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February 27 2014

Chinese Netizens React to Ukraine Revolution

While the current Ukraine revolution has many Chinese asking: “When are we going to take to the streets?”, netizens also learned from Ukraine that democracy isn’t the answer to all problems. Law professor Dong Zhiwei, a long-standing advocate of constitutionalism in China, called the anti-government protests in Ukraine a “coup” that is more of a clash between different power groups than between democracy and authoritarian rule. Offbeat China has more details. 

 

NASA's New Photo of North Korea

Any international readers interested in North Korea would probably come across at least once this famous photo of Korean peninsula from NASA demonstrating a stark difference in the light emission of two Koreas at nighttime. NASA finally updated a new satellite image and it is ‘even more dramatic than the monochrome NASA satellite image of old', writes North Korea Tech blog. The blog also introduces a video version of the image which shows North Korea in context with the rest of East Asia. 

February 26 2014

PHOTO: South Korean Labor and Civic Groups Stage Strike

Timed with the start of President Park Geun-hye's second year in office, about 40 thousand South Koreans (police estimate 15 thousand) held protests across the country. The demonstration, spearheaded by Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, calls halt to a clampdown on labor groups, the government's move towards privatization of public sector and cover-up of the presidential election manipulation scandal. Prominent citizen journalist Media Mongu tweeted a photo of the protest (embedded below). More photos can be found in the union's Facebook page [ko].

General strike, at the Seoul City Hall Plaza. It is fully packed.

February 24 2014

Praise for Southeast Asia’s Winter Olympians

Yohan Goncalves Goutt representing East Timor in the Men's Slalom event.

Yohan Goncalves Goutt representing East Timor in the Men's Slalom event.

It does not snow in the Philippines and East Timor but the two Southeast Asian countries were represented in the recently concluded 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Yohan Goncalves Goutt, who qualified for the men’s Slalom event, became the first Timorese athlete to compete at the Winter Olympic Games. Meanwhile, Michael Martinez of the Philippines became Southeast Asia's first figure-skater in the Games.

Yohan founded East Timor's ski federation and raised $75,000 to fulfill his Olympic dream. He competed in the games, completed the race, and finished 43rd out of 117 players. There were 72 other racers who did not finish or were disqualified during the competition.

Yohan shared what he felt after finishing the race:

WOW what an Experience for Me !!!! This race will always stay in my memory and i hope Timor Leste History. It was hard starting last in one of the hardest course of my life but I finish !!! 43 out of 117 !!!
You are Great thanks for all your support !!!!

After this Olympic Games I felt that i have learned a lot and that i come out of this Games as a grown up man !!!

Before the game, he received a letter of commendation from East Timor’s Prime Minister. Naturally, the Timorese are proud of Yohan’s achievements. Below are some of the messages left by Yohan’s fans on his Facebook account:

Popo Lay: So proud of you Yohan!! Congratulations on being the first person to represent our nation in the winter Olympics and making history. You are a true Timorese hero and a role model for the next generation!

José Antonio G. Casimiro: A top 50 finish is a great achievement. I watched so many before you fall and not complete the race. I was praying that you would get a clean run, and you did. Thank you for putting our tiny little nation on the map.

Many were touched that Yohan wore a Timor clothing during the opening ceremonies:

Jacinta Barreto: You just showed us how to wear Timor tais in winter time…cool and fashionable. Best of luck Yohan..

Carla Araujo Machado: Congratulations! What an emotional moment when u were holding Timor-Leste flag! We are all very proud!

The country’s Minister of State Agio Pereira issued this statement of support for Yohan:

We commend Yohan for his commitment and his pride in Timor-Leste. His efforts, along with those of other athletes that represent Timor-Leste on the international stage, raise the profile of our country and increase interest and engagement.

Yohan Goncalves Goutt at the Sochi Games

Yohan Goncalves Goutt at the Sochi Games

Meanwhile, Filipino skater Michael Martinez was the Philippines’ sole representative in the Sochi games. He qualified in the finals and finished 19th.

Many Filipinos were inspired by Michael who learned to skate only in a shopping mall and he succeeded in becoming an Olympian despite being an asthmatic.

But while Filipinos cheered his triumphant participation in the Winter Games, many people criticized the government for the little assistance it gave to the young skater. It was also reported that Michael’s family had to mortgage their house in order to raise funds for Michael's Olympic preparation. Apparently, the president didn't receive the letter sent by Michael's mother asking for financial support because it was tagged as spam.

Writer Jessica Zafra praised Michael’s mother for guiding the talented teenager to achieve his dreams:

I know nothing about Michael's mother, but I know that she urged her son to fulfill his dream, no matter how borderline bizarre it seemed. Parenting is tough, and parenting a genuine talent is especially hard. You have to be honest about your child's abilities, you can’t let him harbor false illusions. You have to calculate his chances of success and make the necessary sacrifice. Congratulations, Mrs. Martinez, you are the coolest kind of mom.

