Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Wang Dan, a Veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Protests, Writes Open Letter to the Hong Kong Students


June 4, 1989. In the predawn darkness we were forced to evacuate Tiananmen Square. Negotiations with the army were completed. The terms we agreed upon were simple: We should leave before daybreak. A peaceful conclusion to the occupation of this largest of public gathering places in all of China seemed within reach. Helmeted soldiers allowed us to pass through the narrow corridor at the southeast side of the square, all the while pointing their bayonets, as if we were prisoners of war. Army commanders had promised to give the demonstrators an opportunity to disperse. 
The process, time-consuming because the crowd was huge, seemed under way. “Fascist!” a female student cursed furiously. Immediately, several soldiers rushed at her and beat her down with the butts of their rifles. Her male comrades hurried to help her back into the march . And thus commenced the last phase of a major confrontation between nonviolent demonstrators led by university students and the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China. On the one side, words: speeches, pamphlets, poems, petitions, the weapons of persuasion. On the other side, dictatorial power: guns, bullets, and tanks, the weapons of destruction (Zhang Boli: Escape From China, 2008, Chapter I).
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History is always full of paradoxes. In the spring of 1989 the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) used tanks and rifles to suppress dissent. Unable to gain the support of the people by rational arguments, it had to impose its ideological truths upon them by force. While the peaceful students were dubbed 'counter-revolutionaries', the memory of June 4th was extinguished by censorship and threats. Only a handful of students that escaped the People's Republic of China (PRC), as well as people outside the Communist state, can commemorate those tragic events. 


Friday, 24 October 2014

Old Houses in Taipei

A while ago I wrote a short post about an old house in Taipei's Roosevelt Road which I'd been often passing by, wondering if it was a building from the Qing Dynasty or from the Japanese era. I thought there weren't many such old houses left in that area, but, while taking long walks around Gongguan, Taipower Building Station, Guting and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, I found out that I was wrong.  In fact, there are several of them, scattered all around this part of Taipei City. However, they are not very visible, and if you don't look carefully, chances are you won't even notice them. There are three reasons for this. First, they usually stand isolated among modern buildings, sometimes sandwiched between or hidden behind them. Second, they are usually surrounded by high walls. Third, they tend to be so decrepit and neglected that they lose much of their charm. 

Just a few days ago, I found a house that might be from the Japanese era. It is so far one of the best preserved I've seen, and apparently the building is being renovated, so we may hope that it won't be torn down for the sake of some new high-rise apartment block, of which Taipei has already more than enough. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Real or Fake News? - Mainland Chinese Boy Pees At Restaurant Inside Taipei 101

On October 19 Apple Daily published an article about a mainland boy who peed in public at the famous restaurant Ding Tai Feng (鼎泰豐, often spelt 'Din Tai Fung') inside Taipei 101. 

According to the report, at the beginning of October a group of 5 tourists from China's Shanxi province went to Ding Tai Feng, a chain of restaurants renowned for its xiaolongbao (小籠包, a kind of dumpling). During the meal, a 3-year-old boy had to pee and his mother let him urinate inside a plastic bottle in public. Although there is no toilet inside Ding Tai Feng, there is one just about 100 meters away from the restaurant but still inside Taipei 101. Allegedly, other customers saw that the boy had pulled down his pants to pee and felt shocked. Moreover, the boy 'missed his target' and sprinkled the table and the food. 

The group consisted of a 37-year-old mother and her two children, her 73-year-old father and her 41-year-old sister-in-law. They arrived at the restaurant at around 12:30 of October 2. When the incident occurred, the waiters didn't know how to handle the situation and called senior staff members with more experience. 

A spokesperson of the restaurant told the media that the waiters "immediately went to the table and told the customers how to get to the restrooms. They also reminded them that they [should] avoid disturbing the other customers." She added that the area of the restaurant where the mainland group had sat was disinfected after what had happened.

A mainland group leader defended the woman. "There's no reason to blow the thing out of proportion," she said. "This kind of thing will happen. It's the same on the mainland. The child is still very young, if he needs to pee there's nothing you can do. As a mother, you will sympathise with your child. I have children, too."

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Anti-Occupy Thugs Launch 'Soy Sauce' Attack Against Hong Kong's 'Apple Daily'

At around 2:30 of October 22, 2014, thugs launched a series of attacks against Apple Daily delivery workers at several locations, sprinkling the newspaper with soy sauce. They damaged around 15,000 copies. Another newspaper, Headline Daily, was also hit by attackers.

