Mart suppliers would be responsible for their subcontractors' work and products.

"We expect you to have the answers and to take ownership in getting to the root of the problem," Duke said, describing requirements he said would begin from next month.


This week, U.S.-based Delta Enterprises recalled almost 1.6 million cribs made in Asia after two babies died. The cribs were sold at Wal-Mart as well as U.S. chains Target Corp (TGT.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Kmart.

The United Nations said on Wednesday China needed a more coherent food-safety system, with unified laws, one overarching watchdog and faster sharing of information.

"We see that a disjointed system with dispersed authority between different ministries and agencies resulted in poor communication and maybe prolonged (the) outbreak with a late response," said Jorgen Schlundt, the World Health Organisation's food safety chief, referring to the melamine case.

"We need to have a coherent system that covers the full farm-to-fork table," he told a news conference in Beijing at the launch of a U.N. paper on improving food safety in China.
However, some Chinese suppliers attending the conference voiced skepticism about Wal-Mart's ability to police sub-suppliers.

"Actually, except for the contracts we have with suppliers, we can't control what they ship us," said Martin Wong, the managing director of Jiangsu Shuangshuang Group, a textile maker and Wal-Mart supplier.

Wal-Mart said it was creating a new supplier agreement that will require factories to certify compliance with laws and regulations where they operate, and to meet "rigorous" social and environmental standards.

Wal-Mart says its goals are aligned with Chinese government standards and that country officials would attend the summit.

It said its audits will look at a factory's air emissions, management of toxic substances and disposal of hazardous waste. The agreement will be phased in with Chinese suppliers over the next few months, and will be expanded to suppliers globally by 2011.

The crackdown comes as worries over a global recession mount. Wal-Mart argues the moves will save money by making factories more efficient, stripping out excess costs, and providing consumers with higher-quality goods.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Is freedom of the press China's Olympic legacy?

Is freedom of the press China's Olympic legacy?
Keren Gottfried Oct 22, 2008

Cordweekly: Although the loosened censorship laws put in place for the Olympics were recently extended indefinitely, the rest of the world should not be fooled; these laws are barely even a beginning for Chinese freedom of expression

Last Friday, literally fifteen minutes before they were set to expire, the media freedoms afforded to foreign journalists during the Olympic Games were extended indefinitely.

The special regulations for the Olympics were created in January 2007, allowing foreign reporters to travel freely without special permission from foreign affairs departments.

They no longer had to be accompanied by Chinese assistants (read: watchdogs) when reporting, and were now allowed to interview anyone so long as written consent was acquired. In addition, many Internet firewalls were removed.

Have the 2008 Olympic Games set a precedent for China to respect freedom of the press?

Don’t think that this relaxation of media control came out of the goodness of the hearts of the governing Communist Party of China. The new rule set was a condition of winning the bid to host the summer games, stipulated by the International Olympic Committee.

Don’t think these rules mean meaningful media freedom, either.

The laws still ban foreign journalists from sensitive areas, including Tibet and culturally Tibetan communities in the West of China.

Implementation of the new rules is questionable. While urban centres respected them, areas in mainland China often completely ignored them.

As one foreign journalist described to the BBC, it was easy to pull out the rulebook in Beijing if an officer tried to stop you from doing your story. In the countryside, the police stopped reporters regardless, confiscating recording materials and detaining journalists in police stations.

Interviewees remain persecuted in China, where speaking with a journalist can mean losing your job or going to prison for causing unrest in the country.

The “Great Firewall of China” remains. Internet sites considered to be “unlawful, subversive or against public order” are blocked.

This includes media sites reporting on issues like democracy and Tiananmen Square, sites related to the persecution of the Falun Gong community, “unregulated content” like Livejournal, pornography websites and information promoting the independence of Taiwan.

Perhaps most heinously, the new rules do nothing for local reporters. Though they were permitted to serve as assistants to the foreign media during the Olympics, they were never allowed to do their own reporting unless “appropriately” written.

With all print, TV and radio media run by the Chinese government, you can imagine the sort of investigative reporting that they pursue. There are currently 44 Chinese journalists in prison for inappropriate reporting.

