Planet Watch
Guangzhou

Bicycling in China & the origins of Critical Mass

Legendary transportation activist George Bliss will be presenting a slideshow and hosting a discussion of his 1991 trip to China at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in New York City on Friday Dec. 9. What would NYC be like if we got rid of cars and everybody rode bikes? In 1991, Bliss and filmmaker Ted White visited Guangzhou, China (then pop. six million). Only one in a thousand owned cars. Bikes cost about $50. There was no theft because cheap attended bike-parking was everywhere. Riding en masse was fun, and traffic flowed safely and efficiently with almost no red lights. The term “critical mass“—first applied to this phenomenon by Bliss in White’s film Return of the Scorcher—soon became a rallying cry in the global bike movement. While that China is long gone, its legacy points to the city we could yet have, even half a world away. (Photo: George Bliss)

East Asia
Nanjing

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. Street demos were reported from Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangdong, 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.” The spark was an apartment block fire in Urumqi, capital of western Xinjiang region, that killed at least 10 who were under lockdown orders and unable to flee. Hong Kong-based Borderless Movement left-dissident website has issued a list of “Demands from Chinese and Hong Kong Socialists” in response to the outburst, calling for an end to lockdowns and forced testing, provision of multiple vaccines, and the right to citizen and worker self-organization. The statement calls for “marginalized groups in the mainland and abroad, including Hongkongers, Taiwanese, Uyghurs and Tibetans to continue building a long-term strategic program for democratic struggle in China.” (Photo of student protest in Nanjing via Twitter)

East Asia
Hong Kong

Hong Kong: first conviction under Anthem Ordinance

A Hong Kong court 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. (Photo: VOA via Jurist)

Central Asia
Xinjiang

Podcast: state capitalism and the Uyghur genocide

In Episode 149 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the UN Human Rights Office determination that China may be guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province is dismissed by the tankie-left ANSWER Coalition as “propagandistic.” Meanwhile, it falls to Radio Free Asia, media arm of the US State Department, to aggressively cover the very real conditions of forced labor faced by the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of Xinjiang—and how Western corporations benefit from it. While the Western pseudo-left betrays the Uyghurs, US imperialism exploits their suffering for propaganda against a rising China in the Great Game for the Asia-Pacific region. Figures such as Australia’s Kevin Rudd incorrectly portray a “Return of Red China,” blaming the PRC’s increasingly totalitarian direction on a supposed neo-Marxism. Fortunately, the new anthology Xinjiang Year Zero offers a corrective perspective, placing the industrial-detention complex and techno-security state in the context of global capitalism and settler colonialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

East Asia
Bridge Man

Xi Jinping consolidates self-coup —amid repression

After years of centralizing power in his own person, China’s president and party secretary Xi Jinping secured a third leadership term at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. The new seven-member Politburo Standing Committee is stacked with loyalists, abandoning the practice of balancing rival tendencies within the body. This cements Xi’s place as China’s “paramount leader” in the autocratic tradition of Mao Zedong. On the eve of the Congress, a lone protester draped a banner from a Beijing overpass calling for strikes to bring down “dictator” Xi. He was immediately arrested, but his brief action quickly became a sensation on Chinese social media—before all such content was censored by authorities. Some who expressed support online for “Bridge Man” have been harassed by the police. The lead-up to the National Congress saw another wave of arrests and “pretrial detention” of dissidents and human rights defenders. (Photo via China Change)

Planet Watch
anti-artemis

Podcast: against space imperialism

In Episode 146 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg protests the unprovoked imperialist attack on the asteroid Dimorphos, and rants against the sacrosanct dogma of space expansionism. The much-hyped asteroid threat is being used as a cover for militarization of space to achieve global hegemony on Earth—and eventual corporate pillage of the heavenly bodies. Finally, a long-overdue voice of space skepticism emerges from academe, with the book Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity by Daniel Deudney. But hubristic notions of “space communism” have been seen on the political left, as discussed in the book I Want to Believe: Posadism, UFOs and Apocalypse Communism by AM Gittlitz. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image altered from NASA)

