Other than Google: bankrupt language schools, warplanes to Venezuela and a word on Gao Zhisheng

While the Google/China drama occupies most of the radar, some other great stories have been surfacing over the past few days. Check them below.

  • Tessa Thorniley has investigated the bankruptcies and “suicidal mismanagement” faced by language schools in China and the foreigners that flee from them. Remember Kai En?
  • Making the US a little more uncomfortable is openDemocracy’s news that China has supplied Venezuela with six warplanes. The official line is that these jets will be used for training missions and to target drug traffickers, and President Hugo Chavez said he was forced to turn to China because of US export controls. On a television broadcast he thanked the PRC: “The empire wanted to leave us unarmed. Socialist China, revolutionary China appeared and here are our K-8 planes.”
  • The Guardian’s Jonathan Watts has given us this horrific account of lead poisoning in China. Chinese authorities defended the six-month detention of lead poisoning victims in Hunan who were seeking medical care, saying the punishment was necessary for “public education”. The 53 villagers who were on their way to get health checks were mistakenly believed to be planning a protest. China Digital Times have also linked to an AFP story detailing the closure of a factory in Sichuan after its pollution caused lead poisoning in 100 people, 88 of whom were children.
  • On Tuesday, China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang called for greater medical reform in the country, the People’s Daily reported. He put great emphasis on working towards establishing a basic health care service system and improving health care services at grassroots level.
  • The New York Times reported that light has finally been shed on the Gao Zhisheng saga. Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Mr. Gao had been sentenced to prison for subversion. Yang also denied Gao had ever been tortured. That said, we still don’t know where Gao is or what this sentence refers to.
  • There’s been a lot of coverage of China’s hukou system. Tania Branigan has looked at how migrants’ children are bearing the brunt of the household registration, and provided video footage here. Carl Minzner from the LA Times has also written this op-ed outlining the changes necessary in hukou reform. Finally, yours truly has also looked at what bloggers have to say on Global Voices.
  • Ai Wei Wei is still my ol’ reliable. This time, he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that “China’s government has no humanity”, and he has faith that new media can effect change in China. And while we’re on the subject, China Media Project has summarised a talk by popular blogger Yang Hengjun discussing the Internet and social change. Yang said, “I can guarantee that if the Web did not exist I would not find a place to express what I wished to express.”
  • China Digital Times has linked to this piece in the FT summarising the “test of ties” Obama faces with Beijing. Further discussing the currency spat going on between China and the US, this editorial in the New York Times today asks “Will China listen?”
  • On a lighter note, this opinion piece in the Global Times has slammed the 2010 Miss Laowai China beauty pageant. Apparently, it’s female expats’ “inner grace and intelligence that sets them apart from their counterparts back home.” Aw.

China upholds Liu Xiaobo sentence

Liu Xiaobo

This may come as no surprise to most of us, but the sad news reached us today that China has upheld Liu Xiaobo’s sentencing to 11 years in prison for subversion of state power.

US ambassador Jon Huntsman said,

We are disappointed by the Chinese Government’s decision. (…) We believe that he should not have been sentenced in the first place and should be released immediately.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, said China had missed an opportunity to ‘right a wrong’. Roseann Rife, an Asia-Pacific official for the organisation, said,

His harsh sentence is a stark reminder to the Chinese people and the world that there is still no freedom of expression or independent judiciary in China.

This also follows the recent sentencing of Tan Zuoren, who faces five years for seeking to document the poor construction of the schools that fatally collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Today’s poignant decision cast a sombre mood over those caught in the struggle for China’s democratisation. As Michael Anti tweeted,

Feb 11, 1990, Mandela walked out of the jail. 20 yrs later, Feb 11, 2010, Li Xiaobo was confirmed 11 yrs sentence.

Liu Xiaobo’s Trial is the morning call for every Chinese democrat. See you soon, my dear Mr Mandela.

How not to handle China

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/30/west-china-akmal-shaikh

This brief post is a link to this fantastic piece written by Jonathan Fenby in today’s Guardian comment pages. Simply, Fenby argues, the West doesn’t understand how Beijing politics works, making her ill-equipped to deal diplomatically with the PRC. I couldn’t agree more, and have put forward similar (if less detailed and far less esteemed) lines of argument in previous posts.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt:

It might be nice if China was more like us, but it isn’t going to be. Expecting it to fit into the paradigm set by the west is not only futile but positively dangerous. The sooner governments start to work out a meaningful China policy rather than depending on wishful thinking, the better. It would make a good New year’s resolution. But I’m not holding my breath.

Happy New Year!