East Asia

Protest shakes Hong Kong… and Wuhan: solidarity?

Days before protesters stormed and occupied the Hong Kong legislative chamber, some 10,000 marched in the central Chinese city of Wuhan to oppose construction of a waste incinerator. The Wuhan protesters chanted “Give us back our clean environment”—before being set upon by the riot police, leading to many arrests. Solidarity with pro-democratic forces on the mainland is what holds out hope for restraining Beijing’s dictatorial agenda for Hong Kong. Yet some Hong Kong protesters instead look to former colonial power Britain for protection—or promote a hardcore “localist” stance that seeks independence rather than a democratic China. (Photo  of Wuhan protest via RFA)

East Asia

Hong Kong: ‘leaderless’ protests pledge no retreat

Despite limited victories, leaders of the declaredly “leaderless” protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in Hong Kong pledge to keep up the pressure. The unpopular bill that would have allowed extradition to mainland China has now been suspended. But six student unions issued a call to escalate protest actions if the government does not respond to their outstanding demands in the coming days. These include that the extradition bill be formally withdrawn, that all charges be dropped against arrested protesters, and investigations be opened into cases of police brutality. Protesters are also demanding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam step down. (Photo: HKFP)

East Asia

China: repression ahead of Tiananmen anniversary

Chinese authorities must end a wave of persecution targeting those seeking to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Amnesty International said ahead of the 30th anniversary of the bloodshed. Over recent weeks, police have detained, placed under house arrest or threatened dozens of activists seeking to mark the June 4 anniversary, as well as relatives of those killed. “Thirty years on from the Tiananmen bloodshed the very least the victims and their families deserve is justice. However, President Xi continues to read from the same tired political playbook, cruelly persecuting those seeking the truth about the tragedy in a concerted effort to wipe the June 4 crackdown from memory,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty. (Photo: chinaworker.info)

East Asia

Podcast: Memories of Tiananmen Square

In Episode 34 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Rose Tang, veteran journalist, activist, artist, and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In an in-depth oral history, Tang recounts her experiences as a student leader in Beijing in the spring of 1989, her witness to the June 4 repression, and her work as a public voice for Tiananmen Square survivors. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo via Rose Tang)

East Asia

Umbrella activists convicted in Hong Kong

Nine leading activists of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement were convicted under colonial-era “public nuisance” laws, concluding the city’s most politically charged trial in years. The nine may face up to seven years in prison. They include the famous “Occupy Trio”—legal scholar Benny Tai, sociology professor Chan Kin-man and Rev. Chu Yiu-ming. The Umbrella Movement was the biggest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong’s history, with thousands occupying the city’s central districts for several weeks between September and December 2014.

East Asia

Japan to proceed with relocation of US base

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the relocation of the US airbase at Futenma to Henoko, elsewhere on the island of Okinawa, would continue despite a referendum vote opposing the move. Okinawa prefecture held a referendum vote on whether the US military base should relocate from Ginowan municipality to Henoko. After the final count, approximately 70% of voters opposed the move. The relocation has been 20 years in preparation, and has continued to face opposition over claims of noise from military activity, harm to the surrounding coral reefs, and outrage over a 1995 incident of rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by US servicemen. Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki plans to make a visit to Tokyo to reaffirm the island's position. (Photo via Alwaght)

East Asia

Taiwan indigenous people tell Xi: hands off

Leaders of Taiwan's indigenous peoples issued a joint statement directed at Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said in a Jan. 2 speech that Taiwan "must and will" be united with China, and darkly alluded to the use of force. The indigenous leaders retorted that their peoples inhabited the island for thousands of years before the first Han Chinese settlers reached its shores. "We are the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and have lived in Taiwan, our motherland, for more than six thousand years," the letter says. "We are not ethnic minorities within the so-called 'Chinese nation.'" The statement, entitled "Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan to President Xi Jinping of China," further asserts: "Taiwan is the sacred land where generations of our ancestors lived and protected it with their lives. It has never belonged to China… We have fought against imperialism and every foreign intruder of our land. We have suffered military suppression from colonial and authoritarian regimes… We have never given up our rightful claim to the sovereignty of Taiwan… [W]e the Taiwanese indigenous peoples will not be threatened and will make no concessions." (Photo of Bunum people via Mata Taiwan)

