Meditation a Path of Freedom in Swedish Prisons

9 September, 2014 at 11:12 | Posted in Body & Mind, Society, Spirituality | Leave a comment
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Meditation a Path of Freedom in Swedish Prisons

By Susanne W. Lamm
Epoch Times Staff

GOTHENBURG, Sweden—A Swedish prison, specialized in treating drug offenders, offered the inmates meditation – under the label of “mindfulness” – as an addition to their regular treatment program. The idea was that prisoners would be able to cope better with everyday life after their release. The method is called “The Path of Freedom”, and has received high praise from inmates and prison staff alike.

Ulrika Lilljegren, former manager of the Högsbo prison facility, says that inmates seem to be more responsive to the other treatment programs if they are combined with yoga or meditation, for instance.

According to Lilljegren, many inmates most likely suffer from neuropsychiatric disorders, like ADHD, or are damaged from long-term drug abuse. They often find it difficult to focus and concentrate.

“We had a guy like that [in the "Path of Freedom"-project],” she says. “Watching him sit still for half an hour, was a completely new experience. He was always very active, just bouncing around the ward, but he had found something in this meditation practice that allowed him to sit still.

Meditation provides new tools for the participants, helping them to perhaps stop and think before they act. They discover ways to adjust their behavior in a way that helps them not get into trouble all the time.

“Of course, different people had different reactions, but for a couple of them, it had a huge impact, and a great influence,” Lilljegren says.

Pake Hall from the Gothenburg Zen Center led the classes. He thinks the prison is a great environment for meditation.

“It’s such a difficult environment,” he mentions. “But you become aware of the fact that you need to face your own dark sides. They emerge when you’re locked up like that, and have nowhere to go. There is also plenty of time for practice. In many ways, it’s like a monastery.”

Hall feels a connection to society’s less fortunate. He often ended up with people that have social problems, with individuals whose behavior is on the borderline between what is and isn’t functional in society. He worked at treatment centers, and also with children with different kinds of difficulties.

When he began to meditate earnestly, he felt there was something in it he wanted to pass on to others. He thought about all the people who were locked up, who might be interested in meditation, but who don’t have a chance to learn it.

He joined an American network called Prison Dharma Network.  Here he became the mentor of a young American man, serving a double-life sentence for gang-related murders, and who had become interested in practising Buddhism. Their exchange was limited to letters, but the Prison Dharma Network later held a class that would allow Hall to hold Path of Freedom-classes at Swedish criminal facilities.

“The Path of Freedom is based on a very simple idea,” he says. “It’s all about helping people who are locked up.

“It’s about questioning whether these walls really are what’s keeping us from being free, or if there is something else standing in our way,” Hall explains. “Maybe we’re stuck in our own prisons, no matter if we’re sitting in our home in Gothenburg, with unlimited freedom, or locked up in a high-security prison? Maybe we’re all trapped by desire and aversion? This is a way to work with these issues, regardless of your surroundings.”

But shouldn’t society’s resources be used for helping people who fall prey to criminals and their actions, rather than the criminals themselves? Hall has a different perspective.

“I see nothing but victims here,” he says. “As soon as we commit an act that leads to another person’s suffering, that person suffers, but we suffer too, because we have to live with the consequences of that action. There are two victims, not one.”

He adds that the prison is in fact a great place for breaking the patterns of human existence. Many people in prison have deeply rooted patterns of hurting themselves and others. If you can somehow help them get out of these ruts, suffering may be reduced, both for them and for those around them.

The class consisted of 12 sessions. In order to motivate the inmates, they were scheduled in the middle of the week, which meant they could attend mindfulness classes instead of working. Each session lasted between 1 and 1,5 hours, and consisted of both theory and practice, one-on-one talks, and sharing experiences with the group.

Subjects like compassion, love, forgiveness, acceptance, and conflict resolution were at the center of the curriculum. Between the sessions, inmates would have “cell practice”, where they put into practice what they had learned.

“You don’t know how these people are going to take what you’re teaching them,” Hall says. “You sow little seeds during these short sessions. It’s a very, very dull environment. We’re in a locked room, with guards present at all times, for security reasons. New people join all the time, and many participants are having major problems with restlessness and anxiety.”

The “us and them”-culture of the prison was also an obstacle. To inmates, it’s important to not appear vulnerable, to be tough and to maintain their status.

“A mindfulness class is very much about just letting go and opening up,” Hall explains. “It’s about looking at what you’ve got, so of course the group can get sensitive at times. Once you’ve done a few sessions, though, something happens. It becomes a safe place, a ‘container’ for sharing things, or just listening to the teacher without making smart remarks to your neighbor. But as soon as new people enter the group, their masks are put on again, more or less.”

Being a neutral, third party in between prisoners, management and staff was also tricky, according to Hall.

“Everyone wants you to be their ally,” he explains. “The guards want to influence the inmates in a certain direction. Some thoughts and ideas are supposed to be ‘wrong’ from their perspective. And during the sharing with the inmates after the meditation, they would vent their anger with the guards. Not agreeing with them, yet not contradicting them, being there with them and not making them feel like you’re distancing yourself or disrespecting how they feel… It was very interesting, the way that game was always on.”

Overall, the project was a success. The response from the participants was positive. One of them wrote:

“My head is like a (…) ping pong game all the time, with balls flying all over the place, and now I’ve realized I don’t need to return all those balls.”

Another participant described how, when another inmate was “eyeballing him” in the cafeteria line, he remembered what he had learned in class, and just moved his attention down to his feet, instead of resorting to violence.

“That’s great, of course,” Hall says. “Those little seeds you sow, and when they tell you that they really liked it, and wanted more of it. It was worth the time I spent there.”

Read the original Swedish article here

via Meditation a Path of Freedom in Swedish Prisons

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7 Ways GMOs are Destroying Humanity and the Planet

8 September, 2014 at 07:49 | Posted in Environmental issues, Food, Nature, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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By Jonathan Benson, contributing writer to Natural News

No matter what personal views you might have on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), these relatively new biological creations are wreaking havoc on both the environment and human health, as thoroughly demonstrated in the scientific literature. And here are seven concrete examples of why:

1) GMOs lead to superbugs and superweeds. There is no denying the massive ecological changes that occur as a result of GMOs and their respective growing chemicals. Farmers all across North America now face a steadily increasing onslaught of “superweeds” and “superpests” that have spawned as a direct result of biotechnology.

Among 13 major pests examined as part of a 2011 study published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, five of them were found to be completely immune to the poisons genetically implanted into Bt corn and cotton, for instance. And more recently, Brazilian farmers have reported that GMO corn is no longer resistant to pests.

2) GMOs are killing off our pollinators. GMO proponents often argue that, without biotechnology, the world would starve. But weedkillers and other chemicals applied to GMOs are killing off bees, butterflies and other pollinators that are vital in the production of one-third of the world’s food crops.

According to the latest data, honeybees, which are responsible for roughly 80 percent of the pollinating duties, are dying off at a rate of 30 percent per year. Neonicotinoids and other pesticides leave residues on crops, which are then picked up by pollinators, destroying their insides and causing them to eventually die. German professor Hans-Hinrich Kaatz told SPIEGEL ONLINE that GMO crop chemicals appears to alter bees’ intestines, making them highly susceptible to parasites and infections.

