Erenlai - 按標籤顯示項目: civil society
週一, 24 十月 2011 11:06

Internet and Civil Society in China

Is there a “civil society 公民社会”in China? For more than two decades, Chinese intellectuals have been hotly debating the topic. Some of them stress that the basic differences in political system and traditions between China and the west make the use of such term inadequate, Other try to discern a “Chinese model”, according to which the participation of civic organizations to the consultative mechanisms established by the state ultimately fosters their independence. For these scholars, an “independent” civil society will ultimately be a fruit of the cooptation by the state of certain associations (chambers of commerce, charities, interest groups…), which feel gradually empowered by the tasks that the state entrusts to them.

However, ordinary citizens do not seem content anymore to see their participation limited to the domains and the mechanisms that the state unilaterally allow them to enter into. The meteoric rise of the use and power of Internet can largely be explained by the popular will to trespass the gradual mechanisms of social and political participation that the ruling class tries to enforce.  Online activism is not only about the content it carries: it stresses first and foremost the right of the public to debate any problem it finds relevant, and to do so at any time.

Different forces try to promote or constrain online activism – the state, the market and civic groupings work in fierce competition. Smaller organizations, less visible and which do not need to invest much in personnel and equipment may actually benefit the most of the flexibility of the online tools, fostering grassroots communities that are able to grow and to adapt very rapidly.

The Chinese Internet is not “democracy.” But it is an experimental platform where Chinese citizens aspire to build a model of debate and participation different from the limited version that the government tries to defend and promote. In the years to come, Internet will continue to be the focal point around which the evolution of China’s political, civic and cultural system will be debated and determined. In China, Internet may be already more than a “virtual civil society”: it has become civil society itself.

Read B.V.'s previous article on a similar subject:
Is the Internet the Bedrock of Civil Society in China?

(Drawing by Claire Shen)

週三, 28 七月 2010 22:04

The new frontier in abolishing the death penalty

In the second half of the 20th century, there were many changes in death penalty policy worldwide. After the end of World War II and its atrocities, an abolitionist movement started in Western Europe. The first countries to abolish were Italy, Austria and Germany. They were later followed by Great Britain, Spain and France. After the last major power in Western Europe had abolished the death penalty, in 1981, the issue shifted from a question of criminal justice to a question of human rights and limits on government.

Since then, the number, scope and implementation strategies of international human rights treaties and conventions has increased. Among those treaties and conventions lies the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which prohibits the use of capital punishment, and the UN moratorium on death penalty, a nonbinding resolution reached in 2007 which calls for a general suspension of the death penalty. In addition to these resolutions, INGOs such as Amnesty International have been launching worldwide campaigns to abolish capital punishment.

In 2009, 95 countries had abolished the death penalty, while only 18 of the 58 retentionist countries are known to have carried out executions in the same year. However, despite a decline in Asia’s overall number of executions, the continent still accounted for 90 percent of the world’s execution in 2009, the majority having been carried out in China, although Bangladesh, Japan, North Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam also carried out executions.

Nevertheless, there are many reasons to believe that Asia is the new frontier in the movement to abolish the death penalty. First, many countries are already abolitionist or de facto abolitionist. In 1989, Cambodia abolished death penalty, and then Macao, Hong Kong and more recently the Philippines followed suit, while South Korea has not carried out an execution since December 1997. Second, there is ambivalence in other Asian countries that still practice death penalty, as is the case in Taiwan.

In 1987 the Republic of China (Taiwan) emerged from 40 years of an oppressive regime under martial law, where people could be punished by death, secretly and on a whim. As Chiang Ching-Kuo opened up the country economically and began the democratisation process, Taiwan's institutions were still partly in the hands of the system which had allowed for the White Terror and other miscarriages of social justice. A key component of the democratisation process is transitional justice. The term refers to a complete set of policies in order to transform a society and overcome its past of human rights abuses, authoritarianism and societal traumas to a peaceful and more certain future. For some, this 'transition' is still in progress today.

After some controversial cases during the 1990s such as the Hsichih trio case, the number of executions carried out in Taiwan decreased and a change of attitude towards the death penalty began to emerge. Between 2006 and 2009, no executions were carried out, and Taiwan seemed to be moving gradually toward abolition…

In March 2010, a controversy emerged over the death penalty issue when former Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) announced her position in favour of abolishing the death penalty adding that she would not step down over the row about enforcing death penalty. Her announcement led to public protests led by victims’ relatives, such as Pai Ping-Ping, a media personality whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered in 1997. On March 11th, Wang Ching-feng resigned after the Presidential Office stated that the death penalties handed down must be carried out and that any suspension of executions must follow the law.

On April 30th 2010, executions in Taiwan were resumed after a 4-year moratorium on the death penalty, as four men were executed by shooting. Human rights organizations as well as representatives of the international community deplored the executions and asked for the immediate reestablishment of a moratorium.

(Image by Ash Ka)



週五, 11 六月 2010 17:42

Falun Gong protests in Taipei: An interpretive slideshow

In April 2010, Paul Farrelly visited Taipei 101 and Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall to observe the various ways that Falun Gong adherents protest against the Chinese government.  The actions of these protestors transform these popular venues into contested spaces, where tourism, spirituality and politics intersect.  His photos and commentary aim to illustrate the uneasy balance that these powerful forces somehow maintain.

週一, 28 五 2007 11:16

Alternative Shanghai

Shanghai is the city of money, of power, of architectural progress… Shanghai is the city of the future… Shanghai is the city where the world is flocking to: Chinese from the hinterland, Taiwanese in search of a larger field of action, multinational companies, artists, adventurers and bankers… Shanghai is also the city where the next International Fair will take place, in 2010, and it ambitions to become then the point around which the entire world will revolve. Where and when is Shanghai’s rise going to stop?

At the same time, Shanghai is often presented as a soulless city: power and money do not harmonize easily with altruism and spiritual quest. The rise of Shanghai profits mostly those who focus on accumulating more wealth and more influence. It does not look like a place for poets or mystics. It is the kingdom of greed, opportunism and working frenzy. Watching the Shanghai of today, the opening line of “A Take of two Cities” comes again to mind” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Booming Shanghai might be slowly devouring the flesh and soul of its own children.

However, there is another Shanghai, a kindler and gentler city. Since its start, eRenlai nurtures friendship with a group of people who strive to make Shanghai a different place, where people care for their neighbors, where the rights of minorities are recognized, where the weakest are taken into full consideration, where the cultural resources brought by different groups of people are respected and cherished. The initiators of such a movement are Shanghai people themselves. They are helped in many ways by people from outside, who found in Shanghai what they were not initially looking for.

Taiwanese are especially numerous in Shanghai and its surroundings. Most of them deploy there their professional talents, and are making good money out of it. Often, they complain about Shanghai ’ recklessness – while contributing to it. Are they truly looking for the real soul of the city? Are they bringing an example of openness and generosity that would help Chinese civil society to mature and pacify? Are they taking initiatives that contribute to peace and solidarity? Are they just making use of Shanghai or do they contribute to its human development? Some of them may do so. Most of them need to be encouraged to look differently at Shanghai - and to act differently as well.

Our ultimate concern is of course about China’s civil society and its future. People and groups who contribute to accrued solidarity and diversity deserve to be better known, encouraged and empowered. Beyond political and cultural issues, the human quality deployed by citizens and associations is what will make China a better place to live, and a more friendly partner for the rest of Asia and the world. There are reasons for hope, but they are not always obvious. We have to look at China with different eyes. Alternative Shanghai is a good place to start with.

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