Thursday, 31 July 2014

Chinese Tourist Attacked and Beaten in Taiwan

Yesterday evening a mainland Chinese tourist travelling to Taiwan with her mother was beaten by several Taiwanese men. The 40-year-old woman had booked a trip for 8 days and 7 nights through a Taiwanese travel agency paying 3900 RMB (about 500 Euros, or 20,000 NTD). She and the other members of the tourist group come from Zhengzhou (鄭州 / 郑州) in China's Henan Province.

Yesterday, while she was shopping outside of their hotel in the hot spring area of Zhiben (知本, spelt Chihpen in Taiwan), about 15km from Taidong, she heard people screaming behind her. At first she didn't pay attention to it, but then 5, 6 men surrounded her. Among them were the bus driver, the tour guide and the group leader she had been travelling with. "They were pointing at their noises, talking in Taiwanese," said the woman later to journalists. "Then the tour guide came. I asked him what was going on. But he ignored my question."

The men punched and kicked the woman several times, until a friend of hers intervened. The two of them managed to escape to a convenience store on the opposite side of the road. "Call the police!" screamed the woman. The shop assistant locked the door to prevent the men from entering. "I'll call the police!" shouted the woman. "Do it! I'm not afraid!" answered the tour guide.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

16-Year-Old Girl Uses LINE App to Organise Prostitution Business

As Apple Daily reported, a 16-year-old Taiwanese girl and her boyfriend have been arrested on charges of human trafficking after the police discovered they were using the popular social App LINE to lure customers. 

According to the newspaper, 16-year-old Xiaoya [fictitious name] used LINE, an app owned by the Korean company Naver, in order to lure male customers with whom she had sexual intercourse. Because her 'business' was increasingly successful, she couldn't handle it all by herself and decided to find other young girls to work for her. 

5 girls, all of them between 15 and 17 years old, agreed to have compensated dating for money. Xiaoya would contact the potential customers through LINE, and then would arrange a meeting with one of the girls. Each client paid 3000 NTD (around 75 Euros), of which Xiaoya took 50%. Xiaoya's boyfriend worked as a pimp and bodyguard for the girls. However, after one of the girls went to the police and claimed to have been sexually assaulted, the authorities launched an investigation and discovered the illegal business. Xiaoya and her boyfriend were arrested and face a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Experimental Farm of National Taiwan University

On one of Taipei's hot and sunny day there's nothing better than finding a shadowy place to take a rest and eating a delicious ice cream. If you're looking for a such a place you may consider visiting the campus of National Taiwan University (NTU).

About one and a half years ago a Taiwanese friend of mine showed me for the first time the campus. She took me to a small shop - a nice one-storey building with a few tables outside and protected from the sun by trees. She explained that all the products sold in that store are made through crops grown on NTU farmland. I bought an ice cream in that shop, and it was one of the best I've ever eaten (not surprisingly, on weekends, when many families go to the campus to walk and relax, this ice cream is often sold out).

The Affiliated Experimental Farm to the College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture of National Taiwan University, as it is officially called, is a place of teaching, research and practice for students of the said department as well as for students from nearby high-schools. It originated from the Practice Farm of Taihoku (Taipei) High School of Agriculture and Forestry, established in 1924 during the Japanese colonial era (1895-1945). 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

TransAsia Aircraft Crashes on Taiwan's Penghu Islands Killing 48, Injuring 11

A TransAsia Airways (復興航空) crashed on Wednesday 23 in Huxi Township, Penghu County, Taiwan. The plane number GE 222 was scheduled to leave Kaohsiung Airport (高雄國際機場) at 16:00 and arrive at Magong Airport (馬公機場), in Penghu, at 16:35. According to a statement released by the airline yesterday (23rd) evening, because of bad weather conditions due to typhoon Matmo the departure was delayed and the plane was scheduled to land at Magong at 18:30. Heavy rain was still falling by the time the plane reached Penghu. 