Michael is back in the Philippines and was welcomed as a hero by his fellow Filipinos:

UNICEF Calls for “Child-Free” Protests in Thailand

After a grenade explosion killed three children in an anti-government protest site in Bangkok, the United Nations Children’s Fund urged government and protest leaders to protect children by keeping them away from protests. Bijaya Rajbhandari, the UNICEF Representative in Thailand, made this appeal:

(The UNICEF) condemns the violence that resulted in these tragic and senseless deaths and injuries to children. These incidents underscore the urgent need to keep children out of harm’s way in order to ensure their safety. UNICEF urges the Government, pro- and anti-government protest leaders and all parents to ensure children do not enter protest sites and are kept well away from all protest areas.

Myanmar's Last Remaining Synagogue

Built 120 years ago, the Musmeah Yeshua synagogue in Yangon is the last remaining Jewish synagogue in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar. Aside from being a tourist attraction, it is also listed as an archaeological heritage building in the city.

February 23 2014

Not All Bad, Talking Korean Plastic Surgery from Biz Perspective

There have been mounting criticisms on both local and international media's coverage of rampant plastic surgeries in South Korea; many reports are highly sensational, describing how reckless and ignorant plastic surgery patients are (focused on females ones rather than male) and have successfully generated numerous crass jokes and harsh comments not only about patients, but also about the country as a whole. Wangkon936′s post in Marmot's Hole blog leads readers to drop the narrow ‘good’ and ‘bad’ value position and approach the issue from a purely business perspective. Some of the highlights are: 

When it comes to South Korea, much of the press is negative and borders on reporting mostly on the strange and/or weird such as the so-called “tower of jaw bones”[...] However, is it all bad? If we are to take perhaps subjective values out of the equation and just look at economic impact, then is this all “bad,” per se? From an economic and business perspective, Korea’s highly demanding aesthetics culture is creating an expertise, technology and infrastructure base [...]

Census Could Worsen Conflict in Myanmar

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from  Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Shan minority group in Myanmar. Photo from Flickr page of EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

Myanmar’s nationwide census scheduled from March 23 to April 10 threatens to inflame more ethnic and religious conflicts in the country over some ‘antagonistic and divisive’ issues included in the questionnaire. Myanmar’s last census was held more than 30 years ago.

The census, supported by the UN, aims to determine Myanmar’s key demographic and socio-economic statistics in order to ascertain the country’s particular development needs. But questions about ethnicity or tribal identification have become controversial after the government listed 135 ethnic groups and sub-groups on the questionnaire. Critics reminded the government that the listing is a colonial legacy which must be revamped. Several ethnic groups have complained about being lumped with other minorities while others claimed they were dropped from the listing.

The government is urged to reclassify the listing based on consultation with ethnic communities. And while the government is doing this, some groups wanted the census delayed for another month.

In Myanmar, majority are Burmans. An estimated 40 percent of the population is considered an ethnic minority, with Shan composing the biggest minority group.

The common complaint of many groups is the inaccurate categorization of ethnic groups. For example, the Palaung (Ta’aung) tribe questioned their inclusion as a Shan race:

We, Ta’aung, settled down in this land before the Shan…We are not the same with other races. We live in mountainous area and have a different culture and language.

Kyaw Thu, head of the civil society consortium Paung Ku, thinks questions on ethnicity and religion should be dropped because they are no longer necessary:

If development is the priority, the data of headcounts—the numbers of people and the age group—is enough to conduct economic projects.

Tun Myint Kyaw, local coordinator in Mon State for the European Union-funded Rule of Law Project, also urged the removal of some controversial questions in the census:

If [the Ministry of Immigration and Population] has a plan to omit the ethnicity and religion category from the national identity card, why would they still include in the census data collection?

Khun Jar of the Kachin Peace Network explained how inaccurate ethnic categorization can cause trouble; and he also warned about the danger of conducting census in some remote areas where armed conflicts are still taking place:

If the government accepts 135 ethnic groups only, it can cause harm to the peace process because ethnic groups can get into armed conflicts if disagreements arise among them

We can’t anticipate who will conduct the census in remote areas and places where there is no ceasefire. In some places there are no schools. Teachers are normally used to collect data on the population. So with no schools, it will not be easy to collect population figures at the refugee camps.

Thet Ko from Minority Affair proposed the drafting of a new listing based on the principle of democratic consultation:

The list of ethnics should be compiled again after consulting with ethnic groups through a democratic procedure.

Some ethnic groups are worried that they might lose political representation if the proposed census will adopt the official listing of ethnic groups in the country. Ethnic minister positions in local parliaments are automatically given to ethnic groups with more than 0.01 percent of the population in the area.

The government is accused of deliberately bloating the number of ethnic subgroups to deny representation to some tribes.

But in the case of the Rohingyas, the government refuses to recognize them as citizens. Kyaw Min of the Democracy and Human Rights Party is appealing for the recognition of Rohingyas, who are mostly Muslims:

Every human race has its own identity. We have our identity already…This is not just now—we have had it for a long time. But we have found that there is discrimination in the country, which ignores our demand that our identity be recognized.

One concern about the inclusion of religion in the census is the destabilization it might generate. In particular, the census might confirm that Myanmar has a growing number of Muslims which could provoke Buddhist extremist groups to cause trouble in many villages.

Worried about the threat, the International Crisis Group, is proposing to limit census questions on age, sex and marital status:

…the coming census, consisting of 41 questions, is overly complicated and fraught with danger. Myanmar is one of the most diverse countries in the region, and ethnicity is a complex, contested and politically sensitive issue, in a context where ethnic communities have long believed that the government manipulates ethnic categories for political purposes

A poorly timed census that enters into controversial areas of ethnicity and religion in an ill-conceived way will further complicate the situation.

Meanwhile, the Burma Partnership fears the census might undermine the national reconciliation process:

Yet the lack of transparency and consultation is a damning indictment of the UN’s – and donors’ – role in the census, while the accusations of inaccuracy and divisiveness only serve to further undermine the credibility of these parties. Moreover, there are real fears about the logistics of collecting the data, both in terms of authorities using the correct forms and accessing remote areas or conflict zones, which would have implications for the accuracy of data recorded

It is clear that this census represents a Pandora’s Box of potential ethnic tensions and conflict. At a time when the Burma government claims to be striving to secure a sustainable peace deal with the armed ethnic groups and cementing political reforms before the 2015 national elections, the timing and nature of the census is strange, to say the least. It risks jeopardizing national reconciliation, undermining the peace process, and exacerbating inter-communal violence.

Apparently, some ethnic groups are cynical of the census process that they chose to conduct a census on their own.

China Internet Giant Tencent's New Acquisition Follows Online2Offline Trend

China is the fastest growing consumption market in the world. As the economy shifts from manufacturing to the service industry, the driving force of the country's GDP will be consumption; online to offline commerce is definitely a fierce battlefield.

A recent example of this is Chinese Internet giant Tencent's acquisition of a 20-percent stake worth 400 million US dollars in Yelp-like website Dianping to further expand its online to offline (O2O) commerce.

Founded in 2003, Dianping is the largest online ratings and reviews platform in China. It provides urban guide for consumption, which includes merchant information, consumer reviews, discount, group buying, online restaurant reservations and take-out ordering services. It had more than 90 million monthly active users and more than eight million local businesses covering nearly 2,300 cities across the Chinese mainland by the fourth quarter of 2013.

Upon the acquisition, the online service platform will be integrated with Tencent's social communications platforms, in particular its instant messaging mobile applications – WeChat's online payment service, as well as Tencent's mobile map application. WeChat has gained about 600 million users by the end of 2013.

Zhang Tao, founder and CEO of Dianping, stated that Tencent's social network and traffic would boost Dianping’s growth and that he would continue to seek for an independent initial public offering for Dianping after Tencent’s investment.

As people's shopping habits have changed from offline to online, O2O commerce has become a golden goose for China's three major Internet giants – Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively known as BAT – to compete for. In the past two years, the three corporations have made some strategic moves respectively.

To establish the O2O business, the connection between online social groups and offline services through social media platforms is most crucial. Tencent made the move by integrating WeChat with online shopping platforms, such as JD.com and consumption guides such as Dianping. Baidu invested in Nuomi, a group-buying service. Alibaba merged with microblogging website Sina Weibo to expand its Alipay online payments for businesses including Meitun, China's biggest group-buying site, and Kuaidi, a taxi-hailing app, as well as Citic 21CN Co., a medicine purchase platform.

Tech manager “Yu Feng” commented on the competition between Tecent and Alibaba:

对腾讯来说这绝对是O2O的胜负手,支付宝能做起来,因为背靠着淘宝巨大的交易额,微信的支付需要交易场景的加持才能真正发展起来……你可以把微信支付+大众点评,理解为另一个支付宝+淘宝的组合,就容易看懂了。

It’s a key move for Tencent to push O2O. Alipay has grown quickly because it’s been based on huge trading volume of Taobao. The growth of WeChat payments need a trading scenario……It’d be better understood when you see WeChat payments + Dianping as another Alipay + Taobao [China's biggest online shopping platform].

In the midst of fierce competition among the BAT, whether or not online e-commerce platforms can gain from the integration process remains a question. Tech Journalist “Zhao Nan100″ pointed out that Dianping has paid a large amount of “entrance fee” to Tencent in the acquisition:

为了在微信“我的银行卡”占个座,大众点评实际上不仅没从腾讯拿4亿美元,反而是给了腾讯6.9亿美元,只不过这部分钱是以出让股份的形式表现的。要知道,如果现在IPO,大众点评怎么可能只值20亿美元,折价的部分实际上就是给腾讯的钱。其它创业者们,看到微信“我的银行卡”买一个位置的花费。

Practically Dianping has not taken 400 million from Tencent, instead it’s paid Tencent 690 million in shares for a seat on WeChat’s “my bank cards” [Tencent's online payment system]. Had Dianping listed as in stock market now, it would be worth a lot more than $2 billion. The discounted part become the fee paid to Tencent. Other online business starters can see the price to buy a seat on WeChat's “my bank cards”.

Zhang Pang, a business blogger, believed that such integration will become a trend as O2O commerce continues to expand:

其实现有一个势头正在越来越明显,那就是在中国互联网产业内的创业公司想要“不站队”,保持独立发展,将会越来越艰难,巨头通过注入自身资源而不仅仅是资金,将会迅速影响创业公司在某个领域的竞争环境和前景。这个趋势,将对未来一段时间创业企业的发展路径带来深远的影响。

The trend is getting more obvious. It is more and more difficult for Chinese online businesses to remain independent and stay out of the “clans”. The giants will not only inject capital but its resources and it will affect the environment and future of the business sector. Such a trend will have serious impact on the developmental path of Internet start-ups.

However, netizen “Classmate Ji” disagreed with the technological deterministic view, writing that informative consumer information is more important than “payment connection”:

大众点评APP独立用户数去年就已经超8000万,都是来自于真实口碑用户,用得着去买微信入口?别以为有个入口就能翻云覆雨,当年口碑网挟雅虎巨大流量和资源冲击大众点评,结果怎样,现在还有人知道么。O2O不是互联网人玩概念玩出来的,那是踏踏实实沉下心来做线下做出来的。

Dianping’s independent users have risen to over 80 million last year. Does it need to buy a WeChat entrance? Don’t think you can do everything by owning an entrance. Don’t forget the Koubei.com case, which had battled with Dianping using high traffic and resources from Yahoo, but ended in failure. O2O needs down-to-earth offline work rather than playing around with Internet concepts.

February 22 2014

South Korean Figure Skater Yuna Kim's ‘Robbed’ Sochi Gold Becomes Photoshop Meme

From elaborate posts, incredulous reactions and downright curses, net users, not limited to South Koreans, erupted in anger when Russian figure skater Adelina Sotnikova won gold over South Korean figure-skating legend Yuna Kim at the women's free skating event at Sochi.

Immediately after the results were announced, many questioned the crowning of Sotnikova, and even an insider alleged that the competition was rigged. News reports began to appear on the judges’ panel for the women’s free skate, which was comprised of four judges from Eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Estonia, and Slovakia). The Russian judge is famously married to the general director and past president of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia, and the Ukrainian judge has a shameful past record of receiving a year-long suspension for a vote-trading deal.

For many online, it appeared to be a case of stolen gold for South Korea's beloved figure skating queen. Some net users took a proactive approach: an online petition demanding an investigation into the scoring decisions and a do-over judgment received 1.9 million signatures in less than two days. Others vented their anger with humor, giving way to images mocking the Russian player's stumble [ko] by photoshopping her into different scenes.  

I think I've seen her at a B-boy dance competition.

[Fake correction request] I heard that woman is a cover dancer for Exo [K-pop boy group], please remove your wrong post.

Many jokes were made about possible revenge at the 2018 Olympics, which will be hosted by South Korean city of Pyeongchang:

There were so many hilarious tweets about this result. One says, “Wait till we host the Olympics at Pyeongchang. We will make you watch [famous speed skater of South Korea] Lee Sang-hwa winning a gold medal at figure skating”. One tweeted, “The rigging? We have a few tricks up our sleeve for that. It would be none other than our National Intelligence Service and prosecutors who will be judging the Pyeongchang Olympic games” [a reference to the spy agency's election meddling scandal].

They say this is a preview of the Pyeongchang Olympics. [The photoshopped image shows a traditional drum performer figure-skating] lol.lol.

The real champion of women’s figure skating at the Olympics is … him.

Top Chinese Journalist Criticized for Giving Birth in the US

One of China's top journalists and TV anchors, Chai Jing, has caused a stir online after she gave birth in the US, with some netizens calling her a “traitor” or a “liberal hypocrisy”.

After pictures of Chai holding a newborn baby at an airport were published online, reports surfaced that she had given birth to a daughter in the US in October 2013. Obviously, the benefit is that the child becomes US citizen.

A highly respected reporter in China, Chai is known for her sharpness, persistence and her direct, cut-to-the point interview technique. She made her name for covering the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.  

Chai Jing holding a newborn baby at an airport (Picture from Sina Weibo)

Chai Jing holding a newborn baby at an airport. Photo from Sina Weibo

Chai giving birth in the US has disappointed a lot of her fans, with many calling her hypocritical.   

Netizen “Tan” wrote:

我们应该明白一点,公知们抨击或批评这个生他养他的国家,不是爱这个国家而是为了有天有扑向美欧等国家怀抱的资本。什么人批评这个国家的不足才是真心的?只有永远是中国人的我们。

We should understand that these public figures attack or criticize their home country, not because they love this country but one day have the capability to embrace the United States, Europe and other countries. Which kind of people who criticize this country are more sincere? Only those who will always be Chinese.

