20 December, 2005

how to suppress a demonstration

Excellent stuff as usual from ESWN, a translation of a China BBS posting on how China’s police could take lessons from Hong Kong’s forces in how to suppress demonstrations:

HkwtoFrom the way how the Hong Kong police put down the street riots, mainland China can really learn a great deal.  For example, how to deal with these mass group activities?  How to permit legal demonstrations while resolutely opposing rioters who try to create disturbances?  The Hong Kong police used pepper spray and water cannons that contained stimulating chemicals, and these can be used to disperse the crowds without causing much physical damage.  When the rioters broke through the police line, the Hong Kong police responded quickly and mobilized a large number of anti-riot police officers to form a blockade.  This shows the brilliance and maturity of the Hong Kong police command.

The Saturday riot permitted a large number of non-working local citizens to watch and make the job of the police more difficult.  The Hong Kong government mobilized and coordinated various departments to cut off vehicular traffic into the demonstration areas as well as the harbor tunnel.  They shut down the MTR station in the demonstration area, and they successfully stopped outside masses from rushing in which would escalate the chaos.

There has not been a single word in the mainland Chinese media about the action of the Hong Kong police to put down the riot.  This is obviously understandable.  Based upon the current social conditions in mainland China, if such scenes appeared in the media, it will inspire social malcontents to imitate the example and therefore affect the overall state of "stability" and "harmony."  But I think that the mainland Chinese police and government departments should pay high attention to the anti-WTO protests in Hong Kong.  Every move made by the Hong Kong police should be live educational materials for us.

Actually, certain cities on the mainland have established anti-riot police squads.  As the social conflicts slowly emerge due to the uneven development of the Chinese economy, these squads will soon face the same sort of situations that the Hong Kong police had to confront.  We can use the experience from the empirical practice of others in order to enhance our own ability to fight riots.  Only if we are prepared would we not lose our composure and become an international laughing stock.

Indeed, a laughing stock or worse.

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by @ 9:18 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

10 December, 2005

happy b-day human rights declaration

Agam’s Gecko has a thoroughly good wrap-up of mainstream press coverage of the situation in Dongzhou village, and a birthday message for a toothless document.

HrchinaHappy birthday, Universal Declaration of Human Rights! Today is a big day for you — your 57th birthday! Although it seems you were misnamed at birth, as there was nothing particularly universal about you either then or now. Human rights are universal, the Declaration was, and is not so. Mrs. Roosevelt and the many other of your laudable parents may have better given you the grand, all-encompassing term as a middle name instead. The Declaration of Universal Human Rights would sound more suitable for you.

As if to mark the special day (along with Mr. el Baradei getting his Peace Prize), the Chinese Communist Party has held a special event this week. For the first time since the Beijing Massacre of 1989, Chinese police have shot and killed a number of village protesters in southern Guangdong province. Dongzhou village, a small town near the city of Shanwei had seen public protests in recent weeks over confiscation of property by the government for the purposes of industrial development, offering the villagers only meager compensation. One fellow quipped that “it wasn’t even enough to buy toilet paper.”

UPDATE: ESWN has a very thorough roundup of articles.

More at Timur-I-Leng (multiple entries), Anton Traversa, Peking Duck,

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by @ 8:41 pm. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

massacre at dongzhou

A violent crackdown on peasant protesters in Dongzhou may have been much worse that reported. Initial foreign press reports said that at least two protesters were shot and killed. Now, Howard French writes in the New York Times that the incident may be the largest use of lethal force against civilians in China since 4 June 1989.

SHANGHAI, Dec. 9 - Residents of a fishing village near Hong Kong said that as many as 20 people had been killed by paramilitary police in an unusually violent clash that marked an escalation in the widespread social protests that have roiled the Chinese countryside. Villagers said that as many as 50 other residents remain unaccounted for since the shooting. It is the largest known use of force by security forces against ordinary citizens since the killings around Tiananmen Square in 1989. That death toll remains unknown, but is estimated to be in the hundreds.