According to Apple Daily, during landing the plane encountered unspecified difficulties. The control tower lost communication with the aircraft, which disappeared from the radar. The plane attempted an emergency landing, but crashed on two buildings and caught fire. Magong Airport was temporarily closed, 6 scheduled flights were cancelled. 

58 people were on board the plane, including the crew. The plane crashed at about 19:00 local time in Xixi (西溪), a small town near the airport. So far, 48 people have been confirmed dead, while 10 others have suffered severe injuries. Also 10 local residents have been injured during he accident.

Yesterday the Minister of Health and Welfare Qiu Wenda (邱文達) attended a meeting of the Central Emergency Operation Centre. He stated that everything will be done to help the victims. According to the Ministry's information 11 people have been taken to hospital for treatment. 7 people are currently treated at Penghu Military Hospital, 4 of whom are in serious conditions. Other 4 people are treated at Penghu Hospital, two of whom are in serious conditions. Due to shortage of blood in the hospitals, the authorities have appealed to citizens and soldiers to donate blood. 

Yesterday at around 22:00 local time the mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Ju (陳菊), went to Kaoshiung Airport and talked with relatives of the victims. She criticised the way in which TransAsia Airways handled the aftermath of the accident, saying that it did not contact the families of the passengers to inform them about what had happened. Many of them learnt of the tragedy while watching the news on TV. The wife, mother and older sister of Chen Zhenglong, one of the passengers, left the terminal in the early hours of the 24th in tears, surrounded by reporters. 

At first TransAsia Airways refused to hand over the list with the names of the passengers. Zhang Naiqian (張乃千), head of the Social Affairs Bureau of Kaohsiung City Government, went to the airport desk of the airline and asked for the list, but the clerks refused, citing the Personal Information Protection Act

TransAsia airplane (source: Wikipedia). 

Many families of the passengers, too, criticised TransAsia Airways for not informing them and not giving any help during the first few hours after the tragedy. At around 22:30 of the 23rd Xu Yicong (徐以聰), general manager of TransAsia Airways apologised for the accident. 

Penghu Islands (source: Wikipedia

TransAsia Airways was founded in 1951 as Taiwan's first private civil airline and is based in Neihu District, Taipei. Its main focus lies on Taiwan's domestic market, but it also operates several international flights with destinations in Japan, Thailand, Macau, South Korea among others.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A Loss of Face for Taiwan? - 2 Taiwanese Tourists Damage Hotel in Japan

I am Taiwanese and I am working in a hot spring hotel in Japan. Our hotel cares a lot about Taiwanese people and we are very nice to them. Our hotel hopes to offer them a top-level service, and we also care about the habits and customs of our Taiwanese guests. However, yesterday evening two Taiwanese guests have repaid the kindness of the Japanese this way [shows the pictures of wrecked furniture]. Four Japanese-style doors and two windows in one of the rooms have been damaged. When we told the boss's wife about it she was so angry that she cried....

This is a passage from a Facebook post published by a Taiwanese user who calls herself MikiJuan. The post was soon shared thousands of times. Several Taiwanese newspapers wrote articles about it. Many netizens reacted angrily. "Taiwanese abroad should not do things that put Taiwan to shame"; "Tell us the names of these people so we can understand what kind of parents and schools taught them to do this sort of things"; one netizen who commented on Liberty Times Net wrote: "When did Taiwanese become like Chinese people? What a loss of face!

MikiJuan said that two Taiwanese were about 10 years old. Except for damaging hotel's property they were also seen putting their feet on the table. They had travelled to Taiwan with a tourist group, but their parents had not travelled with them. "Will our international etiquette (國際禮儀) allow us to be proud of saying 'I am Taiwanese'?" she asked. "I just hope that after seeing this Taiwanese people will think about that." She added that the two Taiwanese had apologised and paid for the damage.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Taiwan's Filial Piety Awards (孝行獎)

On June 18, 30 Republic of China (ROC) nationals received this year's Filial Piety Awards (孝行獎), a prize that celebrates outstanding examples of filial devotion. Zhou Dingli (周鼎立), the oldest person to receive the award, is 85 years old, while the youngest, Wang Zhilong (王志龍) is only 14. A foreign spouse from Indonesia was also honoured with the prize.

