Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dynamics of Jasmine

The Dynamics of Jasmine

By John Kusumi 2011.2.27

At this time, it is not clear who were the originators of the first internet postings which called for a Chinese Jasmine Revolution. We cannot judge their stature; nor the rectitude of their intentions; nor even interview them to inquire about these matters, without knowing who they are.

But as a matter in general, there should logically be a world-wide impact stemming from the wave of people power sweeping away dictatorships in the Middle East.

During Egypt's uprising, there were fears that Tahrir Square would become a Tiananmen Square -- in other words, a bloodbath echoing that of 1989 in Beijing, when the military opened fire with live ammunition to take back the square from civilian pro-democracy demonstrators.

Chinese dissidents remember that time vividly, and they rightly leaned into watching the events in Egypt intently. Early feelings that "We've seen this movie before" changed into feelings of elation when the dictator fell. The army had not opened fire against the crowd of demonstrators! Tahrir Square escaped the fate of Tiananmen Square!

The Arab world had people who were beaten down and abused; and yet they had hope, plus new social media. Their country changed when they also overcame their fear about the dictatorship and the security forces.

The Arab world experienced a change. Instead of people being afraid of governments, suddenly the governments are afraid of people.

That is not a strictly Arab phenomenon, nor should it be. During this Jasmine time -- on the same day Mubarak left power in Egypt -- Governor Scott Walker of the U.S. state of Wisconsin threatened to call out the National Guard for use in the case of dissent in Wisconsin. He was introducing an unpopular rollback of the rights of labor unions.

The people of Wisconsin did not fear the National Guard. They stood up, and now America has more protestors in the streets than it has had in many years. Many labor unions have turned out their members to go to public rallies in all 50 states of the USA.

Similarly, the people of Beijing should not live in fear of Hu Jintao. Who elected him?


And so we come to the story of the efforts for a Chinese Jasmine Revolution. The first attempt was supposed to be Feb. 20, but the invitation only circulated on Feb. 19, which meant that very little time was allowed for the invitation to circulate. On Feb. 20, most Chinese had never heard of the calls for Jasmine gatherings.

It was absurd to promulgate an invitation with such short notice. It would have been wiser to announce a date with one, two, or three weeks to allow the word to get around, and to build up a sense of anticipation and suspense.

So the first Jasmine invitation was on short notice and with scant publicity. The publicity that it did receive was largely due to the government crackdown against it. The government was able to block the word Jasmine on the internet; and pre-emptively detain dissidents on Feb. 19; and increase police presence for Feb. 20. Also, some college students were warned to stay on campus.

The events of last weekend show how nervous the Chinese government is about any spread of the Jasmine Revolution into China. In previous weeks, they had blocked other search terms such as Egypt, Cairo, and Mubarak in their attempt to prevent Egyptian news from reaching China.

The government's over-reaction may have been ham-handed, but it was largely effective. While some tried to gather at the designated locations, the police presence inhibited any chanting or speech making.

The scene caused the more snarky journalists to pronounce dead any hopes of a Chinese Jasmine Revolution, but Chinese dissidents actually valued the occasion as a good start. "It's progress, and we're happy to have it," seems the logical dissident attitude.

Yes, it was progress. It yielded four new things: (1.) The name of the revolution. Prior to Tunisia's events, one might have expected a color revolution. Instead, it's a flower revolution. (2.) Plenty of publicity that reached mainstream news outlets and led to headlines like, 'Middle East domino effect reaches China.' The Chinese efforts gain a boost from the tie-in with the Middle East. (3.) A new government crackdown is keeping this matter in the headlines. (4.) The crackdown has over-reacted by kidnapping human rights lawyers and by charging other detainees with crimes. Therefore, the government side has taken prisoners, and the dissident side must demand the release of the Jasmine prisoners.

Jasmine is here to stay

The internet posters of Jasmine-for-China quickly issued a call to gather again this weekend, and to make these Jasmine gatherings a regular weekly occurrence. They simply updated their hashtag from #cn220 to #cn227, where 227 means Feb. 27.

This time the gatherings have advance notice, and a week of publicity in the run up. There has been time for endorsements to come from pro-democracy groups of Hong Kong and Taiwan, and from Chinese dissident quarters both domestic and international.

In addition, there is the dynamic seen in Item #4, above. We are reminded about how the Tibetan uprising started in 2008.

