RFA in the News (May 2009)

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May 28 “China cuts off dissent ahead of Tiananmen anniversary”

… According to Radio Free Asia, Zhang Shijun, a former soldier who took part in the armed response has been under house arrest since he published a critical open letter to Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, in March. His wife and daughter have been separated and are being monitored.


May 26 “Hundreds of Tibetans ready to die to defend ‘sacred mountain’ from destruction”

The authorities responded to the peaceful occupation of the area by the native population by sending in armed security forces. Radio Free Asia reported that on Sunday 300 armed police were deployed.


May 25 “China's Modern Authoritarianism”

…Since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, China's leadership has modernized the country's economy but also its authoritarianism. And because the system's flaws are as glaring as its resilience, its challenge to democracy is a crisis in the original sense of the word -- the course of events could turn either way.

…This article is adapted from a forthcoming essay, "Undermining Democracy: 21st Century Authoritarians" (Freedom House, Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty).


May 25 “Vietnam: Hope for Church properties’ requisition dimmed”

Hope for the requisition of Church properties through peaceful dialogue seems to be extinguished. A government high ranking official stated that before the communist takeover of Vietnam the Church had been such a "grand landlord" that his government, “for the common benefits of people at large, had its rights to seize Church properties for good.”
Nguyen Thanh Xuan’s statement on Thursday May 21 in an interview with Radio Free Asia has been viewed by Catholics as a significant set-back from Vietnam government’s commitment to return some key properties seized for decades back to the Church.


May 23 “Mao portrait saboteurs Yu Dongyue and Yu Zhijian granted asylum in America”

Two men who spent years in jail for daring to throw paint at a portrait of Chairman Mao have been granted political asylum in the United States. Yu Dongyue, a former journalist and art critic, and his friend Yu Zhijian, a former teacher, have fled China and made their way to Thailand, Radio Free Asia reported. US Embassy officials in Bangkok declined to comment.


May 22 “New raid on disabled-slaves in Anhui brick factories

Police have arrested 10 people in Jieshou, Anhui province accused of kidnapping mentally handicapped people and forcing them to work in brick kilns like slaves, without pay. According to state agency Xinhua, in April 32 “slaves” were released from two factories.

…But parents of abducted children have told Radio Free Asia the children continue to disappear, with at least 200 cases in and around the area of Nanning.


May 22 “China’s censorship goes a step further with ‘Real Name System’”

China's Hubei Province has put in place a "Real Name System." It requires that people use their real names—not aliases or other screennames—when accessing web sites, blogs, podcasts, and mobile networks.
… Freelance writer Zan Aizong from Zhejiang province, which has implemented the Real Name System for blogs, told Radio Free Asia that the regulations mean, quote, "Freedom of speech no longer exists."


May 22 “Five Tibetan escapees speak on torture, death & repression in Tibet”

… On 9 April 2008, Jamyang Jinpa, Losang Gyatso and Jigme Gyatso spoke openly in front of a visiting international media exposing the repressive policies initiated by the Chinese authorities in Tibet and the state of Tibetans living under constant fear and intimidation. They heard the news of visit by foreign journalists through the Amdo dialect programme of Radio Free Asia.


May 20 “North Korea can be saved, Clinton says”

Despite recent bellicose rhetoric and provocations aimed at neighbors and the international community alike, former U.S. President Bill Clinton says he still believes that North Korea can be brought into the international community.

…Meanwhile, Leon Sigal, the Director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project within the Social Science Research Council believes Bill Clinton could himself be suitable, according to Radio Free Asia news released yesterday.


May 20 “US, North Korean will not meet”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her North Korean counterpart Pak Ui-chun will not have ministerial talks during a regional forum in July, according to reports Wednesday. …Radio Free Asia reported the United States has no plan to hold a meeting with North Korea, quoting an unidentified official of the State Department.


May 15 “Rangoon Media Silent on Suu Kyi”

Burmese journalists from Rangoon-based publications have complained that they cannot report freely about pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s transfer to Insein Prison due to heavy restrictions on press freedom.