According to reports, masked men approached delivery staff in Central, Hung Hom and Cheung Sha Wan, threatening them with knives. Their only purpose was to immobilise the delivery staff while they poured soy sauce on the newspapers.

A street vendor interviewed by a newspaper in Mong Kok said that today she received only 20 copies of Apple Daily, while she usually receives 40, but the company that delivered the newspapers did not explain why.  

The police are investigating the matter, but it appears that the attack is politically motivated. Apple Daily is part of the Next Media group owned by media mogul Jimmy Lai, who is a staunch opponent of the Chinese Communist Party. He and his companies have suffered numerous retaliations because of Lai's overt political dissent. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Taiwanese Man Used LINE App to Find Mistresses And Then Cheated Them

Recently the famous smartphone application LINE has turned into a platform for prostitution and other illegal and semi-legal activities connected with the sex trade. LINE is hugely popular in Taiwan, with around 16 million users (out of a population of 23 million). The potential for profit has been soon recognised by businesses, but also by people who engage in unlawful pursuits. 

According to Apple Daily, a man surnamed Lai, who claimed to be an entrepreneur from Taichung, used the LINE app "meet people" to contact potential mistresses and then cheat them out of their money. 

A 26-year-old girl (XiaoY) told the paper that last month Lai had contacted her through LINE and offered to "provide for her" (包養, meaning that he wanted to take her as his mistress). The practice of taking a mistress is popular among wealthy men both in Taiwan and in China (more on this in my next post). She thought that he was a weirdo, but when he said that he was a well-off entrepreneur she began to change her mind. He said he would give her 80,000 NTD per month and she would have to sleep with him three times a week. XiaoY had recently given her ex-boyfriend 130,000 NTD as "break-up money". So she gladly accepted the man's offer, and they met up for a meal. 

The man said that he had had three mistresses in the past and that they had taken his money, so he hadn't brought his credit card. XiaoY ended up paying 600 NTD for the restaurant. He then asked her to sleep with him. Since she had her period that day, she only had 'oral sex' with him. And she paid 2,000 NTD for the hotel room. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Video of Chinese Mother Beating Her Child Sparks Outrage

Is corporal punishment a good method for teaching children how to behave? Or is it just a way for impatient and frustrated parents to unload their negative emotions on defenceless children? 

Just a few days ago I was walking on a street in Taipei and I saw a mother who kept yelling at her young daughter. Then she suddenly hit the child across the face so hard that her cheek immediately reddened. I do not know exactly why the mother was so upset, but slapping her daughter in the middle of the street and in front of everybody doesn't seem to me a good way to teach anything. Passers-by, of course, saw what happened, and some looked slightly shocked. But as this is considered a private family matter no one would have dared interfere or even show too much attention. The child will have to learn to submit.

As I have explained in one of my posts, corporal punishment used to be common in East Asia and is still relatively widespread, though not as much as before. However, mild forms of aggressive behaviour are widely tolerated even in public.

In Taiwan, which is often considered such a harmonious and friendly society, I often witness cases of people yelling at each other shamelessly in public. I saw girlfriends shouting at their boyfriends, a man hitting his wife, a wife yelling at her husband inside a bakery - and I could go on. I was also myself shouted at by some people whom I considered friends; funny enough, exactly because they saw me as a friend, they shouted at me. Apparently, this means they "trusted" me and wanted to "improve" me - had they not "trusted" me and "cared" about me, they would just have been polite. An interesting and common perception, however twisted, that justifies aggressive behaviour.

Fortunately, though, severe corporal punishment doesn't meet with approval any more, as the following case shows. On October 16 a video of a Chinese mother beating her child went viral, sparking outrage. The young woman ferociously hits the child with a stick, then kicks him repeatedly. The whole video lasts for about 5 minutes. You can also see that the child's pants have been pulled down by the woman, perhaps to make the punishment all the more painful.





Netizens were outraged by the violent beating. Some criticised the person who shot the video for not intervening, though intervening is always a tricky thing, especially in China or Taiwan. First, people will get really aggressive if you meddle in their private affairs, as they consider you a stranger. Some cases, such as that of a man who was beaten up in Shanghai because he complained that a father was letting his child pee inside the metro, are a warning to those who would like to show civil courage. Second, even if the witness had called the police, they might have arrived late. I don't know whether the PRC police is efficient enough to take up the matter and thank the witness for his or her cooperation. Maybe the person did not have enough faith in the police (now I'm speculating, of course). 

