China: nationwide protests challenge dictatorship
Following weeks of sporadic protests against the recurrent draconian COVID-19 lockdowns in China, spontaneous demonstrations broke out in cities across the country Nov. 27. Street demos were reported from Shanghai, Nanjing, Chengdu and Wuhan as well as Beijing. In addition to slogans against the lockdowns and for freedom of speech and assembly, such verboten chants were heard as "Xi Jinping, step down" and "Communist Party, step down." Some called Xi a "dictator" and "traitor." Images have been circulating on social media despite the best efforts of authorities to contain them. Many images show demonstrators holding blank sheets of paper as an ironic protest against censorship.
Hong Kong: first conviction under Anthem Ordinance
A Hong Kong court on Nov. 10 sentenced citizen journalist Paula Leung to three months in prison—the first conviction under the territory's National Anthem Ordinance. The law was enacted in Hong Kong on June 12, 2020, pursuant to an act passed by the People's Republic of China in September 2017, which mandated that the semi-autonomous city bring its legal code into conformity. According to regional news outlets, Leung attended a mall screening of Olympic fencer Edgar Cheung Ka-long receiving his gold medal on July 30, 2021. During the playing of the Chinese national anthem, attendees waved the colonial-era Hong Kong flag. This was found to be in violation of Article 7 of the law, which makes it a criminal offense to "insult the national anthem," punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
Demand release of Hong Kong 47
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Aug. 22 published a call for Hong Kong to end its unfair trial practices against a group of 47 lawmakers and activists charged under the National Security Law imposed in 2020. Calling for the dropping of charges against the 47 and for their immediately release, HRW said the crimes established by the law are "overly broad and arbitrarily applied."
After the media ban on coverage of the cases was lifted, the prosecution named five of them as "major organizers"—Benny Tai, a legal scholar; Au Nok-hin, ex-lawmaker; Chiu Ka-yin and Chung Kam-lun, ex-district council members; and Gordon Ng Ching-hang, an activist. In these cases, the prosecution is calling for harsh sentences including life imprisonment, saying that they sought to "paralyze the operations of the Hong Kong government."
Tiananmen Square: '6-4' and 'Xi Jinping Thought'
In Episode 126 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg marks the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre of June 4, 1989—"6-4," as it is known in China, or "63+1" or "65-1," in a game of keeping ahead of online censors. With the massacre commemoration first exiled from Beijing to Hong Kong, it has now been exiled from Hong Kong to New York City as police-state measures are extended from the mainland. But China's official denialism about the massacre extends even to the US, where both the sectarian left and "paleoconservatives" echo Beijing's revisionist line. Both regime proponents and detractors share the consensus that the massacre and subsequent wave of repression across China was a "red terror," carried out as it was by a "Communist Party." A case can be made, however, that it was actually a "white terror," enforcing China's capitalist conversion. The recent crackdown on dissident workers and Marxist student activists in China—complete with extrajudicial "disappearances"—reveals "Xi Jinping Thought" to be (like Putinism and Trumpism) an updated variant of fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
HK activist jailed under colonial-era 'sedition' law
Pro-democracy activist and popular radio DJ Tam Tak-chi, also known as "Fast Beat," was found guilty April 20 of "seditious speech" and sentenced to 40 months in prison by the Hong Kong District Court. The former vice-chair of the People Power party is the first person since Hong Kong's 1997 handover to stand trial for "sedition" under the Crimes Ordinance dating to the period of British colonial rule. Tam was arrested in July 2020, shortly after China imposed its sweeping National Security Law on the city, and has been in detention ever since, having been denied bail. He was found guilty of using the slogans "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution of our times" at protests between January and July 2020. He was also accused of cursing at the police. Tam said that he would appeal the decision, stating that "my sentencing will affect Hongkongers' freedom of speech." Human Rights Watch senior China researcher Maya Wang stated that Tam's sentence "exemplifies the dizzying speed at which Hong Kong's freedoms are being eroded." (Jurist, HKFP)
'Great Leap Backward' for press freedom in China
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a new report, The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, revealing the extent of the regime's campaign of repression against the right to information. The report especially examines the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, which was once a world model but has now seen an increasing number of journalists arrested in the name of "national security."
Podcast: China Unbound with Joanna Chiu
In Episode 102 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Joanna Chiu, author of China Unbound: A New World Disorder, on the precipitous rise of the People's Republic as a world power, and the dilemmas this poses for human rights and democracy around the planet. How can we reconcile the imperatives to resist the globalization of China's police state and to oppose the ugly Sinophobia which is rising in the West, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Some Chinese dissidents living in exile in the US have even been co-opted by Trumpism. Chiu argues that stigmatization and misinterpretation of Chinese, whether in the People's Republic or the diaspora, plays into the hands of Beijing's propaganda. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Podcast: the countervortex of global resistance II
In Episode 100 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses recent uprisings in two disparate parts of the world—the South Pacific archipelago nation of the Solomon Islands and two of the states that have emerged from the former Yugoslavia. In both cases, people who were pissed off for damn good reason took to the streets to oppose foreign capital, and corrupt authoritarian leaders who do its bidding. But in the Solomon Islands, popular rage was deflected into campism and ethnic scapegoating, while in Serbia and Kosova the people on the ground actually overcame entrenched and bitter ethnic divisions to make common cause against common oppressors. The contrast holds lessons for global protest movements from Hong Kong to New York City. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
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