Updated – China Talks While Suppressing Speech

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

First, please take a moment to reflect on the cyclone in Burma, which the AP estimates has killed over 14,000 people. The military junta in Burma has been roundly criticized for failing to enact an early warning system that could have saved lives:

The government had apparently taken few efforts to prepare for the storm, which came bearing down on the country from the Bay of Bengal late Friday. Weather warnings broadcast on television would have been largely useless for the worst-hit rural areas where electricity supply is spotty and television a rarity.

“The government misled people,” said Thin Thin, a grocery story owner in Yangon. “They could have warned us about the severity of the coming cyclone so we could be better prepared.”


Some in Yangon complained that the 400,000-strong military was only clearing streets where the ruling elite resided but leaving residents, including Buddhist monks, to cope on their own in most other areas.

link: http://ap.google.com/article/A…

The AP reports that the UN and aid organizations are mobilizing supplies, and that the EU has committed $3 million in humanitarian aid, the Chinese government stands ready with $1 million in cash and supplies, and the US is giving an intial $250,000 in aid with more to come if a disaster team is allowed inside the country.

UPDATE  The BBC is now reporting that the death toll has reached 22,000:

The death toll from Burma’s devastating cyclone has now risen to more than 22,000, state media say.

Some 41,000 people were also missing, three days after Cyclone Nargis hit the country on Saturday, state radio said.

link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asi…

Meanwhile, Chinese authorities met with the Dalai Lama this past weekend. More meetings have been promised, none have been scheduled and the conditions of the Chinese government for future talks are vague:

‘As long as the Dalai side shows sincerity, especially in its actions, then the contact will continue,’ Qin told reporters.

Qin did not explain what China wanted the Dalai Lama to do to show sincerity.

link: http://www.monstersandcritics….

China’s President Hu Jintao is on a diplomatic visit to Japan, which prompted large but peaceful protests:

Elsewhere in Tokyo, nearly 1,000 demonstrators marched with Tibetan flags and signs reading, “Don’t kill our friends.”

Opposition lawmaker Yukio Edano told the rally that Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda should raise the Tibet issue forcefully with Hu.

“If Prime Minister Fukuda’s meeting with President Hu Jintao is a mere formality, that means that we are accomplices in China’s crimes in Tibet,” Edano said.

link: http://afp.google.com/article/…

WaPo carries a feature about Woeser, a Tibetan blogger based in Beijing, who is one of the few Tibetan voices commenting on the riots. Her narrative on the riots in Lhasa is directly contradicting the one Chinese authorities have been pumping through their propaganda channels:

Though she lives in Beijing, Woeser still has contacts across the Tibetan plateau, and she has been using them to funnel information onto her blog since the deadly March 14 riots in the region’s capital, Lhasa. The government has said that the riots and the unrest that followed were caused by violent separatists. Woeser is constructing an alternative narrative — one of protest sparked by long-festering resentments against Chinese repression of Tibetan culture and the Buddhist religion.

link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/…

Woeser’s site, http://woeser.middle-way.net , has recently been hacked, despite being hosted on US servers. Although she faces considerable intimidation, her dedication to writing is something she has in common with bloggers worldwide:

“My writing became very obvious,” she said. “My father always taught me that I have to listen to the Communist Party when it talks, and that when I write, I have to balance between what I feel and what the party says. But I’ve found that that’s impossible to do.”


“There are so many extreme nationalists who know so little about Tibet, who are so shallow about a lot of things,” she said. “I really resent it.”

When she’s inspired, she writes a little poetry. But mostly she is documenting as best she can the situation inside Tibet. According to her reporting, at least 150 Tibetans were killed in the Lhasa riot, not just the 22 mostly Han Chinese deaths the government has acknowledged.

“Sometimes I’m scared, especially when I hear my friends have been beaten up,” she said. “But I feel I have a responsibility to do this. Some things are really hard to know now, but if I know something, I will write it.”

link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/…

Reuters is reporting that Zhang Ping, commentator and deputy chief editor of the Southern Metropolis Weekly magazine in China has been sacked:

Zhang declined to comment when reached by telephone. The source, requesting anonymity, confirmed the sacking but declined to provide further details.


Zhang’s articles were published mainly in his magazine’s sister newspaper, the Southern Metropolis Daily, and called on the government to allow more media freedom in covering the Tibet riots and to review its policy on Tibet.

The commentaries drew an angry backlash from a large number of Internet users, who accused Zhang of being a traitor and downplaying the violence by Tibetans as well as the perceived anti-China bias of Western media.

link: http://www.reuters.com/article…

And there is still no new news regarding the whereabouts or status of writer Jamyang Kyi, who was escorted by police from her job on April 1.

Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations, especially the people of Myanmar who – as you read this – are facing a horrendous tragedy.


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  1. … in Burma is mind-boggling — over 22,000.  And the junta in charge — how can anyone ever know where this relief money will be spent?  It is an unbearable combination of tragedies.

    Thank you once again for these important essays, grannyhelen.  I look forward to reading them … and glad you’re back to do them!

  2. I’m very suspicious that the junta will use the disaster of the cyclone as convenient cover to dispose of people they disappeared and killed during the recent protests.

  3. As Death Toll Rises, Junta Puts Power over People

    By J├╝rgen Kremb, Spiegel

    Cyclone Nargis has killed tens of thousands in Burma and the death toll keeps rising. Hundreds of thousands of people are without food, water or shelter. But the only thing the military junta appears to care about is keeping its hold on power.

    The Burmese dissident had actually only intended to call to let SPIEGEL ONLINE know he was still alive, but his phone call sounded more like a cry of outrage.

    He had spent hours dialing the telephone just to get a connection outside the country. If Burma’s ruling military junta discovered his call, they might have charged him with “subversive contact with foreigners” and punished him with a long prison sentence and torture.

    “It looks like the end of the world here,” he shouted into the telephone when he finally got a call through to Singapore on Tuesday morning and could tell SPIEGEL ONLINE about the situation in Rangoon after Cyclone Nargis wreaked havoc on the city. “Everything is destroyed, we have no drinking water and nothing to eat. Tens of thousands must be dead. Hundreds of thousands are homeless.”

    And what is the government doing in response?

    “They’re clearing the streets in the rich neighborhoods,” the dissident said. Then the line went dead.

  4. The Telegraph is reporting Burma cyclone death toll could hit 63,000.

    Aid agencies are scrambling to mount a massive relief effort after military rulers in Burma, also known as Myanmar, said 22,464 people had been killed and a further 41,000 were missing feared dead after the weekend cyclone.

    A morbid, but interesting footnote is at the bottom of the story:

    The cyclone toll in Asia

    Nov 12, 1970, Bangladesh: The country’s deadliest cyclone destroys Chittagong and dozens of coastal villages, killing around 500,000 people.

  5. … diary from the Orange by Deep Harm that shows our own misGovernment’s bad handling of the situation in Burma.

    Money quote:

    At Huffington Post, Richard Walden, President and CEO of an international relief group, is one of the few willing to look past the fog of legacy media coverage.

    Most of us in the relief business have strong views pro or con about the governments of countries whose people we help. But when disaster strikes, a bad or ineffective local government is an obstacle to be danced around not bludgeoned to death thus guaranteeing it will not allow the entry of urgent humanitarian aid for its people.

    Laura Bush read the administration’s long-standing talking points on Myanmar while simultaneously demanding that its government accept a team of US disaster officials to make an independent assessment of its needs. That the International Red Cross, the United Nations, the European Union and a number of highly competent relief agencies were already on the ground doing exactly that did not seem to matter. Giving Laura a mike and a little halo seemingly was the intent, especially with George W. Bush’s popularity hovering at 27% in the polls.

    The Burmese constitutional referendum set for Saturday, the still-under-house-arrest democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, the generalized brutality of the military junta — all were targeted by The First Lady while giving lip service to making a provisional offer of US assistance to storm victims.


  6. When a country run by a despotic and isolationist regime is laid low by a massive natural disaster, the diplomatic thing to do is to respond with a show of compassion. Not kick ’em when they’re down.


    Rather than announce the launch of a massive relief effort that could take advantage of a rare diplomatic opening, the first lady instead tossed insults at Burma’s leaders, blamed them for the high death toll, and lashed out at their decision to move forward with a constitutional referendum scheduled for this Saturday.


    But why respond to a catastrophe with such hostility? The awkward timing, as it turns out, may have had something to do with an event entirely unrelated to the cyclone.

    “I’m going to leave tomorrow for Crawford, for Jenna’s wedding, and I wanted to be able to make a statement about Burma before I left,” the first lady told reporters.


    Gee, what a compassionate bunch these Bushies are.

    • Mu on May 7, 2008 at 00:16

    Mine yesterday, still up (but scrolling off soon) regarding Yahoo — and my various major problems with this company; notably it’s complicity with Chinese state police persecution of its own citizens . . .

    Mu . . .

  7. I’ve missed my Billy Bragg buddy!

    Oh, um, and great diary!

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