Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, persecution of dissidents
Villagers in China have defied communist authorities by calling for the release from jail of their friend, Zhou Xiangyang. And the guards and inmates who applied the “floor anchor” torture to him in Gangbei Prison should be investigated and dealt with according to the law, they wrote.
It is a rare set of circumstances: A young married couple who practices Falun Gong is imprisoned in re-education centers in China and thousands of Chinese have stood up to defend them, challenging the regime on one of the most sensitive political issues to the Communist Party by petitioning for their release.
Amnesty International has taken up the case, sending out press releases and Urgent Action alerts, and lobbying for media coverage. In China, family members and friends not imprisoned continue to write letters calling for an end to the persecution.
“My name is Li Shanshan. I waited for Zhou Xiangyang’s release for seven years from our very first meeting with him to marrying him,” the open letter of the wife begins, written in June 2011. “In between that time he was imprisoned for six years,” beginning in 2003.
She details Zhou’s suffering in prison. “My fiancé was tortured in many heinous ways over a period of four months.” His feet were shackled to a metal ring, his hands cuffed to the ground, and he was shocked with electric batons for days, she writes.
Li Shanshan wrote letters to an alphabet soup of government departments and administrative organs that were supposed to make sure that abuse in jail did not take place. None assumed responsibility.
In January 2006 her home was ransacked and she was jailed for 30 days. She was then released, monitored for two weeks, and finally sentenced to forced labor for 15 months. A security officer told her during an interrogation that “by crying out against Xiangyang’s torture I was attempting to incite a crowd to riot at the prison gate.” She was charged with “inciting subversion of the state,” a grave charge in communist China.
Zhou continued hunger striking to protest his abuse in custody. In July 2009, on the edge of death, he was released on medical parole. He weighed 86 pounds and could only digest liquids. Communist authorities were incensed because his persecution was on record with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion, and Gangbei Prison (now called Binhai Prison) was going to be investigated. The prison is in Tianjin, a city of 12 million near Beijing.
Li and Zhou were married after he got out of prison, having been separated for seven years. Their problems were supposed to be over.
But the case went into grim replay beginning March 10 of this year: Police broke into the couple’s home and took Zhou into custody, again torturing him, according to Falun Gong sources.
Li Shanshan again began agitating for his release. In mid-September the first petition surfaced, signed by around 1,500 villagers; this was later boosted to 2,300. Many of the petitioners asserted the gravity of their appeal by using red wax thumbprints to seal their names, which in China is usually reserved for official documents.
It was a rare statement, and caught the attention of Amnesty International. “Thousands of ordinary people have dared to publicly show their support for individuals unfairly imprisoned and tortured in detention,” Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Asia, was quoted in a press release.
“This shows that the Chinese public is aware of and condemns persecution of people for their spiritual beliefs. It’s high time that the Chinese authorities heed this call and end their brutal suppression of the Falun Gong group,” she said.
Villagers who signed the petition expressed their support in interviews with The Epoch Times.
A man in his fifties said he cried after reading Li Shanshan’s open letter. “If it’s true, something is seriously wrong with the CCP. You are not supposed to punish murderers or criminals before you execute them. How can you torture a good man brutally like that?”
Another said: “Xiangyang’s wife has really written a good letter. I can almost memorize it by heart. Our whole family has all signed the petition letter to save Xiangyang.”
Officers who went to investigate the source of the petition in Zhou’s hometown in Changli County, Qinhuangdao, were rebuffed by locals, according to an article on Minghui.org, a Chinese-language Falun Gong website. “You signed the letter for him. Are you opposing the Party or what?” quizzed a policeman at a clothes factory run by Zhou’s brother.
A local replied, “We signed the petition to help Mr. Zhou. If they came to you for help, wouldn’t you sign it?! The person in charge of our village should also put his stamp on it.” The officers left.
Adding to the significance of the exchange is the fact that open defiance of the Communist Party on the Falun Gong question has been taboo in Chinese society for 12 years, since the nationwide persecution began in 1999. In July of that year authorities came to fear that the popularity of Falun Gong—a spiritual practice with five meditative exercises and the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance—was too great, and made it public enemy No. 1.
“For 12 years, Falun Gong practitioners inside China have persistently used creative, courageous, and peaceful ways to counter the CCP’s propaganda against them and explain to fellow Chinese the reality of the persecution—that tens of millions of innocent people are subject to abductions, torture, and death in custody,” said Levi Browde, executive director of the Falun Dafa Information Center, in an email.
“As more Chinese come to see the persecution for what it is and how it also threatens their own freedom, they are speaking out, despite the risks,” he wrote. Lawyers, villagers, and even police officers have come to see through the state’s hyper-charged propaganda campaign against the practice, and have stood up on practitioners’ behalf. “But international attention remains critical for turning such petitions into real relief for victims,” he added.
Indeed, the Party may require more of a shove to leave Li and Zhou alone. Li Shanshan was captured again on Oct. 29, and this time sentenced to two years of re-education. Her family members began calling for help, and more than 500 villagers from her part of Tangshan City signed another petition calling for their release.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) then began arresting family members and others who stood up to support the couple. A Minghui report from Nov. 22 indicates that five Falun Gong practitioners were arrested at different times, including Zhou’s older brother.
Amnesty International now says that up to 3,000 people have signed petitions calling for an end to the persecution of the couple.
The organization put out an Urgent Action on Nov. 18, which goes out to a network of 12,000 people concerned with human rights, who may write letters to the Communist Party demanding the release of Li.
In her open letter of 2009, Li Shanshan wrote: “I do not know how long we have to keep appealing, but we will continue to appeal and never stop.”
For more information on how you can help, read Urgent action: China. Falun Gong woman Li Shanshan at risk of torture.
Tags: Chinese culture, classical Chinese dance, Shen Yun
Born in Berlin, Germany, Xiya Li has taken a pronounced interest in Chinese culture and dance since a young age. She started learning ballet at the age of six, at 10 she began learning classical Chinese dance, and in 2006, she tested into the New York-based Fei Tian Academy of the Art as a dance major. In 2008, at the second New Tang Dynasty Television Global Classical Chinese Dance Competition, she won an Outstanding Award at the junior female division. The 2011 season is her fifth year performing with Shen Yun around the world.
Heavenly music… breathtaking dances… enchanting landscapes… and timeless legends…
Shen Yun Performing Arts presents colorful and exhilarating performances of classical Chinese dance and music. A performance by Shen Yun is a presentation of traditional Chinese culture as it once was: a study in grace, wisdom, and the virtues distilled from the five millennia of Chinese civilization.
