Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One Hundred and One Flowers

(Disclaimer: the rant below is directed at the Communist Party of China, not the people of China nor Chinese culture. Just in case someone decides to get all wonky on me.)

As if you needed one, here's another reminder of why Taiwan is better than China, and you - whoever you may be - are better off living in Taiwan than China:

In China, Would-Be Protesters Pay a Price

China promised an outlet for protesters and free speech during the Olympics. We all remember - we should remember - how that went down when those elderly ladies attempted to bag a permit to do so. They ended up detained, in jail, and unable to protest:

Two women from Beijing in their late 70s, Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying, were sentenced to a year of reeducation in a labor camp for protesting their forced eviction from their homes in 2001; the sentence was reduced and later rescinded, but the women said in an interview that they are being closely monitored by local police and that cameras have been installed outside their homes.

Tang Xuecheng, an entrepreneur in his 40s who had gone to Beijing to protest the government's seizure of his mining company, was detained by local officials and sent to a "mental hospital for mental health assessment," according to a public security official in his home town in Chenzhou city in Hunan province. Tang was released several months later.

Zhong Ruihua, 62, and nine others from the industrial city of Liuzhou who tried to petition against property seizures were arrested and have been charged with disturbing the public order. Zhang Qiuping, Zhong Ruihua's youngest daughter, saw her mother for the first time since August on Feb. 23, during her trial.

And now this...

In the end, official reports show, China never approved a single protest application -- despite its repeated pledges to improve its human rights record when it won the bid to host the Games. Some would-be applicants were taken away by force by security officials and held in hotels to prevent them from filing the paperwork. Others were scared away by warnings that they could face "difficulties" if they went through with their applications.

Why didn't this get more media attention when it was happening? Why isn't it getting more media attention now? It's toward the bottom of the Washington Post website although the page marker is fairly front-and-center in the print edition.

Why did people expect any different from China? The government is made up of liars and fascists. I am so tired of blog posts, commentators and even politicians explaining away China's disdain for human rights. I am nauseous about people who apologize for their horrific, oppressive regime. I am sick at heart that the realpolitik of the day (I'm looking at you, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I had some faith in you) overrides the freedom, liberty and basic rights of millions - no, billions of people.

It is sick. Tear-running, face-reddening, blood-racing, black-moodening sick.

Ji has spent the past eight months in various states of arrest and detention. In January, he was sentenced to three years in prison, the maximum penalty allowed, on charges of faking official seals on documents he filed on behalf of his clients. Ji is appealing.

We all learned in History class about Mao's "100 Flowers" period where intellectuals were encouraged to speak out; and then were subsequently detained, investigated, interrogated, jailed and at times executed. It doesn't take a genius to see that the charges are faked, and that Ji, like others, is being detained because he dared to admit he'd like to protest against the power-gobblers who run his government. History is again repeating itself.

It's happening again and there just isn't enough rage out there. There isn't enough desire to do good. There aren't enough good people and those that exist are doing nothing in the name of national debt, geopolitical interests and profit margins. It actually makes my fingers shake - literally shake - to see a world so blithe to the national interest and defense of a functioning (if at times eccentric), prosperous, good country like Taiwan - yes, country, you Commie bastards - silently enabling Big Red across the strait to wreak its worst crimes against humanity.

There is a reason why the Falun Dafa protests where Chinese tourists are near. There is a reason why the National Democracy Memorial Hall is awash with Tibetan freedom activists. There is a reason why "terrorism" on the part of the Uighurs is seen as such a threat, and Uighurs across Xinjiang deeply despise the Chinese autocracy with a righteous venom. (I don't call it terrorism, by the way. Most "terrorist" claims are false, and those that are real should be considered freedom fighting. My great-grandfather was an Armenian freedom fighter against the wave Turkish genocide in 1915 so my own family lore knows this as a well-trodden story).

There is a reason why I left China a few years ago, after a year of teaching there. Nevermind that the water was so acidic that it rotted my teeth (I now have three crowns). Nevermind that the air was so grey that I could barely breathe, that I got bronchial pneumonia twice from the pollution and dirt (and don't say I'm weak; I've lived in India and I was fine there), that you can't trust the food supply or that the CCP is obviously corrupt and makes only the most superficial of gestures to hide it. Nevermind that despite being equal under the law, women are treated in an infuriatingly sexist manner - even in the cities. I left because I couldn't stand the lack of freedom. I couldn't stand that my boss was worried enough about my many trips to the hilltop temple - only because it was the only attractive and authentically old place in town, not because I was going all Buddhist - that he'd ask me not to go so often lest I attract the attention of the police. It bothered me when I told my local friend that I was disappointed with the lack of civil uprising, she 'shooshed' me. It stuck like a pin in flesh when the boss's brother - a man I didn't even really care for as a person - broke down in tears after drinking a few too many and told us about how he saw his best friend get shot in the face by police at Tiananmen Square, and the police had insisted later that they had done no such thing (if they had done no such thing, why was he dead? They couldn't, and didn't bother to, answer that). It stung that I couldn't access basic websites such as Blogspot, Google, Hotmail (at times), the Washington Post, the New York Times...most of those are available now, although some only are because they censored their content. They aided and abetted evil (Google, I'm looking at you). It bit, knowing that everything on TV and in the newspapers was propaganda trash. You couldn't get your hands on a fact - an honest-to-god fact - to save your life.