3) GMOs allow corporations to control life. With natural seeds, farmers are free to save and reuse them year after year in self-sufficiency. But GMOs require seeds to be repurchased year after year, placing control of food and life into the hands of a select few transnational corporations, who, since they maintain an oligopoly, can charge high prices and keep farmers in their servitude.

4) GMOs cross-contaminate natural crops. If GMOs could exist in their own private, agrarian bubbles, their threat to humanity might be containable. But because they grow in the open air alongside other natural and organic crops that require pollination, the threat of cross-contamination is almost certain, which means the entire global food supply stands to eventually become contaminated.

5) Accidentally growing GMOs is a crime. Believe it or not, biotech corporations like Monsanto have actually sued non-GMO farmers whose crops were damaged as a result of genetic drift. This is because GMOs are patented intellectual property, meaning they can’t be grown without permission and payment.

6) GMOs place an unmanageable burden of debt on farmers. Farmers are typically lured into growing GMOs based on empty promises of increased yields and fewer crop losses. But when this doesn’t pan out, they become locked into a system of debt that, especially in poorer countries, often leads to total bankruptcy. This is part of the reason why some 1,000 Indian farmers now commit suicide every month, as they are left with no way out but to pay the piper money that they don’t have.

7) GMOs destroy biodiversity, the life-force of our planet. The viability of our planet is dependent upon a rich stock of plant life that is varied, abundant and well-balanced within the confines of a biodiverse ecosystem. But GMOs are the antithesis of all this, perpetuating a system of unsustainable monoculture that breeds soil erosion, mineral loss and, ultimately, death.

via 7 Ways GMOs are Destroying Humanity and the Planet

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Hong Kongers Have Had Enough of Beijing’s Deception

6 September, 2014 at 09:29 | Posted in China, human rights, Society | Leave a comment
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By Li Zhen
Epoch Times

HONG KONG—For decades Hong Kong democrats have dreamed of universal suffrage. On Aug. 31, the Chinese communist regime officially shut the door on this possibility for the next election, infuriating Hong Kongers and moving them to action.

Since Britain agreed to return Hong Kong to China in 1984, democracy supporters in the city-state have hoped to someday elect their chief executive and Legislative Council members by true universal suffrage without control by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP has repeatedly postponed its promise of true universal suffrage. Their most recent decision is that Hong Kong can have universal suffrage as long as a Beijing-controlled nominating committee selects the chief executive candidates and Beijing gets the final say in the election.

As a result, many Hong Kongers feel that they have been deceived for 30 years.

One Lie Too Many

Alex Chow Yong-kang, Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, broke into tears during a rally on the evening of Aug. 31.

“We were all saddened at how much the efforts of young men have been wasted for the past 30 years, going around in circles on the issue of democratic development,” Chow said. “After this battle, the majority who support democracy, including the moderates, have been pushed into a dead end by the CCP.”

“Who would still hold out hope of negotiating with the Communist Party? Who would still believe in the lie of ‘one country, two systems’ and the high degree of autonomy?”

Chow was referring to the CCP’s promise in 1984 that Hong Kong would have a high degree of independence from mainland China, with the principle of “one country, two systems.”

Chow told Epoch Times that in the future Hong Kongers will fight for their autonomy, including launching student strikes, instead of trusting the CCP.

Nearly 800 thousand Hong Kong people voted for democracy in June during an informal civil referendum held by Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a nonviolent movement for universal suffrage. With their hopes of democracy dashed, Hong Kong citizens are rallying together to oppose the CCP.

“This is not the darkest day in Hong Kong, but the beginning day of Hong Kongers’ awakening,” said Occupy Central co-organizer Chan Kin-man.

Chan has participated in politics for years as a moderate scholar, attempting to negotiate with the CCP to carry forward Hong Kong’s democratic development. He supported Hong Kong’s political reforms in 2005 and 2010.

Now Chan is deeply upset with the decision by the CCP’s National People’s Congress (NPC) to deny true universal suffrage. He said the decision shows that the CCP would never grant any real power to Hong Kong.

Chan said that in the early 1980s some students from the University of Hong Kong were concerned with Hong Kong’s future after the handover, so they demanded democracy.

“[Former Chinese premier] Zhao Ziyang wrote a letter to the students and promised there would be universal suffrage in Hong Kong’s future. But to this day, you can tell that the universal suffrage is in fact a fully manipulated election,” Chan said.

After the handover in 1997, Hong Kongers continued to put their hopes in Beijing for universal suffrage. Chan said that they knew it wouldn’t be granted in the first ten years after the handover, so they pinned their hopes on 2007. In 2004, however, the NPC vetoed the plan of universal suffrage for 2007.

Later the hope was to achieve universal suffrage in 2012, but the CCP delayed it again. Chan said that the moderates and the democrats, including the Democratic Party, all feel like they have been deceived.

“When we accepted the time frame, we thought 2017 was the finishing point. But now 2017 is just a starting point, and democratic development is to be carried forward slowly, step by step [according to the CCP],” Chan said.

However, Chan sees hope in the darkness.

“We are willing to protect our way of life with the power of the people, which is a gratifying thing,” he said. “We hope that society will not develop a pessimistic mood just because the political reform has encountered a dead end. I hope we all stay in this place to protect our homeland, making this the beginning of a new chapter.”

Double Deception

Cheng Yu-shek, convener of the Alliance for True Democracy, thinks the CCP has deceived Hong Kong in two major aspects in the past 30 years. The first is the promise of a high degree of autonomy.

“Now some Beijing officials have said Beijing must take control over Hong Kong. This is a dramatic change,” Cheng said.

The second deception is the promise to achieve democracy in Hong Kong step by step. The NPC’s recent decision is a regression, Cheng said.

“How is ‘step-by-step’ reflected in this? They often say that Hong Kong will have democracy when conditions are ripe, but how to tell when the conditions are ripe?” Cheng said. “Therefore, we can see clearly that the Party will hold on to the power over Hong Kong, and it will certainly not allow genuine democracy in Hong Kong.”

Cheng places his hope in long-term and persistent fighting, and never giving up.

“We shall safeguard our core values, lifestyle, and dignity,” he said. “We refuse to let Hong Kong become another mainland city.”

Taiwan political critic Lin Baohua held a press conference in Taiwan echoing Hong Kong’s democratic campaign. He said the NPC’s decision has shown that the CCP no longer needs to make Hong Kong an example of “one country two systems” to show to Taiwan.

Lin said the CCP is deceptive by nature, putting on a show for the public and letting them have fantasies. Before the NPC meeting, both Beijing officials and Hong Kong CCP supporter Lau Siu-kai said that NPC’s decision wasn’t final, and there was still room for discussion.

“However, this [political reform] draft was a step backward,” Lin said.

According to Lin, the previous rule “allows one to become a chief executive candidate with just one-eighth of all nominating committee votes, but now at least a 50 percent nomination is required.”

‘CCP Must Be Overthrown’

Lin added that only by disintegrating the CCP will Hong Kong have democracy.

“The CCP must be overthrown,” he said. “The CCP itself is opposing democracy, and it’s impossible to let Hong Kong develop democracy.”

“If it did, Guangzhou, Beijing, and Shanghai would all want democracy, and then what? So it’s impossible to grant democracy to HK,” Lin said.