Every March 10 is Tibetan uprising day, the anniversary of the 1959 occasion which caused the Dalai Lama to go into exile.

But, the uprising in 2008 is known as the 3.14 incident. Why the discrepancy?

Tibetan monks went out to have their usual commemoration of March 10. On that day, the Chinese authorities arrested or detained some monks. Therefore, it was incumbent upon the Tibetan monks to go out again on March 11 to say, "Release our prisoners! Give us our men back!" At that demonstration, more monks were detained or arrested. So, it was incumbent upon the Tibetan monks to go out again on March 12 and say, "Release our prisoners! Give us our men back!" At that demonstration, more monks were detained or arrested. That led to more of the same on March 13. Violence on March 14 only broke out after the Chinese government had been squeezing them incrementally harder for the prior four days.

Right now, Jasmine has the same dynamic. The Chinese government has taken prisoners, and it is incumbent upon the human rights community to demand their release. This week, the Jasmine protestors have more to protest than they did last week. And any new ham-handed abuses of this week will compound into the grievances of next week.

A lot of Chinese dissidents may have been caught unaware, when internet calls for Jasmine popped up on Feb. 19. The calls were promulgated anonymously, and not under the names of long standing groups.

Some people would have felt better, or more confidence, if the call said it was from "The Wei Jingsheng Foundation, the Overseas Chinese Democracy Coaltion, the Federation for Democracy in China, the China Democracy Party (various branches), the China Peace and Democracy Federation, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements, the Party for Freedom and Democracy in China, Initiatives for China, the Tiananmen Mothers, and the signers of Charter 08."

That's a list of groups, and one could add Beijing Spring, the Free China Movement, the Tiananmen Generation Association, the IFCSS (Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars), the LRF (Laogai Research Foundation), and the CIG (China Interim Government).

But really, the overseas dissidents in exile have not had enough unity to put all of their names on one call. [Note: Tiananmen Mothers and Charter 08 are domestic, not exile groups.] The above is an interesting signature list, but it seems unlikely that we will see them all together on the same page, except here.

It no longer matters where the call came from, originally. Jasmine is happening, and the situation draws into it every human rights group that would call for the release of the Jasmine prisoners / detainees. It is fully predictable that even the U.S. State Department must call for the release of those dissidents, and soon we will hear Congressmen on the floor of the House of Representatives calling for their release.

While the original call for Jasmine was anonymous, it drew the response from the Chinese goverment, and then the imprimatur of all the news wires, newspapers, and media organizations that began to report it.

As a result, the Jasmine period in world history sees "people power" standing up against governments world-wide, whether we speak of the Middle East, or China, or the United States.

In fact, there is a Jasmine uprising happening in Iraq, the place where the United States invaded and installed the current government. People power may sweep away the puppet government of Iraq, but that is a profound humiliation for the United States, which thought that it was the occupying power!

Perhaps Jasmine entails a domino effect for dictators; and for the United States, it represents "the emperor's wardrobe malfunction."

In earlier writing for the China Support Network, I have previously called for Hillary Clinton to resign as the U.S. Secretary of State.

At this time, the China Support Network demands that Beijing:

- Stop the Jasmine crackdown;
- Release the Jasmine detainees, and all prisoners of conscience;
- Lift all restrictions on dissidents, allow the exiles to return to China;
- Meet the demands of Charter 08;
- Meet the demands of the Tiananmen Mothers.

The above five demands are intended for a reasonable Chinese government. In the alternative, if the government will not be reasonable, then we have only one demand:

- Hu Jintao, step down!

Internal movement controversy

2002 and 2003 was the winter of discontent for Chinese dissidents. Bill Clinton had started unquestioned free trade with China, and network TV news anchors in the U.S. had basically "turned off the microphone" for Chinese dissidents. September 11, 2001 was a fresh memory, and the War On Terror overshadowed all else in mainstream news.

Those were times when the China Support Network was almost the only place where one could turn for news and information of the Chinese democracy movement and human rights abuses in China. Because no one else covered this news beat, the China Support Network (CSN) was very vigorous about publishing any and all relevant news that we could find in English.

Imagine a time with no Twitter, no Facebook, no YouTube, and no Epoch Times (Dajiyuan). Capitol Hill legislative aide Joel Segal praised the CSN, saying, "If it weren't for CSN updates, I wouldn't know what was going on."