The Filial Piety Award ceremony was hosted by Wu Dunyi (吳敦義), Vice-President of the ROC, and Chen Weiren (陳威仁), head of the Ministry of the Interior which is also the organiser of the annual award. 

The prize is an example of state-promoted filial piety (read my post about Filial Piety in Chinese Culture). To some extent, it is comparable to the promotion of filiality through awards and memorial arches in the Chinese Empire. In Taipei itself there is still such a memorial arch. It is located inside 228 Peace Park and was constructed during the Qing Dynasty. It is also comparable to other similar public events, such as the foot-washing ceremony held in Taiwan and China on Mother's Day.  

It represents the attempt to spread and cement moral values derived from Confucian ethics, and especially from family ideology. It is important to note that in East Asia such values are often considered expressions of human nature and inborn ethical instincts. But in fact they are connected to hierarchical and social mechanisms developed in Chinese culture over the centuries, and as such they should not be taken for granted, but analysed in their various aspects.

Most importantly, it should be remarked that filial piety is not based on equality and individualism, but on standardised social roles that the individual needs to fulfill. Wu Dunyi's words are in this respect revealing. He stated that filial piety is the highest of all virtues (百善孝為先) - a deeply Confucian concept. He said that he chooses his friends according to their filial devotion to parents, elders, and children. "Can someone who is not filial be capable of respecting others?" he asked. Moreover, he said that filiality is a criterion for judging government officials. This echoes the old imperial belief that only a filial son could become a good minister. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

The Generalissimo - Chiang Kai-shek in the Eyes of His Contemporaries

Chiang Kai-shek (1887 – 1975) was one of the most important political and military figures in 20th century China. In the 1920s he became the leader of the Guomindang, or Chinese Nationalist Party, he led the Northern Expedition which unified China after the warlord era, and he established a personal dictatorship that lasted until 1949, when he was defeated by the Communists. The government of the Republic of China then retreated to Taiwan, where Chiang was the undisputed leader until his death. 

Chiang Kai-shek's legacy as a statesman is highly controversial. On the one hand, he created the first modern central government in China after the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. He defeated the warlords, restored - at least to a certain degree - China's independence and built a functioning government. On the other hand, he stifled all democratic forces, repressed opposition, did not tolerate any challenge to his personal leadership, and he made major tactical mistakes that ultimately caused his downfall on the mainland. In Taiwan he managed to create a better government than he had done one the mainland. His regime achieved considerable successes in agriculture, industry and in the improvement of the bureaucracy. But he also ruled with an iron fist, never allowing the formation of an opposition. Until today, the role of Chiang in Taiwan's history is a matter of heated debate.

In this post, I will show what three of Chiang's contemporaries thought about the Generalissimo: Theodore White, Zhang Junmai, and Li Chenfu.

Chiang K'ai-shek - The People's Choice?

Theodore White (1915 – 1986) was a US journalist and historian. He was the China correspondent for the Time during the Second World War. Based in the wartime capital Chongqing, White knew Chiang Kai-shek personally. However, it must be pointed out that his assessment of Chiang's personality refers to the wartime period, in which Chiang's leadership became more dictatorial than it had previously been.

Chiang's personal discipline is one of the first clues to his complex, involved character. It has been bred of a tempestuous, storm-tossed life and, like his lust for power, his calculating ruthlessness, his monumental stubbornness, has become more than an individual characteristic -  it is a force in national politics. Chiang's character reflects and distorts fifty of the most turbulent years in Chinese history ... 
[His] dominance of the Kuomintang was never once seriously threatened. His one passion now became and remained an overriding lust for power. All his politics revolved about the concept of force. He had grown up in a time of treachery and violence. There were few standards of human decency his early war-lord contemporaries did not violate; they obeyed no law but power, and Chiang outwitted them at their own game ... He ... spoke of a Nationalist Revolution - but the fact that the revolution involved the will of the people escaped him. Chiang relied not on the emotion of the peasant masses but on an army and its guns.
The war against Japan made Chiang K'ai-shek almost a demigod. For a brief moment at the war's outbreak he stood as the incarnate symbol of all China's will to resistance and freedom. Once again, as in the days of revolution, he was China - doing China's will, above reproach, above criticism, above all advice.

