I’ve been a bit silent here as the news of the first week of a new year washed over me in a literal flood. From the tragedy in Arizona and the floods in Australia, to the referendum in Sudan and political assassination in Pakistan.
Each and every one of those stories worth a blog post (or three) on their own.
But this morning as I did my daily news search one story jumped out at me — an interview/profile of Chinese human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng – and I just had to comment.
It wasn’t his tale of official intimidation and abuse that grabbed my attention. Sadly, beatings and electric shocks to the genitalia in custody are hardly enough to surprise regular China watchers anymore. Nor was it the fact that this individual – known for defending the defenseless – has been repeatedly placed under detention….again, hardly surprising in the criticism-phobic corridors of power in Beijing.
No, what got me was that this interview was conducted by The Associated Press eight months ago in the condition that it not be released unless Gao was able to secure asylum in another country OR he disappeared again. As it turns out the interview took place during a brief period of time that was Gao’s only taste of freedom in the last two years.
This story comes just days after Chinese authorities made it plainly clear that they no longer feel the need to sit through human rights lectures from Western officials. Apparently Beijing feels it has enough economic and soft power on the international stage to begin flexing muscle in this arena despite an abysmal record. And, of course, this comes just a few short weeks after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo – or rather, to an empty chair representing Liu.
The truth is that “Western officials” haven’t the political will, the moral authority or the legal grounds to really challenge Beijing significantly. But that doesn’t mean any individual, group or country should stop trying ….
Beijing needs our markets as much as we need their products (and investments) and there is little doubt politicians could do more to place public pressure on China and keep the spotlight fixed on Beijing’s record. As China continues to edge out from the protectionism of yesteryear and becomes more comfortable with the worldwide engagement and interconnectedness of the new global reality, Beijing will loosen the reigns…in the meantime we all have an obligation to continue to speak for individuals like Gao and Liu as long as Beijing views them as a threat.
My regular readers know I am a big (figuratively and literally) proponent of not only speaking out publicly on the issues that matter to you as an individual, but of going a step further to actually do something about them. Well, dear readers (*waves* at all three of them… *snort*), today is no different.
Because it’s Skip A Starbucks Day!!!
And those of you who read this blog regularly (see my assault on Elmo) or know me, know just how important my morning coffee is!!!
Sometimes the issues we are asked to act on are very obviously global – like the right to water or campaigning for an international climate treaty.
Sometimes the issues – like the flooding tragedy in Pakistan – force us to examine in ourselves and those around us what we really believe to be our common humanity.
And sometimes, when fortune is smiling, we get the opportunity to reach out a helping hand and profoundly change the lives of a few individuals – to really do something tangible that contributes to making this world just a little bit nicer for everyone.
@CJRedwine and her family are nearing the end of a five-year journey to adopt a baby girl from China. Delays in the process caused by broader geopolitical concerns of the Chinese government have cost the family time, heartache and additional expense. The waiting, refilling and increased costs have eroded the family’s financial cushion. Now with their long-awaited goal finally in sight, the family is in need of help to bring their little girl – Joanna Faith — home.
Thus, Skip A Starbucks Day (which actually runs August 23 – 26)!
Continue reading Will you Skip Your Starbucks?
The battle lines are drawn. Tension is running high. Passion is only slightly behind. The world is abuzz with the vuvuzela. We are on the verge of the first knock-outs of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
As football (soccer) fans around the world gear up to roar their chosen sides onto victory, there is one team people around the world should all be rooting for:
This side, put together by the world’s largest grassroots human rights organization Amnesty International, features a roster of true heroes – individuals who see wrong in the world around them and choose to stand up and act.
Continue reading The Real World Champions
When I think of a cup of tea, I think: calm, tranquil, serene. The mental picture is two hands on a steaming cup, eyes closed while I breathe in vapors that tantalize the senses with hints of chamomile, mint or citrus smells (depending on my mood). Now thanks to a story from the Associated Press this week on Chinese activists going online to blast “drinking tea” warnings by meddlesome authorities, I’ll never see that cup of tea quite the same way.
According to the Associated Press story:
Police have long tried to shush and isolate potential activists, usually starting with a low-key warning, perhaps over a meal or a cup of tea. Now, the country’s troublemakers are openly blogging and tweeting their stories about “drinking tea” with the cops, allowing the targeted citizens to bond and diluting the intimidation they feel.
The movement is an embarrassment for officials, who are suspicious of anything that looks like an organized challenge to their authority. And it can’t help that “drinking tea” stories seem to be spreading among ordinary Chinese, including ones who signed a recent online call for political reform.
The country’s top political event of the year, the National People’s Congress, has given the stories another bump. More than 200 people say they’ve been invited by police to “drink tea” since just Friday, when the congress began, said independent political blogger Ran Yunfei.
That Chinese activists found ways to go around official censorship of the Internet and get their stories out to others helps increased a sense of community for those under scrutiny and reinforces the power potential of the Internet.
As we saw in Iran following the disputed June 2009 elections and for Haiti after January’s massive earthquake social media like Twitter can simultaneously allow users to spread information about events and draw in a truly international “coalition” of people who feel the same or empathize with the challenges. Those coalition members can and have raised the profile of the issue, raised money and provided invaluable moral support to those struggling through difficult situations.
It’s a strange kind of magic that unfolds via spells crafted of 140 characters or less. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what practitioners come up with next.
When electoral authorities declared Iran’s incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad winner of June 2009 presidential elections the power of technology and social networks became front page news around the world. Six months later the power of these new tools to influence the hearts and minds of users around the world is definitively a mainstream concept – and is attracting attention from policymakers.
Iran’s opposition politicians and their supporters rallied to oppose the controversial election, using Twitter networks to inform people in and outside Iran of demonstration plans. As authorities blocked an increasing number of websites and prevented most journalists from reporting out of Tehran, protestors and their online supporters set up proxies to help those inside Iran continue using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites to sidestep official censorship.
Continue reading Changing Reality: Social Networks Power Up Change