‘Did We Stand on the Side of Tank Man?’: An Interview with Teng Biao

Teng-Biao

Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities. 

Felicia Sonmez writes: At a U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing in Washington on the 26th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown this week, prominent tank-man-appeared-on-the-cover-of-time-19-june-1989Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao presented his listeners with a choice.

“They arrest the journalists, then the journalists who speak out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defend the arrested journalists, and then the lawyers who defend the lawyers who defend the journalists.”

“History will require us to answer one question: Did we stand on the side of the ‘Tank Man,’ or on the side of the tank?” Mr. Teng said Wednesday, referring to the iconic photo of a lone man blocking a convoy of military vehicles during the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

Mr. Teng isn’t from the generation that marched in Beijing and other cities 26 years ago; at the time he was a high school student at a county in northeastern China.

A Chinese protestor blocks a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Blvd. June 5, 1989 in front of the Beijing Hotel. The man, calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way.

A Chinese protestor blocks a line of tanks heading east on Beijing’s Changan Blvd. June 5, 1989 in front of the Beijing Hotel. The man, calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed against pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square, was pulled away by bystanders, and the tanks continued on their way.

Mr. Teng rose to prominence more than a decade ago for taking on civil rights, religious freedom and other cases that eventually drew the ire of Chinese authorities. His law license was revoked in 2008; authorities have not publicly given a reason. He was harassed and in 2011 was detained for more than 70 days in an unknown location, with officials again declining to publicly address his treatment. He left the mainland in 2012 for Hong Kong.

[See the interview here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

A year ago, the normally soft-spoken Mr. Teng delivered a forceful speechin Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, declaring at a vigil commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown: “You can’t kill us all.”

“They arrest the journalists, then the journalists who speak out for the arrested journalists, then the lawyers who defend the arrested journalists, and then the lawyers who defend the lawyers who defend the journalists,”  he said at the time, describing a tightening of Beijing’s grip over civil society in China. Read the rest of this entry »


Suzanne Sataline: What Happened to Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Movement?

Sit In Protest Continues In Hong Kong Despite Chief Executive's Calls To Withdraw

Still riven over strategy, tactics, and core values, many now consider the 2014 protests a failure

HONG KONG – Suzanne Sataline writes: The activists from last year’s massive democracy occupation have splintered. Nowhere is this clearer than on college campuses represented by the Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the architects of the fall 2014 pro-democracy protests that roiled the Chinese territory. Students at three local universities have voted to quit the league of university students; more vote drives are underway. Critics, some swayed by rising nativist anger, say student leaders’ insistence on passive resistance at the height of the protests doomed the push for open elections for the city’s chief executive, instead of a slate of candidates pre-vetted by Beijing. As the wounded student group tries to shore up its membership, its allies worry that the loss of a united student front will push the already anemic pro-democracy camp closer to irrelevance.

“Today, many participants from last year’s occupation consider the movement a failure. After all, the strike did not achieve its stated goals of toppling the chief executive, C.Y. Leung, or jettisoning the election system in which 1,600 business and trade groups chose him. In fact, the campaign won no material concessions.”

Since February, students at three local universities have voted to leave the federation; balloting at another campus is underway and more drives are expected. The results could re-shape the future of the Hong Kong protest movement, just as the city’s government is debating a new elections law. It would, for the first time, let citizens cast ballots for the chief executive, albeit only among candidates that pass muster with Beijing.

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

People listened to talks between student leaders and senior government officials as they were broadcast live at a protest site in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong, Oct. 21, 2014. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The division among democracy protesters began shortly after police fired teargas at demonstrators in September 2014, during discussions under the tarpaulins shielding protest camps from the rain. Many protesters blamed the federation for being opaque, passive, and shackled to the city’s old guard liberals – the so-called pan-democrats. Some in the sit-in chided the federation’s leaders for taking no action when the government refused to negotiate, and for the student leaders’ “greater-China bias,” a focus on bringing democracy to the nation, rather than addressing Hong Kong concerns.

[Read the full text here, at Foreign Policy]

Today, many participants from last year’s occupation consider the movement a failure. After all, the strike did not achieve its stated goals of toppling the chief executive, C.Y. Leung, or jettisoning the election system in which 1,600 business and trade groups chose him. In fact, the campaign won no material concessions. The federation had kicked off the protest with a week-long class boycott, and has become an easy target for those disappointed. “Students felt betrayed by the federation,” said Leonard Sheung-fung Tang, a political science student leading the campaign to end federation ties at City University. The federation has lost the trust of students, and if it urged people to stand up to the police again, Tang said, most students wouldn’t listen.

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads.   AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads. AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Throughout the protest, student federation leaders preached non-violence even as they faced withering criticism for that tactic – especially online and on social media — as a more radical faction grew in prominence, if not number. Months after police cleared the democracy encampments, several veterans of the occupation urged people to join rallies to protect Hong Kong against a mainland incursion. Hundreds of angry people attacked mainland visitors and confronted police.  Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong: Democracy Vote Suspended

For WSJ, Isabella Steger reports: Four weeks after volleys of tear gas by police led thousands of protesters to seize control of streets across Hong Kong, the leaders of the pro-democracy movement are struggling to control its disparate groups as fatigue and frustration set in.

[Follow Pundit Planet’s EXCLUSIVE coverage of the Hong Kong protests]

On Sunday, a split among the protest groups led to the abrupt cancellation of a two-day vote on the latest offer by city officials, just hours before it was set to begin. Some protesters criticized the vote saying the groups organizing it didn’t represent them.

