China jails tainted milk activist Zhao Lianhai

26 Nov

A grieving woman protests outside the Ministry of Health in Beijing (May 2009)
Some 300,000 children were made ill and at least six babies died after drinking the tainted milk

A Chinese activist who campaigned for compensation for victims of a 2008 contaminated baby milk scandal has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Zhao Lianhai, whose child was among the 300,000 made ill by the milk, was convicted of inciting social disorder.

Mr Zhao founded a website to provide information for parents after it was found milk formula had been laced with the industrial chemical melamine to give it a high protein-content reading.

At least six babies died.

“It is such a harsh sentence,” Mr Zhao’s lawyer Li Fangping told the Associated Press news agency.

“The crimes he was accused of were nothing more than what regular citizens would do to defend their rights.”

Mr Zhao’s wife, Li Xuemei, said the sentence was unacceptable.

“We will appeal. This is something we have to do,” she was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying after the verdict was delivered in Beijing.

Catherine Baber of Amnesty International told BBC World Service that parents of the victims were now “devastated and disillusioned”.

Mr Zhao had previously worked for the country’s food quality and safety authority.

Major embarrassment

Melamine is normally used to make plastics, fertilisers and concrete.

When added to food products it indicates a higher apparent protein content but can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.

In 2008, melamine was found in the products of 22 Chinese dairy companies – one out of every five suppliers in China.

More than 20 people were convicted for their roles in the scandal, and three people were given the death penalty.

The incident led to a worldwide recall of Chinese dairy products, and was a major embarrassment for the leadership, who vowed to tackle the problem and restore consumer confidence.

Mr Zhao’s sentence comes at a time when China is facing intense scrutiny over the amount of criticism it tolerates from its own people.



Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo

26 Nov

Liu Xiaobo in Oct 28, 2008
Liu Xiaobo: Jailed for 11 years in December 2009

Jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo has been named the winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Making the announcement in Oslo, the head of the Norwegian Nobel committee said Mr Liu was “the foremost symbol” of the human rights struggle in China.

Several countries including the US, France and Germany, called for his immediate release.


China said the award could damage ties with Norway, and summoned the country’s ambassador in Beijing in protest.

Norwegian Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland admitted he knew the choice would be controversial.

He told local television before the announcement: “You’ll understand when you hear the name.”

‘Curtailed freedom’

Mr Jagland, reading the citation, said China’s new status in the world “must entail increased responsibility”.

“China is in breach of several international agreements to which it is a signatory, as well as of its own provisions concerning political rights.”

Continue reading the main story


Martin PatienceBBC News, Beijing

In the weeks leading up to this announcement, Beijing was very strong in its statements. It said that Liu Xiaobo was not a suitable candidate. Beijing regards him as a criminal and said the award could damage relations between China and Norway.

Many Chinese people will see this as an attack by the West on what they stand for and certainly many nationalists will see this as an example of the West trying to demonise China.

The statement of the Nobel Peace Prize committee will not get a lot of traction with ordinary people. The authorities have very effectively given him no publicity whatsoever.

Mr Jagland said that, in practice, freedoms enshrined in China’s constitution had “proved to be distinctly curtailed for China’s citizens”.

He said the choice of Mr Liu had become clear early in the selection process.

Mr Liu, 54, was a key leader in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Last year he received an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion” after drafting Charter 08 – which called for multi-party democracy and respect for human rights in China.

The Nobel Foundation citation read: “Liu has consistently maintained that the sentence violates both China’s own constitution and fundamental human rights.”

It praised Mr Liu for his “long and non-violent struggle” and highlighted its belief in a “close connection between human rights and peace”.

Ending the citation, Mr Jagland said: “The campaign to establish universal human rights in China is being waged by many Chinese, both in China itself and abroad.

“Through the severe punishment meted out to him, Liu has become the foremost symbol of this wide-ranging struggle for human rights in China.”

Click to play

Liu Xiaobo’s wife talks to the BBC about visiting her husband

Beijing quickly condemned the award, saying it could damage China-Norway relations.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said: “Liu Xiaobo is a criminal who violated Chinese law. It’s a complete violation of the principles of the prize and an insult to the peace prize itself for the Nobel committee to award the prize to such a person.”

Later Norway said its ambassador in Beijing had been summoned to the Chinese foreign ministry.

“They wanted to officially share their… disagreement and their protest,” a Norwegian spokeswoman said.

“We emphasised that this is an independent committee and the need to continue good bilateral relations,” she added.

Unlike other Nobel prizes, which are administered in Sweden, the peace prize is awarded in Oslo by a committee appointed by the Norwegian parliament.