Taiwan's Convenience Store Clerk Falls Asleep, Insults Customer Who Wakes Him Up

Yesterday evening at around midnight I went to Family Mart, a big convenience store chain, next to an MRT Station to buy my dinner - a salad, rice with egg, and strawberry soy milk. When I was about to pay, I looked at the shop clerk and saw that his eyes were closed. He seemed to be asleep asleep. 'Ni  hao,' I said. He woke up. 'Ni hao,' I repeated. 

He had dark circles under his eyes, and as he was scanning the products and putting them into a bag he moved sluggishly. In Taiwan, they usually give you plastic cutlery, but the clerk forgot it. 'Wo yao yi zhi chazi' (I need a fork), I said smiling. 'Ah, chazi,' he slurred. I also had to remind him to give me a straw and chopsticks. 

I'm not writing this post to criticise this guy. Actually, I smiled at him and when he apologised I said it didn't matter. I really understand that convenience store clerks who do the night shift have a pretty tough time. Probably he hadn't slept much before, or he was too tired. So I don't mind if he was not fast or efficient.

However, when I returned home I read an article about a similar, but far more extreme situation. 

A few days ago a video went viral on Youtube. A shop clerk at Family Mart was filmed while he was lying on the floor fast asleep behind the counter. An old man wanted to pay a drink and called the clerk, but he didn't wake up. The man who was filming threw something at the clerk, who finally came round. He struggled to get up, and reluctantly scanned the drink. '170 yuan', he said. But he got the wrong price. '20 yuan!' cried the old man in protest. The man asked for a packet of cigarettes, but the clerk took the wrong one. In the end, he insulted the customer, told him to go away and went back to sleeping. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Two-Faced Friends - Discovering a Person's Other Self

One day I searched the name of a friend of mine on Facebook. She'd been having a difficult time and I wanted to send her a message to ask how she was doing. But when I typed her name into the search bar not one, but two profiles appeared: the one which was familiar to me, and another one, of which I'd known nothing. 

This person - I'll call her J. - had always been nice to me and we spent quite a lot of time together (she is not Taiwanese; I met her in another Asian country). She had told me quite a lot about her personal life, but since we'd been knowing each other for just a few months I was aware that I did not know her deeply. 

She had always acted in a cute, friendly and open way, and she seemed very well-behaved and quiet. Her Facebook profile reflected my impressions of her. But, as often happens, people are not what they seem, and what they show to others is not necessarily how they really are, but how they want to be perceived. 

As I looked at her second Facebook account I was astonished. Not only was she in a relationship (something she had never mentioned to me, but, of course, why should she, as we are just friends?) But two other things were strange: her job was not exactly what she had told me, and she had joined several night club groups - and when I say night clubs, I mean the kind which advertise themselves through pictures of half-naked girls. Among her friends there were many girls with heavy make-up and sexy dresses.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Taiwan 2nd Safest Country in the World

According to the website Taiwan is the world's 2nd safest country. The ranking was based on figures from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and it took into account mainly two criteria: crime rate and natural disasters. 

The first four safest countries are all in Asia: 1) Japan, 2) Taiwan, 3) Hong Kong, 4) South Korea. 

Other countries that made it to the top ten are the United Arab Emirates (5th), Malta (6th), Luxembourg (7th), Georgia (8th), Bahrain (9th) and Singapore (10th). 