Despite their claim to live in harmonious societies, some people in China and Taiwan seem to have so much negativity and aggressiveness inside that they must vent these emotions on those who are in an inferior position. Children are, in this respect, the most defenceless individuals. Drill, hard work, or pressure are not enough to turn a young person into an upright and principled adult.



Monday, 13 October 2014

LINKS: Hong Kong Police Starts Removing Protesters' Barricades

This morning, on the 16th days since the beginning of the Occupy Central protests, the police have gathered at the sites occupied by demostrators and are trying to remove the barricades. Apparently, the policemen are prepared to use teargas.


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Debunking Beijing's Accusations that Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution is Fomented by 'Foreign Forces'

"The Chinese revolution is a key factor in the world situation and its victory is heartily anticipated by the people of every country, especially by the toiling masses of the colonial countries," said Mao Zedong in a July 1936 interview. "When the Chinese revolution comes into full power, the masses of many colonial countries will follow the example of China and win a similar victory of their own…

According to Mao, the Communist-led Chinese revolution was part of the "world revolution" directed against "anti-imperialist and anti-feudal" forces (On New Democracy, January 1940). "Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin" had given the revolutionary avant-garde a weapon. "This weapon is not a machine-gun, but Marxism-Leninism", he explained (On the People's Democratic Dictatorship, June 1949). 

Faithful to his ideology, Mao not only accepted the help and guidance of the Soviet Union, but he also helped "Communist brothers" in other countries when they were in need. "The Chinese and Korean comrades should unite as closely as brothers, go through thick and thin together, stick together in life and death and fight to the end to defeat their common enemy," he wrote in 1951 during the Korean War (1950-1953). 

So, the revolution that brought the Chinese Communist Party to power was a world revolution. The teachers of the revolution were Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin - four foreigners. 

After Deng Xiaoping's rise to power in the late 1970s, the PRC moved away from orthodox Marxism-Leninism towards an incoherent and contradictory mix of old Communist tenets and new economic and social ideas. The 1982 Constitution of the PRC explains:

The victory in China’s New-Democratic Revolution and the successes in its socialist cause have been achieved by the Chinese people of all nationalities, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, by upholding truth, correcting errors and surmounting numerous difficulties and hardships. China will be in the primary stage of socialism for a long time to come. The basic task of the nation is to concentrate its effort on socialist modernization along the road of Chinese-style socialism. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the guidance of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the important thought of Three Represents, the Chinese people of all nationalities will continue to adhere to the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist road, persevere in reform and opening to the outside world, steadily improve socialist institutions, develop the socialist market economy, develop socialist democracy, improve the socialist legal system and work hard and self-reliantly to modernize the country’s industry, agriculture, national defence and science and technology step by step and promote the coordinated development of the material, political and spiritual civilizations, to turn China into a socialist country that is prosperous, powerful, democratic and culturally advanced.

Marxism-Leninism, dictatorship, democracy, industry - these and many other key concepts of the Chinese state have been borrowed from Western political and economic thought and have been combined without any apparent logic (well, there is a hidden logic, as I will show later). Communism is not an indigenous Chinese ideology, but one which was created by Westerners and was first implemented in Western countries. Market economy and modern industry, too, originated in the West. Even the notion of political parties was taken from Western thought. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Tiu Keng Leng - A Former Guomindang Enclave in British Hong Kong

Tiu Keng Leng (調景嶺; pinyin: Tiáojǐnglǐng) is an area in Hong Kong's Sai Kung District. Today it is a modern neighbourhood with high-rise buildings and shopping malls, but in the past it used to be a settlement of Guomindang sympathisers and supporters of the Republic of China (ROC). 

Tiu Keng Leng is often called 'Rennie's Mill', after Alfred Herbert Rennie. Born in Canada in 1857, Rennie moved to Hong Kong in 1890. He found work as a clerk at the Government Public Works Department but he resigned in 1895 to start his own business. He wanted to build a flour mill, since Hong Kong imported flour from abroad at the time. He bought land at Junk Bay (Tseung Kwan O) and built his mill between 1905 and 1906. However, the business turned unprofitable and failed. Desperate and disillusioned, Rennie drowned himself in 1908 (Bard 2002, p. 234). 

