A Troubled Time Line
Radio Free Asia has posted videos of a struggle between villagers and police in Taishi Village of Guangdong province [map]; the same province where Dongzhou Township is. The videos were taken in early December as villagers voiced strong complaints about local elected officials.

Now some may question why the focus on these villagers. The question this website seeks to answer is the one posed by Robert McNamara, "I think the human race needs to think more about killing... about conflict. Is that what we want in this 21st century?" But, in the big-picture, long-view sort of way, I believe this fits.

Here's why. In 1988 the Chinese government began allowing for direct elections in villages of local officials. This was done to ease tensions between the villagers and the government. The government also picked the villagers because they are the lest educated and most "back ward" part of China's population thus making elections easier to control and manipulate if need be. A year earlier, in 1987, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping promised national elections in 50 years.

As I've stated before, revolutions of the kinds that nations on their heads (think American, French and Russian revolutions) happen as life starts to get better.

One would think that revolutions in a given society happen when people are at their lowest. The truth is often the opposite. Revolutions occur as life begins to improve in the lives of the average citizen. As the citizens begin to take more control of their lives, they become more disenchanted with their state. If the state doesn't change fast enough to keep its people happy, revolution occurs.

Life has gotten marginally better in the villages of China. Life hasn't improved as much as in the urban centers over the past decade, but just the ability to vote in a semi-democratic way is an improvement. Now that they've been empowered (however slightly) for seventeen years, they feel they have control over their lives. This feeling of control, of responsibility, leads to the voicing of complaints when things aren't being done or when things go wrong. The clashes in Tasihi, Dongzhou and Hong Kong over the last few months are because of a growing internal Chinese frustration.

Add the problems China is having in Tasihi (and has been having since the summer - by the way, I intend to post a full timeline of events from all three cities after the holidays) to the demonstrations in Hong Kong and it becomes easier to see the root of the over reaction in Dongzhou earlier this month.

As of right now, everything we're hearing about is coming from Guangdong province but is their any doubt it is limited to just this one province?

Still A Girl's Best Friend
With all the traveling around, I almost missed this (emphasis mine):

Also included in the measure is a military pay raise, a provision allowing an Iraq war veteran to adopt a bomb-sniffing dog named Rex, and language directing the president to submit quarterly reports to Congress on U.S. policy and military operations in Iraq.

According to The Washington Post, the House passed the Defense Spending bill by a count of 374-41. It includes the now famous torture ban that McCain and Bush "worked out" last week. What it doesn't include is a continuation of funding for African Union peacekeeping troops, which are desperately needed in Darfur. But, for the moment, we're looking on the bright side: Sgt. Jamie Dana and Rex are a Senate vote and a Bush signature away from being together for good.

This story goes back a while and, as anyone who reads the site knows, has been a fascination of mine since the start. The Defense Spending bill that was passed on Monday was the Republican one, not the Democrat one, though both had sections about Sgt. Dana and Rex. Let's hope, for Sgt. Dana's sake, the Senate passes the bill quickly and Bush signs it.

Then let us hope that someone puts a bill on the table to re-new much needed funding to the AU troops.

All Hell Broke Loose...
While I was traveling I was able to follow the coverage of the December 6th Incident in Dongzhou provence, out side of Hong Kong. As more stories appear in papers we're getting a lot of the same points we heard before (mostly because the Chinese government is still controlling access to the city), but we're starting to zero in more on the details. The few things we know: 1) There was fighting between armed Chinese troops/police and upwards of a thousand locals the evening of December 6th, 2) The local villagers engaged in the fight (Xinhua News Agency, the official Chinese new outlet, continues to report the villagers started the fight which is contrary to reports from the villagers themselves, but both accounts are possible) 3) At least 3 people have died and dozens of others are missing. 4) This is one of a number of problems the government is having over land rights issues with local villagers.

In my first post I speculated that the seemingly harsh response to the protests was due, in part, to the mass protests in Hong Kong a week earlier. While I still believe that the events in Hong Kong had something to do with the mainland's response to the villagers, The Taipei Times fills in some history:

In November of 2004 1,654 villagers were offered compensation payments by the government. Some villagers refused.

In June of 2005 one of the three men named as the perpetrators, Huang Xijun, ran for director of the village party where he lost and blew up a ballot box with fireworks in response.

In September of 2005 villagers began blocking workers from reaching the construction site for the new power plant. Three men, including Xijun, used a radio transmitter to organize the blocking of the power plant site for 84 days as well as attack guards on the site.

Lastly, Radio Free Asia's Lin Di has a first hand account of a visit to the village. Here's a highlight:

Much later, another villager accompanies me to the site where the shooting took place. He tells me that this was where the villagers tried to stop the armed police from Shanwei from advancing any farther. He says, "When they started shooting, we were stunned. We couldn't believe what was happening. All hell broke loose. More than a dozen people died."

