July 18th, 2017 | Victims of Communism

Victims of Communism — Memorial Foundation

July 18th, 2017


Why China Censors Banned Winnie The Pooh
Stephen McDonell, BBC
The blocking of Winnie the Pooh might seem like a bizarre move by the Chinese authorities but it is part of a struggle to restrict clever bloggers from getting around their country’s censorship. When is a set of wrist watches not just a set of wrist watches? When is a river crab not just a river crab? Inside the Great Firewall of China of course. Winnie the Pooh has joined a line of crazy, funny internet references to China’s top leaders. The Chinese name for and images of the plump, cute cartoon character are being blocked on social media sites here because bloggers have been comparing him to China’s president. When Xi Jinping and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endured one of the more awkward handshakes in history netizens responded with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore shaking hands.

As China Prepares for New Top Leaders, Women Are Still Shut Out
Didi Kirsten Tatlow, THE NEW YORK TIMES
China’s Communist Party leaders will gather this fall for a closely watched congress to decide who will take the party into its eighth decade of power. Yet for all the speculation about who will emerge at the top of the ruling party, one result seems certain: Few, if any, will be women. Not once since the Communists came to power in 1949 has a woman sat on the party’s highest body, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee  now led by President Xi Jinping. The 25-member Politburo has just two women, though that is the highest number since the Cultural Revolution, when the wives of the Chinese leader Mao Zedong and of Lin Biao, his designated successor, were given seats in 1969. Despite China’s constitutional commitments to gender equality, discrimination remains widespread, academics and feminists say, summed up by the saying that a woman with power is like “a hen crowing at dawn” — an augur of the collapse of the family and state. Mandatory early retirement for women doesn’t help. Women must retire up to 10 years earlier than men, on the assumption that they are the primary caregivers for grandchildren and elderly relatives. That removes them from contention just as their careers begin to peak.

Liu Xiaobo’s Death Pushes China’s Censors Into Overdrive
It came as little surprise when, after the death of the dissident Liu Xiaobo last week, China’s vast army of censors kicked into overdrive as they scrubbed away the outpouring of grief on social media that followed. The accounts of censorship have been mostly anecdotal. But systematic research from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs shows that there was a “significant shift” in censorship techniques in the days after Mr. Liu’s death, particularly on WeChat, the popular messaging app from Tencent. On WeChat, which has more than 768 million daily active users, the number of keyword combinations that were blocked greatly increased, according to the report that the Citizen Lab published on Sunday. Additions to the blacklist included general references to his death like “Xiaobo + died” in Chinese and in English, and even just his name “Liu Xiaobo,” effectively censoring any messages that mentioned him. The Citizen Lab said it was also the first time that images were automatically filtered in private one-on-one chats on WeChat. Blocked images included photographs of Liu Xiaobo and of people commemorating him.


Cuba’s Median Salary Is Higher But Life Remains Difficult For Workers With No Other Income
Mario J. Pentón & Luz Escobar, THE MIAMI HERALD
Ileana Sánchez searched meticulously through her worn purse for cash to buy a small blackboard for her 7-year-old granddaughter, who dreams of being a teacher when she grows up. It took months for her to save enough money to cover the cost of the toy, roughly 525 Cuban pesos, because her salary as a government inspector is only 315 pesos per month and she has no other income. Cuba’s National Statistics and Information Office, known as ONEI, recently reported that the island’s monthly median salary rose to 740 pesos, about $29. But the increase does not represent a noticeable improvement in the life of the Cuban worker. “I don’t know who earns that kind of money or where they get that number, because even by adding the salary of my husband, who works in the food industry and earns 240 pesos per month, and mine, we don’t make that much,” said Sánchez. According to the report, the mean salary has been affected by large hikes in some “strategic” sectors such as health, where wages have more than doubled, even as salaries in other sectors have remained stable for more than a decade. “The salary is not enough for anything. If you buy food you can’t buy clothes and if you buy clothes you can’t eat,” said Sánchez, who lives in the south-central city of Cienfuegos.


South Korea Proposes Military Talks With North at Their Border
South Korea on Monday proposed holding military and humanitarian talks with North Korea, aimed at easing tensions along their heavily armed border and arranging reunions of families divided decades ago by the Korean War. North Korea did not immediately respond. Its reaction will be the first test of the pro-dialogue policy of South Korea’s liberal new president, Moon Jae-in, who argues that talks are the likeliest way to end the crisis over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The South wants to send a military delegation to the border village of Panmunjom on Friday to discuss “stopping all hostile activities that raise military tension” along the border, Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk said on Monday. Such a meeting would be the first between the two governments since 2015 and the first inter-Korean military dialogue since 2014.

