Category: Rule of Law

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”.

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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.

Never-ending, hidden rules

Famed Chinese journalist and environmentalist Dai Qing, on her 70th birthday, reflects on the words of Confucius, who said: “When you’re 70, do as you please, as long as it doesn’t break the rules.” Dai, however, decides she was born 2,500 years too late. “I embody the cultural atmosphere of the ‘People’s Republic,'” she says. “With all its hidden rules.”

Critic of unbridled growth tipped as new China environment minister

(March 4, 2013) Pan Yue, a popular, outspoken and confrontational environmental official is reportedly a front-runner to become China’s new environment minister. Nicknamed Hurricane Pan, a reference to the “environmental protection storms” Pan led as former vice-minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration, the appointment would represent a clear signal to citizens that their new government is serious about improving the country’s rivers and skylines and empowering its environmental protection bodies to take on vested interests, reports Reuters. Although, Pan’s fearless advocacy has hampered his career in the past, promoting someone viewed as a tiger tough on polluters and a critic of unbridled development could help to defuse the civil unrest that has rocked China in recent times, in large part provoked by a loss of faith in the nation’s growth miracle.

Why we should say no to CNOOC

(November 23, 2012) The proposed takeover of Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen by China’s state-owned oil giant CNOOC should be nixed by the Canadian government, says Probe International’s Patricia Adams. As instruments of the Communist Party, China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are undisciplined by markets or the rule of law. Without subsidies, their rate of return on equity is negative. It would be impossible to stop them from distorting the Canadian economy, so Canada should just say no to CNOOC.

No country for private houses

(October 26, 2012) The history of government property seizure in China reads like an appalling dystopian fiction. A new film, which debuted in New York on October 28, looks closely at the astonishing but all-too-true stories of individual citizens – survivors of this ongoing battle for property rights – who have been robbed of their homes, their lands, unconscionably beaten, tormented and forced to endure bizarre and cruel new realities as a result of a social-political ideology gone mad and corrupt officials and developers who will stop at nothing in their pursuit of power, privilege and gain.

Shifang uprising halts controversial copper plant proposal

(July 5, 2012) Violent, public protest in China has halted construction of a controversial copper alloy plant in Shifang City, in Sichuan province. In a country with no free press, people left reeling by social media reports of police brutality took to the Internet to intervene. Meanwhile, the nation’s civil rights movement views the Shifang stand-off against government and industry as a turning point for citizen activism, with youth the drivers of a grassroots momentum to fight back.

Brazilian judge blocks Belo Monte dam

A Brazilian judge has stopped construction on the world’s third largest dam. The Belo Monte dam on the Xingu River in the Amazon would flood about 500 square kilometres – displacing about 20 000 indigenous people – as well as diverting 80% of the Xingu’s flow. This Environment News Service article details the long and tortuous battles the Brazilian courts, government and indigenous peoples have fought over the project.

Official Chinese land grabs

(October 19, 2011) Local governments in China typically fund themselves by land sales and property taxes. This article, from Economic Observer, surveys how the economies of Beijing, Shaanxi, Tianjin and Hubei fared over the past year. Notably, Beijing’s economy slowed due to restrictions on real estate and vehicle purchasing – major parts of local consumption and tax revenue.