Senior political commentator Lin Yuet-tsang wrote in his column in the Hong Kong Economic Journal that political circumstances have entered a sharp downturn. He said the CCP has shown its true nature, shocking many moderates, centrists, and those who are not usually concerned with political affairs.

Lin Yuet-tsang said he never believed Hong Kong could obtain democracy from the CCP’s hands. He added that he has been fighting for three decades, and it is important to spread democratic awareness.

Epoch Times columnist Xia Xiaoqiang said Hong Kong’s democratic system has demonstrated the universal values of freedom and human rights to the mainland Chinese people. This is what the CCP fears, Xia said.

Translated by Michelle Tsun. Written in English by Sally Appert.

via Hong Kongers Have Had Enough of Beijing’s Deception

Abuse Leaves Chinese Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Barely Able to Speak, Wife Says

18 August, 2014 at 11:20 | Posted in China, Gao Zhisheng, human rights, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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Abuse Leaves Chinese Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Barely Able to Speak, Wife Says: photo 2

By Matthew Robertson
Epoch Times

Once dubbed the “conscience of China,” Gao Zhisheng spoke out powerfully for the persecuted and dispossessed. Now, after five years of abuse, the voice that challenged injustice is, for the moment at least, almost silenced.

Since Gao, a celebrated Chinese human rights lawyer, was released from custody last week, news about his condition has trickled out through his wife, Geng He, who lives in California with their two children.

Geng He has only been able to have a few brief conversations with her husband, but she has spoken extensively to her sister, who is with Gao in Urumqi. Chinese security officials live in their home and monitor them, while others are stationed outside.

Geng He described her conversations with Gao both on Twitter and in discussions with a family friend, Sherry Zhang, who visits and spends time with the family in the Bay Area, where they live. Geng He has declined interviews with the media, but publishes updates about Gao’s condition on Twitter.

A note from Aug. 12 is chilling in its depiction of Gao’s degraded faculties: “When I was speaking with Gao the phone cut off, so I called him back and asked: ‘What were we talking about?’ Gao said: ‘I don’t know.’ I asked: ‘How did the call get cut off?’ Gao said: ‘I don’t know.’ I said: ‘Look, do you understand what I’m saying or not? Can you not hear, or do you not understand?’”

At that point the phone passed to Geng He’s sister, who said: “He’s been locked in a dark cell by himself for five years, fed a steamed bun and a bowl of cabbage every day. You have to patiently help him learn to speak again,” according to Geng He’s account on Twitter.

Tianyu, Gao Zhisheng’s young son, was disappointed and confused after attempting to speak with his father on the telephone. He had been practicing Chinese in order to speak with his dad, but after getting off the phone simply said: “Dad can’t speak Chinese!” according to Sherry Zhang, who visited the family.

“He can barely talk—and only in very short sentences—most of the time he is unintelligible,” Zhang said in an email viewed by the Epoch Times. “Gao’s son was incredibly excited to speak to him on the phone, and was completely shocked that he barely understood his father, that his voice was monotone, and that he was only giving 2 or 3 word answers to questions and wasn’t initiating any of the discussion,” the email continued.

“Gao has been utterly destroyed,” said a recent statement from Freedom Now, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., which has followed Gao’s case for several years. “Guards were strictly instructed not to speak with him. He was not allowed any reading materials, television, or access to anyone or anything. … He has lost many teeth from malnutrition. It is believed he was also repeatedly physically tortured.”

Jared Genser, president of Freedom Now and a pro bono attorney for the Gao family, said in a telephone interview, “We hope the U.S. impresses on China the need to allow him to leave for medical treatment in the U.S. Without that help and support, Gao’s future physical and mental health is very much in question.”

Genser continued: “The only thing worse than Gao being killed was for him to be horrifically mentally and physically tortured. He’s a shell of his former self, and it’s devastating for Geng He and her family. She just wants to take care of him, and that’s what we’re hoping will happen. But the Chinese government doesn’t make anything easy there.”

Additional reporting by Ma Youzhi

via Abuse Leaves Chinese Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Barely Able to Speak, Wife Says

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China’s Environmental Catastrophe

14 August, 2014 at 09:08 | Posted in Body & Mind, China, Environmental issues, health, Nature, Society, sustainable development | Leave a comment
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China's Environmental Catastrophe

By Hong Jiang

China’s environment has been so thoroughly assaulted by urban and industrial development that pollution in air, water, and soil has reached alarming levels. “It’s on a scale and speed the world has never known,” according to Jennifer Turner, director of the China Environment Forum at the Woodrow Wilson Center. What do we know? What can be done?

‘Airpocalypse’

Beijing’s air pollution reached a level so dramatically high in January 2013 that a new word, “airpocalypse,” was coined for it. The word has since been used to refer to the alarming air pollution in Beijing and other Chinese cities.

Beijing’s PM2.5 level reached beyond 500 in January 2013, with the high index recurring in 2014.

The smog-choked city experienced a visibility so low that it put schools and work at a halt.

World Health Organization (WHO) measures PM2.5, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, as a health indicator, as it can penetrate the blood stream and enter the lungs, causing respiratory disease, lung cancer, and various other ailments. Safe exposure to PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter annually, and 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period—called PM2.5 index 12 and 25, respectively.

A research report released by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences in February 2013 ranked Beijing as the second worst in living environment among 40 major cities in the world, according to the Daily Mail. The study considered Beijing “barely suitable” for living due to its severe air pollution.

Smog is especially severe in northern Chinese cities during the winter heating season when coal burning adds to air pollution. In October 2013, the northern city of Harbin had the record PM2.5 index of 1,000, with visibility reduced to less than 50 meters, according to data from China’s environmental protection agency.

China’s unbridled and coal-dependent development serves as the direct cause of air pollution. China consumes half of the coal in the world, used to fuel the world’s second-largest economy.

Air pollution has caused great harm to human health. Based on a “2010 Global Burden of Disease” study published in December 2013 in The Lancet, a British medical journal, air pollution led to 1.2 million premature deaths in China in 2010, which is about 40 percent of the global total.

Air pollution has reduced life expectancy by 5.5 years in Northern China, according to a study done by researchers from China, Israel, and the United States and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year.

China’s airpocalypse not only chokes the Chinese cities, but also affects other countries through long-range transport of air pollutants. About 40–60 percent of fine particulate pollution in Japan comes from China, said Hiroshi Tanimoto at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies to New York Times. The effect on Korea is even greater. Pollutants have crossed the Pacific to affect the western part of the United States.

China’s airpocalypse goes hand in hand with China’s rank as the top emitter of greenhouse gases, aiding the driver of global climate change and the threat of global warming.

Water ‘Too Dangerous to Touch’

If air pollution is bad enough, water pollution is an even worse problem and more difficult to resolve, said a report by The Economist.

“There are large parts of the urban water supply which are not only too dangerous to drink—they are too dangerous to touch,” said John Parker, globalization editor at The Economist, in a video interview. “You cannot even wash in them.”

Data from the Chinese government in 2011 shows that over half of China’s large lakes and reservoirs were too contaminated for human use. Groundwater, which accounts for one-third of China’s water resources, suffers similar pollution. Of the more than 4,700 groundwater-quality testing stations, about 60 percent showed “relatively bad” or worse pollution level. Half of the rural population lacks safe drinking water.

Chemical, pharmaceutical, and power plants spew pollutants into waterways, creating dead zones where they flow. A notable example is central China’s Huai River, pronounced dead by Elizabeth Economy in her well-known 2004 book on China’s environment, “The River Runs Black.”

If China’s air pollution makes airpocalypse, water pollution has created incidents that attract international attention. In 2007, Lake Tai suffered from a heavy carpet of blue-green algae that is cancer-inducing, and its gruesome images have circulated on the Web. The 2006 incident of a chemical spill contaminated Songhua River in Northeast China, and the government cover-up was widely criticized. Many more incidents, however, go under reported.

Some incidents of water pollution can be sadly surreal. Urban waterways in the eastern city of Wenzhou were so polluted by chemicals that a lit cigarette set the water on fire, as reported in the Daily Mail earlier this year. This is not the first time a river was on fire, and other images of water pollution show water turning black or red or orange, or carpeted with algae or dead fish.

A report on chinadialogue indicates that in 2012 over half of China’s cities had water of “poor” or worse quality. Ma Jun, an environmentalist who heads a Beijing-based green NGO, told chinadialogue, “Tackling water pollution is as serious and worthy a challenge for the authority as combating air pollution … water pollution poses a bigger health threat to about 300 million people living in rural areas.”

Polluted Soil and Food

China Daily, an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese regime, ran an editorial stated, “Soil contaminated with heavy metals is eroding the foundation of the country’s food safety and becoming a looming public health hazard.”

Nearly one-fifth of China’s farmland is polluted, according to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land Resources. Chemicals such as cadmium, nickel, arsenic, lead, and mercury poison the soil, as they are dumped into waters used for irrigation.

Early this year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection admitted that there are 450 pollution-related “cancer villages” in China. Prior to that, soil pollution and its threat to health and food received limited media attention, and the Chinese government had kept data on soil pollution as a “state secret.”

The change was partly brought about by a recent scandal of cadmium in rice that set off a Hunan rice scare. According to the mainland business magazine Caijing, the city of Guangzhou inspected local restaurants and found excessive cadmium level in 44.4 percent of rice and rice products. Most of the rice came from Hunan Province.

According to Caixin’s New Century Magazine, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other institutions had reported on cadmium pollution in 2009. They sampled 100 rice paddies near mines throughout Hunan Province, and found that 65 percent of the samples exceeded the cadmium safety limit. The contaminated rice had entered the local and national market.

WHO’s website states, “Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal, and the respiratory systems.” The heavy metal is leached from mines and chemical factories in Hunan.

Also under the spotlight are Hunan’s new cancer villages, among which, Shuanqiao. China Youth reported that 26 people in Shuanqiao died of cadmium poisoning. Soil samples there showed cadmium content 300 times the permitted level, and 509 of its 2,888 villagers were tested positive for cadmium poisoning. The chemical came from the Xianghe Chemical Plant, whose pollution villagers have complained about since 2006. This example is just the tip of the iceberg of chemical poisoning in China.

Worrisome ‘War Against Pollution’

Facing catastrophic environmental pollution, the Chinese government has become alert. Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced early this year at the National People’s Congress, “We will declare war against pollution.” Li said, “Smog is affecting larger parts of China, and environmental pollution has become a major problem, which is nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

The Chinese government has plans to clean up the environment. In September 2013, the government launched a $280 billion plan to clean up the air, and early this year, it announced an investment of $300 billion to tackle water pollution. Experts are uncertain, however, whether these investments will change the situation.

What is worrisome is the regime’s persistent attitude of a “war against nature,” that has rendered past investments in the environment limited in their effect. In Mao’s war against nature, draconian actions in agriculture destroyed the fabric of the rural ecosystem. Post-Mao pursuit of economic development has only trumped the past trend with unprecedented pollution in air, water, and soil from industrial and urban growth.

Experts on China believe the root of China’s environmental problems lies with the top-down control by the Communist Party, which has been trapped in corruption and a lack of political accountability and rule of law. Economic incentives for officials have continued to leave pollution unchecked. As some polluting factories are closed, others pop up.

“Environmental problems are one of the main outcomes of a one party-ruled, corrupted, non-humane government,” said Ahkok Wong, a university lecturer in Hong Kong, to the ROAR Magazine.

Environmental pollution has increasingly become a source of discontent and protest in China. In the 1990s, rural protests in China already included pollution-related land loss. Since the 2000s, large-scale protests expanded to cities where citizens reject polluting factories and plants. According to a Pew survey, environmental issues accounted for half of the protests in 2013 in China.

Short of fundamental changes in the political system, it is hard to foresee major environmental improvements.

As Mao obliterated traditional Chinese belief of harmony between human beings and heaven, and as the post-Mao communist regime continues to favor development over the environment, the moral foundation of the Chinese people has also been eroded, aiding corruption and disregard for others and the environment.

Without a rebuilding of a moral system, the Chinese environment will continue to suffer, along with the Chinese people.

Hong Jiang is associate professor and chair of the geography department at University of Hawaii at Manoa. She specializes in China’s environment and culture.

For more photos: China’s Environmental Catastrophe

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China’s long history of harvesting organs from living political foes

12 August, 2014 at 06:35 | Posted in China, Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, human rights, organ harvesting, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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By Larry Getlen

Enver Tohti was a surgeon in a hospital in Xinjiang, in the northwestern part of China, when, in June 1995, he was instructed by his superior to prepare for an adventure — surgery in the field.

In the morning, when the doctor and his team arrived at their destination, he realized they were at “the Western Mountain Execution Grounds, which specialized in killing political dissidents.”

“When you hear a gunshot, drive around the hill,” he was told.

He asked why they were there.

“You don’t want to know.”

After the shot rang out, he drove where he was told, and saw “10, maybe 20, bodies lying at the base of the hill.” The police led him to one in particular, a man of “about 30 dressed in navy blue overalls,” and told him that this is the man Tohti would be operating on.

“‘Why are we operating?’ Tohti protested. ‘Come on. This man is dead.’ ”

But Tohti felt a faint pulse, stiffened and corrected himself. “No. He’s not dead.”

“Operate, then. Remove the liver and kidneys. Now! Quick! Be quick!’ ”

A stunned Tohti did as he was told, trying to pretend this was normal procedure. He “glanced questioningly at the chief surgeon. ‘No anesthesia,’ said the chief surgeon. ‘No life support.’ ” The anesthesiologist “just stood there, arms folded. ‘He’s already unconscious,’ the man reasoned.”

The anesthesiologist was wrong.

“As Enver’s scalpel went in, the man’s chest heaved spasmodically and then curled back again.” After Tohti removed the organs and stitched him up — “not internally,” as there was “no point to that anymore” — he noticed that blood was still pulsing. He was sure the man was still alive.”

Enemies of the state

Reports of organ harvesting in China are nothing new, as the government has admitted that the organs of death-row prisoners have been used for transplants, and BBC investigations have found that “British women apply the collagen of executed prisoners to their faces every night.”

But according to longtime China analyst and human-rights investigator Ethan Gutmann in his disturbing new book, “The Slaughter: Mass Killings, Organ Harvesting, and China’s Secret Solution to its Dissident Problem” (Prometheus Books), the realities of the practice are far more awful.

