Tags: Body & Mind, Food, health, Society
By Jack Phillips
Thousands upon thousands of pounds of horse meat hamburgers, as well as “counterfeit” mozzarella, strawberries, eggs, and dried fruit and thousands of gallons of alcohol laden with antifreeze, and fake cooking oil were seized by Interpol, the agency said in a report.
The report, which said the operation was carried out in 47 countries over the past two months, could cast doubt on some of the food we eat. It revealed that a number of brand-name food items could have fake ingredients, counter to what is on the ingredients label.
“Of the nearly 275,000 liters of drinks recovered across all regions, counterfeit alcohol was among the most seized product, including in the UK, where a plant making fake brand-name vodka was raided,” said a release from Interpol.
“Officers discovered more than 20,000 empty bottles ready for filling, hundreds of empty five-liter antifreeze containers which had been used to make the counterfeit alcohol, as well as a reverse osmosis unit used to remove the chemical’s color and smell,” the release stated.
Interpol said that international criminal gangs are behind the slew of fake food items.
In Italy, 31 tons of seafood was labeled as “fresh” but was actually frozen and doused with a citric acid and hydrogen peroxide to hide the fact that it was actually rotting. Also in Italy, officers raided a cheese factory and found expired dairy that was then laden with chemicals to make it appear fresh.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials seized approximately 35 tons of counterfeit butter and closed down an entire factory that claimed to be selling tea.
And elsewhere, “Some 85 tonnes of meat illegally imported into Thailand without testing to ensure they complied with health and safety regulations were destroyed, and police also dismantled a criminal network producing fake whisky and seized nearly 20,000 liters of the counterfeit alcohol,” the policing agency said.
According to a report from Oceana in 2014, fake food items are on the rise across the world. For example, about 30 percent of the shrimp products are misrepresented.
“The issue stems in part from a lack of general information available when purchasing these products, the researchers said,” said TIME magazine’s Sarah Begley. ” In many cases, retailers and restaurants don’t offer information about the shrimp’s species or country of origin, or whether it was farmed or caught in the world. Oceana argues that improving traceability of seafood would help decrease label fraud and enable consumers to make sustainable choices.”
The countries that partook in the Interpol operation include Austria, Belgium, Benin, Belarus, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Uruguay, United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.
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Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Lu Chen
While International Human Rights Day is celebrated around the world, in Beijing the day was marked by security rounding up and detaining those who dared to complain about violations of their rights.
On Wednesday—Human Rights Day—many petitioners showed up at Liangmaqiao Station, a subway station in Beijing close to many foreign embassies, in the hope of raising awareness in international society of the deteriorating human rights condition in China.
Beijing police were arrayed to meet the petitioners, with the train stations and streets near the embassies heavily guarded.
Petitioner Wang Fang from Wuhan City, Hubei Province said all the 50-some petitioners from Wuhan, including herself, were captured at Liangmaqiao Station by police, according to New York-based New Tang Dynasty (NTD) television.
“Police officers and police cars were everywhere near Liangmaqiao,” Wang said. “Every subway exit was guarded with 40 to 50 police and several police cars. All the captured petitioners were sent away in large buses to Jiujingzhuang.”
Jiujingzhuang is an extra-legal detention center in suburban Beijing that detains and makes records of the petitioners. Wang said she escaped from the bus she was on when many buses filled with petitioners were waiting in line to get into Jiujingzhuang.
Yin Xu’an, a petitioner from Hubei Province, said police strictly checked IDs at the train station exits, and frequently arrested petitioners, the NTD report stated. Yin explained that petitioners who have been detained before all have records in the police identification information system.
“They [police] check your ID as long as you look a little like a petitioner,” Yin said, “If you are a petitioner, their identification equipment will recognize it. They immediately pull you into the vehicle.”
Yin said he witnessed eight large buses fully loaded with arrested petitioners driving away from the site within 40 minutes.
Yu Nanzhe, a petitioner from Jiangsu Province, told NTD that police examined people’s bags, and once police found materials for protesting in their bags, the police forced those petitioners onto prearranged buses.
Yu saw that buses loaded with petitioners had formed a long line waiting to get into Jiujingzhuang since around 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Each of the buses had 40 to 50 petitioners, and Yu estimated thousands or even 10,000 petitioners were sent to Jiujingzhuang on Human Rights Day.
This week thousands of petitioners with grievances have come to Beijing, and protested in different places, such as Tiananmen Square, foreign embassies, the headquarters of China Central Television, among others.
