Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Touchdown in Australia, crackdown at home [The Age]

It will be interesting to see what Australia has to say to the Chinese about Ai Weiwei’s disappearance, especially since Jia Qinglin heads the nationalistic United Front.

For more on Ai Weiwei – arguably China’s first modern art star featuring bold installations and photography, PBS Frontline has produced a good doco. Named by Chen Danqing as ‘Beijing’s Andy Warhol’ check out an insight into one of China’s leading activists, who once described the Beijing Olympics as a ‘fake smile’ -‘Who’s afraid of Ai Weiwei’.

With it comes a slideshow of his art plus behind the scenes.

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Touchdown in Australia, crackdown at home
John Garnaut
Source – The Age, published April 5, 2011


Mr Jia, China's No. 4 leader. Photo: AP

CHINA’S fourth-ranked leader, Jia Qinglin, will arrive in Perth tonight amid the Communist Party’s toughest crackdown on civil society in more than a decade.

Mr Jia’s six-day trip will include meetings with Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to deepen ties and consolidate the booming trade relationship, and comes as the Communist Party is going to new and more forceful lengths to protect its rule.

Last night there was still no official information about well-known artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who was detained on Sunday. Ai had been taken into custody at Beijing’s international airport as he prepared to board a flight, his wife Lu Qing said yesterday.

”As he was being detained, police came here with a search warrant and searched everywhere,” she said. ”They took the computer, computer disks and other materials. They refused to say why the search warrant was issued or why Ai Weiwei was taken away.”

Ms Gillard has been to China only once, more than a decade ago, and is due to make her first visit as Prime Minister after Anzac Day ceremonies on April 25.

Mr Jia will be introduced to her as chairman of a parliamentary-style organisation, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, but his real power comes from overseeing the Communist Party’s ”united front” operations.

The United Front Department began as an institution for temporarily uniting communist and nationalist forces against a common enemy, Japan, before and during World War II.

Its functions have extended into other fields, dealing with ”enemies” in academia, private enterprise, religion and ethnic affairs. Lodi Gyari, special envoy for Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama who has been negotiating with the United Front Department for 27 years, said: ”In past decades they have done more work in trying to destabilise, trying to create division among us, than to do what is constructive.

”I have not once but many times, particularly in the last few rounds of negotiations, strongly protested their behaviour and said they do a disservice to the name they have – United Front,” he told The Age.

Mr Jia’s United Front activities are just one concern that human rights groups will press Ms Gillard to raise during her visit to China.

In the past six weeks more than 30 lawyers, writers and activists have been detained in China, while another dozen have simply vanished.

”There were some nasty crackdowns in the ’90s,” said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch. ”But what’s distinctive this time is the wide recourse to extra-judicial methods.”

A spokesman for Mr Rudd said yesterday the government was concerned by reports of Ai’s detention.

”Australian officials in Beijing have sought an early opportunity to raise these concerns with Chinese counterparts and to urge Chinese authorities to release all individuals who have been detained for expressing their political views,” he said.

Mr Gyari is particularly concerned about United Front efforts to split Tibetan communities outside China, including in Australia.

Liu Bin, a scholar at the China Tibetology Research Centre, which is registered under the United Front Department, recently argued that such subversive activities should be deepened.

”Make contact with organisations and senior individuals who may be biased against us and yet who have contradictions with the Dalai [Lama] clique … and strive to put them to our use,” Mr Liu wrote in a journal published by the centre.

”With regard to those Tibetan compatriots who are loyal followers of the Dalai … we must promptly track them and be appraised of their actions and, at the appropriate time, resolutely attack them.”

One of China’s leading online commentators, Australian Yang Hengjun, went missing for four days last week but re-emerged to tell The Age it had been a ”misunderstanding” as he had merely been ”ill”.

The crackdown in China has also targeted religious groups, with Beijing’s largest unregistered church, Shouwang, faced with conducting services outdoors because authorities have again pressured landlords to deny it buildings.

With AFP



Filed under: Ai Weiwei, Australia, Beijing Consensus, Censorship, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Communications, Culture, Disaster, Domestic Growth, Environment, Human Rights, Influence, International Relations, Lifestyle, Nationalism, People, Politics, Population, Public Diplomacy, Reform, Social, Strategy, The Age, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities

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