Watching the Shadows
Coronavirus

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism

In Episode 49 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the grim political implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant hysteria. Even before the outbreak, China had detained perhaps upwards of a million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps as a “counter-terrorist” measure. Under emergency measures imposed in response to the outbreak, a staggering half-billion people have been placed under lockdown in Hubei and surrounding provinces. Italy has now just imposed a similar lock-down, affecting 16 million people in the country’s north. Here in the United States, where Trump is building an incipient concentration camp system for detained migrants, the White House has thus far been trying to downplay the COVID-19 threat—as Xi Jinping did before the depth of the crisis became inescapable. If such a point is reached here as well, the posture of the Trump administration could change fast—with potential for sweeping lockdowns, mass internment of targeted populations, and even exploitation of the crisis as a “Reichstag Fire” to throw or suspend the 2020 elections. The coronavirus hysteria could be a terrifying advance for the global detention state, and progressives must urgently formulate a response. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Chinese police demonstration video, via Twitter)

East Asia
228 Incident

‘228 Incident’ remembered in Taiwan

Some 1,000 activists from various civic groups marched in Taipei on the 73rd anniversary of the “228 Incident,” the 1947 uprising and massacre that marked the beginning of Taiwan’s “White Terror.” Li Ssu-yi, chair of TW Gong Sheng, a youth group dedicated to remembrance of the Incident, said, “We refuse to forget and insist on carrying on the spirit of what they fought for during this year’s march.” The 228 massacre was the opening chapter of the “White Terror” era, during which political dissidents were suppressed, imprisoned and killed. The Terror lasted until the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987. A Transitional Justice Commission, established by President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration in May 2018, has since been engaged in documenting the crimes of Kuomintang rule in Taiwan between 1945 and 1992, when the transition to democracy began. (Image: Keep Taiwan Free)

East Asia
wenzhou

China: internal resistance to bio-police state

“Citizen journalists” and “netizens” in China who are critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak are being “disappeared”—but online criticism is spreading faster than official censors can contain it, in by far the biggest eruption of dissent under Xi Jinping’s rule. At least one city, Wenzhou, has seen a street protest over the draconian controls the government is instating, in open defiance of the lock-down. Even voices from within China’s political establishment are saying this could be the biggest challenge to the regime’s legitimacy since 1989. (Image via YouTube)

East Asia
Taiwan protest

Taiwan repudiates fascist world order

Following a bitter campaign dominated by “fake news” generated from China and punctuated by sexist personal attacks on President Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent was re-elected, overwhelmingly defeating Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), received the highest total ever recorded for any candidate in a presidential election in Taiwan. With Han and the KMT calling for closer integration with China, the repression in Hong Kong was an inevitable and pressing context in the vote. The populist Han, described as Taiwan’s Donald Trump, cultivated an “everyman” image despite his own lavish lifestyle. But his closeness to Beijing led to fears that the KMT was willing to accept a “one country, two systems” solution for Taiwan—just as this model was collapsing in Hong Kong. (Photo of Workers’ Struggle demonstration in Taipei via New Bloom)

East Asia
Tiananmen

China detains activists in year-end crackdown

Over a dozen Chinese lawyers and activists were detained or went missing in the final days of 2019, in a crackdown targeting participants who attended a private pro-democracy gathering in the coastal city of Xiamen, rights groups reported. The meeting had been called to discuss a “democratic transition in China,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Wang Yaqiu. The period around New Year is traditionally when Beijing chooses to arrest prominent dissidents in an effort to minimize international media attention, “so it is not a surprise that they chose this particular time to launch a manhunt of activists.” The meeting involved a small group “peacefully discussing politics in a private space.” (Photo: chinaworker.info)

