During the course of my work on the Seoul Summit for Human Rights in North Korea last December, I must have gotten on Freedom House's media list. Here is a release from them (in Black):
Freedom House today expressed its serious concern over the Chinese authorities’ closure on January 24, 2006, of the influential weekly newspaper, “Freezing Point” [“Bing Dian”], which often covered sensitive social and political issues. The Chinese government’s crackdown on the publication is part of a larger pattern of media repression that has escalated over the last two years.
The closure came as the online search engine Google announced it had agreed to self-censor in exchange for greater access to the world’s fastest-growing Internet market. Under an arrangement with the Chinese authorities, Google will be able to provide a China-based search service. It will not, however, offer email and blogging services to Chinese customers due to the risk of being ordered to provide users’ personal information to the Chinese government.
Freedom House executive director Jennifer Windsor said, “The Chinese government’s closure of Freezing Point is the most recent illustration of the commitment by the Chinese Communist Party to smother free expression.”
“Equally troubling is the reality that western firms are effectively facilitating censorship in China and jeopardizing the welfare of journalists,” Windsor added. “Fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, should not be negotiated away in return for market access. Western businesses have a leadership role to play in encouraging best business practices in local markets, including in the information sector.”
Recent examples of media suppression in China include the cases of:
Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong-based correspondent for The Straits Times, who was detained in April 2005 on suspicion of harming state security by working for Taiwan as a spy;
New York Times researcher Zhao Yan, who was imprisoned in an investigation concerning the alleged leaking of state secrets regarding former President Jiang Zemin’s resignation from one of the former president’s high government posts, the Military Affairs Commission.
Shi Tao, a reporter for Contemporary Business News in Hunanprovince, was arrested for violating state secrets laws, after emailing a one-page document to the New York-based website, Democracy Forum. Online search engine Yahoo, which claims it was legally compelled by the authorities to provide the information, helped the Chinese government trace Shi Tao. In April 2005, he was sentenced to ten years in prison.
Ching Cheong and Zhao Yan remain in custody and are expected to receive prison sentences next month. These cases and others like them add up to a media environment that is highly capricious and dangerous for independent-minded journalists.
Freezing Point was accused by the authorities of “viciously attacking the socialist system” by publishing a story that criticized history textbooks used in secondary schools.
The action against Freezing Point comes less than a month after the authorities’ firing of the editor of Beijing News, another publication known for reporting on sensitive subjects.
Freedom House will be releasing a report on Chinese control of the mass media next month.
In its 2005 survey of press freedom, Freedom House rated China as having a “Not Free” environment for the media, ranking it in 177th place out of a total of 194 countries and territories worldwide. Major concerns cited in the report include legal restrictions; overt censorship by authorities of all forms of media, including the Internet; self-censorship on the part of journalists; and the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.
Freedom House also ranked China as “Not Free” in its annual survey of political and civil rights, Freedom in the World. The survey gave China a score of seven for political rights and a six for civil liberties. The lowest score possible in both categories is a seven.
Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in China since 1972 and press freedoms in China since 1980.
Additional information about China is available online at:
As part of my coverage of the Seoul Summit for Human Rights in North Korea, I reported on a speech make by GNP member of the Kuk Hoe, Kim Moon-soo. I happened to have met a member of his staff (Ms Soh Ji-young) during the conference and sent the link to her. She was kind enough to send an English version of Representative Kim's speech, which I have pasted below.
Kim is one of the leading voices in South Korea for human rights for North Koreans, so it behooves anyone interested in the issue to read it all. To that end, I am putting it up in full and without a post continuation.
Here it is:
North Korean Human Rights Conference (Dec. 9. 2005)
The National Assembly's Role on North Korean Human Rights
Distinguished guests and friends,
I thank you for inviting me to this meaningful and honorable conference on human rights.
The year 2005 has been a year filled with passionate campaigns for North Korean human rights.
The adoption of the third North Korean human rights resolution by the UN Commission for Human Rights in April; the first international North Korean human rights conference in July; the appointment of the US special envoy; and the UN General Assembly's first resolution on North Korean human rights; these were all made possible through the devoted efforts of each and every one of you gathered today.