The violence began after dark in the town of Dongzhou on Tuesday evening. Terrified residents said their hamlet has remained occupied by thousands of security forces, who have blocked off all access roads and are reportedly arresting residents who attempt to leave the area in the wake of the heavily armed assault.

“From about 7 p.m. the police started firing tear gas into the crowd, but this failed to scare people,” said a resident who gave his name only as Li and claimed to have been at the scene, where a relative of his was killed. “Later, we heard more than 10 explosions, and thought they were just detonators, so nobody was scared. At about 8 p.m. they started using guns, shooting bullets into the ground, but not really targeting anybody.

“Finally, at about 10 p.m. they started killing people.”

A Scotsman item, datelined today from Beijing, is also estimating there have been from 2-20 deaths, citing residents and Amnesty International and again raising comparisons with June 1989.:

Estimates from residents and rights groups put the number of dead between two and 20.

China’s Communist Party brooks no dissent but protests are becoming increasingly common, caused by disputes over land rights, corruption and a growing gap between rich and poor.

Many of the protests turn violent, but Amnesty said police opening fire marked a different turn.

“Police used guns on protesters the last time in 1989,” said Chine Chan, the east Asia campaigner for Amnesty International, referring to China’s military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

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by @ 11:06 am. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

17 October, 2005

guardian pleads temporary insanity

In what should be the final word on the Benjamin Joffe-Walt reportage on the beating of activist Lu Bangli, the UK Guardian newspaper has issued one of the strongest criticisms of a reporter that I have seen. Not only was his report grossly inaccurate, readers’ editor Ian Mayes says, but the reporter was suffering from temporary insanity.The paper also explains how the report slipped through more rigorous editing, and notes that Joffe-Walt was recalled to London (not, as earlier said, that he had left China for security reasons):

He filed only an hour before deadline, which left little time for interaction with the desk. He was not specifically questioned by the desk in London about some of the details in his description. He was not asked how far he was from Mr Lu when the latter was being beaten. He was not asked how clearly he could see the things he was reporting he had seen. At the same time Joffe-Walt failed to communicate to the desk the condition he was in then and was still in at the time of writing. He was still convinced at that time that Mr Lu was dead. I shall come back to that.

When it became clear that Mr Lu was alive and his injuries were not consistent with what had been described, relief among readers over his survival was mixed with serious concern about the grave flaws thus revealed in the report. The Guardian recalled Joffe-Walt to London, via Hong Kong where he was interviewed by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Ewen MacAskill, who had been sent there for the purpose. MacAskill and Watts, who had been recalled from leave, have spoken to all the people who were with Joffe-Walt in Taishi, including Mr Lu. The Guardian arranged for Mr Lu to have a medical examination and scan. They revealed no serious injuries.

I urged (Joffe-Walt) to contact Mark Brayne of the Dart Centre (see below), a former BBC correspondent, now a psychotherapist specialising in journalism and trauma (Joffe-Walt had already been examined at a clinic at the suggestion of the Guardian). Exceptionally, I had Joffe-Walt’s permission to talk to Mark Brayne, with the latter’s agreement, after their interview. Mr Brayne has no doubt that the situation, the mixture of fear and shame with which Joffe-Walt witnessed Mr Lu being beaten while he himself was locked in the car, contributed to a state of traumatic distress which he was still experiencing when he wrote his account. Mr Brayne said, "The intensity was quite unusual but in Benjamin’s particular context it does make sense." In this state, he said, Joffe-Walt had lost touch with reality.

UPDATE: The Travellers’ Tales blog views the temporary insanity defense with some skepticism:

The Guardian’s readers editor has responded
to the furore over Benjamin Joffe-Walt’s Oct. 10 dispatch from Taishi.
It’s impossible to read this without feeling at least some sympathy for
the reporter in this situation. But it also creates an uneasy
sensation. This is clearly an appeal for sympathy, rather than just an
admission of error with an explanation of extenuating circumstances.
The resort to a pseudo-medical diagnosis is reminiscent of the defense
of criminals who introduce expert witnesses to show that their behavior
was beyond their control. Wouldn’t it have been better simply to lay
out what happened, and let readers sympathize or not? Or are we being
too harsh?

