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Week of October 29, 1999

Week of October 29, 1999

The U.S. and China This Week



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SOCIETY: Civil Disobedience in China

SUMMARY:

Earlier this week, Falun Gong practitioners protested the government's actions against their religion. Falun Gong members held passive protests in Tiananmen Square as the National People’s Congress (NPC) convened to discuss a bill outlawing religious cults, which would include Falun Gong. The bill instructs local governments to differentiate between the leaders and followers of a cult, as the followers can be reeducated, while the leaders must be punished.

The members gathered to sit quietly in the square. Because of their passive manner, police had difficulty identifying Falun Gong practitioners, and went from person to person asking if they practiced Falun Gong. Those who responded yes were herded into a police van. Most of those arrested were given a warning and released within 24 hours. Many vowed to return to the square and continue their protest. This act of civil disobedience aims to send a message to the government that the people's spirits are strong, and that the government faces a battle in ridding the country of Falun Gong.

Before leaving on his trip to Europe and Africa, President Jiang Zemin ordered that any challenges to the government must be "nipped in the bud," and emphasized the need to promote socio-political stability. In part, this speech was aimed at Falun Gong and other "cults." President Jiang perceives a definitive link between underground religions and social unrest, a concept which has caused the suppression of Falun Gong in the name of national stability. Along these lines, police report finding evidence that Falun Gong members possess 59 classified state documents, 20 top secret documents, gave classified documents to foreigners, and have leaked state secrets. (By Chinese government definition, anything that is not public knowledge is considered classified information.) According to the Xinhua news agency, the group has political motives, and uses the Internet to spread rumors which are having a negative effect on political and social stability.

The government is clearly feeling threatened by Falun Gong. Whether Falun Gong practitioners are just looking for something to believe in or are attempting to spur political change, it is certain that a battle for the people's faith is being fought between the government and "cults" or spiritual sects such as Falun Gong.


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GOVERNMENT: Hu Jintao in a Position of Power

SUMMARY:

Preparing for his multinational tour, last week President Jiang Zemin made Hu Jintao Acting Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). Hu Jintao was recently appointed Vice Chairman of the CMC although many top political players were uncertain about his abilities to fulfill this role. Being made Acting Chairman is a sign of Jiang's faith in Hu, but it is also a test of Hu's abilities. Some analysts believe President Jiang left Hu in charge as a way to maintain the status quo while Jiang was away visiting foreign powers.


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WORLD POLITICS: Indonesia Building Ties with China

SUMMARY:

Indonesia's recently elected President Abdurrahman Wahid said that a trip to China would be his first official state visit. His explanation for choosing China was that Beijing has consistently supported Indonesia in international diplomatic matters. He has also made several references to his Chinese ancestry.

Recently, China objected to the inclusion of a reference to human rights violations in East Timor in a draft resolution that went before the United Nations Security Council. China also seems to be more supportive of Indonesia as China tries to maintain regional stability and gain recognition as a regional power.

Chinese-Indonesian relations have not always been so smooth. In 1965, Beijing supported the Communist Party of Indonesia in a violent attempted coup that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians, including many of Chinese ancestry. As the new millennium approaches, Indonesia and China appear to be rebuilding their relationship and working to build an Asia-Pacific which is mutually beneficial.


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SOCIETY: WORLD POLITICS: The Macao Handover

SUMMARY:

This Tuesday, Chinese President Jiang Zemin met with Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio to discuss the December 19th handover of Macao to China. Among the topics they discussed were: the whether Macao would adopt the death penalty; the use of Portuguese as an official language of Macao; and who will attend the handover ceremony.

To secure a smooth transition, President Sampaio agreed to be among the delegation attending the ceremony. Portuguese officials had earlier stated that they would definitely discuss human rights issues with President Jiang. One controversial invitation to the changeover ceremony was extended by Portuguese representatives to Vatican officials. China was greatly angered by this invitation, because the Vatican officially recognizes Taiwan as a country, while the People’s Republic regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

Regarding the governing of Macao, President Jiang says after the handover Macao will enjoy the privileges that go along with the "one country, two systems" approach pioneered in 1997 with Hong Kong’s reversion to Chinese rule. For the next fifty years, Macao will have a high degree of autonomy and will maintain its capitalist system. With the return of Macao, China will have regained control of two of the three most visible territories it lost during the "100 years of foreign aggression". Control of the most visible and the largest, Taiwan, still eludes the People’s Republic. China hopes that a smooth transition in Macao will prove to Taiwan, the most visible lost territory, that reunification can be accomplished for the betterment of both.


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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: China's Response to UN Peacekeeping activities in East Timor

SUMMARY:

This Tuesday, Chinese President Jiang Zemin met with Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio to discuss the December 19th handover of Macao to China. Among the topics they discussed were: the whether Macao would adopt the death penalty; the use of Portuguese as an official language of Macao; and who will attend the handover ceremony.

On Tuesday, China issued a statement considering participating in the UN Administration of East Timor. Zhang Qiyue, a foreign minister, explained that China has always supported UN resolution of the East Timor situation. China voted in favor of the UN Security Council's resolution to send peacekeeping forces, feels the UN is the best vehicle for building stability in the region, and hopes to play a role in restoring order in East Timor. As such, China has agreed to the resolution which gives the UN Transitional Authority for East Timor (UNTAET) the power to rule the region, and will contribute 5 civilian policemen to the UN effort. China generally sends at least one observer to US peacekeeping or observer missions, in accordance to UN rules which request each member of the security council to send at least one person per mission.



The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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