神韻藝術團以中國古典舞為主，輔以中國民族民間舞，演出以純善純美的藝術形式展現中國神傳文化 的深刻內涵。高超的中國古典舞身法和技巧，回味無窮的中國舞身韻，雄渾壯闊的現場樂隊，餘音繞梁的聲樂器樂表演，華美絢麗的服裝飾品，動感逼真的天 幕，帶給您光明、希望、感動、愉悅和智慧的啟迪與靈性的升華。
For information, world tour dates, cities and more please visit: http://www.ShenYunPerformingArts.org
Tags: Body & Mind, meditation, psychology, Science, Spirituality
Experienced meditators may be able to switch off areas of the brain associated with daydreaming, anxiety, and certain psychiatric disorders like autism and schizophrenia, according to a new U.S. study.
“Meditation has been shown to help in a variety of health problems, such as helping people quit smoking, cope with cancer, and even prevent psoriasis,” the study’s lead author Judson A. Brewer of Yale University said in a press release.
The researchers performed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans on experienced and novice meditators using three different meditation techniques.
The results showed decreased activity in the default mode network (DMN) in experienced meditators. This neural network has been associated with anxiety-based illnesses, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, and plaque formation in Alzheimer’s disease.
Decreased activity was seen in brain regions involved in this network, such as the medial prefrontal and posterior cingulated cortices, irrespective of the form of meditation undertaken during the experiment.
Similarly, when the DMN was active, brain areas linked to self-monitoring and cognitive control were found to be co-activated in experienced meditators but not in novices. This also happened when the meditators were not meditating but simply resting.
Meditation has been linked with increased happiness, said Brewer, according to the release.
The scientists believe that meditators can focus on the present moment better, and are constantly suppressing self-centered and wandering thoughts, which are strongly associated with autism and schizophrenia.
“Meditation’s ability to help people stay in the moment has been part of philosophical and contemplative practices for thousands of years,” Brewer said.
“Conversely, the hallmarks of many forms of mental illness is a preoccupation with one’s own thoughts, a condition meditation seems to affect. This gives us some nice cues as to the neural mechanisms of how it might be working clinically.”
Related Articles: Meditation Enhances Mood in Only 5 Weeks
Tags: CCP, China, human rights
An unlikely prize—the Confucius Peace Prize—has been awarded to an unlikelier candidate: Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister of Russia, invader of Georgia, and protector of Iranian theocrats was awarded a peace prize by a committee that had previously been set up, and then disbanded, by the Chinese Communist Party’s Ministry of Culture.
The selection was announced at a news conference in Beijing on Nov. 13.
One of the organizers, poet Qiaocheng Dharma, commented to Radio France Internationale that the reason Putin won the award was his opposition to NATO’s bombing of Libya this spring.
NATO forces stepped in on the side of a people-powered uprising to overthrow the dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who had ruled the country with an iron fist for decades.
Some analysts have suggested that another message was also being sent: that invading and subduing adjacent minority regions is worthy
Zhao Pei, a commentator with New Tang Dynasty Television, thought giving a peace award to Putin was rather ironic. In 1999 Putin annexed the Republic of Chechnya, in the process killing 25,000 to 50,000 Chechen people, mostly civilians; and Putin’s government is known for its active suppression of journalists and dissidents. “Putin himself has been a controversial figure on the issue of human rights,” Zhao says.
The Confucius Peace Prize was originally set up by the Ministry of Culture to challenge the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese dissident. The committee was later officially disbanded, but was apparently resurrected this year in unofficial garb.
The winner of the first Confucius Peace prize was Lien Chan, the honorary chairman of Taiwan’s Nationalist Party. Observers thought it partly a political stunt to strengthen the idea of “uniting” Taiwan with the communist-controlled mainland.
When Lien finally did not attend the ceremony to claim the award, the organizers gave 100,000 yuan (US$15,760) in cash to an unidentified young woman, apparently on his behalf. Lien declined to comment.
Zhang Ming, a political science professor at Renmin University of China, told Deutsche Welle that theme of the award echoes Party-propaganda that attempts to revive Confucius, and link the sage to modern China and the Chinese communist regime.
“This activity involves a lot of entangled interests and business manipulation,” he said. “If you look at what the award was aiming at when it was first aired, you will agree that it is a political farce now.”
The show will go on, with a ceremony scheduled in Beijing on Dec. 9
Related Articles: The Chinese Media’s Selective Reporting
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, persecution of dissidents
From 10 countries, over 30 people descended on Beijing to face off with Communist China
Half a world away from home, I look into the mirror to see if the spy camera is visible. I am in Beijing, China, and have sewn a pinhole camera into the shoulder strap of my backpack. After catching my own eyes in the mirror, a bolt of fear stabs through my heart. Being caught as a spy in Mainland China is no small charge. They apply the death penalty for much smaller crimes.
After a brisk but shaky five-mile walk to Tiananmen Square, I stand aghast at the size. It’s really hard to imagine it filled with tanks and students. The day is bright and chilly. The gentle, cold north wind hits my face as I catch sight of the main flagpole. I arrive at the rendezvous point standing alone, wondering if they are going to make it.
Before I know it, over 30 people from over 10 countries, wearing their national flags, gather to appeal for an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. On cue, most sit in meditation while a few unfurl a 12-foot golden banner sporting three giant Chinese characters that read, “truthfulness, compassion, tolerance.” Passersby are shocked. I stand motionless capturing the event with my hidden video camera. In less than 30 seconds police vans scream in from all directions.
That was 10 years ago—Nov. 20, 2001.
In the months that followed more foreigners from around the world would travel to China in an attempt to awaken the Chinese people to the unjust persecution and defamation of Falun Gong happening in their country.
An Appeal for Conscience
The appeal made headline news around the world, and so accomplished part of what we had set out to achieve. People who had never heard about the persecution of Falun Gong now knew about it. And this awareness was the first step toward more people demanding the Chinese regime stop it.
However, our hearts were set on changing things in China. Our appeal was focused on telling the people of China who are smothered by a media blockade to awaken to the realities of the evils happening in their own-censored back yard and not blindly follow an illegal persecution.
In the past ten years we have come to understand more deeply how difficult what we were asking was.
China has an ancient, rich culture that brings deep and unshakeable pride to its people. It was built on the teachings of honor, loyalty, compassion, responsibility and most notably the pursuit of truth. Each dynasty understood the importance of spirituality, and although each change of dynasty was tumultuous, after the change Chinese people lived hundreds of years in relative harmony.
The era of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule, however, has been different than any other time in China’s history.
Since seizing the rule of China in 1949, the CCP has made enemies of its own citizens by waging countless campaigns against them and by turning citizens against each other in order to assure the Party’s power would be unchallenged. Approximately 80 million people have died unnatural deaths as a result.
The Party has created one crisis after another: the 1950’s mass regime-created famine during the so called “Great Leap Forward,” the terrifying Cultural Revolution that beginning in the mid-60s targeted and destroyed religion and its ability to give spiritual independence, the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 that snuffed out hopes for democratic reform, the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong, and so on.
As a result, every family in China has at least one relative who has faced persecution by the CCP. Yet, partly because of this unending terror, many Chinese blindly follow the CCP and its propaganda.
