Friday, May 28, 2010

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Yellow Sea...

The moral equivalency rantings of one Peter Atkins over at the One Free Korea FAQ, where he suggests that Americans have no right to decry North Korea's gulag system when we have so many of our own in jail and then he later alerts us — without any intentional irony — to a list of Chinese criticisms of American human rights abuses,  has prompted me to post a couple of things on Beijing in the New York Times lately.

First, there's this gem that reminds us that China is not a country that shares our touchy-feely democratic values and free speech. In Tibet, for example, they are cracking down on photocopier stores in a bid to squelch dangerous speech:
The authorities have identified a new threat to political stability in the restive region of Tibet: photocopiers. Fearful that Tibetans might mass-copy incendiary material, public security officials intend to more tightly control printing and photocopying shops, according to reports from the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

A regulation now in the works will require the operators of printing and photocopying shops to obtain a new permit from the government, the Lhasa Evening News reported this month. They will also be required to take down identifying information about their clients and the specific documents printed or copied, the newspaper said.

A public security official in Lhasa, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the regulation “is being implemented right now,” but on a preliminary basis. The official hung up the phone without providing further details.

Tibetan activists said the new controls were part of a broader effort to constrain Tibetan intellectuals after a March 2008 uprising that led to scores of deaths.
To be fair, South Korea has had rules in place aimed at doing the same thing with pro-North propaganda, though the obvious difference is that China is an occupying force in Tibet while South Korea was a victim of North Korean aggression.

The second story deals with the delicate issue of eminent domain, which is a touchy subject even in the US and South Korea. In glorious-to-be-rich China, it is alleged that extralegal methods are commonplace when it comes to the well-connected wealthy trying to get peasants and commoners off land they've decided they want to develop. This NYT video (embedding not allowed, sorry) addresses that issue, depicting angry residents who are about to lose their homes and their livelihoods.

Though this eventually ended in the New York Times, it's chilling that the journalists who were there were pushed to stop reporting on it. For cases such as these, the authorities rely on such tactics to prevent the public from getting wind of wrongdoing.

I'd like to think that China is getting better in this regard, but when the rulers have no direct accountability to the people, it's a situation fraught with the potential for abuse.



  1. Handpacked boxes of personal books were always opened and carefully inspected by Chinese customs, but direct shipments of individual books from Amazon arrived untouched. I opened up a book on Buddhism and was greeted by the warm smile of the Dalai Lama in a full-page photograph accompanying the foreward he wrote. My first experience with Chinese authorities' mistrust of printed matter occurred as I was exiting the airport. A PLA guard stopped me and inspected the Lonely Planet China guide sticking out of my bag before returning it and waving me past.

    I think Slim has correctly identified Peter as a CCP troll. No native or long-term resident of an English-speaking country would express surprise that a Jewish person was familiar with the life of Jesus. The China section of Global Voices dot Org is nest of CCP propagandists.

  2. You may be right about him being a CCP troll, but I've been accused of so many things that aren't true (including being your sock puppeteer), that I'm always a bit loath to finger someone else for something.

    After all, there are indeed fellow travelers of the communist authoritarians who hear a ring of truth in the propaganda coming out of, say, Beijing or Pyongyang. Professor Bruce Cumings, for example, is so deep in that hole that if he were a made-up person in someone's novel, he'd be unbelievable as a character.

    But yeah, I did catch slim's suggestion. I don't know, though. The guy's English is a little too good and "libertarian" doesn't seem like a good fit as a front for someone who's actually a CCP member.

  3. There are certainly plenty of things wrong with the U.S. criminal justice system, but I agree that it's ridiculous and offensive to equate America's prisons to North Korean gulags.

    And there are some so-called libertarians/dolts who do support the Chinese government, like Lew Rockwell, for instance (who also denies that the Tiananmen Square massacre was a massacre and accuses the students of being "hardline communists").

  4. "The guy's English is a little too good "

    Some of the web warriors at GVO and other websites have sophisticated, native-like English that hints at a good international education in an English-speaking country. I wonder if some are graduate students on government scholarship doing required political work. Some of the pro-government experts I watched on CCTV-0 had earned PhDs and done post-grad teaching and research abroad before returning to China to take up posts as professors with extra stipends for government committee work.

  5. CCTV-9, CCTV's version of Arirang TV

  6. Hey!

    They took my comments down at What's the story?!

    Just a few points here that I feel you blokes are getting a bit defensive about:

    I never said "moral equivalency" or anything equating to this. I simply pointed out a few things in the US's backyard.

    BTW, someone has created an expose on the sprawling US camps here: Whilst there seems to be a bit more effort and money gone into creating these than the NK camps, I believe it graphically illustrates that the US prison system is indeed far more extensive than NKs.

    Also, I am not a CCP troll. That's just silly. Why would I be sticking up for the Kims if I were? The Chinese call him "fatty Kim" and often lampoon him on their social networking sites (see

    And I was in no way surprised that the moderator was Jewish. I only drew on the fact that, whilst it may seem ludicrous that the NK created a nativity story about fatty Kim, in the US the majority of people wholeheartedly believe an equally ridiculous story about a first century Jewish builder turned cult leader.

    Then someone said that it may surprise me that the moderator is Jewish ... WTF?!

    I have given it some thought and now I believe that the DPRK was an accidental creation of the US for these reasons:

    If it weren't for McArthur "stretching" his orders (for which Washington recalled and sacked him, there would be no DPRK today. There would probably be some DMZ between Korea (as a whole) and Dongbei China.

    If the USA had quit Korea rather than sticking with their idea of containment, then the Korean peninsula would probably be similar to Vietnam today; yes a single party state with red flags around the place but certainly not the hermetically sealed disaster that has been quite effectively contained over the last 60 odd years.

    DPRK needs an ever-present enemy to continue its existence as it is. The US is quite effectively providing that by situating 30k odd troops at the DMZ and maintaining a fleet of nuclear subs off the peninsula. If the US re-thought its sabre-rattling foreign policy then perhaps the DPRK would naturally fail.

    Peter Atkins


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