Figuring out why China engages in these practices is no simple task. It is more than an issue of a human rights-hating villain, despite the framing we often see in our media.

In fact, Chinese officials often cite their vilification by foreign media as a reason for controlling reporting freedoms in their country. They see it as a barrier to peaceful international relations.

The Chinese people want change, but their definition of change is the baby-step approach. They have had enough of revolution. With their tumultuous history, the threat of social disorder and chaos is a serious concern for them.

They worry that an extreme change in media freedom could overturn the calm they have achieved.

That’s about where my sympathy ends. This narrative helps us describe why China acts the way it does, but not why it ought to act the way it does.

I am not just talking about the right to freedom of the press, though I personally believe it is the bedrock of a thriving society.

I am talking about saving lives. Covering up issues by not allowing reporters to talk about them can kill people.

The milk poisoning fiasco last month killed four children and poisoned over 50,000 infants. Beijing denied releasing statistics and disallowed reporters from telling the story, despite the supposed relaxed media controls instituted in 2007.

How many mothers do you think would have continued to feed their babies the milk if they read about the disaster in the paper earlier rather than later?

I’d love to say that the Olympic media rules show China is moving in a positive direction, but if they are, they’re moving tortoise-slow.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

China extends Olympic-style foreign media freedom at last minute

China has enacted new regulations giving foreign journalists freedom to travel around the country, confirming hints that this Olympics-related reform would be a "lasting legacy" of the Games.

Telegraph UK: By Richard Spencer in Beijing

There was no easing of restrictions for domestic press, however.

Temporary rules, introduced on January 1 2007 to international fanfare, lifted requirements for journalists from abroad to obtain permission from the foreign ministry every time they intended to travel or to conduct an interview.

The change was introduced specifically to meet Beijing's commitment to allow free reporting of the Games and preparations for them when it was awarded the Olympics in 2001.

The government's refusal in the last month to confirm that they would be renewed once they expired at midnight on Friday, October 17, led to fears of a post-Olympics crackdown.

But foreign journalists received phone calls and text messages at 11.15 pm on Friday night summoning them to the foreign ministry immediately. At a midnight briefing, they were informed their current freedoms would be extended indefinitely.

"It is China's basic policy to reform and open up," the ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said. "We need to have a better understanding with the world. Only by being more transparent with the media and providing more information can we remain in good shape."

The original restrictions were often only honoured in the breach, with correspondents regularly roaming the country without seeking permission, but they gave police and local authorities a pretext to detain reporters at troublespots, harass local assistants and researchers, and send them back to Beijing or Shanghai.

They also provided a disincentive to would-be interviewees, who were also breaking the law.

Even after their lifting, some reporters have been detained and harassed on occasion. During the uprising in Tibetan areas of China in March and April, the rules were effectively suspended in the affected region, with all foreign journalists kept out.

The foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said Tibet itself would remain an exception to the regulations. Journalists will have to apply to the local ministry branch office for a permit to visit.

"We are not closing the door of Tibet," he insisted. The fact that such rules had to be put in place were a further reason to oppose "separatism", he said.

He gave no indication that there would be any loosening of the much tighter rules affecting Chinese journalists. He said he could not answer questions about internet censorship, which also caused controversy during the Games, as they were not part of the new regulations.

In one sign of tightening of those rules, internet cafes in the capital Beijing have been compelled to install cameras and take photographs to be logged with the authorities of all users when they check in.

Combined with a pass number, it means that all online activity in the city's "Net Bars" can be traced to individuals.

Proposals to introduce nationwide rules compelling "real name registration" which would have achieved the same effect were dropped after an outcry about privacy, in an unusual example of people power. But the new rule, which also involves registering identity card numbers, has the same effect.

A government-run website suggested the rule was intended to counter hacking, internet pornography, and "web rumours".

A spokesman said that 1,500 internet cafes in 14 of Beijing's 18 districts had been fitted with the cameras, and the remaining four districts would fall within the scheme by the middle of December.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

China reduces media freedoms

China has failed to renew regulations giving foreign journalists freedom to travel around the country.