The news seems important enough to have been featured on Taiwan's biggest newspaper, Apple Daily

However, I have my own doubts about the list. First of all, the explanations given by the team of lifestyle9 about why these countries are safe seem questionable, to say the least. For instance, the website writes about Japan: 
Culture becomes one of the main reason [sic!] that attribute such an honor to the country. Japanese never involve in activities that brings [sic!] shame to their country, hence desist from disorderly conduct. The firm gun control and wealthy Japanese economy also attributes [sic!] the feeling of safety among the people.
Apart from the style of the article and the frequent mistakes (which I'm inclined to overlook, since the journalist may not be a native speaker), I think the logic here is entirely flawed. It is an idealisation of Japanese culture based on a generalisation. While the statistics may be correct, it is not possible to jump to such conclusions, which are not more than entirely subjective opinions. We know all the things Japanese people did in the past, so I don't think that "never involving in activities that bring shame to the country" is part of a traditional and inherently good Japanese national character. Moreover, if one looks at people's behaviour in every day life (in the family, business, politics etc.) one can see that not bringing shame to the country is not quite the main motive behind people's actions. While it is true that Japan has low crime rates I think patriotism isn't a scientific explanation for this.

In the section about Taiwan we read:
People are more friendly and tender hearted, so there is no need to worry about violent crimes and robbery. Generally people of Taiwan are more honest. It is the country where you can find people who help you before you approach.
Once again, I don't think that the low crime rate can be explained by such generalisations. It is not possible to bestow upon each one (or even just the majority, for that matter) of the 23 million people who inhabit this island a certificate of 'tender-heartedness', 'honesty', and 'friendliness', and conclude that low crime rates are a consequence of the gentle nature of a country's inhabitants.

However, the main reason why I'm sceptical about this list is that it is so different from other similar rankings. For example, the 2014 Global Peace Index, which measures "security in society, the extent of conflict and the degree of militarisation" ranks the United Arab Emirates 40th, Bahrain and Georgia both 111th. The first 10 countries on the list are Iceland, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, Japan, Belgium and Norway. Singapore is only 25th and Taiwan 28th. Of course I am not an expert, but it seems strange that out of the 10 most peaceful countries of the GPI only Japan has been included by lifestyle9 in its list. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The 'USA Taiwan Government' Occupies Taiwan's Provincial Government Building

In the afternoon of July 7 two tourist coaches took around 200 supporters of the USA Taiwan Government (UTG, Chinese: 美國台灣政府) to the seat of the Taiwan Provincial Government located in Zhongxing Xincun (中興新村) in Nantou County. The leader of the UTG, Cai Mingfa (蔡明法), and his followers entered the building through the toilet and occupied it. They raised a banner of the UTG in the office of the Governor of Taiwan Province, Lin Zhengze (林政則), who was in Yilan that day. 

Cai Mingfa declared: "We should not allow the government-in-exile of the Republic of China (流亡的中華民國政府) to use illegal and violent methods against the Taiwanese people. We urge the Taiwanese people to regain possession of their own rights."

The UTG was founded on April 25, 2013, in Washington DC by Cai Mingfa, a 58-year-old native of Guanmiao District (關廟區), Tainan City. He lived in the USA for 11 years and has an American passport. 

The UTG believes that the legal status of Taiwan after World War II was never determined in favour of the Republic of China (ROC), and that the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty as well as the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty of 1952 do not explicitly state that Taiwan is part of the ROC. They therefore believe that Taiwan is still under the occupation of the United States, and that the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act sanctions Washington's military protection of the island. The UTG has 2000 members. 

Monday, 7 July 2014

China's Eight Non-Communist Parties

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the foundation of the People's Republic of China in front of a jubilant crowd in Tiananmen Square. The images of that historic moment have become famous all over the world. But few know who were the people standing behind Mao as he was holding his speech. 

