Friday, July 12, 2013

No reforms in sight in the Middle Kingdom

Beijing-Panchen Lama in Amdo
Many China watchers are disappointed by the first months of Xi Jinping in the hottest seat of the Middle Kingdom.
Though he has been preaching a 'mass line' à la Mao and a new Chinese Dream, there is so far nothing to dream about.
Tibet witnessed the same old 'inspection tours' of the Party bosses. Soon after more repressive measures were put in place, creating more resentment amongst the 'masses'.
It has been the case of Xinjiang, which was 'blessed' by the visits of 4 members of the Politburo in a week time (Yu Zhengsheng, Meng Jianzhu, Zhang Chunxian and General Fan Changlong).
Regarding the latter, I am not convinced that the objective of the visit to the Xinjiang Military District was uniquely to tackle a law and order problem.
As mentioned in my previous posting, General Fan Changlong, the Senior Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission was accompanied by too many generals.
General Liu Yuejun, commander of the Lanzhou Military Region and Wang Jianping, commander of the Peoples' Armed Police may have come to inspect the unrest amongst the Uyghur population, but General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of general staff of the PLA was also in attendance. He is also Secretary General of State Defense Mobilization Committee.
General Liu Zheng, deputy director of the General Logistics Department (GLD) of the PLA was also around. The most intriguing guest was General Du Jincai, deputy director of the General Political Department (GPD) of the PLA. He is also a member of the all-powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.  
Has someone in the area (overlooking the LAC in Ladakh) done something wrong? Stealing cameras from the neighbours? We will probably never know.
In the meantime, the 'tours' continue.
Xinhua reported the visit of the Beijing-selected Panchen Lama ...after his return in Beijing, as usual.
Xinhua says: "The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu [Gyaltsen Norbu] paid his third visit to northwest China's Qinghai Province from June 30 to July 9."
Note that Yu Zhengsheng was in the neighbouring Gansu province at the same time (after a weekend in Xinjiang, he spent the next one in 'Tibetan-areas'). They could have bounced in each others.
Xinhua continues: "The Panchen Lama hosted a series of Buddhist rituals and gave blessing to thousands of local devotees during his visit to the province, which has a large number of ethnic Tibetan residents. During the tour, the Panchen Lama visited major Tibetan Buddhist temples in Qinghai and was heartily welcomed."
The photos released by the Chinese agencies do not show large crowds. The trip must have been organized in the most discreet manner, not to attract unwanted incidents. A bit of propaganda was probably Beijing's chief motive.
Gyaltsen Norbu stated that he was glad to see the economic and social development of Qinghai, especially the rehabilitation progress in Yushu where a nasty earthquake provoked a lot of damage in 2010.
The young Lama hoped that all Tibetan Buddhists would cherish the hard-earned peaceful society and work hard to promote social stability and ethnic harmony. The usual stuff.
The fact remains that since his arrival in power, Mr. Xi has not managed to improve the 'human' situation; on the contrary, it has worsen in several places.

Punishment continues of those pressing for promised reforms
July 10, 2013
Maya Wang
Global Post
Sacking high-level officials for corruption, slowing growth rates, seething tensions with Japan, a summit at Sunnylands: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first hundred days in office have not been dull.  But are there any clues as to whether his tenure will be different from his predecessors’?
Before his formal assumption of China’s presidency on March 14, many hoped Xi Jinping and the new leadership would take bold steps to move China forward in areas where there has long been paralysis, especially on human rights and political reforms. Xi’s early speeches reinforced these expectations: he portrayed himself as a reformer, promised a more responsive government, issued orders against lavish displays of wealth by officials, and even launched prosecutions against some cadres for corruption.
Xi’s government hinted at reforms to notorious state systems, including the “hukou” residency registration which discriminates against rural migrants, the petitioning system and the Re-education through Labor system, which arbitrarily detains individuals for up to four years without trial. The downgrading of the power of the internal security chief also raised hopes the ballooning “stability maintenance” machinery that ensured the suppression of dissent might finally be curbed.
It’s probably unrealistic to expect Xi to turn around long-standing Chinese government practices within one hundred days.  But it is not unreasonable to hope that a new leadership serious about fundamental reforms would back off punishing individuals who are pressing the government to fulfill precisely those promises.
Two weeks after Xi, who promised to “unswervingly fight against corruption,” became China’s president, four people were detained on March 31 for unfurling banners in a Beijing public square calling on the government to implement a policy to require officials to publicly disclose their assets.
Since that time the police have detained and arrested 11 more for allegedly participating in the same campaign. In early June—just a few months after the head of China’s Political and Legal Committee promised to “stop using RTL” by year’s end—Beijing filmmaker Du Bin was detained in early June for “creating a disturbance” after he released a documentary on the use of gruesome torture in a RTL facility.
While Xi vowed in March to, “always listen to the voice of the people,” the Chinese government has not relaxed controls over freedom of expression or assembly.
In May, the party-state issued a directive to universities ordering them to steer clear from discussing a list of seven taboo subjects including “universal values,” such as human rights, and another one calling on these institutions to strengthen the “ideological education” of young lecturers, according to media reports. In early June, the government rejected applications to protest the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, and harassed those who dared to make such requests. One Jiangsu activist, Gu Yimin, was arrested later in June for “inciting subversion” after filing such an application.
Even more chilling is the use of extra-legal measures and violence against activists even as President Xi promised to “uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.” In May, a group of lawyers attempted to visit an unlawful “black jail” in Sichuan in May and were beaten by thugs.  The police not only failed to protect them but also briefly detained the lawyers for “obstructing official business.”  In April, when lawyer Cheng Hai enquired at a Dalian court the reasons for it to suddenly delay the trial of his Falun Gong clients, he did not get an answer but was instead beaten by police officers.  The targeting of family members to punish individuals for their activism also run directly counter to the spirit of the rule of law, as in the heavy 11-year prison term handed down in June to Liu Hui, brother-in-law of imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, and the ongoing harassment of family members of exiled activist Chen Guangcheng.
It is not too late for Xi’s government to begin making meaningful changes.  But if after another hundred days the list of activists and family members who are being persecuted is growing, Xi’s rhetoric will not be credible.   Chinese people are still waiting for real progress, and a failure to deliver political and social reforms is likely to exacerbate the serious “civil unrest” that Xi has warned about.

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