Tag Archives: Human Rights

Hong Kong a Year After Apple Daily Polished Off/ Canadian “Naive Narcissism” (note Xi UPDATE)

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “‘Something is missing. Hong Kong is still beautiful but it feels too quiet’: former Apple Daily journalist Norman Choi in Hong Kong, June 2022. Photograph: Chan Long-hei/The Guardian”.)

Further to this post a year ago,

The PRC is Rotting Hong Kong to the (Apple Daily) Core

now from one of its journalists, at the Guardian:

‘My career is finished, my friends are in prison and I’m an alien in my city’: life after Hong Kong’s Apple Daily

When the city’s largest pro-democracy newspaper was forced to close, Norman Choi got a new job in McDonald’s. Many of his colleagues were not so lucky

Read more: A year on from Apple Daily’s closure, what’s left of Hong Kong’s free press?

Ten weeks after the sudden end to my career as a journalist, I found myself standing behind a cash register in McDonald’s. My days as a newspaper editor at Apple Daily, which was forced to close in June 2021, were busy. Now, I take order after order for fast food.

In some senses my new job is much like my previous life as a news editor where I worked long hours to provide huge numbers of people from all walks of life their daily fix of breaking news. The difference now is that I now work with food instead of information.

I’m trying to embrace my new life but some of my old daily routines are hard to shake off. Every morning I still spend an hour in front of the computer, reading the latest news, but independent, quality news is getting harder to find.

You get the same breaking news notifications from various media, but they all toe the official line. The 4 June anniversary of Tiananmen Square appears to have been rubbed from history. In what people now call “the new normal”, there is no candlelight vigil to mourn the dead.

The Apple Daily’s website has been erased from the internet, leaving no trace. A tremendous amount of history has disappeared from the public view, clean and empty like a square after bloodshed [emphasis added].

Having spent half of my life in the media, journalistic instincts are etched deeply into my mind. Even after months away from a newsroom, I instinctively think about how I would handle a big story when it comes up in the news. After Russia invaded Ukraine, I had a dream of sleeping inside a tank in Kyiv with my photographer. I could hear bullets hitting the tank, before I woke up to heavy rain slamming on my bedroom window.

Sometimes I feel like a garden gnome, hunkered down and being comfortably ignored. Other times I feel anxious and helpless when I think about my former colleagues in custody [emphasis added].

I have known some of them for many years. In our old life, one joined me on a 100km charity walk in Japan, another often went trekking with me. Surrounded by nature we watched the sunrises and sunsets together. We shared hot dumplings on a chilly day after another exhausting hike. We laughed and cried together.

While they have been detained for almost a year., I still feel their presence.

Now, although Hong Kong is still beautiful, it is too quiet. Even though I have not left to start a new life elsewhere, I am an alien in a strange city. Lately, I have been training to become an electrician, taking classes with many others who have become unemployed. Even when I qualify there is no guarantee of a stable job.

It is a struggle to try and put my emotions at what has happened to us all into words, so instead I will share an excerpt from a letter I received from a fellow journalist, now in prison.

“Life will nevertheless push us forward, like a stream that brings both hungry and sleeping fishes downstream. Strong wind will lead us towards tomorrow, no matter if we are anxious or calm.”

*Norman Choi was Apple Daily’s features editor before the newspaper closed in June 2021.

Plus from David Mulroney:

Remind me why this former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada is still serving on a Hong Kong court:

As a the wife of a friend said, a lot of Canadians in high positions suffer from “naive narcissism”.

UPDATE: Oh dear:

A related post from December 2021:

Stand News Shut Down in Hong Kong–Canadian Cantopop Star Denise Ho Arrested, Released on Bail–Ottawa Bleats

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

A Certain Lack of Historical Sensitivity: 2022, Migrants from UK to Rwanda; 1940, Jews from Europe to Madagascar

Not to suggest any real equivalence but still…and the underlying assumptions about Africa and Africans…

1) Reuters story (how much did BoJo’s government pay Rwandan officials, one way or another?):

UK migrant flight to Rwanda grounded as European Court steps in

Britain’s first flight to take asylum seekers to Rwanda did not take off as scheduled on Tuesday [June 14] after the European human rights court issued last-minute injunctions to stop the deportation of the handful of migrants on board.

The British government’s plan to send some migrants to the East African country has been criticized by opponents, charities, and religious leaders who say it is inhumane. It has been forced to fight a series of legal challenges in London courts aiming to stop it going ahead…

2) At the Jewish Virtual Library:

The Nazis & the Jews: The Madagascar Plan (July 3, 1940)

The Madagascar Plan was a proposal for Jewish settlement devised by the Nazi regime in the late 1930’s.

On December 9, 1938, French Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet informed German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop that in order to rid France of 10,000 Jewish refugees it would be necessary to ship them elsewhere. At that time, the Nazi regime considered mass emigration to be the “Final Solution” to the “Jewish problem.”

On March 5, 1938, the SS officer in charge of forced Jewish emigration, Adolf Eichmann, was commissioned to assemble material to provide the chief of the Security Police (SIPO) Reinhard Heydrich with “a foreign policy solution as it had been negotiated between Poland and France,” i.e., the Madagascar Plan. Temporarily shelved in the wake of the war, the project was taken up again after the fall of France in the summer of 1940.

Eichmann prepared a detailed official report on the island of Madagascar and its “colonization” possibilities based on information gathered from the French Colonial Office. He added an evacuation plan calling for 4 million Jews to be shipped to Madagascar over a period of four years and also advocated the creation of a “police reserve” as a giant ghetto. The plan was to be financed by a special bank managing confiscated Jewish property and by contributions exacted from world Jewry.