China’s Moral Dilemma
The CCP’s China has become a place where people are forced to live without the freedom of belief, where people are afraid to say one wrong word in public for fear of arrest and torture, and where thinking of others, standing up for principle, and acting out of integrity have been replaced by fear, jealousy, selfishness, and indifference.
Chinese people witness daily the unjust arrest, abuse, discrimination against and dehumanization of groups all across China: the attacks on the Uighurs and Tibetans, the crackdowns on house Christians and papal Catholics, the silencing and jailing of human rights lawyers, the injustice done to those whose homes are demolished in order to enrich local officials, the threats to the parents to stop protesting over the deaths of their children killed in collapsed schools during the Sichuan earthquake—the list is endless.
For the past 12 years Chinese society has also been witness to the arrest, torture, and killing of Falun Gong practitioners. Tens of thousands of imprisoned practitioners have been murdered by state-owned hospitals to fuel the regime’s multi-billion dollar organ transplant tourism.
The affects of the blows to the moral fabric of society are becoming more visible everyday.
I watched a YouTube video of a 2-year-old baby who wandered out of her parents store onto a street in China where she was hit twice by vans and lay on the road dying. 18 people walked by without stopping or helping. Chinese manufacturers sell poisoned milk, poisoned baby food, diluted or tainted drugs, and contaminated drywall to consumers for money.
From Acceptance to Persecution
Every Sunday morning my mother and I get together to practice the Falun Gong exercises in a nearby park. Sometimes during the sitting meditation I open my eyes and look at her spare, 70-year-old body as she sits with perfect posture, her eyes gently closed with a little smile on her face. She looks so peaceful. I remember when family fights and violent tempers ripped through our not so happy home. It was like magic to me how in less than a year this seemingly simple spiritual discipline brought calm into my family’s life.
The peaceful look on my mother’s face stands in complete contrast with the look of shock on the faces of those Chinese people in Tiananmen Square that day.
They had forgotten that in the beginning Falun Gong was awarded and praised by the CCP for the benefits it brought to the Chinese people. It was even congratulated by the Public Security Bureau for “bringing the crime fighting virtues back to China.”
But just a few years after that award was given, the popularity of Falun Gong made the corrupt CCP feel threatened by this spiritual practice whose adherents have principles independent of Party ideology. The persecution began in 1999.
As practitioners throughout China responded for years in the most peaceful and forbearing manner, by appealing for the Party to end the persecution and guarantee the right to practice Falun Gong, one might have hoped the CCP would have learned it could have changed course.
In 2006 the world learned why the CCP has continued its campaign against Falun Gong. Mr. Chen Yonglin, a high ranking Chinese consular official in Australia defected from his post and stated: “The Chinese Communist Party has always relied on violence, lies, and advocating atheism to maintain its power. They could not understand Falun Gong practitioners’ peaceful efforts to protect their freedom of belief. Now they feel they can’t let people know about what has been done to Falun Gong in China.”
Looking to the Future
Today millions around the world cherish the teachings of Falun Gong and the focus on morality that it has brought into their lives. It is something China needs desperately.
Ten years later, our appeals have been joined by countless actions from practitioners and citizens who have taken the same end in view.
Millions of practitioners inside China continue to operate home workshops where they print leaflets and fliers for distribution to their fellow citizens. Outside of China Falun Gong practitioners have created state-of-the-art firewalls to break down the Chinese regime’s Internet blockade. With this new flow of information over 105 million Chinese in and out of China have renounced membership in the CCP and its affiliated organizations.
Thousands of government officials from countries around the world have stood in solidarity with Falun Gong. Millions of people worldwide have signed petitions and written letters calling for an end to the illegal persecution and to bring those responsible in China to justice.
Although it was 10 years ago it still feels like it was yesterday. My heart was beating out of my chest as I raced on a rickshaw through Beijing back to my hotel while Tiananmen Square faded behind me. My only question: Did we succeed or did we fail?
Ten years later I feel a great honor to have stood with other practitioners opposing tyranny for the sake of others.
Throughout history the battle between good and evil has played out in frightening and inspiring stories. The line has been drawn in the sand more times than one can count. Today we keep deep in our hearts a wish that more and more people will stand on the right side.
Joel Chipkar is a real estate broker and human rights advocate living in Toronto, Canada.
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Tags: Body & Mind, Children, Science
Four-year-olds’ ability to concentrate, learn, and solve problems slows after watching fast-paced cartoons, according to a new study.
Young children have difficulty learning immediately after watching fast-paced television cartoons full of images and activities that are not possible in real life, according to a new study.
It’s what some people are calling the “SpongeBob effect.” SpongeBob SquarePants is a cartoon character whose surreal and improbable undersea adventures are watched by children around the world.
University of Virginia researchers wanted to find out whether watching “SpongeBob” affected kids’ ability to learn immediately after seeing the show.
To find out, a group of 4-year-old children watched either a short video of “SpongeBob” or a slower-paced and more realistic animated show called “Caillou.”
A third group of children spent time drawing instead of watching television.
Afterward, explains researcher Angeline Lillard, they all took standardized tests designed to measure their ability to concentrate, learn, and solve problems—what psychologists call “executive function.”
“And what we found is that children who had been in the “SpongeBob” group were performing only about half as well as the other children. So they were at about 50 percent capacity.”
The 4-year-olds in this study are at a critical age when the prefrontal cortex is still developing. That is the part of the brain where problem-solving and related functions are located.
Lillard says one reason why a show like “SpongeBob SquarePants” might affect learning is its combination of speed and content.
“It’s fast-paced and it’s fantastical. So the child is needing to process all this new stuff really, really fast, and it’s difficult to process since it doesn’t really happen in real life.”
Lillard cautions that her study looked only at how young children learned immediately after watching the TV shows, so she cannot say whether watching these kinds of programs have a permanent effect on learning.
“But I would say that parents might want to think about when children watch such shows and perhaps how frequently they watch them as well because they are certainly compromised immediately afterwards.”
Lillard’s study is published in the journal Pediatrics.
Related Articles: SpongeBob Study: Some TV Hurts Children’s Learning
Tags: Body & Mind, funny things, Masaru Emoto, psychology, Science, Spirituality
http://oasishd.ca – Water — just a liquid or much more? Many researchers are convinced that water is capable of “memory” by storing information and retrieving it. The possible applications are innumerable: limitless retention and storage capacity and the key to discovering the origins of life on our planet. Research into water is just beginning.
Fascinating movie spans the globe to reveal recent discoveries about water, the most amazing yet least studied substance in the world. Witness as researchers, scientists, philosophers and theologians try to understand this unique liquid and all its miraculous properties still waiting to be discovered.
Masaru Emoto has also made some very interesting researches about water:
Tags: archaeology, China, Chinese culture
By Joan Delaney
A Chinese coin more than 300 years old has been found near a proposed mine site in Yukon in north of Canada.
