Tag Archives: Tiananmen Square

Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

People film with their phones and cameras during a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy. Above, people film with their phones and cameras during a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Reports:

Shelter the focus at Venice Architecture Biennale, by Joel Dullroy

The Venice Architecture Biennale is usually a showcase of prestigious architecture projects from around the world, but Germany’s entry this year has taken a different angle, focusing instead on simple shelters used to house asylum seekers.

Emily Dickinson’s garden, “native” plants, and climate change, by Janet Marinelli

A plant from the homestead of poet Emily Dickinson is challenging basic precepts of conservation practice, such as what is the definition of “native”? Are climate refugees that hitchhike north via horticulture less worthy of protection than plants that arrive on their own? Do they pose a threat to existing native species? Should native plant gardening, the domestic form of assisted migration, be used to help plants stranded in inhospitable habitat?

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy, by J.R. Wu

On the anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on student-led protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Taiwan’s new president told China that democracy is nothing to fear, and Taiwan could serve as an example to China.

Commentary:

Hong Kong activists split over Tiananmen Square, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs columnist

For the first time, Hong Kong’s Federation of Students, a coalition of student unions, eschewed the Victoria Park demonstrations over the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising and killings. Instead, it focused on democracy and even independence in Hong Kong’s future.

Polls: The good, the bad and the ugly, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda column

A few suggestions about what to watch out for in political polls: how you can tell a good one from a bad one, and why you never, ever, ever bet your house on one poll only.

Magazine:

Christopher Park/ ProPublica

Christopher Park/ ProPublica

Gunfight in Guatemala: and insider’s tale of Latin America corruption. By Sebastian Rotella

Big or small, leftist or rightist, rich or poor, with only a few exceptions, Latin American nations struggle with a crime problem that threatens political stability and security; many are in a struggle between the rule of man and the rule of law. This is one man’s story in the large, long-running war.

 

Notebook:

This fall’s US presidential election will affect the world. Barring a cosmic event or supernatural intervention, Republican Donald Trump will be pitted against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. A campaign milestone  —  the Democratic party primary in California — will occur Tuesday June 7. Some polls place Sanders and Clinton in a statistical tie. The latest developments include a remarkable letter released Friday by Green party contender Jill Stein urging Californians to support Bernie Sanders, unless already registered with the Green party,  to support “the agenda of economic and racial justice shared by Bernie’s and my campaigns.” Robert Reich, one of Sanders’ most vocal supporters, urged Democrats to put aside their differences no matter who wins. “I can’t criticize anyone for voting their conscience, of course. But your conscience should know that a decision not to vote for Hillary, should she become the Democratic nominee, is a de facto decision to help Donald Trump,” he wrote on his blog.

Follow the campaigns at these credible outlets: New York Times; Politico; Reuters; Bloombergthe BBC; the Guardian; the Economist.  Here are the campaign pages for Sanders, Clinton, and  Trump.  America’s two dominant parties are not the only ones in the running, though all others typically are ignored by pundits and political journalists and — in a Catch 22 — receive precious few votes. Here are the pages for the Green’s likely presidential candidate Stein, and for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party.

Elsewhere:

This is good: Muhammad Ali, a feature and a video documentary on the New York Times about the fighter who died this week.

“Muhammad Ali was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion who transcended sports and helped define his turbulent times. He entertained with his mouth as much as his fists, narrating a life of brash self-confidence full of religious, political and social stances.”

And THIS is surprising, and important: A criticism of neoliberalism by, of all organizations,  the International Money Fund

Neoliberalism: Oversold? Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality, in turn jeopardizing durable expansion….

There has been a strong and widespread global trend toward neoliberalism since the 1980s, according to a composite index that measures the extent to which countries introduced competition in various spheres of economic activity to foster economic growth….

