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Archive for September, 2014

Are the Occupy Protesters really about “Democracy”?

September 30th, 2014 21 comments

false_godsAs the Occupy protests continue in Hong Kong, articles, editorials and op-eds in the Western press continue to characterize the conflict as one between those in Hong Kong demanding “real democracy” and Beijing reneging on its promise of “universal suffrage” under “one country two systems.” Western media and leaders – including the New York Times Editorial Board and President Obama, for example – have all but argued that “universal suffrage” in Hong Kong means that Beijing should have no say in determining which candidates are eligible to run for elections … that the system China has proposed is but a “charade” of democracy.

But does this narrative hold any water?

A quick glance at history and Article 45 of the Hong Kong’s Basic Law is revealing. Read more…

What is Your Take on Hong Kong Police Breaking Up Protesters Occupying Government Buildings and Public Spaces?

September 28th, 2014 23 comments

The news of Hong Kong Police using tear gas to disperse crowds aimed at occupying government buildings and public spaces to protest against Beijing rules on how Hong Kong residents vote for its next leaders are plastered on the first page of all the major news site today.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, has this story.

HONG KONG—In the harshest response against protesters in Hong Kong in nearly a decade, police used pepper spray and several rounds of teargas to disperse pro-democracy crowds blocking traffic on some of the city’s busiest streets.

An effort by police to keep protesters away from government buildings appeared to backfire on Sunday. As police converged on the scene and protesters spread out from its center, the conflict spread across three of Hong Kong’s most important commercial neighborhoods.

When police started lobbing tear gas at the crowd, protesters dispersed but quickly regrouped and retook some ground. They ignored police signs telling them to leave and used metal barricades to prevent officers from moving them away.

Late Sunday evening, thousands of protesters were still spread through downtown Hong Kong, and police continued to pour into the area. But the Hong Kong Federation of Students around 10:10 p.m. started urging protesters to leave, citing a fear that police would start using tactics such as firing rubber bullets. Read more…

Alternate View from Xingjiang

September 27th, 2014 1 comment

It seems that every time Xingjiang is in the news it is when something bad has occured. Doesn’t anyone question why there are no good news out of Xingjiang? I will be honest here, I really hated the mainstream western press portrayal of events in that region of China. The general narrative is that China invaded and colonized that region. Today, the native people there faced oppression, discrimination and threat of their religion and culture eliminated. The underlying message is that the Chinese are oppressing these people and they need to be taught a lesson and be kicked out! Read more…

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Killing Chicken Warning Monkey

September 27th, 2014 5 comments

Now with the trial and sentencing of Ilham Tohti over, the expected reverberations and shocks from Western Countries continues. It’s obvious Xinjiang officials and by implication central government in Beijing have decided on iron fist policy and no compromise. It remains to be seen whether it will work. Yet for me it is rather sad and with a sense of deja vu. For it very much reminds me of what’s happening in Israel today, iron fist and no compromise, and yes collective punishment. I always find it counterproductive and inhumane that Israeli’s demolishment of suspects’ family homes, and the confiscation of Mr. Tohti’s property affects his wife and children similarly. And the war in Gaza with civilian casualties, and the report that 40 rioters were killed, obviously orders were shoot to kill rather than wound.

When I was a child Xinjiang to me was a land shrouded in mystery, with beautiful women singing folk songs with angelic voices during national day celebrations. How did it come to pass after 65 years, instead of unity, we come to frequent killings on both sides? With the reaction from the West Chinese media provided video evidence of Mr. Tohti preaching separatism from his class room, yet why was him not fired from his teaching job in Minzo University in 2009? and why was not his web site removed then? I remember during the Democratic primary in 2004, Hillary Clinton was attacked by the liberals for voting yes on the Iraq War, while Obama had the luxury of not holding office and making one speech attacking the Iraq War. I tried to defend her by saying after 9/11, she being a senator from New York, she can’t afford not to vote yes, whatever her original intention. I think similar dynamic is at work here. After the massacre of innocents in Xinjiang, Mr. Tohti lost his protection in Beijing as no one can afford to appear weak in face of challenge.

