East Asia Theater

Hong Kong: paradoxes of dissent

Having receded from the global headlines, the pro-democracy protesters have not receded from the streets of Hong Kong. Nov. 6 saw new clashes with police in street occupations that have now persisted for more than a month and a half. The skirmish came in the commercial district of Mong Kok, after police attempted to arrest a man they said was shining his mobile phone light in their eyes. In the ensuing confrontation, at least one protester was left bleeding from the head. (AP, Nov. 6) That night in New York City, the Lower Manhattan office of the New America Foundation hosted a screening of Lessons in Dissent, a new film focusing on two teenagers who have emerged as leaders of the Hong Kong protests, Joshua Wong and Ma Jai. The film was released just before the Occupy Central movement finally went into action, but depicts the precursor struggle in 2012, when students organized against proposed constitutional reforms in the territory that would limit freedom, and a mandatory "national education" curriculum they saw as propaganda for the Chinese Communist Party. The protests were successful; the constitutional changes were shelved, and the new  curriculum was made optional. The film's two protagonists are still at it—Wong having risen to global attention.

Hong Kong: dissent spreads to mainland

"Dozens of mainlanders were taken away by the police because they openly supported Occupy Central and at least ten of them have been detained… They are in Jiangxi, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzhou, etc," Hong Kong-based blogger and journalist Annie Zhang posted on her Facebook page on Oct. 1, the 65th National Day of the People's Republic of China. (ChinaFile, Oct. 3) The group Human Rights In China has documented at least seven mainlanders detained for expressing support for Hong Kong's Occupy Central movement. These include the poet Wang Zang, who has become a vocal supporter of Occupy Central. Wuhan rights activist Wang Fang was taken away by police after posting photos of herself raising placards in support of Occupy Central at the Beijing south station. Beijing rights defender Han Ying was taken from her home by police after posting messages of solidarity with Occupy Central on Weibo. Also detained after posting photos of the Occupy Central movement on Weibo is Shenzhen activist Wang Long, who sued China Unicom earlier this year for blocking access to Google. Shanghai activist Shen Yanqiu was detained after posting photos of herself with a shaved head in support for the Hong Kong protesters. (Shanghaiist, Oct. 5; HRIC, Oct. 3; Channel News Asia, Oct. 1)

China bars online images as Hong Kong explodes

Instagram has been blocked in mainland China since Sept. 28, in an evident attempt to stop images of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as street clashes entered their third day. Following repression of the massive Occupy Central demonstration, thousands of people have remained on the streets of Hong Kong, defying tear gas and ignoring orders to disperse. Overnight, riot police advanced on crowds who ignored official warnings that the demonstrations were illegal. In what can be read as a veiled threat, Hong Kong's chief executive CY Leung reassured the public that rumors the Chinese army might intervene are untrue. (Shanghaiist, Sept. 29; BBC News, Sept. 28)

China: writer detained for articles critical of official

Chinese writer Huang Zerong, 81, known also by his pen name Tie Liu, was detained by Chinese authorities Sept. 14 for allegedly publishing articles critical of Communist Party propaganda chief Liu Yunshan (Brookings backgrounder). According to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, the 81-year-old writer was criminally detained on charges of 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble.'" Huang spent 23 years in prison after being labeled a "rightist" by the Chinese regime during Mao Zedong's crackdown on liberals. His name was later cleared by the Communist Party in 1980.

Tokyo: thousands protest re-militarization

Some 40,000 protested outside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's office June 30 to oppose the government's official reinterpretation of the constitution to allow Japan's military a larger international role. Protesters chanted "Protect the constitution!" and "Stop war, stop Abe!" The change was officially announced the next day, asserting a right to "collective self-defense"—essentially, allowing use of the Self-Defense Forces in wars beyond Japan's shores. In announcing the change, Abe counterintuitively stated that "the risk that Japan will be involved in a war will be reduced further with [today's] Cabinet approval." Legal scholars contend the "reintrepetation" has no legitimacy without an actual change to the constitution, and Diet approval. (Japan Times, July 2; DW, Asahi Shimbun, July 1; Revolution News, AP, June 30) In reaction to Abe's proposed change, Japanese activists earlier this year submitted a Nobel Peace Prize nomination for Article 9, the constitutional provision under which Japan "forever renounce[s] war as a sovereign right of the nation." The Nobel Prize Committee has officially accepted the nomination. (Kyodo, April 11)

Tiananmen Square: futility of revisionism

Chinese authorities carried out aggressive detentions ahead of the 25th anniversary  of the Tiananmen Sqauare massacre, with New Tang Dynasty news agency reporting 70 journalists, dissidents and rights defenders arrested over the past month. Blogger and journalist Gao Yu went missing at the end of April, and Beijing activist Hu Jia has been under house arrest for more than three months, after announcing his intention to hold a vigil in the square on the June 4 anniversary, in defiance of authorities. The Wall Street Journal's China Real Time blog notes that tens of thousands attended a vigil in Hong Kong, but the New York Times' Sinosphere blog reports that Tiananmen Square itself was so thick with security patrols and checkpoints that even the usual throng of tourists was down to a mere trickle. A tantalyzing report in the Globe & Mail says that a small group of black-clad citizens did manage to walk through the square in a silent, symbolic protest.

China detains rights lawyer ahead of 6-4

Chinese authorites on May 6 detained prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang on a charge of "causing a disturbance" after he attended a weekend meeting that urged an investigation into the 1989 crackdown of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square. Pu Zhigiang is a leading free-speech lawyer who is well known for opposing China's system of forced labor camps before they were recently abolished by the government. According to the official notice, Beijing police "criminally detained" Pu on a charge of "causing a disturbance" and are holding him at the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center. "These charges and detentions lay bare just how little the Chinese government's attitudes towards human rights have changed since 1989," said Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch. At least five dissidents and professors have disappeared since attending the meeting, which was held to commemorate and call for an investigation into the truth of the 1989 government crackdown.

Taiwan: anti-nuke action gets the goods

As thousands of protesters blocked a main traffic artery in Taipei and clashed with police sent to clear them, Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party agreed April 28 to halt work on two nuclear reactors. Work on the Lungmen nuclear plant, which would be Taiwan's fourth, started more than a decade ago in the island's northeast, about 20 miles outside Taipei, but has met growing opposition since the Fukushima disaster in Japan. The No. 1 reactor at Lungmen is to be sealed, while work on the No. 2 reactor will be put on hold, Premier Jiang Yi-huah said. The decision was made following negotiations with opposition parties. Jiang added that the announcement does not represent a major change in the government's energy policy, and refused to say that the Lungmen project has been permanently abandoned. (BBC News, Radio AustraliaTaiwan Today, NYT's Sinosphere blog, April 28)

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