A call to liberate Libya, Bahrain,
China, and Mainstream journalism!
By John Kusumi
February 20, 2011 (Sunday) was not a slow news day. Uprisings and/or crackdowns were reported in Bahrain, Libya, China, Djibouti, Morocco, and Madison, Wisconsin. There may still be protest/uprising action happening in Algeria, Iran, and Yemen, but it didn’t cross my desk Sunday. I did notice that sympathy protests happened in Hong Kong and New York.
Libya must be liberated. Even by Washington standards, this is an easy call. Everybody should lean into giving the full measure of their support to the pro-democracy dissidents who are trying to change Libya for the better. They want to get out from under their despotic tyrant, Moammar Gadhafi.
Recent days have included the news of protest/uprising action and the brutal, deadly crackdown that the tyrant meted out in reply. To me, however, the kicker is this headline:
“Libyan security forces open fire on mourners at funeral for anti-gov’t protesters in Benghazi again.”
Think of that! In Libya, they can’t mourn their dead. They can’t go to a funeral, because government thugs are there to mow down any bereaved friends and relatives who have the temerity to think that their deceased loved one deserves recognition.
This is inhuman by any standard. Now reiterating my point, Libya must be liberated.
With my point already made, it remains to note that Sunday’s action in Benghazi, Libya was more than a crackdown: it was a massacre. The following tweet, seen Sunday, was poignant and should pull at anyone’s heart strings:
“Massacre in Benghazi, Gaddafi is using missiles, killing libyans, help us, help us, help us ”
Once again, this is inhuman by any standard.
A group of the Chinese democracy movement, ‘Coalition for Citizens Rights’ plans to hold a sympathy protest for Libya, condemning that massacre, outside the United Nations (in New York) on Tuesday at 2p.m. (The China Support Network will co-sponsor. All are welcome. It’s at the Dag Hamarskjold Park location: 47th St./1st Av.)
Bahrain had its own massacre two days earlier. It filled the hospitals to overflowing, according to the voice of a Dr. Ghassan at Salmaniya Hospital, as heard in this clip from Al Jazeera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaYvy8CPxwU
Once again, this is inhuman by any standard. That’s not the end of it. Today on Facebook, there appeared a message which says:
“I’m a 16 year old teanager.. We live in fear and pain in bahrain
Our peaceful protest of more than 50,000 if not more got attacked at
night by the bahrain army..
70 people have been missing.. No one knows about them but one
was found brutaly killed and cut into pieces
Also women and children went missing
There was over 600 casualties and 8 martyrs..
The minister of health is covering it up, and not allowing to send
ambulances.. And even if sent it isn’t allow to help people
Instead they get beaten up
Its a msacre wats happening here.. The bahrain media wants to have
a media blockout.. 14 reporters r still at the airport..
Also.. The bahrain tv r spreading wrong facts.. And covering up the
masacre and creating plays
I wish you could help us because we really do need help..”
There is something else to say about Bahrain and U.S. foreign policy. Rumors say that the Saudis are ready to dispatch troops “to help” the regime in Bahrain. Frankly, that would never happen unless it was green lighted from Washington, DC. If the Saudis move into Bahrain, that will be as proxies. It’s really Washington moving into Bahrain, but letting the dirty work be done by Saudis, who are a puppet state of Washington.
Is the United States, via proxy, about to stomp into Bahrain to further harm these injured people?
As a human rights group, the China Support Network calls upon Obama, Biden, and Clinton to refrain from any assistance to the Bahrain regime and indeed to veto any Saudi move to back up that regime. With fresh blood on its hands, the Bahrain regime has crimes against humanity for which it must answer.
Once again, this is inhuman by any standard. The al-Khalifa ruling family must go. Bahrain must overcome its tyranny. Freedom is the order of the day, and as mentioned in the headline, this is a call to liberate Bahrain.
If the Obama group actually reads this tract, I would repeat words from a former CIA analyst: “Globalisation and improved communications now make possible what once was easily silenced. If regimes are to survive, they must draw a new contract with their peoples.”