The plan leaked out and was published in Italy in July 1940. In August 1940, the Third Reich officially endorsed the Madagascar Plan. Alarmed by the plan, the American Jewish Committee commissioned a special report, published in May 1941, that sought to demonstrate that Jews could not survive the conditions on the island. By that time, however, the Nazis were already well underway with a different “Final Solution” – the extermination program.

On February 10, 1942, only a few weeks after the Wannsee Conference, the Madagascar Plan was officially shelved and replaced in public policy statements with the lexicon of “evacuation to the East.”

Text of the Madagascar Proposal

Words fail. In both cases.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine, or, the US and War Crimes

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Town council leader and lawyer Khalid Salman by the graves of his sister and her children, who were among the twenty-four Iraqi civilians killed by US Marines in the 2005 Haditha massacre, Haditha, Iraq, 2011”.)

How squeaky must a country itself be? Extracts from an article by the indispensable Fintan O’Toole at the NY Review of Books–very much my own line of thinking, far too many Americans are incapable of recognizing the frequent hypocrisy of their “exceptionalism” in the eyes of much of the rest of the world:

Our Hypocrisy on War Crimes

Fintan O’Toole

The US’s history of moral evasiveness around wartime atrocities undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court.

There is the war, and then there is the war about the war. Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine is being fought in fields and cities, in the air and at sea. It is also, however, being contested through language. Is it a war or a “special military operation”? Is it an unprovoked invasion or a human rights intervention to prevent the genocide of Russian speakers by Ukrainian Nazis? Putin’s great weakness in this linguistic struggle is the unsubtle absurdity of his claims—if he wanted his lies to be believed, he should have established some baseline of credibility. But the weakness of the West, and especially of the United States, lies in what ought to be the biggest strength of its case against Putin: the idea of war crimes. It is this concept that gives legal and moral shape to instinctive revulsion. For the sake both of basic justice and of mobilizing world opinion, it has to be sustained with absolute moral clarity.

The appalling evidence of extrajudicial executions, torture, and indiscriminate shelling of homes, apartment buildings, hospitals, and shelters that has emerged from the Kyiv suburb of Bucha and from the outskirts of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Sumy gives weight and urgency to the accusation that Putin is a war criminal.

By late April, the UN human rights office had received reports of more than three hundred executions of civilians. There have also been credible reports of sexual violence by Russian troops and of abductions and deportations of civilians. According to Iryna Venediktova, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, by April 21 Russia had committed more than 7,600 recorded war crimes.

Yet the US has been, for far too long, fatally ambivalent about war crimes. Its own history of moral evasiveness threatens to make the accusation that Putin and his forces have committed them systematically in Ukraine seem more like a useful weapon against an enemy than an assertion of universal principle [emphasis added]. It also undermines the very institution that might eventually bring Putin and his subordinates to justice: the International Criminal Court (ICC).

There have long been two ways of thinking about the prosecution of war crimes. One is that it is a universal duty. Since human beings have equal rights, violations of those rights must be prosecuted regardless of the nationality or political persuasion of the perpetrators. The other is that the right to identify individuals as war criminals and punish them for their deeds is really just one of the spoils of victory. It is the winner’s prerogative—a political choice rather than a moral imperative…

It is hard to overstate how important it is that the war crimes that have undoubtedly been committed already in Ukraine—and the ones that are grimly certain to be inflicted on innocent people in the coming weeks and months—not be understood as “a flexible instrument in the hands of politicians.”

…If accusations of Russian war crimes are seen to be instrumental rather than principled, they will dissolve into “whataboutism”: Yes, Putin is terrible, but what about… Instead of seeing a clean distinction between the Western democracies and Russia, much of the world will take refuge in a comfortable relativism. If war crimes are not universal violations, they are merely fingers that can point only in one direction—at whomever we happen to be in conflict with right now. And never, of course, at ourselves.

Even before Putin launched his invasion on February 24, the Biden administration seems to have had a plan to use Russian atrocities as a rallying cry for the democratic world.

…on April 4 he went beyond deeming Putin a criminal by calling specifically for him to face a “war crime trial.” Then on April 12 he pressed the nuclear button of atrocity accusations: genocide. “We’ll let the lawyers decide, internationally, whether or not it qualifies [as genocide], but it sure seems that way to me.” He also referred to an unfolding “genocide half a world away,” clearly meaning in Ukraine.

…When asked about genocide on April 22, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said, “No, we have not documented patterns that could amount to that.” Biden’s careless use of the term is all the more damaging because, however inadvertently, it echoes Putin’s grotesque claim that Ukraine has been committing genocide against Russian speakers in Donbas.

The problem with all of this is not that Biden is wrong but that it distracts from the ways in which he is right. This overstatement makes it far too easy for those who wish to ignore or justify what the Russians are doing to dismiss the mounting evidence of terrible crimes in Ukraine as exaggerated or as just another battleground in the information war. In appearing overanxious to inject “war criminal” into the international discourse about Putin and making it seem like a predetermined narrative, the US risked undermining the very stark evidence for that conclusion. By inflating that charge into genocide, it substituted rhetoric for rigor and effectively made it impossible for the US to endorse any negotiated settlement for Ukraine that leaves Putin in power: How can you make peace with a perpetrator of genocide [emphasis added; easy these days, talking point it away]?..

