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[PHOTOS] EXCLUSIVE: Images From the Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Rally

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The Chinese central government today announced regulations that would gut Hong Kong’s evolution to real democratic election of the city’s chief executive.  In essence, Beijing imposed rules that would ensure that only it’s hand-picked candidates would be allowed to run for the city’s top government post. I attended the beginning of the rally in the park in front of the city’s main government offices today.  Here are some pictures:

[Also check out the live stream chronicling the protests. Follow the twitter feed for Hong Kong’s main pro-democracy activist group here.]

[Flashpoint Hong Kong: China rules out democracy for the former British territory – Noah Rothman, Hot Air]

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(My apologies for the poor photography — my Hong Kong cell phone has a decidedly inferior camera, and the rally really only got under way after dark.)

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Police presence was heavy in the city during the day, with large foot patrols moving around.  Interestingly, although Hong Kong’s police usually carry revolvers (.380s – I asked), most cops I saw today had empty holsters on their belts. Read the rest of this entry »

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Passenger Smart Phones Still Active? Vanished Malaysia Airlines Flight Leaves Relatives with Anger, and Phantom Phone Calls

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Malaysia Airlines flight vanishes over South China Sea: Vietnamese air force jets reportedly spot two large oil slicks thought to be the airliner that disappeared with 239 on board, including three Americans.

BEIJING — For  The Washington PostWilliam Wan and Liu Liu report:  For three days, relatives awaiting word on the vanished Malaysia Airlines jet have endured a cruel roller coaster of emotions.

“One of the most eerie rumors came after a few relatives said they were able to call the cellphones of their loved ones…”

First came the shock. Then, with each development that has emerged, they have careened between hope and despair. But by Monday, the predominant emotion was anger.

“…or find them on a Chinese instant messenger service called QQ that indicated that their phones were still somehow online.”

The Malaysian government announced that it has now expanded the search west into the Andaman Sea, far from the plane's intended northeasterly flight path towards China

The Malaysian government announced that it has now expanded the search west into the Andaman Sea, far from the plane’s intended northeasterly flight path towards China

Gathered at a hotel in northeast Beijing, many still resented Malaysia Airlines for having sent no one to explain anything during the first 15 hours after the plane’s disappearance. They blamed the Chinese government for not even meeting with them until Monday, three days into the crisis.

More than 100 of them signed a petition demanding answers and government assistance. Representatives selected from the families brought their protests to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing.

And Monday afternoon, when Malaysia Airlines officials returned for yet another briefing with little more to offer, some relatives threw water bottles at them in frustration. The question-and-answer session Monday eventually devolved into crying and shouted demands:

“All you have to say is empty talk!”

“Why have you waited until now to show up?”

A vice director from China’s civil aviation air safety center tried to assuage the crowd.

“I am the same as everyone in that I haven’t slept for two days,” the official said. “We are still searching. There is no evidence to show the plane has had an accident.”

Another official reassured the families that they had read their petition. “Your concern is our concern.”

Beginning Saturday night, the families were kept in a conference area of the Lido Hotel in Beijing, sectioned off from a media scrum outside, where officials could address them out of journalists’ earshot. Read the rest of this entry »


Crooked Officials and Sex Scandals Top List of Online Chinese Complaints

Often, corrupt officials are involved in sexual improprieties, making the No. 1 and No. 2 complaints one and the same thing

FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

Chengcheng Jiang reports: A survey of cases in which Chinese vented their anger online over various scandals found that official malfeasance and sexual impropriety occupied the vast majority of their complaints.

The Opinion Monitoring Center ofLegal Daily, a government-owned newspaper, researched the complaints made last year by so-called real-name users of Chinese social media — posters whose formalized status means they are considered more creditable sources. Of those cases, nearly 77% involved alleged economic impropriety by government officials. Of those accused bureaucrats, 22.7% of them were involved in sex scandals.

Those doing the tattling knew what they were talking about: 15.4% of these real-name whistleblowers said they were, in fact, former mistresses of government officials. “Emotional rupture” was the main reason they came forward to implicate their onetime lovers.

China’s President Xi Jinping has initiated a major anti-corruption campaign. On September 2, the Supervision Department of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party (CCDI) launched an online platform for the public to report incidents of official corruption. The CCDI has received more than 24,000 reports in the past month—a rate of 800 complaints a day.