Telegraph UK: By Richard Spencer in Beijing

The decision is a blow to those who hoped the more open society put in place for the Beijing Olympics would be maintained.

In a further sign of the tightening of censorship rules, internet cafes in the capital Beijing have been compelled to install cameras and take photographs of all customers to be logged with the authorities.

The new rules on reporting, introduced on Jan 1 2007 to international fanfare, lifted requirements for journalists from abroad to obtain permission from the foreign ministry every time they intended to travel or to conduct an interview.

The change was introduced specifically to meet Beijing's commitment to allow free reporting of the Games and preparations for them when it was awarded the Olympics in 2001.

They expired yesterday with no news of their being extended or replaced, despite repeated hints that the temporary loosening of the rules would be made permanent.

The foreign ministry says that new rules are on the way but is unclear as to when. "I understand everyone's eager desire," a spokesman replied to questions at a regular press briefing for foreign reporters. "We will tell you very soon what the related arrangements are."

The rules were often only honoured in the breach, with correspondents regularly roaming the country without seeking permission, but they gave police and local authorities a pretext to detain reporters at troublespots, harass local assistants and researchers, and send them back to Beijing or Shanghai.

They also provided a disincentive to would-be interviewees, who were also breaking the law.

Even after their lifting, some reporters have been detained and harassed on occasion. During the uprising in Tibetan areas of China in March and April, they were effectively suspended in the affected region, with all foreign journalists kept out.

Some provincial authorities said they would unilaterally stick to the temporary reporting rules until instructed otherwise. But Human Rights Watch demanded the lifting of the travel ban be made permanent and extended to China's own journalists too.

"While there were serious problems in implementing Olympics-related media freedom regulations, they did mark a new and much higher standard in Chinese law for reporting freedom," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director.

Meanwhile the restrictions imposed on Beijing's "net bars" - which include the issuing of special new numbered passes to customers - mean that all online activity at the cafes can be traced to individuals.

Proposals to introduce nationwide rules compelling "real name registration" which would have achieved the same effect were dropped after an outcry about privacy, in an unusual example of people power. But the new rule, which also involves registering identity card numbers, has the same effect.

A government-run website suggested the rule was intended to counter hacking, internet pornography, and "web rumours". A spokesman said that 1,500 internet cafes in 14 of Beijing's 18 districts had been fitted with the cameras, and the remaining four districts would fall within the scheme by the middle of DecemberOLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Presidential Debate Overlooks Elephant in the Room

Role of Chinese Communist Regime ignored
By D. J. McGuire via Epoch Times Oct 16, 2008
Share: Facebook icon Facebook Digg icon Digg del.icio.us icon del.icio.us StumbleUpon icon StumbleUpon
Related articles: Opinion > Viewpoints

NOT ABOUT CHINA: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) (L) listens as Republican presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during the third presidential debate at Hofstra University on Wednesday, in New York (Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
2008 U.S. Presidential Election
The last of the American presidential debates was held Wednesday night. Domestic issues dominated, in no small part because the debate was supposed to be limited to them, but on occasion foreign affairs entered the discussion, most often in reference to international trade.

All three debates dealt with a host of issues, except one: the Chinese Communist Party. The lack of attention to the regime looking to replace us as the world's leading power was stunning, and one that the American people (and even the candidates themselves) are sure to regret.

There are many reasons why the CCP should be an issue per se in our national discourse. They are building up their military for no other purpose than to challenge our position in East Asia. They have alliances with some of the most tyrannical and anti-American regimes on the planet, including many terrorist-sponsoring entities.

Their rank efforts at using violence to silence opposition in New York City should frighten anyone who values freedom of speech in the United States of America.

However, they also have—at least—a tangential role in the dominant issues of the campaign. Already there is talk of Chinese Communist money "bailing out" our ailing financial sector, which would enable the regime to meddle in American economic and political affairs like never before.

Meanwhile, Pakistan—America's most tenuous ally in the War on Terror and one of the most contentious issues of the campaign—is once again looking to its oldest ally for help, the CCP.

