Saturday, August 08, 2009

FW: China's Public Enemy

[Here is a very good article on Rebiya Kadeer, once `China's fifth richest person`, now only an exile activist for her people. I hope you will enjoy it.]

China's Public Enemy
The alleged instigator of the Uighur riots doesn't talk like a terrorist. Demonizing her may backfire on Beijing.
Article Comments (26) more in Opinion »Email Printer
Washington, D.C.

Rebiya Kadeer is undergoing a Chinese version of George Orwell's "Two Minutes Hate." Separatist, extremist, terrorist-China's state-run media has pulled out the rhetorical big guns to put her beyond the pale of civilized society. By condemning her as the mastermind of last month's riots that killed 197 people in the northwest region of Xinjiang, Beijing has transformed an exiled businesswoman and dissident into public enemy No. 1 for 1.3 billion people.

Even Ms. Kadeer's family in China has joined the campaign-under duress, she says. After blaming her for the loss of innocent lives, several of her children and other relatives exhorted her in an open letter, "Don't destroy the stable and happy life in Xinjiang. Don't follow the provocation from some people in other countries." In scenes reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, the signatories have appeared on state television to publicly disavow Ms. Kadeer.

This blood-stained image is hard to reconcile with the diminutive grandmother, dressed modestly in black, who bustles about a cramped, U.S. government-funded office a block from the White House. Ms. Kadeer may be hated by many Chinese, but the president of the World Uighur Congress inspires admiration among the nine million ethnically Turkish Uighurs in Xinjiang and two million-strong diaspora. An indication of why she inspires such strong emotions comes as she responds to the first question; she speaks with a startling intensity, perching on the edge of a folding chair.

First of all, Ms. Kadeer denies she instigated the July 5 protests in her home town of Urumqi: "I did not tell them to come out on that day or that particular time to protest. It was the six decade-long repression that has driven them to protest."

Ms. Kadeer's own life is a graphic illustration of that repression's ebb and flow. In the 1980s and early '90s, she and her fellow Uighurs benefited from Deng Xiaoping's loosening of controls in all areas of life. Like business pioneers around the country, she overcame obstacles created by Chinese officialdom to build a market stall into a business empire encompassing retail, real estate and international trade.

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Zina Saunders
Just as difficult was overcoming the Uighur community's resistance to the idea of a woman taking the lead. Ms. Kadeer's nickname was djahangir, a word of Persian origin meaning one who pushes forward regardless of the consequences.

The Uighurs are a fiercely independent people who have eked out a living in the arid Central Asian lands along ancient caravan routes and converted to Islam in the 15th century. During the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), China's Manchu rulers managed to subjugate the Uighurs and other local tribes but had to fight off periodic revolts. After the collapse of the empire, the region briefly became the East Turkestan Republic before falling under the thumb of Mao's People's Republic. Many Uighurs still harbor dreams of eventual independence.

Once Ms. Kadeer succeeded in business, both the Communist Party and the Uighurs embraced her as a leader. In the mid-1990s she became China's fifth richest person, and the party gave her a seat in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, part of the country's rubber-stamp legislature.

But the tide was already turning against the Uighurs and other minorities. New policies and appointees from Beijing led to campaigns to assimilate the Uighurs and root out all dissent. That prompted Ms. Kadeer to make a fateful choice about where her true loyalties lay. She became increasingly outspoken about policies preventing Uighurs from sharing in the fruits of economic development. Finally, in March 1997, she gave an impassioned speech before the legislature enumerating the burdens faced by her people.

Immediately the party struck back. It took away Ms. Kadeer's positions, then destroyed her businesses. Having once held her up as a model citizen, the official media tossed her accomplishments down the memory hole. Her rise from rags to riches is now said to be the result of "economic crimes," including tax evasion and swindles. In 2000, a court sent her to prison for divulging "state secrets" for trying to send newspaper clippings to her exiled husband in the U.S. In 2005 she was allowed to emigrate to the U.S. in return for a promise not to engage in politics, a promise she promptly broke.

