Once a globe-trotting diplomat, now a locally focused Dipper

May 11, 2011

For the record.

Once a globe-trotting diplomat, now a locally focused Dipper, Globe and Mail, May 10, 2011

Transition weeks are all about hello, goodbye, what’s the right form for that, and where do I go next?

As the Liberal caucus meets Wednesday, rookie MPs from all three parties are getting ready to take their seats in the House of Commons, even as defeated veterans pack their boxes and hug their departing staff. Becoming a new Member of Parliament is like starting up a small business: There are constituency offices to rent, parliamentary offices to staff, an Ottawa apartment to locate for those from away, many, many forms to fill out, and the sometimes-arcane rules of Westminster parliamentary procedure to master.

Here are three of the new faces you’ll find on the Hill when the 41st Parliament convenes in the coming weeks.

The MP Hélène Laverdière always favoured the NDP in private, but she was officially neutral as a Canadian diplomat posted in Chile, Senegal and the United States.

Now her political views are on public display as the 55-year-old is one of the most famous rookies in the NDP caucus that is taking Ottawa by storm. As she grabs her new ID card and gets briefed on parliamentary procedure in Ottawa this week, Ms. Laverdière is already known on the Hill as the vanquisher of former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who is Afraid of Ai Weiwei? Lessons for Canadians #elxn41

April 3, 2011

April 3, 2011: Ai Weiwei detained by Chinese gov.

Have a watch of the full PBS Frontline documentary: “Who is Afraid of Ai Weiwei?

“All of a sudden, these people who’b been standing on the sidewalk, milling around doing things, turned out to be people who had come to have dinner with him [Ai Weiwei]. And everybody there knew that, by simply eating dinner there, it was an act of defiance.”

P.S. When I saw Ai Weiwei willing to risk his life in “Who is Afraid of Ai Weiwei?” in order to fight for a better China, I am ashamed of the low voters’ turnout in Canada. It pains me to see my fellow Canadians, young Canadians, adult Canadians, born with the rights to vote easily giving up their rights/privilege to vote and ignoring their duty to vote in elections.


TorStar Editorial: Harper’s five question policy a disservice to public

April 3, 2011

A “what-not-to-do” lesson.

“TorStar Editorial: Harper’s five question policy a disservice to public” Apr 3, 2011

“Perhaps he’s channelling former prime minister Kim Campbell, who said an election campaign is not the time to debate important issues. Perhaps, despite leading in the polls, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is running scared. Or perhaps he just can’t be bothered.

Either way, Harper’s strategy of refusing to take more than five questions a day from reporters amounts to a gross disservice to the public. Four of the permitted questions (generally two in French and two in English) go to reporters following Harper’s campaign, while the fifth is allotted to a local scribe, wherever the Conservative news conference that day happens to be staged. It’s a fragmented format that renders it almost impossible for reporters’ questions to build momentum and bear down on an issue.

Harpers rivals, in contrast, are far more open with the media — willing to subject themselves, and their policies, to some barbed questions in an effort to get their message out to voters.

That’s as it should be. Few Canadians are able to follow the ins and outs of an election first-hand. Reporters serve as the public’s eyes and ears on the campaign trail. Ultimately, voters are the ones denied access and explanations through Harper’s five question format.

It’s ironic. The Conservatives came to power promising more accountability, more openness and more access to information. Those principles matter the most in an election, when people need as many answers as possible to make an informed choice.

Harper should bear in mind Campbell’s defeat in the election where she didn’t want to discuss serious issues. The Tory party was pulverized — reduced to just two seats. It’s an appropriate fate for those who would keep the public in the dark.”


The case for democratic debate

March 30, 2011

For the record. I agree with Tony Burman, former head of CBC news, that it is time for Canadians to “pull the plug” on the Consortium.

