Japan refuses to pay wartime reparations to Chinese slave laborers

Needless to say, I’m not at all surprised. And I think it totally sucks.

A group of 45 elderly Chinese who were forced to work as slave labourers in Japan during World War II have lost their bid for compensation. A court in the Japanese prefecture of Fukuoka dismissed the men’s lawsuit, which sought a total of 1bn yen ($8.5m) in compensation….

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were forcibly taken from China to Fukuoka prefecture in Japan between 1943 and 1944. They were made to work without pay at locations such as the Mitsui Miike mine and Mitsubishi Iizuka mine, according to Kyodo news agency.

About 40,000 Chinese people were sent to work in Japan in the latter years of the war. Japan has generally refused to pay damages to Chinese claimants, despite repeated accusations that it has not properly atoned for its wartime brutality.

Unlike asinine claims from some groups that the US government should compensate families today whose great-great-great-grandparents were once slaves, these Chinese plaintiffs were actual slaves themselves, forced to work in Japanese mines. If they were treated at all like Japan treated most of their prisoners, they were probably brutalized beyond description. They deserve compensation and a formal apology, to say the least, and Japan should feel shame at this decision.


Hao Wu updates

Reuters has picked up the story, the first sign, I believe, of Hao Wu’s arrest making the mainstream news.

In addition, the Business Week blog includes a post by BW reporter Bruce Einhorn, who interviewed Hao Wu about the Google China story a few week’s before his arrest.

I interviewed Wu a few weeks before the police detained him. This was when the debate was raging in the U.S. about Google, Yahoo et.al. and their role in facilitating censorship of China’s Internet. Wu was surprisingly upbeat. Yes, there were problems, but Wu said that censorship wasn’t a huge issue thanks to “work arounds” that enabled him and others to avoid the Chinese firewall. And in his blog, Wu hasn’t been shy about addressing hot-button topics. In one post, he describes a conversation with a cabdriver denouncing China’s high-flying Communist leaders as “worse than the Kuomintang,” the notoriously corrupt regime of Chiang Kai-shek that Mao’s army kicked out of the mainland to Taiwan back in 1949. In another post, Wu (who is gay) mentions how a favorite high school teacher cut him off after he came out to her. Blogging about an argument with his mother, he writes about how Chinese are expected to behave as deferentially toward their governent as they are toward their parents: “However, is the government really a surrogate of our great dear ephemeral Motherland whom we should forgive for any wrongdoing and defend from any badmouthing? Should this devotion be as unconditional as that to our own mothers?….This government is not our mother. My mother, despite her great difficulty dealing with me being whom I am, still loves me and always worries about me. I came from her and I once ran away from her smothering love. But that love is real and now I’m back, I can accept the suffocating Confucian teachings just for her. Not with this government. Not with a government that demands loyalty with no love in return.”

Yes, I like that last line. It’s a sentiment I heard so often from Chinese people. “I love my country, but my country doesn’t love me,” one of my friends in Beijing told me. And truer words were never spoken. Hao Wu loved China, too, and probably still does. And we all know what he got in return.

I love my country, but my country doesn’t love me. If there were any one sentence to sum up poetically the relationship between the Chinese man on the street and his government, that would be it.

Links via this blogger, who is keeping a news ticker of Hao Wu updates.


China’s morality campaign hits the streets

One of the casualties of my site crash a couple weeks ago was a long post on Hu’s maudlin new list of Lei Fungesque “virtues.” Apparently the new morality campaign kicked into gear this past week, and Beijing’s moralty meter is presumably soaring.

China’s new “eight socialist honours” are unambiguous and fiercely patriotic: Love the Motherland. Serve the People. Be united. Struggle hard. Work hard. Advocate science. Be honest. Obey the law. The eight principles are part of President Hu Jintao’s efforts to combat eight pernicious “disgraces” he sees creeping into Chinese society. The only way to stop the rot is for the masses to learn a “socialist sense of honour and shame”.

This weekend, the campaign hit the streets of China’s cities and towns, and cadres were out in force, offering tutorials in virtue – obeying the law, protecting trees and cleaning up dog faeces. There were volunteers offering free health check-ups and giving advice on traffic etiquette.

In Beijing, the Wangfujing shopping thoroughfare became a venue for an award ceremony for those truly infused with a “socialist sense of honour”. To the tune of the theme from The Magnificent Seven (obviously including the sequel), cadres honoured 10 model residents, among them Li Zhenhuan, who has been giving free haircuts to residents for more than 35 years.