Organs coming out of China — which sometimes wind up in American bodies — are taken not just from the worst Chinese criminals, as China claims, but also from prisoners of conscience, especially practitioners of the banned and derided practice Falun Gong, who never committed, or were even accused of, capital crimes.

Making this far worse, though, are the revelations that authorities aren’t waiting for death to claim their bounty. In an effort to increase the chances of successful transplant, Gutmann writes, the organs are often taken from prisoners while they are still alive.

Gutmann estimates that to date, more than 64,000 Falun Gong practitioners have suffered this fate, with more being added to the count every day.

Read more: China’s long history of harvesting organs from living political foes | New York Post

Chinese Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Freed From Prison, but Not Yet Free

9 August, 2014 at 09:07 | Posted in China, Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, Gao Zhisheng, human rights, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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By Matthew Robertson
Epoch Times

After close to five and a half years in detention, some of it in mountain torture chambers, anonymous apartment buildings cut off from his family, and most recently in a remote prison, one of China’s most prominent human rights lawyers, Gao Zhisheng, has been released.

The news trickled out on Twitter soon after his brother, Gao Zhiyi, collected him from the Shaya Prison in Xinjiang Province on Aug. 7. Both the men appear to be accompanied by security agents who continue to surveil and limit their movements.

When a reporter with Voice of America attempted to speak to Gao Zhisheng on the phone, he only had the chance to say a few words before his sister said “someone’s coming,” and quickly took the telephone away from him.

After years of mistreatment in prison, Gao Zhisheng’s lower teeth are loose and his upper teeth hurt to eat food, his family said. Gao Zhiyi will first accompany his brother to a dentist to repair the teeth.

Gao’s wife and two children live in California and have not seen their husband and father since they hastily fled China in January 2009.

“I spoke to my husband for the first time in four years. While the conversation was brief, I could tell that he wasn’t the same. I am deeply concerned that he has been seriously tortured in custody,” said Geng He, his wife, according to Freedom Now, a human rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. She held a press conference for local media in the Bay Area, California, in the morning and took interviews throughout the afternoon.

Veneer of Due Process

Gao is being released after completing a three-year prison term that was widely seen to be imposed arbitrarily.

The sentence was the authorities’ first attempt to add a veneer of due process to its punishment of Gao, which they had carried out in secret and with extreme brutality since 2006, following advocacy on what the Chinese regime has regarded as the most sensitive issue.

In 2004, Gao began representing Falun Gong practitioners, and then in 2004 and 2005 he published three open letters to the Communist Party’s leadership demanding an end to the persecution of Falun Gong. In late 2005 Gao published an open letter withdrawing from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The prison sentence was widely seen as no more than a continuation of the same, long-running violent farce. It earned this reputation because it was couched as a punishment for the crime he had originally been charged with in 2006, “inciting subversion of state power.”

He was originally given a three-year prison sentence that was suspended for two years, meaning he did not actually go to prison in 2006. Even though he was not held in prison, from 2006 onwards he was primarily in the captivity of the authorities. When the time for the suspension of the sentence was set to expire in 2011, security authorities hastily threw him in jail, claiming Gao had violated the terms of his parole.

In his periods in and out of detention in China, accounts by Gao describe in detail terrible torture and physical and psychological abuse. One noted letter, written in 2007, titled “Dark Night, Dark Hood and Kidnapping by Dark Mafia,” says that he was tortured for 50 days, including with an electric batons, cigarettes held to his eyes, and toothpicks inserted into his genitals.

‘Not yet free’

The news of Gao’s release has met with both wariness and relief by observers. His family lives abroad, but observers think it is unlikely that Gao will be allowed free passage to the United States in order to reunite with them.

“While Gao has been released from prison, it is abundantly clear he is not yet free,” said Jared Genser, Gao’s pro bono legal counsel with the group Freedom Now. “Until he is reunited with his wife and children, our work will continue. I call on the Chinese government to remove the security cordon around Gao, to let him speak freely and meet with anyone he chooses, to allow him to travel freely, both in China and abroad.”

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), a longtime supporter of Gao Zhisheng, who took on his cause as part of a human rights project, said he was “relieved to hear that Gao has been granted his freedom from torture and seclusion, though I fear that he may not be truly free outside prison.” Rep. Wolf added, in the statement: “I hope that, if he chooses to apply, he will be granted asylum in the United States.”

After years of running a successful legal practice in Beijing, defending minority groups, abused workers, and house Christians, Gao’s law firm was suspended in November 2005, after he began taking on the cases of persecuted Falun Gong practitioners and writing two open letters urging an end to that persecution.

After Gao’s law firm was closed, he penned an open letter to the head of the CCP and China’s premier in which he described in detail the torture suffered by Falun Gong practitioners. Then, a few days later, he released his letter withdrawing from the CCP.

“Over a dozen days’ close touch with Falun Gong believers was a shocking experience to my soul,” he wrote in the letter, based on his time living with and interviewing Falun Gong practitioners in China about their persecution.

“I had lost my hope for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) completely. This CCP has employed the most barbarous and most immoral and illegal means to torture our mothers, our wives, our children, and our brothers and sisters. It has made this kind of torture part of the Party member’s job and raised the political standing of torture,” he wrote in the letter.

Gao continued: “From now on, Gao Zhisheng, a Party ‘member’ who hasn’t paid the membership fee for a long time and has been absent from the “Party activities” for many years, declares that he quits the cruel, untrustworthy, inhumane, and evil party.”

“This is the proudest day of my life.”

via Chinese Rights Lawyer Gao Zhisheng Freed From Prison, but Not Yet Free

Why You Should Reduce Cellphone Radiation Risk for Children and How You Can – The Epoch Times

10 July, 2014 at 10:46 | Posted in Body & Mind, Children, Environmental issues, health, IT and Media, Science, Society, sustainable development, Technology | Leave a comment
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By June Fakkert
Epoch Times

NEW YORK—Scientists don’t all agree about how much electromagnetic radiation risks cellphones and other devices pose to fetuses and young children, but governments, health organizations, and insurance companies are advocating precautions.

The rapid development of a baby in the womb is a stunningly delicate process, and disruptions to it can have life-long repercussions.

“We know that exposures that occur during pregnancy can have life-long impact due to these window periods of vulnerability that occur as the brain grows and develops,” said Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, an integrative pediatric neurologist board-certified in adult and child neurology and pediatrics. She spoke at a recent press conference for the BabySafe Wireless Project, an initiative to raise awareness about risks of electromagnetic exposure in young children.

Children have smaller brains, thinner skulls, softer brain tissue, and a higher number of rapidly dividing cells, which makes them more susceptible to damage from cellphone exposure than adults, Dr. Shetreat-Klein said.

“Disturbing scientific data continues to be revealed regarding the effects of cellphone radiation on developing brains.”

One such study was lead by Dr. Hugh Taylor, chair of the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine.

Researchers put cellphones in the cages of pregnant mice, turned some of the cellphones on continuously during the pregnancy, and kept others completely off. The young mice whose mothers were exposed to radiation from the activated cellphones were more hyperactive and had poorer memories than the young mice whose mothers lived with the powered-off cellphones.

“They were running around these cages bouncing off the walls, not a care in the world, something that in our eyes resembles attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children,” Taylor said at the press conference.