Now Ms. Kadeer is trying to garner support for the Uighurs from that most elusive of friends, the "international community." Even as other parts of China continue to liberalize, she says, repression is intensifying in Xinjiang. She explains, for example, that there is new pressure to use Chinese rather than the Uighur language: "Even during the Mao years, he was a brutal dictator of course, but at least the Uighur people spoke their own language, and at least the Uighurs were free to live in their own courtyards." Today, the government is flooding the region with Chinese immigrants, making the Uighurs a minority in their own homeland.

Uighurs face discrimination in education, employment, religion and even the ability to move around the country or travel abroad. Farmers are losing their small plots of land and being forced into the cities. Downtown Kashgar, the Uighurs' cultural capital, is being demolished to make way for Chinese-owned real-estate developments.

But the final straw may have been a measure ostensibly designed to alleviate poverty: "Now the authorities force young, unmarried women to go to eastern China to work as cheap labor in sweatshops," Ms. Kadeer says. "And this is a really provocative policy because it is against Uighur people's culture, religion and way of life to send their unmarried daughters to far-away places they themselves have never heard of. This policy has tremendously backfired."

One such deportation (villages are required to fill a quota) provided the spark for the July 5 protests. In April, some 400 Uighur men and women were sent to work in a toy factory in the town of Shaoguan in Guangdong province. At the end of June, after a disgruntled Chinese worker circulated a rumor that the Uighurs had raped Chinese women, a mob killed at least two of the outsiders.

Video of the riot quickly circulated on the Internet within Xinjiang, along with comments by Chinese that more Uighurs should be killed, while the authorities failed to announce measures to bring those responsible to justice. The city of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, become a powder keg of discontent.

According to Chinese accounts, protests began at around 5 p.m. on July 5 in the center of Urumqi and only turned violent more than three hours later. Whether or not this shift was sparked by the police attacking protesters remains in dispute. What cannot be disputed is that Uighur rioters killed Chinese, smashed windows, and burned cars in a shocking orgy of violence.

The intensity of the anger says much about the pent-up resentment of the population, and seems to have taken the authorities by surprise: "After six decades of repression Chinese officials had become confident they had control, and they were shocked at how quickly they lost control," Ms. Kadeer says. "They realized what six decades of repression and fake autonomy could lead people to, and of course that's the failure of their policies . . ." The Party's unwillingness to accept that failure meant it needed Ms. Kadeer as a scapegoat.

The best evidence Ms. Kadeer did not instigate the riots paradoxically comes from the Chinese themselves. A documentary provided by the Foreign Ministry entitled "July 5th Riot and Rebiya Kadeer" makes it clear the Chinese were listening to Ms. Kadeer's phone conversations to China and Europe. The most damning evidence the government propagandists could come up with is that she telephoned her relatives in Xinjiang to warn them that something big was brewing.

It seems more likely the protests were organized among residents of Urumqi using cell phones and the Internet. Immediately afterward, the government shut down all telecommunications and is only now reopening the networks.

Ms. Kadeer denies having the ability to orchestrate events within Xinjiang, but she freely admits that she maintains contact with family members and friends. "Of course we have some influence, but we did not influence what took place. There is no organization there."

Two of her sons have been jailed, she says, in a bid to stop her from speaking out. "Because the Chinese government failed to silence me by imprisoning them, now they are blaming me for the protests to silence my voice in the world."

The same documentary contains a disturbing clip of Ms. Kadeer's forced confession on the eve of her release in 2005, a scene reminiscent of the war crimes confessions of American soldiers captured by the Chinese during the Korean War: "My motherland is like my parents. I was born after the Liberation, the Communist Party is an eternal benefactor. Whoever seeks to separate his country will be the enemy of his nation. . . ."

The government's insistence that any dissent is equivalent to separatism, which in turn is evidence of terrorism, explains why Uighurs have been driven to such desperation. "When Uighurs who are not happy about policies stand up to say something," Ms. Kadeer explains, "the Chinese label them as terrorists, separatists or extremists, and arrest them and in some cases execute them."

Yet she does not rule out Xinjiang remaining part of the Chinese state-so long as Uighurs have self-rule within a democratic polity.

Demonizing Ms. Kadeer as a separatist may end up backfiring on Beijing. Uighurs had failed to attract as much international support as Tibetans because they lacked a figure like the Dalai Lama to speak on their behalf. Now they have a spokeswoman who is attracting angry démarches from Chinese diplomats as she travels the world.