James Mooney, a cultural resource specialist with Ecofor Consulting Limited, spotted the coin while doing heritage impact assessment work for Western Copper and Gold Corporation.
“I was less than a metre from our archaeologist Kirby Booker when she turned over the first shovel of topsoil and I caught sight of something dangling from the turf. It was the coin—the neatest discovery I’ve ever been part of,” says Mooney.
The coin adds to the body of evidence that the Chinese connected with Yukon First Nations through Russian and coastal Tlingit traders during the late 17th and 18th centuries and possibly as early as the 15th century, according to a release from Western Copper and Gold.
Although common along the northwest coast of present-day North America, only three Chinese coins have been found in Yukon to date. The coins are round with a square hole in the centre, but the one found by Ecofor has four additional small holes above each corner of the central square.
“The extra holes could have been made in China; coins were sometimes nailed to a gate, door, or ridgepole for good luck,” says Mooney.
“Alternatively, First Nations might have made the extra holes to attach them to clothing. They used the coins as decoration or sewed them in layers like roofing shingles onto hide shirts to protect warriors from arrow impacts.”
The Russians traded items such as tobacco, tea, beads, firearms, iron implements, kettles, needles, clothing, and flour directly with the Tlingit in exchange for a variety of furs, which they traded to the Chinese in exchange for goods.
Mooney says the location of the find, on a promontory overlooking a river and creek tributary, is a likely place for a traveller to have rested or camped between Dyea, Alaska, and Fort Selkirk in Yukon.
Although the coin was discovered in July, he says fact-checking had to be done and information gathered before the find was announced publicly.
The history of the coin is special in that it was number six in a series of “poem coins” that were used as good luck charms during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty.
Kangxi was renowned for his poetry. He was also associated with peace, prosperity, and longevity, so people gradually developed the custom of collecting a coin cast from each of 20 mints, putting them on a string and carrying them for good luck. The coins were placed in a certain order to create the poem.
Of the other two Chinese coins found in Yukon, one was minted 1724-1735, and the other, discovered back in 1993, is from between 1403 and 1424.
The coin found in 1993 was discovered in a travel corridor near an overland gold rush trail by Beaver Creek. However, because it was found in an archaeological setting, it was likely brought into the interior before the Klondike Gold Rush.
“So far I believe each of these three coins was found only with prehistoric materials and no other historic materials, making them likely traded into the interior,” says Mooney.
Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, persecution of dissidents
During the first 30 years of the Chinese Communist Party’s CCP 62 years in power, there were no real laws that would be recognizable under international standards.
It was widely accepted during that period that laws should be drafted in a crude fashion, without detail, though it is unclear where that concept originated or how it became the consensus.
Most cases were decided directly by Party Committees. The whole legal system was referred to as “Gong Jian Fa,” a term that encompasses “the police, the procuratorate, and the court,” all in one, reflecting the lack of judicial independence from the executive branch.
After the Cultural Revolution, the CCP restored the stature of several top leaders who had suffered persecution and purging during the chaos. They decided that, one way or another, some form of rule of law should be established.
The original idea was that the rule of law would protect them from a repeat of the arbitrariness of the Cultural Revolution. They did not seem to realize at the time that rule of law could also cause trouble because laws would also restrain their power.
In 1979, the CCP Central Committee (CCPCC) issued an internal document formally withdrawing the Party Committees from directly making a judgment in cases (i). However, several months later, the Party decided it could not afford not to control the legal system. So the CCPCC re-established the Central Political and Judicial Committee to oversee the legal system.
Although this committee was temporally dissolved in 1988, it was immediately reinstated and enhanced after the Tiananmen Square massacre. When one speaks of the Chinese legal system not being independent, this committee is the key to understanding why.
In China, the various entities that carry out law-related work are collectively called the political and judicial system. At the state level, they usually include the Ministry of Public Security (the police), Supreme Procuratorate, Supreme Court, Ministry of Justice, and Ministry of State Security. They belong to different state organs. The three ministries are under the State Council, while the Supreme Procuratorate and Supreme Court report to the National People’s Congress (NPC).
How Does the Political and Judicial Committee Oversee Entities that Carry Out Law-Related Work?
1. The Political and Judicial Committee exists directly under the CCPCC. Its head is a member of the powerful Standing Committee of the CCPCC, China’s most important decision-making body. This means his rank is higher than that of any minister in the Party.
2. The heads of the above-mentioned law-related organizations are all members of the Political and Judicial Committee. Within the Party, they must follow the orders of the Secretary of the Political and Judicial Committee.
3. From time to time, the CCPCC or its Political and Judicial Committee will issue internal Party memos, circulars, or other documents to direct the work of the law-related organizations. Such memos are not written in accordance with the Constitution, nor are they constrained by any other laws.
Moreover, the heads of the above five organizations are not appointed by China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress, or by the executive State Council. Rather, they are chosen by the CCPCC and its Organization Department.
4. In this fashion, when the law-related organs enforce the law, they are influenced by the CCP’s policies.
5. At the individual trial level, in many so-called “sensitive cases,” such as those related to political dissidents, human rights, religion, or Falun Gong, the Political and Judicial Committee will organize a meeting.
The local heads of the Public Security Bureau, the Procuratorate (which plays the role of public prosecutor), and the court attend the meeting. All details related to the case are discussed and decided at the meeting, including the verdict and length of the final prison sentence.
6. The Ministry of Justice retains control over lawyers, reflecting the legal profession’s lack of independence, in addition to the judicial system. All lawyers must belong to a CCP-led lawyer’s association. Each local association branch operates under the local Bureau of Justice, while the national All China Lawyers Association exists under the Ministry of Justice.
This system ensures lawyers do not take cases that the CCP does not want them to take. In recent years, media reports have often referred to human rights lawyers’ licenses being suspended or revoked for taking sensitive cases, like those involving Falun Gong practitioners, house church Christians, or housing demolition. It is through the above system of oversight that such arbitrary suspension is possible.
Beginning in the 1980s, the NPC started to pass laws. This encouraged a new generation to study law and take the bar exam, including individuals like prominent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng.
During that time, a large number of laws were passed, with some even approaching Western and international legal standard. The work of passing laws has not stopped since, as indicated in the newly released “China Socialist Legal System White Paper.”
And, although the laws were not fully enforced and implemented, until 1999, neither were they systematically undermined.
Even after the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the legal system remained basically intact, though the CCP temporarily declared Martial Law. There was no need to change how the legal system functioned in order to persecute those who led the student movement. The numbers of people arrested and sentenced was relatively small.
How Did the Chinese Legal System Become Broken and Undermined?
The biggest challenge that arose for China’s legal system was the launching of the persecution of Falun Gong in 1999.
At the time, the CCP faced two challenges: first, a spiritual belief it couldn’t control; second, a very large population of practitioners, numbering in the tens of millions.