On the day before Human Rights Day, over 100 Chinese petitioners put up banners in front of the Yongdingmen Square in central Beijing, urging the Chinese Communist Party to implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to Sound of Hope (SOH) radio.
The demonstration was soon interrupted by police. Petitioner Li Zhiguo from Henan Province participated in the protest and told SOH that the demonstration lasted for about 20 minutes with over 100 petitioners yelling slogans and holding banners.
“Then the police came, crushing my banner and cellphone. They didn’t allow us to stay there and took our stuff away. We ran away. Some other [petitioners] were taken away by police,” Li said.
“Chinese petitioners live lives worse than the grass in Beijing,” Li said. “Our human rights are harmed. We come to Beijing and sleep on the streets. We have been chased and arrested by police here and there. … No one takes care of our disputes. … When we attempted to visit the central inspection officials to report the issues, we were blocked and beaten. We called the central inspection teams, and no one answered the phone.”
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Tags: CCP, China, Hong Kong, human rights, Society
By Wang Taotong
As the Hong Kong government continues to clear democracy protesters from the streets, drawing the world’s attention to the Umbrella Movement, Beijing faces the problem of how to handle the anger in Hong Kong over the denial of universal suffrage.
On Nov. 25, Wall Street Journal quoted news sources saying that Beijing authorities are discussing how to respond to the Hong Kong public’s dissatisfaction with the reform package that stated how Hong Kong’s next chief executive would be elected.
The reform package resolution was passed on Aug. 31 by the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee and states that Hongkongers can elect their chief executive with universal suffrage as long as the candidates are chosen by a nominating committee. The nominating committee in question is largely controlled by Beijing.
This decision provoked widespread anger in the Hong Kong public, who viewed it as blocking them from true universal suffrage and democracy. The event triggered tens of thousands of students to protest in Hong Kong on Sept. 22 and the start of the Umbrella Movement for democracy on Sept. 28.
According to WSJ, the Beijing authorities’ decision would include adjusting the composition of the chief executive nominating committee to make it better reflect public opinion, especially the voice of pan-democrats. However, the decision must also ensure that Beijing continues to control the elections.
The two factions of the Chinese Communist Party, one headed by current Party leader Xi Jinping and the other supporting former leader Jiang Zemin, have delivered conflicting messages on how the Party is planning to handle Hong Kong.
Jiang faction member Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, said to Hong Kong pro-Communist groups on Sept. 16 that the NPC Standing Committee has the highest unshakable legal power over the decision about Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, also a Jiang faction supporter, has declared that dialogue with the protesters must be carried out under the framework of the NPC. In response to the Umbrella Movement, Leung said he was “willing to have dialogue with anyone who is in accordance with the provisions of the Basic Law and the resolution of the NPC.”
Xi Jinping, on the other hand, has never mentioned the NPC’s reform package in public since it was made.
On Sept. 22, Xi held a high-profile meeting with over 70 Hong Kong businessmen in Beijing. Xi said in his speech that there would be no change to the “one-country, two-systems” policy that gives Hong Kong a high degree of independence from China.
When official Party media reported on Xi’s speech, they did not mention the reform package but emphasized maintaining the authority of the Basic Law instead of the authority of the NPC. This indicates the difference between the two factions’ stances.
In Beijing on Nov. 9, Xi met Leung Chun-ying, who was attending the APEC summit. Xi started their talk with a request for a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the “one-country, two-systems” principle and the Basic Law, to support the development of democracy in Hong Kong under the legal system.
In Xi’s public speeches and the subsequent reports by official Party media, there has been no mention of either the reform package or the White Paper made by the Jiang faction earlier this year that stated Hong Kong only has as much power as Beijing is willing to give it.
The NPC has gradually become an anti-Xi Jinping base. On Sept. 30, Li Shenming, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the NPC, published an article in Party mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily with an implied threat to Xi. Li quoted former Party leader Mao Zedong in the article: “Our chairman cannot dissolve the National People’s Congress; on the contrary, the NPC can remove the chairman from office.”
Sources in the Party have said that Zhang Dejiang intended to solidify the power of the NPC and prevail over Xi by disturbing Hong Kong’s situation, using the Aug. 31 reform package resolution to create trouble for Xi.
The sources reported that Xi has almost full control of the army since the Party’s fourth Plenary Session in late October. It is expected that once he fully controls the Central Military Commission, Xi will move against Zhang, and the situation will change dramatically.
Is That Fear?
