East Asia Theater
Chinese prosecutors on May 15 said that prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang has officially been indicted on charges of fanning ethnic hatred and provoking unrest for comments that he posted online. He has already been detained for one year. A more severe charge of inciting divisions and a charge of illegally obtaining personal information were dropped by prosecutors. In a statement the Beijing prosecutors' office said that the human rights lawyer should face criminal prosecution for comments he made on social media and his microblog, which has since been shut down by authorities as a disruption of social order. The US State Department urged Chinese authorities to release Pu earlier this month and respect his rights in accordance with the country's international human rights commitments, but China refused to release him. According to one of Pu's lawyers, the charges could result in a maximum sentence of 10 years, though it is unlikely that such a sentence will be imposed. Pu continues to reject the charges and maintain his innocence, asserting that the case is baseless and politically motivated.
Amnesty International (AI) on Feb. 10 urged the Taiwanese authorities to "drop criminal charges against people solely for participating in or organizing peaceful demonstrations...after more than 100 people were charged for protesting during the so called "Sunflower Movement." AI claims that while the students and activists involved in the movement are being charged, the "police and politicians who may have carried out human rights abuses ... get away without any...investigation." They assert that it is a fundamental right to be able to demonstrate peacefully, and that "the peaceful intention of organizers...must be presumed unless there is compelling...evidence that [they] intend to use, advocate or incite imminent violence." According to AI, these actions on behalf of the authorities, in line with the Parade and Assembly Act , are in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (PDF), formally adopted by Taiwan in 2009.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Jan. 20 that the Chinese government should radically revise its proposed legislation on counter-terrorism to make it consistent with international law and the protection of human rights. The draft law was made public for consultation in November and is expected to be adopted in 2015 after minimal revisions. HRW charges that the draft law's definition of what constitutes "terrorism" is "dangerously vague and open-ended," constituting a "recipe for abuses."
A hacker who obtained blueprints of South Korean nuclear reactors posted internal information on the facilities, including the floor maps, on the Internet, threatening further "leaks" unless authorities close down the reactors, Yonhap news agency reported. Using an account dubbed "president of anti-nuclear reactor group," the hacker supposedly revealed on Twitter (apparently now deleted) the designs and manuals of Gori-2 and Wolsong-1 nuclear plants, evidently pilfered from the companies Korea Hydro and Korea Nuclear Power Co (KHNP). The post demanded the shutdown of the reactors by Christmas, warning "residents near the reactors should stay away for the next few months."
OK, we have no doubt that The Interview is an abominably bad movie, and it is very irksome to have to agree with David Cameron, who is grandstanding about how Sony's pulling of the film is a threat to freedom of expression. Hollywood actors have been making similar noises. And of course this is being played up by the UK's right-wing The Telegraph and imperial mouthpiece Voice of America. But they happen to be correct. The fact that the movie is (probably—we won't be able to see it to tell for ourselves) ugly propaganda doesn't mitigate the fact that Sony's capitulation sets a very bad precedent. (Communities Digital News recalls the 1988 controversy over right-wing Christian threats against The Last Temptation of Christ.) Note that the supression is so complete that The Interview's official website is down, redirecting to the Sony Pictures homepage, and the trailer has been removed from YouTube. All this due to a bunch of almost certainly empty if bombastic ("Remember the 11th of September 2001") threats from an Orwellianly named and probably functionally non-existent cell, the "Guardians of Peace." Homeland Security said it has no evidence to suggest these threats would be carried out, reports Variety. But Sony folded like the proverbial house of cards, while issuing a statement complaining of being "the victim of an unprecedented criminal assault." This assault also includes the hack of Sony's computers, which US officials do say has been tracked to North Korea. (AP) But the notion that the DPRK has a network of sleeper cells across the USA... well, it sounds like a bad movie.
Student leaders Lester Shum and Joshua Wong were among 116 people detained late Nov. 26 as police cleared protest sites in Hong Kong's Mong Kok commercial district. Skirmishes between police and protesters broke out when a group refused to leave the site. (China Digital Times) The pepper spray used by Hong Kong police against the protesters (which won the movement its umbrella icon) was likely made by the Sabre company—its headquarters just oustide Ferguson, Mo., now exploding into protest over the failure of a grand jury to indict the police officer who killed Black youth Mike Brown. Sabre (slogan: "Making grown men cry since 1975") is owned by Security Equipment Corp of Fenton. Mo., and claims to be the world's top police supplier of pepper spray. Sabre supplies police forces from Hong Kong to Uruguay, as well as the St. Louis city and county. (Quartz) In appealing to the police to refrain from brutality, Hong Kong protesters have adopted the slogan from the Ferguson protest movement, "Hands up, don't shoot!" (Vox, Sept. 28)
Following weeks of secret negotiations, the US and China on Nov. 12 announced a new agreement to reduce greenhouse gas output. Under the pact, the US seeks to reduce emissions up to 28% by 2025, compared with 2005 levels. This new goal is up from a previous target to cut emissions 17% by 2020, from 2005 levels. China did not set a specific target, but said CO2 emissions would peak by 2030. That year was also set by China for a 20% increase in the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption. The agreement marks the first time that China, now the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, has pledged to cap its emissions. The two countries together produce about 45% of the world's carbon dioxide, although the US produces far more than China in per capita terms.
Having receded from the global headlines, the pro-democracy protesters have not receded from the streets of Hong Kong. Nov. 6 saw new clashes with police in street occupations that have now persisted for more than a month and a half. The skirmish came in the commercial district of Mong Kok, after police attempted to arrest a man they said was shining his mobile phone light in their eyes. In the ensuing confrontation, at least one protester was left bleeding from the head. (AP, Nov. 6) That night in New York City, the Lower Manhattan office of the New America Foundation hosted a screening of Lessons in Dissent, a new film focusing on two teenagers who have emerged as leaders of the Hong Kong protests, Joshua Wong and Ma Jai. The film was released just before the Occupy Central movement finally went into action, but depicts the precursor struggle in 2012, when students organized against proposed constitutional reforms in the territory that would limit freedom, and a mandatory "national education" curriculum they saw as propaganda for the Chinese Communist Party. The protests were successful; the constitutional changes were shelved, the new curriculum made optional. The film's two protagonists are still at it—Wong having risen to global attention.