Despite all of this we are seeing another election in which neither major-party candidate chooses to make the Communist Chinese regime an issue. Why?

Anti-Communists Disenfranchised

First, there is history. Mao Zedong caused his country and his regime a lot of damage, but his greatest gift to his political heirs was his decision to tilt towards Washington in the early 1970s. That move continues to pay dividends more than thirty-five years later, despite the above facts.

It has led to an entire political clique that is deeply vested in the fantasy that a quarrel between Mao and Leonid Brezhnev is somehow an opening to a "new" China. Thus, Communist China's human rights abuses and rampant corruption are all swept under the rug.

Second, there is politics—in this case, the unique politics of modern anti-Communism.

The Mao shift suddenly meant anti-Communists in America had to carve out an exception for Beijing. For most voters, the exception was purely conditional and temporary. For others, it had a more permanent effect.

This division was especially obvious in the Republican Party—where the "establishment" was clearly more taken with Beijing as an American ally (however weak) than the GOP right wing. As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, this division moved to the front burner, but even as the conservative wing of the party moved into the establishment in the 1990s, anti-Communists were largely left out in the cold.

RISING POWER: Members of the Chinese People's Liberation Army march in Beijing on October 15. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
Meanwhile, Mao's move soured many left-wing Democrats on Beijing. That led to a strong anti-CCP sentiment among Democrats in the 1980s, to the point where Bill Clinton could actually claim to be more anti-Communist than President George H. W. Bush in 1992.

Clinton, as history sows us, turned his back on the Democratic left—including the anti-Communists in it—and made the Democratic establishment as slavish to "engagement" as the Republican establishment.

The result is one of the more unusual ideological alignments in America: one where right and left stand against the center. Yet both party establishments still listen to their centrist factions, so the divided anti-Communist majority is left almost entirely disenfranchised.

Still, there is ample reason to believe this cannot continue. For starters, the CCP's role in both the financial sector and in Pakistan will lead more politicians to wonder if Beijing really does have our interests at heart.

When they realize the answer is no, questions will be asked, polls will be taken, and someone will notice that this is an issue that is pertinent, critical, urgent, and (unfortunately, this is vital) a potential way to peel votes away from the insert-name-here Administration.

Secondly, there are whispers that Communist China's white-hot (and somewhat overhyped) economy may be slowing down, ensuring far more problems for the regime in dealing with the Chinese people and a much greater likelihood that said regime will resort to geopolitical chicanery in order to use the radical nationalism card.

After all, there is still the issue of what diplomats call the Republic of China (and the rest of us call Taiwan), and the Communist Chinese regime's plans to conquer it.

The next President will likely be forced to face the danger of the CCP whether he likes it or not. On the plus side, this makes it much more likely that the election of 2012 will be the chance for anti-Communism to find its voice in one of the major parties. Unfortunately, the Communist regime can do a lot of damage in the intervening four years.

D.J. McGuire is co-founder of the China e-Lobby and the author of Dragon in the Dark: How and Why Communist China Helps Our Enemies in the War on Terror.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

World Food Day Highlights Severity of Global Hunger

World Food Day Highlights Severity of Global Hunger, Public's Will to Eradicate It

Researcher Says Developing Countries Can Help Achieve Millennium Goals

VOA: Ramsay is quick to point out that developing countries also have a vital role to play in achieving the Millennium Goals they agreed to - even if, for now, this does not mean contributing foreign economic aid per se. China and India, for example, are not yet considered developed countries by international standards. But their economies have grown enormously in recent years, and their leaders, Ramsay believes, must ensure that those nations' new wealth is shared justly.

"In the Chinese case, the important thing would be to take the huge remaining peasantry… that has not shared in the spectacular growth of the Chinese economy, and really lift them [out of poverty, too]." (more)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

China watches over internet café customers in web crackdown

October 17, 2008

All visitors to internet cafés in Beijing are to be required to have their photographs taken in a stringent new control on the public use of cyberspace.

Hopes that the Olympic Games would usher in a relaxed approach to the internet had already been hit hard when the “Great Firewall of China” — the blocking of websites deemed subversive — was reimposed not long after foreign reporters left the country.