Washington-based China expert Shi Cangshan said that Xi’s officials have apparently not changed the NPC’s resolution and have not made Leung Chun-ying step down according to Hongkongers’ wishes. However, Shi pointed out that sources have said Xi would expand the make up of the nominating committee, which would in fact change the NPC’s resolution.
According to Shi’s analysis, the Party is horrified that the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong has created an obstacle against the Party. In addition, mainland Chinese people are supporting the Umbrella Movement and continuing to speak out, which is a major blow to the Party.
The Chinese Communist Party has actually been forced to compromise. Shi believes that a lot of major policies will be changed gradually after this.
Shi said the Jiang faction is playing a life-and-death game with the Xi faction. He thinks the Xi faction is about to continue its widespread purging of Jiang faction members, making use of the military.
Translation by Susan Wang. Written in English by Sally Appert.
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Tags: animals, Body & Mind, environmental issues, Food, health, Nature, Science, sustainable development
Millions of bees dropped dead after GMO corn was planted few weeks ago in Ontario, Canada. The local bee keeper, Dave Schuit who produces honey in Elmwood lost about 37 million bees which are about 600 hives.
“Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” Schuit said. While many bee keepers blame neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” for colony collapse of bees and many countries in EU have banned neonicotinoid class of pesticides, the US Department of Agriculture fails to ban insecticides known as neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc.
Two of Bayer’s best-selling pesticides, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees. The marketing of these drugs also coincided with the occurrence of large-scale bee deaths in many European countries and the United States.
Nathan Carey another local farmer says that this spring he noticed that there were not enough bees on his farm and he believes that there is a strong correlation between the disappearance of bees and insecticide use.
My comment: I once saw a television program about the death of bees, and there it said that one drop of dew from a GMO plant in a GMO crop field kills a bumble bee when it drinks it in the morning (as bumble bees usually do…). GMO really kills…
Tags: CCP, China, documentary, Falun Gong, film, human rights, Kilgour and Matas, labor camps, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents, Society
“Davids and Goliath,” a film about organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners in China, won Best Documentary at the 9th Hamilton Film Festival in Hamilton, Canada. The movie is currently available here to view for free until Nov. 27: http://tinyurl.com/nzx7fed
“It’s a movie like this that needs to get out to the public, and more people to become aware of it that it’s happening and how it’s happening. That kind of thing needs to be stopped.”— Administrative director of the Hamilton Film Festival, Nathan Fleet.
“Davids and Goliath” focuses on the investigation into organ harvesting by Canadian human rights lawyer David Matas and former Canadian Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific) David Kilgour. Both were separately nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on forced organ harvesting in China.
Read more: http://tinyurl.com/q5cjkzm
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, Society
By Lu Chen
A student member of Scholarism, an organization leading the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement protests in Hong Kong, was recently refused entry by customs officers in the city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong.
On Nov. 8. Scholarism posted on Facebook that the customs officers accused a middle school student of “participating activities violating state security” and refused his entry to Shenzhen on Nov. 7.
The student was a volunteer of Scholarism who’s not well-known and had not been interviewed by any media, the Scholarism statement says. The student’s trip to mainland China was simply for personal errands unrelated to politics.
Scholarism leader Joshua Wong expressed deep concern that members’ information has been leaked. He said the name list of Scholarism members has never been open to the public and few people in the organization have the list, the Facebook post says.
Wong indicated that the organization would be more concerned and cautious when taking on volunteers in the future.
Vice secretary of Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) Lester Shum expressed disappointment at the mainland authority’s action of banning a supporter of the pro-democracy Occupy Central, according to Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily.
Shum believes that the blocking of this Scholarism member’s trip to the mainland is related to the plan of pro-democracy activists to visit Beijing. The students plan on appealing to the central authorities for the Hong Kong people to have the right to nominate candidates for the chief executive.
According to a decision handed down at the end of August by the Standing Committee of the Chinese regime’s rubber stamp legislature, the nominees for the chief executive position will be chosen by a committee that Beijing effectively controls.
HKFS stated last week that it was planning on marching to Beijing jointly with Scholarism and the pro-democracy Civil Human Rights Front. HKFS requested Tung Chee-hwa, a former Hong Kong chief executive who’s currently a Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, to arrange a meeting with the central leadership.
Tung hasn’t given a clear answer, and has urged the students to end the protests and go back to their studies.
Shum told Apple Daily that HKFS’s plan of going to Beijing would not be influenced by mainland customs refusing entry to the Scholarism member, and once again urged Tung to arrange the meeting soon.