G&M EXCLUSIVE
The case for democratic debate – by ELIZABETH MAY
Globe and Mail Update
Published Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 6:00AM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011 11:14AM EDT

It is hard to believe that there is even a question about participation of the Green Party of Canada in the televised leaders’ debate.

We have precedent on our side. We have reason on our side. Against our participation stands an unregulated, ad hoc process that makes decisions without benefit of rules or criteria.

Canadians have come to expect the national leaders debates as part of the democratic process. In 2008, the Canadian public responded with outrage when it became known that the leader of the Green Party was not to be allowed to participate due to threats from two leaders that they would not show up if I was included. In an inspiring demonstration of non-partisan fury, Canadians forced those leaders to back down, and then the television network executives also relented.

In the midst of the controversy, the former head of the so-called Broadcast Consortium, as the news directors from CBC, CTV, Global, TVA and Radio Canada style themselves when making all the decisions about the leaders’ debate, wrote a scathing attack on the process. Tony Burman was former head of CBC news and he urged that Canadians “pull the plug” on the Consortium. He wrote that the process was entirely arbitrary and should be replaced with a commission, as in the U.S., to run debates independent of the journalists who cover the debates. He also disclosed that the threat from Stephen Harper to refuse to participate in the debates had been made in January 2007 and had become the “elephant in the room.” Moving an elephant is not easy. But the Canadian public did so. Read the rest of this entry »


蘋論 – 願諾貝爾和平獎推動中國民主轉型

October 8, 2010

For the record.

蘋論:願諾貝爾和平獎推動中國民主轉型 – (李怡) – 2010年10月09日

第一時間在電視上看到諾貝爾和平獎宣佈頒給劉曉波的消息。劉曉波太太劉霞在接受訪問時興奮卻平靜。筆者反而忍不住鼻酸了。
劉霞說謝謝諾獎評委,謝謝哈維爾、達賴喇嘛及許多海內外人士的支持,但其實她更應感謝中共當局,倘若中共不是給劉曉波判 11年重刑,倘若中共沒有對挪威諾獎評委施壓,劉曉波未必可以獲獎。
劉曉波參與起草的《零八憲章》為每一個中國人爭取憲法賦予的人權。劉曉波獲獎,等同於每一個中國人獲獎。
筆者真誠希望,中共當局對劉的獲和平獎,採取大國寬容的態度,趁機會釋放劉曉波,並推動符合憲法與兩個人權公約的改革,而不要與諾獎所揭示的普世價值對着幹。
曾長期擔任倫敦《金融時報》駐蘇聯記者的 David Satter年前寫了一篇講蘇聯解體經驗的文章,文章提到,許多西方人都認為蘇聯異見人士不重要,因為他們數量微小,勢單力薄,缺乏政治力量以至民眾的支持,只代表他們自己。 Satter認為這看法是錯的,因為這些人雖然數量少,但他們代表了普世道德,只要他們留在蘇聯境內,即使在監牢中,他們就是這個國家生命的一部份,他們的榜樣會影響許多不敢自己來捍衞普世價值的人。當那個政權開始削弱時,人數不多的異見人士在廚房裏討論的話題,就成為百萬大眾的主導觀點。其結果是,蘇聯的崩潰便不可停止了。
Satter又說,在俄國,許多蘇聯解體後上台的改革者都認為只要搞好經濟就行了,其他事情自然應刃而解,但事實上經濟發展並不能代表社會價值,人們需要一個價值系統來指導和約束其社會行為。由於道德方面的改變被忽略,前蘇聯的共產主義道德規範遂被猖獗的犯罪所代替。他認為,引致蘇聯解體的普世道德價值,應成為建設新社會的基礎,而使民主轉型得以完成。
中國今天正是面臨 Satter所說的兩種狀況。異見人士在內地獲支持的人數雖不多,但受惠於互聯網,使他們代表的普世價值,獲得較多網民支持,他們的人權觀念,必可成為廣大民眾的主導觀點。另一方面,中國儘管仍維持着一黨專政的政治局面,但市場經濟發展已把原有的社會主義道德冲垮了,全國的唯一信仰就是金錢,此外就沒有別的信仰了。經濟不代表社會價值,沒有道德和價值系統來約束行為的社會,無數的商業行為都以損人利己為目的,社會主義市場經濟等同政治特權市場經濟,各地當政者以過度暴力損害民眾利益的方式求經濟發展,社會的不公正成為普遍現象。在這種情況下,受壓迫者的群體事件越來越多,民眾報復心理造成社會的動亂和暴力事件頻頻發生。中國確實處在社會危機中。
在這樣的時刻,劉曉波和 303位發起人起草的《零八憲章》,根據現行中國憲法,根據中國已經簽署的兩個國際人權公約,提出了中國政府有義務和責任履行本國憲法、法律和國際公約,兌現它對人民和國際社會的承諾。