What makes these mistakes by Biden truly detrimental, however, is that the moral standing of the US on war crimes is already so profoundly compromised. The test for anyone insisting on the application of a set of rules is whether they apply those rules to themselves. It matters deeply to the struggle against Putin that the US face its record of having consistently failed to do this.

On November 19, 2005, in the Iraqi town of Haditha, members of the First Division of the US Marines massacred twenty-four Iraqi civilians, including women, children, and elderly people. After a roadside bomb killed one US soldier and badly injured two others, marines took five men from a taxi and executed them in the street. One marine sergeant, Sanick Dela Cruz, later testified that he urinated on one of the bodies. The marines then entered nearby houses and killed the occupants—nine men, three women, and seven children. Most of the victims were murdered by well-aimed shots fired at close range.

The official US press release then falsely claimed that fifteen of the civilians had been killed by the roadside bomb and that the marines and their Iraqi allies had also shot eight “insurgents” who opened fire on them. These claims were shown to be lies four months later, when Tim McGirk published an investigation in Time magazine…

In his memoir Call Sign Chaos (2019) the former general James Mattis, who took over as commander of the First Marine Division shortly after this massacre and later served as Donald Trump’s secretary of defense, calls what happened at Haditha a “tragic incident.” It’s clear that Mattis believed that at least some of the marines had run amok…

Mattis nowhere uses phrases or words like “war crime,” “massacre,” “atrocity,” or “cover-up.” He was determined, too, to exonerate the lower-ranking soldiers who participated in the violence at Haditha that day [emphasis added]

…One of the most prestigious arms of the US military carried out an atrocity in a country invaded by the US in a war of choice. No one in a position of authority did anything about it until Time reported on it. No one at any level of the chain of command, from senior leaders down to the soldiers who did the killings, was held accountable. And such minor punishments as were imposed seem to have had no deterrent effect. In March 2007 marines killed nineteen unarmed civilians and wounded fifty near Jalalabad, in Afghanistan, in an incident that, as The New York Times reported at the time, “bore some striking similarities to the Haditha killings.” Again, none of the marines involved or their commanders received any serious punishment.

…When bad things are done by American armed forces, they are entirely untypical and momentary responses to the terrible stresses of war. The conditioning that helps make them possible, the deep-seated instinct to cover them up, and the repeated failure to bring perpetrators to justice are not to be understood as systemic problems. Nowhere is American exceptionalism more evident or more troubling than in this compartmentalizing of military atrocities [emphasis added].

The brutal truth is that the US abandoned its commitment to the ICC not for reasons of legal principle but from the same motive that animated Putin. It was engaged in aggressive wars and did not want to risk the possibility that any of its military or political leaders would be prosecuted for crimes that might be committed in the course of fighting them…expediency rather than principle was guiding US attitudes…

…the US has alternately endorsed the legitimacy of the ICC in prosecuting Africans and called the same court corrupt and out of control when it explores the possibility of investigating war crimes committed by Americans.

…A yawning gap has opened between Biden’s grandiloquent rhetoric about Putin’s criminality on the one side and the deep reluctance of the US to lend its weight to the institution created by the international community to prosecute such transgressions of moral and legal order [emphasis added]. It is a chasm in which all kinds of relativism and equivocation can lodge and grow. The longer the US practices evasion and prevarication, the easier it is for Putin to dismiss Western outrage as theatrical and hypocritical, and the more inclined other countries will be to cynicism…

—April 28, 2022

Other posts based on Mr O’Toole are here.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Hindus Fleeing Kashmir/ Two BJP Spokespersons Make Anti-Muslim Statements

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Indian paramilitary soldiers patrol in Srinagar, Indian-controlled Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits have been demanding more security in light of the violence. Photograph: Mukhtar Khan/AP”.)

1) Further to this November 2021 post,

The Perils Facing the Remaining Hindus in Kashmir

those perils still remain–from the Guardian:

‘Fear is increasing’: Hindus flee Kashmir amid spate of targeted killings

Increase in violence prompts protests and biggest exodus of Kashmiri Pandit families for two decades

Hundreds of minority Hindus have fled from Indian-administered Kashmir, and many more are preparing to leave, after a fresh spate of targeted killings stoked tensions in the disputed Himalayan region.

Three Hindus have been killed by militants in Kashmir this week alone, including a teacher and migrant workers, prompting mass protests and the largest exodus of Hindu families from the Muslim-majority region in two decades.

Sanjay Tickoo, a Kashmiri Pandit activist, said: “Some 3,500 people have left and more will be leaving in coming days.”

Many Hindu families said they were waiting to get discharge certificates for their children from schools and then would leave as soon as possible. “Fear is increasing with each new killing,” said Tickoo. “The minorities are facing the worst situation in Kashmir.”..

At least 19 civilians have been killed this year in similar targeted attacks in the region, including minority Hindus, government employees and a woman who was known for her Instagram videos.

Police have blamed Pakistan-backed militant groups for the killings…

After the string of attacks, Hindus say they being driven out of the region. These include Kashmiri Hindus, commonly referred to as Pandits, 65,000 of whom first fled from the valley in a mass exodus in the 1990s, when a violent pro-Pakistan insurgency broke out in the region and they began to be targeted [see this post: ‘PM Modi Likes Bollywood Blockbuster “The Kashmir Files”‘].