Europe
Izyum

Ukraine: over 18,000 war crimes documented

Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with other rights defenders from the region earlier this month, reports that it has documented 18,000 war crimes committed on Ukrainian territory since the conflict began there in 2014—with the number skyrocketing since the Russian invasion of this year. Instances of torture and rape by Russian occupation forces are particularly emphasized. The Center is stepping up its investigative work in response to a fast-growing caseload. Ukraine’s law enforcement system is already overloaded with war crimes cases, and the International Criminal Court is focusing on only a few cases. The Center’s leader Oleksandra Matviychuk is calling for creation of a special tribunal to try Vladimir Putin and Russian war criminals. (Photo via Twitter)

Central Asia
Uyghurs

Uyghur Tribunal accuses China of genocide

The Uyghur Tribunal, a “people’s tribunal” established in the UK, appended a December 2021 judgment, incorporating nearly 300 additional pages of historical background, legal definitions and evidence. The initial judgment found that hundreds of thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been detained in China’s western Xinjiang region, and many been subject to torture. The appended judgment accuses Chinese authorities of genocide. It acknowledges that, in contrast to treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, the detained Uyghurs are allowed to eventually return to society in most cases. However, it notes that, coinciding with mass detention, mosques have been destroyed and religious activity suppressed. Those who use the Uyghur language in public are punished, and child separation from families is common. The appended judgment concludes that taken together, these practices constitute genocide. (Photo: Leonhard Lenz/Wikimedia Commons)

Watching the Shadows
Roger Waters

Roger Waters: another brick in the war propaganda

In Episode 140 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out former Pink Floyd creative genius Roger Waters as a propaganda agent for the criminal regimes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Bashar Assad. In his recent CNN interview, Waters blames Ukraine for getting invaded, falsely states that “Taiwan is part of China,” and dismisses as “bollocks” that there are human rights abuses in China. He has the unmitigated chutzpah to send an open letter on social media to Ukrainian First Lady Elena Zelenska urging her to influence her husband to “end the war”—to which she rightly responds: “If we give up, we will not exist tomorrow. If Russia gives up, war will be over.” We’ve noted before Roger’s spewing of genocide-abetting denialism about the Syria chemical attacks. And he disses his own fans who don’t go along with his war propaganda. Roger Waters has become the fascist rock starhe once satirized in The Wall. The public acrimony between Waters and his ex-bandmate David Gilmour has now become political, with Gimour’s release (under the banner of Pink Floyd) of the song “Hey Hey, Rise Up,” explicitly in support of Ukraine. David Gilmour is right, while Roger Waters is now just another brick in the wall. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via Wikipedia)

East Asia
HK47

Demand release of Hong Kong 47

Human Rights Watch published a call for Hong Kong to end its unfair trial practices against 47 lawmakers and activists charged under the National Security Law imposed in 2020. 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.” 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.” (Image: Lam Chun-tung/Initium via HRW)

Central Asia
China prison

UN report confirms forced labor in Xinjiang, Tibet

United Nations Special Rapporteur on slavery Tomoya Obokata released a report on contemporary forms of slavery, which found that it is “reasonable to conclude” that forced labor “among Uygur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing” is taking place in China’s Xinjiang region. The report added: “Similar arrangements have also been identified in the Tibet Autonomous Region, where an extensive labour transfer programme has shifted mainly farmers, herders and other rural workers into low-skilled and low-paid employment.” (Photo via Bitter Winter)

East Asia
Paiwan

Taiwan expands rights for indigenous peoples

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, speaking at an Indigenous Rights Forum in Taipei held to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day, pledged new measures to protect and promote the languages, cultures and territorial rights of the island nation’s Aboriginal communities. Tsai noted that the new Indigenous Peoples Basic Act seeks to bring Taiwanese law and policy into conformity with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and calls for re-assigning the country’s place names to reflect Aboriginal languages. Her office has established a Transitional Justice Committee to oversee implementation of the law in collaboration with Aboriginal communities. (Photo: President Tsai on visit to harvest festival of the Paiwan and Rukai peoples, Sandimen township, Pingtung county, via Wikipedia)