Most of them were, like Mao, Communist revolutionaries and high-ranking politicians, such as Zhu De (朱德), Liu Shaoqi (刘少奇 / 劉少奇), and Zhou Enlai (周恩来 / 周恩來)

However, one also finds names of people who were not members of the Communist Party: Song Qingling (宋庆龄 / 宋慶齡), the wife of Sun Yat-sen, the man who had founded the Republic of China which the Communists had long fought to overthrow; Zhang Lan (张澜 / 張瀾), the founder of the China Democratic League; and Li Jishen (李濟深), the chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of the Chinese Guomindang (RCCG).

In fact, the PRC was founded - at least in theory - as a multi-party state under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The authorised parties of the PRC are known as Democratic Parties and Groups (DPGs). Most of them were founded between the 1920s and 40s, and their affiliation with the CCP can be traced back to the latter's United Front policy during the Chinese Civil War

Today, members of the DPGs sit in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a state organ that the government-run newspaper China Daily describes as "a patriotic united front organization of the Chinese people, serving as a key mechanism for multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and a major manifestation of socialist democracy". As of today, China has eight legal non-Communist parties:

2) China Democratic League (中国民主同盟; traditional Chinese: 中國民主同盟; pinyin: Zhōngguó Mínzhǔ Tóngméng): It was founded on March 19, 1941, in Chongqing, then war-time capital of the Republic of China. Zhang Lan was the chairman of the party. The main purpose of the party was to mediate between the Guomindang and the CCP. In fact, the anti-Japanese cooperation between China's two biggest parties had suffered a serious blow following the so-called Wannan Incident (皖南事变), in which fighting broke out between Nationalist and Communist troops, who accused each other of treachery. 
In October 1947, the Guomindang government outlawed the Democratic League, a step that only strengthened the ties between the League and the CCP. In 1948, representatives of the two parties met in Hong Kong and declared a common goal: to strive to overthrow the Guomindang 'reactionary' government and create a democratic, peaceful, independent and unified new China. 
After the foundation of the PRC, the League followed the leadership of the CCP, but during the Cultural Revolution it became the target of repression and de facto ceased to exist. The League was revived after the arrest of the "Gang of Four" and the rise of Deng Xiaoping.
Today, the Democratic League defines itself as an organisation made up of 'high and middle-level' intellectuals who work in the fields of education, culture, science and technology (see also Yongnian 2010, p. 69). It "accepts the leadership of the CCP" and works for the realisation of "socialism with Chinese characteristics." As of 2013 the League had 247,000 members from all over China.

20-Year Old Student From Taichung Hurls Drink At Teacher

Last year a 20-year old female student from Taichung (pinyin: Taizhong) went to her boyfriend's university and attended with him one of his literature classes. As she was using her smartphone during the lecture the professor reprimanded her, causing the girl to lose her temper.

The girl, surnamed Yu, had gone to Asia University to accompany her boyfriend. The professor, a woman surnamed Wang, noticed that she was playing with her phone and asked her teaching assistant to urge Yu to stop. She did not comply, though, and Wang confronted her. "Please get out," she said, "you cannot play with your mobile phone in the classroom".

Unexpectedly, Yu got up, slammed her fist on the table and yelled back at the professor. "What a damned school, damned teaching assistant, damned professor! Who cares about your class, you're not the only one in this school who gives this kind of lecture!" Then she took her boyfriend's drink, hurled it at the professor and left.

Friday, 4 July 2014

"Three Reasons to Marry a Japanese Girl"

A few days ago the YouTube channel Stopkiddinstudio released a video entitled "Three Reasons to Marry a Japanese Girl". In the video, a Japanese girl named Amy explains in Chinese why Japanese girls are different from (and, according to her, better than) Taiwanese girls:

1) Japanese girls wear make-up and are well-dressed; for them, this is a way of being polite (化妝和打扮對日本女生來說是一種禮貌).

2) Japanese girls are considerate, they "won't ask their boyfriends to go and buy food in the middle of the night".

3) Japanese girls are good at cooking, their food "will make their boyfriends happy and healthy".