The Chinese-speaking population henceforth called the area 吊頸嶺 (Tiu Keng Leng, literally "hanging neck ridge"). As the name was considered too inauspicious, it was later changed into the similar-sounding 調景嶺. 

As the ROC government collapsed during the Chinese Civil War and retreated to Taiwan in 1949, many Guomindang refugees and ROC supporters moved to Tiu Keng Leng from mainland China. A community arouse which was in many respects unique; it was a semi-autonomous Guomindang enclave made up of huts and improvised buildings constructed by the refugees for lack of government housing. It had its own schools, and flags of the ROC were displayed publicly as if the settlement had been part of the ROC.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Hong Kong Government Calls Off Talks With Student Leaders

At a press conference this evening Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's Chief Secretary, was supposed to announce the details of the talks between government representatives and student leaders which were scheduled for tomorrow. Instead, she surprisingly declared that the administration had decided to cancel the meeting altogether. 

The talk is based on two conditions," she said. "First the discussion must be within the framework of the decision made by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. Second it must not be linked to the Occupy movement. Unfortunately, the protesters rejected the rational proposal and went back to their old position.

"They now insist on public nomination and to abolish the decision made by the NPCSC. They also link the dialogue with the Occupy movement and even said the movement would last until the talks produce a result [they want]. This is sacrificing public good for their political demands, and is against public interests and political ethics.

This is obviously a trick. The whole protest movement is about abolishing the decision of the National People's Congress (NPC) and about public nomination. Otherwise, what would the protesters be protesting for? If they have to accept the framework, it means that Beijing and the Hong Kong government (which is de facto a shadow government of the Communist Party in Hong Kong) will have their way. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

What if Beijing Granted Hong Kong Genuine Universal Suffrage?

Over the past few years, a battle has erupted in Hong Kong over the future of the former British colony which was handed over to the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1997 and became a Special Administrative Region (SAR). According to the "One Country, Two Systems" model proposed by Deng Xiaoping, Hong Kong was to maintain a high degree of autonomy as well as the freedoms inherited by the colonial state. 

According to the Basic Law of the SAR, promulgated in 1990 by the PRC government and put into effect after the handover, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong "shall be the head of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and shall represent the Region". He "shall be accountable to the Central People's Government and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in accordance with the provisions of this law." 

The function of Chief Executive basically replaced that of the British governor in colonial times. But while the governor was appointed by London (all governors were "white" British citizens and most of them - with some exceptions, like Cecil Clementi - spoke no Cantonese), the Chief Executive was to be a local Hongkonger. He would be "selected by election or through consultations held locally and be appointed by the Central People's Government.

The Basic Law, however, was a work in progress and did not clearly define how democratic the election process would be. In fact, the Basic Law is vague about the electoral procedures, but it pledges to introduce universal suffrage in a gradual way. "The method for selecting the Chief Executive shall be specified in the light of the actual situation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress. The ultimate aim is the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures."

After the handover, the candidates for Chief Executive were nominated by a committee of 800 people and (from 2012) 1,200 people. This oligarchic system was widely considered non-democratic, as the Chief Executives and their administration were de facto shadow governments of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

After 1997 Beijing often indicated that universal suffrage might be implemented by the Chief Executive Elections in 2017. On August 31, the National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing announced its decision that in 2017 the Chief Executive will indeed be elected by universal suffrage. However, only three candidates will be allowed to run, and they will have to be selected by a committee of 1,200 people. 

What this means is clear. Beijing will only accept a Chief Executive that bows to the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chief Executive must "love the country and Hong Kong" and not be opposed to the Communist Party or one-party rule on the mainland - this is Beijing's dictate. To many people, such universal suffrage is a sham, and they demand that the candidates for Chief Executive be publicly nominated. In a last desperate act of resistance, Occupy Central and other pro-democracy movements have launched massive protests, dubbed by the media "Umbrella Revolution."

But why did it have to go that far? Why is Beijing stubbornly refusing to grant genuinely universal suffrage? What would happen if the CCP finally yielded to the protesters' demands?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Dozens of Mainland Chinese Detained by Police For Supporting Hong Kong's Occupy Central

Since September 28 at least 34 people have been detained and 60 people have been questioned by the police in mainland China for sharing images and news of Hong Kong's Occupy Central or showing support for it. As the "Umbrella Revolution" unfolded in Hong Kong, the Communist government and its media apparatus have been trying to insulate the mainland from the outside world, leading to a sharp increase of censorship activities.