By 2010, a few thousand Kashmiri Hindus had returned to the Muslim-majority region, enticed by a government rehabilitation policy that provided jobs and guarded accommodation to about 4,000 people. But in recent weeks, those who returned have been protesting against the killings and demanding more security. Hindu employees have been abstaining from their duties, urging the government to relocate them to safer locations.

“We are in a 1990s-like situation,” said Pyarai Lal, 65, who lives in Sheikhpora Budgam, in one of the seven guarded housing facilities provided to Hindus. “My son is a teacher and he has not attended his duty for the last two weeks. We are afraid to even leave our home. Who knows when a gunman will attack?”..

Authorities have promised the employees they will be posted to safer locations, and police made assurances they were increasing security by intensifying counter-insurgency operations, surveillance and using drones.

But many Kashmiri Pandits have accused authorities of barring them from leaving and allege that police and paramilitary forces have been deployed at the gates of their government provided accommodations to stop them…

The targeted attacks against Hindus pose a great political challenge to prime minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) government, which has made repeated promises to look after the interests of Kashmiri Pandits. On Friday, India’s home minister, Amit Shah, held a high-level review meeting on the security situation in the region, but no government statement has been made on the issue.

In 2019, Modi unilaterally revoked Kashmir’s autonomy, and enforced a military crackdown under the guise of greater security for Kashmir. The government introduced a slew of laws allowing non-locals to buy property in the region, in the hope of enticing Hindus to settle in the state, a move many locals feared was Delhi’s attempt to bring about demographic changes in the Muslim-majority region.

Many see the removal of Kashmir’s autonomy in 2019, as well as Hindu nationalist policies of the Modi government, which have driven an increase in attacks against Muslims in India, as a driving force behind the growing surge of violence in Kashmir…

2) Further to this post,

India, or, the BJP, State Elections, Karnataka and the Hijab-Jeebies

now a couple of BJP people have at Muslims–from Deutshe Welle:

India faces backlash over BJP’s ‘Islamophobic’ remarks

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has come under fire for incendiary comments about the Prophet Muhammad. Muslim countries have lodged protests amid calls for a boycott of Indian goods.

A row over remarks by India’s ruling party officials grew on Monday [June 6] as several Muslim-majority countries summoned Indian diplomats.

The comments by the now-suspended members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) triggered wide criticism from Arab and Muslim-majority countries, which say the comments were offensive and “Islamophobic.” 

What triggered the row?

Last week, BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma commented on Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife during a televised debate, specifically about how old she was believed to be when they married.

Her remarks were blamed for clashes in an Indian state and prompted demands for her arrest.

The BJP on Sunday said it had suspended [her], and denounced “insult of any religious personalities of any religion.”

Sharma took to Twitter to retract her statement, saying that the comments were made in response to “insults” made against the Hindu god Shiva.

The BJP also expelled spokesman Naveen Kumar Jindal over comments made about Islam on social media. Jindal said he questioned some comments made against Hindu gods on Twitter: “I only questioned them but that does not mean I am against any religion.”

How did Muslim countries react?

The Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) said the remarks came in a “context of intensifying hatred and abuse toward Islam in India and systematic practices against Muslims.”

Resisting such allegations, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India “categorically rejects OIC Secretariat’s unwarranted and narrow-minded comments. The government of India accords the highest respect to all religions.”..

With calls for the boycott of Indian-made goods spreading across several Muslim countries, the BJP-helmed government has been propelled into action over 10 days after the comments were first made. 

Religious tensions have escalated in India in recent months, with critics saying they are prompted by Indian television anchors during raucous debates [see this post: “Hindutva on the March in India–any Real Crackdown?“]

Plus a tweet by a retired Indian army brigadier:

One thing after another for intercommunal relations.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Tienanmen Anniversary Time…But Not in Hong Kong

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Police officers setup a cordon as they disperse public out of the Victoria Park ahead of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident on 3 June, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. Source: Getty / Anthony Kwan/Getty Images”.)

Some “Special Administrative Region” these days. From a story at the Globe and Mail:

As Hong Kong clamps down, ‘burden of remembering’ Tiananmen Massacre shifts overseas

James Griffiths Asia correspondent

Hong Kong

In the decades since the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing on June 4, 1989, one of the most indelible images associated with the event, alongside “Tank Man” and the Goddess of Democracy statue, has been a sea of candles, lighting up the night.

Every year, tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to commemorate the dead and echo their calls for democracy in China.

No more. The 30th anniversary of the massacre in 2019 was the last time it was marked by a mass gathering in Hong Kong. Memorials since then have been banned on coronavirus grounds, as is the case this year, with public gatherings still limited to four people.

Instead, the anniversary will be commemorated by smaller events, spread over the world, often organized by members of the Hong Kong and Chinese diasporas [emphasis added]. While many are longstanding memorials – in places like Toronto, London and San Francisco – they are taking on a new importance now that there is no centralized mass event on Chinese soil.

“With the last symbol of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech in Hong Kong being taken away it is crucial for Hong Kongers and all persons of conscience around the world to pick up the torch and make sure that the flame of freedom and democracy remain burning,” said Mabel Tung, chair of the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM [website here]), a group founded by Chinese Canadians in support of the 1989 protests.

“Ultimately, it will be up to all of us who live in a democratic nation to keep the memory of June 4th alive.”

Earlier this week, Hong Kong police warned that anyone gathering in Victoria Park, where public areas have been blocked off for June 4, would run the risk of prosecution, echoing comments by the city’s leader, Carrie Lam…

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which traditionally organized the annual candlelit vigil, was forced to disband last year after its assets were frozen and multiple leaders jailed under the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing in 2020.

