East Asia

Hong Kong: will protests spread to mainland?

Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “fake concession,” with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam’s supposed “withdrawal” of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. ChinaWorker.info, a Hong Kong-based website that supports independent labor struggles in China and is now supporting the protest movement in the city, warns of an imminent escalation in repression: “What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses.” (Photo: ChinaWorker.info)

East Asia

Podcast: the politics of separatism in China

In Episode 39 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Hong Kong protests—and especially how they have been playing out in New York’s Chinatown. It is natural that the Hong Kong protesters have made common cause with the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols also struggling for their rights and dignity against China’s ruling party-state. But some supporters of these movements have come to embrace a separatist position, actually seeking independent states in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkistan and South Mongolia. Will self-determination for these regions and peoples be possible without active solidarity with the struggles for democracy and political empowerment by the Han Chinese majority of the People’s Republic? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

East Asia

Street clashes as Hong Kong protesters defy ban

Hong Kong riot police used tear-gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protesters as tens of thousands marched in the city, defying a ban. Police fired live rounds over the heads of the crowd as “warning shots” in Causeway Bay. Some protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at police lines. TV news footage showed riot police beating people with their batons inside commuter-train cars. In a first for Hong Kong, police water-cannon trucks fired dyed water at protesters near government headquarters in an effort to identify those who fled for later arrest. The Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of around 50 pro-democracy groups, had cancelled the march in response to the ban, but many organizations pledged to carry on anyway—with some calling the march a “religious” procession in a bid to evade the government ban. (Photo: HKFP)

East Asia

Worker protests in China’s automotive sector

Employees at Hubei Meiyang Automobile Industry Co staged a demonstration to protest “illegal dismissals, wage arrears and compensation payments.” Meiyang Auto, a “new energy” start-up based in the central city of Xiangyang, had been in production for less than two years before halting operations. Workers at Eastone Automotive in Shanghai’s Pudong district also staged a protest claiming they were owed around 40 million yuan in wages in arrears stretching back to the beginning of the year. Employees claimed they were being forced to leave without any compensation, and appealed to the local government for help. So far this year, China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map has recorded 25 collective protests by workers in the automotive sector, up from just five in the same period last year. The protests, mostly related to layoffs and wage arrears, have occurred in car plants, components factories, dealerships and service centers, and even car rental agencies. (Photo via China Labor Bulletin)

East Asia

Hong Kong protesters charged with rioting

A Hong Kong court charged 44 protesters with rioting over their involvement in street protests over the weekend. The peaceful sit-in at a park outside Beijing’s Liaison Office turned into running battles between black-clad demonstrators and police, with security forces using tear-gas and rubber bullets. The 44 are the first demonstrators to be charged since protests over the extradition bill began in June.  If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison. This heavy sentence has sparked outrage, and protesters demonstrated at the courthouse where the 44 defendants were charged. While the protests initially began in June to demonstrate against the extradition bill, they have since developed into a call for wider democratic reform. (Photo: Studio Incendo, WikiMedia via Jurist)

East Asia

China: dissident journalist Huang Qi gets 12 years in prison

Huang Qi, a Chinese journalist and “cyber-dissident,” was sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegally disclosing state secrets abroad. Huang Qi is founder of 64 Tianwang, a Chinese news site that has reported frequently on protests and human rights abuses in the People’s Republic. His site has run articles on the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. He provided advice to families in Sichuan in their case against the government for children who died in schoolhouses during the 2008 earthquake there. He reported on Tiananmen Square again in 2013 when a rare demonstration was held there, and in 2014 when a woman tried to self-immolate there to protest the opening of the National People’s Congress. Each of these reports led to prison time for Huang Qi. (Photo: Reporters Without Borders)

East Asia
Ji Sizun

China: justice sought in death of ‘barefoot lawyer’

International rights groups are demanding accountability from China in the death of Ji Sizun, the most recent victim of the ongoing crackdown on dissident lawyers in the People’s Republic. Two months after being released from prison, Ji, 69, died from unknown illnesses, guarded by state security in a hospital in his native Fujian province. He had reportedly been ill-treated in detention, and was released in a comatose state. One of China’s most prominent “barefoot lawyers,” or self-taught legal advocates, Ji spent most of the past 10 years in prison. “Chinese authorities need to investigate Ji Sizun’s hospitalization and death and hold accountable anyone responsible for wrongdoing,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher with Human Rights Watch. “For human rights defenders in China, prison sentences are increasingly turning into death sentences.” (Photo: Chinese Human Rights Defenders)

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.