Continue reading the main story

10 Years of Peace Prize Winners

  • 2010: Liu Xiaobo
  • 2009: Barack Obama
  • 2008: Martti Ahtisaari
  • 2007: Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • 2006: Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank
  • 2005: IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei
  • 2004: Wangari Maathai
  • 2003: Shirin Ebadi
  • 2002: Jimmy Carter
  • 2001: Kofi Annan and the United Nations

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said it would be “negative for China’s reputation in the world” if it chose to punish his country over the award.

Mr Liu’s wife, Liu Xia, said she was “so excited” by the award.

She told AFP news agency: “I want to thank everyone for supporting Liu Xiaobo. I strongly ask that the Chinese government release Liu.”

Mrs Liu said police had informed her they would take her to Mr Liu’s prison in the north-eastern province of Liaoning on Saturday so she could give him the news.

The prize is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.5m; £944,000) and will be awarded in Oslo on 10 December.

US President Barack Obama said Mr Liu had “has sacrificed his freedom for his beliefs” and called for his speedy release.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said China should free him so he could attend the ceremony.

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also welcomed the award and also called on China to release Mr Liu.

Click to play

Thorbjoern Jagland with the citation

UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said the prize recognised a “very prominent human rights defender”.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International said Mr Liu was a “worthy winner”.

But Catherine Baber, Amnesty’s deputy Asia-Pacific director, added: “This award can only make a real difference if it prompts more international pressure on China to release Liu, along with the numerous other prisoners of conscience languishing in Chinese jails.”

No candidates are announced ahead of the peace prize but others mentioned in the media included Afghan women’s rights activist Sima Samar, Russian human rights activist Svetlana Gannushkina, former German chancellor Helmut Kohl and Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Nobel committee had to defend last year’s controversial peace prize choice of US President Barack Obama.


Nobel Peace Laureates in Hiroshima for Nuclear Call

26 Nov

From the BBC:

Past winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are in the Japanese city of Hiroshima to call for nuclear disarmament.

Hiroshima, devastated by an atomic bomb in 1945, was chosen to highlight the anti-nuclear message.

They are also to call for the release of jailed Chinese activist Liu Xiaobo, who was awarded the prize last month for his campaign for human rights.

Laureates noted Mr Liu’s absence as well as Burma’s detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December after co-writing the Charter 08 document, which called for peaceful democratic reform in China.

The Chinese authorities called his Nobel award an “obscenity” and said Mr Liu would not be allowed to collect the prize in person in Oslo next month.

Mr Liu is being represented at the meeting in Hiroshima by his friend, Wu’er Kaixi, one of the student leaders of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement.

In a BBC interview, Mr Wu’er said that since Tiananmen, the rest of the world had failed to hold successive Chinese governments to account for their record on human rights.

‘Hatred overcome’

The three-day meeting is being held outside of Europe for the first time to draw attention to the devastating power of nuclear weapons.

At the opening ceremony, laureates were given necklaces made of paper cranes – symbols of peace in Japan – by local school children.

A survivor of the Hiroshima attack, Akihiro Takahashi, who was a boy when the US dropped the bomb, addressed the meeting.

“I hate atomic bombs, but I know we cannot erase hatred by hating others. Hatred has to be overcome,” he said.

Amid “growing concerns of a new global nuclear race and the threats posed by international terrorism, it becomes mandatory to find, and swiftly take, concrete actions in order to achieve global nuclear disarmament,” a statement from the organisers said.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, is leading the meeting. Former IAEA chief Mohamed Elbaradei and former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk are also in attendance.

Last year’s winner US President Barack Obama declined to attend but praised the efforts of the summit.

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, who received the award in 1990 for his part in ending the Cold War, pulled out for health reasons.


China: US Should Adopt Principled China Policy

26 Nov
Nine Groups Urge Action Prior to US-China Summit
OCTOBER 21, 2010

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and China’s Vice Premier Wang Qishan attend a joint news conference for the US-China Strategic Economic Dialogue at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 25, 2010.

© 2010 Reuters

Secretary Clinton has taken an important step towards overcoming her comments last year that human rights ‘shouldn’t interfere’ in the US-China relationship. But that momentum has to translate into specific policies and practices in order to be more than just rhetoric.

Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – American policy toward China should reflect a more principled, high-profile approach to human rights in China, said a group of human rights advocates and China experts in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The letter was sent by Amnesty International, the Foreign Policy Initiative, Freedom House, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, Project 2049, Reporters Without Borders, and the Uighur American Association.