The human rights group Amnesty International reported on Nov. 7 that at least 76 mainland Chinese have been arrested for supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. It urged the Chinese authorities to release mainland supporters immediately and unconditionally.
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Tags: Body & Mind, psychology, Society
NEW YORK—Anthony Cruz is a different man now that he has been locked up several times.
Before serving his 10-year sentence in New York state prisons for manslaughter in the first degree he was diagnosed with adjustment disorder and depression, among other mental health conditions. Cruz spent a total of three years in solitary confinement, but he said he was denied help from mental health staff in prison. Unless he had suicidal thoughts, he wasn’t allowed to talk to a psychiatrist.
Since Cruz was released on parole two years ago, it’s been difficult finding a steady job with a felony conviction on his record. This summer, he received notice from the city that his family would have to relocate from their current homeless shelter location in the Bronx. Then, his wife’s temporary teaching job ended, and her weeks of job searching didn’t yield results. To cope with the stress, Cruz turned to MDMA, a drug he was addicted to before. “I was going through so much,” Cruz explained.
At a regular visit to the parole office for a drug urine test, Cruz was caught with the drug in his system.
He had a panic attack upon hearing that he’d have to go to jail at Rikers Island for his parole violation. “I was wailing and crying, telling the parole officers that I didn’t want to go back to a cell.”
Cruz suffered several more panic attacks while inside. He couldn’t sleep being around so many people. He was reliving his deepest fear.
Local jail reform advocate Five Mualimm-ak, with the Incarcerated Nation Corporation, sought to get Cruz treatment for his drug dependence and other mental health needs, but nothing came of the requests.
Across the country, people with mental illness and substance abuse are repeatedly cycled in and out of the criminal justice system. The latest statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) estimate that more than 1.26 million mentally ill adults are detained in the country’s jails and prisons. Some cities are trying to change this statistic through programs that offer some of these nonviolent offenders a way out of incarceration, and a chance to improve their lives.
Out of Jail, Into Treatment
In the 1980s and ’90s, different communities across the country created programs to provide treatment alternatives to incarceration for people like Cruz, who would otherwise face jail time for nonviolent drug charges, or those who committed offenses during a mental health crisis.
For example, in the late ’80s, the police department in Memphis, Tenn., devised a crisis intervention team (CIT) where officers would be trained in identifying and responding appropriately to the emotionally or mentally disturbed. Police are taught de-escalation techniques to calm down individuals who may be agitated or aggressive. And instead of arresting them, police would bring them to a mental health treatment center.
The Memphis model has been adopted by other cities, including in San Antonio, Texas, where police officers bring people to The Restoration Center. There, they can get medical and mental health treatment, as well as social services such as housing and job training.
San Antonio also has a detox center and a 90-day residential program for those in need of substance abuse treatment. For those in need of more intensive care, they get transferred to state hospitals or private institutions if the individual has private health insurance.
Leon Evans, the director of San Antonio’s mental health care system who developed the center, said he got the idea after he saw the county jail overcrowded with people in need of mental health treatment.
Police would bring the mentally distressed to the emergency room or jail, but without treatment or housing, they get released back to the streets and may turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with their illnesses. “They would get arrested the same day and go right back into jail,” Evans said.
“Texas is a pretty conservative place,” said Evans. “[W]e realized that putting them in jail was the last thing we should be doing.”
Evans said the center has been proven effective: about 70 percent of those who graduate from the center’s treatment programs are living and working independently a year later. Since the center was built five years ago, the county has also saved $10 million per year.
Dangerous for the Mentally Ill
The country’s jails and prisons are toxic environments for those with a mental illness.
In August, a DOJ investigation of jail conditions at the city’s main jail Rikers Island found that adolescent mentally ill inmates were routinely abused by corrections officers and placed into solitary confinement for extended periods of time—as punishment for breaking rules, or getting into verbal disputes with the officers. Several high-profile cases of mentally ill inmates dying under questionable circumstances while detained at Rikers have been reported in the last year.
DOJ data shows that across the country, mentally ill jail inmates are twice as likely to be charged with a rule violation and three times as likely to be injured in a fight. Studies have also shown that mentally ill inmates are detained longer on average than those without a mental illness.
Incarceration also has heavy financial costs. A recent analysis by the city comptroller’s office revealed that in fiscal year 2014, it cost city taxpayers more than $96,000 a year to house an inmate in jail.
Treatment is more cost-effective than jail, said Jim Parsons, research director at the Vera Institute, a criminal justice policy research organization based in New York. The organization found that alternative-to-incarceration programs in New York City save an average of $7,038 per person.
Read more: Help, Not Incarceration
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
Jiang Zemin faction sought bloody end to the Umbrella Movement
By Lu Chen
Hong Kong media are reporting that one faction of the Chinese Communist Party CCP has attempted to manipulate recent events in order to produce a Tiananmen Square-like massacre in Hong Kong. The goal of the bloodshed would be to bring down Party leader Xi Jinping, according to the reports, which corroborate previous reporting by Epoch Times.
The recently released November edition of Hong Kong’s Frontline magazine cited a Beijing source with inside knowledge of the CCP’s affairs as saying Politburo Standing Committee member Zhang Dejiang wanted to turn the suppression of pro-democracy protesters by Hong Kong police on Sept. 28 into a second Tiananmen Square massacre. The Frontline article, which is not available online, was quoted by the U.S.-based, Chinese-language news website Aboluowang.
Zhang is the chair of the Standing Committee of the CCP’s rubber stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, and holds the Party’s portfolio for Hong Kong and Macau affairs. Zhang is also a close ally of former CCP head Jiang Zemin.
According to the Beijing source, the faction loyal to Jiang Zemin believed that if a massacre in Hong Kong took place under the spotlight of the world’s media, it would spell the end of Xi Jinping’s rule.
As Epoch Times has previously reported, Jiang’s faction has sought to displace Xi since before he took office. Part of the Jiang faction’s strategy has been to create unrest in Hong Kong as a way of making trouble for Xi, as Epoch Times, relying on sources inside the Party, first reported on Dec. 3, 2012.
Again relying on sources inside the Party, Epoch Times reported in 2014 before the Occupy Central protests began that Jiang’s faction sought to incite bloodshed in Hong Kong as a way of unseating Xi.
After the Hong Kong police volleyed dozens of tear gas canisters at the protesters on the night of Sept. 28, Xi issued orders prohibiting a violent crackdown, Frontline reported.
The leaked order from Xi to the Hong Kong government says: “It’s absolutely not allowed to open fire. Wasn’t the lesson of June 4 deep enough? Whoever permits shooting steps down! Even tear gas wasn’t necessary. Let it be, if it was already done. If people are not scared away, just leave. The condition has deteriorated to this point, and it’s your job to figure out how to solve the problem. Overall, never allow bloodshed. Try to win public support. Hong Kong affairs must be negotiated with the Hong Kong people.”
Senior political commentator, column writer, and historian of the CCP Lin Baohua published an opinion article on Taiwan People News on Oct. 25 that argued that the central authorities didn’t want a bloody incident in Hong Kong.
“If Beijing didn’t stop [the violence], with [Hong Kong chief executive] Leung Chun-ying’s wolf nature, he would have long committed the slaughter.” Lin wrote.
Lin said the lack of firm action against Occupy Central reflects the division of opinions high in the CCP.
The October edition of Hong Kong’s Trend magazine gives a picture of Hong Kong that complements that provided by Frontline and Lin Baohua.
The magazine quotes some anonymous princelings—offspring of the founders of the CCP—as saying Zhang Dejiang was “as bad as a violent terrorist” and was “using Hong Kong to bring trouble to Xi.”
Xi, son of communist revolutionary and a political leader Xi Zhongxun, is considered as a representative of offsprings of China’s elites.
Many princelings consider Xi Jinping, the son of communist revolutionary Xi Zhongxun, as a representative for their group.
Trend magazine sketches some of the steps the Jiang faction took to help incite the pro-democracy protests.
Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan, an ally of Jiang Zemin, issued the White Paper on Hong Kong on June 10 that defined the concept of one country, two systems out of existence by ending any claim Hong Kong had to autonomy.
The decision by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on Aug. 31 that denied meaningful universal suffrage to Hong Kong was issued by Zhang Dejiang.
Trend magazine reports that the White Paper and the decision on universal suffrage were meant by Jiang’s faction to arouse anger in Hongkongers.
In response to the White Paper, more than 500,000 took part in the July 1 march for democracy. The decision on universal suffrage triggered the student strike on Sept. 22, which evolved into full-blown protests on Sept. 27.
A commentary article in the November edition of Frontline magazine criticizes Zhang for being “insane” for insisting NPC’s decision on universal suffrage was unchallengeable.
During the meeting of Zhang with Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions on