Nazi-worshipping anti-Chinese Mongolian youth

Sounds like the name of a deranged redneck death metal band…but no

h/t ESWN.


Yi Jianlian and the argument against democracy in China

Those who follow sports will know that the starters for the NBA All-Star game are chosen by fan ballot, originally this was done at the arenas but with the Internet and the internationalization of basketball most voting is now done online.  As a result of fan voting presumably from China and, possibly, Newark, Yi Jianlian, the 21 or 24-year old forward for the New Jersey Nets, has surpassed several established stars and is threatening the starting position of Boston Celtics superstar Kevin Garnett.  Yi is a solid NBA player, but he’s hardly in Yao Ming territory, never mind KG.* This week the Beijing Youth Daily questioned whether or not A-Lian, as he is known, deserves to be an all-star.

According to a summary published in the China Daily:

China’s 350 million basketball fans have become an important group for the NBA, so it is not surprising that Yi, a Chinese national, rank thirds in the voting. They believe the votes cast by Chinese fans should carry equal weight with those cast by American or German fans, and they have called on others to be self-confident in participating in the vote.

But others argue that Yi’s skills are not good enough for him to become a starter in the All-Star game. They say some fans have voted for him repeatedly or even resorted to manipulating computer software in an attempt to give him enough votes to be included on the All-Star game’s roster. Those that believe Yi’s skills as a basketball player are below par say the level of All-Star game is lowered by such tactics, which constitute cheating. They also note that forcing the NBA’s global fans to accept the voting results of Chinese fans is not good for the future development of Yi, whom they believe is not qualified to take part in the All-Star game at present.

Interesting dilemma…support the democratic rights of the large number of Chinese fans who want to see Yi hoop it up against the NBA’s best** or else insinuate that such large-scale movements can be a detriment to overall interests and goals.***


*Yi’s also out for the next four weeks with a broken pinkie.

**Just for the record: My all-star picks were Devin Harris, D-Wade, KG, Lebron, and Dwight Howard from the East with Chris Paul, Kobe, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Yao in the West.  That Yi Jianlian is getting more votes than Chris Bosh, Danny Granger, or Paul Pierce just kills me.

***Yes, I’m being tongue-in-cheek here. Sorta.


CSM: “An experiment in democracy leads to fierce resistance”

There are situations where the venality of local officials transcends the usual debate over political systems and makes me despair not for any particular locality or government, but for human nature in general. This is just such a case.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

“When Fang Zhaojuan began organizing her neighbors here to impeach village leaders whom she suspected of corruption, she had no idea that the challenge would lead her first to the hospital and then to jail.

She was following the law, after all, and had launched legal petitions signed by a large majority of villagers. They believed they had been cheated of proper compensation when their village council had sold land for industrial development to the government of a nearby township.

Mrs. Fang, her family, and colleagues on a recall committee, however, found themselves plunged into a violent political drama. This, they say, has shown residents of the hamlet just how narrow the boundaries remain for their democratic rights. It has also, they add, hardened their resolve to enforce them.

Huiguan, a nondescript cluster of brick houses outside the port of Tianjin, is like tens of thousands of other Chinese villages, on the verge of being swallowed up by a fast-expanding city. Its farmland has all but disappeared under new factories, and under circumstances that Fang, a 43-year-old widow, found suspicious.

“She never expected this,” says her sister, Fang Zhaohui, displaying photographs of Fang’s bruised and bloody body taken in the hospital six weeks ago, after thugs had broken into her home and beaten her. “She never expected it would be so difficult and that the government would be so black.”  

Keep in mind that Mrs. Fang was not trying to introduce some radical new Western concept she picked up while perusing The Federalist Papers, she was attempting to avail herself of rights already enshrined in Chinese law.   As Peter Ford said in his audio commentary, Chinese leaders may dislike talk of democracy, but they are interested in establishing rule of law.  Sadly, predictably, the efforts of Mrs. Fang and her fellow citizens brought out the worst in the thugs and goons who run her local parish, anxious to preserve their power in the face of organized, legitimate opposition.

I know a little about the back story to this article. These villagers were well aware that talking to the Monitor would get them in trouble, several have been arrested since being interviewed, but they had the guts to stand up to the Man Purse Brigade and the local bully boys and say: “Enough.”  

You want to talk about courage?


Cross posted at Jottings from the Granite Studio


Foreign Policy Magazine List: Top Ten Worst Chinese Laws

FP has put together their list of the top-10 worst laws on the books in the PRC.  Making the cut were Article 105 of the Criminal Law Code (subversion) and the Law on the Supervision by Standing Committees of the People’s Congress at All Levels, Article 3 (upholding the leadership of the CCP).

The full list and commentary can be found here.  Tell us what you think: Fair or unfair? Which laws should be scrapped, amended, or updated? Did FP interpret the laws correctly? Any on the books that didn’t make this list?


Liu Xiang pulls out of Olympics with injury

Breaking: A right achilles injury has prematurely ended Liu Xiang’s Beijing Olympic dreams.

Update by Richard: It’s being broadcast live right now on CCTV – his coach Sun Haiping is crying his eyes out explaining his injury. Everyone in my office is huddled around the TV set watching, visibly depressed. All that time training for this, four years, gone.


Report: British journalist detained by police in Beijing

As reported by Jon Watts and Tania Branigan in The Guardian:

Police in Beijing have detained a British journalist after he covered a Free Tibet protest close to the city’s main Olympic zone. John Ray of ITV News was pushed into a police van by officers and driven away from the scene.

Around a dozen activists from Students for a Free Tibet had gathered outside Ethnic Minorities Park. Police also forcibly removed the protesters after driving away the journalist.

Speaking by telephone from the back of the police van as he was driven away, Ray said: “I have been roughed up. They dragged me, pulled me and knocked me to the ground. Now they are filming me.”

He could then be heard asking the officers with him: “Why are you filming? I am a British journalist. I have all the Olympic accreditation I need.” Police officers could then be heard asking: “What’s your opinion on Tibet?” Ray replied: “I have no opinion on Tibet. I am a journalist.”

A police officer could then be heard telling him he was not allowed to use his telephone. The line went dead.

Police were also filming and taking pictures of other journalists at the scene.

UPDATE 9:19 p.m.

An official from the PSB claims John Ray was detained “by mistake” and that officers had thought Ray was a part of the protest and were unaware that he was an accredited journalist:

Ray, 44, said he was stopped by an officer and a small struggle ensued before things got more violent when more police arrived.

“They bundled me out of the park. They forced me to the floor, dragged me, manhandled me into a restaurant next door,” said Ray, who said he repeatedly told police he was a journalist but was not displaying his official Olympics media accreditation.

Later dragged to the back of a nearby van, a woman asked in English what his views were on Tibet and he repeated that he was a journalist, he said.

“Only at this stage am I able to reach in my pocket and show them my Olympic credential,” Ray said. “The van door opened and I just got out and walked.”

An official from the spokesman’s office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau said officers mistook him for an activist.

“At the time, he was among the protesters,” said the official, who gave only his surname, Zhang. “The police did not understand his identity. So they took him away to check his identity. After that, they let him go.”

No word on whether or not an official apology has been issued.


08/08/08: Watch your step…

This has been making the rounds these past few weeks, but with the day finally here, it’s too hysterical not to post.

“We can be sure it is a trap. They’ve been preparing for this for thousands of years. According to the satellite images we are getting from Beijing, they are digging large holes which they claim are for Olympic venues, but we know full well they are going to cover them up with branches and leaves and the athletes from America are going to fall right into them.  Nah, they’re going to wait until it gets dark and then they are going to bring out their dragons…”

Perhaps the funniest/saddest part is the comments section on You Tube where not a few idiot fenqing completely missing the satirical quality of the video–not that irony and satire are common currency in the fenqing mindset–and go right into robotic whining mode about how some vaguely defined “West” hates China.



The first protesters arrive…

As everybody knows, it was always a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ stunt protesters would descend on the Beijing Olympics.  Sure enough, today somebody climbed a 100-foot electrical pole near the Olympic Green to fly a “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet” flag for the length of time it took the Beijing Fire Department and PSB to arrive and take it down.  The protesters were all–unsurprisingly–foreigners.

But back to the if/when thing…I’ve maintained all along that China risks losing face in the international court of public opinion not because such stunts will happen (they will, nothing can change that) but what the reaction will be by official representatives on the ground, especially toward any media outlets interested enough to cover such protests.  The answer so far: Not well.

ESPN Blogger Arty Berko is in Beijing covering the games as a credentialed journalist.  Following word of an ‘incident’ at the Green, he rode his bike over to check it out.  Berko reports:

There was a crowd of about 100 people down the hill from where the post was located; policemen were located at the top of the hill, closer to the post.

I dropped my bike and started taking pictures. After a few minutes, I wanted to try to talk to the man up on the post. So, I climbed up the hill to get a closer look. I yelled out, “Hey buddy, who are you?” The policemen turned and looked at me, but didn’t react. But then, a man in civilian clothes (he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt) started screaming at me and tried to wave me away.

I held up my credential and yelled out, “TV! Media! Press!”

The man kept yelling, speaking mostly in Mandarin; but through some broken English, he pointed to the stadium, saying, “You’re only here for [this].” He was implying that I was only here to cover the Games and this protest was none of my business. Then, he screamed, “Who are you? Who are you?” I kept trying to explain I was credentialed media.

Some of the policemen walked toward me and grabbed me by the arm. They were angry and aggressive while holding on to me, yelling in my face. But I still kept yelling, “TV! Media! Press! TV! Media! Press!” The policemen were speaking into their walkie-talkies, but I didn’t understand what they were saying.