“There is much to cheer … however:

“An assessment of these specificpolicies (rather than the broad neoliberal agenda) reaches three disquieting conclusions:

•The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries.­

•The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent. Such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda.­

•Increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth. Even if growth is the sole or main purpose of the neoliberal agenda, advocates of that agenda still need to pay attention to the distributional effects.­…

As Maurice Obstfeld (1998) has noted, “economic theory leaves no doubt about the potential advantages” of capital account liberalization, which is also sometimes called financial openness. It can allow the international capital market to channel world savings to their most productive uses across the globe. Developing economies with little capital can borrow to finance investment, thereby promoting their economic growth without requiring sharp increases in their own saving. But Obstfeld also pointed to the “genuine hazards” of openness to foreign financial flows and concluded that “this duality of benefits and risks is inescapable in the real world.” (my emphasis.)  Visit the IMF site to read the  analysis 

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Note to our readers: F&O’s weekly blog post was delayed this weekend by a technical glitch. Thanks for your patience.

In Case You Missed These:

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy

Paramilitary policemen hold weapons as they provide security near the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Paramilitary policemen hold weapons as they provide security near the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

By J.R. Wu
June 4, 2016

TAIPEI (Reuters) – On the anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on student-led protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Taiwan’s new president told China on Saturday that democracy is nothing to fear.

Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post on the 27th anniversary that Taiwan could serve as an example to China.

Tsai said in the run-up to Taiwan’s elections earlier this year that she had seen people from China, as well as the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, mixing with crowds in Taiwan.

“These many friends, after experiencing things for themselves can see that in fact there’s nothing scary about democracy. Democracy is a good and fine thing,” wrote Tsai, who took office last month.

China sent in tanks to break up the demonstrations on June 4, 1989. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

The subject remains all but taboo in China, where President Xi Jinping is overseeing a broad crackdown on rights groups and activists.

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy Above, a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy Above, a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Tsai also said in her Facebook post about the Tiananmen crackdown’s anniversary that nobody could deny the material advances China had made under the Communist Party.

However, China would win even more respect internationally if it gave its people even more rights, wrote Tsai, who is from Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Taiwan is the only part of the Chinese-speaking world which holds free elections, and Tsai risks upsetting Beijing with her frank remarks on Tiananmen.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a wayward province under its control and is deeply suspicious of Tsai. Chinese officials have accused her of pushing the island towards formal independence.

In Beijing, security was tight at Tiananmen Square, with long lines at bag and identity checks. The square itself was peaceful, with hundreds of tourists stopping to take photos in the early summer sun.

While most state media made no mention of the sensitive anniversary, the English version of popular Beijing-based tabloid the Global Times wrote in a commentary that people in China had put the events of 1989 behind them.

“The annual hubbub around the June 4 incident is nothing but bubbles that are doomed to burst.”

China dismissed a statement by the U.S. Department of State on the political turbulence in 1989, urging the United States not to harm bilateral ties, the official Xinhua news service reported.

Tsai said Taiwan understood the pain caused by Tiananmen because Taiwan had similar experiences in its struggle for democracy, referring to repression under the martial law enforced by the Nationalists over the island from 1949 to 1987.

“I’m not here to give advice about the political system on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, but am willing to sincerely share Taiwan’s democratic experience,” she said.

In Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and is the only place on Chinese soil where June 4 commemorations are tolerated, around 125,000 people attended the main candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, according to organizers’ estimates, which local broadcaster RTHK said was the lowest attendance since 2008.

The police estimated attendance at 21,800.

In a sign of persistent tensions around Hong Kong’s future and its relationship to mainland China, an activist shouting for Hong Kong independence tried to rush the stage at the vigil.

A number of university students boycotted the main vigil and instead held separate on-campus events discussing the city’s current political situation instead of just commemorating the events of 1989.

Reuters estimated about 2,000 people attended events at local universities.

