Honduras-Hong Kong connection

It’s not often such a clear connection occurs, but when it does I am so glad.

Seems the Hong Kong authorities arrested a couple of Hong Kongers for illegally importing Honduran rosewood.

Reports of the arrest made the newspapers in Honduras (Incautan en China madera hondureña) and Hong Kong. (Hong Kong customs seizes 92 tonnes of endangered rosewood)

The arrest is just one of many involving the endangered tree. According to the South China Morning Post:

China has long been considered the epicentre of the illegal timber trade, with Hong Kong often a convenient gateway due to the city’s status as a free port. As much as 30 per cent of the city’s timber imports were from illegal sources, a 2010 report by WWF Hong Kong found.

Rosewood is valued for its finish and resistance to rot. The tree is primarily found in Honduras and Madagasgar. It is protected under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

This case shows — once again — that there are so many connections between different countries, if only reporters would look for them.

Granted, if would be nicer if the connections did not include destruction of vital natural resources or criminal activities.

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Filed under Connections, Honduras, Hong Kong

Catching up: Chinese president says press had it coming

Chinese president Xi Jinping was forced to take an unscripted question from a Western reporter during President Obama’s visit to China last month.

After first seemingly ignoring the question, Xi doubled back to address the issue raised of visas for Western journalists by the reporter.

Mark Lander of the New York Times reported:

After first taking an unrelated, clearly scripted, question from a state-owned Chinese paper — which drew a quizzical facial expression from Mr. Obama — Mr. Xi circled back, declaring that the visa problems of the news organizations, including The Times, were of their own making.

Mr. Xi insisted that China protected the rights of news media organizations but that they needed to abide by the rules of the country. “When a certain issue is raised as a problem, there must a reason,” he said, evincing no patience for the news media’s concerns about being penalized for unfavorable news coverage of Chinese leaders and their families.

So basically Xi’s excuse for not issuing visas to Western reporters is the same excuse a husband gives when accused of beating his wife: It was all the other person’s fault.

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Harassment, Press Freedom

Another Honduran journalist slain

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports another journalist murder in Honduras: Television station owner gunned down in Honduras.

Carlos Lauria, CPJ senior program coordinator for the Americas has it right:

“Honduras has a disturbing pattern of letting journalists’ murders remain unsolved and unexplained, perpetuating the cycle of impunity. Honduran authorities must launch an immediate and thorough investigation into the murder of Reynaldo Paz Mayes, fully examine all possible motives, and bring those responsible to justice.”

Part of the problem fully investigating the deaths of journalists — and taxi drivers and lawyers and anyone else — is that the Honduran government does not have well-trained law enforcement officers.

Some of that is changing, thanks to the US, Colombia, the EU and other countries. Together these countries are training special squads of police and prosecutors to seriously investigate crimes and to go where the evidence takes them.

Unfortunately, there are still too few of these trained (and vetted) investigators. But the number is growing.

Another problem is the rhetoric once a journalist is killed.

In the case of Paz, he had no background as a journalist. He was a political activist who set up his television station a couple of years ago to air stories and commentaries against the current government of Honduras. (Unlike, US stations, Honduran TV and radio stations are highly partisan.)

Paz received threats for his comments. So when he was killed, the immediate reaction from others also opposed to the Hernandez government was that Paz was killed for his political beliefs.

Juan Ramón Flores, owner of the television station CTV Canal 48 and president of the city chapter of  [the opposition party] LIBRE, told CPJ that Paz had received threats for years in connection with his political beliefs and, most recently, in relation to his on-air criticism of President Juan Orlando Hernández, who he accused of having undue influence over all branches of government. Flores said the most recent threats had been made in anonymous phone calls the week before the shooting. Paz had talked about the threats on his program, Flores said.

Other journalists in Comayagua, where Paz had his station, say they are not convinced he was killed because of his political views.

Without a doubt there are ethical and courageous journalists who have been killed because of their adherence to the idea of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. They thrived on exposing the pandemic corruption in Honduras. They saw their mission as one to let the disinfecting light of truth help clean up Honduran politics and society.

And many of these journalists were killed because of their dedication to their craft.

However, too often many of the journalists killed in the past few years in Honduras may not have been slain because they were journalists but because of other factors in their lives.

The pay really sucks for Honduran journalists, so some have side businesses. Maybe a stall in a weekend market, or maybe a small store. Unfortunately for Honduras, extortion of vendors and merchants is wide-spread. Gangs demand a “war tax” from companies and many market vendors.

Refusal to pay the “war tax” is often enough of an excuse for gangs to kill someone.

In at least one case, the murder may have been a case of mistake identity.

There are also situations that can best be described as “wrong place, wrong time.” A journalist is in a bar or restaurant just as any normal person would be. And maybe, a gang leader is also in the same bar or restaurant, completely unrelated to the journalist being there. Rival gangs have been known to just spray a place with gunfire to get the one gang leader they were looking for. (Thankfully, these types of killings were few and far between. And now seem to have abated completely.)

When threats seem to come to journalist for their political comments, it is often because the journalist is looking into a local political leader who is in the hip pocket of a local narco. So the threat is not based on liberal v. conservative views but rather on the potential damage to a lucrative financial arrangement between a crooked politician and a drug dealer. And then, the murder is handled by the narco, not the politician. (Think of the Mexico situation, where — according to reports — a corrupt mayor handed over 43 students to the local narco.)