Catholic churches that previously held memorial masses – including in the last two years when the main vigil was banned – have also said they would no longer do so given the growing legal risk…

Meanwhile, an online museum dedicated to the Tiananmen massacre appears to have been blocked by Hong Kong internet providers, joining a number of dissident and activist groups websites based overseas that are not accessible to users in the city.

Whether the Tiananmen vigils could continue was long seen as a key test for Hong Kong’s relative autonomy from China [emphasis added], said Sean Cha of Democracy for Hong Kong, which is organizing a vigil in London [they tweet here].

“The fact that it cannot happen anymore gives a new meaning to the June 4 vigils for Hong Kongers around the world,” he said…

For more than 30 years now, Toronto has hosted the largest memorial in the world outside Hong Kong [emphasis added], said organizer Cheuk Kwan, “so it’s even more significant that we keep it up [note this earlier post: “The Long Reach of the Dragon’s Claws, Hong Kongers in Canada Section“]

Amnesty International said it is arranging events in more than 20 cities this year [more at their website; the organization has closed its two Hong Kong offices], and will call on participants not only to remember those killed in Beijing, but also “stand in solidarity with those in Hong Kong whose peaceful acts of commemoration are now criminalized.”

In Asia, one of the largest memorials will be in Taipei, where organizers plan to unveil a replica of the “Pillar of Shame,” a statue commemorating the Tiananmen victims that was forcibly removed from Hong Kong last year

Follow James Griffiths on Twitter: @jgriffiths

Three tweets:

Not blooming now:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Chicoms Razing a Uyghur Treasure on the Silk Road

(Kashgar is in dark lettering just to right of middle at map above from 2020 NY Times photo feature.)

That’s the Grand Bazaar of Kashgar–Xinjiang’s major southwestern city, near Kashmir and on the road to Tashkent in Uzbekistan. From Radio Free Asia:

China razes Kashgar’s iconic Grand Bazaar

The vibrant marketplace’s destruction is seen is part of China’s plan to force Uyghurs to assimilate.

The travel guide Lonely Planet advises visitors to Kashgar, China, to fight the crowds that gather at its Sunday Grand Bazaar and let their senses loose to the smells of spices, the softness of silks and the beauty of carpets carefully woven by locals. The marketplace contains “everything of interest to foreign visitors,” the short blurb states.

Not anymore. Lonely Planet and other guidebooks that promote the bazaar will need to be revised. Chinese authorities are in the process of destroying the famous marketplace.

An RFA analysis of satellite images of the Grand Bazaar provided by PlanetLabs Inc. shows dramatic changes in the market, including the removal of buildings and the roofs of stalls, between photos taken on April 4 and May 4 [emphasis added, see first tweet after this quote].

According to one local official, a new tourist attraction will arise in its place.

Authorities are well known for taking the wrecking ball to historic streetscapes and buildings across China and replacing them with retro facsimiles to draw tourists. But Uyghur activists and foreign scholars say the destruction of the Grand Bazaar is really about the ongoing campaign by Chinese authorities to erase Uyghur traditions and customs in the region in a brutal campaign of forced assimilation [emphasis added].

The Kashgar Grand Bazaar was the largest international trade market in China’s Xinjiang region, with 4,000 shops that sell more than 9,000 products on 250-acres of land. Goods from the region sold there include spices, teas, silk, dried fruit, carpets, Uyghur musical instruments, Central Asia clothing and skullcaps called doppas.

Now the shops are being destroyed and their owners forced to move to a new location away from the city, according to local officials and videos posted by shop owners on social media.

Authorities are cracking down on the criticism too, detaining and interrogating vendors who voiced their displeasure with the government’s decision to tear down the marketplace, local sources said.

Kashgar has a 2,000-year history as a trading center on the famed historical caravan route known as the Silk Road [emphasis added]. The Venetian merchant, explorer and writer Marco Polo visited the city as he traveled through Asia along the trade route in the late 13th century.

Modern times

In modern times, the oasis city’s bazaar served as a wholesale hub for traders and businesspeople from neighboring countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and the former Soviet states in Central Asia, said Kasimjan Abdurehim, a Uyghur exile based in the U.S. who ran a shop at the bazaar from 1992 to 1998…

Through interviews with local police and other officials, RFA learned that the market demolition was developed and implemented by the Politics and Law Commission of Xinjiang.

The approximate boundaries of the Kashgar Bazaar are highlighted in this Google Earth image taken July 14, 2021. (CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies)
The approximate boundaries of the Kashgar Bazaar are highlighted in this Google Earth image taken July 14, 2021. (CNES/Airbus, Maxar Technologies)

Demolition completed

Officials at the Market Supervision Bureau in Kashgar told RFA in March that the Grand Bazaar was being torn down but declined to answer questions about why and how much of it had already been bulldozed.

Police — not officials at the Market Supervision Bureau — issued a notice of demolition to shop owners two or three months ago, and they stepped up their control of the market afterwards, local sources said.

“The Politics and Law Commission is working on dealing with the shop owners and the demolition,” said a police officer in Kashgar. “They are not fully done with it yet.

There’s been dissatisfaction, for sure,” the officer added. “We have already [demolished] two-thirds of the market. We are still working on the rest right now [emphasis added].”

An official from the Urumqi [capital of Xinjiang] Tourism Bureau told RFA that social media reports about the bazaar’s demolition were false and that foreign visitors were not being taken there because of the COVID-19 pandemic [emphasis added].