The temporary lifting of the firewall applied to only a few sites and Chinese citizens experienced few changes.

According to the latest rules, by mid-December all internet cafés in the main 14 city districts must install cameras to record the identities of their web surfers, who must by law be 18 or over. There are more than 250 million internet users in China, approximately ten times more than there were in 2000.

It has been several years since internet cafés were required to register users to ensure that customers were not under-age.

All photographs and scanned identity cards will be entered into a city-wide database run by the Cultural Law Enforcement Taskforce. The details will be available in any internet café.

At the Mingluo internet café in the Dongcheng district about 60 people were ensconced in front of terminals. Most were chatting online or watching films. The manager affected a lack of concern about the regulation, saying that he had introduced the policy a month ago. “I think most people don't mind. We explain to them that this will not have any impact on them,” he said.

The Times searched for online comments on the rules but was unable to find any — often a sign that most commentary has been critical and has therefore been erased. However, a survey by the internet version of the People's Daily showed that 72 per cent of respondents were opposed to the measure, calling it an infringement of their rights. Just over 26 per cent supported the photographing because it would benefit children.

Today is the expiry date on one of the concessions to the greater freedom that came with the Olympics: permission for foreign reporters to travel the country unhindered. China had promised complete media freedom when it applied to host the Games.

While its propaganda mandarins issued a 21-point directive limiting the domestic media, officials lifted restrictions on travelling and reporting by foreign journalists.

The authorities indicated that some freedoms could be maintained. Qin Gang, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said: “The Chinese Government will continue to follow the opening-up policy and to facilitate the work of foreign media and journalists in China.”

Sophie Richardson, of Human Rights Watch Asia, said that keeping the regulations and extending them to Chinese journalists “would be one of the most important legacies of the Games”.

Watching the media

— The Foreign Correspondents' Club says authorities interfered with reporters more than 335 times since January 1 last year

— Police beat the ITN reporter John Ray at a Tibet protest near Beijing's main Olympic zone this August

— Zhang Jianhong, former editor-in-chief of the banned literary website Aegean Sea, was jailed for six years in March 2007 for “inciting subversion”

— Police arrested the web dissident Du Daobin in July for violating probation, after his 2004 jailing

— More than 18,000 blogs and websites were shut from April to September 2007

— In late May 2008 media ordered to reduce coverage of collapsed schools in the earthquake zone that killed thousands of pupils

Sources: www.hrw.org; www.pen.org; Times archives

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

China moving toward religious freedom? Secret trials suggest otherwise

October 16, 2008

CW: Eleven Falun Gong Practitioners Sentenced to Prison in Sichuan Province

CC: A leading figure in China's Communist party has said that his country plans to expand religious and political freedoms, establishing a real participatory democracy within the next decade. The Australian newspaper, The Age notes that the official "could be a testing of the waters after the chilling effect on debate this year caused by the Tibetan protests." That chilling effect is still being felt, regardless of promises about future religious freedom; 8 Tibetan Buddhist monks have been recently convicted in secret trials and given life sentences.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Olympic Legacy: Free Reporting?

Olympic Legacy: Free Reporting?

WSJ Blog: Liberalized rules for foreign reporters covering China for the Olympics expire on Friday. Will Beijing make those regulations permanent?

The Olympic regulations stipulated that foreign reporters could interview any consenting person and travel around the country without special approval. Previously, reporters were technically required to seek permission from local governments whenever they traveled beyond their home base.

Journalists at a press conference in Beijing in August. (Photo by Geoffrey A. Fowler)

Chinese and Olympic officials have long suggested that greater press freedoms might be one of the Games’ legacies in China. Asked about the status of the regulations on Oct. 7, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said “China’s principle of opening up stays unchanged [after the Olympics]. … Foreign media and journalists are welcome to report in China as always.”

On Sunday, Kyodo News cited an unnamed source saying that the rules would be extended.

Press freedom and human rights groups have called for China to keep the liberalized regulations in place, and even extend them. “While there were serious problems in implementing Olympics-related media freedom regulations, they did mark a new and much higher standard in Chinese law for reporting freedom,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch in a statement.

