Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The People's Liberation Army Is Closely Monitoring Hong Kong's Protests

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) is closely monitoring Hong Kong's Occupy Central (讓愛與和平佔領中環) - literally. The PLA headquarters are located on Lung Wui Road, close to Admiralty and the government offices in Tamar.   

Today the South China Morning Post published a picture showing staff inside the Chinese People's Liberation Army Forces Hong Kong Building watching the protesters with binoculars. 

Occupy Central poses the biggest challenge to Communist rule since the 1989 student protests. The democracy movement on the mainland was suppressed by the very PLA whose garrisons entered Hong Kong after British forces left the city in 1997.

I had never noticed that building until last Sunday. While I was walking from Central towards Tamar, trying to return to Admiralty, I stumbled upon a group of protesters gathered in front of the PLA headquarters. The road was blocked by the police, so I couldn't walk any further. I turned around and saw the military premises. There was a surreal signboard with a Communist-style slogan praising the concept of 'one country, two systems' - while thousands of people outside protested against this very model of political integration, which many believe to have failed. 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Activist Throws Book 'Formosa Betrayed' at Taiwanese President Ma Yingjiu

On September 26 Taiwanese President Ma Yingjiu was hit by a book hurled at him by Yan Mingwei (顏銘緯), a student activist. Ma Yingjiu had just attended a gala organised by the International Franchise Association. According to the Taipei Times, that day an event of the pro-independence Northern Taiwan Society was hosted in the same building. When Ma left the venue, a journalist asked him to comment on Xi Jinping's recent remark that the 'one country, two systems' model is the only way to solve the China-Taiwan issue. The activist then threw the book at the President, hitting his abdomen. 

The 18-year-old Yan Mingwei is a student of sociology at Zhongshan University, and a member of Flanc Radical (基進側翼), an anti-Guomindang organisation. The President's spokesperson, Ma Weiguo (馬瑋國) said that the government accepts the people's right to express their opinions rationally, but condemns every form of violence. 

At a press conference held by Flanc Radical the day following the incident, Yan Mingwei appeared calm and unrepentant. He held in his hands a copy of 'Formosa Betrayed', a book written in 1965 by US diplomat George H. Kerr. Kerr sharply condemned the Guomindang dictatorship in post-war Taiwan and advocated Taiwan's independence. Since its publication the book has become one of the most influential text of anti-Guomindang and pro-independence discourse. The Chinese title of the book, 被出賣的台灣, literally means "Taiwan has been sold out," a phrase often used by anti-Guomindang activists to describe Ma Yingjiu's policies towards China. 

"If you're called 'mob' if you just throw a book at a person who behaves like a dictator," said Yan, "if they label us a mob, if Taiwan since 2008 has been sold out, has been moving towards reunification, then the only way is to use our own flesh, to resist. What this dictatorial regime, the Chinese Nationalist Party, has done to the people of Taiwan is something that the young generation of Taiwanese shouldn't allow to happen." Yan justified his action by saying that the real 'mob' is Ma Yingjiu who has been selling out Taiwan.

What should we make of this incident? Does the young student deserve praise, or should he be condemned?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Man in Shanghai Forced to Pay 30,000 RMB For Deflowering Woman

A man surnamed Li (李) has to pay 30,000 RMB to compensate a woman who lost her virginity to him, decided a court in Shanghai's Pudong District in the first case of this kind in the People's Republic of China. 