According to Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch (民生观察), the Hunanese activist Ou Biaofeng (欧彪峰) was arrested on October 1. A squad of Zhuzhou Internal Security Bureau broke open the door of his house while he was still in bed. They questioned him about some pictures he had posted online in which he was seen as shaving his head in support of Occupy Central (the initiators of Occupy Central had shaven their heads at the beginning of September to show their "determination to fight for true democracy").

"Because I shaved my whole head clean and put on a black shirt to express support for the struggle of Hong Kong's Occupy Central for genuinely democratic elections," Ou wrote on his Twitter profile on October 1, "at 8 am I was taken into custody by two security officials. Then they drove me more than 20 kilometers away to a rural area outside Zhuzhou. I watched them fishing at a pond. After 4 pm we went back to town, they took me to my house and left.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Triad Involvement in Anti-Occupy Central Clashes Confirmed

After anti-Occupy groups attacked pro-democracy protesters on Friday and Saturday, injuring several demonstrators, many wondered whether these assaults, which appeared well-organised and planned in advance, were the work of triad members. Yesterday at a press conference the Secretary for Security of Hong Kong Lai Tung-kwok (黎棟國) confirmed that triad members were involved in the clashes. 

Kwok said that the government severely condemns the violent behaviour of some individuals, and confirmed that the police had arrested 19 suspects, 8 of whom have triad links. They allegedly assaulted demonstrators during clashes in Mong Kok, a popular shopping district. According to the 'China Times', some of the thugs may have been taxi or minibus drivers with triad affiliation. 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Hong Kong's Occupy Central Turned Violent as Thugs Attacked Occupiers


Yesterday was a sad day for Hong Kong. I really love this city. Every time I go there, its atmosphere and beauty, its energy and uniqueness mesmerize me. But the contradictions of the post-1997 settlement are coming to the surface now and threaten to change the ex-colony forever.  

The images we have seen yesterday are shocking, and to a certain extent unexpected. I was there on the first day of Occupy Central. The tension was palpable. People seemed optimistic, but how to forget what happened in 1989? Who could know whether the leadership in Beijing would react the same way and the soldiers of the PLA would storm out of their barracks to put down the demonstrations? 

However, no one expected that thugs would do the dirty job of scaring off the protesters. Yesterday, men who oppose Occupy Central attacked demonstrators, injuring several of them (the exact numbers are unclear). The clashes were fiercest in Mong Kok, a popular shopping area. Apparently, anti-Occupiers' violent actions were well-organised. 

At 9.10pm Benny Tai said he suspected triads were behind the violent attacks. He also accused the police of not taking action to protect the peaceful protesters. Police forces watched by as the fights erupted and did not intervene on behalf of the victims. The attackers, on the other hand, were met with surprising indulgence.

Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan, too, suggested that the attackers had links with the triads. "When students were protesting peacefully on Sunday," he said, "police fired tear gas at them; but now, the police did nothing to the people who actually attacked the occupiers. It has shown a big contrast."

Friday, 3 October 2014

UPDATES: Is Beijing Using Thugs to Intimidate Occupy Central Demonstrators?

Clashes have erupted between Occupy Central demonstrators and pro-Beijing groups. A woman speaking Mandarin was seen giving orders to men who attacked protesters. Are pro-Communist forces in Hong Kong using thugs to scare Occupy Central supporters?


This is difficult to say and impossible to prove (that's where the cleverness of this strategy lies). However, it can be proved that Beijing has been using this kind of tactics in Taiwan, where the so-called 'White Wolf', a former leader of a criminal syndicate, meddled in this year's Sunflower Movement protests to intimidate opponents of China-Taiwan reunification.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Chinese Activist Arrested For Posting Pictures of Hong Kong's Occupy Central

Wang Long, a 26-year-old Chinese activist, was arrested in Shenzhen because he posted pictures of Hong  Kong's Occupy Central on Chinese media. He was detained for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. At least 3 people have been so far detained on the mainland because they posted photos of the protests in Hong Kong.

Wang Long had already hit the headlines earlier this month when he sued China Unicom, a state-owned telecom provider, for denying access to Google websites and services.

After the Occupy Central campaign was launched by Benny Tai on September 28, thousands of people have joined the demonstrations. The images of the protests have been shared by millions of people all over the world, but not in mainland China, where censorship has been at work to prevent the Chinese people from seeing what is really happening in Hong Kong.