In the last couple weeks she has visited Tokyo and Melbourne, Australia. In Melbourne she spoke at a film festival where a documentary about her life, "The 10 Conditions of Love," was shown for the first time. After Beijing failed to convince festival organizers to withdraw the documentary, Chinese filmmakers withdrew their own movies in a move widely seen as government-orchestrated.

Ms. Kadeer is not phased by the pressure, and indeed her stubbornness is again coming to the fore. She seems to have drawn a lesson from the failure of the Dalai Lama's softly, softly approach: Beijing only respects strength. She is determined to stir the pot, not turn the other cheek, in order to force China to the negotiating table.

Asked whether Uighurs should wait for the advent of democracy in China, she answers that by that time they may have lost their cultural identity. As difficult as it may be, the onus is on her and other Uighurs abroad to pressure the Chinese government into talks on greater autonomy: "I urge peace to the Uighurs," she says, "they should remain peaceful no matter what happens, because the Chinese government will use any excuse to further crack down on them. So it is up to us, it is our responsibility to negotiate with the Chinese government to resolve the situation on the ground."

But the immediate outlook for the Uighurs looks bleak. as China's top government official, Nur Bekri, has promised to crack down with an "iron hand." Ms. Kadeer claims that 10,000 Uighurs were rounded up after the violence.

Perhaps even more frightening is the way in which the government's efforts to obscure the real roots of the riots are stirring up Chinese nationalism. The day after the Urumqi protests, a Chinese mob took to the streets looking for Uighurs. "The . . . Chinese government is indoctrinating its own people with ultranationalism," Ms. Kadeer says. "It used to be the security forces arresting and killing Uighurs. Now it is the Chinese mobs themselves [who] are after Uighurs, both in Shaoguan and Urumqi. They know they can kill Uighurs and the police will turn a blind eye and just say it is a clash between peoples."

Perhaps the worst-case scenario for China is the possibility that some other individual will emerge as the "mastermind" of the Uighur movement. As a religiously moderate and largely secular figure, Ms. Kadeer is somebody Beijing might negotiate with.

But Beijing's efforts to portray resistance in Xinjiang as another front in the war on terror could become a self-fulfilling prophecy if Islamic fundamentalism takes root among the restive Uighurs and the global forces of jihad begin to target China. The need to avert that tragedy is the best argument for China to acknowledge its past mistakes in Xinjiang and end the campaign to demonize Rebiya Kadeer.

Mr. Restall is the editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review and a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Our begums and their hair pulling still continues

You would think that enough has happened in the past two years and with all that is happening in the country, our begums (I call them our Pharaohs) might have superior things to do. Yet the `chul tana tani` continues.

None was to be surprised to see that the things in grand scale have not change a bit. With return of the Pharaohs to the throne, there come all the monsters crawling back to the capital. Some came just before the elections. Others, relatively more decorative monsters, came just after the election from their hiding place overseas. This was long predicted, no bingo moment there.

Even so, what's up with this petty leg pulling? Or Should I say girl's hair pulling fight? In local language it is called `chul tana tani`.

Apparently, over 300 roaring voice (or should I say ba ba) with over 90% majority in the parliament is not enough. Seeing two golden boys of her twin Pharaoh feeding away from country (in local language it is called `desh chara`) in their own merits is not enough. Must she be evicted from the home with memories of her late husband?

I hope this is just a girl fight. I hope this is not any deeper then that. I am very optimistic, but I have to confess that things are not looking good. Some are already seeing the Deja Vu of 1973 election. Here we see another Sheikh, another election with ultimate majority. Will Bangladesh face the same old fate? We will see.

Babu Solaiman

[In the news]

Bangladesh PM threatens to evict archrival

DHAKA (AFP) - Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has taken her feud with nemesis Khaleda Zia to a new level by threatening to evict the former premier from her home.

The two women, who have ruled the nation alternately for almost two decades, are frequently referred to as the "battling begums" for their longstanding personal animosity.

Hasina, who came to power with a landslide victory in December elections, told parliament late Wednesday that Zia was living in her house illegally.

"I will request her to leave her house in the (army) cantonment in Dhaka," the premier said.

"No member of parliament, no leader of the opposition should live in the cantonment. She should not keep the house ignoring the law. She should leave the house willingly."

The government would build apartments in the grounds around the house and give the homes to families of army officers who were slain in the February mutiny at another military base in the capital, Hasina said.

Zia, head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has lived in the army base since 1981 after her husband Ziaur Rahman, a former military chief and then president, was killed in an attempted coup.

Before the recent elections, Bangladesh was ruled for two years by a military-backed government which jailed both Hasina and Zia for a year on charges of corruption.

They were released on bail in deals with the army to ensure they took part in the elections.

The army took control because squabbling between their party supporters degenerated into deadly street violence.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The tax deductible debate: I am sold, how about you?

When the idea first surfaced by WH, like many I was skeptical at least, stunned almost. You know that news about how ultra rich folks can get tax deduction on their charitable contribution. Obama wants to cut short the amount you can deduct by limiting the effective percentage of the contribution you can deduct. I was skeptical thinking about possible negative impact that may have on the amount those people will be contributing. Not fully, but almost stun thinking about how outraged our friends in the wrong side (not the right side, lol) with a big wallet will be. You know, people like Carly Fiorina. Of course, I was equally stunned when, just before 2008 election, she demanded absolution of progressive taxing system that we have for so long. Forget rollback of bush tax cut for the rich, she wants her tax rate to be same as Joe the fake plumber. So any tax cut or roll back issue, her dumb friends in Foxy Noise would argue “well, rich get more tax cut because they gave more tax in the first place”. I say, well, what gave “in the first place” is what we call progressive tax. That is well settle reality, there is no point going there.


But today in presidential press conference, Obama was asked the very same question. I had to shift focus from playing with my two year old to TV screen. Obama’s answer was to the point and in plain English, almost custom made just for me. Basically his point is, if Warren Buffet and his secretary both donate $100 to Red Cross, why would Warren Buffet get 39 dollars of it back, while his secretary get only say 20 dollars back? That is not fare, is that? I am sold by his argument. How about you?


Here is Obama's little long answer on the question from Politico's Mike Allen. Okay, I know, it is kind of long. By now we are getting used to this type of extended press conference form our new president. I know, he is trying to sell his product, but never the less I am enjoying it. It is better to here from the man in charge than those pundits in the Pandora box.


QUESTION: Mr. President, are you -- (takes mic) -- thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. Are you reconsidering your plan to cut the interest-rate deduction for mortgages and for charities? And do you regret having proposed that in the first place?


PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I think it’s -- I think it’s the right thing to do.


Where we’ve got to make some difficult choices -- here’s what we did with respect to tax policy. What we said was that over the last decade, the average worker, the average family have seen their wages and incomes flat. Even at times where supposedly we were in the middle of an economic boom, as a practical matter their incomes didn’t go up. And so (what/well ?) we said -- let’s give them a tax cut. Let’s give them some relief, some help -- 95 percent of American families.


Now, for the top 5 percent, they’re the ones who typically saw huge gains in their income. I -- I fall in that category. And what we’ve said is, for those folks, let’s not renew the Bush tax cuts. So let’s go back to the rates that existed back in -- during the Clinton era, when wealthy people were still wealthy and doing just fine. And let’s look at the level at which people can itemize their deductions.


And what we’ve said is let’s go back to the rate that existed under Ronald Reagan.


People are still going to be able to make charitable contributions. It just means if you give $100 and you’re in this tax bracket, at a certain point, instead of being able to write off 36 (percent) or 39 percent, you’re writing off 28 percent. Now, if it’s really a charitable contribution, I’m assuming that that shouldn’t be the determining factor as to whether you’re giving that hundred dollars to the homeless shelter down the street.


And so this provision would effect about 1 percent of the American people. They would still get deductions. It’s just that they wouldn’t be able to write off 39 percent. In that sense, what it would do is it would equalize. When I give $100, I get the same amount of deduction as when some -- a bus driver who’s making $50,000 a year or $40,000 a year gives that same hundred dollars. Right now, he gets 28 percent -- he gets to write off 28 percent, I get to write off 39 percent. I don’t think that’s fair.