During the early years of The People’s Republic there were frequent attempts by Mao to mold and change human nature, yet those movements were generally in China proper and bypassed Xinjiang. Due to military and border sensitivity, officials in Xinjiang preferred status quo. With official state religion as atheism, Islam was never challenged there. Large movement of people was forbidden and integration and intermarriage was discouraged. When there were disputes of Uighur peddlers with Han customers in major cities, authorities always have an appeasement policy of favoring Uighurs and paid them off and sent them away. It bred a sense of entitlements and resentments. With the oncoming of economic reform and capitalism of last 30 years, it’s inevitable the clash of cultures resulting violence. For capitalism with profit driven motive, acts as an universal solvent. Those isolated weak cultures crumbles under competition from dominant forces. Reaction in China is no different on push back from Jihadist Islam against modernity around the world. To Islam equal right for women is a threat totally unacceptable. The question is whether using Mr. Tohti as a sacrificial goat to paper over the failure and warning the monkeys will work. I suspect it will have no deterrent effects on the rabid hyena killers.

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The Scotland Referendum and What it might teach us about Democracy

September 19th, 2014 4 comments

Saltire and union flagBy the now, the results are in.  Scotland has just rejected secession from U.K. in a historic referendum.  There have been impassioned” pleas on both sides, but through it all, Scotland will remain a part of the U.K.  If mainstream media is to be trusted, a big sigh of relief is heard around the world.

Personally I have no feeling one way or another although I will admit, the breakup of the U.K. – long the terror for much of the world – does not really bring a distaste to my mouth.  Whichever side you take, what I can’t stand is the suffocating self congratulatory praises that seem to now infuse editorials (see e.g. this piece by Roger Cohen in the NYT) and reader comments (see e.g. comments to this NYT article) about “democracy” and “rule of law.”

Oh … just look how the debates in Scotland (and U.K.) have been so “civil” even if “impassioned.” The U.K. and the West is truly different from others – especially rising powers such as China – because in the free democratic West, important, divisive issues can be settled peacefully, civilly, democratically, and in accordance “the rule of law.”

But is this really about the triumph of “democracy” and “rule of law”?  A little dose of reality might bring some sobriety. Read more…

In Praise of “Yiyun Li (李翊雲)” and ‘Kinder than Solititude”

September 14th, 2014 No comments

Growing up as a baby boomer in U.S. one experienced great changes, from civil rights, music, and now China looming in the horizon. It was a time of idealism, protests against Vietnam War, and environmentalism. Yet it is a disappointment that boomer generation wind up as Yuppies, Reagan democrats, and now Tea Partiers. For a Chinese American like myself any news about China and other overseas Chinese are treasured. I feel a sense of shared glory of success of other Chinese Americans like I M Pei, Maya Lin, and Jeremy Lin. Thus my ear perked up when I heard a radio interview mentioned Yiyun Li. I was further intrigued when she was introduced as a MacArthur genius recipient, and she was praised by Salman Rushdie as a writer. To me Nobel Literature Prize is mostly politics, and MacArthur Award is much more romantic. I decided to read her book.

Within a few pages I was hooked and finished her book in a week. The story started with the funeral of Shaoai, she was poisoned more than 20 years previously around 1989. In flashbacks of 3 teenagers, Boyang, Ruyu, and Moran, then and after. Moran who has a crush on Boyang, and Ruyu who Boying has a crush on both came to U.S.. It would seem to be a simple triangle love story with the infamous poison case as a backdrop. Most reviewers while praising the writing style treated it as such and seem somewhat disappointed it was only peripherally related to events of ’89. Shaoai was about 5 years older than the others and was a college student and was involved in the ’89 protest.

What Yiyun Li excels is her facility in English language. I am surprised that she only came to U.S. for her doctorate in cell biology before switching to writing. Some compare her to Chekov. I would compare her to Dostoyevsky in her use of interior dialects. One reads Dostoyevsky and immediately understand what his vision of Russia, honor, strength, and patriotism. One reads Yiyun Li and her vision of modern China, warps and all shines through.

As she said in one of her interviews readers put their own experiences in interpreting what the writer tries to impart in her writing. To me the story is very much more than the poisoning or triangle love story. The poisoning of Shaoai was very much the metaphor of the events of ’89. It lingered and poisoned the atmosphere for more than 20 years in China, and hopefully her death meant the lifting and coming to terms and liberating from it. She sprinkle the clues in the book most reviewers missed. The books Shaoai read, by Sartre, Camus and other existential writers, her rape of Ruyu, and telling Ruyu she would appreciate and understand it will be good for her. To me it was obvious the forcing of democracy and other values on an unready China. Boyang, Ruyu, and Moran represent different facets of China. Shaoai represents western values unleased by modernization. In the end the author didn’t assign blame on the tragedy as event does have a momentum of its own, and the author hope toward resolution.

The only criticism I would like to mention is her slight to tiger mom. I understand she disagree to Amy Chua’s child rearing philosophy, but slurring her ethnicity was uncalled for.