Two other villagers tell me that more than a dozen people died that night, too, and also that many have fled Dongzhou and are now wanted by the police. Another villager says that anyone seen with a camera gets beaten by the police.

Election Day
I'm happy to see that so many Sunnis have turned out to vote today in Iraq. That, along with the large over-all turn out, and no large call attacks means we can start to call the election a success.

I wish I had time to write more. For the next six days I will be away. There may be a post or two while I'm gone, but it won't be my roughly "one a day" posting schedule.

Bush, Sistani and Elections
Today Bush gave the last in a series of speeches that started with his "Plan for Victory" speech two weeks ago. These past two weeks have been the best choreographed weeks of at least the past year, if not the past two years, for the president. It is all supposed to come to a head in about eight hours when voting starts for the general public in Iraq. Even more impressive, today Bush came about as close as he'll ever come to admitting he was wrong about the intelligence that brought about the war in Iraq. In his speech he continue his quest to color those questioning the current occupation (read: Murtha and the Democrats) as immoral and he pushed the notion that "real" progress has been made in Iraq even though the basics like safety, water and electricity still can't be garnered. Still, after four speeches, Bush still hasn't made a clear-cut statement about what victory in Iraq really means.

More over, violence is the dominate tool in Iraqi politics. Sunni political leader Mizhar Dulaimi, of the Iraqi Free Progressive Party, was shot dead by an unknown assassin. Attacks wracked Baghdad on Monday killing Iraqi police officers and another leading Sunni politician was killed. On top of that, five more US soldiers have been killed over the last few days. Even as Bush pushes the notion that Iraq has gotten better and the election is a turning point, violence continues... and continues... and continues.

As the violence continues, the one person in Iraq seemingly above it all is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most powerful Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq. He's been calling for free elections in Iraq since October of 2003 and has continued to be quietly critical, though supportive, of the US occupation. It was with his begrudged blessing that the UN-backed Interim Governing Council, lead by then PM Iyad Allawi, was approved. Sistani has worked in his typical low-key way to keep Shiite firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr under control. Protests in Najaf and Baghdad of comments made on Al-Jazeera (where a commentator demanded Sistani stay out of politics) are prof of his power in Iraq. Even though he (and Sadr) continue to endorse the elections and proclaim their neutrality, the United Iraqi Alliance (a collation of 22 Iraqi political parties including Chalabi's INC) uses images of Sistani and Moqtada Sadr's popular father, Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr.

So after all is said and done, after all of Bush's speeches and all the proclamations of neutrality, how much power does Sistani really have? He continues to refuse to endorse a politician simply because any candidate he backs would be the favorite to win the election. Worse, any Sistani-backed politician wouldn't be able to stand on his own. He'd be seen by the Sunni radicals (not to mention Sistani's foes on the Shiite side of things) as a puppet of Sistani. Yet, Sistani is the closest thing Iraq has to a national figure head. His guidance and leadership is exactly what Iraq needs now. The best thing for Iraq would be to have Sistani quickly and forcefully endorse the government Thursday's elections will produce. Then, maybe, Bush can say things in Iraq are getting better.

The Dec. 6th Incident
The Chinese government seems to be clamping down hard following the violence in Dongzhou last week.

Around a dozen families of those who died or who are still missing from the violence of Dec. 6 in Dongzhou Township are being closely monitored by local officials, residents told RFA [Radio Fee Asia].

“There are village officials sitting watching the homes of those who lost relatives, keeping an eye on their comings and goings,” one Dongzhou resident told RFA’s Mandarin service.

The town has been in lock down with a full police presence since the morning of December 7th. While the deaths of at least three villagers (official government account) are certainly part of the reason for the lock down, the government's reaction seems a bit strong for the incident. As I mentioned in my first post about the violence, I suspect something more is at play here.

In the RFA article I quoted from above, it goes on to say that the villagers in Dongzhou are being closed off from the outside world. Cybercafes have been closed, telephones have been tapped and movement has been restricted. The only news the villagers are getting is from official government-run news sources like the Guangzhou Daily which is reporting that the attack was instigated by, roughly, 175 villagers armed with everything from stones to home-made explosives. According to official Chinese news sources, the "police were forced to fire in alarm." The Chinese even have reporters reporting from the streets of Dongzhou in what seems like an attempt to prove the village is fine.


That night, there were injured people who were dragged aboard police vehicles and were shot to death. The police then took the bodies to the crematorium near the beach, but because there was no signature on the death certificate for cremation they threw the bodies into the sea instead. This definitely happened. This is not a rumor. - Male resident of Dongzhou to RFA

What seems like the most likely reason for the seeming over-reaction of the Chinese government is because of a possible over-reaction of the Chinese police forces. If people were murdered while in police custody, it will be a huge breach of human rights. Which sends me back to the speculations of my earlier post. How this story unfolds...