But regrettably, South Koreais choosing to remain silent on the human rights situation in the North. For the past three years, the South Korean government has abstained or not attended the voting of U.N. resolutions on North Korean human rights and even abstained from voting on the UN General Assembly resolution in November.
The Grand National Party has submitted a total of 10 bills on North Korean human rights to the National Assembly, including five legislations that I sponsored on North Korean human rights, abductees, prisoners-of-war, North Korean refugees and separated families. I also submitted on Dec. 5. a resolution demanding a parliamentary investigation into the 2000 abduction case of Rev. Kim Dong-shik and repatriation of POW Han Man-taek early this year.
But despite the wide support of our party, not one human rights bill has been able to pass through the Assembly, as the GNP is not a majority.
In this situation, the efforts of international bodies, NGOs and the media serve a pivotal role. I firmly believe that today's conference will serve positively in the passage of North Korean human rights bills in South Korea. The US has legislated the North Korean Human Rights Act with Jay Lefkowitz as special envoy, while Japan has also appointed a special envoy on human rights.
I believe that these efforts by the U.S. and Japan will not only work toward improving North Korean human rights but also motivate our National Assembly into taking action.
I feel ashamed that our government is choosing to remain silent and is only concentrating on not provoking North Korea. Due to the government's "quiet diplomacy" policy, thousands of refugees are meeting a quiet death.
What is the use of unification without freedom and human rights? Genuine peace and reconciliation between the two Koreas can never be achieved without improvement in the human rights issue.
I would like to outline a few agendas for improving human rights in North Korea.
First, we must team up with international community to conduct surveys of the human rights situation in the North.
Currently, North Korea is refusing to disclose any population statistics. The last survey was done in 1994 with the support of the United Nations Population Fund.
The same applies for North Korea's food and electricity situation. Although the international community continues to donate aid, we do not know how much goes to the North Korean people. We must conduct intensive surveys in North Korea on areas such as food, electricity, medical supplies and other basic necessities.
We must also conduct investigations on the human rights abuses in the North, such as political camps, public executions and the country's criminal code and how it is enforced.
Second, we must tear down the high walls surrounding Korean embassies in China and other countries and accept North Korean refugees seeking to come to Korea. Even at this very moment, thousands of North Korea refugees remain in hiding, living in fear of being forcibly sent back to North Korea. We must find a way for them to safely reach South Korea, and stop them from risking their lives and climbing the walls of foreign missions.
As of Dec 1, 2005, a total of 1,214 North Korean refugees have come to South Korea, down by 33 percent compared to last year.
Based on the Constitution, North Korean refugees are citizens of South Korea. How can a country which just looks on and does nothing about the human rights atrocities of its own people can be called a country which values human rights?
Third, we must exert all efforts to solve the issue of POWs, abductees and separated families.
Almost six years have passed since the abduction of Rev. Kim Dong-shik, but the government has yet to confirm whether he is dead or alive.
POW Han Man-taek, who escaped to China after being detained in the North for more than half a century, was caught by Chinese authorities and sent back to the North, but the government does not even know the details of the incident.
The issue of Korean POWs and abductees were never selected as formal agendas in inter-Korean talks, as the North is refusing to acknowledge they ever exist.
How will we able to relieve the grief of the families of POWs and abductees?
For the past twenty years, only 3,506 separated families were able to confirm the whereabouts of their kin in the North, a minimal number compared to the 124,523 applicants seeking to meet their families. As most of the applicants are over 70 years of age, we do not have much time. We must act quickly.
There are three main issues involving North Korea. One is regarding nuclear weapons, missiles, and biochemical weapons. Another is regarding economical issues such as inter-Korean exchange, food shortage and humanitarian aid. The third is human rights, involving prison camps, public execution, and violation of basic rights.
Among these I believe the most serious one is the human rights issue. That is because if basic human rights are established, then the nuclear issue and economic issue can be naturally resolved as well.
The issue of nuclear programs, humanitarian aid, democracy and human rights are not separate issues that are in conflict against each other, but those which must go together in order to be solved.
I firmly believe this North Korean human rights conference in Seoulcan help shed a glorious light to the barren and dark landof North Korea.
