Following the announcement that China's Communist Party has proposed scrapping term limits for the presidency, effectively setting Xi Jinping up as president for life, the online reaction within the People's Republic was initially voluble and irreverent. But authorities quickly cracked down, barring certain words and phrases from Sina Weibo search results. The absurd overkill in what what was blocked betrays an obvious fear of the masses on the part of China's ruling elite. The very titles of George Orwell's novels 1984 and Animal Farm have of course been suppressed. This is hardly surprising. It's almost heartening that despots around the world still find Orwell so dangerous that they have to ban him. But some other samples of the verboten verbiage are more revealing—and enigmatic. (Photo: chinaworker.info)
Human rights lawyer Yu Wensheng was charged with "inciting subversion of state officials" after calling for reform to China's constitution. Yu was arrested by a SWAT team at his home in Beijing just hours after he wrote an open letter urging democratic changes, including multi-party presidential election. He is now being held incommunicado at a secret site under the special status of "Residential Surveillance in a Designated Location." The "subversion" charge carries a sentence of 15 years. Since the current crackdown began in July 2015, more than 300 rights activists and lawyers have faced charges in China. (Photo: chinaworker.info)
A court in China convicted a prominent cyber-activist on subversion charges, after holding him for two years. Wu Gan, AKA "Super Vulgar Butcher," was arrested during the "709 Crackdown" on rights campaigners in 2015. Following the verdict, Wu was sentenced to eight years—the harshest term yet for anyone targeted in the crackdown. There's a particular irony to Wu's draconian sentence, as he made protesting transgressions of justice in China's court system his special cause. For instance, he took up the case of a rape victim who had killed her assailant, a Communist Party official. He also followed the example of online activists in the West by posting videos of police abuses. Photo: YouTube
A rare protest is reported from Beijing following the mass eviction of a squatter camp for migrant workers. The protest comes just as the US and EU condemned China on the occasion of International Human Rights Day—and China held its own "South-South Human Rights Forum" in Beijing, in a bid to deflect Western criticism and redefine human rights as a "right to development."
A Chinese court sentenced Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-cheh to five years in prison on charges of attempting to "subvert state power." Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council immediately denounced the sentence as "unacceptable" and "politically motivated." Lee was incriminated on the basis of social media content he posted on platforms including WeChat, QQ and Facebook.
William C. Kirby, author of Can China Lead? Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth, argued in a presentation at New York's China Institute that China's rise is dependent on continued global integration, and that this is now threatened by the authoritarianism of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping alike.
Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido seems, unfortunately, poised to jump into the headlines as East Asia's next flashpoint for Great Power confrontation. When North Korea fired a missile over the island last month, it was during unprecedented joint US-Japan military exercises on Hokkaido. Now Russia is conducting its own exercises in the Kuril Islands immediately to the north—including territory that Japan has claimed since the end of World War II.
As Trump and and Kim Jong-un exchange nuclear threats, anti-missile protesters in rural South Korea scored a win, prompting Seoul to delay plans to expand the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery that the Pentagon installed in April. The announcement came as villagers and activists were blocking the road to the THAAD base.
Authorities in Qingyuan, in China's Guangdong province, canceled a planned waste incinerator project after the city center was repeatedly shut down by angry mass protests.
Protesters blocked roads and clashed with police in South Korea's rural Seongju county as US forces began installing the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system.
The latest Amnesty International report on global use of the death penalty shows a decline last year—but China's massive statistics are kept secret and therefore not factored in.
As the US moves to deploy the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, local farmers have launched a protest campaign and lawsuit to halt the installation.