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Experimenting with New Themes

September 13th, 2014 No comments

I am playing with updating our themes.  Our old theme is no longer supported, has not been updated in over three years, has become not that search friendly … and does not display well on mobile devices (small screens).  Give me a week or so to toy with different things.  If anyone has a wordpress theme they like, please suggest to me below or by private email.  Thanks!

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Enjoy this short scenic video of Xian

September 13th, 2014 No comments

Yuanfan Zhang – CEO and founder at Alibaba – recently shared a video with Overseas Chinese World Affairs Forum on facebook about Xi’an, his hometown, that I found entertaining.  I had visited China’s ancient capital Xi’an in 2008 and found it to be a beautiful city and thought I’d share it here.  Enjoy!

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Why Democrats Can’t Win the House?

September 7th, 2014 No comments

I read the Sunday column by Nate Cohen in NYT with interest. Although it’s not directly related to China, but in a way it’s related with the question of democracy raised by Chinese dissidents about Hong Kong. Mr. Cohen says that Republicans has essentially a lock in the House for years to come , not only because of gerrymandering, but because of demographic and urban/ rural divide. he sees the gridlock continues in U.S. in fore-seeable future. Most of the comments agree with him and complain about U.S. not a real democracy of 1 man, 1 vote.

As a Chinese -American I have voted in every election. Yet I can see the futility of it in deteriorating infra-structures. In 50 years the interstate highway system, used to be the marvel and envy of the world, now has not enough money from the highway trust fund to pay for its repairs. The gasoline tax for the fund has not been raised and not likely to be raised despite inflation. Looking at the high speed rail system and new highways in China, despite all the corruption one can’t help but question those who idealize and idolize democracy.

Lyndon Johnson knew when he forced through the Civil Rights Act that Democrats will lose the South, and Nixon exploited the Southern Strategy. The African-Americans sued for more equal representation in Congress, and the Republicans happily obliged to gerrymander 90+% black districts to guaranteed their elections, but did that affirmative action better their lots? I don’t think so. Did Clarence Thomas replacing Thurgood Marshall, so they retain a black seat in Supreme Court do them any favors? With the United Citizens decision of $1, 1 vote, and the fact almost half the electorate didn’t bother to vote in presidential election, not to mention off year and local elections I don’t see much future of democracy in U.S.. Some would say my argument is irrelevant as they want to make their own mistakes. I wonder those dead in Syria and Libya would agree.

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Hong Kong and Democracy

September 1st, 2014 7 comments

Calling it a “sad day for Hong Kong” one of the world’s prominent democracy scholars decried Beijing’s new restrictions on Hong Kong’s upcoming elections, saying they would fail to meet international standards for universal suffrage and could invite a public boycott.

This seems to be about the worst outcome imaginable. No progress toward democracy, not even a timetable toward democracy, and frankly, not even an effort to gesture toward democracy

Professor Larry Diamond

“This is a sad day for Hong Kong, and for democracy,” Professor Larry Diamond, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, said in an email interview. “This seems to be about the worst outcome imaginable. No progress toward democracy, not even a timetable toward democracy, and frankly, not even an effort to gesture toward democracy.”

Above quote was the first paragraph from South China Morning Post. Far for me to disagree with Professor Diamond, but he is from Hoover Institute, the noted conservative nest from Southern California, so I would take it with a grain of salt. As a Chinese American who lived in U.S. for over 50 years I think I have as much right as Professor Diamond to talk about democracy and Hong Kong. (I did lived in Hong Kong for 2 years and still have relatives there.)

Let’s review the history of Hong Kong. Cede to Britain after the First Opium War in 1842, Kowloon in 1860, and New Territories in 1898 for 100 years lease. Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 when the lease expired and after negotiation as the island itself was untenable without the New Territories. Note U.S. is still holding Guantanamo due to colonial conquest as they called rule of law or more like rule of gun. Over the years Hong Kong has been transformed from manufacturing center for low cost items to a service economy of finance and tourism. It is inextricably tied to China in everything. China agreed to the 50 years transition period and has been essentially left Hong Kong alone. Now it’s more than 1/3 over the 50 years, the disparity in living standards between Hong Kong and mainland has been decreasing, yet because over the years many of China’s political exiles has been sent to Hong Kong, it does generate a noisy democracy movement.

U.S.A., cradle of democracy, 2008, Obama, Hope and Change. Today, not much change and even less hope. Ferguson, Missouri, I understand 12% of African-Americans voted in the local elections there, with white mayor, city councilors, and police force. Voter ID laws everywhere to cut down minority votes. I am sure professor Diamond approves those laws as legitimate voice of the people. Neocons want Hong Kong to be the next Ukraine on the doorstep of China. It will not happen.

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