News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Taiwan Plans Big Anti-Appeasement Campaign: Concerned that time could be working against Taiwan, its increasingly isolated, independence-leaning government is preparing a major new propaganda push that will make the case for defending the island against a possible Chinese attack.
...Back to the main story. In a novel twist on the historical argument, we are told Taiwan's propagandists plan to draw a moral comparison with another endangered nation, one that some might be tempted to isolate or sacrifice in an attempt to appease powerful oil producing nations. That country, of course, is Israel--which ironically supplies China with important military technology that could be used against Taiwan. Ignoring important legal and political differences (Taiwan is a United Nations outcast currently recognized by only 25 countries, while Israel is a UN member nation recognized by China, Russia, the US and 157 other countries, including two of Israel's Arab neighbors and former foes, Egypt and Jordan), the Taiwanese view is that its moral case for statehood is no weaker than Israel's, given that a Jewish State in predominantly Arab, British-controlled Palestine came into existence against the wishes of the majority of its inhabitants. Taiwanese officials argue that while it is true Israel in part owes its existence to a UN resolution that partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the 1948 vote for partition would have been a non-starter in a post-colonial-era UN.
China to Allow Local Communist Party Elections: China is taking a significant step toward political reform--at least, that is what Beijing wants the world to believe.The ruling Communist Party announced Monday that it would hold local elections for the first time. An offical described the move as "an enormous step."
...In this regard, Beijing could be adopting old ideas floated long ago by sympathetic critics of two very different repressive regimes--the USSR and Imperial Iran. Years before both systems fell, attempts were made to persuade Soviet leaders and the autocratic Shah to reform their ruling parties by allowing multicandidate elections and, in the case of the Rastakhiz (Resurrection) Party, to transform it into a means of upward mobility for great masses of Iranians left behind by the monarch's White Revolution. The proposals and suggestions fell on deaf ears.But China seems to be listening....
China Poised to Crack Down on Foreign Law Firms: The memo details "illegal activities" that most of the foreign law firms doing business in China are allegedly engaged in, describing the activities as "serious" and "severe" threats to "China's legal system and economic safety." Shanghai is most threatened, according to the document.The principal sin seems to be practicing Chinese law without a license.In 2005, there were 82 "foreign law firms" in Shanghai, and 16 more "established by Hong Kong law firms," the memo notes. While recognizing that foreign law firms "bring advanced new concepts and management experience to China," the memo asserts that their "illegal business activities are becoming serious" and must be stopped.
Beijing has used executions to crack down on white-collar crimes and executed batches of prisoners in public rallies scheduled at national holidays to maximize attention. "Sentences often depend greatly on the political climate and timing," Amnesty International says on its website. The group says Beijing's use of capital punishment "targets poor and marginalized groups including ethnic minorities, migrant communities, political dissidents and so-called 'separatists.' "
Under Chinese rules, the initial trial and appeal in capital cases are heard by the same court. Most condemned prisoners are executed without having higher courts review their cases.
Most of those put to death were given limited access to defense lawyers; others were convicted on the basis of confessions they made after beatings by police, says Katie Lee, director of the Great Britain-China Center, a London-based organization working on judicial changes with Chinese legal officials. "Torture is rampant during custody and questioning stages. Verdicts are often decided behind closed doors prior to the trial proceedings," Amnesty International says on its website.
...Under China's New Policy:
• Appeals in all death sentence cases must be heard in open court. Lawyers for the accused, now restricted to written appeals, will be allowed to make oral arguments.
• Lethal injections, administered in vans traveling from prison to prison, will increasingly replace shootings. (For now, most of those put to death are executed in public — shot in the back of the head after being forced to kneel and open their mouths so the bullet will do minimal damage to facial features.)
• Final approval in each capital case will eventually move to an arm of China's highest court, the Supreme People's Court, which will review cases individually, according to the state-run People's Daily newspaper.
"This will greatly reduce the number of executions — by at least 20%-30%," says Huang Jingping, law professor at People's University.
40 years after start of 'years of chaos', China's top lawyer says lessons must be learned : Although President Hu Jintao says that China is moving towards rule by law, political interference in judicial decision-making is the norm at all levels. "It is ridiculous that party cadres who have no legal qualification are taking the place of the courts in administering justice," said Zhang. "But in the current environment, it has become almost a rule of the game."
China seeks good-looking sailors : Officials say anyone joining the service in 2006 must be good-looking, tall and polite. Manners and looks matter because navy vessels often visit other countries and host reciprocal visits, a spokesman has told the official Xinhua news agency. Biff- doesn't sound too belligerent.

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