BEIJING LETTER: More than 240,000 cases of embezzlement, bribery, dereliction of duty, and rights abuses were investigated from 2003 to 2009
WHILE CALLS for more democracy in China make headlines in the West, the vast majority of Chinese people are, day to day, more concerned with corrupt Communist Party officials on the take than they are the fate of jailed Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo.
The Communist Party, perennially adaptable, recognises this, and is stepping up its ongoing campaign aimed at stamping out corruption. As people get wealthier in China, they demand more of a say in how their money is spent. The sight of corrupt cadres causes tremendous social friction in China.
Jail terms handed down without any representations.
A cover of the journal “Eastern Snow Mountain.”
Three Tibetan writers detained earlier this year by Chinese authorities have been handed jail terms of three to four years for “inciting activities to split the nation,” according to sources in the region.
The three writers—Jangtse Donkho, Buddha, and Kalsang Jinpa—were tried on Oct. 28 by the Aba [in Tibetan, Ngaba] Intermediate People’s Court, but the sentences were not handed down until Thursday.
“The three Tibetan writers were sentenced for three-to-four years in jail by the Ngaba Intermediate Court on Dec. 30, 2010,” said a source from inside Tibet.
A 19-year-old Uyghur becomes the second woman sentenced to die following ethnic violence last year.
Chinese paramilitary police guard the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, July 12, 2009.
A female Uyghur student in northwestern China was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension following a trial last April on charges of participating in ethnic riots that left hundreds dead, according to a classmate.
Pezilet Ekber became the second Uyghur woman to receive the death penalty in connection to the unrest. Another woman was executed by Chinese authorities earlier this year.
“Nobody knows what exactly led to Pezilet Ekber receiving such a heavy punishment, other than her ‘involvement in violence,’ because the trial was secret and her parents were only just informed of the decision,” her classmate, who asked to remain anonymous, wrote in a letter.
The rescue of 33 trapped miners in Chile became the feelgood story of the year. Photograph: Hugo Infante/AP Politically speaking, not a lot changed and not a lot was solved in 2010. Economic hard times, disappointment with an underachieving Barack Obama, the familiar bloody slog in Afghanistan, lack of progress on climate change, sabre-rattling in east Asia and stalemate in the Middle East made it a year many will be happy to forget. But because so many problems will carry over, 2010 was also a year of living dangerously. It ends with the uncomfortable thought: that was bad, but 2011 could be worse.
Retired Party officials and press-freedoms monitoring groups call for an end to strict media controls.
A man reads a magazine beside a newsstand in Beijing, Dec. 3, 2008.
Press freedoms came under greater attack in China this year amid increased government censorship and attacks on individual journalists, according to media experts and rights monitoring groups.
In perhaps the most notable case of media control during the year, Chinese authorities blocked all news inside China of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, now serving an 11-year prison term for “subversion” after authoring a petition calling for greater freedoms in China.
In some of 2010’s most compelling images, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi emerged from her home after years in detention and an empty chair marked the absence of Liu Xiaobo from his Nobel prize ceremony.
Asia’s two human rights martyrs serve as compelling reminders that a region celebrated for its economic vibrancy also harbours some of the world’s most intractable and brutal regimes.
And despite outrage from foreign governments, and an increasing awareness among Asia’s billions who have embraced the Internet and social media, the region’s dictatorships and corrupt regimes show no sign of bending.
“There seems to have been a downturn in respect for human rights,” said Dave Mathieson from the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “There’s been a more sophisticated backlash against global human rights norms.”
Countries that had once argued that western notions of democracy were not in keeping with “Asian values” were now instead muting criticism by staging parodies of the democratic process, he said.
On today’s Commentary page, Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman documents a bad year for democracy. His list could be extended. These are troubled times for human rights.
In recent days the leader of Belarus was returned to office in a fraudulent election, and the leader of Hungary backed a bill to give himself self-censorship powers over the press.
In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was able to accurately predict that a court would convict his political opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky following a trial described by the White House as “an abusive use of the legal system.”
The United Nations now has what might be called a tyrant’s lobby whose members cheer each other on and hail each new anti-democratic power grab. Robert Mugabe, the virtual dictator of Zimbabwe, voices his support for the would-be dictator of the Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to step down after losing a presidential election.
Judges from inner China are being sent to the country’s northwest to assist in the trials of Uyghurs.
Chinese armed police take position outside a court building in Urumqi, Sept. 12, 2009.
Beijing has ordered a number of Han Chinese judges from eastern Jiangsu province to relocate to China’s northwest in an apparent bid to deal with cases brought against Uyghurs in the aftermath of deadly riots last year.
According to a report published on the official Xinjiang News website on Monday, citing an article in the Jiangsu Legal Daily, “politically-motivated and experienced” judges from the Jun’an High Court in Jiangsu will be sent to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) in 2011 to “bolster the judicial field.”
The report did not provide details of what the most pressing judicial needs in the XUAR are or how many judges would be sent to the region.
“The judges will assist in special cases and educate members of the judiciary to improve their ability,” the report said.