The Dongzhou Revolution?
Over the past couple of days an interesting event has taken place in China. On December 7th Chinese troops shot and killed at least two villagers (some reports have it upwards of ten) who were protesting the construction of a power plant in their area. The New York Times is reporting that the dispute is over a coal-fired power plant but Radio Free Asia is reporting it to be over windmills, of which there are already some twenty-five in the area. The Chinese troop's efforts to disperse the crowd were unsuccessful even after the first live-rounds where fired.

The evening of December 8th, after more troops arrived in the area with the support of tanks (about six of them), violence broke out again leaving at least 20 villagers dead and a reported 50 more unaccounted for. The town is currently sealed off and there is speculation that over 100 may have died. Whatever the final death tally is, the events in Guangdong province, the providence around Hong Kong, are the worst military-on-civilian violence since Tiananmen Square.

For that reason alone, the story is worth following and understanding. Questions remain as to why the Chinese normal crowd-disperal actions (large show of force, tear gas, water hoses) did not work this time. How will leadership in Beijing respond? How will the international community respond? Amnesty International is already calling for a full inquiry and that was before the events of December 8th. Most importantly, where does this event fit in the seemingly endless struggle between the Communist government and the citizens of China?

On December 4th somewhere between 63,000 (police estimate) and 250,000 (organizer estimate) citizens of Hong Kong marched for full democracy in China's "Special Administrative Region." Perhaps the people of Dongzhou village, where the violence took place, were inspired by their fellow comrades in Hong Kong. If I should be given to wild speculation, I might even say there could be a link between the protests in Hong Kong last week and the protests in Dongzhou given the proximity and timing of both events. Even maybe speculate that the quick use of force in Dongzhou by Chinese forces was a message more to Hong Kong than the villagers. But I try not to speculate too much without more facts.

Some people may be surprised to read about the military-on-civilian violence and even the protesting in Hong Kong. By all accounts, China is the rising star of the international community. It's more popular in the Middle East than are its western rivals, foreign companies continue to spend big despite tight regulation by the government, economically it's continuing to move strongly in a positive direction and the standard of living for the Chinese has gone up.

Yet it is exactly these reason that the Communist leadership should be worried. One would think that revolutions in a given society happen when people are at their lowest. The truth is often the opposite. Revolutions occur as life begins to improve in the lives of the average citizen [PDF]. As the citizens begins to take more control of their lives, they become more disenchanted with the state. If the state doesn't change fast enough to keep its people happy, revolution occurs.

A state that cracks down on dissent leads mainly to two outcomes: a decrease in living standards or an explosive revolution. Should the Chinese government attempt to take back too much control of their society they'll stifle the growth of their economy and thus lessen their power on the world stage. They could also set off a violent revolution of the kinds the world has never seen. If the Chinese try and fail to control Hong Kong it could embolden the independence movement in Twain. A declaration of independence by either territory would surly be met by massive force drawing in local neighbors and "regional" ones like the United States.

But then we get into more speculation, and this post is already long enough. My point is, we should keep a close eye on the events going on in Dongzhou right now. The future of China, Asia and the world may be beginning there.

The Glass Box
I wrote yesterday about my frustration with war crimes tribunals. My focus was the Milosevic trail in the Hague but I did mention what a joke the Saddam Hussein trail has become. I'm not the only one:

"This has become a platform for Saddam to show himself as a caged lion when really he was a mouse in a hole," said [Iraqi] Vice President Ghazi Yawar. "I don't know who is the genius who is producing this farce. It's a political process. It's a comedy show."

In today's Washington Post op-ed columnists Charles Krauthammer, probably inspired by the capture of General Ante Gotovina yesterday and Saddam hijacking his own trail, goes on a bit of a tirade against the Saddam Hussein trail:

This is absurd. If anything, Hussein should be brought in wearing prison garb, perhaps in shackles, just for effect. And why was he given control of the script? He shouts, interrupts and does his Mussolini histrionics unmolested. Instead of the press being behind a glass wall, it is Hussein who should be. Better still, placed in a glass booth, like Eichmann, like some isolated specimen of deranged humanity, symbolically and physically cut off from the world of normal human values.

I couldn't agree more. It seems the Bush administration has forgotten about the Hussein trail. As if it is some sort of afterthought in the occupation. In many senses it is an afterthought. For our purposes, he's a deposed leader being held under lock and key where we can always find him if we want to. However, for the Sunni resistance, he's a figure head and a leader - more so now that he's locked up. His current state of being is a metaphor for the resistant: locked up under American watch and looked down upon by the new Shiite elite.

Bush used to say, "As long as Saddam is free the people of Iraq will never feel safe." Well, as long as Saddam is alive the people of Iraq will never feel safe and Sunni resistance fighters will continue to feel empowered.

Now the essential question this blog seeks to answer is, "I think the human race needs to think more about killing... about conflict. Is that what we want in this 21st century?" It's a question posed by Robert McNamara. Today, the end of a conflict is a war crimes tribunal. It's a concern of mine that we get these right every time. After nearly sixty years of tribunals how is it that the Saddam Hussein has been bungled so much?

If we can't put on even a show trail correctly...

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