Pro-Beijing groups cordoned off areas near Victoria Park where they set up mainland Chinese flags and shredded yellow umbrellas to symbolize Hong Kong’s 2014 street protests that called for democratic reforms but failed to achieve them.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Faith Hung, and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Venus Wu, Teenie Ho, Tris Pan, Sue-Lin Wong, Hera Poon, Joyce Zhou and Clare Baldwin in HONG KONG; Editing by Paul Tait and Hugh Lawson)

Next read these analyses by Jonathan Manthorpe:

Hong Kong activists split over Tiananmen Square

For the first time, Hong Kong’s Federation of Students, a coalition of student unions, will not take part in the Victoria Park demonstrations. Instead, it will help organize a number of events and demonstrations confronting democracy and even independence in Hong Kong’s future.

DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai gives a speech during a news conference to promote her campaign for the 2016 presidential election in TaipeiBeijing tests mettle of Taiwan’s Iron Lady President

Since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in January, the Chinese regime of Xi Jinping has done everything it can to inflame cross-strait relations by goading her into making an outraged response. Tsai, who was inaugurated President of the island nation of 23 million people on May 20, has refused to react in the way Beijing wants.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Hong Kong activists split over Tiananmen Square

For the first time, Hong Kong’s Federation of Students, a coalition of student unions, will not take part in the Victoria Park demonstrations. Instead, it will help organize a number of events and demonstrations confronting democracy and even independence in Hong Kong’s future.

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
June 4, 2016.

By ryanne lai/香港人一條心/Flickr, Creative Commons

A candlelight vigil in Hong Kong in 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the June 4 incident. Photo by Ryanne Lai/香港人一條心/Flickr, Creative Commons

There will be many fewer people this year at Hong Kong’s annual demonstration to mark the anniversary of the 1989 crushing by the army of the student protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and many other city centres around China.

But the Beijing government should take no comfort from the decision by many student organizations in Hong Kong to boycott the annual gathering, which has regularly seen 100,000 people or more gather for a night-time vigil at Victoria Park in the city’s Causeway Bay district.

The students have decided that the Victoria Park demonstration, with its emphasis on seeking democratic reform in China, does not meet their aspirations. The students want democracy or even independence for Hong Kong. They don’t care much what happens in China and they don’t think it’s their responsibility.

This schism in the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong should be more concerning for Beijing than the old mass protests every June 4. It stems from the fact that more and more of Hong Kong’s 7.2 million people do not identify themselves as Chinese citizens. They think of themselves culturally and politically as Hongkongers. These feelings are especially strong among the young, which means that this identity crisis is likely to intensify as the years pass.

For the first time, the territory’s Federation of Students, a coalition of student unions, will not take part in the Victoria Park demonstrations. Instead, it will help organize a number of events and demonstrations confronting democracy and even independence in Hong Kong’s future.

Chow Shue Fan, one of the student organizers, told Singapore’s “The Straits Times” newspaper this week: “The candlelight vigil is calling for a democratic China. But we don’t think we are Chinese and so we don’t have a responsibility to remember June 4. Whatever significance it holds for China, it means nothing to us.”

In another interview Chow added that he considers the candlelight vigils to be “part of a package to indoctrinate participants” into believing they are Chinese and that their political fate is inexorably linked to that of China.

It is true that the leading figures of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement have usually presented themselves as Chinese patriots whose only problem is the autocratic, anti-democratic instincts of the Chinese Communist Party. They shy away from notions of Hong Kong independence and say the best path to assuring the territory’s autonomy is to promote democracy in China.

This strategy does not impress many of the Hong Kong-nationalist students and young people. An editorial in one student newspaper this week went so far as to characterise the June 4 vigil old guard as “pimps and bawds in a brothel.”

This development is an indictment of the way Beijing has handled its relations with Hong Kong since the territory was handed back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after 156 years of British colonial rule.

Several pollsters and university projects have kept track of Hongkongers perception of themselves since 1997. At the time of the handover and for a short period afterwards there was a surge in Chinese patriotism, but since then there has been a steady decline in Hongkongers’ attachment to the mainland, even though about 95 per cent of them are ethnic Chinese. Instead, more and more of the territory’s people identify themselves either as exclusively Hongkongers – 40 per cent — or Hongkongers first and Chinese second – 27 per cent. Only 18 per cent of Hongkongers identify themselves as exclusively Chinese.