However, a large number of people also expressed their support. Some were sad about the emigration trend among China’s middle class, calling for reflection among Chinese top leaders:

不懂怎么念燊微博达人:非常现实,高层应该反思为何这样,柴静看到未来,她有能力为自己孩子选择一个更为公平公正,制度健全的国家,别人没道理评论。想想自己有能力会不会加入美国籍就懂了。

Very realistic, higher-ups should reflect on why things like this happen. When thinking about the future, she has the ability to select a country with a more fair, equal and sound system for his child. It’s not for anyone else to comment on. If you have the ability, would you become a US citizen? Think about it and you will understand.

文人医生:自己不能改变现状,手中没有选票,为什么孩子还不能改变?柴静在哪里生孩子是自己的自由和私事。

We ourselves cannot change the status quo in this country, we do not have the votes, why can’t we make a change for our children? It’s Chai Jing’s own freedom and personal matter to decide where her child should be born.  

Commentator Liu Xuesong wrote [zh]:

个人爱不爱这个国家,最重要的不是看他把孩子生在哪里,而是看他在这个国家的公民角色中,担了多少当,做了多少有益的事。这个国家值不值得爱,倒是与这个国家的集体意识中,是否展示了大爱的包容、和谐、友善等宽厚本色,是否将注意力放在了富强、公正、文明等向上向善的追求上有关。

Whether one is patriotic or not, the most important thing is not to find out where the child was born, but to see his role as a citizen in this country, and how many good deeds he has done. Whether if it is worth it to love this country has something to do with the collective consciousness of this country, whether it shows love, harmony, friendliness and generosity and whether it focuses on the prosperity, justice and civilization.

Another netizen wrote [zh]:

有网民说,他只是希望孩子有比较正常的生活方式,无关爱国。也许,这才是为政者应该反思的问题。

Some netizens said that she only wants the child to have a more normal lifestyle, which has nothing to do with patriotism. Perhaps, this is the problem the government should reflect on.

February 20 2014

Ethnic North Korean Schools in Japan Face Ever-Hostile Situation

Koreans living in Japan‘ is a vague word glueing very different groups together under the same umbrella term. Based on their affiliation to North/South Korea and the timing of diaspora (whether it happened before/after the Japanese imperial rule during the World War 2 ear), each sub-group goes by a different name, sharing little similarities. Stark division between them is once again solidified by education system; North Koreans in Japan attend a special ethnic school that resembles ones that are in North Korea. Markus Bell, after visiting one North Korean school in Japan, wrote an extensive report on multiple threats those schools face, with some background information about the concerned ethnic group, as the financial help from their home country has been significantly reduced and also funding from the Japanese government was recently cut off. 

Searching for Blame in Deadly South Korean Building Collapse

Ten college students were killed and 105 injured in a building collapse in South Korea on February 17, 2014. In a country where the dreadful memories of the Sampoong disaster, which claimed over 500 lives, and other deadly collapses are still fresh among adults, online venues have been flooded with concerns over the repeated safety lapses and discussions on who or what to blame for incidents such as these.

The accident occurred as heavy snow caved in the roof of a building where 500 freshmen from the Pusan University of Foreign Studies were staying for two days of orientation events before embarking on their very first semester there.

Some initial media reports pointed to fingers at the student council for organizing the event [ko] without the university's supervision and specifically, for choosing that location, or at the Mother Nature. Unusually heavy snow [ko] far exceeding the region's average precipitation hit the city of Gyeongju for several consecutive days, and the sheer weight of the snow is reported to have put so much pressure on the facility's steel panels that they snapped.

However, as investigation progressed, many seemed to reach the conclusion that this may have been a preventable manmade disaster after all. The collapsed building Manua Ocean Resort was built rather hastily in only two and a half months [ko], and since construction finished in 2009, it had never had a single regular safety check-up [ko].

It is not like the building was shelled; it collapsed only because of the heaping piles of snow. The first ones to blame are the ones who built that building and who are in charge of the building's maintenance. Why do some people keep talking about how the college had a shortage of funds so the student council had to choose a cheaper location for the orientation?

How do such things keep happening, despite all the money spent [to enhance] the construction sector, and even after we had a department store and a bridge collapse? 

Collapse of the Sampoong Department StoreHwaseong Sealand disasterIncheon Bar fire [ko], Taean Seaside bootcamp disaster… All those manmade disasters, have we learnt nothing from them? This Gyeongju Mauna resort disaster – as a person who has children, I feel so miserable and also furious.

There is a similar pattern between the Gyeongju resort facility collapse and the recent mass credit card data breach: our society's “risk-taking” culture. They are all focused on starting new things, but don't pay as much attention to possible risks ahead nor give extra care to maintenance.

This is a photo from the Gyeongju Mauna Report collapse scene, shared by a net user of online community site ‘I Love Soccer'.

February 19 2014

Hong Kong Protesters Target Shopping Mainland Chinese Tourists

Anti-mainland Chinese protest in Tsim Sha Tsui on February 2014. Photo from United Social Press by Nathan Tsui.

An anti-mainland Chinese protest in Tsim Sha Tsui in February 2014. Photo from United Social Press by Nathan Tsui.

[The author of this post is a volunteer editor for news site inmediahk.net, which is quoted in this report.]