‘“In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”’

—Bonnie Kong, 30

“I admit the [leaders] have made a mistake,” said Alex Chow, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students. “We look forward to having more discussions with protesters in the three protest sites.”

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014. Four weeks after tens of thousands of Hong Kongers took to the streets demanding free leadership elections for the semi-autonomous Chinese city, weary demonstrators remain encamped across several major roads.   AFP PHOTO / Philippe LopezPHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

A pro-democracy protester sits on a barricade at a protest site in the Mongkok district of Hong Kong on October 26, 2014.   Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

He linked hands with other key figures from the three groups leading the protests and bowed in apology. Joshua Wong, the 18-year-old leader of one of the two student groups, asked for protesters’ forgiveness, and all admitted that the decision to hold the vote was hasty and lacked preparation.

“Without [a united front] the protest groups can’t consolidate power and there is no structure for discussions, let alone making decisions.”

— Leung Kwok-hung, chairman of the League of Social Democrats

Bonnie Kong, 30, who works in media sales, said she accepted the leaders’ apology but said they didn’t represent her. “We don’t follow the leadership,” she said. “In this movement, I’m motivated by myself, not the leadership.”

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The city’s government, which has refused to meet their demands, is hoping that public opinion turns against the students. Groups of opponents to the protesters, wearing blue ribbons in support of the police, carried out a petition drive and held rallies over the weekend.

“The most resilient aspect of this movement is the unity of the protesters. There is no ‘organizer’ in this movement. Each time the crowds swelled, was it because ‘organizers’ asked people to come out or was it because of something the government did?”

— Keita Lee, 28, a cook, who expects the occupation of Admiralty to last at least until the Lunar New Year in February

On Sunday evening, Carrie Lam, the government official who led the one meeting with students, called for more talks. “Our community expects the government and the student representatives to hold more dialogues in order to as soon as possible get out of the current impasse,” Ms. Lam said in a TV interview.

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Pro-democracy leaders (L-R) Benny Tai, Joshua Wong and Alan Leong arrive. Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

Besides tear gas and pepper spray, the protesters have endured attacks from opponents and efforts by police and others to clear the roads they occupy in three densely populated districts of Hong Kong, including the main protest site surrounding the city government headquarters. Those actions have galvanized the protesters, drawing out large crowds whenever the movement was under attack.

But time is starting to take its toll. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Thousands of Hong Kong Students Boycott Classes

More than 10,000 Hong Kong university students attended a rally Monday to kick off a week of class boycotts against Beijing’s stance on electoral reform. WSJ’s Ramy Inocencio reports from the event.Shut-Up-Your-Mouth-Obama-TV

[Binge watch from now until next summer! Join Amazon Prime – Watch Over 40,000 Movies & TV Shows Anytime – Start Free Trial Now]

WSJ – YouTube


From The Chinese University of Hong Kong: A New Algorithm That Recognizes Faces Better Than People Can

faces in the wild
Faces from the Dataset Used to Test the Algorithm Described Below

It’s already a little eerie when Facebook suggests tags for who it recognizes in your photo, especially for faces that are small, blurry, or otherwise difficult to distinguish. What if Facebook were even better–better at recognizing people in pictures than you are?

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Two computer scientists are announcing they’ve made a program that is better at matching photos than people are, the Physics arXiv Blog reports. This is the first time a program has performed better than people at recognizing people.

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To be sure, the new algorithm, developed at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, outperforms people in a very specific task with a very specific set of photos. The Hong Kong researchers asked the algorithm to tell whether two faces are the same, drawing from a set of 13,000 photos of 600 public figures. Humans get the right answer 97.53 percent of the time, on this test. The Chinese University of Hong Kong algorithm is right 98.52 percent of the time. (You can try some sample matches at the Physics arXiv Blog!)

Read the rest of this entry »


China Claims Victory in Censoring Internet

computer users sit near a display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the internet at an internet cafe in Beijing, China. The Chinese government has declared victory in its recent campaign to clean up what it considers rumors, negativity and unruliness from online discourse, while critics say the moves have suppressed criticism of the government and ruling Communist Party. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

A computer users sit near a display with a message from the Chinese police on the proper use of the internet at an internet cafe in Beijing, China. The Chinese government has declared victory in its recent campaign to clean up what it considers rumors and unruliness from online discourse, while critics say the moves have suppressed criticism of the government and ruling Communist Party. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

BEIJING (AP) –Didi Tang reports: The Chinese government has declared victory in cleaning up what it considers rumors, negativity and unruliness from online discourse, while critics say the moves have suppressed criticism of the government and ruling Communist Party.

Beijing launched the campaign this summer, arresting dozens of people for spreading rumors, creating new penalties for people who post libelous information and calling in the country’s top bloggers for talks urging them to guard the national interest and uphold social order. At the same time, government agencies at all levels have boosted their online presence to control the message in cyberspace.

“If we should describe the online environment in the past as good mingling with the bad, the sky of the cyberspace has cleared up now because we have cracked down on online rumors,” Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the State Internet Information Office, said during a rare meeting this week with foreign journalists.

A study by an Internet opinion monitoring service under the party-owned People’s Daily newspaper showed the number of posts by a sample of 100 opinion leaders declined by nearly 25 percent and were overtaken by posts from government microblog accounts.

Read the rest of this entry »


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