In 2009, Mr Li had met a 30-year-old woman surnamed Chen (陳) through a website. At first, the two of them were just friends. On September 2013, however, they began dating, and their relationship became closer and closer. According to the woman, he pursued her and hinted at the fact that they might get married. On WeChat, they started to call each other 'husband' and 'wife' (terms used in Chinese in a different way than in the West; they denote the formation of a social relationship ranging from would-be marriage partners to patron and mistress). They also went on a trip to Singapore together. During their stay there, they had sex. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Square in France Named After Ex Chinese Leader Deng Xiaoping

Few people may have heard of Montargis, a small town 110 km south of Paris, with a population of around 15,000 and an economy based on farming and light industry. But today, Montargis has made the headlines as it is the first city in Europe (and probably in the whole Western world) to have named a square after the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping

In fact, on September 20, in an official ceremony attended by the mayor of Montargis, Jean-Pierre Door, and the vice-premier of the People's Republic of China, Liu Yandong (刘延东), the square in front of the city's railway station has been renamed "Deng Xiaoping Square." 

But why has the city decided to name one of its squares (and an important one, too) after a Communist dictator? Is the town looking for Chinese investment and trying to ingratiate itself with Beijing? Are the people of Montargis fond of Communism? Or do they simply admire Deng Xiaoping, the great statesman and reformer, despite his lack of democratic spirit?

The answer to these questions lies in events dating back nearly a century. In fact, this small, inconspicuous town happened to play a paramount role in the development of Chinese and world history.

Montargis, Deng Xiaoping, and the Chinese Communist Party

In the early 20th century, China was in turmoil. In 1912 the Qing Dynasty that had ruled China since 1644 was overthrown, and the Republic of China (ROC) was proclaimed. China was searching for a new identity and a new polity after Western powers and internal crises had disrupted the old society, economy, and government. The most fundamental question for most Chinese intellectuals was how to save China from ruin, how to restore her past greatness, and liberate her from foreign aggressors. Many Chinese, full of patriotic fervour, felt that the country must modernise in order to defend herself. They just did not know how.

By the early 1900s most young Chinese considered the old system of education based on the Confucian classics outdated and inadequate. They were eager to learn from the West in order to strengthen China. Li Youying belonged to this generation of Western-oriented Chinese. He was educated in Montargis, and in 1912 he set up there the Chinese Association for French Education. The purpose of this Association, which was supported by the town's Mayor and other Chinese intellectuals such as Cai Yuanpei, was to help Chinese students go to France to receive a Western education. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Taiwanese Policeman Killed by Mob Outside Nightclub in Taipei's Xinyi District

On September 14 Xue Zhenguo (薛貞國), a 38-year-old police detective, was beaten do death during an altercation with several members of a criminal gang near ATT 4 FUN, a shopping mall and recreation centre in Taipei's Xinyi District.

According to 'Apple Daily', the causes of the incident date back to September 13, when a man named Zeng Weihao (曾威豪), his girlfriend Liu Xintong (劉芯彤), and three other people went to SPARK, a famous nightclub inside ATT 4 FUN. Customers at a nearby table complained that the group was too loud, and a fight broke out between them. The nightclub's security intervened and forced Zeng and his friends to leave the premises. Zeng was enraged and vowed to settle the score. "We are from the Hetang*," he said, "we'll teach you a lesson."

*(和堂, pinyin: Hétáng, is a subgroup of the notorious Bamboo Gang, one of Taiwan's most powerful criminal syndicates)

The 28-year-old Zeng Weihao immediately went to his friend Xiao Ruihong (蕭叡鴻), who is a member of the Bamboo Gang, and asked him for help. Xiao contacted his "younger brothers" and assembled a force of around 50 men. At about 00:40 of September 14, Zeng, 22-year-old Liu Xintong, 26-year-old Xiao Ruihong and his thugs went to SPARK to punish those who had slighted Zeng the previous day.

The security guards, however, recognising Zeng, prevented the gang from entering the nightclub. At 01:08, Xue Zhenguo, a police officer off duty, and his 38-year-old colleague Zhang Ruiyuan (莊瑞源) arrived at the scene of the fight. "Who is the boss?" asked Xue. Eyewitnesses' accounts suggest that Xue Zhenguo hit Zeng, thus provoking him and his friends. At this point, the thugs surrounded the two policemen and began beating them fiercely with clubs. They dragged Xue out of the building and kept beating him. At around 01:12, the band dispersed, leaving Xue in a pool of blood in the middle of the street.