Okay, friends in Beijing, is anyone taking this morality crap seriously? Anyone at all? (Aside from Hu.) Whatever; the article is a hoot and well worth a read. One more snippet:

In the old days, these campaigns would have been trumpeted on luridly coloured posters, replete with apple-cheeked farm girls and muscled steel workers facing into the sun. Mr Hu’s aphorisms, however, were printed on a plain poster with Chinese characters above a photo of the Great Wall, and displayed in offices and shops since the campaign began.

China may be embracing socialism with Chinese characteristics, which to the untrained eye looks an awful lot like straightforward capitalism, but the rhetoric of the latest morality campaign will be familiar to many in still-Communist China who remember the Five Standards, the Four Virtues and the Three Loves…Mr Hu’s statements all have the ring of good, old-fashioned Cold-War era Communism, but the message is still a far cry from the more belligerent tone of the founding father, Mao Zedong: “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.”

It was all going to be so different under Hu. Remember?


Order your human organs from China while you still can

The ban on selling human livers, hearts, kidneys and other goodies from China is only a heartbeat away.

China will ban the sale of human organs and issue new guidelines for transplant operations after reports that patients from Japan and Malaysia died of complications from transplants performed in China.

The guidelines, which were issued on the Ministry of Health’s Web site and take effect July 1, also require that transplant donors give written permission.

A shortage of available organs for transplants in China, whose population is 1.3 billion, may motivate the sale of organs on the black market. Less than one percent of the 2 million Chinese in need of transplants are able to undergo the operations because of a shortage of donations, the state-owned People’s Daily newspaper reported. The Web site statement, posted yesterday, didn’t detail current regulations.

China’s foreign ministry today acknowledged that foreigners have traveled to China to have organ transplants and said China has received criticism for taking organs from executed criminals, which the foreign ministry called “a slander” to the country’s judicial system. Organs are taken from executed convicts following strict guidelines, it said.

“Such applications are very insignificant in number,” said foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang in a regular press briefing today in Beijing. “Such cases are no different than a patient who is about to die, who donates his or her organs. The same rules apply.”

Except no one seems to know what those rules are. My guess is nothing will change very much and organs will still be available to the highest bidder.


Another Downing Street Memo

In ordinary times, it would be a bombshell: A secret memo proves that our president told his people a series of lies leading to wanton and needless death and destruction. He had planned to wage his war no matter what, and was even prepared to create fake evidence to justify the invasion. It was never about unconventional weapons. The calls to disarm were bogus. It was to be war from day one. In ordinary times, he’d be impeached.

But these aren’t ordinary times. We are all so used to this sort of thing that it has almost no effect at all. It’s just another day in the Age of Bush, where we’re always winning the war and we’re always right and no mistakes are ever made. Here’s the killer line (though actually there are several):

The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.

Now, faking scenarios in order to provoke another country into war is just what Hitler did with Poland, and is about the lowliest thing a government could do. It an act of pure deception and reveals total disrespect for the American people, playing them for fools. That he would have seriously proposed this should be major news. But I doubt it will be. We expect no better of him. And so, what would have been a death knell for Clinton will be water off a duck’s back for Bush. We’re too numb, too incredulous and dazed to care.

We’ve all been made fools of. All those dead soldiers and civilians were ingredients in Bush’s petri dish as he toyed with the fate of the earth. All the lofty speeches, the dire warnings, the denunciations of the “weasels” who called for more evidence – all a sham.

Be prepared for the ugliest election in all history later this year. If Bush loses the House of Representatives, he’ll be severely weakened, with investigations opening into every phases of his sordid presidency. And since the GOP has nothing to run on, it has no choice but to follow the usual Rove routine of destroying the opposition. It’s going to be a bloody, ugly fight and I am delighted I won’t be in America to witness it.

Read the above article if you have the stomach for it. There’s not much that’s “new,’ but that’s what makes it all the more revolting. This sort of shocker has become the everyday, the ordinary, the routine, and we simply accept it. It’s like reading Viktor Klemperer’s diaries, where every day the government does something more shocking, but since they do it every day there’s no longer any shock.


Paul Krugman: Immigration facts

Ah, immigration, the subject that, for whatever reason, seems to bring out the very ugliest in some. Krugman does a nice balancing act here and, as usual, gets it right.