Electromagnetic Fields and Common Sense

Underlying the debate about the risks of electromagnetic radiation is the fact that electromagnetic fields can be natural—such as the build-up of ions in the air before a thunderstorm, as well as manmade—such as the energy of a microwave oven that boils your tea water in two to three minutes.

The frequency of an electromagnetic field determines its effect on the human body. So while we aren’t afraid of being exposed to pre-storm air, common sense (and manufacturer safety mechanisms) stop us from sticking our hands into an active microwave to see if our water is hot.

The frequency of the radiation emitted by cellphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi routers falls somewhere between storm air and microwaves, and their safety profile is a murky gray area that requires consumers to stay informed and aware, and to take precautions—even if the science isn’t conclusive.

Cellphone Safety Standards

A reason researchers aren’t likely to definitively prove that cellphone radiation harms children is that it would be unethical to conduct necessary studies. Such experiments would require test and control groups, and no parent would sign up their child to be in the test group, Dr. Devra Davis points out.

Davis is the president of Environmental Health Trust and award-winning author of “Disconnect: The Truth About Cellphone Radiation, What the Industry Is Doing to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family.”

According to Davis, cellphones were originally tested on full-grown men and have never been tested on women and children.

Cellphone safety standards have also not been updated in 17 years, since smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi became ubiquitous, and the sight of a radiation-emitting device in a child’s hand became common.

Now toy manufacturers produce plastic teething cases with colorful plastic bells and whistles that allow the youngest babies to get really close to their screens, reminding Davis of the baby suits that were once made with asbestos fibers.

The take-home message is one of precaution—that every parent can limit young children’s electromagnetic exposure.

You can keep yourself updated on Twitter with #knowyourexposure

Below is a summary of what some concerned parties say about radiation and exposure to children:

Governments

The United States government does not acknowledge known risk of using cellphones that have a specific absorption rate (SAR—the amount of radio frequency absorbed by the body) of 1.6 watts per kilogram (W/kg) or less.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland rated the Apple iPhone 4 at 1.07 W/kg and the Samsung SGH-E330 at 1.17 W/kg. Nokia and Motorola phones tested lower, according to the report.

The European Parliament recommends that schools and classrooms “give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by schoolchildren on school premises.”

French law requires that all cellphones sold in the country have SAR clearly labeled as well as the recommendation that users limit cellphone exposure to their heads by using a headset. It also bans advertising cellphones to children under 14 years old and bans giving or selling any device specifically designed for children under 6 that emits radio frequency.

Israel has banned Wi-Fi in preschool and kindergarten classrooms and limited the Wi-Fi to an hour a day in first- to third-grade classrooms.

Belgium has banned the sale of mobile phones to children under 7.

Organizations

The World Health Organization reports that so far “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use”; however, it also cautions that “the electromagnetic fields produced by mobile phones are classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

High priority on the World Health Organization’s research agenda is developing a better understanding of the effects of radiation in utero and on young children.

The German Academy of Pediatrics advises that parents limit children’s use of mobile phones.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that children “are disproportionately impacted by all environmental exposures, including cellphone radiation,” in a letter last year urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt radiation standards that protect children. The AAP also recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2.

Insurance Companies

In the past, Lloyds of London and Swiss Re, two major re-insurers, have both refused to cover cellphone companies for health-related lawsuits filed by cellphone users.

In 2010, Lloyds wrote that “EMF cases could be more complex than asbestos claims” and in its 2013 report on emerging risks, Swiss Re put the “unforeseen consequences of electromagnetic fields” in the highest impact category for 10 years down the road.


10 Ways to Reduce Your Wireless Exposure

BabySafeProject.org gives the following tips:

1. Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body (that is, in a pocket or bra).

2. Avoid holding any wireless device against your body when in use.

3. Use your cellphone on speaker setting or with an “air tube” headset.

4. Avoid using your wireless device in cars, trains, or elevators.

5. Avoid cordless phones, especially where you sleep.

6. Whenever possible, connect to the Internet with wired cables.

7. When using Wi-Fi, connect only to download, then disconnect.

8. Avoid prolonged or direct exposure to Wi-Fi routers.

9. Unplug your home Wi-Fi router when not in use (that is, at bedtime).

10. Sleep as far away from wireless utility meters (“smart” meters) as possible.

via Why You Should Reduce Cellphone Radiation Risk for Children and How You Can – The Epoch Times

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Reading Maxim Leo’s Red Love: The Story of an East German Family

9 July, 2014 at 15:50 | Posted in books, Culture, Society | 3 Comments
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Kristina:

Interesting review about people living in a communist country…

Originally posted on Angelina Hue:

I just finished reading Red Love: The Story of an East German Family by Maxim Leo. What a compelling, intense and poignant journey this has been.

The moment I started reading Red Love, I was drawn into the inner dynamics, turbulent emotions and revealing stories of Leo’s family. The latter included his grandfathers’ experiences during the Second World War and the effects which lingered throughout the three generations.

Red Love examines the relationships between Leo’s family members as well as each individual’s connection to the German Democratic Republic (GDR). This is more than just a family memoir; it is also a journey through the history of the short-lived sovereign state, seen through the eyes of someone who was born into it, grew up in its shadow and saw it vanish overnight.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Leo brings the reader back in time by piecing together the narrative of his family through intimate interviews, old photographs and letters, diaries as well as surveillance files…

View original 448 more words

China’s Bar Association Tells Lawyers to Shut Up

29 June, 2014 at 19:11 | Posted in China, Gao Zhisheng, human rights, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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By Lu Chen
Epoch Times

“Improper speech” by lawyers on the Internet is no longer allowed, according to the All China Lawyers Association, the state-controlled equivalent of the country’s bar association.

A draft version of new rules and penalties prepared by ACLA was leaked to social media platforms by disgruntled lawyers on June 12.

They found the prohibitions galling, including a ban on the publication of open letters “to provoke protests or incite public opinion,” or the making of “extreme or improper comments to attack or deframe China’s judicial system, political system, and the Party’s principles and policies” on the Internet.

The muzzling will probably have the most impact on lawyers that take on sensitive political cases associated with the persecution of religious followers, Falun Gong practitioners, and advocates of democracy and the rule of law in China.

If the revised draft is passed, violators will face public censure and potential expulsion from the Association—the equivalent to no longer being allowed to practice law in China.

The All China Lawyers Association is in charge of all licensed lawyers and law firms in China, and acts under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. The People’s Republic of China’s laws on the legal profession says that attorneys and legal firms in China are required to join the ACLA.

While not publishing their views on the Internet, lawyers may also be prevented by their firms from “founding, participating in, or supporting any organizations or activities that damage the image of the ACLA or do not align with the duty of lawyers.”

Law firms are no longer to “indulge” their employees by allowing them to engage in these unspecified subversive behaviors, the notice says.

The move by the ACLA, which is controlled by the government, is the latest move by the Chinese regime to punish advocates of a freer political system in China.

Several well-known rights lawyers have been arrested for “causing trouble” before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 massacre, including Pu Zhiqiang and Tang Jingling.

Predictably, attorneys in China have expressed their outrage at the proposed new rules.

“I was frightened after reading that draft,” said Zhou Ze, a well-known lawyer who also advocates for democracy and human rights in China. “The new rules are obviously for cracking down on dissident lawyers,” he said on Weibo.

