Chinese Bible owners arrested, sent to labor camps

The much-vaunted reforms don’t seem to have reached this province yet:

Villagers in southern China’s Guangxi province accused local police on Tuesday of arresting Bible owners and sentencing them to labour camps as part as a campaign to weed out “illegal religious organisations“.

Written testimony supplied to AFP by villagers in Xilin county accused up to 40 policemen of descending on Christian villages in the middle of the night and ransacking homes in search of Bibles and other religious materials.

Official arrest documents also show that following their detention three people from Weishan and Tianbao villages were sentenced without trial to 18 months in a labour camp run by the Nanning Glass Factory in the provincial capital.

Actually, it seems to be an equal-opportunity crackdown, with similar incidents taking place against “illegal religious organisations” in three other provinces. The article says the wave of crackdowns began after Hu Jintao had completed his transition to power in March.

So much for Hu ushering in a new era of measurable reforms.

[Link via Radio Free China.]


Out of Control

I staggered out of bed at 7 a.m., made some coffee and checked my site traffic to see I had already had 300 unique visitors in the first 7 hours of the day. Now, it is always nice to see your traffic go up, but this is utterly, totally, ridiculously crazy. Yesterday’s total was 600.

For the past four months traffic was amazingly consistent at about 250 on weekdays, 150 to 200 on weekends. I won’t complain, but it’s definitely bizarre.

(Adam, when you reinstalled my sitemeter a week ago did you do anything weird?)


Hat’s off, gentlemen — a class act.

Be sure to read Hailey’s take on the debate that’s been going on today. She is great.

I wasn’t happy about a couple of the things she pointed out, and hope there’s something for us to learn here:

We have different points of view because we grow up in completely different environments. There’s nothing wrong about it. But what finally caused me to click the button “delete” was that I learned some of you jumped into this debate not only because you want to debate. Your insulting emails first made me sad, then I learned it was my fault to talk about sensitive issues on my blog while so many people will read it. It was my fault to generate such a debate. I’m sorry.

I disagree. It was not your fault at all, because a blog is there to express your opinion. As I said in my long post today, Westerners will see Tibet and Taiwan and many other issues through a totally different filter than people in the PRC. We can disagree and try to persuade one another, but there is no excuse for anyone sending insulting emails to you or anyone else whose opinion differs from theirs. You do not need to apologize.

Keep up the great work, and I hope you reconsider and share your thoughts on political issues. I am very interested, and I am sure others are, too.


Does she qualify to be Conrad’s babe of the week?


God knows, she’s gorgeous enough. Too bad that not too long ago she was a he.


HIV-carrying burglars arrested by police in China

If you think selling a mute teenager as dog meat is weird, try this:

Local police Monday detained a group of burglars including 13 HIV carriers in Hangzhou City, the capital of Zhejiang Province, east China.

It is the first time in the country that HIV-carrying criminal suspects have ever been detained by police, according to official sources.


One of the members, whose surnamed was only disclosed as Qin, told police that they had purposely injected themselves in order to contract AIDS so as to scare away police.

So far, 13 of these suspects have been confirmed as carrying the HIV virus, while some others are found to have hepatitis-b and tuberculosis.

When I lived there, I kept a tally of how many times each day I repeated the phrase to myself, “Only in China.” I’m still repeating it.

[Link via Drudge Report.]


Kidnapped boy sold to Vietnamese restaurant as dog meat

What some people won’t do for money:

Vietnamese drug addicts kidnapped a mute teenager, bundled him in a sack and sold him to a dog-meat eatery as a stray canine, state media said on Saturday.

The Gia Dinh Xa Hoi (Family and Society) newspaper said the two addicts grabbed the homeless 13-year-old from a busy market in Halong city.
The kidnappers tied up the boy, bundled him into a sack and sold him to the restaurant for $19, the newspaper said.

The restaurateur, shocked to find the boy, fed him and released him. Police were investigating the case but had made no arrests, said the newspaper, mouthpiece of the state Population, Family and Children Committee.

Dog meat is a delicacy in parts of China and in some other Asian countries such as Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia and Laos. In Vietnam, eating specifically farmed breeds is believed to bring health benefits and is seen as auspicious.


Female Asian bloggers

This has the potential to be an emotionally charged post, so I’ll need to measure every phrase carefully to keep from stepping on the third rail or scattered landmines.

I’m going out on a limb and writing this based on two recent incidents in our regional blogosphere:

1. Over at Glutter, Yan has posted an extraordinary post requesting (demanding?) that HK bloggers remove her from their blogrolls. This was the result of a very heated debate in her comments over her suggestion that some HK bloggers might be homophobic.