I then went back to the bottom of the hill and took more pictures. By that point, a fire truck pulled up and moved a cherry picker up the pole to try to bring down the protester. The same civilian came down the hill and started screaming at me again. Some of the onlookers joined in, and I was circled by people who started pushing and shoving me, screaming and pointing to the stadium. I never got hit or punched, but I was definitely physically accosted. I was trying to be smart about it and I wasn’t hitting anyone, but I kept yelling, “Media! Press!”

Am I the only one who thinks that before the Games are all over there is going to be at least one ugly incident involving a foreign journalist, the police and/or hopped-up Chinese spectators? 

For what it’s worth, I think the kinds of stunt protests the four activists pulled this morning are more self-aggrandizing than anything else.  If people were serious about reaching out and trying to effect change, they might start by writing the signs in Chinese. (UPDATE: Several are reporting that there were also Chinese signs as well.)

That said, if the ensuing confrontation was any indication of how the local boyos and the PSB react to protests/media spectacles during the games, then we’re in for a rocky few weeks.


Things to love about Beijing…

It’s hardly an exhaustive list and is mostly based on observations and experiences from the past week or so, but I thought I’d jot down a few of my favorite things about the ‘Jing.

  • Beijing parks in the early morning.  Jingshan, Beihai, even tiny Nanguan…parks all over the city are bustling at 6:00 a.m. I’m certainly not a gerontologist, but there has to be a significant mental and physical benefit to seniors who participate in daily group exercise.  And the variety of activities is something to behold–dancing, tai chi, calligraphy, bird walking, one fellow who bends at the waist, legs straight, and walks on all fours for the length of the park (try this sometime, you won’t make it 10 yards).
  • The variety of great food available for less than 10 RMB.  Snacks, breakfast, lunch, noodles, chuan’r…you can live in Beijing and spend anywhere between 15 and 1500 kuai on dinner, and some of my 15 kuai dinners have been the better than a few fancy banquets I’ve attended by a long shot.
  • I like the new metro lines. The trains are comfortable and the two giant xiangqi boards built into the floor of the Dongsi Line 5 platform are a nice touch.
  • Hutong living.  YJ and I just moved into a small pingfang in a yard with about 19 other families.  The yard itself is cool and I love our little house, but the best part about living there are the neighbors.  Within a week of moving in, we’ve met just about everybody and it really seems like the residents all look out for each other.  (By contrast, we lived in our loufang for nearly two years and never exchanged more than a forced ‘ni hao’ with the yuppie across the hall.)  It’s also been fun sitting in the middle courtyard with the neighbors after dinner shooting the shit about whatever.  Good times.
  • Basketball.  You’re never far away from a court in Beijing and once you’re on the court, it’s easy to get into a game.  The skill level varies wildly among the local players, but the enthusiasm is always consistently high.  Generally speaking too, people are pretty good sports.  There will always be exceptions, but it’s usually a friendly atmosphere without a lot of egos getting in the way of a good game.
  • So many people are into history.  I love it when random interactions with strangers or passing acquaintances turn into 45 minute discussions of military strategy during the Ming-Qing transition.
  • Good move on the part of the municipality to go to odd/even days for cars.  It hasn’t really had any effect on the air quality, but it’s made the streets a lot nicer for bikes and pedestrians.  Personally, I wouldn’t have any objection to making the policy permanent after the games.
  • Ding zuo. You can have just about anything custom made in Beijing. Dining room table in the showroom too short? We’ll build it taller.  Need to hide the ugly refrigerator in the middle of your living room? Custom-made Qing style cabinet with no floor or back and an extra-wide door.  Good suits. Leather shoes. Whatever.  If you can draw a picture and give some idea of what size and color, somebody can make it for you.
  • The music scene. They’ll never get on the radio, but bands like Joyside, Snapline, Buyi, Brain Failure, and Second Hand Rose (to name only a very very few) play good music with passion.  Sure a lot of the bands might not have the greatest chops and some of the songwriting lacks polish, but the level of enthusiasm with which the music is performed makes up for a lot.  Besides, when was rock and roll ever about polish over passion?

What’s on your list?


Christian Science Monitor Olympic Blog

Sure there are a ton of journalist Olympic blogs out there, but in my (semi-biased) opinion, one of the better correspondents in Beijing is the CSM’s Peter Ford. He’s a journalist who has covered stories in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe, and the Soviet Union and he has a knack for getting a story without needing to tart it up or sensationalize the issue at hand.  In the PRC, Peter’s articles are frequently translated/mangled for the Cankao Xiaoxi and the Global Times among other party rags.

The fact that YJ works for the CSM may skew my opinion slightly, but Peter has been linked to enough in this space by Richard and other writers that I feel comfortable plugging their new blog: Olympic Glory.   Check it out.