這可以說是最溫和、最合法的改革主張了。溫和到引起流亡海外的部份異見人士的抗拒,他們指摘《零八憲章》沒有提出結束一黨專政,指摘劉曉波不該承認中國憲法有「尊重和保障人權」元素,並認為「人權是中國法治的根本原則之一」。然而,正因為《零八憲章》的溫和、非暴力,以及提倡在現有體制內改革,使中國既得利益者無法找到任何理由予以反對,更得到眾多中共老黨員、老幹部支持,對既得利益的當權者造成更大壓力,當權者於是蠻幹,把從來不涉任何暴力的劉曉波,以莫須有的罪名判刑 11年。
今年初內地流傳一個政治笑話,胡錦濤會見清查《零八憲章》源頭的專案組,胡問:「聯邦共和國出自何處?」專案組:「中國共產黨第二次代表大會公報,原文提法:建立一個自由的聯邦共和國。多了個自由。」胡問:「軍隊國家化呢?」專案組:「出自周恩來選集。原文是:必須實現軍隊國家化。多了個必須實現。」胡問:「那麼讚美西方民主制度出自何處?」專案組:「(當年中共機關報)新華日報社論。原文提法是:美國代表了民主社會。多了個美國代表。」胡問:「解除黨禁呢?」專案組:「這是毛澤東反對國民黨時提出的口號,原文提法多了個:打倒一黨專政!」胡問:「那結社自由、言論自由、出版自由呢?」專案組:「這些憲法裏全有!」
劉曉波在《零八憲章》提出的理念,是中共建政前所提的民主理念;劉曉波的主張,不外是要中共切實履行憲法和所簽署的國際人權公約。劉曉波所要推動的,是使中共從越來越極權、越來越野蠻的統治中,和平轉型到中共建政前所提的民主體制中去,與普世價值接軌。劉曉波代表每一個無權無勢的中國人的心聲。諾貝爾和平獎不僅是頒給劉曉波,而且是頒給每一個關心中國命運的中國人。


Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

October 8, 2010

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), Winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010

I had dared not to dream of this morning’s announcement but it is finally true.

Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) has been announced as the winner of Nobel Peace Prize 2010 “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China”.

The quest for Chinese democracy is truly a long struggle (山長水遠的鬥爭). Because of Mr. Liu‘s ill health for being locked in Chinese prison for so many years, it is important for citizens and governments of the world to demand Mr. Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) to be released from prison now.

Chinese Dissident Wins Nobel Peace Prize, Associated Press

Nobel-Winner Xiaobo ‘Stuck to His Guns’ on China’s Political Reform“, PBS News Hour

Fighting for freedom in China, Al Jazeera English

News from around the world:

– Chinese dissident wins Nobel Peace Prize – Recipient denounced as ‘a criminal’ by China, CBC News with video

– “Liu Xiaobo Nobel win prompts Chinese fury – Chinese authorities say awarding peace prize to ‘criminal’ will hurt relations with Norway“, Guardian UK (with video report and phone interview from China)