He remarked that part of the reason for the proposed rules may be to prevent lawyers from speaking out against the Ministry of Justice, whose own questionable, and sometimes allegedly illegal operations many lawyers in China suffer under.

“If the draft is adopted, there may not be any more dissident lawyers,” Zhou wrote. “The judiciary will be more domineering and less just, and corruption in the judiciary will be more severe!”

Others formed a petition on Tuesday to protest against the proposed rules, and called for the ACLA president, Wang Junfeng, to step down. Over 50 lawyers signed the petition the day it was launched, according to Zhang Lei, a lawyer in Beijing.

“The All-China Lawyers Association is not protecting the rights of lawyers any more, but has become an accomplice in repressing lawyers’ rights,” the petition says. It added that the rules violate China’s own constitution.

“The Lawyers Association shouldn’t listen to the ruling Party’s orders to restrict us, said Xie Yang, an attorney in Hunan Province, in an interview with Sound of Hope Radio. “It’s doing everything to show its loyalty to the authorities. We just can’t accept that.”

via China’s Bar Association Tells Lawyers to Shut Up – The Epoch Times

China Reporters Face Further Muzzling

26 June, 2014 at 10:19 | Posted in censorship, China, human rights, IT and Media, persecution, Society | Leave a comment
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China Reporters Face Further Muzzling: photo 2

By Lu Chen
Epoch Times

Journalists in China have been banned from writing articles deemed “critical” about the government or even about companies without permission, according to a recent announcement from China’s propaganda authorities.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television—shortened to SAPPRFT—ian amalgam of the former State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) and the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP)—published a notice last week laying down the new rule, while going over eight cases of journalists and news companies that have strayed.

“Journalists and news stations are prohibited from doing critical reporting without permission from their work units, and they are prohibited from creating websites, channels, special editions, and print editions to publish critical reporting without authorization,” the notice said.

Violators could have their licenses to practice journalism, or in the case of a publisher, its publishing license, revoked, the notice said.

Six of the eight cases highlighted by propaganda authorities allegedly involved journalists who had attempted to extort the targets of their stories.

Such activities indeed take place in the recesses of China’s repressed news industry—though analysts are more apt to blame the communist authorities for their overbearing restrictions on reporters, rather than the moral turpitude of journalists themselves.

In one of the cases, Zhou Xiang, a reporter at the state-run Maoming Evening News in Guangdong Province, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison in March.

Zhou was accused of bribery after he took 26,000 yuan ($4,173) from 13 companies and individuals, whom he apparently threatened to run negative reports about if they didn’t pay up.

Such reports would have included claims that they polluted the environment, neglected industrial accidents, or were involved in illegal housing projects. The truth status of the charges was not clear from the reports. Apart from Zhou’s jail time, he has been barred from practicing journalism for the rest of his life.

But whatever the abuses of journalists—real or fabricated—Chinese public opinion has not taken kindly to a blanket prohibition on “negative” coverage.

“Extortion is extortion, and critical reporting is critical reporting! How could extortion lead to a ban over the other?” said Chinese lawyer Chang Xiaokun, based in Shandong Province, on Weibo, a popular social media website in China.

“The constitution says citizens have the freedom of speech, which includes freedom to criticize. Aren’t journalists also citizens? If criticism is not allowed, the nation is finished!” wrote an outraged Song Zude, a well-known commentator of the entertainment industry, on his Weibo page.

Yang Bo, a regular Internet user, wrote: “Journalists often use Weibo to expose corruption without the permission of their companies. Now they don’t dare do that any more, and corrupt officials will sleep well.”

Chinese of a more pessimistic bent were not surprised by the announcement, because suppression of the media has never changed under Party rule. The notification simply announces the status quo, these commentators said.

Even before the new prohibition, many Chinese journalists have been punished for reporting negative news on a variety of social issues. Xiang Nanfu, for instance, who was based in Beijing and wrote for the overseas media Boxun, was arrested last month on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”

Party media agencies said that Xiang published “fake” news that “defamed China” and “deceived Chinese people,” while Boxun was labeled a “reactionary website.”

But much of what Boxun reported about included the violation of human rights of petitioners and other disenfranchised groups in China.

Other reporters have been punished for simply doing their jobs. Before the 25th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre, Xin Jian, with the Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and Vivian Wu, a former Beijing-based reporter for the South China Morning Post, were detained after interviewing Pu Zhiqiang, a well-known human rights lawyer who is now also in custody and faces a potentially lengthy imprisonment.

via China Reporters Face Further Muzzling

Torture Camp Rebranded in China

23 June, 2014 at 10:07 | Posted in China, Falun Dafa/Falun Gong, human rights, persecution, slave labor camps, Society | Leave a comment
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The Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp was supposed to be closed down, but now it simply has two names

By Carol Wickenkamp
Epoch Times

For years the tales of torture that came out of Masanjia Women’s Labor Camp in China’s northeast were a potent demonstration of the abuses of the country’s forced labor system. In turn, Masanjia’s apparent closure last year was seen as a hopeful sign that the system was, in fact, being closed down, as authorities had promised.

But recent reports from China tell a different story: the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp is alive and well, except for the fact that it’s no longer called the Masanjia Forced Labor Camp. Instead, the same sprawling set of buildings and facilities appears to be now put to use as both a “drug rehabilitation center” and as part of the Liaoning Province’s prison system. These bureaucratic modifications disguise the fact that the same guards, in the same buildings, abuse and exploit the same or similar prisoners—just as before.

Masanjia made world headlines in 2013 when an Oregon woman, Julie Keith, discovered a letter from the labor camp in a plastic Halloween kit shipped from China. Shocked, she contacted the media, which set about exploring the background of the camp.

It was exposure of that kind that the Chinese Communist Party found deeply embarrassing, and was part of the reason for its high-profile move to—on paper at least—close the system of re-education through forced labor, which has been part of the Party’s coercive toolkit since the 1950s.

When a CNN film crew visited Masanjia last year, it had every impression of being empty. No guards were in the watchtowers, and no one came to trouble CNN correspondent David McKenzie as he strolled within feet of the chain-link fence. Minghui.org, a website that carries firsthand reports from the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China, also reported last year that the remaining practitioners detained in Masanjia were being released. Falun Gong is a spiritual practice that has been persecuted in China since 1999.

The Same Camp

Shang Liping, a female Falun Gong practitioner, was recently transferred from Shenyang Women’s Prison to the Masanjia Addiction Treatment Center, according to a March report in Minghui. The report continued that staff and police were the same people that had worked at Masanjia when it was a labor camp.

Yu Shuxian and Chi Xiuhua, two other female Falun Gong practitioners, were put into the same drug rehab center in Masanjia this January, according to Minghui. When family visited Chi, they found that “she had completely changed; her face was pallid and listless, she neither lifted her head nor opened her eyes, and she had no energy to speak,” according to Minghui. “Her family was distraught, extremely scared, and could not guess what torment she had been put through.”

Other sections of the large labor facility have been transferred to the provincial prison system, and operate as the Masanjia Prison District of Liaoning Province’s Shenyang Women’s Prison, according to Minghui.

The Shenyang provincial prison for women is extremely violent, with Minghui reporting 20 Falun Gong deaths since 1999. At present at least 84 Falun Gong practitioners are incarcerated in Liaoning Province’s women’s prison in Shenyang, many of them serving sentences of up to 13 years.