Simon, as well, isn’t satisfied:

Ian Mayes concludes The
Guardian clearly has to protect its reputation. It also recognises a
duty of care to Mr Joffe-Walt. The two things are not incompatible.

No, they’re not incompatible at all. Where the Guardian has fallen down
was throwing a 25 year old novice into one of the more dangerous
reporting assignments without adequate care or supervision. If we’re
sharing out blame, it’s the Guardian itself that needs to shoulder a
significant part of the responsibility. Don’t hold your breath.


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by @ 5:15 pm. Filed under China, Asia, East Asia, Media, North Korea, Riot watch

12 October, 2005

guardian roundup/possible new keyword filters

Bingfeng has a very good roundup, of both blogging and blog commentary, on the beating of activist Lu Banglie outside of Taishi village and the controversy surrounding the reporting of accompanying Guardian correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Watt.

The Guardian, in the article linked to here from Howard French’s site, notes that Joffe-Watt was not the only one to have thought Lu was dead. While the paper’s credibility is being questioned, this is still worth noting.

A second witness to the attack, whom the Guardian cannot name to protect his safety, last night said that he believed Mr Lu had been left for dead. “A group of men attacked Lu with fists and legs. We thought he was dead,” the witness said. “An ambulance came [and] left without him. We were fearful for our lives; we thought they might kill us.”

Mr Lu told the Guardian there was nothing anyone could have done to help him.

To AsiaPundit, it seems the Anglo side of the Sino-blogosphere is more divided than usual on this matter - possibly driven by a split in knee-jerk CPC bashers and knee-jerk MSM bashers.

Optimistically, despite the divide and the distraction from the core issues in the Taishi dispute, I’m hopeful that this incident may produce results. I believe the Chinese public, and the central government, are taking notice more serious of the Taishi situation.

Why? For starters, this site, which also has a good roundup, stops loading in Shanghai if attempts to access it without a proxy are made. The stalling is more indicative of filtering than a block. A trace-route test showed access is allowed and proxies will allow full access. Without proxy, the site stops loading when the Taishi incident is mentioned. This is indicative of keyword filtering.

I haven’t yet confirmed filtering through sufficient testing - although attempts to load Simon World also briefly caused similar problems in the same manner - if filtering is (or was) in place that would mean that the central government was trying to prevent discussion of the issue. In turn, that would mean that it finally has Beijing’s attention.

I’m not a fan of the central government. However, the central CPC is better by far than the fiefdoms that litter the country, and an intervention in Taishi would be beneficial.

If other Sinobloggers can provide notice of possible filtering of Taishi/Lu Banglie it would be welcome.

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by @ 10:33 pm. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

a defense of benjamin joffe-walt

First the good news. Lu Banglie, the Chinese activist who was beaten to near-death outside of Taishi village is alive. Whether or not he’s ‘fine’ has yet to be fully determined.

Lu, a People’s Congress representative who had fallen afoul of village officials, was beaten while escorting Guardian foreign correspondent Benjamin Joffe-Walt to the village. Joffe-Walt’s account of the incident is here.

Chinese blogger Michael Anti, in a translated post provided by ESWN, accuses Joffe-Walt of negligence and, in a round-about way, racism.

As for The Guardian’s Benjamin Joffe-Walt, how the fuck did he still have to nerve to write this kind of report? Perhaps he is young and does not yet know that reporting in certain areas of China is just like in a war zone. He should not have gone there against the advice of others, and he should not have brought Lu Banglie to the village. Since he was being taken out by the police, why didn’t he insist on rescuing Lu Banglie as well? It is alright to beg for mercy when it happened. But the more important thing is that you have a duty and you must assume responsibility for your companion. Or is that Chinese person just a guide dog?