So I think this was a good idea. I think it is a realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who benefitted enormously over the last several years. It’s not going to cripple them.


They’ll still be well-to-do. And, you know, ultimately if we’re going to tackle the serious problems that we’ve got, then in some cases those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more.


Full transcript:






Friday, March 20, 2009

Excerpts from the Conversation on Kashmir with Arundhati Roy

Here are some excerpts from the "Conversation on Kashmir with Arundhati Roy", an interview aired on February 4, 2009.

"I don't know if I need to keep on saying this because everyone knows it now, but still, for the record-more than half a million soldiers in the valley of Kashmir, which somebody in America wrote saying it was the equivalent of the entire U.S. Army and the entire Marine Corps deployed in Minnesota, sort of like that; 165,000 American soldiers in Iraq. Between 500,000 and 700,000 Indian security personnel in the valley of Kashmir."

"A lot of even liberal Indians say that the polls were free and fair. First of all, the first question you have to ask yourself is, when you have that kind of a densely deployed army, can you have free and fair elections? Is it at all possible?"

"In fact, the day I left Kashmir all these defeated independent candidates were having a press conference in this restaurant called Ahdoo's talking about how they had all been paid by the Intelligence Bureau sums of money to stand for election, and then some of them weren't given that money, so now they are disgruntled."

"But, then again, I don't think that it will always be possible to manage it, because eventually I do think that the price of holding down the Kashmir valley, which was being paid mostly by Indian soldiers, who are mostly poor people from India who don't count, was suddenly being paid by the Indian elite in five-star hotels in Bombay. That puts a totally different spin on things."

"It makes us complicit in the holding down by military force of a people, it makes us complicit in the propaganda, it makes us complicit in the lies. And eventually it makes us people who are unable to look things in the eye."

"So if you were to question the average Indian, the only thing they know is that there are terrorists in Kashmir. They wouldn't be able to tell you that 60,000 or 70,000 people have died in this war. They wouldn't be able to tell you about the dubious morality of India holding on to this place. They say Kashmir is an atut ang, which means an inseparable limb of India."

"And I did sense that there wasn't any possibility of the Indian state-and it's wrong for me to just say the Indian state, because Indian society in places like Gujarat and Maharashtra or even in Bombay-to continue to marginalize such a vast majority-only in India can 150 million people be a minority, 150 million Muslims in India-and to continue to bulldoze this population in Kashmir. Eventually all that can come out of it is destruction. All that come out of it is people wanting to take you down with them. If you push them to a stage where there is no possibility of any access to justice, even if 99% of them decide to put their heads down and suffer, 1% is enough to destroy life as you knew it."

Conversation on Kashmir with Arundhati Roy and David Barsamian

Full transcript:


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The rush to `resist the effort to group us`

By now you probably came across some of the media lambo jumbo on Rush Limbaugh, the presumed `head of republicans party` or at least the `conservatives`. Not too bad, what you say? After Sharah the dumber and Joe the fake plumber, what else do you get?

However, one thing he said gave me a re-look on the whole idea about these `conservatives` or so called `religious right`.

On defining conservatives, Rush has said following.

"But we do understand, as people created and endowed by our creator, we're all individuals. We resist the effort to group us."

Later I found out, this is one of the core ideas behind conservatism. The conservative individualist philosophy is a conservative worldview that glorifies hyper-individualism.

As he said "when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don't see groups".

Some times we get confuse on how I can define me. Are we conservative or liberal? Are we conservative leaning or liberal leaning? Especially when you mix few sprinkle of religion on the mix, it become very confusing. Or that is what I thought!

So conservatives love the idea of individuals and want to `resist the effort to group us`. Wow! That is a polar opposite on where I stand.

That is not what my leader told us. Instead, in his last sermon, he told us that we are like brothers to each other. He told us that we from one brotherhood.

That is not what my God told us. Instead, He told us that we all are in a single entity, `a single brotherhood` (21:92) and (49:10). He told us that we `are protectors and supporters one of another` (9:71). He warn us by saying `be not like those who are divided amongst themselves` (3:105)

So, dare to be in `We resist the effort to group us`? That's your choice.