East Asia

North Korea political prisoners betrayed at summit

In the prelude to the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, survivors of Kim Jong-un's prisons and concentration camps called for an amnesty for North Korea's tens of thousands of political prisoners to be a condition of any peace deal. They recalled a 2014 UN report finding that up to 120,000 were being held in prison camps in North Korea, subjected to "unspeakable atrocities and hardships." Of course, Trump breathed not a word about human rights at the meeting, but came away crowing about his "special bond" with Kim. And despite the fact that the agreement to come out of the meeting contained no specific commitments to move toward de-nuclearization of the peninsula (only vague expressions of principle), some peaceniks are already paradoxically cheering the right-wing demagogue who so recently threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea. (Map of North Korea's principal concentration camps via One Free Korea)

East Asia

Fear of ‘Asian Chernobyl’ in DPRK stand-down?

The de-escalation in the crisis on the Korean peninsula reached a welcome turning point as the Pyongyang government announced that it will suspend nuclear and missile tests—and shut down its Punggye-ri test site, saying it has "finished its mission."  But despite this face-saving rhetoric, reports suggest cessation of the program could be motivated by fear of a disaster at the Punggye-ri site. Geological experts warn that the site may have become fatigued and unstable from the nuclear tests, and could be in danger of collapse. After the last nuclear test in September, there were reports that a tunnel at the facility had collapsed, killing 200 workers. Observers also cited the fear of a "Chernobyl-style" meltdown at the North's reactors where plutonium is produced for the weapons program, placing 100 million people across northeast Asia in "mortal danger."  (Map: Federation of American Scientists)

East Asia

Free speech threatened in Taiwan: martyr’s kin

Pressure from China, restrictive legislation and self-censorship among Taiwanese youth have emerged as threats to freedom of speech in Taiwan, according to Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation director Cheng Tsing-hua. He made his comments on Taiwan's Free Speech Day, April 7, which commemorates the day in 1989 that his brother Cheng Nan-jung, a young democracy advocate under the one-party dictatorship of the Kuomintang, self-immolated as a protest against government restrictions on freedom of expression. Cheng's observations are sobering, as Taiwan has emerged as a last bastion of free speech in the Chinese-speaking world with the closing of political space in Hong Kong. (Image montage from Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation via FathomTaiwan)

East Asia

Brink looms closer in East Asia maritime theaters

Japan has activated its first amphibious marine unit since World War II, which conducted practice drills to defend the disputed Senkaku Islands from an anticipated Chinese military seizure. Meanwhile, the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, with a group of Philippine generals onboard, entered disputed waters in the South China Sea, where China is building military defenses on islands claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. Another carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, patrolled the contested waters last month, taking part in anti-submarine drills with Japanese forces and visiting Vietnam with its 5,000-strong crew—the largest such US military presence there since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. (Map via IDSA)

East Asia

Podcast: Xi Jinping’s totalitarian capitalism

In Episode Five of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg makes the case that despite the official ideology of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and the revival of rhetoric and imagery from the Mao era, media commentators are off base in their comparison of Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong. The new personalistic dictatorship of Xi is appropriating the outward forms of Maoism, but whereas the Great Helmsman used totalitarian methods to advance socialism (at least in terms of his own intentions) Xi is doing so to further entrench China's savage capitalist system. As a part of the same constitutional changes that have installed Xi as the new "paramount leader," the Chinese Communist Party is imposing further market liberalization and "supply-side" economic reform. The New Cold War between the US and China is simply a rivalry between capitalist powers. But in the global divide-and-conquer game, the leaders of oppressed nationalities within China such as the Tibetans and Uighurs look to the US and the West as allies, while left-populist governments in Latin America such as Venezuela and Bolivia similarly look to China. How can we respond to these developments in a way that builds solidarity between peasants, workers and indigenous peoples across the geopolitical divide? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon
(Photo: chinaworker.info)