A protest against mainland Chinese tourists took place in the most crowded shopping district in Tsim Sha Tsui in Hong Kong on February 17, 2014, with about a hundred protesters yelling at mainland Chinese tourists and calling them “locusts”.

The total number of tourists in Hong Kong in 2012 reached 48 million, with 72 percent coming from mainland China and most of them under the “individual visit scheme“. It has been estimated that the number of tourists would rise to more than 54 million visits in 2013, with 75 percent coming from mainland China and 67 percent under the “individual visit scheme”, half of which were coming from Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

Though the huge number of tourists has contributed to Hong Kong's economic growth, it has generated a number of social problems. In addition to the seemingly always overcrowded shopping districts, hopping the border to shop for daily necessities has led to the shortage of goods such as infant milk powder and medicines. Shops that serve local communities’ needs have been turning into luxury good shops for mainland Chinese nouveau riche or pharmacies that sell infant milk powder and medicines for professional cross-border carriers.

However, as the “anti-locust” action targeted individual tourists rather than policymakers, only about a hundred joined the protest. The next day, a number of key government officials criticized the act as “barbaric”.

Indeed, many people disagreed with the action. For example, blogger “Montwithin” found the protesters, who claimed that they were “localists”, unreasonable:

今天的「本土」經常口中念念有詞要「反共」[...],但從來不敢去挑戰共產黨的軍政機關[...],對共產黨政權的極權、壓制自由和人權沒有半點批評,反而喜歡攻擊在「中港矛盾」上立場跟他們不一樣的香港人,説穿了祇不過是黨同伐異而已。到現在更變本加厲去騷擾沒有任何反抗能力的遊客,就跟義和拳一樣,是欺善怕惡。
如果要說遊客太多社會不勝負荷,那控訴的對象就應該是政府,問它爲什麽不採取任何措施減少這個問題。

The so-called “localists” in Hong Kong today claimed that they are against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) […] yet they seldom challenge the Chinese communist institutions and criticize the human rights violations and authoritative nature of the CCP regime. Instead, they like to attack those Hong Kong people who don't share their views when it comes to the “Hong Kong and China conflict”. They cannot agree to disagree. Now, they even harass tourists who can't fight back. They act like the Boxer Rioters [in Qing Dynasty] by choosing the weak to attack.

Even if society has been overwhelmed by the huge number of tourists, they should direct their anger at the government and demand policy changes.

But Lam Shui-Bun pointed out that the “barbaric act” is a reaction to the government's refusal to address the problem:

梁振英政府一直對大力發展旅遊業所帶來社會問題視而不見,導致族群衝突的炸彈爆發,有市民竟然要直接向內地旅客表達不滿。因此,香港政府才是族群衝突的始作俑者,是香港的可悲。
不論香港政府如何企圖增加旅遊景點,其實旺角、尖沙咀、銅鑼灣等熱門遊客區也是旅客必到之處,不能夠無限量增加旅客數目。旅客為香港帶來的擠迫,以及社會資源分配問題,香港人每日也感受得到。大力發展旅遊產業,所帶來的資本摧毀了本土特色的小店文化,更帶動了租金和物價上漲,香港人每日也感受得到。旅遊業所帶來的大部份經濟收益,通通流到大財團和資本家的口袋裡,普羅市民根本沒有明顯的得益,香港人每日也感受到。試問香港人又怎會不憤怒呢?

Leung Chun-ying's government had been playing dumb in regard to the problems brought by tourism and the explosion of cross-border social conflicts. [Instead of demanding the government to address the problem], people expressed their anger directly at the tourists. The Hong Kong government should be responsible for such conflict. The incident also reflected the pathetic situation in Hong Kong.

The government wanted to solve the problem by investing in more touristic spots, but the existing shopping districts in Mongkok, Tsim Sha Shui and Causeway Bay are still the “must visit” sites. These districts can no longer take in more tourists. Moreover, the city is overcrowded with tourists and people can feel the uneven distribution of social resources. The capital investing in the tourist sector has killed local shops and pushed up rent and inflation. The economic benefits are in the pockets of big corporations and capitalists, and ordinary Hong Kong people have gained very little. How can they not get angry?

Jonathan Chan, on the other hand, criticized the protesters for ruining the campaign:

一次絕劣的政治行動,又將本來努力構建的理論正當性被推翻了。[...] 這次「驅蝗遊行」另一個秀逗的地方,是參與者口叫「反殖民」,卻舉著港英旗。[...] 不但會含糊了反對自由行的目標,而且「政治不正確」,給建制派扣「港英餘孽」帽子的籍口。

A extremely poor political action has ruined all the justifiable reasons [for policy changes]. A highly funny scene is that the protesters chanted an “anti-colonialism” slogan during the “anti-locust” rally while holding the British colonial flag […] An action like that has distorted the objective of bringing change to the “individual visit scheme”, and it also has provided an opportunity for the pro-government political forces to label them as “colonial leftover subjects” because of the flag's “political incorrectness”.

