Category: Rule of Law

China’s water revival

Chinese citizens and industry are both willing to do their part to help turnaround the country’s water crisis, according to a new survey, but they don’t see how without a mechanism that allows the government, industry and end users to work together. Could that missing mechanism be market discipline, rule of law and citizen empowerment?

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A letter to my husband Guo Yushan: II

Twenty days after the first letter to her husband, detained legal activist and scholar, Guo Yushan, Pan Haixia posted another exquisitely written follow-up letter to him online. In the time in between, Pan writes she is determined to honour Guo’s zest for life by not isolating herself: “I don’t want you to criticize me for indulging in self-pity” and “it would be unreasonable for me to act half-dead” when loved ones have been so supportive. Pan’s mood has become increasingly reflective, drawing on wisdom gained in moments past, as she finds herself embracing the philosophy that, “we little people all have an ultimate freedom that no one can take away: the freedom to choose the attitude with which we face our destinies.” She remains hopeful Guo will return home.

A letter to my husband, Guo Yushan

Pan Haixia, lawyer and the wife of economic scholar and influential think tank founder, Guo Yushan, posted a letter online that she wrote to her husband after he was taken from their suburban Beijing home by police officers on October 9, at around 2 a.m., on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” — a pretext used to silence China’s growing community of rights activists. Conflicted by the danger Guo’s activism brought to their doorstep, Pan’s heartrending words to Guo, to whom she wasn’t able to say ‘goodbye’, powerfully relate the torment activists and their families endure as targets of political persecution in China.

Africa in Fact: dirty dealing

The September 2014 issue of the monthly current affairs magazine, Africa in Fact, offers a dramatic snapshot of the all-embracing and, at times, astonishing ways in which the cancer of corruption impacts societies, diverting resources from much-needed public services, ranging from health care to national defence, into private pockets.

Ukraine’s odious debts

Ukraine’s national news agency, Ukrinform, asked Probe International’s Patricia Adams to weigh in on Ukraine’s multibillion-dollar debt to Russia and whether Ukraine could challenge the enforceability of the US$3 billion Eurobond using an odious debts argument.

China’s new environmental law looks good … on paper

(April 24, 2014) Chinadialogue’s Beijing editor Liu Jianqiang reviews China’s newly revised environmental protection law which comes into effect in 2015 and represents the first time the law has been revised in 25 years. The new law provides authorities with the tools to dole out harsher punishments and sanctions to polluters, including more heat for officials found to be falsifying data and ducking environmental impact assessments. Under the new law, individual citizens still will not be able to initiate public interest lawsuits and although NGOs will be able to pursue litigation, the number permitted to do so has been capped, most likely in order to prevent a flood of environmental lawsuits in local courts and local authorities from being sued too frequently — which raises the question: what is the point of the law? In any case, says Mr. Liu, China’s environmental problems cannot be blamed solely on the lack of a powerful law but are more “the consequence of weak implementation and failure to hold officials accountable for rampant pollution and ecological destruction. … What good is perfect legislation if our authorities fail to implement it? China’s new law cannot answer this question.”

China is so bad at conservation that it had to launch the most impressive water-pipeline project ever

(March 17, 2014) Reporter Lily Kuo takes an in-depth look at China’s South-to-North Water Diversion project — the world’s largest water diversion conceived originally by Mao Zedong as a way to relieve North China’s dwindling water resources by “borrowing” from the south of the country. But not even the project’s leaders are pretending the mammoth, ultra-complex, $80-billion scheme will solve China’s water problem. Moreover, it has already created extra problems. Kuo concludes the project is another example of an engineer-dominated government’s fondness for huge-scale vanity projects with a particular weakness for mega-water works. No wonder. Without the man-made institutions — a robust regulatory regime and the rule of law — the Chinese government is bereft of tools to induce the efficient use (and conservation) of water. And so it builds canals and moves water from one watershed to another, creating havoc and perpetuating the problem of China’s crippling water crisis.

Civil disobedience in Sodom – A letter to Xu Zhiyong

(September 18, 2013) Guo Yushan, a longtime friend and colleague of high-profile Chinese human rights activist Xu Zhiyong, penned a grand and robust entreaty to Xu in late July (translated here into English), urging Xu to stand his ground as he awaits trial for “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place.” In reality, Xu, a well-known lawyer and founder of China’s fledgling “New Citizens’ Movement”, had called on officials to disclose their financial assets as it is thought assets disclosure will reveal the true level of corruption among government officials who exploit their political power for personal gain. In his letter, Guo likens Xu to Socrates facing the wrath of Athens and China to the disgraced biblical city of Sodom, and exhorts Xu to rise to his fate as an idealist, unrepentant — “let them charge you, let them torture you”.

Beijing social think-tank shut down amid crackdown

(July 20, 2013) On the heels of anti-graft campaigner Xu Zhiyong’s detention, authorities continue to get tough on rights activists as they endure another wallop of repression, shutting down a Beijing-based think tank. The move is seen as payback for activists who have called on government leaders to declare their assets, and on lawyers who defend “sensitive” cases.