Politics has little to do with the threat. It is all about the money and the power.

Complaints by a local media outlet of the overreaching power of the national government are an annoyance, but not one that would lead to the killing of a journalist.

Will we ever know why Paz and most of the other murdered journalists were killed? I doubt it.

Again, because of the poor quality of criminal investigation in the country, we may never be able to get to the whole story about these murders. And if the funding and support for the special investigative units is cut — as many in the US opposed to the current Honduran government argue — we may never know.

The threats to the funding of training and vetting of honest police and prosecutors comes from the very people who scream the loudest about the poor system of justice in Honduras. If the U.S., Colombia and the EU withdraw their funding and training, there is little hope for full and fair investigations and prosecutions of murders.

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Filed under Central America, Corruption, Honduras, Killings

New campaign to free journalists

Thanks to Roy Greenslade at The Guardian for pointing out the new Reporters Without Borders campaign to help journalists in Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and China.

Press freedom body highlights plight of Eritrea’s jailed journalists

Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, has launched a fund-raising campaign based around the plight of jailed journalists inEritrea, China and Saudi Arabia.

The Eritrean prisoner is Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned without trial for 13 years after being arrested along with other newspaper editors in 2001.

Isaak is reported to be dying slowly in a prison camp where detainees are tortured by being shut inside steel containers during periods of intense heat. And RWB has used that image of a container to publicise its campaign.

Read full article here.

 

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Filed under Africa, China, Middle East, Press Freedom

No Puns In China – Follow up

Even Jon Stewart gets in on the act:

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Now Beijing is going after puns

Seems the language purity police in Beijing are going after anyone having fun with words. (Nowhere to Pun Amid Crackdown on Wordplay)

The official target seems to be advertising copy that plays on famous Chinese idioms. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television calls these puns and twisted words an affront to Chinese culture.

The problem is that wordplay is a classic form of Chinese humor.

For example, a standard greeting in Mandarin for the New Year is Gong Xi Fa Cai (Wishing you wealth.) But by making a small change to Gong Xi Bai Cai (Wishing you white cabbage), you can bring down the house. (And it works in Cantonese as well.)

Of course, the real target might be the millions of Netizens who use puns to attack government officials and policies.

One of the classic plays is using May 35 (5/35) to denote June 4, the day in 1989 of the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. (Of course, eventually the censors began blocking “May”, “35”, and “35th”.

The Grass-Mud Horse is a great example of how the Netizens in China started wordplay to express their feelings toward the government.

One of my favorites is bird anus. This one is dedicated to government spokesman Qín Gāng.

Because the names of government leaders and officials often become sensitive words, netizens frequently invent creative (and pejorative) homonyms to sidestep scrutiny and censorship. A career diplomat, Qin Gang (秦刚) has held a number of official posts at China’s Foreign Ministry since 1992. He is currently a ministry spokesperson and head of the ministry’s information department. The characters in his name are homophonic with those meaning “bird anus.” A netizen explains why this nickname fits Qin:

The anus is from where one farts and shits. In other words, if the bird wants to fart, the anus must let the fart pass—the anus cannot decide what kind of fart to fart. That is why he is called “Bird Anus.” [In Chinese “to fart” can also mean “to speak nonsense.”]

 

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, Harassment, International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Nice to know China’s hatred of criticism is not limited to free media. (NOT!)

I really have a hard time understanding how the rulers in Beijing think they can get away with dissing the world and not get more bad press.

Once it became difficult to shut out the world completely, the rule makers/breakers in Beijing decided that Western news organizations that act, well, like Western news organizations, will have a harder time getting visas for their reporters. The latest is the ongoing battle the New York Times has staffing its offices in China.

The “problem” with the Times came to a boiling point when the paper ran a story about the wealth accumulated by the families of the ruling elite. (Billions in Hidden Riches for Family of Chinese Leader)

Beijing delayed renewing visas for Times’ reporters in place and denied visas for their replacements.

And it is a situation that just keeps getting worse: New York Times editor on China visa problem: ‘We’re a little bit hostages’

And now, Beijing says certain British members of Parliament are not allowed into Hong Kong. (China Says British Lawmakers Would Be Banned From Hong Kong)

Maybe Beijing did not understand the terms of the agreement that turned Hong Kong from British rule to that of China. The agreement guarantees 50 years (from 1997) of protection of the civil, political and economic rights of Hong Kong residents. In addition, because the agreement is an international treaty, the British government (and members of Parliament) along with other governments — the U.S. included — may conduct investigations into any violations of that agreement.

Beijing might argue that investigators do not need to go to Hong Kong. In fact, they do argue that all the other countries have to do is take Beijing’s word for what is the problem and that Beijing has the best solution.

And just to be clear that Beijing does not want any “trouble makers” in their territory, they have denied visa requests into China proper by other members of Parliament, members of the Occupy Central movement, students in Hong Kong who supported the demonstrations for more democracy in Hong Kong and the odd journalist here and there.

Basically, anyone who has raised a critical voice about the way China is being run.

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Filed under Censorship, China, Freedom of access, Hong Kong, Press Freedom