In an instinctual reaction to the perceived threat posed by Falun Gong, the then-CCP head, Jiang Zeming, immediately pulled out the Party’s tried and trusted method—to initiate a political campaign to suppress the Falun Gong.
This had proven effective for suppressing perceived challenges to leaders during the Mao era, why shouldn’t work it work now? The difference was that by 1999, there was a legal system that had just been established, for better or for worse, and rule of law is incompatible with arbitrary political campaigns.
The regime therefore had to come up with measures to bypass the authority of the new laws. The impact of this process was huge and has practically destroyed the legal system. It is responsible for much of the lawlessness we see in China today.
The CCP deployed a very complex system of tactics. I outlined it in detail earlier this year at a European Parliament hearing, and it is available online. Below are a few key points.
1. Use of Propaganda to Give a False Impression that a Legal Process Was in Place
I will just give one example. When the Chinese regime says that it “banned” Falun Gong, this is inaccurate. It actually never banned Falun Gong according to law.
Two ministries’ documents from July 22, 1999, are often cited as proof of the ban’s legal standing. They were issued on July 22: the “Decision to Ban the Falun Gong Research Society” issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs (ii), and the “Notice of Six Prohibitions from the Ministry of Public Security.”(iii)
The first notice targeted the “Falun Gong Research Society” (FGRS) as an administrative organization, rather than Falun Gong itself as a spiritual or religious practice.
In 1993, Falun Gong was a subordinate entity of the Chinese Qigong Scientific Research Society (CQSRS) and was called the “Falun Gong Research Branch.” In March 1996, the FGRS formally petitioned for withdrawal from the CQSRS. When the withdrawal was approved, the Falun Gong branch formally dissolved. Thus, what the Ministry of Civil Affairs banned in July of 1999 was technically an entity that had been dissolved in March 1996.
As for Falun Gong itself as a spiritual practice, it has no formal organization, hierarchy, membership lists, or dues. The practice consists of performing five meditative exercises, studying spiritual teachings, and seeking to follow the values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance in daily life.
It is a very fluid and informally structured practice. Even if the Ministry of Civil Affairs could have banned the non-existent FGRS, the ban could not automatically be extended to cover the practice of Falun Gong itself. Therefore, legally speaking, practicing Falun Gong has never been banned.
In addition, the so-called ban has sometimes been claimed to be based on the fact that the FGRS had not registered. Even if this were true, not being registered does not amount to a group being illegal. Moreover, under Chinese law, the Ministry of Civil Affairs has no legal jurisdiction to ban a group.
The “Notice of Six Prohibitions from the Ministry of Public Security” then illegally extended the scope of the Ministry of Civil Affairs’ already groundless decision.
Under Chinese law, these two ministries only have authority to publish regulations within their own departments. They have no legislative or judicial power to decide what is legal or illegal. Thus, both documents well exceeded the ministries’ jurisdiction.
In addition, both documents were in direct violation of Article 36 and Article 5 of the Chinese Constitution (iv). Article 36 grants Chinese citizens the freedom of religious belief and Article 5 holds that all state organs must abide by the Constitution and the law.
As human rights lawyers have repeatedly pointed out in their legal defenses, the Chinese government never banned Falun Gong. The persecution is a Communist Party political campaign. It is not based on rule of law.
Then why is it widely believed that Falun Gong was formally outlawed? It is the effect of the CCP’s propaganda, as it has tried to legitimize an illegal political campaign by claiming in newspapers, on television, at conferences, and in speeches that the persecution of Falun Gong has been carried out “according to law.”
2. Ways of Carrying Out the Persecution Without Any Legal Basis
a. By creating a new chain of command outside the realm of the legal system.
This chain of command was initiated by Jiang Zemin and functions through the CCP hierarchy. At its center is “the 6-10 Office.” Neither the NPC nor the State Council has authorized its actions. Rather, approval and support for its deeds comes from the Party. Today, thousands of 6-10 Office branches remain active throughout China.
b. By using the existing Party system to interfere with implementation of the law.
In particular, the CCP has made use of the earlier-mentioned Political and Judicial Committee, the CCP body most often used to influence law-related organs from behind the scenes.
c. By issuing internal memos, documents, circulars, or oral orders to direct the persecution.
The persecution is mostly carried out by internal documents marked as “classified” or even “top secret.” Such documents can be issued at any level, but almost all are modified copies of orders that originated from the CCP Central Committee or its 610 Office.
d. By using Article 300 of the Chinese Criminal Code, a vague and unconstitutional provision, to send Falun Gong practitioners to prison.
Implementation of this law on Falun Gong practitioners is based on Supreme Court and Procuratorate Interpretations, even though this issue is outside their jurisdiction, according to Chinese Legislation Law. In practice, almost all sentences are decided before the trial even begins.
e. By depriving Falun Gong practitioners’ rights of due process. Through the above measures, the fate of most Falun Gong practitioners brought before a judge is decided before the practitioner even steps foot in the courtroom.
Meanwhile, lawyers are forbidden to take Falun Gong cases. Even if lawyers take a case, they are generally prevented from making a full defense statement in court. Lawyers have been beaten up when attempting to interview their client. Others have been disbarred, abducted, or tortured. Practitioners and their lawyers have even been beaten up in the courtroom.
Moreover, key witnesses of the prosecutors never show up in court. Hearings typically last only a few minutes or hours. Judges have openly claimed on many occasions that they did not make the decision and judgment. Taken together, these factors render Falun Gong trials a mockery of justice.
f. Through the existing extrajudicial system of Reeducation-through-Labor, as well as mental hospitals and newly established brainwashing centers, to jail Falun Gong practitioners without any legal process, and to torture them.
g. Through the systematic, illegal use of torture along with impunity for perpetrators.
In China, torture is prohibited by law. In practice, however, the use of brutal torture tactics on Falun Gong practitioners is widespread and routine. This has been confirmed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and many human rights groups. In a 2001 investigation by the Washington Post, a high-ranking Chinese official acknowledged that violence used against Falun Gong practitioners was part of a well-designed strategy.
3. Current Status of China’s Legal System
Given the large size of the victimized Falun Gong population, and the lengthy ongoing 12-year campaign to suppress this group, the impact of the above-mentioned tactics on rule of law in China has been significant.
The CCP’s well-established, sophisticated anti-Falun Gong tactics, including breaking the law to achieve its political goal, are easily applicable to other individuals and groups. As such, we are now seeing the following trends emerging, for which more specific examples are detailed in my European Parliament statement:
a. Expanding the use of extralegal detention facilities and abductions.
For years, Falun Gong practitioners have been subjected to illegal abductions, arbitrary detentions, confiscation of property and computer equipment, and enforced disappearance. All of these measures have also become a feature of the crackdowns on human rights lawyers and activists, including the crackdown in early 2011 after antigovernment protests in the Middle East ousted dictators.