In light of that, you [Obama folks] might want to dial back or dial down on your own crimes against humanity. Take that as a tip from a human rights group and member of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. Together with the ICC, the China Support Network frowns on genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Speaking of genocide and crimes against humanity, let’s talk about Communist China. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have certainly encouraged hope in the community of Chinese dissidents, and illuminated a way in which people power (plus online connectivity) was able to organize in the face of a tyrant; overcame fear; and was victorious in 18 days without a Tiananmen-style massacre perpetrated by the army.
This is absolutely a pattern and model for Chinese dissidents to follow. Over the weekend just now, some dissidents indeed tried to follow just that formula.
The efforts to organize a Jasmine Revolution for China are the subject of conflicting reports. This first appeared either ten days ago, or else Thursday Feb. 17, depending upon the news source you read. In any case, on Saturday Feb. 19, organizers released a very specific plan for Feb. 20.
The plan named 13 Chinese cities and gathering places, directed participants to appear at 2p.m. on Sunday, and to shout specific slogans, namely: “We want food, we want work, we want housing, we want fairness, we want justice, start political reform, end one-party dictatorship, bring in freedom of the press, long live freedom, long live democracy.”
This was bold on the part of dissidents, but the regime was swift in its pre-emptive suppression. Indeed, much is learned from the Chinese government’s over-reaction.
A synopsis by Bloomberg News said, “The Chinese authorities responded by arresting some human rights lawyers, shutting university students in their campuses, banning the use of keywords on mobile phone messages and with an overwhelming security presence, according to reports in foreign media.
“Television footage yesterday showed police clashing with small numbers of demonstrators in Beijing and Shanghai, with several protesters struggling as they were bundled away into custody.”
The Bloomberg synopsis doesn’t do justice to this story, but here at the China Support Network, we’ll fill in some more.
They swooped in with a pre-emptive dragnet. Some dissidents were taken away; others were kept under house arrest. The total receiving such treatment exceeded 100, according to the Hong Kong Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. In still other cases, dissidents were warned against attending, or questioned about it.
The word “jasmine” was blocked by internet filters. Service was suspended in Beijing for multi-recipient text messages, according to the AP. Reports say that a heavy police presence cordoned off the 13 protest sites.
Twitter users and the activist Wan Yanhai also reported that university students were told to stay on campuses and away from trouble.
With all of the above as prelude, Sunday’s protests were sparsely attended and anti-climactic. Activity was reported in Beijing and Shanghai, but in the other cities the police presence seemed the only response to the internet calls, which used these hashtags:
#cn220, #jasmine, #freeChina, #cnJasmine
Sympathy protests broke out in Hong Kong and New York. How to take this news, and analysis thereof, can be debated. My group, the China Support Network, did not organize these protests, but we declare solidarity with China’s Jasmine Revolution. We call for the liberation of mainland China from its Communist Party oppressors.
Furthermore, we demand the release of all of the Jasmine detainees who were rounded up in the pre-emptive sweep. This echoes the same demand that was made at the Hong Kong protest on Sunday.
The hardline dissident group, China Interim Government, is demanding that Chinese president Hu Jintao step down. China Support Network declares its solidarity and repeats the call: Hu Jintao, step down!
How to spin the news can always be debated. I’ve noticed that the snarkiest journalists are the fastest ones to file their stories. We don’t yet have large crowds marching in the streets, and for that some journalists are already writing off China’s Jasmine Revolution. Who’s side are they on? Clearly, they are on one side of the battle, and it is the anti-democracy side.
There is a cautionary tale to be told about Richard Spencer of the UK Telegraph. On Jan. 16, his headline said, “Tunisia: Why the Jasmine Revolution won’t bloom.”
His subheadline said, “Friday’s coup in Tunisia sent shockwaves throughout the Arab world. But don’t expect it to herald an era of democratic reform.”
Spencer said that “It is easy to laugh now,” because Tunisian dictator Ben Ali had predicted the demise of Hosni Mubarak, and now instead of Mubarak it was Ben Ali who had just been driven out of power.
We could ask the question, “Who is laughing now?” Is it Ben Ali who has egg on his face, or is it Richard Spencer, who reported with near-metaphysical certitude that the Jasmine Revolution would not spread to Egypt?
