East Asia Theater
Hong Kong protesters stormed and occupied the city's legislative chamber on July 1, which marked the 22nd anniversary of the handover from British to Chinese rule. The protesters, many wearing helmets, spray-painted the walls with slogans including "Oppose Chinese colonialism." But some, at least, betrayed a nostalgia for the earlier colonialism. Hong Kong Free Press writes: "A British colonial flag—often used in protesters—was also unfurled at the president's chair." And sure enough, the former colonial power has emerged as defender of the protest movement. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warns China of "serious consequences" over the Hong Kong repression, and will not rule out sanctions, BBC reports.
Despite limited victories, leaders of the declaredly "leaderless" protest movement that has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in Hong Kong over the past weeks pledge to keep up the pressure. The unpopular bill that sparked the protests and would have allowed extradition to mainland China has now been suspended. But six student unions issued a call to escalate protest actions if the government does not respond to their outstanding demands in the coming days. These include that the extradition bill be formally withdrawn, that all charges be dropped against arrested protesters, and investigations be opened into cases of police brutality. Protesters are also demanding that Chief Executive Carrie Lam step down.
The Chinese authorities must end a wave of persecution targeting those seeking to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Amnesty International said ahead of the 30th anniversary of the bloodshed. Over recent weeks, police have detained, placed under house arrest or threatened dozens of activists who are seeking to mark the June 4 anniversary, as well as relatives of those killed. "Thirty years on from the Tiananmen bloodshed the very least the victims and their families deserve is justice. However, President Xi continues to read from the same tired political playbook, cruelly persecuting those seeking the truth about the tragedy in a concerted effort to wipe the June 4 crackdown from memory," said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director at Amnesty.
In Episode 34 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Rose Tang, veteran journalist, activist, artist, musician, and survivor of the Tiananmen Square massacre. In an in-depth oral history, Tang recounts her experiences as a student leader in Beijing in the spring of 1989, her witness to the June 4 repression, and her work as a public voice for Tiananmen Square survivors. Books and works discussed include: Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang (Simon & Schuster 2009); The People's Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited by Louisa Lim (Oxford 2014); "Tiananmen Massacre," Tang's contribution to The Princeton Reader: Contemporary Essays by Writers and Journalists at Princeton University (2010); and Jack London's "Credo." Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Nine leading activists of Hong Kong's 2014 Umbrella Movement have been convicted under colonial-era "public nuisance" laws, concluding one of the city's most politically charged trials in years. The nine may face up to seven years in prison. They include the famous "Occupy Trio"—legal scholar Benny Tai, sociology professor Chan Kin-man and Rev. Chu Yiu-ming. The Umbrella Movement was the biggest pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong's history, during which thousands occupied Admiralty, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay from September to December of 2014. (HKFP, BBC News) In a sentencing statement, Rev. Chu Yiu-ming said: "[M]y heart tells me that with this defendant's dock, I have found the most honorable pulpit of my ministerial career... We have no regrets... We do not give up " (HKFP)
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Feb. 24 the relocation of the US airbase at Futenma to Henoko, elsewhere on the island of Okinawa, would continue despite a referendum vote opposing the move. Okinawa prefecture held a referendum on whether the US military base should relocate from Ginowan municipality to Henoko. After the final count, approximately 70% of voters opposed the move. The relocation has been 20 years in preparation, and has continued to face opposition over claims of noise from military activity, harm to the surrounding coral reefs, and outrag over a 1995 incident of rape of a 12-year-old Okinawan girl by US servicemen.
Leaders of Taiwan's indigenous peoples issued a joint statement Jan. 8 directed at Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said in a Jan. 2 speech that Taiwan "must and will" be united with China. Xi called for talks on a "one country, two systems" arrangement, and darkly alluded to the use of force, saying Beijing "reserves the option of taking all necessary measures." The indigenous leaders retorted that their peoples inhabited the island for thousands of years before the first Han Chinese settlers reached its shores. "We are the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and have lived in Taiwan, our motherland, for more than six thousand years," the letter says. "We are not ethnic minorities within the so-called 'Chinese nation.'"
In the prelude to the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, Robert Park, himself a survivor of Kim Jong-un's prisons, called in Hong Kong's South China Morning Post for an amnesty for North Korea's tens of thousands of political prisoners to be a condition of any peace deal. He recalled a 2014 UN report (PDF) finding that up to 120,000 were being held in camps in North Korea, and subjected to "unspeakable atrocities and hardships." Most are held in life-imprisonment slave labor complexes called "absolute control zones" (wanjeontongjekyooyeok or kwanliso). The report found that these prisoners "have no prospect of securing release [and] are subject to gradual extermination through starvation and slave labour…with the apparent intent to extract a maximum of economic benefit at a minimum of cost." Park quoted Thomas Buergenthal, a survivor of both Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen who served as a judge at the International Court of Justice, who said: "I believe that the conditions in the [North] Korean prison camps are as terrible, or even worse, than those I saw and experienced in my youth in these Nazi camps..."