East Asia
Su Beng

Taiwan independence activist Su Beng dead at 100

Lifelong Taiwanese independence activist Su Beng died in Taipei, just a few weeks away from his 101st birthday. A resistance fighter against the Japanese during World War II, he subsequently became an underground militant who plotted against the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. After being forced into exile in Tokyo, he wrote his history of Taiwan, an openly partisan work with an anti-imperialist perspective, and became a vocal advocate for democracy in his island home, and its formal independence from China. He returned to Taiwan with the democratic transition of the 1990s, where he continued to agitate for independence, eventually becoming a respected advisor to current President Tsai Ing-wen. (Photo of Su Beng with Tsai Ing-wen via SupChina)

East Asia

Amnesty accuses Hong Kong police of torture

Amnesty International demanded an investigation based on findings of human rights abuses including torture by the Hong Kong police. Amnesty’s report focuses on brutality during arrests stemming from the recent mass protests. Interviews of arrested persons and their lawyers by Amnesty revealed that while police violence most commonly occurred before and during arrest, in several cases detained protesters have also been severely beaten in custody and suffered other ill-treatment amounting to torture. (Photo: United Social Press via HKFP)

East Asia

Hong Kong: will protests spread to mainland?

Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “fake concession,” with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam’s supposed “withdrawal” of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. ChinaWorker.info, a Hong Kong-based website that supports independent labor struggles in China and is now supporting the protest movement in the city, warns of an imminent escalation in repression: “What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses.” (Photo: ChinaWorker.info)

Central Asia

Podcast: the politics of separatism in China

In Episode 39 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Hong Kong protests—and especially how they have been playing out in New York’s Chinatown. It is natural that the Hong Kong protesters have made common cause with the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols also struggling for their rights and dignity against China’s ruling party-state. But some supporters of these movements have come to embrace a separatist position, actually seeking independent states in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkistan and South Mongolia. Will self-determination for these regions and peoples be possible without active solidarity with the struggles for democracy and political empowerment by the Han Chinese majority of the People’s Republic? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

East Asia

Street clashes as Hong Kong protesters defy ban

Hong Kong riot police used tear-gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protesters as tens of thousands marched in the city, defying a ban. Police fired live rounds over the heads of the crowd as “warning shots” in Causeway Bay. Some protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at police lines. TV news footage showed riot police beating people with their batons inside commuter-train cars. In a first for Hong Kong, police water-cannon trucks fired dyed water at protesters near government headquarters in an effort to identify those who fled for later arrest. The Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of around 50 pro-democracy groups, had cancelled the march in response to the ban, but many organizations pledged to carry on anyway—with some calling the march a “religious” procession in a bid to evade the government ban. (Photo: HKFP)

East Asia

Worker protests in China’s automotive sector

Employees at Hubei Meiyang Automobile Industry Co staged a demonstration to protest “illegal dismissals, wage arrears and compensation payments.” Meiyang Auto, a “new energy” start-up based in the central city of Xiangyang, had been in production for less than two years before halting operations. Workers at Eastone Automotive in Shanghai’s Pudong district also staged a protest claiming they were owed around 40 million yuan in wages in arrears stretching back to the beginning of the year. Employees claimed they were being forced to leave without any compensation, and appealed to the local government for help. So far this year, China Labour Bulletin’s Strike Map has recorded 25 collective protests by workers in the automotive sector, up from just five in the same period last year. The protests, mostly related to layoffs and wage arrears, have occurred in car plants, components factories, dealerships and service centers, and even car rental agencies. (Photo via China Labor Bulletin)

East Asia

Hong Kong protesters charged with rioting

A Hong Kong court charged 44 protesters with rioting over their involvement in street protests over the weekend. The peaceful sit-in at a park outside Beijing’s Liaison Office turned into running battles between black-clad demonstrators and police, with security forces using tear-gas and rubber bullets. The 44 are the first demonstrators to be charged since protests over the extradition bill began in June.  If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison. This heavy sentence has sparked outrage, and protesters demonstrated at the courthouse where the 44 defendants were charged. While the protests initially began in June to demonstrate against the extradition bill, they have since developed into a call for wider democratic reform. (Photo: Studio Incendo, WikiMedia via Jurist)