My cautionary tale reveals that “the Jasmine Revolution” has been written off as dead before; but, simply because a journalist files such a story does not mean that the story will stick. Journalists should think long and hard before trying to pronounce the demise, or the end, of the Chinese pro-democracy movement.
This movement has people who are “still here” from 1989. The China Support Network was a response group to the atrocity at Tiananmen Square.
Tiananmen Square student leader Wang Dan remains on the scene. Interviewed in Taiwan, he can spin this story like a pro. (Perhaps, with over 20 years’ experience in the field, we should allow that he is a pro.)
His interview published by Taiwan’s CNA news wire allowed that the revolution did not materialize on Sunday. But, Wang is quoted saying, “The Chinese Communists were indeed frightened this time… Why does a government, which has more information than its people do, believe more than its people that mass protests are likely in China these days?”
He assessed Sunday’s campaign as “a very successful ‘test and drill’ for the future gathering of ‘true people power.'”
Writing in the Australian, Leo Lewis said that some people “hailed the day’s activities as a useful dry run and suggested that protesters should meet every Sunday.”
The New York Times found a Beijinger named Cui, who said that he was not disappointed by the outcome:
“He predicted that many people, emboldened by the fact that an impromptu gathering had coalesced at all, would use social networking technology to stage similar events in the future.
“‘It’s very difficult to do this in China, but this is a good start,’ he said. ‘I’m thankful to be able to participate in this moment in history.'”
Above, I wrote a cautionary tale with the example of Richard Spencer, who didn’t expect to see a post-Mubarak world when he filed his story on Jan. 16. Journalists can be caught out by their near-metaphysical certitude that received wisdom and outdated rules of thumb can never fail them.
Today, Melissa K. Chan was heedless of my cautionary tale. With her feet on the desk, she tapped out an article titled, “Call me if there’s a revolution.” She explained that her friend, another journalist, was headed out to central Beijing, but she decided not to go. “Pretty certain nothing would happen,” she explained, she didn’t want “a waste of my Sunday afternoon.”
If that isn’t bad enough, within her article Ms. Chan proceeds to telegraph her attitude. An entire section begins, “Here’s why I think China won’t be having a revolution anytime soon.” She then proceeds to regurgitate some hackneyed cliches of received wisdom, faulty rules of thumb, and flawed interpretation of history.
I believe that Al-Jazeera should recall or reassign Ms. Chan, or that she should recuse herself from any future reporting on the Chinese democracy movement.
It is exceedingly clear, in advance of future pro-democracy coverage, that Ms. Chan is biased against the movement. Her absence is not to be missed. For all I care, she can stay in a nail salon for the duration of the revolution. In between pedicures, perhaps she can try some more of her feet-on-the-desk journalism.
When I consider the Melissa Chans of the news world, I wonder, “How much does the Communist Party pay you to ignore the human rights abuse of the Chinese democracy movement? Is that amount more, or less, than what they pay you to ignore the human rights abuse of the Falun Gong on a weekly basis?”
There is a Beiijing Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and all of them ignore the human rights abuse of the Falun Gong on a weekly basis. If the long arc of history bends toward justice, then at some point they will be exposed for being tacitly complicit, and silent accessories to the crimes against humanity that have been committed by the Chinese Communist Party in twelve years of the Falun Gong crackdown.
Are they journalists? Or are they press release rewrite analysts? In order to report from Beijing and preserve their access in the Beijing power structure, they have made a pact with the devil. Sold out and soulless, they have abdicated a fuller version of journalism. They have kept Western audiences in the dark about the full extent and scale of the genocide against Falun Gong.
They have served their Communist masters in Beijing. (And the home office overseas never thinks to ask after the Falun Gong.) But they have not served the right side of history, nor the public’s right to know. What is the final epithet that I can write in this space? Perhaps I will let them choose from two alterate endings. They may be “filthy sub-human scum.” Or they may be “paragons of moral cowardice and trite reporting.”
Either way, there is something profoundly foul at the Beijing Foreign Correspondents’ Club, and I wouldn’t want to be them; nor within smelling distance of that abominable hell hole. I would challenge them simply to tell me: What is the current death toll in the Falun Gong crackdown? And how many people died while you were withholding that number from the public?
If the revolution succeeds, we will soon learn the answers to these interesting questions.
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