The head of the security at ATT 4 FUN and another man rushed to provide first-aid help. Xue was severely injured; his teeth were broken, his body twitched, and blood kept gushing from his mouth. To prevent Xue from biting his tongue, the man first put his finger into Xue's mouth, then a black plastic object which - as he later found out - was a switchblade that had not been opened. An ambulance arrived a few minutes later, but attempts to save him were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at 01:23. Zhuang Ruiyuan, too, suffered injuries, but he had managed to escape.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

"The Visions of Hong Xiuquan" - The Beginning of China's Taiping Rebellion

On a day in the spring of 1852, Theodore Hamberg, a Swedish protestant missionary who had come to the British colony of Hong Kong in 1847 to spread the gospel among the people of Southern China, received an unusual and in many respects mysterious guest. One of his Chinese converts from the countryside brought with him a man named Hong Rengan (洪仁玕; pinyin: Hóng Réngān), a Hakka from Hua County (now part of Huadu District, Guangzhou), who claimed that the Qing government was chasing after him. He spoke of a heavenly prophet, of Hakka Christians whose numbers were growing, who fought against the Qing and destroyed the Chinese idols, of battles and insurrections. 

To Theodore Hamberg, these stories did not make much sense, but he was fascinated by the man's narrative and by how much he knew about Christianity, although he came from a region of China with no missionary activities. He asked Hong Rengan to write down his story. Hamberg expected that his guest would stay in Hong Kong for some time, study the Christian religion and be baptized; but when he returned from a trip to China's interior, Hong Rengan had already disappeared. 

It was only months later that Hamberg realised the importance of this brief and unusual encounter. In 1853, rebels who called themselves "God Worhippers" captured the city of Nanjing and founded the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. As Hamberg learnt, Hong Xiuquan, the leader of the insurgents, was none other than Hong Rengan's cousin. The reason why the imperial government wanted him arrested now became clear; he was a relative of the man who had launched a revolution to overthrow the Qing dynasty and establish a new, Christian-inspired Chinese state (see Weller 1994, p. 33, and Platt 2012). 

The Taiping Rebellion, which lasted from 1850 to 1864, was the bloodiest single military conflict of the 19th century and one of the most catastrophic civil wars of all time. It is estimated that around 20 million people died during those 14 years of devastating struggle. By way of comparison, around 600,000-700,000 people died during the American Civil War, and around 16 million people died during World War I. The Chinese Civil War was in fact one of the major events in the history of the country, but, inexplicably, it is one that is little known in the West. The Civil War not only accelerated the downfall of the Qing Empire, but it brought indescribable suffering upon millions of people.  

Theodore Hamberg, who maintained friendly relations with many Christians involved in the Taiping Rebellion, decided to publish the story that Hong Rengan had written down. He entitled it: "The Visions of Hong Xiuquan and the Origin of the Guangxi Insurrection". This is the first account of the life of the Taiping leader and the beginning of the Civil War. 

The following excerpt, written by Hamberg on the basis of Hong Rengan's account, reconstructs the genesis of Hong Xiuquan's peculiar Christian faith and his belief to be a prophet. Hong Xiuquan was a promising young man, and family made great sacrifices to give him a good education. They hoped he would pass the imperial examination and become a scholar-official. Yet he failed, and the shame he felt for disappointing his family brought him to the brink of madness; from a Confucian scholar and a filial son whose only aim was to serve the state and bring glory upon his parents, he turned into an anti-Confucian, anti-Manchu rebel who, in the course of the Civil War, came to control large areas of the vast empire, establishing a de facto parallel government.  