Korean Border Village, Site For Rivals’ Talks
Hyung-Jin Kim and Ki Tong-Hyung, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Straddling the world’s most heavily fortified border, the Korean truce village of Panmunjom is a potential flashpoint where North Korean soldiers hacked to death two American officers at the height of the Cold War. It’s also where the rival Koreas have held rare high-profile talks, and top American officials have visited to demonstrate American commitment to defending South Korea. Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village, is where an armistice was signed to pause the 1950-53 Korean War, with North Korea and China on one side and the American-led UN Command on the other. No civilians live there, and a cluster of blue huts form a Joint Security Area overseen by North Korea and the UN Command. It’s located in the 248-kilometer (154-mile) -long Demilitarized Zone that forms the de facto Korean border. The DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside it.


Taiwan President Meets With Reporters Without Borders Delegation
President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday met with a delegation from the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a French-based international NGO promoting and defending press freedom and freedom of information, which just announced its decision to set up its first Asian HQ in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei. In her speech, Tsai said she hopes the move can motivate more international NGOs to pick Taiwan to base their Asian operations. In April, the press freedom watchdog announced that it will open its first Asia office in Taipei, focusing on East Asian territories including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Mongolia. “The choice of Taiwan was made not only with regards to its central geographic location and ease of operating logistics, but also considering its status of being the freest place in Asia in our annual Press Freedom Index ranking,” said the RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire in April.


Trump Threatens Sanctions If Venezuela Creates Constituent Assembly
President Trump threatened on Monday to take “strong and swift economic actions” if Venezuelan President Maduro goes ahead with plans to create a super-legislature known as a Constituent Assembly in a July 30 vote. “Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator,” Trump said in a statement issued by the White House. “The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions,” Trump said. Maduro’s foes are demanding a presidential election and want to stop the leftist leader’s plan to create the Constituent Assembly, which would have the power to rewrite the constitution and annul the opposition-led legislature. On Sunday, 98 percent of opposition supporters in an unofficial vote rejected the proposed assembly.

China Upset About “Negative” Taiwan Content In US Defense Bill
Olivia Beavers, THE HILL
China reportedly complained Monday about “negative content” in an annual defense bill passed by the House, which included a provision to expand its communication with Taiwan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang reportedly condemned the move, saying it goes against their “one China” policy, Reuters reported. “China has already lodged stern representations with the United States about this,” Lu said during a daily news briefing, the news wire reported. Lu also said the US is interfering in their internal affairs, urging no contact between the militaries of the US and Taiwan.  “We urge the United States to fully recognize the serious harmfulness of the relevant clauses in the act, and should not allow them into law, and not turn back the wheel of history to avoid damaging the broad picture of Sino-US cooperation,” he continued. The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act Friday, which proposes expanding military training and exercises and “defense cooperation” with Taiwan.


Maduro Divides Venezuela’s Neighbors In Effort To Save Regime, Socialist Movement
During his 14 years in power, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proved a master at prodding infighting amid his country’s pesky but fractured opposition — a “divide and conquer” strategy apparently not lost on his embattled successor, Nicolás Maduro. Unlike Chavez, Mr. Maduro no longer is battling for the hearts and minds of Venezuelans, the vast majority of whom blame him for an unprecedented economic and social meltdown. Rather, he has driven a wedge between other countries in the region, thus preventing any meaningful call or action to oust his regime. However, thousands of Venezuelans lined up Sunday across the country to vote in a symbolic rejection of Mr. Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that is escalating tensions in a nation stricken by widespread shortages and more than 100 days of anti-government protests. In what appeared to be smaller numbers in many parts of the capital, government supporters went to polling stations in a rehearsal for a July 30 vote to elect members of the assembly that will retool Venezuela’s 1999 constitution. The opposition says the vote has been structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Mr. Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party.

Venezuela’s Crisis Drains Its Foreign Reserves
Venezuela’s foreign reserves have dropped below $10bn for the first time in 15 years as chronic mismanagement, corruption and subdued oil prices continue to batter what used to be the wealthiest country in South America. The reserves stood at $9.983bn, according to figures published on Friday from the central bank, representing a 77 per cent decrease since January 2009 when they hit a peak of $43bn. The fall comes at a time of heightened political tension. On Sunday, Venezuelans will vote in a referendum on President Nicolás Maduro’s widely despised plan to create a “constituent assembly.” The vote has been organized by the opposition and is non-binding but will give some indication of Venezuelans’ views. They will be asked about the assembly, the role of the military and their thoughts on free elections. According to Datanalisis, the country’s most-respected pollster, 67 per cent of people oppose the assembly, which would have powers to dissolve Congress, re-write the constitution and change laws.

Venezuela’s Opposition Calls for Big Protest Vote Turnout
Venezuela’s opposition called for a massive turnout Sunday in a symbolic rejection of President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to rewrite the constitution, a proposal that’s escalating tensions in a nation stricken by widespread shortages and more than 100 days of anti-government protests. Maduro has called a July 30 vote to elect members of a special assembly to retool Venezuela’s 1999 constitution. The opposition says the vote is structured to pack the constitutional assembly with government supporters and allow Maduro to eliminate the few remaining checks on his power, creating a Cuba-style system dominated by his socialist party. Maduro and the military dominate most state institutions, but the opposition controls the congress and holds three of 23 governorships. The country’s chief prosecutor has recently broken with the ruling party.