Whether the rules actually made much of a difference during the Olympics is open to debate. China heavily restricted access to Tibet in the spring, even though the Olympic reporting rules were technically in effect.

And perhaps most significantly, the rules never applied to Chinese journalists, whose work is liable to censorship by the state and who sometimes face retribution for exposing corruption.OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

Will China bail out the West?

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

With nearly $2 trillion (£1.2 trillion) worth of foreign currency reserves, China is being touted by some as the potential saviour of the Western banking system.

Chinese yuan and US dollars
China's booming exports have enabled it to mass huge foreign reserves

In order to bail out ailing financial firms, Western governments need money - and China seems a good place to get that much-needed cash.

But Chinese economists say that while Beijing is ready to play its part in the rescue efforts, it will not be writing any blank cheques.

Senior Chinese officials say they are more focused on their own, internal problems, such as avoiding a domestic economic slowdown.

And any help offered by the Chinese government to solve the current financial crisis is likely to come with strings attached.

Gigantic loan?

China's burgeoning exports over recent years have helped the country build up the world's largest foreign exchange reserves.

The power equation is changing and the Chinese are pleased with this... In their eyes, this also proves that the Chinese model is working
Willy Lam
Chinese University of Hong Kong

Figures released this week show these reserves now total $1.9 trillion.

Writing in the Financial Times, US-based economist Arvind Subramanian suggests the US could borrow some of this money.

"The Chinese government could offer to lend up to $500bn to the US government for the rescue of its financial sector," wrote Mr Subramanian, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

In fact the Chinese have already been doing something similar for a number of years. Beijing has been buying up US government debt, which has allowed the US to spend beyond its means.

"China is already helping the US economy and, if possible, it will continue to do this," said Zhao Xijun, of Beijing's Remin University of China.

Shared burden

But Mr Zhao, deputy dean of his university's school of finance, made it clear that China alone could not solve all the world's financial problems.

Other emerging economies, such as Russia, India and Brazil, will also have to help, he said.

"It's not sufficient for emerging economies or developed countries to do this on their own. They must get together," added Mr Zhao.

And even though China might have the money to help out, it is not certain that there is the political will to put the world's financial crisis at the top of the agenda.

Chinese leaders have already indicated that they believe Western governments should clean up their own financial problems.

Domestic priority

Yi Gang, vice-governor of the People's Bank of China, made this point at a meeting of world financial leaders in Washington last week.

A man scavenges in rubbish bins in Shanghai
Despite China's dazzling growth, many of its people remain in poverty

"The World Bank should urge the developed countries to shoulder their due responsibilities in stabilising the global economy," he said.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has added his comments to the debate. He said his country would do its bit to help stabilise world financial markets.

But in a telephone conversation with Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he also made it clear where China's priority lay.

"The most important thing for China now is to handle its own affairs well," China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported him as saying.

And for all its foreign exchange reserves, China is still a developing country with its own problems that will require lots of money to fix.

Just a few days ago, the Chinese leadership promised to double incomes in rural areas - where most of its people live - over the next 12 years.

The government will have to try to meet these promises despite what independent Chinese economist Andy Xie believes will be an economic slowdown in China.

He said the country had largely escaped financial problems affecting others, but would have to look to other areas of the world to generate future growth.

"China needs to play a bigger role in circulating money among emerging economies," he said.

Political strings

Even if China does agree to help with the global financial crisis, there will almost certainly be conditions attached to any help the Chinese government offers the West.

"The Chinese are definitely looking for some give and take," said Willy Lam, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Specifically, Beijing will want guarantees that it will be able to buy US assets without the opposition that this has generated in the past, he said.

Its new-found leverage over the US could also lead to the Chinese making political demands on its counterparts in Washington DC, added Mr Lam.

China has just registered its opposition to the US sale of $6.5bn-worth of arms to Taiwan, a self-governing island that China considers its own.

"The power equation is changing and the Chinese are pleased with this, although they do not want to gloat too much," said Mr Lam.

"In their eyes, this also proves that the Chinese model is working."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008