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Engaging the Critics of China’s Community Party on Social Media

By  Yiyi Lu

The full impact of social media on China’s political development may be too soon to tell. But one thing is already clear: they have made it more difficult for the Chinese regime to govern its population. Social media have created a sphere where public opinion is deeply distrustful and critical of the government.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images People sit around laptops at a cafe in Beijing.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
People sit around laptops at a cafe in Beijing.

Frequent Internet users know that they will be surrounded by “negative information” the moment they open websites or log into microblogging services, laments an article (in Chinese) in the Chinese Communist Party’s theoretical journal Seeking Truth: “Disasters, accidents, corruption and scandals are seemingly everywhere… unhealthy sentiments spread in all directions. Anything the government denies must be true. Any official announcement must have a sinister backstory. Any social problem must be attributable to flaws of the system itself.”

The Chinese government is obviously concerned about threats to its credibility and legitimacy posed by social media. It vigorously pushes social media censorship, tracks down and penalizes online rumormongers, and employs the so-called “50-cent party”—Internet commentators paid for posting pro-government comments—to try to influence online public opinion. While media coverage of the Chinese state’s effort to confront the challenges of social media has focused on these measures, they don’t constitute Beijing’s full response to the challenges.

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Reading Tocqueville in Beijing

The old regime fears a revolution

Nov 19, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 10
BY GARY SCHMITT and JAMES W. CEASER

Does Alexis de Tocqueville have anything to say to the current generation of Chinese leaders?

In recent decades, the case study of political change of greatest interest to Chinese leaders has been the passing into the dustbin of history of the Soviet Union, that most powerful of all Communist regimes. Some analysts blame Mikhail Gorbachev for political reforms that precipitously undermined the government’s hold on power; others point to the sclerosis that overtook the Soviet system and the failure of its leaders to adjust socialist principles to new circumstances; others still—good Communists to the end—see the hand of the West at work, manipulating internal weaknesses to bring down America’s superpower rival.

Interest in this question is more than academic. For the Chinese -government and its supporters, the overriding concern is to head off a similar fate for their own Communist party. But as a new generation comes to power, many increasingly doubt they can avoid such a turn. Major protests throughout the country continue to alarm and bedevil the government and the party, and with good reason. The economic growth that for 30 years helped keep hopes high and dampen social tensions is slowing dramatically. University graduates struggle to find good jobs, even as nouveaux riches proliferate. The party’s ubiquitous slogan, “Social Harmony,” is at odds with what everyone sees. Corruption remains pervasive, elites secrete their wealth overseas, and party “robber barons” appropriate land from farmers only to turn it over to the developer who promises the middleman the biggest cut. Add to this the environmental disasters China faces and the looming demographic crisis (too few females; too few younger workers to support a rapidly aging population), and it is no wonder that so many Chinese leaders worry about the future—not only for their country but also for themselves.

Given these challenges, some in China seem to feel they have extracted all the lessons one can from the fall of the Soviet Union. Which brings us to Tocqueville, who, according to the Economist, has “been enjoying an unusual revival in bookshops and in the debates of intellectual bloggers.”

Even high-ranking officials are now reading Tocqueville—apparently including Li Keqiang, China’s new premier. Feng Chongyi, a Chinese academic teaching in Australia, recently wrote in the Australian Financial Review that many Chinese government officials, “including two members of the all-powerful Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party,” are studying The Old Regime and the Revolution, Tocqueville’s other classic, a book that analyzes the causes of the French Revolution and which is barely known to most Americans. Chongyi observes that while “it sounds bizarre that such a book published more than 150 years ago on the history of a seemingly remote country would become popular among top leaders in China at this juncture, .  .  . a lot of strange things are taking place in China nowadays.”

Strange indeed, but Tocqueville’s Old Regime may be exactly the book for this moment in Chinese history. As Tocqueville himself explains, his aim in writing about that bloody and ultimately disastrous revolution was “to discover not only what illness killed the patient, but how the patient could have been cured. .  .  . My purpose has been to paint a picture both accurate and instructive.”

Some major themes of the book cannot help but remind the Chinese of their own circumstances. For a Chinese reader, the revolution of 1789 is neither the revolution of 1911, which overthrew the last imperial dynasty and established the Republic of China, nor the Communist revolution of 1949, but the revolution they wish to avoid in the future by achieving a successful transition from their current situation to a more stable order. This reading suggests, paradoxically, that the Chinese are still living under the Old Regime.

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