In addition, mental hospitals—whose political use was first intensified for Falun Gong—are now being used more and more frequently on non-Falun Gong petitioners, victims of housing demolition, and grassroots activists. The notorious “black jails” used to hold petitioners are similar and very likely originated from the brainwashing centers for Falun Gong.
b. The expansion of police brutality and impunity.
Human rights lawyers like Gao Zhisheng and Teng Biao have reportedly being told that torture methods that were being used or could be used against them were initially devised for use against their Falun Gong clients.
c. Falsely labeling other petitioners and activists as Falun Gong.
Since the regime established an exception to the rule of law for the Falun Gong group, it is easy now for local authorities to avoid responsibility and punishment for social unrest, simply by labeling the victims as Falun Gong practitioners.
4. New Stage: Making the Bad Laws
Since all of the measures applied to Falun Gong practitioners, human rights activists, human rights lawyers, and artists like Ai Weiwei violate China own laws, the regime has drawn a lot of criticism at home and abroad for its behavior. The process has now come to a new stage at which, instead of correcting its wrongdoing, the CCP amends existing laws to encompass its illegal activities.
For instance, the CCP has proposed an amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law, one that would effectively legalize enforced disappearance (v). Although enforced disappearances have been widely used to persecute Falun Gong practitioners, the phenomenon only made international headlines with the disappearance of prominent artist and blogger Ai Weiwei.
In response, rather than investigating and punishing those responsible, the CCP announced amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law to attempt to legalize enforced disappearance, thus ensuring that international and local critics can no longer claim the regime is violating its own law.
In addition, the regime is making several amendments and new definitions to other laws, changes that extend police power and make the country further resemble a police state.
One law is a newly release draft of an amendment to the Resident Identity Cards Law (vi). The amendment was discussed last week at the NPC Standing Committee.
Two proposed changes caused controversy: adding fingerprints to residents’ identity cards under the name of preventing counterfeiting and terrorism, and allowing police to check people’s identity documents at train stations, airports, and major events.
To date, the police have only been allowed to check citizens’ ID card in an emergency or if the person is suspected of having committed a crime.
Even more recently, last Monday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed a draft resolution on strengthening anti-terrorism efforts. The draft resolution defines a terrorist act, terrorist organization, and terrorist force for the first time in China’s legal documents. The definition is extremely broad in scope, however, rendering it easy to persecute people for political or religious reasons under the rubric of anti-terrorism efforts (vii).
Why is the regime openly passing such bad laws? This is simply how the CCP is responding to criticism that it isn’t following its own laws. Rather than changing its poor behavior to observe the law, it is changing the laws to legitimize the bad behavior.
I would like to quote Clive Ansley, a Canadian expert on the Chinese legal system:
“Chinese officials’ most common tactic for diverting criticism of violations in the Chinese ‘judicial’ system is to assert that Beijing’s ‘legal’ system, while not perfect, is moving in the right direction.
“The implication is that although it will take years to educate hundreds of thousands of police, prosecutors, and judges throughout the country to follow the law, the leadership is determined to do so. The leadership is committed to protecting human rights and implementing the ‘Rule of Law,’ so they claim.
“The reality, however, is that the leadership in Beijing is not committed to implementing the ‘Rule of Law’ in either the short term or the long term. On the contrary, China’s unelected leaders are taking various measures to ensure that the ‘Rule of Law’ is never implemented in China under their watch—ever.”
It is no secret that China is not a democratic country and that the political system is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Party Committees influence every government body. The legislative body, the National People’s Congress, is just a rubber stamp for approving decisions already made by the Party.
But how the CCP undermines and controls the legal system is not well known. I tried to explain how this dynamic works and why China is actually a lawless state.
To conclude, in examining human rights abuses in China, it is important to keep in mind that we are not dealing with a state where the legal system is established and now needs to be perfected.
We are dealing with a regime that does not respect its own laws. Instead, it systematically and intentionally breaks them and designs measures to circumvent the legal rights guaranteed to citizens.
Yiyang Xia is the Senior Director of Policy & Research, Human Rights Law Foundation
ii) The Ministry of Civil Affairs of the PRC, “Decision to Ban the Research Society of Falun Dafa by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China,” July 22, 1999 http://www.people.com.cn/GB/channel1/10/20000706/132286.html
iii) The Ministry of Public Security of the PRC. “Notice of Six Prohibitions from the Ministry of Public Security.” July 22, 1999 http://www.people.com.cn/GB/channel1/10/20000706/132280.html
iv )Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, Articles 36 and 5, http://www.usconstitution.net/china.html.
- Tibetans, Deficits, and ‘Death by China’
- China ‘Disappeared’ Lawyers and Rights Defenders Turning Silent
Tags: astronomy, Science
Electromagnetism appears to vary with location, according to new research, which challenges one of science’s most fundamental principles–that the laws of physics remain constant across the universe.
The study found that electromagnetism, one of the four known fundamental forces in nature, seems to differ across the universe. Electromagnetism is measured as the fine-structure constant and is represented by the symbol alpha.
Variation in alpha’s value was first observed a decade ago by John Webb and Victor Flambaum at Australia’s New South Wales University (UNSW) and colleagues, after analyzing observations of a large area in the sky from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.
As part of a new international effort, the number of observations has now been doubled and the value of alpha measured in approximately 300 distant galaxies, using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.
“The results astonished us,” Webb said in a media release. “In one direction–from our location in the universe–alpha gets gradually weaker, yet in the opposite direction it gets gradually stronger.”
If confirmed, the discovery will have profound implications regarding our understanding of time-space as it violates one of the fundamental principles underlying Einstein’s General Relativity theory, Webb said.
“Such violations are actually expected in some more modern ‘Theories of Everything’ that try to unify all the known fundamental forces,” said Flambaum. “The smooth continuous change in alpha may also imply the universe is much larger than our observable part of it, possibly infinite.”
This research may have even wider significance.
“Even a slight change in the laws of nature means they weren’t ‘set in stone’ when our universe was born,” he continued. “The laws of nature you see may depend on your ‘space-time address’–when and where you happen to live in the universe.”
Webb said that the findings could also explain why the laws of nature appear to support the existence of life.
“The answer may be that other regions of the universe are not quite so favorable for life as we know it, and that the laws of physics we measure in our part of the universe are merely ‘local by-laws’, in which case it is no particular surprise to find life here,” he concluded.
The study was published in Physical Review Letters on Oct. 31.
Related Articles: NASA Probe Confirms Key Predictions in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity
Tags: Body & Mind, China, Chinese culture, health
Qi is no longer a strange word to many in the West, thanks to people like Dr. David Eisenberg. His book, titled “Encounters With Qi,” describes his experience as the first American physician allowed to visit China after President Nixon’s efforts to open communication between the United States and China.
Bill Moyer’s TV series exploring healing arts in the East has also contributed to Western awareness of the concept of qi.
Still, many people have asked me, “What does qi really mean?” Well, in the Chinese language, qi has multiple meanings.