Judging from the reaction on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo as translated by Mitch Blatt from China Hush, the British flag did generate public opinion in mainland China that may justify the Beijing government's policy in Hong Kong:

洋羽君在倭国:Haha, raising the British colonial flag to oppose colonialism, this wave of Hong Kong people is really cool. Except for yelling the slogans “Chinaman,” “locusts,” and “independence,” what other tricks do you have? Would singing a big imperial country’s national song make you feel strong? God Save the Queer, Oh, no, I mean Queen.
深情拥浮云:Raising the Union Jack to oppose imperialism. That’s a really good joke.
nbcherry:What do they mean by waving the British era flag? Being a dog for your compatriots isn’t as good as being a British running dog?
渣熊josh:I think British people are laughing until they cry.
XDH-谢: Really funny! If all the people holding up the Union Jack could go to England, then Hong Kong wouldn’t feel so crowded!

Assessing Myanmar's Democratic Transition

Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, concluded his mission by assessing the country's democratic transition:

For the time being, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of Myanmar. State institutions in general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of Government. Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in Myanmar.

He also talked aboout the challenges facing the media sector:

I met journalists who described a prevailing climate of uncertainty and fear of arrest, particularly if reporting dealt with issues too close to the interests of the military or other powerful elites.

China: A Survey of City Pollution

Greenpeace has released its 2013 survey on air pollution in China. Dan Harris suggested foreign corporates should consider the index before picking their offices’ locations. The summary of the Greenpeace report in English can be found in China Hush.

China: Protest to Call for Respect for Sex Workers

Female students from Wuhan University in Hubei province demonstrated on Valentine's Day, calling for respect for sex workers in China. Beijing Cream has the story.

February 18 2014

Miss Online Award in Miss Indonesia Pageant

miss_indonesiaAside from presenting their beauty, charm, talent, and intelligence, contestants of the Miss Indonesia 2014 beauty pageant also learned to be tech-savvy. Special tech-related awards were given during the contest such as Miss Chatting, Miss Social Media, and Miss Online.

VIDEO: UN Report on Crimes Against Humanity in North Korea

Horrible stories about North Korea is nothing new. But this may be one of the most extensive reports worth-reading on the country's abysmal human rights condition. A new report by a UN Commission of Inquiry reveals unspeakable crimes against humanity carried out by the North Korean regime against its own people which include systematic murder, torture, rape, forced abortions, deliberate starvation, and even infanticide. The Human Rights Watch post a short video version of the report on its Youtube channel and it seems rapidly gaining traction. 

Olympics Overshadow Evictions in Tokyo

反五輪の会のフェイスブックページに投稿された写真。ロシア政府は、19世紀にアレクサンドル2世によってチェルケシア人口のおよそ90パーセントが殺害されたか土地を追われたチェルケシア虐殺についていまだ認めていない。

Photos of an anti-Olympics group in Tokyo posted on Facebook. Banners show messages of opposition to holding the Sochi Olympics on the land of genocide and the 2020 Olympics in Japan. (photo by 反五輪の会[han-gorin-no-kai] used with permission)

[All links lead to Japanese-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

While many people in Japan are happy with the country's results of the Sochi Winter Olympics – notably, Ayumu Hirano, the youngest medal winner on the snowboard half pipe and Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan's first Olympic gold in men's figure skating, just to name a few – there are some who are speaking out against the Olympics, present and future.

Given some tens of billions of dollars are used to host the international sporting event, the Olympics are never without criticism. At the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics, courtesy of the so called “anti-gay propaganda” law that Russia passed last year, the US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those absent [en]. Human Rights Watch has been urging the International Olympics Committee [en] to investigate over non-payment of compensations for construction workers for Sochi game-related facilities. Animal rights groups are anxious that the stray dogs swept out of Sochi would be killed [en]. 

But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended. Yuji Kitamaru, a Japanese columnist in New York, referred to the lack of human rights awareness in not just the leader, but its citizen:

The reason why all the European leaders being absent at the Sochi Olympics opening ceremony was because of an overwhelming domestic pressure to increase pressure on Russia, rather than the leaders themselves putting pressure on Russia. This is domestic politics rather than a diplomatic move. Abe was able to attend not just because of his lack of awareness of human rights, but also because there is a lack of human rights pressure in Japanese public opinion.

The lesser known problem may be the history of Sochi [en]. The Circassian people has demanded [en] that the Russian government acknowledges the 19th-century Muhajir [en] (Circassian Genocide), during which about 90 percent of the local Circassian population was killed or displaced by Tsar Alexander II. “NoSochi2014“ is a website created to put more pressure on the Russian government and to gather support for the cause.

Japanese anti-Olympics group “Hangorin-no-kai” showed their solidarity with NoSochi2014 and published a message on Facebook[en/ja] declaring that they do not welcome 2020 Tokyo Olympics for the forced evictions it may cause:

To the people around the globe fighting against the 2014 Sochi Olympics, we send you a message of solidarity from Tokyo, the host city of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

We understand that Sochi 2014 is being held on a land where Circassian people were massacred by the Russian Empire, and today Russia is running the games on the biggest budget in the history of the Olympics.