Thus, we the Chinese people are treated like dogs by the government and we are also treated like dogs by certain arrogant and ignorant foreigners. I have no idea how this tragedy can be changed.

Full disclosure, I am a foreign correspondent in China and have a tendency to defend my brethren against accusations. I also have lower different ethical standards compared with most of those brethren - and most bloggers for that matter - so my comments should not be taken as representative as those of my profession or the English-language blogosphere.

I was also invited to the Guardian’s house-warming in Shanghai on the day of the Taishi incident — though I didn’t attend and have never met Joffe-Walt (ergo, this defense of his actions cannot be attributed to payola from free drinks. Not that such a thing has ever happened before … I’m in wires, so I always file before the free drinks.)

As ex-CNN china bureau chief Rebecca McKinnion notes in the first link in this post, there has been considerable criticism of Joffe-Walt in the SinoBlogosphere - much of it reflecting Michael Anti’s comments that he did not respect his ‘fixer.’ Fons is fence-sitting (or, in more respectful terms, contemplative), while Running Dog, a more opinionated but anonymous Shanghai-based journo (anon for good reason given the specific blocks on his website), does not discuss Joffe-Walt’s role but sees this as another failure of China’s central government.

Although I cover finance and would never likely be in a similar situation, AsiaPundit believes he would have done the same as Joffe-Walt in the same situation. Protecting sources is important, and I have in recent months, to my shame or credit, asked a Chinese-national source to review some of his on-the-record comments that were highly critical of the central government. He did and it almost ruined a great story, but I feared they were a risk to his livelihood, albeit not his life.

I would never put my staff at risk, but I’ve personally always ignored the most-sound advice and taken insane risks (usually with my own life and typically during leisure activities). And it seems from Joffe-Walt’s account that the risk was taken willingly by Lu and not taken at the correspondent’s request. Indeed, it was after his repeated objections.

There is a healthy debate on the Shanghai Foreign Correspondents’ Club mailing list about Joffe-Walt’s probable responsibility, and how to protect sources. The harshest post, which shall remain unattributed, is this:

Please tell Joffe-Walt and other foreign correspondents in Shanghai that I am shamed by his conduct. He risked the life of Lu Banglie and his own Chinese assistant, stood watching Mr. Lu being beaten so that he can fabricate a report about the beating and then he runs away to save his skin. He makes us excuse him for doing nothing because we do not know what we would have done in his place except that we won’t have been so stupid as to take a Chinese with us on sensitive assignments in the first place. My Chinese friends are asking me “How can you do something like that?”

But it seems clear to me that Joffe-Walt cannot be blamed in any way for this. Lu, who had his own agenda, was insistent about accompanying the Guardian correspondent, and Lu - likely more that Joffe-Walt - knew the risks involved.

I would never instruct any of my Chinese staff to take any political risks - they face penalty of jail while I, at worst, face deportation - and I will advise sources to remain anonymous or alter sensitive quotes rather than take what I deem unnecessary personal risks (though this is very rare as getting a decent comment in China financial journalism is like pulling teeth… with tweezers).

Lu did have an agenda to push, and was taking his own risks to achieve his goals. I’m largely sympathetic to these goals and, I actually believe most senior-level central government officials also are. However, this means Lu was a political figure and he cannot have the same status as an employee or even a trusted or coaxed source.

That said, this is not to put the responsibility on Lu.

Lu was beaten by hired goons! The responsibility for the crime is on the hired goons and their employer(s)!!


Much thanks to GI Korea for all of the posts in my unexpectedly long absence, normal service will resume shortly, featuring more tabloid sensationalism, no introspection and fewer exclamation marks!!!!

UPDATE (12 October 19:12 Shanghai time):

Sun Bin posted in the comments that “the bigger controversy is about the ‘exaggeration’ or ‘inaccurate description’ of Joffe-Walt’s story.” I didn’t address this yesterday and I’m still reluctant to do so in definitive terms. I haven’t fully made up my mind on the matter and probably won’t until I see a thorough update on Lu’s physical condition or some sort of follow-up from Joffe-Walt.