Definition of Qi
First, it means the energy that circulates around us. For different seasons, different qi is dominant. For example, there is wind for the spring, heat for the summer, dampness for the late summer, and dryness for the fall. In the winter, we feel there is a cold qi in the air.
Second, it refers to the energies that manifest inside our bodies. We can feel them. Blood and fluids circulate in the body as if there is wind moving them around. Some people feel coldness in their extremities, sometimes to the point that they have to wear socks to sleep.
Some people feel heat as if they are having a fever, menopausal hot flashes, or the heat that follows chemotherapy for breast or prostate cancer. When people have too much dampness in the system, it manifests as swollen joints, a thick greasy coating on the tongue, diarrhea, or a sense of heaviness in the body.
Third, qi means emotions. When someone is very angry, we say this person has a “sky-rocketing anger qi,” and when a person is very happy, we say he is bathed in the joyful qi. Indeed, the emotions are forms of energy, and therefore forms of qi.
Fourth, it means the air. When people breathe, we say they breathe in qi and breathe out qi.
Fifth, it means the energy that maintains the functions of every organ. Therefore, the heart has the heart qi, the liver has the liver qi, the blood has the blood qi, and the digestive system has its qi. When it moves in the right direction, sufficiently, and with balanced properties, we have a healthy body and a peaceful mind.
Trouble With Qi
When qi is in trouble, the body gets sick and becomes dysfunctional. For example, when qi moves in the wrong direction or becomes rebellious, people may feel nauseous and short of breath, or they may vomit, wheeze, and cough.
When qi is collapsing, people may have trouble controlling their bowels and bladder, or have prolapsed organs. When the properties of qi are out of balance, people experience all kinds of symptoms, including chills, fever, tremor, swollen joints, night sweats, high blood pressure, depression, mania, or agitation and anxiety.
Qi circulates in every level of our bodies, from the surface to the inside; it reaches everywhere and leaves nothing untouched. It moves inside channels that we call meridians. The structure of meridians is still too microscopic to be visible using modern technology.
But the forefathers of Chinese medicine had the technology or the natural ability to visualize and map this energetic level of human existence. They discovered that if we experience emotional distress, our internal energy is affected, causing blockages and misdirected qi.
If the condition is not corrected, it may cause further damage by developing into severe pain, a tumor, blocked arteries, cancer, or degenerative changes, and the like. As you can imagine, the human body has many places where energy can get blocked.
When qi is deficient, it may cause weakness, slow metabolism, aging, and organ failure. And when it finally disappears, we die.
Therefore, to promote good health, prevent illness, and slow down the aging process, we must take good care of our qi.
There are two kinds of qi. One is inherited from our parents at the time of conception. It is called prenatal qi and is mostly stored in the kidney meridians. Prenatal qi is used in reproduction and then passed to offspring. The second is postnatal qi, which is mostly obtained from food and air, thanks to the functioning of the lung and spleen meridians.
To maintain prenatal energy, protect, preserve, and replenish it as much as you can. To maintain postnatal energy, one should eat a healthy and balanced diet, avoid excessive eating or drinking, sleep well, and adopt a moderate level of physical exercise. Consider meditation and appropriate qigong practice. Managing one’s emotional stability is the key to keeping the energy channels open and energy flowing smoothly.
Read more: Take Good Care of Your Qi | Epoch Times
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Tibet
By Aron Lamm
Since March 2010 a dozen young Tibetans have immolated themselves in the Ngaba Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province, China. That area, and the Kirti Monastery there, has also been the epicenter of the Chinese regime’s attempts to stamp out among Tibetans any demands for religious freedom and basic human rights.
The Supreme Head Lama of all Kirti monasteries in and outside of Tibet, his eminence Kirti Rinpoche, discussed what has driven young people to perform the most desperate act of protest imaginable: self-immolation.
Kirti Rinpoche was previously Religion and Culture Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration in exile. He is one of the many Tibetans who followed the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959 and has since re-established the Kirti Monastery in Dharamsala, India. As such, he has very close contact not only with the Kirti monastic communities in and outside of Tibet, but also with the lay people connected to them.
Speaking softly and calmly with the help of an interpreter, Kirti Rinpoche (Rinpoche a Tibetan religious honorific meaning “precious one”) detailed the horrors that the Chinese communist authorities have visited upon Kirti Monastery and the Tibetan community at large.
“It is an outburst of three generations of suffering,” he said, explaining why young people had resorted to self-immolation. “There has been so much repression against the Tibetan people, and the Ngaba area has suffered so much for so long. They could not endure anymore.”
This “wound of three generations” is detailed in his Nov. 3 testimony to the U.S. Congressional Commission on Human Rights.
Ever since the Red Army destroyed and plundered Lhateng Monastery in 1935, and continuing with the horrors of the Cultural Revolution, the Tibetan people in Ngaba have been subjected to a cultural and physical extermination campaign: looting, defiling and destruction of temples, mass arrests, torture, executions, public “struggle” sessions, starvation, and, in recent years especially, a concerted effort to force the community to pledge allegiance to the communist regime and denounce their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
After the large-scale protests in Tibet in March, 2008 and the bloody crackdown that followed, the Chinese regime has stepped up its repression of Tibetan monasteries.
The Kirti monastery in Ngaba has since been turned more or less into a prison, or “re-education” camp. The whole area has been cordoned off, and more than 800 Chinese officials have moved in, to perform so-called “political re-education” and “patriotic education.”
In practice, this means that the whole monastery has been divided up into groups of 20 who spend most of their days listening to endless lectures designed to make them loyal to the Chinese Communist Party. These are followed by sessions where the monks must “share their opinions,” but where any opinions disagreeing with what has been taught are answered with beatings.
At night, random searches of the monk’s quarters occur, and the whole place has been equipped with closed-circuit TV cameras, listening devices, and watchtowers. Monks are forced to stamp on photos of the Dalai Lama and holy scriptures are cut to pieces with knives. Hundreds of monks have been rounded up and detained at unspecified locations, where many are subjected to torture.
“The whole community lives in constant fear,” Kirti Rinpoche said.
The desperate acts of self-immolation started in February 2009, when 27-year-old monk Tapey set himself on fire. Since then 11 others have followed suit, with repression against the community and their relatives increasing as a result.
Most of the self-immolators were very young: Lobsang Phuntsok, 20; Lobsang Kalsang, 18; Kalsang Wangchuk, 17; Choephel, 18. On Oct. 17, the first woman, 20-year-old nun Tenzin Wangmo, from Mamae Deshen Choekhorling nunnery, set herself on fire.
Since he lives in exile in India, Kirti Rinpoche did not know any of them personally, but he declared that as their spiritual teacher, he feels very close to them nonetheless.
“From a Buddhist perspective, it all boils down to motivation,” he said. “Action is important, but motivation is more important. The action itself may not be appealing, but their motivation was pure; they wanted to benefit others, alleviate the suffering in their community.”
