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Wednesday, December 29, 2004


The South/SE Asian natural disaster affects us all

Travel is preventing me blogging as usual until next week. However the Indian Ocean disaster draws me back early to recommend a visit to the Tsunami Help blog which is providing emergancy information for the wider region.

I notice that the Peoples Republic of China quickly allocated 21.63 million yuan (about US$2.7 million) in humanitarian aid to the earthquake and tsunami-struck countries in South and South East Asia and promised to airlift emergency equpment and supplies.

The Republic of China on Taiwan similarly announced immediate financial aid to Thailand, India and Sri Lanka and Indonesia and dispatched a 10-member medical team to Medan in North Sumatra along with 3,340 tonnes of relief aid.

My condolences to the families of the victims and my best wishes to all for the new year.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


PRC suddenly cancels meeting on workers' rights

The influential Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has announced that an approved meeting of global union and business leaders scheduled for next week in the Peoples Republic of China has been canceled due to the PRC government revoking visas issued to foreign participants.

The NewYork Times reports the PRC is claiming "inconvinient timing" as its excuse for blocking the meeting.

"This is the right time not the wrong time to discuss the rights of workers in China," John Evans, an OECD official based in Paris, said in a statement. "Labor standards of Chinese workers are now in the world spotlight and that spotlight is not about to be turned off."

According to the New York Times, US and EU labor unions have been pressing for years to communicate more directly with China's state-run union monopoly and the country's Communist Party leaders. Addressing worker issues under the aegis of the OECD, which includes 30 wealthy nations, was seen as a step toward that goal.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Torture "widespread and endemic" within PRC

The Peoples Republic of China's growing number of human rights activists risk detention and torture, states a report from Amnesty International released to coincide with a summit of PRC and European Union leaders in the Netherlands this week. Amnesty wants EU delegates to call on the PRC to release those in prison for rights activism.

"A growing number of people in China are standing up and demanding the basic rights that we in Europe take for granted. For doing so, they face arrest, torture and even death," said Amnesty International Media Director Mike Blakemore.

Amnesty's 42-page report said even though many of those campaigning for better rights - including health, housing, labour, religious and ethnic freedoms - are members of groups set up by the Communist Party-directed government itself, activists are vulnerable because their rights are limited and poorly defined.

"Torture and ill-treatment remain widespread and endemic within China's criminal justice system, particularly at the pre-trial stage when beatings or other forms of torture are often used by the police in an attempt to extract a 'confession' from detained suspects ... Human rights defenders and others with strongly held beliefs or opinions who refuse to 'confess' to their 'crimes' are at particular risk of torture or ill-treatment," the report said.

According to BBC News, activists inside the CPC "are careful not to call themselves as such ... preferring terms such as organiser." This was also noticed recently by the Washington Post's, Edward Cody who observed that labor walkouts are being organized in advance throughout the country "but not by formal labor groups or permanent worker committees".

Some EU members like Britain say such human rights violations should prevent the Union from lifting the arms embargo, which was imposed after the Peoples Liberation Army brutally crushed pro-democracy protests in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. However France, which first pressed for a review of the ban and is one of the EU's biggest arms exporters, and Germany are seen as supporting an end to the embargo to open trade opportunities.

The PRC's Xinhua newsagency highlighted the French Foreign Ministry's statement yesterday that European arms embargo imposed on the PRC "no longer corresponds to the reality of the partnership".

"Of course we are in favor of a lifting of the embargo. It no longer corresponds to the reality of the Euro-Chinese strategic partnership," French Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Cecile Pozzo di Borgo said. "Member states of the EU agree on this ... The discussions are focused on the timetable and modalities for the lifting of the embargo," she said at a news conference.

Xinhua noted that while French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder favor an end to the arms embargo, the European parliament resolved on November 17 to oppose such a move until the adoption of a general EU code of conduct on all arms sales as well as concrete improvements in the PRC's human rights record.