Things changed in 2004. The Epoch Times launched its English edition. They had more sources, a larger staff, and they were deeply plugged in to the Falun Gong.

As the Epoch Times began to become "the newspaper of record" for human rights and Chinese dissent, the CSN dialed down to a slower pace of publishing. We have been happy that the Epoch Times is on the scene and covering the news beat of Chinese dissent.

There have been times when the Epoch Times raised an eyebrow on my part. For example, they provided a lot of coverage when disgruntled constituents began to demonize and villify John Liu, a New York politician. I never completely understood the basis of the campaign against Liu.

(Is he a politician that's not listening to the people? 308 million people might say, "Welcome to America." However, unless there is election fraud, then he is duly elected to do his job as he sees fit. To be inattentive, or even to take a different side in a controversy, is not a crime in America.)

For one internal movement controversy, I clearly take the side of the Epoch Times. In 2006, they reported about forced organ harvesting, with just-in-time executions for Falun Gong practitioners who became the unwilling sources of organs removed for profitable transplant surgery.

The Kilgour-Matas report was a study that was later released. It was absolutely impeccable, from towering figures in the Canadian human rights community. Based on careful research and investigation, it concluded that yes, indeed, this crime of organ harvesting was indeed happening in China. And subsequent to its release, even more evidence appeared to corroborate the claim.

Prior to its release, Chinese dissident Harry Wu had expressed his skepticism about organ harvesting at the Sujiatan facility where it was first reported. That skepticism, together with a cursory inspection by the U.S. State Department, became the basis for the mainstream media to write off these reports as discredited.

I knew that (a.) three weeks had passed between the initial report and the show tour that was given to the U.S. State Department. There was plenty of time for the Chinese government to remove evidence from Sujiatan. And (b.) plenty of sources away from Sujiatan were providing evidence that the practice was occuring at dozens of other sites in China.

The mainstream media chose to err on the side against the Epoch Times and the Falun Gong practitioners who cried foul. That also means they erred on the side of believing communists, dictators, tyrants and thugs, while the latter committed systemic murder that will be remembered as crimes against humanity.

I have no doubt that history will reveal that the Epoch Times was right, and the mainstream media was wrong. (And, there is a death toll associated with the media silence on this matter.)

It was very dismaying that Harry Wu chose to very quickly condemn the reporting, before the Kilgour-Matas report was even released. In fact, because his own Laogai Research Foundation was documenting other cases of prisoner organ harvesting, it would have been smarter for Wu to "make hey" out of this story. It could have brought to light more of his own research about China's Laogai.

This was dismaying, and I don't know whether there has ever been a meeting of the minds that heals the rift between Falun Gong and Harry Wu. For the China Support Network, we stood with the Epoch Times and still do so. Organ harvesting remains a strong story and a hideous atrocity of the Communist Party, comparable to Nazi medical experiments that were performed on unwilling prisoners in World War II.

But now, a new matter has dismayed me -- in its English edition, a headline says, 'Jasmine Revolution in China a Trap, Say Analysts.'

I believe that assessment is premature, unhelpful, and moot. The article under your hands presents 'The Dynamics of Jasmine.'

Such a large number -- a wide array -- of dissident groups have been drawn in that, as noted above, "It no longer matters where the call came from, originally." Even on the short notice for Feb. 20, sympathy protests broke out in Hong Kong and New York. Endorsements or echoing or retweeting have come from many quarters, even the former ruling party in Taiwan, the DPP.

This means that, regardless of where the first call came from, many many people are "all in" for having a Middle East-style Jasmine Revolution in China. As this matter escalates, the Epoch Times must either come around, or else begin to appear like the odd man out.

As a matter of editorial judgment, I believe the China Support Network called it correctly when we supported the organ harvesting story. And at this time now, I believe that we are correct to be in alignment with those dissidents who are calling for a Jasmine Revolution to occur in China, now.

Before there was an English Epoch Times (ET), the China Support Network was "the newsletter of record" for Chinese democracy. If ET is falling off the wagon, then that will prompt the CSN to increase its own publishing pace, to continue our best efforts of keeping the story straight for Chinese democracy.

Perhaps the Epoch Times should issue an editorial to clarify where it stands.

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