North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The latest Chinese dissident

When considering writing anything about China (or India), the challenge is to avoid generalizing - as, after all, each country has over a billion people. On the other hand, one can say probably anything about human behavior in either of the two countries, and be likely to have accurately described at least one individual ...

Chen Guangcheng, a Chinese activist shown here in dark glasses with his wife, Yuan Weijing, and TWO children, son Chen Derui and daughter Chen Kesi. The second child, daughter Chen Kesi, was welcomed by Chen and Yuan in defiance of China's one child policy.

So the latest media frenzy is over a Chinese activist, Chen Guangcheng. That he is blind adds to the media interest. Over the past week, the story erupted that the 40 year old activist escaped from house arrest on April 22 at night climbing over his compound walls, and slipping past "multiple cordons of guards." A chain of human rights activists then smuggled him into Beijing, where he reached the U.S. Embassy.

Guangcheng's route from house arrest in his home town of Dongshigu to possible freedom in Beijing, 300 miles north. Note the town of Linyi just to the south of Dongshigu - more on that city later.

Guangcheng apparently spent six days in the US embassy, infuriating the Chinese leadership who regard the American involvement as unwelcome meddling in their internal affairs. The US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, former Washington state Governor (and of Chinese origin himself) was verbally attacked for being a key player in the drama, with one main official Chinese newspaper calling him "a backpack-wearing, Starbucks-sipping troublemaker."

Caught up in the hourly drama of what to do with Guangcheng, US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, on the phone, with translator and Guangcheng in a limousine.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a high-level meeting scheduled before Guangcheng made his escape, so tensions were higher at the meeting itself, now that both the US and China had to save face and deal with this one individual in the middle of larger discussions around loans, debt, trade, human rights in general, and security matters. Just before she arrived in Beijing, an "understanding" was announced that Guangcheng would receive treatment at a Chinese hospital (he had injured himself during the escape), and that arrangements were being made for him to come to the US (and his family) to pursue studies at an American university in the near future.

Amid the furore, pomp and circumstance of a high-level state-to-state visit went on.

As of today, after Clinton left Beijing to return to the US, journalists are writing articles of concern that perhaps Guangcheng may not be able to leave China after all ... The question, as we noted in another post on Chinese dissidents (November 19, 2011) is whether Guangcheng's moment of fame in the Western press is over, and his issue is equally forgotten. Oh yes, hard to find among all the reports this past week, was what exactly was Guangcheng's issue of dissent?

What was Guangcheng protesting or over what issue had he become an activist?

Chen Guangcheng exposed the systematic use of forced abortion and sterilization in Linyi City in 2005. He was challenging the day-to-day implementation of China's one child policy - in place since 1978. From Wikipedia, we can read a very studiously "neutral" overview of this policy: The Chinese government refers to it under the official translation of family planning policy. It officially restricts married, urban couples to having only one child, while allowing exemptions for several cases, including residents of Hong Kong and Macau, foreigners living in China, rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without any siblings themselves. A spokesperson of the Committee on the One-Child Policy has said that approximately 35.9% of China's population is currently subject to the one-child restriction... It was created by the Chinese government to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems in China, and authorities claim that the policy has prevented between 250 and 300 million births from its implementation until 2000, and 400 million births from 1979 to 2011. ... A 2008 survey undertaken by the Pew Research Center reported that 76% of the Chinese population supports the policy."

Other views of the one child policy

One result of China's one child policy is a very high male to female ratio. (Pink = Female higher than male;
Green = Equal; Blue = Male higher than female). A Time magazine article notes that a recent study published in the British Medical Journal found China still has 32 million more boys than girls under the age of 20. The total number of young people is a problem as well; factories have reported youth-labor shortages in recent years, a problem that will only get worse. In 2007 there were six adults of working age for every retiree, but by 2040 that ratio is expected to drop to 2 to 1. Analysts fear that with too few children to care for them, China's elderly people will suffer neglect.",8599,1912861,00.html#ixzz1u1tR3XBy

Guangcheng clearly takes a much darker view than the official Chinese government, the curious study by PEW, and the demographics noted in the Time magazine article. After his 2005 act of resistance by publicizing how the policy was implemented in Linyi city, he was jailed, tortured and denied medical treatment for the next four years. After being released from prison in 2010, Chen was placed under house arrest and closely monitored at his home village. He and his wife then attempted to communicate via video tape and written communication. The government responded by beating Chen and his wife, confiscating documents and communication devices in their possession, cutting off electric power, and installing metal sheets over the windows of their house... The summary here comes from several articles and reports - one can choose what level of emotion and wording to believe, but the gist is clear enough. (See for a detailed account)

Let's think about this a minute: A government policy that forces women to have abortions or be sterilized "for the greater needs of society," as the state perceives it.

Guangcheng with daughter in their home, in this frame taken from video footage during his house arrest years. Having that second child, a daughter no less, was a much greater "statement" than us Westerners readily understand.

So on we go, China being a major rising power, clearly unready to allow significant dissent from its official policies. The other nation in the drama, the US, is trapped into a complex set of policies with China. One policy of encouraging trade and development - the result is the vast quantity of Chinese goods sold in the US is calculated on the premise that economic growth would eventually transform Chinese governance into an enlightened form (not sure we're there yet). On the other hand, the US is borrowing major amounts of money from China to fund its own deficit spending, even while maneuvering militarily to slow China's Pacific territorial claims, and counter its forceful search for global resources in other parts of the world.

1 comment:

Teatree said...

Have to update the story with a link to a BBC-article on forced or coerced abortions in China as a result of the country's one child policy.