The letter applauds President Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton for the support shown to the October 2010 awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese government critic Liu Xiaobo, but urges Clinton to take a series of steps prior to the US-China summit, tentatively scheduled for January 2011, between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Specific recommendations include:

  • Reinforcing the commitments made in Clinton’s statement on Liu’s Nobel victory by raising the cases of those who have been harassed by virtue of their association with Liu Xiaobo or Charter ’08, and by enlisting the assistance of other Cabinet members who meet regularly with Chinese officials to raise human rights concerns;
  • Reaching out to the Chinese people with messages of support for universally-recognized human rights as a key element of productive US-China relations; and
  • Making a specific and public effort to meet in Beijing and Washington with Chinese, Uighur, and Tibetan democracy and human rights defenders, and ordinary Chinese citizens.

The letter notes the Secretary’s recent comments on the importance of human rights and freedoms, in which she stressed the need to support human rights advocates, and that “when fundamental freedoms need a champion, people turn to [the US]…not just to engage but to lead.”

“Secretary Clinton has taken an important step towards overcoming her comments last year that human rights ‘shouldn’t interfere’ in the US-China relationship,” said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But that momentum has to translate into specific policies and practices in order to be more than just rhetoric.”


China’s Cyberposse

26 Nov

Great NYT article about the growing power of ‘netizens’ in China can be found here

Charles Zhang (张朝阳):Without Reform There is No Way Out

26 Nov

I was a student and scholar of physics before age 30. Until now, I have been to many countries, and have been part of many things. I have many thoughts on a lot of subjects. So please let me spend some time to talk about this today.

In Year 2049, many of us who are sitting here today will still be alive, and we will have many children and grandchildren. By that time, will all Chinese be able to live happily and with dignity, and have a lot of face in front of Americans? And will China be respected by the world? This has everything to do with now, with every person. Between now and the happy life in 2049 there are still a lot of barriers; whether we can arrive at the glorious shore critically depends on the choices we make today being wise or stupid. By that time, if the rise of China and wealth becomes a delusion, our descendants will point their fingers at us and say: What has your generation done? How can you be this stupid?

Chinese are the most hardworking people in the world. Confucian culture requires us to be practical, striving forward in life, always moving upstream. With a little opportunity we can make wealth; with few resources we can flourish. Chinese government officials are the most hardworking officials in the world. Chinese society has a much lower tolerance for corruption than Russia, Brazil and India. The thirty years of market reform have given hardworking Chinese opportunities; workers in the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River Delta have been working on production lines day and night with low salaries, and our Confucian leaders in every city and region also work day and night, under the competitive pressure of neighboring cities or regions and the pressure of being promoted, leading their subordinates, running on the road of accumulating wealth. The hardworking culture of the Chinese and the marketization of the manufacturing industry created the miracle of “Made in China.” The mid and lower stream of the world’s consumer product chain are almost monopolized by cheap Chinese products. This is the reason for our economic miracle over the last 30 years.

The accomplishment of the last 30 years is tremendous, and we are therefore overwhelmed by the celebratory feeling of this success, we even feel high. Now we cannot stop talking about the rise of the great nation, excitedly (such as the Global Times) collecting any piece of praise from westerners, whom we still worship as our superiors, as if the Middle Kingdom has returned to the ancient glorious order as the center of the world, worshipped by the surrounding countries. This is an illusion! Westerners still do not think too much of us!

In fact, we have only participated in the preliminary round of the economic games. Now we have entered the final game. Our opponent is the most powerful, most advanced country – the United States. If we still keep the current status, then the intellectual thesis is: hardworking Confucian spirit + incomplete market economy vs. individualism + fair and complete market economy. I think the answer is certain and depressing: We have no way to defeat America!

The problem comes from the incomplete market economy. Quality and excellence come from full competition. Innovation comes from fair competition. And the incomplete market economy is interrupting the competition every minute.

… In the field of media, newspapers and television stations within the Chinese system lack meaningful competition, and therefore have no credibility and respect. When the Wall Street Journal, or the New York Times point to something, the whole world pays attention, and believes them. Because there is no respectable media organization, China’s global communication power is very weak. The national media team organized by the government to promote China’s brand globally is doomed to fail and has no competitive strength, because they are not a product of market competition.

You may ask, what should we do?

The answer is obvious. Continue the marketization reforms with determination. Without reform there is no way out! Without full and fair market competition, there will be no quality, no excellence, no employment opportunities, no stability, and no real rise of China.

How do we do this practically? The problem is complicated, but the fundamental point is tolimit the power of the government and to thoroughly pursue fairness. Only by realizing maximum fairness, can those talented individuals and organizations emerge, and the society can be filled with energy and creativity. Otherwise what we have developed will not be a full market economy, but the power-elite capitalism. The government should drop those actions which take profits from the society, but spend its main energy to protect fair competition.


9 Nov

The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there’s no place for it in the endeavor of science.
— Carl Sagan