However the newsagency commented that by announcing its intention to lift the embargo, at the EU-Chinese summit on Wednesday, the EU "would send positive signals to China ... without ... an immediate removal."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Remnants of Socialism: PRC and its Fraternal Four

It is current policy for the Peoples Republic of China to establish and develop friendly ties and cooperative relationship with all countries on the basis of the sometimes abused Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence (mutual respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefits, and peaceful coexistence). These relations, it is said, “are never based on social systems or ideologies”.

But some countries are more equal than others.

The PRC maintains special relationships with four other remnants of the former 'Socialist Camp’ – the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and the Republic of Cuba - whose sole ruling parties maintain ‘fraternal’ links with the Communist Party of China.

While these relationships are sometimes strained, as experienced during the PRC’s 1979 foiled
invasion of Vietnam and the later clashes in the South China Sea, they continue to offer the ‘Fraternal Four’ the opportunity for intimate deals with the PRC outside of the constraints of international arrangements and alliances such as the Korea 6-party-talks and ASEAN.

'Socialist Camp' round-up

Cuba: The PRC and Cuba will expand their mutually beneficial co-operation to benefit both peoples, visiting President Hu Jintao said in his talks with Cuba's President Fidel Castro in Havana (23 Nov). Castro spoke highly of Cuba's traditional friendship with the PRC, adding that the Communist Party of China has demonstrated that "socialism will definitively remain as the only real hope for peace and survival of our species." The PRC is now Cuba's third-largest trading partner, accounting for 10 percent of the island's foreign trade. Under new accords, Cuba will begin provide 4,400 tons of nickel annually to the PRC from next year. The PRC has agreed to invest $500 million in a new nickel plant in Moa, allow Cuba a 10-year extension to repay four interest-free loans provided between 1990 and 1994, during Cuba's severe post-Soviet economic crisis, finance one million television sets for the Cuban market and donate $6 million to Cuban hospitals.

Vietnam: The Vietnam-PRC Friendship Meeting Programme for young people was launched in Guangxi (28 Nov) by the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee and the China CommunistYouth Union Central Committee. The two groups stressed that the friendship is a "significant factor in the success of each country's revolutionary cause". In Nanning (2 Nov), some 200 Vietnamese enterprises are to participate in the first China-ASEAN Trade Fair which includes a China-ASEAN conference and a Vietnam-China business forum.The state-controlled Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry has held a number of seminars on construction of two economic corridors involving the PRC's southwestern Yunnan province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and five Vietnamese localities of Hanoi, Hai Phong, Quang Ninh, Lao Cai and Lang Son. Bilateral trade, which reached $4.6 billion last year, is expected to surpass $5 billion this year.

Laos: The PRC and Laos will "further strengthen cooperation" through the official visit of premier Wen Jiabao to Laos during the 10th ASEAN summit, Ambassador Liu Yongxing said (26 Nov). Bilateral trade was $63.95 million in 2002 and reached at $110 million last year. The target is $200 million in 2005. Chinese-funded companies have taken about one third of the Lao market of construction projects and the PRC has become the seventh largest investors in Laos. About 97 percent of the motor cycles used in Laos are imported from the PRC. Amongst other projects, the PRC has built a national cultural museum and a hospital in Luang Prabang, the five-star Don Chan Palace Hotel in Vientiane and a Sino-Lao cement joint-venture has "already taken one fourth of Lao's market share". Besides trade and economic cooperation, the two countries have "also strengthened bilateral cooperation in national defense, public security, culture and education".

DPRK: Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, said PRC-DPRK relations have seen steady progress and that the PRC government will "consolidate and deepen the bilateral friendly cooperation in all areas" (20 Oct). Separately, PRC president Hu Jintao also said that,"under the guidelines of carrying forward tradition, facing the future, being good neighbors and friends and strengthening cooperation, China will continue to step up exchanges and cooperation between the Communist Party of China and the Workers' Party of Korea." The PRC is the DPRK's biggest source of fuel oil and aid. On the matter of the DPRK's attitude to the continuing postponement of the 6-party-talks on its nuclear program, the PRC is assuring the USA, Russia, Japan and South Korea that the DPRK is committed to the dialogue but not yet ready to resume due to perceived "US hostility" (30 Nov).