Several pro-junta publications and blogs have criticized the reporting by Burmese news agencies and radio stations in exile, such as BBC Burmese, Voice of America, and Radio Free Asia, saying that their coverage shows a lack of ethics and is influenced by the Western community.


May 14 “Burmese opposition leader to go on trial again

Burma’s Nobel Prize-winning pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced new charges today less than two weeks before her house arrest was due to end after an American man swam across a lake and entered her home, her lawyer said.

Kyi Win, Ms Suu Kyi’s lawyer, told US government-backed Radio Free Asia that Mr. Yettaw pleaded with Ms Suu Kyi to let him stay because he felt weak, so she finally let him stay in a downstairs bedroom.


May 14 “North Korea sets trial date for two U.S. reporters

Two U.S. female journalists detained in North Korea for illegally entering the country will stand trial on June 4, state media said Thursday, amid speculation the case may propel Washington to reach out to Pyongyang. Analysts suspect North Korea may be following in the footsteps of Iran, which arrested, tried and released a female American journalist amid diplomatic contacts with the United States over the past few months.

Iran released the journalist, Roxana Saberi, on Monday. She had been in prison since late January on charges of spying for the U.S. Radio Free Asia reported that the family members of Ling and Lee recently visited the U.S. State Department, a visit that coincided with Saberi's release.


May 12 “Communists can’t outspend capitalists as China’s jobless increase”

… One legacy of Tiananmen is endemic corruption, says Han Dongfang, a leader of the protests who was jailed for two years and is now a Hong Kong-based labor activist. Now, strikes of more than 1,000 people occur daily in the manufacturing belt of Guangdong province alone, says Han, who conducts Hong Kong-based radio call-in shows carried by Radio Free Asia, a U.S.-funded broadcaster, in which workers discuss mainland labor issues.


May 7 “Reports: Villagers in central China clash with police after land dispute leaves 1 dead”

More than 1,000 villagers clashed with police in central China following a land dispute with construction workers that left one person dead, reports said Thursday. Fighting initially broke out Tuesday between villagers in Liling city in Hunan province and construction workers at a building site in the area, according to Radio Free Asia, the U.S.-funded station.

A 58-year-old man was killed and another six people were seriously injured in the fight, which involved sticks and bricks, Radio Free Asia reported. Villagers then took the man's body to the city government offices to protest. …The Radio Free Asia report said the protest continued into Wednesday.


May 6 “Beijing's propaganda goes global”
… The Chinese central government blocks Voice of America and Radio Free Asia and severely restricts CNN and other privately owned networks, of course. Yet at the same time, CCTV is allowed to distribute widely its English and Chinese programming on cable in the U.S. So should we allow any Chinese media--TV programming, books, newspapers or magazines--here? The buzz word is "reciprocity," and we should be demanding it.


May 6 “Myanmar: Where journalism is a living hell

… [T]he Burmese have taken to relying on outside news sources just so they could keep up with what is happening in their country, even though doing so can be costly, and in more ways than one. Among their favorites are radio broadcasts by the BBC, Voice of America, and Radio Free Asia, all of which have Burmese-language programs.


May 5, 2009 Myanmar junta rejects Suu Kyi's appeal against house arrest

Myanmar's junta recently rejected an appeal against the house arrest of opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi, a spokesman from her National League for Democracy said in Yangon on Tuesday. …Kyi Win told Washington-based Radio Free Asia that the council of ministers, which has authority over Suu Kyi's detention, rejected the appeal April 30.


May 3, 2009 “…and then the tanks rolled in; The activist Han Dongfang works from Hong Kong to keep the spirit of Tiananmen alive”

My personal life has certainly suffered, but I still count myself as one of the top 10 luckiest people in the world, because for the past 20 years I've been able to follow my heart. I am not allowed back to mainland China, but we are pushing the labour movement forward there with the strategies and ideas we put out every month in our China Labour Bulletin and on Radio Free Asia.

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