2. The newly discovered Chinese blogger Hailey Xie wrote a post on Taiwan a few days ago, that also generated some very spirited comments from the foreign blog community; I was going to post a comment of my own last night, but when I went over to her site, I saw that the post had been deleted. And that’s a bad sign.

In both cases, there was a pattern. A bright young female Asian blogger expressed her honest feelings about a controversial issue, and was “attacked” (or at least criticized) by an army of bright older, mostly male foreign bloggers. Each of their posts generated heated threads of comments which, in the end, resulted in extreme action, ending the comments and denouncing the HK bloggers (Yan) and deleting the entire post and its comments (Hailey).

Both of these reactions saddened me because I think both of them are terrific bloggers and they obviously both went through some pain in this process. It also sadened me bacause I think they both made the wrong decision. Putting myself in their shoes, I completely understand why they did it; still, I wish they hadn’t.

If you read the comments to Yan’s post, you’ll see they get pretty intense. To a degree, as some commenters pointed out, Yan set herself up for this by having her own racial stereotyping on her site, referring to some HK blogs as “The Sick World of White Men with Asian Fetish who has the Pleasure to live in Asia and the Dumb Women who Date them.” So, with some justification, some criticized her for living in a glass house and recklessly throwing stones.

Hailey Xie in her post on Taiwan expressed wonder at the fact that Taiwan is so strenuously resisting unification with the PRC. What Hailey wrote was completely in line with what many in the PRC believe. It is simply inconceivable and amazing that Taiwan would not welcome reunification. The commenters, equally amazed, asked why a country with free elections, a true free-market economy and a high regard for human rights would want to be subsumed into a country that offers none of those things.

(This was strikingly similar to an interaction I had with a young Chinese blogger last year on Tibet, which she said was now modernized and liberated and free of an oppressive theocracy where most lived as serfs. I printed her entire email in that post, which blew me away. But living in Beijing, I was to learn that this belief is totally status quo, and I strongly recommend you not get drawn into an argument about it; you won’t win.)

Anyway, I have a point here, somewhere, but it may be challenging to articulate without sounding racist on one end and patronizing on the other.

So here comes the controversial suggestion: Maybe we Western bloggers, who were brought up in a way very different from those in our host countries, should exercise a little more cultural sensitivity. This applies especially to the PRC, where the sort of aggressive challenging we do with one another might not be understood by the local blogger.

I know that sounds patronizing, but I’m not sure how else to say it. Shouting at each other the way we Western bloggers do, with aggressive assertiveness, sometimes is simply difficult for the young Asian blogger to digest and process.

At the risk of sounding racist, I tend to put on a gentler tone with these bloggers. There are so few young Asian bloggers writing in English about political and social issues, and I want to encourage them, not intimidate them. Even if they are wrong, maybe we should try to let them know in a way that won’t injure their pride. A double standard? Yes. But we all know that communicating with a native Chinese person is not the same as communicating with a native New Yorker. This is true in international negotiations as well as in blog comments.

So to summarize: I think that in both cases, the comments made by the Westerners were shrewder and more likely to hold up in court. I just think it’s a shame that in both cases it resulted in the blogger in question shutting down, getting hurt and most likely feeling she had been overwhelmed with criticism.

The real shame is that while I absolutely do not agree with Hailey’s view of Taiwan, she offers us a fantastic (unprecedented?) opportunity to see such situations from the eyes of a bright, sensitive Chinese citizen. In English. It would be a real loss if she now decides to avoid such topics, fearing a repeat of yesterday’s full-frontal assault (at least in her eyes).

So can we all just get along? If our regional blog community doesn’t have voices like Hailey’s and Yan’s, it runs the risk of getting mighty dull mighty fast.


How to explain site traffic?

It makes no sense. I haven’t posted anything remarkable and I haven’t been linked by Instrapundit, but over the past three days my site traffic has been in the range of 400 unique visitors each day. I know, it’s a teensy drop in the bucket for Phil and Conrad (they get that much each hour), but for me it’s pretty amazing.

In Beijing I often got thousands of hits a day due to my posts on SARS (posts on AIDS, gays in China and The Great Firewall also helped). It was a short ride that ended the day I moved to Singapore. Daily traffic dropped to less than 150 a day for my first two months here, then stabilized at about 250 a day. The leap of the past three days is inexplicable.

400 visitors a day is nothing to brag about. But it is nice to know that a couple hundred people around the world “make an appointment” to come by every day. Let’s see how long the current spike lasts.


Another dire warning from the US State Department

This is one of the strongest-worded warnings yet, with very specific references to Al-Qaeda and what they plan to do. Most unusual.