I’m reserving judgement on the accuracy of the report until I have more information. By ‘accuracy’ I mean whether it is poor observation caused by panic or whether it was simply blatant exaggeration.

As well, for argument’s sake, I will suggest that it is possible that what Joffe-Walt says he witnessed may be a relatively accurate retelling of what he thought he saw. I haven’t seen many beatings, and no serious ones. However, I have had friends in such things as motorcycle accidents. Someone who looks near death can look almost normal after a quick cleanup in the hospital. Head wounds, because of the concentration of blood vessels, very often look much worse than they actually are.

An inspection of the apparently-not-lifeless body would have been helpful, as would have been a camera (though that may seem ghoulish). But given that there were allegedly 30 thugs standing around, it is understandable that he did neither of these things.

The primary thing that bothered me yesterday was not the report, but the matter of blaming Joffe-Walt for the beating, That is not a rational response. It’s not quite like blaming a rape on the dress of the victim - as Lu was the real victim - but to point accusing fingers at a bystander rather than the assailants shows a serious lapse of judgement.

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by @ 1:12 am. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Media, World record watch, Riot watch

7 August, 2005

riot watch iii

Via Peking Duck, a report of more village militancy in China but with a significant degree of escalation. Villagers reportedly were stockpiling "firearms, ammunition, explosives, detonators and machetes."

This one sure sounds different. The villagers were apparently , with the local government trying to stop them. How’s that for a twist?

About 800 policemen clashed with armed villagers during a pre-dawn raid and arrested 47 people in southern China after residents resisted a crackdown on illegal mining and went on a rampage, a newspaper reported on Friday.
Police raided several villages in Hezhou in Guangxi province at dawn on Thursday and seized firearms, ammunition, explosives, detonators and machetes, the Legal Express said.
It did not say if any policemen or villagers were killed or injured…

… sounds like these villagers were arming themselves to the teeth. Which makes me wonder, how many other villages are doing the same? Are they preparing for war against the government?

by @ 12:59 pm. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

5 July, 2005

riot watch ii

Simon points to an interview with Chen Xiwen, a vice-minister in charge of agriculture in China, who talks to the SCMP on riots in China. Simon’s full post is here, in which he responds to the vice minister’s main points and comments:

1. Village riots are a sign of democracy. Of
course in most democracies farmers or other aggrieved parties have
easier methods of expressing their problems, such as courts or the
media. In China, apparently, massed riots are the thing. Talk about
democracy with Chinese characteristics.
2. The central leadership quickly responds to farmers’ problems. Which
implies either the central leadership has no idea what’s going in the
countryside and is relying on those who defy the state’s own censors to
hear about it. Talk about communication with Chinese characteristics.
3. Mr Chen lauds the role of the internet and media in reporting on
riots because it allows the central government to respond as in point

2. So are we going to see a massive relaxation in censorship laws
anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath.
4. The protests are an inevitable consequence of the massive social and
economic changes taking place in China. I dare suggest it is just as
likely to be about incompetent and/or corrupt local authorities
fleecing farmers who have no form of redress.

The full SCMP article is reproduced by Howard French and ESWN has a translation of a sections of a Chinese-language version in the Hong Kong press.

by @ 8:22 am. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

4 July, 2005

riot watch

I am adding a new category to AsiaPundit; "Riot watch."

Reports of rioting in China are not new and I would have a hard time arguing that they are increasing - given that such events were more likely to go unreported in the past. However, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the reasons for the riots are becoming more diverse.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a riot reportedly caused by an attempt by traffic police to do their jobs. On Saturday there was news of rioting college students protesting high tuition fees and bad cafeteria food. This is on top of the continuing reports of riots by farmers and rural residents.

by @ 8:24 am. Filed under China, Asia, Coming collapse, East Asia, Northeast Asia, Riot watch

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