Note: Whenever possible, I have rendered personal names in pinyin, since Theodore Hamberg's romanization was intuitive and often obscure

Friday, 12 September 2014

Film About Political Exiles Banned in Singapore on Grounds of National Security

To Singapore with Love, a documentary film by Singaporean director Tan Pin Pin, has been banned in Singapore due to national security concerns. The film revolves around the lives of activists, student leaders and members of the communist party who fled the country between the 1960's and the 1980's in the midst of crackdowns carried out by the British colonial government and then the government of the new Republic. 

The Media Development Authority (MDA), a government agency that supervises Singapore's media, decided that the film is "not allowed for all ratings", which means that it cannot be distributed or publicly screened in Singapore.  

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Taiwanese Woman in Hong Kong Spends All Her Money, Sells Her Belongings on the Street

Two weeks ago, a 27-year-old Taiwanese woman surnamed Wu (吳) travelled to Hong Kong, but during her stay in the city she spent all of her money, that is HK$2000 (approximately 200 Euros, or 7800 NT$). 

Yesterday (September 10) her friends took her to Kwai Hing, near Kwai Chung Road, where she basically "settled down" in the middle of the street. She took off her jeans, sitting and walking around in her panties; she washed her hair in public; she began selling what she had in her suitcase, mostly beauty products; and she offered "beauty treatment" to passers-by, charging HK$50. 

Her behaviour and looks astonished the passers-by, some of whom called the police. 

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Chinese Tourists - Good or Bad for Taiwan?

A few days ago I was walking from Taipei Main Station towards Gongguan, when I bumped into a big crowd at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Dozens of people were gathered around something which I at first couldn't see. I decided to stop for a while and take a closer look. 

I noticed that many people were taking pictures of two guards that were standing by a flagpole. Guards - I don't know if they are actual soldiers - are regularly stationed at the mausoleum of the former President of the Republic of China and perform daily ceremonies that have become major tourist attractions, as has the building itself, which is one of Taipei's most important landmarks. 

As I soon realised, a flag lowering ceremony was to be performed. The national anthem of the Republic of China was played. Then, the guards began the flag lowering ritual. While I was watching and taking pictures, I found that many, if not most people around me were mainland Chinese (I could tell from their accent). 

The number of mainland visitors in Taiwan has been growing steadily over the past few years, after the 2008 elected Guomindang government liberalised cross-strait tourism. Last year, 3 million Chinese tourists visited Taiwan - a third of the total number of tourists. Between January and July of this year, 1.88 million mainlanders came to the island. While in the past tourists from the mainland were allowed to visit only as members of groups, at the end of June of this year individual travellers from selected Chinese cities have been permitted to visit Taiwan. The number of individual tourists has reached 625,000 in the first seven months of the year.

But is it a good thing for Taiwan?

Monday, 8 September 2014

Chinese Man Wearing Japanese Navy T-Shirt Attacked by Crowd in China

On September a 30-year-old Chinese national from Tianjin took part in the 28th "International Mount Tai Climbing Festival" (泰山国际登山节), a competition held on Mount Tai, in China's Shandong Province. 

The only problem: the man was wearing a T-shirt with the logo of the Imperial Japanese Navy (大日本帝國海軍). The navy, which was involved in Japan's imperialist wars, was dissolved in 1945 and replaced by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force.

At a time of rising tensions between China and Japan, the T-shirt caused an uproar. The sight of what many people consider a symbol of Japanese imperialism arose the anger and indignation of the bystanders. The man was soon surrounded by a furious crowd, and an athlete even assaulted him and forcibly took off his shirt. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and the China-Taiwan Issue

As I explained in my previous post, the claim of the People's Republic of China to Taiwan derives from the nationalist tradition that developed in China after its tragic encounter with Western powers. In this post, I would like to show how the concepts of sovereignty and territorial integrity in China have been shaped by the country's unequal relationship with Western imperialist states and how these concepts have become an integral part of Chinese nationalist discourse.

Sovereignty and Territory - Premodern vs Modern States

The terms 'modern state', 'sovereignty' and 'territorial integrity' are too complex and controversial to be discussed here. However, some definitions are necessary in order to examine the evolution of the Chinese state in modern times, so I will just provide a general description of them. 