North of the Border
Published: March 27, 2006

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wrote Emma Lazarus, in a poem that still puts a lump in my throat. I’m proud of America’s immigrant history, and grateful that the door was open when my grandparents fled Russia.

In other words, I’m instinctively, emotionally pro-immigration. But a review of serious, nonpartisan research reveals some uncomfortable facts about the economics of modern immigration, and immigration from Mexico in particular. If people like me are going to respond effectively to anti-immigrant demagogues, we have to acknowledge those facts.



Interviews with Hao Wu’s sister, other updates

It”s been a month since he was detained. Rebecca keeps us updated here.


Maureen Dowd: Happy Dr. Gloom

Happiness Is a Warm Gun
Published: March 25, 2006

It doesn’t take much to make Dick Cheney happy. According to a list of his travel perks, printed by the Smoking Gun Web site, all he needs is a few cans of caffeine-free Diet Sprite, a big bed, a pot of decaf. (And global hegemony, of course.) Dr. Gloom, who once dismissed conservation as a “personal virtue,” likes all the lights blazing before he gets to a hotel suite and all the TV’s beaming Fox News.

Sometimes happiness means being protected from news about other people’s unhappiness.

Washington may be gripped by a malaise over the miasma in Iraq. But elsewhere, in business, books and academia, there is a scavenger hunt under way to root out the scientific, economic and emotional reasons for joy.



The Zhao Yan Two-step

Why the cat-and-mouse game-playing over Zhao Yan, the NY Times researcher imprisoned in Beijing for allegedly letting the newspaper know Jiang Zemin was going to resign? It sounded last week like his release was imminent.

The United States on Thursday continued to press China about the status of a jailed researcher for The New York Times, but the uncertainty about his fate deepened as a Chinese government spokesman appeared to cast doubt on whether he would soon be released.

The case against Zhao Yan, 44, a Chinese researcher in the Beijing bureau of The Times, was withdrawn last Friday by a court order. His lawyer said the withdrawal of the charges against him — one count of fraud, another of disclosing state secrets to The Times — meant that Mr. Zhao would soon be released, possibly on an equivalent of bail.

But the Chinese authorities have since remained silent about the status of Mr. Zhao, and he is still behind bars. Asked on Thursday afternoon about the case, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, criticized foreign news organizations for making “irresponsible statements,” and he then offered a cryptic response.

“You ask if Zhao Yan will soon be released,” Mr. Qin said during a regular news briefing for foreign reporters. “From what I have learned, the actual situation is not like what you are talking about.”

His arrest in and of itself was despicable enough (the charges are totally groundless), but to hold him now, after his case was withdrawn – it’s inexcusably cruel. What are they thinking? The Times editorial writers are asking the same question.

Mr. Zhao is not the only journalist unjustly jailed in China, and it is fair to say that our concern is heightened by his association with The Times. But his arrest shows how China can too easily use the courts to silence any journalist who crosses some unseen line of behavior and offends some unnamed person in power. It is an example of the government’s need for a scapegoat when coverage about high officials or the Communist Party does not turn out as the leadership would have scripted it….

By now, it should be clear to the Chinese authorities that American leaders and the international news media are not going to forget this case. Mr. Zhao’s plight should remain on the agenda for President Hu Jintao’s first official visit to Washington next month. A better outcome would be for China to follow up on the withdrawal of the charges against Mr. Zhao and releasing him immediately.

I wonder what it feels like to be Zhao Yan as he’s kicked around like a political football. China should have released him a long time ago – hell, he should never have been arrested at all. Hao Wu, Zhao Yan, Shi Tao — my heart goes out to anyone unlucky enough to fall within the crosshairs of the CCP Stability and Harmony Brigade.


Line cutters

The scourge of China. Many times I wished I had in my pocket a little pearl-handled revolver so I could do away with them “quickly and efficiently,” as PR people love to say. (No, not really, of course.) Great post, and I wish I had Dan’s fortitude (he actually stood up to the culprit).

I can’t imagine what goes through someone’s mind when the see a big line of people waiting patiently in line and they simply don’t understand that the line that begins at the counter is actually for people waiting to speak with the person at the counter. It’s revolutionary, I know. But close your eyes and just imagine, just for one second, that blissful sort of ignorance that leads these people’s lives. There is no fear of violating social norms because to these people those norms don’t exist. The line separating right and wrong disappears. There is no guilt. They are free…

If it’s any consolation, Dan, you’re not the only foreigner in China who’s harbored these thoughts. At least you did something.