I've been enjoying Rome since it hit OCN a few weeks ago. It seems that I'm not alone:
In the cable world, where a 1 percent viewer rating is on the high side, the show has brought a landslide 3.18 percent in the AGB Nielsen Ratings on its first airing. Average ratings over 3 weeks dropped off slightly to around 2.15 percent. Viewers who are fed-up with the overabundance of soap opera fare are saying finally something has come along that's actually worth watching.
Check out that first link. It has a lot of good stuff.
USAinKorea has put up a video of a speech Michael Horowitz gave at the Seoul Summit for Human Rights in North Korea on December 9. The page also has a host of links on Horowitz and groups who support human rights in North Korea.
The video, taken by Brendan Brown on a hand-held video camera, is a little shaky but the sound and the message are clear. The title of this post comes from the speech.
I talked about the same thing on my blog back on January 6 and submitted the piece a few days later. It took about a week for the editors to approve it so some of the information is a little dated for Korea watchers. However, it is still news for general readers and provides some background information that might be useful for them.
As I've said before, one of the cool things about writing for TCS Daily is that you get a cool graphic with each article. This one does not disappoint.
Oh, here is the required teaser:
For the last several years, the Korean government has been fighting the appreciation of its currency, the won. Despite their efforts, it recently passed the psychologically important 1000-won-to-the-dollar mark and is projected to eventually rise to around 950 to the dollar. The rise of the won has caused panic in the government, which is taking measures to bring it back down. Among those measures are threats against foreign speculators. One Seoul-based economist went as far as to say “This is some kind of war.”
USAinKorea has put up a video of parts of Melia's speech. The video was taken by Brendan Brown, who was sitting next to me with his video camera. Here is a money shot (there are a couple)
"North Korea is the only country in the world, that in everyone of the 34 years we have been publishing [Freedom House's country-by-country human rights] survey, has constantly gotten the lowest possible scores."
One of my all-time favorite movies is The Big Lebowski. If you haven't seen it, buy or (legally) download it ASAP.
Early in the movie, the Big Lebowski hires the Dude to deliver a ransom in a briefcase for his wife. When the Dude fails to deliver the briefcase, the Big Lebowski yelled at him but did not do anything else to either harm the Dude or find his wife. The point where the Dude finally realizes the Big Lebowski's game is one of the most memorable parts of the movie for me (from the script):
I mean we totally f***ed it up, man. We f***ed up his pay-off. And got the kidnappers all pissed off, and the big Lebowski yelled at me a lot, but he didn't do anything....
...His million bucks was never in [the briefcase the Big Lebowski gave to the Dude], man! There was no money in that briefcase! He was hoping they'd kill her!
The rest of the world complains that American hegemony is reckless, arrogant, and insensitive. Just don’t expect them to do anything about it. The world’s guilty secret is that it enjoys the security and stability the United States provides. The world won’t admit it, but they will miss the American empire when it’s gone.
The comparison is not perfect since the Big Lebowski wanted the Dude to fail and the rest of the world wants America to succeed, but cynicism of those who howl against the USA from under its protection fits perfectly.
I remember a few years ago there was a lot of huffing and puffing about Europe (led by France with help from Germany, of course) counterbalancing the United States but they never actually got around to do anything about it.
Read the rest, but here is another teaser:
The gap between what the world says about American power and what it fails to do about it is the single most striking feature of 21st-century international relations. The explanation for this gap is twofold. First, the charges most frequently leveled at America are false. The United States does not endanger other countries, nor does it invariably act without regard to the interests and wishes of others. Second, far from menacing the rest of the world, the United States plays a uniquely positive global role. The governments of most other countries understand that, although they have powerful reasons not to say so explicitly.
The only non-rogue country that might have it in for the USA in the near future is China and that will only happen when they think they have what it takes to run the show themselves. Until, and maybe beyond, that time America will be the principle provider of stability on this planet.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il arrived at a five-star hotel in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Friday morning, as Beijing keeps up a news blackout on the whereabouts of the reclusive leader, Japanese media outlets reported.
If the report is true (and it might not be), it kind of makes you wonder what the little guy is up to.
Could this be the first step in a voluntary exile? Unlikely, but one can dream.