– “Liu Xiaobo receives the 2010 Nobel peace prize“, Guardian UK posted a series of beautiful photos

– Wife of Chinese dissident ‘swept over’ by Nobel prize win, Toronto Star

– Here is an earlier article/interview “Chinese dissident tipped for Nobel Peace Prize“, published three days ago on Oct 5th, showing a bit of Canadian involvement and inspiration that is worth quoting here (emphasis added),

“But recently, Liu Xia revealed, she has taken some strength from words by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

Writing to friends in Hong Kong last month to thank them for supporting her husband, Liu Xia cited words from a speech that Atwood delivered in April on receiving an award from PEN America, an organization that works to defend free expression.

Atwood spoke of how silence and secrecy allow the worst horrors to breed,” she said, “and how sooner or later the hidden stories in a society have to come out.

Atwood then went on to say, ‘The messengers in such cases are seldom welcome — yet they are necessary and must be protected.’

“Of course,” said Liu Xia, “my husband is one of those messengers.”

And yet his winning a Nobel Peace Prize is one message the Chinese government doesn’t want to hear.

In fact, last summer the Chinese government sent an envoy to Norway to directly threaten the Nobel Committee if it dared to give the award to a Chinese dissident.

– Nobel Peace Prize awarded to China dissident Liu Xiaobo, BBC with video

– “China blanks Nobel Peace prize searches“, CNN

– China’s Silent Peace Prize, Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt with emphasis added,

“The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Friday it awarded the peace prize to imprisoned Chinese pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo for his fight for human rights in China, but there is no mention of it in Chinese media. Access to news segments broadcast on CNN and BBC International, normally available, have been blocked by government censors, aiming to thwart widespread knowledge of the prize.

China’s Web censors have deleted chatter from Liu’s colleagues, as well as China’s intellectuals and elite, that began to spread on China’s blogs and message boards only minutes after the news broke. On Sina, personal comments that referred to Liu as LXB or Liu Liu, avoiding his full name, disappeared an hour after having been posted. Remarks that said, “He won,” are no longer visible.”

– China calls Nobel decision ‘blasphemy’; West praises it, CNN

– “Nobel Peace Prize for Dissident Liu Has China Warning Norway on Relations“, Bloomberg


China’s Unnatural Disaster should win Oscar Documentary Short (My tears and The Tears of Sichuan Province flowed like a river)

February 16, 2010

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

Oscar Documentary Short : China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province

China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province was nominated for Oscar Documentary Short and should win, if nothing other than allowing humanity a chance to bare witness of the pain the Sichuan parents suffered and still suffer in this unnatural disaster. The suffering is ongoing because all levels of Chinese governments have refused to conduct proper investigations and punish the government officials and business people who were responsible for “the deaths of many children, often due to the collapse of their shoddily constructed schools“.

Here is part of a LA Times review (emphasis added),

As all over Sichuan Province, schools filled with students collapsed while other buildings remained standing, grief-stricken parents demanded help from the government, help that never came. First emergency teams were routed away from smaller towns and villages where parents could hear children crying for help from beneath the debris. A fortunate few were able to actually dig their children out, others eventually found the corpses of their children (and were told to bury them themselves) but many were left with only the heaps of brick and dust to serve as a mass grave.

In life, there are horrific events that happened and it was too late or we are too remote to have anything influence, but if we are to progress as a human race, we have to at least bare witness to what had happened. To me, what I saw in the documentary counted as one of those moment.

To me, it is well-made and insightful documentaries like China’s Unnatural Disaster that give me the energy and inspiration to tell stories that are interesting/important to me.

By the way, someone has posted the program up. And I hope HBO will not take it down.

P.S. For people who think China has rule of law and their court cases can be adjudicated fairly, I want to remind them their protection under the law is as thin as how their cases are viewed by the “powerful” and if their cases are remotely related to any sensitive topics (including corrupt acts by government officials and business people).