Hong Kong Chinese Resist Having their Brains Laundered

UPDATE: You can see some wonderful photos of the demonstrations here.

Hong Kongers are demonstrating en masse as the CCP tries to shove down their throats a new student curriculum larded with Mainland propaganda. This is worse than the Creationist-modeled school curriculum instituted by the Texas Board of Education.

The new curriculum would be similar to the so-called patriotic education taught in mainland China. The materials, including a handbook entitled “The China Model,” describe the Communist Party as “progressive, selfless and united” and criticize multiparty systems, even though Hong Kong has multiple political parties.

Critics liken the curriculum to brainwashing and say that it glosses over major events like the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It will be introduced in some elementary schools in September and be mandatory for all public schools by 2016.

Talks between the education minister, Eddie Ng, and the National Education Parents’ Concern Group broke down on Saturday. Mr. Ng later denied that the curriculum was akin to brainwashing.

One demonstrator, Elaine Yau, who was there with her 7-year-old daughter, said that people wanted a say in what was taught in the schools. “We feel like we have no choice,” she said.

One point of contention is that many of the city’s governing elite send their children to the West or to expensive foreign-run international schools, which will be exempt from the national education. The curriculum will be mandatory for the public schools used by most of the working and middle classes.

This part then took the cake. Leave it to a pro-Beijing official to say exactly the wrong thing.

Before the protest, Jiang Yudui of the pro-Beijing China Civic Education Promotion Association of Hong Kong added fuel to the fire when he told Hong Kong’s residents that the curriculum should “wash their brains.”

“A brain needs washing if there is a problem, just as clothes need washing if they’re dirty, and a kidney needs washing if it’s sick,” he said, according to the local news media.

In response, protesters waved flags showing a cartoon brain with a line crossed through it. “No thought control! Preserve one country, two systems!” they chanted, referring to the agreement that gives Hong Kong political rights that are not allowed on the mainland.

So there we have it. The dirty brains of Hong Kong kids need a little washing. At least he admits it. Big congratulations to the 32,000 HKers who care enough to demonstrate in public over it. Of course, the pro-Beijing leaders are saying their decision is irrevocable no matter how many citizens take to the streets. I see this as ominous, vile and dictatorial. I can’t imagine Hong Kong ever cooperating, even if it becomes the law.

Some of us really believed there would be one country and two systems. We seem to have been wrong, though we knew that many years ago.


Bad Editing

This is good for a laugh. God bless the Global Times.

I just clicked through nearly all the blogs in the “Pearls of the Orient” section over on the left and see that our entire blogosphere is all but dead. How did a once thriving community dry up like this? This China blog seems to be doing the best job of staying current. Most of us seem to be putting up one post every few weeks at best. It’s sad to see what a sorry state we’re in. And I’m the worst culprit of all.

Update: It’s been pointed out to me that this blog, new to my blogroll, also updates frequently.


Global Times on the Wenzhou train crash, one year later

I was (am) always curious about the seemingly opposing forces at the Global times. Often I was amazed at how far they would go allowing commentators to criticize the CCP, even columns mocking China’s navy and arguing it was hardly ready to participate in any conflict in the South China Sea. So many examples like that. There was a 2009 op-ed praising Deng Yujiao, the karaoke waitress in Badong who stabbed a lascivious government official to death. And a lot more. These were balanced, of course, with xenophobic outbursts, sabre rattling and incredibly paranoid/irrational arguments about the West and the Western media. But still….I was amazed at what got past the censors at what the censors let through. But I never doubted that it was strategic. Nothing got through by accident. Give the people some space to vent, as long as they never cross the line, the fat red line between acceptable criticism and advocating for democracy or for greater freedom in Tibet or for referring to a massacre in 1989.

I wondered about this same thing tonight as I read this piece on the one-year anniversary of the Wenzhou train crash. It’s actually a damn good article; it’s real journalism. Paragraphs like these just pop out at me:

At the scene of the accident, wreaths for the deceased have been removed, memorial poems written on the viaduct pillar have been scrubbed off and there are no signs of the crash. Everything seems to show life has returned to normal. But the local villagers still remember the tragedy vividly.

“I will never forget that night, even now when there’s a thunderstorm and lightning, I am little worried about the viaduct, and worry that such accidents will happen again,” a local resident, who refused to disclose his full name, told the Global Times.

And then there’s this:

Although boasting one of the fastest high-speed trains in the world, the way the Ministry of Railways (MOR) disposed of the wreckage and delayed the results of an investigation into the crash sparked public fury and widespread doubt as to the wisdom of the massive investment in high-speed railways….

Though unwilling to discuss the past, Wang Jian still complained about the MOR. “After the memorial service, the MOR officials fled and have never contacted us ever since. The investigation result was delayed, and the complete name list of all the passengers on the trains has still never been released,” he said.

“The MOR did punish someone, but nobody was even jailed,” Wang complained.

This doesn’t sound like state-controlled propaganda. But maybe it is; maybe it’s doing exactly what the party wants it to do, placing the blame on a specific group of bunglers. I honestly don’t know. The one thing I always thought when I read articles like this, hypercritical of the government, was that it somehow fit within the approved party discourse — that the government was willing to let the media go this far and even encouraged it to do so in some instances, especially when reporting on corruption and local malfeasance.