“This is not correct,” he said. “You cannot trust information on social media.”

But an employee at the Kashgar Hua’an International Travel Agency told RFA in April that the Grand Bazaar had been destroyed and that the vendors were going to be relocated.

“The Kashgar Grand Bazaar has already been demolished,” he said. “It has been moved to the east side of the city. It has been already a month since it was demolished. The whole market was demolished. Everything there had been moved to the east side of the city.”

A Chinese police officer in Kashgar said the marketplace had been partially torn down when he saw it a month or two earlier.

“Half of the Kashgar Grand Bazaar has already been demolished, and half is still there,” he said.

An official from the Kashgar Chamber of Commerce and Industry also said the Grand Bazaar had been demolished and that business there had stopped [emphasis added].

“We have demolished most of the market,” he said. “There are some shop owners who came from Hotan [Hetian] who are resisting. That’s why we have still not fully demolished all of it.”

The Kashgar market management bureau official also confirmed the same information.

“It has already been relocated,” he said. “It doesn’t exist now. Some are moving to the new location. Some have refused to move.”..

An officer at the Kashgar branch of national security police told RFA that news of the bazaar’s razing sparked outrage among shop owners, although they apparently received at least some compensation from the city government…

The demolition of the Grand Bazaar is part of the Chinese government’s process of dispossessing Uyghurs and destroying their culture, Uyghur activists and academics who have studied Uyghur culture say…

Translated by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

And two tweets:

Earlier posts:

Chicoms say: “Uyghurs? What Uyghurs?”

PRC’s Ethnic Cleansing of Uyghurs and other Muslims, Cont’d

The PRC’s Vanishing Uyghurs

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Canadian Imports from PRC: Uyghurs’ Forced Labour? What Forced Labour? Or, See No Evil (note UPDATE)

PM Trudeau’s government is basically saying “who really cares?” as it takes an essentially hands-off approach.

Further to this November 2022 post,

PM Trudeau’s Government takes Baby Step to deal with Products of Uyghurs’ Forced Labour (note UPDATE)

extracts from a story at the Globe and Mail:

Canada lags U.S. in intercepting imports made with forced labour

Steven Chase Senior parliamentary reporter

Canada is lagging the United States in intercepting imports made with forced labour, as Ottawa struggles to implement a commitment to do so in the renegotiated NAFTA deal.

In the last 21 months, Canada’s border guards have only seized one shipment suspected of being manufactured under coercive conditions [emphasis added]. Intercepted in Quebec, the October shipment was of women’s and children’s clothing from China. Trade experts say Canada does not appear to be prioritizing its agreement to bar such shipments.

Ottawa amended the Customs Tariff Act on July 1, 2020, to prohibit forced-labour imports in keeping with a pledge made under the United States Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade deal that replaced the North American free-trade agreement.

In comparison to Canada’s single seizure, U.S. border guards have intercepted more than 1,300 shipments from China that are believed to have been made with coerced labour over the same period [emphasis added, just as we have–most unlike the US–for years charged no-one with actual espionage on behalf of the PRC], according to data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The seizure is estimated to amount to a combined value of US$209-million.

*Canadian watchdog asked to probe allegations that imports made with forced labour in China [April 2022]

Trade experts say stark difference in interceptions between Canada and the U.S. cannot be accounted for merely by the far larger volume of trade between the United States and other countries such as China. They say Canada’s slim record is an indication that Ottawa is not doing as much as it could to crack down on forced labour imports because of a lack of investment in enforcement and intelligence-gathering [emphasis added]– despite a commitment from the federal government as recently as January, 2021, to get serious on the matter.

The CBP’s seizure of forced-labour goods since USMCA took effect includes 811 shipments of cotton and tomato products from China’s troubled Xinjiang region as well as 511 shipments of products made by Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd., a company located in Xinjiang that produces a key material for solar panels…

Michael Nesbitt, a University of Calgary law professor who previously worked in the federal government’s sanctions division, said Canada does not appear to be making the effort needed to identify and detain imports of goods made with forced labour.

…he said Canada puts a heavy burden on the private sector to determine for themselves if their shipments are made with forced labour “while seemingly doing little to undermine or prosecute the bad actors that take active steps to avoid detection.”

Canada Border Services Agency spokesperson Rebecca Purdy said “Canada is still in the early stages of implementing the forced-labour prohibition,”..

Plus, Ms. Purdy said, last year Americans enshrined in law a reverse-onus rule that puts the responsibility on those shipping goods from Xinjiang to prove these items are free of coerced labour. That means the U.S. government officially regards all goods “produced in whole or in part” in Xinjiang as produced with forced labour and “therefore prohibited from importation.”

Meanwhile, in Canada, CBSA officers require evidence that imports are tainted by slave or prison labour and do not have the authority to deem goods as prohibited. That means they are required to treat shipments “on a case-by-case basis, based on the available information at the time of entry.”..

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

UPDATE: One gives up. Even that one seized shipment let into Canada. This government is totally unserious:

Posts for further background:

The PRC’s Vanishing Uyghurs

PRC’s Push for Han Baby-Making in Xinjiang, whilst Suppressing Uyghur Births

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Inter-Communal (i.e. Hindu/Muslim) Violence in India (note UPDATE)

It’s not been a good week. The start of an article at the BBC (all this has been largely overlooked by the North American media, obsessed with Ukraine):

Jahangirpuri: How religious violence razed homes and dreams

By Nitin Srivastava BBC Hindi

Delhi’s Jahangirpuri remains tense days after communal violence and the demolition of houses and shops.