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Is Taiwan Chinese? - Or, Taiwan and Chinese Nationalism

Time and again I stumble upon pro- or anti-Chinese articles that try to prove or disprove that Taiwan is a part of China. And I always wonder why - in the year 2014 - we are still discussing such issues as if the past had taught us nothing.

Recently I read another one of those posts in which the author tried to show that Taiwan 'never belonged to China'. This question is as irrelevant to Taiwan's future as the question whether Alaska ever belonged to Russia is for the United States. There is a clear distinction between politics and history, and this distinction should be maintained and explained, so that people do not confuse the two categories.

Chinese Nationalism and the New State Theory

First of all, we must understand why the People's Republic of China (PRC) claims that Taiwan is part of its territory. Simply put, when the Qing Empire was defeated, humiliated and colonised by Western powers, Chinese intellectuals began to absorb Western ideas, among them nationalist ideology, Darwinist theories, and concepts of international law (I will talk about this later). The present Communist Chinese state has inherited the nationalist and militant instincts that decades of anti-foreign struggle have ingrained in the minds of its leaders.

It is vital for us to understand that nationalism was consciously deployed by Chinese thinkers in order to strengthen their state and defend it against Western supremacy. Therefore, there is nothing 'obvious' or 'natural' about these theories, they are nothing more than ideological constructions made by humans for the purpose of mobilising men and resources in a process of nation-building. Whoever tries to refute Beijing's current claims to Taiwan is wasting time. Such claims should not be taken seriously. The only thing that should be taken seriously is the PRC's military capability that backs these claims; the only way to refute Beijing's claims is by virtue of arms, because a rational discussion cannot take place on the basis of nationalist dogmas. China's gamble is that, after a long period of self-strengthening, mass mobilisation and economic development, she will get what she wants by peaceful or non-peaceful means.  

The Constitution of the PRC sheds light on the ideological components of the Communist state's territorial and nationalist doctrines. In the preamble, we read: 

China is a country with one of the longest histories in the world. The people of all of China’s nationalities have jointly created a culture of grandeur and have a glorious revolutionary tradition. 
After 1840, feudal China was gradually turned into a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country. The Chinese people waged many successive heroic struggles for national independence and liberation and for democracy and freedom ...
Taiwan is part of the sacred territory of the People’s Republic of China. It is the inviolable duty of all Chinese people, including our compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the great task of reunifying the motherland.

These passages demonstrate how the Communist state depicts contemporary Chinese history as a heroic struggle of the Chinese people against foreign aggression, the culmination of which is the PRC itself. It is an ideological foundation for pride, self-consciousness, and identification with the state. It defines a "sacred territory" - the combination of a religious and a secular term - which reflects a purely nationalist understanding of human beings. An individual is, according to this view, only a part of a larger national community. Individual freedom must be sacrificed for the freedom of the community; nationalist dogmas have the force of religious beliefs; questioning them is tantamount to blasphemy. This is, as I have argued in the past, a paradox, since the objectives and values of the national community are defined by a small elite. Not unlike what happens in an army, where soldiers must obey orders, so a national community is organised like a hierarchical, dehumanised fighting force in which a few decide what the multitude should struggle for. 

Let us now briefly examine the evolution of Western-inspired nationalist doctrines in China. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

Full Text of the Decision of the National People's Congress on the Issue of Universal Suffrage for the Election of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

Decision of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Issues Relating to the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region by Universal Suffrage and on the Method for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Year 2016

Adopted at the Tenth Session of the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People's Congress on 31 August 2014

The Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People's Congress considered at its Tenth Session the Report on whether there is a need to amend the methods for selecting the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2017 and for forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 2016 submitted by Leung Chun-ying, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, on 15 July 2014. In the course of deliberation, the relevant views and suggestions of the Hong Kong community were given full consideration.