The reactions of Taiwanese viewers have been mixed. Some people agreed with Amy and wrote that Japanese girls are indeed very cute; others wrote that both Taiwanese and Japanese girls are cute. A female viewer wrote: "Taiwanese men are gentle and soft. They can forgive us for being too natural, for acting like princesses sometimes, and for not being good at managing the household.

Now, why am I interested at all in this video? 

In previous posts I wrote about the cult of cuteness in East Asia and the importance of social roles. This video is, in my opinion, a fascinating example of this phenomenon.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Contradictions of Xi Jinping's "Peaceful Coexistence" Ideology

On June 28 Xi Jinping, the President of the People's Republic of China, held a speech at a conference in Beijing marking the 60th anniversary of initiation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The President of Myanmar and the Vice President of India as well as delegates from the three countries took part in the meeting. The Five Principles were first put forward in 1954, when China and India reached an agreement to ease tensions between the two states. In his speech Xi Jinping reaffirmed the importance of the Five Principles in regulating international relations. He argued that sovereignty, peaceful coexistence, and dialogue should be the only accepted basic principles for regulating international relations. 

Xi based his speech on three premises: 1) sovereignty is the fundamental precondition of a state's existence and freedom; 2) disputes should be resolved by peaceful means; 3) China is by definition a peaceful nation and its international role is that of a peacemaker.

I shall argue that the PRC's attitude has been marked by a clear inconsistency between the theoretical principles espoused by the official propaganda and the reality of China's history and foreign policy. Let us examine these three points:

1) Xi Jinping said: "Sovereignty is the most important feature of any independent state as well as the embodiment and safeguard of its national interests. No infringement upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a country is allowed. Countries should respect each other's core interests and key concerns. These are fundamental rules which should not be cast aside or undermined at any time."

In 2003 China condemned the US' war in Iraq. But when in March 2014 Russia violated Ukrainian sovereignty and annexed Crimea, Beijing did not voice any strong opposition. In fact, China was Russia's biggest de facto ally during the Crimean crisis. On the day Russia officially annexed Crimea Vladimir Putin said he was "grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always, when considering the situation in Ukraine and Crimea, taken into account the full historical and political context". 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Occupy Central - Hong Kong July 1 Democracy March

On July 1997, the former British colony of Hong Kong officially became part of the People's Republic of China. But while the Communist leaders in Beijing would like to remember this day as a glorious moment in the history of the whole nation, today at 3pm thousands of Hong Kongers rallied to demand more democracy, in an open act of defiance against the central government. A large crowd gathered at Victoria Park, in front of Hong Kong Central Library. The protesters are now marching towards Central, the city's business and financial district. Half a million people are expected to take part in the rally.

The demonstration was organised by Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a movement launched by Hong Kong professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting. The movement demands direct elections of Hong Kong's Chief Executive in 2017. 

At the end of last month, the Occupy Central movement organised an unofficial referendum. As the polls closed on Sunday, 787,767 Hong Kongers had cast their vote, 22% of the total number of registered voters. 

However, the central government in Beijing has condemned the referendum, calling it "illegal and invalid" since according to Hong Kong's Basic Law the city's authorities have no power to hold referendums. On Monday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council released a statement, reiterating Beijing's position that the Chief Executive must "love the country and love Hong Kong", and that the pace of democratic development must be gradual and based on a broad consensus between the regional and central authorities. The statement denounced the organisers of Occupy Central, stating that they "pursue self-interests through breaching the rule of law, disturbing Hong Kong's social order and holding back the progress of universal suffrage". Hong Kong's Chief Secretary Carrie Lam stated that the process of reform of the election system cannot deviate from the Basic Law, though she pledged that the government should listen to the people.  

The "one country, two systems" model chosen by the leadership of the PRC to guarantee a smooth transition of Hong Kong to Communist rule has created growing tensions between the former British colony and the central government. After 1997 Beijing has put pressure on Hong Kong to conform to its own political standards. Although the rule of law remains basically intact, there have been signs of growing interference from Beijing in the media, the judicial system, and education