We also recognize that for the Olympics development, more than 2000 people were displaced from their homes and extreme levels of environmental destruction were brought to the land.

[…]

Here in Tokyo the unnecessary redevelopment for the 2020 Olympics has already started with evictions of low-income populations from their homes.

The radioactive contamination by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster is nowhere near stabilisation, let alone “under control” as Prime Minister Abe proudly announced to the IOC.

Tokyo is only swimming in the cloud of an illusion, while the people in Fukushima and many nameless radiation-exposed workers at the power plant are left without sufficient support from the state.

The Olympics is nothing but a nightmare.

What is happening in Sochi today, is what might happen to us in 6 years.

The concerns of the group are the evictions that often take place before hosting large international events. There have been cases where homeless people staying in public parks were forcefully moved out of their tents when big events took place nearby.

The group mentioned [ja] past examples on Twitter: Before the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2007 World Athletics Championships, homeless people squatting at Osaka's Nagai Park [ja] were forcefully evicted. Prior to the Aichi World Expo, tents of homeless people in Nagoya city's Shirokawa Park [ja] were forcefully removed. And, evictions in Tokyo already started in early March last year with tents and belongings of the homeless forcefully removed when an International Olympic Committee inspection group visited Tokyo.

2013年12月15日(日)反五輪の会が主催したデモの模様。写真:mkimpo.comより許可を得て掲載

Protesters organized by an anti-Olympics group march in Tokyo on December 15, 2013. Photo by mkimpo.com. Used with the permission

Eviction is not only for people squatting in public parks. According to AFP [ja], about 2,000 households at the Kasumigaoka public housing apartment in Shinjuku, Tokyo are facing eviction. Most of the residents are elderly.

A blogger named “定年おじさんのつぶやき”, which translates to “Blurbs of a Retired Old Man” wrote about the shadows of the Olympics:

日本での最初の五輪開催は、まさに日本が経済成長を遂げ先進国の仲間入りを果たしたことを世界に誇示する最高の舞台だった。
だが晴れの舞台の陰には多くの人々の犠牲がついて回る。
昔から「開発」という行為には必ず自然や環境の「破壊」ということばがついて回った。

戦争は何も生み出さない最大・最悪の「破壊」行為であるが、五輪開催という大義名分には中々反対の声は上げにくい。

とりわけ立場の弱い人たちは、「お上」の命令には逆らうことができない。
54年前、アジアで初めての五輪開催を控えて都は老朽化住宅の建て替えを始めた。

当時は建て替えられた新しいアパートに再び入居することができたが、そのアパートも逐50年も経ち高齢になった住民は、2020年の五輪に向けて追い出されることになった。

When Tokyo hosted the Olympics for the first time [in 1964], it was a great milestone to show off to the world that Japan has grown into a developed country thanks to economic growth.

But a grand occasion in the spotlight often comes with sacrifices.

Through the ages, an act of development always was followed by destruction of nature and environment.

War is the biggest, worst example of destruction that does not generate anything good, but when it comes to a good reason like the Olympics, it's hard to speak against it.

Especially marginalized people can never go against the orders of authorities.

Fifty-four years ago, Tokyo began reconstruction on old housing prior to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. People who had been asked to leave their old houses were moved to a newly built apartment building.

But that apartment building, now 50 years old, and its old residents face another eviction for the 2020 Olympics. 

For Kohei Jinno, a 79-year-old resident of the Kasumigaoka apartment building, it's his second time facing eviction because of the Olympics. According to Japan Times [en], his home and business were torn down to make way for an Olympic park around the main stadium for the Tokyo Games in 1964. Now he has been told he must move again to make way for the stadium’s redevelopment and expansion in time for 2020. 

Unlike the anti-Olympics group “Hangorin-no kai”, most people in Japan are not against hosting the games themselves, but some are against tearing down the existing stadium to build a new, larger one. 

A YouTube video made by architect Ken Aoki using Google Earth shows a 3D model based on information made public in March 2013 of the new national stadium:

Edward Suzuki, a Japanese architect, suggested on his blog fixing up the already existing national stadium rather than simply building a new one and called on people to join the campaign on online petition platform Change.org. The petition “Saving Meijijingu Gaien and National Stadium for Future Generations (unofficial translation) argues that throwing large amount of taxes away to build a new giant stadium which would be too huge, raising issues with emergency guidance and risk management in the event of disaster, will only prevent recovery efforts for areas affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011 and will destroy the city's scenery, such as Ginkgo trees and the blue sky. All this, the petition warns, will become a burden for future generations.

With the city headed toward a development push for the Olympics, Twitter user Nakajimayuki commented on the role of citizens:

Tokyo residents, as the leading actors for the city, must stay strong and pay close attention to this massive change that Tokyo will go through “for the 2020 Olympics”, not just the plan to rebuild a new stadium, so that such development will not proceed in an non-transparent way.

The thumbnail photo is from Hangorin-no-kai's Facebook page
The post was edited by L.Finch
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