Violence broke out in the area when a Hindu religious procession marched past a mosque on Saturday [April 16] . Hindus and Muslims blame each other for instigating clashes that broke out.

Around nine people – including seven police personnel – were injured in the violence.

This was followed by an “anti-encroachment drive” in the area on Wednesday. The local civic body, which is run by India’s governing Hindu nationalist BJP party, said the drive was launched to clear illegal constructions in the area [emphasis added].

But Muslims say their properties were disproportionately targeted and they also questioned the timing of the drive, which continued for an hour after the Supreme Court gave an interim order to stop it.

Another order from the top court on Thursday [April 21] directed all sides to maintain the “status quo” in the area.

The incident in Delhi is very similar to what happened last week in Madhya Pradesh state, where the BJP are also in power [emphasis added]. Muslims in Khargone city in the state said their homes were disproportionately targeted after violence broke out during a Hindu procession.

*Shock and anger in Delhi after religious violence

*Why an Indian state is demolishing Muslim homes

Residents in Jahangirpuri say they were surprised to see excavators because they had never been issued any notice about illegal construction. Hundreds of armed policemen in riot gear provided a security cordon as seven excavator trucks made their way into the narrow lanes of the neighbourhood. The relatively poor neighbourhood has a large Bengali-speaking Muslim population and is also surrounded by Bengali Hindu homes and small temples.

Local residents now lament the loss of their property and belongings as the demolition went on for over an hour after the court’s order…

Plus a video report from France 24 (first one on Shanghai not relevant to the post, just came with the one on India):

And some Indian English newspaper stories (UPDATE note: almost certainly less reflective of broad popular opinion than Indian languages media) :

1) Times of India:

Common thread: Bulldozers after communal clashes

2) The Hindu:

Bulldozer drive in Jahangirpuri triggers political slugfest

3) Indian Express:

Demolition in Jahangirpuri: After communal flare up, bulldozer politics

AAP leaders spoke in one voice on the issue, with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia saying the only way to end hooliganism in the country was to bulldoze the BJP headquarters.

4) Deccan Herald:

Opposition says minorities targeted in Jahangirpuri razing; BJP calls it legal exercise

The Supreme Court had to intervene twice to stop the drive after it took cognizance of a petition filed by Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind against the demolition

And a Hindustan Times opinion piece:

What the communal flare-ups manifest

A deliberate attempt is being made to find polarising issues aimed at othering Muslims — hijab, halal meat, azaan, the list is growing

UPDATE: From Deutsche Welle April 23:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

BJP India and Academic Freedom in Oz

Further to this 2020 post,

What is India to be under Modi and the BJP?

now an article at The Diplomat; the author makes an almost impassioned plea against Realpolitik, especially in academia:

What an Academic Freedom Debate Says About Australia-India Relations

A group of fellows at the University of Melbourne’s Australia India Institute recently resigned, alleging restrictions on their academic freedom.

By Grant Wyeth

There is palpable emerging intimacy between Australia and India. This includes a recently signed new trade deal — the first India has signed with a developed country in over a decade — strengthening security ties, major investment from Australia in India, and expanding people-to-people links, including India now being Australia’s largest source of migrants. Yet this burgeoning relationship is not progressing without its controversies. 

In recent weeks a group of 13 academics who were fellows at the Australia India Institute (AII) based at the University of Melbourne collectively resigned their affiliations, claiming that restrictions were being placed on their academic freedom and alleging interference from the Indian High Commission in Canberra [emphasis added]. The group also expressed concerns that the institute was prioritizing the bilateral relationship over academic research. 

The AII was established in 2008 with a $6 million grant from the federal government, and continues to receive funding from both the federal and Victorian state governments, as well as from the University of Melbourne and private donors. It is currently the only center in Australia that is dedicated exclusively to the study of India, understanding the relationship between India and Australia, and supporting the relationship between the two countries. 

Yet it is within this mission where the institute is finding conflict. As a branch of the University of Melbourne, academic inquiry should be its primary concern. Yet if the institute instead sees itself as a facilitator of the relationship between Australia and India, then research that may upset the current Indian government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) becomes problematic [emphasis added–this can be a problem with quite a few countries, e.g. the PRC, Saudi Arabia]. As the scholars wrote in their collective resignation letter: “As experts on India, we have doubts that [the AII’s] quasi-diplomatic focus is consistent with, and furthers, the mission of the University.”

One incident cited by the resigning group was the refusal by the AII to publish an article on the attempt to decapitate a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Melbourne. Within the wider Hindutva movement of the BJP there has been an attempt to rehabilitate the reputation of Gandhi’s assassin, Nathurum Godse. Rather than the driving moral force behind India’s independence movement, Gandhi is now seen by some Hindu nationalists as an appeaser of the country’s Muslim minority. It is this perspective that led to the attack on Gandhi’s statue [emphasis added].

Given that this issue is central to the modern contest over what kind of state India should be – a secular democracy with respect for all religious groups or one that privileges its Hindu majority and excludes, often violently, all others – and that agitation against Indian secularism had found an outlet within the diaspora, this should have been of critical importance to the AII. Instead, reluctance to publish the article suggests either a self-censoring instinct to tip-toe around the sensitivities of the BJP, or direct submission to its pressures. The article was subsequently published by Pursuit, a different University of Melbourne publication.