November 24, 2003

This supersedes the Worldwide Caution dated September 26, 2003. It is being issued to re-emphasize the continuing threat that U.S. citizens may be a target of terrorist actions. This Worldwide Caution expires on April 21, 2004. The U.S. Government remains deeply concerned about the security of U.S. citizens overseas. U.S. citizens are cautioned to maintain a high level of vigilance, to remain alert and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. We are seeing increasing indications that Al-Qaida is preparing to strike U.S. interests abroad. Al-Qaida and its associated organizations have struck in the Middle East in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and in Europe in Istanbul, Turkey. We therefore assess that other geographic locations could be venues for the next round of attacks. We expect Al-Qaida will strive for new attacks designed to be more devastating than the September 11 attack, possibly nvolving nonconventional weapons such as chemical or biological agents. We also cannot rule out that Al-Qaida will attempt a second catastrophic attack within the U.S.

Unfortunately, they put out a lot of these since 911, and to many they”ve become the boy who cried wolf.


Justifying the murder and abuse of women

Conrad and I stand accused of “cutural snobbery” in a post everyone should read, regarding Conrad’s account and my reaction to the sickening story of a Palestinian woman murdering her own daughter because the daughter refused to commit suicide after her brothers raped and impregnated her.

This post lives up to all my worst fears: that there are people out there, obviously well educated and bright, who can rationalize barbarism and excuse the most sickening crimes under the mantra, “It’s a cultural thing.”

While I personally grieve at the death of the child, I believe that the mother is equally a victim of social conventions and beliefs. Richard calls this ‘hard-wired irrationalism’ here; but what is rationality to begin with? It would probably — but I make no assumptions/presumptions here — have been entirely rational in the mind of the mother to have killed the daughter, in order to, as the article mentions, protect the rest of her family.

He then looks at the factors justifying what the mother did: if she had not murdered her own daughter, perhaps the religious community would have reacted with violence to the family. Perhaps, in her mind, she would have been disgraced in the eyes of God. And, of course, these beliefs were inculcated in the mother and the family as Truths, passed down from generations to generations (a point I make in my own post).

Therefore, the writer concludes, Conrad and I are guilty of “the crime of demeaning other cultures and societies by virtue of one’s own ignorance, and self-righteous bloody enthusiasm.”

Yikes. Where to begin?

It’s getting late, so I’ll try to be succinct. Let’s look at the argument of inculcation, that in their culture there was nothing wrong with what the mother did, and to her it was actually quite appropriate. That was what she was taught.

So do we just shrug and say, “Oh, I see; it was something she was taught as part of her culture” and then let it go? I say no. Let’s look at another example of inculcation. For generations in the South, it was okay to lynch “niggers” and treat them as half-citizens or worse. It was okay; gramma taught us they are like animals and if you don’t hold them in line, who knows what they’ll do? It truly was a cultural phenomenon dating back centuries.

So what? It was still evil. By making a lot of noise about it, by passing and enforcing laws against it, by putting it under the spotlight, the problem has improved from one generation to the next. Yeah, big problems still linger, but only the most demented racists believe today that it’s fine and dandy to lynch innocent black people.

Much of the space in this blog is used to criticize the Chinese government. Its actions, too, are steeped in cultural tradition. That doesn’t make them right and it certainly doesn’t mean that they are above criticism. As I said in the original post, evil is evil, and most of us know it. Many in China know that what the government is doing is wrong, and they risk going to jail every day to let people know about it.

And the poor murdered girl — she knew what her mother wanted her to do was wrong and evil. She wept and she fought. If it had been so deeply inculcated as the right thing to do, why didn’t she just grab the knife and cheerfully slice her own throat? She knew it was an act of evil. [Update: I didn’t express this point clearly so let’s strike it for now.]

I am not saying everyone should adopt Western culture and convert to Christianity (to paraphrase Ann Coulter). After living in Central America, North America, Europe and Asia, I can pretty safely say that most people, no matter their culture, have a fairly similar definition of evil. Not exactly the same by any means, but there are fundamental standards of human decency.

Once you deny that, once you invalidate those standards, you can pardon and justify even the most unconscionable act. In fact, that’s just what the blogger has done.

As a liberal, I find it frustrating that there is a whole school of liberal thought that, through its “cultural sensitivity” can excuse and justify murder, torture and just about any type of deranged behaviour imaginable. While I agree we must always consider and respect the culture of others, we can’t let this become a blanket excuse for acts that all of us know are simply wrong.

UPDATE: If you made it this far, you must read Conrad’s rebuttal. Needless to say, his response is more pointed and, ahem, outspoken than my own.