To illustrate his point, he mentioned the story of how Buddha in a previous life threw himself off a cliff to feed a starving tigress and her cubs with his own flesh.
Rinpoche indicated that it is not possible to generalize about whether these acts are encouraged or discouraged by the monastic community, that it all depends on the individual situation. He said they are typically spontaneous acts that others are not informed of beforehand.
The suffering the immolation manifests is carried away by all those who see it, however, and it creates sympathy, he said. “People feel that they are part of it.”
The acts of the self-immolators may be extreme, but they have indeed brought the world’s attention to their shared demands: freedom for Tibetans, religious freedom in Tibet in particular, and permission for the Dalai Lama to return.
Rinpoche said that although he hopes that the international community can put pressure on the Chinese regime, it is basically up to the regime itself to stop the repression and instead implement rational policies, so that people can lead a normal life with basic human rights. This is the only thing that can defuse the increasingly explosive situation, he said.
But at the end of the interview, he also mentioned that, from a broader perspective, morality is the key issue for China.
Rinpoche took the recent case of little Yueyue as an example of what happens to a society when morality degenerates, and that the repression against the Tibetans reflects the same lack of morality among the Chinese leadership. Once the leaders’ morality improves, it can also improve among the people, having a positive impact on society.
“Whether you are a religious believer or not, improving morality can only facilitate this ‘harmonious society’ the regime so often talks about,” he said.
Related Articles: Tibetans, Deficits, and ‘Death by China’
Tags: environmental issues, IT and Media, sustainable development
By Aron Lamm
Over the weekend, dozens of scientists, developers, designers, and visionaries got together at New York University to “hack” environmental data.
The event, dubbed EcoHackNYC, is part of a larger movement of “hacking” as a new approach to problem solving for the good of society. The New York hacking event innovated ways to collect and use, and present information about the environment.
For most people, the word hacking probably conjures images of teenage computer nerds breaking into the NASA website for fun. But the term has more recently come to mean finding fast, unorthodox solutions to problems.
One of the organizers of EcoHackNYC, Andrew Hill of Vizzuality, said, “Hacking is trying to find rapid solutions to problems. Not always the most beautiful and refined solution, but the quickest way to the answer.”
“But it’s always also had an aspect of playfulness, being entertained by the problem you’re challenged with, so you’re working really fast and hard to find a solution,” he said.
The Epoch Times met up with him and co-organizer Robin Kraft, a couple of hours before the event started Friday evening. Hill is a biologist, and Kraft has a varied background including economic development and geography.
Both companies work with different ways of visualizing scientific data and making it accessible, as well as involving “ordinary” netizens in scientific projects. Vizzuality is for example involved in NASA’s Planet Hunters project where anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can pitch in to find planets by sifting through data from the Kepler spacecraft. Kraft’s spatial data processing company Redd Metrics, is also working on mapping and monitoring global deforestation through the Internet.
Kraft said that one of the goals of EcoHackNYC is to get different people together in an open and creative environment.
“I’m just really excited to see random weird stuff happen,” he said. “When you get people from such different backgrounds, you just don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of collaborations in the future and how they will approach problems.”
Hacking events for the common good are held on a vast array of topics these days, many of them coordinated and supported by the organization Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK), which was also a partner for EcoHackNYC.
On the RHOK website, one can find reports from global or local “hackathons” on subjects such as development in Latin America, autism, or water problems in London.
EcoHackNYC was local in that it was not coordinated with any other cities, but its reach was global, with participants from countries including Brazil, Spain, the U.K., and China joining. Its subject, the environment, was of course also both very global and local.
The event kicked off at the Tisch ITP at NYU on Friday evening with Ignite Talks, where everyone with a project had exactly five minutes and 15 presentation slides to explain their idea. On Saturday, an unconference was held, where people would team up as they pleased, forming small groups to work on problems.
In total 13 projects were presented covering a wide range of subjects including visualizing deforestation over time, mapping historical weather conditions from old ship’s logs, examining the impact of starlings as an invasive species, and making climate change research transparent and accessible. Oh, and let’s not forget: finding out where exactly the stuff New Yorkers flush down the toilet goes! But we’ll get back to that.
On Saturday morning, participants convened with laptops and caffeinated beverages for the all-day hackfest. At the presentation held at end of the day, it became clear that ideas had been explored and cross-pollinated, with some actual rudimentary websites having been set up. Lots of networking had taken place, including with overseas participants.
Craig Mills, who works with the U.N. World conservation monitoring center in Cambridge, England, had not attended an event like this before, but was very pleased with the format, and came to some interesting results by combining his data with that of another researcher, who was looking into how civil war affects wildlife.
“Sometimes we’re working on very similar things, almost identical projects, so this is a chance to look at things from a different angle,” he said.
Tags: astronomy, Science
Einstein hypothesized that the universe is like a flat sheet that runs on forever, deformed by matter such as stars and galaxies. However, scientists continue to question whether the universe really is infinite.
The further away a galaxy or star is from Earth, the older it is. Today, we can see back to a maximum of about 13 billion years ago where there is a space containing the aftershock of the big bang.
This space is filled with gas and plasma so hot that light cannot pass through, forming a layer of cosmic microwave background radiation that is separating us from a possible boundary of the universe.
But regardless of our limited ability to research the space beyond, cosmologists use logic to reason that our universe is finite.
According to the big bang theory, the universe was once a small condensed ball of energy. When it exploded, all the matter and space in that ball expanded outwards, and continues to expand to this day, making it an infinite universe.
However, physicist Andreas Albrecht at University of California, Davis compares the expanding universe to blowing a bubble. He says inflation must stop when space gets to a certain maximum size which he predicts is about 20 percent bigger than its current size.
Cosmologist Neil Cornish at Montana State University agrees that the universe is finite.
“So one problem with an infinite universe—it’s not just infinite in space, but also infinite in time. It has no beginning,” he said in a recent episode of Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole.
“You have an infinite number of stars, so the sky would be just completely covered in white,” he added. “Bright, bright, so bright that it would fry you.”
However, the stars are actually sparsely distributed in space with darkness all around, contradicting the infinite theory.
‘Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.’—Albert Einstein
So if the universe really is finite, what would it be like?
Jean-Pierre Luminet, a cosmologist at the Paris Observatory, likens the universe to an enormous musical instrument, explaining that the larger a piano, or any other instrument, the greater the range of harmonics that can be heard.
He analyzed vibration ripples in the cosmic microwave backgound and found it is missing the longest wavelengths or “low tones,” supporting the theory of a finite universe.
Based on his research, Luminet believes the perfect shape of the universe is a three-dimensional dodecahedron, ie it has 12 sides like a soccer ball.
Related Articles: Galaxy Rotation Explains Asymmetric Nature of Universe
Tags: classical music, Music
Jing Zhao Chopin Cello Sonata in G minor Op65 3rd mov