A group of Falun Gong practitioners who were held in the women’s prison in Shenyang were transferred to the Masanjia Prison District, most of them this year. Multiple telephone calls made by Epoch Times to phone numbers identified as belonging to Masanjia were not answered.

Niu Guifang, a female practitioner, in a trial thick with illegalities, was sentenced to the women’s prison in March 2013, and was transferred to Masanjia Prison District at the end of last year. Although her hands were injured by the prison police, and she couldn’t hold heavy things, she has still been forced to work every day in the workhouse at Masanjia, Minghui reported in April.

Administrative Switcheroo

When the Communist Party announced the death of the re-education through labor system in early 2013, seasoned observers of the regime’s security system began expecting what has now transpired.

“Cosmetic changes” won’t stop the abuses, said Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch. Instead, they “might only further entrench the system,” she said.

A detailed report by Amnesty International nearly one year later observed: “Abolishing the RTL [re-education through labor] system is a step in the right direction. However, it now appears that it may only be a cosmetic change just to avert the public outcry over the abusive RTL system where torture was rife,” said Corinna-Barbara Francis, China researcher, in a December 2013 paper.

“It’s clear that the underlying policies of punishing people for their political activities or religious beliefs haven’t changed. The abuses and torture are continuing, just in a different way,” she said.

That same month the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy noted, in its own report in the matter, that re-education through labor has simply been replaced with other forms of detention, like forced drug rehab and “legal education classes.” The group said, “These systems are already used in Tibet and merely continue the abuses associated with RTL under a different name.”

The Same Work

While the new division at Masanjia appears to be between a prison and a drug rehabilitation center, the latter, as far as prisoners of conscience go seems to be used in the same way that the old labor camp was used: Falun Gong practitioners are sent there by police, without a trial, regardless of their drug-free lives.

The mixing of prisoner types has taken place for years in China. “People from the Liaoning Provincial Labor Education Bureau came to audit us in 2011, and ordered that every Falun Gong practitioner needed to take a test. Our medical examination document listed us as drug addicts, but in fact, out of the nearly 400 inmates, only four were drug users,” former Masanjia inmate Qiu Tieyan wrote in October 2013 about her incarceration.

“We had to work six hours every day making military coats, forest coats, and firefighter jackets for the Jihua 3504 Limited Corporation in Changchun City. Outside of the workshop, we had to load and unload things, clean, and do other chores. Guard Wang Guangyun brought in her dirty laundry from home, and we had to wash it. We had to keep this a secret and do it quickly,” she said.

The same Minghui report said there are about 300 prisoners in the Masanjia Prison District, but did not give a total for Falun Gong practitioners held there.

Drug offenders are treated in the same way in detention as when the facilities were called re-education camps. They are forced to do factory work, light manufacturing, and repetitive labor.

Once locked up, there is little rehabilitation either—only brutality and hard labor, said Human Rights Watch in a 2012 paper.

“If people weren’t working hard enough we would beat them with a one-meter board, or we would just kick them or beat them with our hands,” a former re-education through labor guard from Guangxi Province told Human Rights Watch. “Sometimes people got beaten to death. About 10 percent of people who come into re-education through labor centers die inside.”

Additional research and reporting by Lu Chen

via Torture Camp Rebranded in China

Spying Software Pre-installed on Chinese Star N9500 Smartphone

23 June, 2014 at 09:48 | Posted in China, espionage, IT and Media, Society | Leave a comment
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By Joshua Philipp
Epoch Times

Anyone looking for a cheap smartphone may get more than they bargained for. German security company G Data found that Chinese smartphones are being shipped with pre-installed spying software.

The Generic Star N9500 has a 5-inch screen, dual cameras, and a quad core processor. It also comes with the Uupay.D spyware program, pre-installed, which steals data from the phone and relays it back to a server in China.

“The possibilities with this spy program are almost limitless,” said Christian Geschkat, G Data’s product manager for mobile solutions, in a blog post.

With the spying software, the phone can retrieve your personal data, listen to your phone calls, get your online banking data, read your emails and text messages, and China’s hackers can remotely control your camera and microphone.

The smartphone is manufactured in China and sold on Amazon and eBay for around $159.99.

Aside from being a major invasion of privacy, the data gathered on the phone can be used by criminals for bank fraud, credit card fraud, and online scams.

The spying software is disguised as a Google Play service that runs in the background without the user’s knowledge. It can also quietly install new software without the user’s knowledge.

Geschkat noted they began researching the phone after one of their customers said it sprang an alarm on a computer security program.

They found the Uupay.D spying program in the phone’s firmware, the fundamental layer of code that interacts with the hardware. The Google Play icon it poses as cannot be disabled, nor can it be removed.

Geschkat said that the recipients of the stolen data, and how the data is used, are still unknowns.

via Spying Software Pre-installed on Chinese Star N9500 Smartphone – The Epoch Times

Petition | SAY “NO” TO CHINA’S CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE!

19 June, 2014 at 09:14 | Posted in China, Society | Leave a comment
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This is in fact something that Chinese communist party (CCP) wants to implement in all western countries! You don’t have to be living in Canada to support their protest….

….
Petition | SAY “NO” TO CHINA’S CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE IN TDSB! | Change.org


FACTS THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: In September the Toronto District School Board TDSB will bring Confucius Institutes CI into our schools to teach our Children about Chinese culture and language.

HOWEVER:

- CI IS 100% controlled by the Chinese communist party (CCP)

- CI teacher in Canada rallies students to attack Tibet.

- CI Students sing songs boasting communist world domination.

- CI Teachers must meet Political Ideology requirements.

- CI Discriminates against Minority Groups in Canada.

- “CI’s are an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.” – Chinese gov’t

THEREFORE: WE PARENTS AND TAXPAYERS DEMAND THAT TDSB AND TRUSTEES VOTE TO SUSPEND CONTRACTS WITH CI TO INVESTIGATE THESE ISSUES.

WE DON’T WANT OUR CHILDREN BRAINWASHED WITH COMMUNIST PROPAGANDA!

Comment:

maria wang
As an immigrant from mainland China, I brought my daughter here to escape repression and embrace democratic education and I believe our Chinese education professionals here in Ontario are good enough to give our kids education in Chinese language. We don’t need a Chinese government controlled institute in our school board.


Link to: Petition | SAY “NO” TO CHINA’S CONFUCIUS INSTITUTE IN TDSB! | Change.org.

18 Reasons To Celebrate Sweden On Sweden Day

7 June, 2014 at 10:48 | Posted in Culture, Funny things :-), Society | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , ,

 | By Suzy Strutner

June 6 is Sweden Day! Hip, hip hooray!

Swedes will be celebrating their national day with balloon launches, flag-raisings and a ceremony with the royal couple. We won’t be there for the festivities, but we can still think of plenty of reasons to toast our BFFs to the northeast.

1. Swedish summer is absolutely stunning.

Though it’s not always blisteringly hot, the woods in Lapland are more than worth some nippy temperatures.

2. It’s one of the happiest countries on Earth.

They ranked number five in last year’s World Happiness Report, partly because citizens have “high interpersonal trust.” In short, everyone in Sweden is really nice.

Read more: 18 Reasons To Celebrate Sweden On Sweden Day

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