East Asia
Wuhan police

Another independent journalist arrested in Wuhan

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to immediately release journalist Zhang Zhan, drop any charges against her, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus pandemic without fear of arrest. Zhang, an independent video journalist who had been posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, went missing in the city one day after she published a video critical of the government’s countermeasures to contain the virus. The Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a notice stating that Zhang had been arrested and detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, according to the Chinese criminal code. (Photo: China News Service via Wikimedia Common)

East Asia
Mong Kok

Repression as Hong Kong protests re-emerge

Some 230 people were arrested in Hong Kong as pro-democracy demonstrations again mobilized in the city after weeks of lockdown imposed to contain COVID-19. Following “sing-along” actions at several shopping malls, some protesters gathered on the streets of Kowloon’s Mong Kok commercial district before riot police were sent in to disperse them. Police were accused of brutality in the operation, and several demonstrators were hospitalized. Among those detained and hospitalized was lawmaker Roy Kwong of the Democratic Party, who was on hand to observe police operations. Reporters were apparently targeted by police, with the Hong Kong Journalists Association issuing a statement decrying the “abuse and detention” of media workers. (Photo: United Social Press via HKFP)

East Asia
HKprotest

Hong Kong arrests leading pro-democracy figures

Hong Kong police arrested 15 leading pro-democracy figures, for allegedly “organizing and participating in unlawful assemblies” last year. Among those arrested were current and former Legislative Council members, and leaders of opposition parties and activist networks such as the Civil Human Rights Front. Police declared the demonstrations in question to be “riots,” making the organizers subject to criminal charges. Following the arrests, activists gathered at a police station to protest, chanting “Hongkongers resist!” and “Five demands, not one less”—a reference to the demands of last year’s protest movement. (Photo: inmediahk.net)

East Asia
Wuhan queue

Wuhan death toll massively under-counted?

Speaking at COVIDCon, an online Oslo Freedom Forum event presented by the Human Rights Foundation, exiled Chinese dissident Yang Jianli charged that the death toll for Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 outbreak began, was massively under-counted by authorities. Yang said that as Xi Jinping visited Wuhan on March 10, “endless Wuhan residents pleaded for help online, saying hospitals were overflowing and their family members were turned away and left to die at home. Nobody knows how many people died before managing to get to hospitals.” (Photo of shopping queue in Wuhan: Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Wang_Quanzhang

China: freed dissident placed in distant ‘quarantine’

Prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang, imprisoned for four and a half years for “subversion,” was released—but immediately placed under “quarantine,” barred from reuniting with his wife and son in Beijing. His wife, Li Wenzu, fears that authorities are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to hold him under de facto house arrest indefinitely. She said that upon his release, authorities sent Wang to his home town in Shandong province, some 400 kilometers south of Beijing, for quarantine. “They used the pretext of the epidemic as an excuse to quarantine him for 14 days when he should have been able to return to his home in Beijing according to the relevant legal guidelines,” Li said. “I am really worried they plan on putting him under long-term house arrest and will prevent us from being reunited as a family.”  (Photo: Amnesty International)

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)