Is this an example of opening up and greater freedom of the press? Or is it the same old propaganda, disguised as a watchdog media, that is actually planting exactly the stories the government wants it to? I wonder.


A Confucian Constitution

Is this op-ed a parody or what? Everyone here will find it worth reading, but may not know whether to laugh or cry. I’d like to know what you think.

If that column gives you a headache, you can also use this as an open thread.


The Cultural Revolution in Chongqing

Go here and open the pdf file. A beautiful portrait of the Cultural Revolution by one of my very favorite bloggers Xujun Eberlein, whose older sister drowned in 1968 as she paid tribute to Chairman Mao’s famous swim up the Yangtze. Just beautiful. Aging members of different factions of the Red Guard share memories, and we almost understand how these people surrendered their critical faculties and followed Mao on the road to catastrophe. Almost. They were “well meaning” and idealistic. And they ruined countless lives along the way, often their own as well.

I know, in the Twitter age it seems like a burden to open a pdf file and read an actual essay, but this is more than worth it. Mesmerizing.


The Great Democracy Debate

How many times have we discussed whether China would be better off with some form of democracy as opposed to its one-party authoritarian system? I know, too many times. But this article on the recent debate between CCP apologist and shill Eric Li and professor of government Minxin Pei is well worth reading. If you don’t believe me about Li being a shill, or if you are unfamiliar with him, read this. This is one of my favorite of Li’s assertions:

China is on a different path. Its leaders are prepared to allow greater popular participation in political decisions if and when it is conducive to economic development and favorable to the country’s national interests, as they have done in the past 10 years.

However, China’s leaders would not hesitate to curtail those freedoms if the conditions and the needs of the nation changed. The 1980s were a time of expanding popular participation in the country’s politics that helped loosen the ideological shackles of the destructive Cultural Revolution. But it went too far and led to a vast rebellion at Tiananmen Square.

That uprising was decisively put down on June 4, 1989. The Chinese nation paid a heavy price for that violent event, but the alternatives would have been far worse.

The resulting stability ushered in a generation of growth and prosperity that propelled China’s economy to its position as the second largest in the world.

For a marvelous take-down of this drivel go here. As if all of China’s great progress rests firmly on the shoulders of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Anyway, sorry for that digression, but you have to know who Li is to appreciate this debate.

I’ve always been careful to say I don’t believe Western-style democracy would necessarily be the answer to China’s problems of corruption, human rights violations, and the injustices inherent to any one-party system that operates without the checks of rule of law. Pei makes a strong argument, however, that the huge political and economic challenges China is facing are weakening the government and will ultimately result in an “unraveling” of the one-party system. So China should have a democratic infrastructure in place if the party implodes. In a nutshell:

The economy has been driven primarily by investments at home and exports to developed countries, which isn’t sustainable. In the political sphere, we’re seeing manifestations of a fundamental vulnerability of one-party systems globally: a tendency to drift into benefiting a relatively small, and ultimately predatory, elite at the expense of society generally, and the associated phenomena of high-level corruption and inequality.

Together, Pei claimed, these two domains of contradiction tend to impede the growth of China’s economy and undermine the legitimacy of its government. You can see the last two decades as a story of the rise of the Chinese system, Pei said; but the next 10 to 15 years (no less than 10, no more than 15) will be one of the system’s unraveling. And this is what the United States and the West generally need to worry about — not China’s strength but its weakness, because when the transition to a more democratic system comes, it will be very difficult to manage, particularly given the country’s deep ethnic divisions, its disputed borders, and its complex integration with the global economy.

Li’s arguments are familiar: all of China’s mistakes have been dwarfed by its accomplishments, the party has put China on a long trajectory of growth and it would be insane to shift gears when the current system is working, Western democracies are thrown into chaos by politics and therefore can’t get things done, etc. Pei argues that by clinging to an unrepresentative system of government, China may be on a path to collapse should the economy falter dramatically, and having no other alternative to the CCP political bedlam could ensue. A comparison to the collapse of the Soviet Union is not inconceivable.

Li showed his true stripes several times, and he was proud of them. This was one of my favorites:

In response to a question from the audience, Li also criticized the very ideas of political liberty and individual rights. Unless you think rights come from God, he insisted, you really have no theory of why any one view of political liberty any discrete set of individual rights should be sacrosanct at all. “If they’re from men, they’re not absolute; they can be negotiated.” It was only too bad there wasn’t time to discuss what “negotiated” means here.

“I want to break the spell of the so-called right to freedom of speech,” he added later. “Speech is act. It has harmed from time immemorial.”

It’s too bad he sounds like such an apologist. Some of his arguments are fair. We all know how well China has done compared to 30 years ago. I believe the CCP has to be given a lot of credit for improving the quality of the lives of so many of its citizens, and wonder whether its people are ready for pluralism. But who gets to decide that? And if the people so adore the CCP, why do Li and other shills so strongly oppose free elections? And if the government is so confident in China’s future, why are so many party elites moving their assets out of China? Li got kind of tongue-tied over that one.

Anyway, read the whole thing. Nothing new, exactly, but thought provoking. And you really are left wondering what the answer is. Neither Pei’s nor Li’s answers are totally convincing and it’s hard for me to say who “won.”