Then the government wonders why it faces so much scrutiny? Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, asks why people laud India's development but abhor China's? India is free, or mostly so. China is emphatically not. The Chinese government is not facing nearly enough scrutiny. If that makes them uncomfortable, well, tough.

There is a reason why so many who are wronged by China, or see others being wronged by China, revile their government like a fang stuck in their hearts.

Because - not to put too fine a point on it - the Chinese government sucks and they need to be deposed. NOW. I don't care if that "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people" (which it doesn't). I'm sick of playground diplomacy and bratty tactics. "You want to meet with the Dalai Lama? Waaaah! Nooo! You hurt my feeelings!"

Only 77 applications were officially filed. Even so, all but three were subsequently withdrawn, the state-run New China News Agency said, after authorities "satisfactorily addressed" petitioners' concerns.

Yeah, right. Satisfactorily my lilly-white arse. They were bullied and pushed into withdrawing them. Then the state lied about it the way they lied about TiananmenAnd what about the thousands - hundreds of thousands - who would like to file such a petition but are afraid to do so, for exactly the reasons why the applicants of three non-withdrawn petitions have been harassed.

Why is this OK? Why do we live in a world where this is OK? Why is a situation allowed to exist where a free and functional country like Taiwan- exactly the sort of system the US has lied about trying to foster around the world and exactly the sort of country China should aim to emulate - is pushed aside in the name of "pragmatism"?

Before you get all realistic on me, I submit that it doesn't have to be this way. The USA insisted on having its way in Iraq and it still has enough sway with China - our economic crisis is their economic crisis, after all, and their trade profits are our trade deficits - to tell it to stop. Just...stop.

Panama - Panama, for crying out loud - recognizes Taiwan. Let me repeat that again. Panama. They have a nifty canal, if you recall. That canal is enough of a counterweight against their rebuttal of Chinese governmental deathmongering, and yet the entire might of the USA, as weakened as it might be, isn't? Come on.

Instead, we get the optimists of China, the best and the brightest that that grey, bleak political wasteland has to offer, being stomped down with a fury that the rest of the world should not tolerate:

But at his core, Ji was an optimist and believed that change was possible from within the system. He decided he would learn the letter of the law so that he could help laobaixing, or ordinary people, deal with their grievances. He took on cases for free and lived on 3 yuan, less than 50 cents, a day....

When Ji went to Beijing in August armed with carefully prepared documents about a dozen local cases -- including one about a man who died in detention and others about illegal land seizures -- he was convinced that because China had passed a law allowing him to file a protest application, nothing bad could come of it.

He had recently been evicted from his home office in Fuzhou on suspicion of trying to incite people to petition in Beijing, friends said, but even then he didn't waver from his conviction that China's central government would keep its promises to allow public dissent during the Games, according to his sisters and friends.

If the USA and the EU got together and said "Hey China - stop it. Now. Be nice to Tibet and Xinjiang, let Taiwan decide its own fate, stop stealing the property of the poor for the good of the rich and for goodness sake, stop arresting and killing people"...guess what? China would stop it. They'd have to.

No, I am not wrong.

Yes, we on the 'free', liberal democratic end of the spectrum, the end that Francis Fukuyama once called the final destination of human civilization, do have the power to make it end. We don't even need to fire a bullet.

"Everything is fine here, please don't worry! Please believe that I only have done good rather than brought harm to our people and country. I will win the lawsuit in the end," Ji wrote.

His sister Ji Qiaozhuang said she has been surprised and disappointed by how he has been treated because he has never advocated controversial positions such as the end of one-party rule.

"He's not a revolutionary, a young man with anti-government feelings," she said. "He's an old man who just wants to help others. China needs people like him to progress."

Indeed. It's too bad that the Chinese government refuses to recognize that. They'll need to if they want to become the sort of country they can become and should become. A country like Taiwan.

While evil is allowed to exist, why do good 'men' do nothing?

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