Yet at the time of the handover Hongkongers had high expectations that Beijing would stick to its agreement with London, allow the territory to continue running itself “with a high degree of autonomy,” observe the continuation of the British-style rule of law, and facilitate the swift transition to full democracy.

That has not happened. Early on, Beijing made it clear that the rule of law applies in Hong Kong only so long as it does not challenge the supreme power of the Chinese Communist Party.

Beijing allowed the autonomy of Hong Kong’s administration and legislative assembly to continue. However, this was only because Beijing ensured it controlled the governors – known as the Chief Executive – and that a majority of the members of the legislature were business people economically dependent on their commercial relations with China.

As for the democracy timetable, well that kept disappearing into the future. Matters came to a head in 2014 when Beijing released a ruling on the direct election of the Chief Executive in 2017. The ruling was that candidates must be “patriotic” and would have to be approved by Beijing.

This sparked what became known as the “Umbrella Revolution,” as protesters, mostly students, occupied two commercial centres in Hong Kong and brought them to a standstill for weeks. The demonstrations got their name because protesters used their umbrellas to fend off tear gas used against them by the police.

These protests closed down the Central business district on Victoria Island and Mongkok in Kowloon for 79 days. These mass occupations and the political debates among the protesters fixed the notions of Hong Kong’s cultural and political separateness from China that had been building since the handover.

The umbrella protests effectively put an end to the plans, however constrained, to directly elect the Chief Executive next year. However, it was a Pyrrhic victory. Beijing will carry on using a committee of its sycophants to “elect” the governor, and is probably quite happy that it will not have to manipulate anything as complex as direct elections for the foreseeable future.

This was not the first time since the handover that Beijing has had its plans foiled by the mass opposition of Hong Kong people. When, at Beijing’s behest, the Hong Kong government attempted to introduce a highly restrictive anti-subversion law in 2003, at least 500,000 people took to the streets in a peaceful march through the city’s main business district. The peacefulness of the march and the participation of very many middle class people not usually associated with the pro-democracy movement made its impact even more powerful. The Hong Kong administration shelved the legislation and has not tried to reintroduce it.

There was another mass protest in 2012 when, again at Beijing’s insistence, the Hong Kong government tried to impose a “patriotic education curriculum” into schools. Again there was a public outcry, and the government backed down.

So this year may mark the beginning of the end of the era of the June 4 vigils, which began in 1989 when at least one million Hongkongers took to the streets in protest when the news of the massacre in Tiananmen Square began to filtre through. And in the following months, Hong Kong became an important sanctuary and escape root for Chinese pro-reform demonstrators who managed to avoid the dragnet by Chinese authorities.

But that was all a generation ago. Hong Kong’s new activists were in their cribs or not even born in 1989. For them, the reality of Beijing’s repression is here and now, and it is trying to impose on them a cultural and political heritage that they find alien and unacceptable.

Beijing will probably find that the new Hong Kong is far more difficult to manage and control than the old one.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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Chinese imperialism ignored amid Ukraine-Russia debate

The outpouring from the West of shock and outrage over Russia’s actions in Ukraine has been … “entertaining,” writes international affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. The reaction to Russia is especially bizarre given there really is a colonial, expansionist power afoot in the world – and Russia may well be one of its targets.

The sound and fury aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin in the last few days has been vastly entertaining. But it was evident from the start that, as Ukraine sank into internal chaos, Putin would ensure the security of the Russian Black Sea Fleet and the continuation of the 1997 agreement under which Moscow maintains a naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. Yet other events on the other side of the world in the last few days should have alerted American Secretary of State John Kerry, Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird and all the preened diplomats of the European Union that there is a would-be imperial power at work, a power which already occupies large colonial possessions and is hungry for more. That power is not Russia, but China.

Log in to read the column, Beijing, not Moscow, is the home of imperialism.*

*Jonathan Manthorpe’s columns are available to monthly subscribers or with a $1 day pass to Facts and Opinions. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, funded entirely by readers. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

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