As highlighted by Dilpreet Kaur in South Asia Today, debate over Australia’s emerging relationship with India has been playing out within the pages of Australian Foreign Affairs magazine, with the University of Melbourne’s deputy vice chancellor (international) – and AII board member – Michael Wesley a central figure. In a recent issue of the publication, Wesley argued in an article titled “Pivot to India: Our next great and powerful friend?” that India is a natural partner for Australia with significant commonalities, and that the relationship should be primarily driven by maritime security in the Indian Ocean [emphasis added].  

In the following issue, Ian Woolford, lecturer in Hindi at La Trobe University, wrote a response saying that Wesley was overlooking the lack of compatibility that the BJP’s Hindutva ideology has with Australia’s liberal democracy, and that this may create a serious impediment to the relationship. In his own reply, Wesley asserted that Woolford “will wait a long time before Australia makes human rights or democracy a central plank of its foreign policy. One of the most consistent elements in Australian foreign policy is a willingness to overlook a foreign regime’s foibles if Australia has a strong interest in maintaining stable and positive relations [as do many countries, including Canada,in their bilateral relations with many governments–the policy question is how to weight the factors governing a relationship].”..

Academic freedom is not a luxury that can be swept aside if deemed to be inconvenient; it is a core national interest because its purpose is to advance knowledge so that societies can make better and more sophisticated decisions. Protecting the national interest is about being vigilant toward each critical component of liberal democratic society, and this is not the sole purview of governments — institutions like universities are equally as responsible. Liberalism requires constant practical upkeep. 

The grand irony of this episode is that Australia’s desire to forge stronger ties with India is due to a belief that this will help protect its liberal values – and therefore its national interest – from the challenge and degradation posed by authoritarian China. Yet what is clear now is that the relationship with the BJP’s India is starting to degrade those very same values and interests. 

Grant Wyeth is a Melbourne-based political analyst specializing in Australia and the Pacific, India and Canada.

Related posts:

India: The RSS, the Not-so Shadowy Body Behind PM Modi and the BJP’s Hindutva (Hindu Raj) Ideology

Modi/BJP Moving vs Press Freedom in India

Hindu Temple for Ayodhya, or, the Hindutva of PM Modi’s BJP (plus Kashmir)

Hindutva, or, the Modi/BJP Drive towards Hindu Raj Documented in Film

Modi, BJP, Hindutva, or, the Shrinking Indian Public Space

Bollywood’s Brief Streaming Freedom

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Should Canadian Public Pensioners Benefit from the Damned Dragon?

Two people who know this stuff argue against–at the Ottawa Citizen:

Why Canadian pension plans should divest from China

Pulling out of Russia makes good sense given its recent actions. For the same reason — and many others — investors should drop China too.

Phil KretzmarMargaret McCuaig-Johnston

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has led to unprecedented financial consequences. Canadian public sector pension plans are in the process of ending their investments in Russia. The goal of divesting is to isolate Russia and exert financial pressure on its economy — even if these actions require Canadians to absorb losses. Continued investment in Russia as it carries out its callous assault is untenable.

…there are…compelling reasons why the same Canadian pension plans currently divesting from Russia should be divesting from China.

The second is that the Chinese government is widely recognized as committing genocide against its Uyghur population. Canada’s Parliament was the first to recognize this formally, in February 2021. Other governments have followed suit…

In the case of the Canada Pension Plan, this amounts to $57.5 billion, or 11.5 per cent of its portfolio. Many of these investments are in companies involved in military and surveillance activities, making Canadians complicit in the persecution and suffering of the Uyghurs, Mongolians, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners and Hong Kongers.

Third, there is investment risk. While China provided good returns for many years, the risks under autocratic leader Xi Jinping are mounting. Chinese companies and markets do not operate under “rule of law” and are increasingly subject to regulatory interference. In the past year, many of the Chinese companies in which CPPIB has invested have lost considerable value due to sudden policy shifts. These include TenCent and Alibaba, which by size are the pension plan’s first and eighth-largest investments respectively [emphasis added]. Inconsistent and arbitrary practices contribute to investment risk and in China these have been increasing, with continued uncertainty expected.

Fourth, there is geopolitical risk. In the past few years, China has violated the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong by extinguishing its democracy; has initiated pitched battles on its Indian border; has built military islands in the South China Sea in contravention of international rulings; has taken foreigner citizens hostage in state-to-state relations…the Chinese government asserts that Taiwan is part of China and has stated its steadfast determination to “reunite” democratic Taiwan with communist China, of which it has never been part. Xi has clearly shown he is of the same ruthless character as Putin. But such brash action would increase geopolitical and economic risk in the region for many years.

The size of China’s economy and favourable returns have lulled many pension plan investors into a stupor of easy profits. But the Chinese market is now the battlefront of Xi’s economic experimentation, carrying commensurate risk…

Now is the time to start the process of divesting from China to avoid being complicit in the atrocities the Chinese government is perpetrating on its own people; to avoid the emerging risks involved with Chinese investments; and to avoid being held hostage by these investments in years to come. In some plans, divestiture is already happening, led by prudent investment managers. This could be why the CPPIB several years ago dropped its investment in iFlytek, the voice recognition technology being used on all Uyghurs to track their calls. Kudos to those decision-makers…

Phil Kretzmar is Co-Founder of Stop Uyghur Genocide CanadaMargaret McCuaig-Johnston is Senior Fellow with the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; Policy Advisor to the Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project; and a former senior official of the Department of Finance.

Related post:

The Link between Canadian Pensioners and the PRC’s Repression of Uyghurs

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds