Monday, 25 April 2016

Wrestling For A Seat In The Metro - Fight Erupts Between Two Couples In China's Wuhan

In any major city grabbing a seat on the metro can be a stressful experience. But in China disputes between passengers may lead to violent clashes, like the one which happened a few days ago in Wuhan city, capital of China's Hubei Province.

According to local media, on April 20 at around noon a middle-aged couple got on a train of Wuhan metro. The wife put a bag on the seat next to hers. Shortly afterwards, an older couple, about 60 years of age, asked the woman to free the seat. However, the woman refused. The old man insisted that she ought to yield her seat to elderly people, but she would not back down. At that moment, the woman's husband intervened and started cursing the old man, who instead of turning away yelled back. In a fit of rage, the younger man pushed the other away, thus giving rise to a fight between the two couples.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

"Listen To The Masses" - Xi Jinping Wants Chinese Government To Take Citizens' Petitions Seriously

Mao Zedong once said that Communist cadres "must be models in applying the Party's democratic centralism, must master the method of leadership based on the principle of 'from the masses, to the masses', and must cultivate a democratic style and be good at listening to the masses". 

"Listening to the masses" - whatever this may mean - has become a common catchphrase of Xi Jinping's new vision for China's Communism. In perfect Maoist rhetorical style, Xi coats his ideology in vague high-sounding phrases, a vagueness that suits a Party leader who doesn't have to engage in debates with opponents and who needs ideological ambiguity in order to rule. Xi's last attempt at reviving the old Maoist principle of "listening to the masses" is the strengthening of Communist China's system of popular petitions, the so-called xinfang (信访). 

The xinfang system dates back to 1951, when the Government Administration Council issued a "Decision regarding the handling of citizen's letters and visits" (关于处理人民来信和接见人民工作的决定). Building upon the premise that the "people's government at every level belongs to the people themselves", the document stated that every county and city government and all governments above the county and city level had to establish reception offices or complaint departments to handle citizens' complaints (see also Yongshun Cai: Collective Resistance in China: Why Popular Protests Succeed or Fail, 2010, p. 22). 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

This Year China May Oppose Taiwan's Participation In World Health Assembly

The World Health Assembly (by Tom Page - licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

In 2009 Taiwan received a historic invitation to participate in the World Health Assembly (WHA) as an observer. That was the second year of President Ma Ying-jeou's administration, a time in which relations between Beijing and Taipei were improving on the basis of the "1992 consensus", an unofficial agreement between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Guomindang. Since the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises the one-China principle, Taiwan could not participate with its official name "Republic of China". Taiwan was therefore represented with the name "Chinese Taipei" (中華台北). 

The Republic of China (ROC) was a founding member of the WHO, but after the United Nations shifted recognition from the ROC to the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Executive Board of the United Nations passed resolution EB49.R37 recommending to the WHA to adopt a similar decision. As a result, on May 10 1972 the WHA decided "to restore all its rights to the People's Republic of China and to recognize the representatives of its Government as the only legitimate representatives of China to the World Health Organization, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-Shek from the place which they unlawfully occupy at the World Health Organization". From then on the ROC has never been able to participate in the WHA as a sovereign state. 







The rapprochement between Beijing and Taipei under the Ma Ying-jeou administration allowed Taiwan to participate in the WHA, albeit with a lower status. However, the recent electoral defeat of the Guomindang and the triumph of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Tsai Ing-wen seems to have prompted the PRC to harden its stance. 

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Visiting Missing Hong Kong Booksellers' Causeway Bay Bookstore

Yesterday I was walking with a friend in Causeway Bay, when she suddenly pointed at one of the countless colourful billboards that decorate the shopping district's building facades and said, "That's the bookstore of the missing booksellers!".

The bookstore is called "Causeway Bay Books" (銅鑼灣書店) and it's located on the second floor of a building on Lockhart Road. I and my friend went upstairs and, of course, the bookstore was closed. Next to the entrance door there were messages written on the wall by sympathetic citizens.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Hong Kong Chief Executive Violates Airport Security To Give Hand Luggage To His Daughter

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying (梁振英) and his wife Regina Tong Ching Yee (唐青儀) allegedly used their political influence to violate airport's security regulations. 

According to Apple Daily, on March 28 Leung Zung-jan, daughter of the Chief Executive, was waiting at an airport lounge for a Cathay Pacific flight bound to San Francisco. She then realised that she had forgotten her hand luggage outside of the security area. 

Her mother, who had accompanied her to the airport, asked the airline's staff to bring the hand luggage to her daughter. Her request was turned down because, according to existing security regulations, passengers need to exit the security area and claim their luggage personally. Mrs Leung reacted angrily. "Do you know who I am?", she allegedly said. "There are no drugs or forbidden items inside [the luggage]". 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Taiwan Independence versus ROC Independence

(source: Wikipedia)
On March 22 J. Michael Cole published an interesting piece about Taiwan independence vs Republic of China independence. I usually disagree with Cole's opinions, but not this time. Cole is a great investigative journalist and political analyst, however his point of view is often biased and more similar to that of a political activist than to that of a journalist. 

In his article about the independence issue Cole explained something that I have been arguing for quite some time. In a nutshell, it is not true that the Guomindang is pro-Beijing (in the sense that it supports unification with the People's Republic of China) while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is in favour of Taiwan's independence. Both the Guomindang and the DPP oppose unification with Communist China. But while for the Guomindang independence means that the Republic of China is an independent sovereign state, the DPP holds that Taiwan is an independent nation. Cole rightly argues that both camps fundamentally oppose Beijing's unification policies with Taiwan. He borrows the terms taidu (Taiwan independence) and huadu (ROC independence) to define, respectively, the standpoint of the Pan-Green and of the Pan-Blue camp.

Interestingly enough, some Taiwan-based bloggers such as Michael Turton have criticised Cole's analysis. Over the past few years I have discovered that Taiwan's English-speaking (or English-writing) blogosphere has almost unanimously adopted an unreflected and irrational concept of Taiwanese nationalism as its guiding principle. It is impossible to have a normal and relaxed debate with many Taiwan-based bloggers or with Taiwanese who support the idea of a Taiwanese national identity, because they firmly believe in the existence of nation-states. An honest debate presupposes that one can explore different points of view, and many people are just not willing to do that. 

Taiwan independence and ROC independence are - for all practical purposes - one and the same thing as long as the Communist government in Beijing does not collapse or repel its infamous anti-secession law. Why am I saying this?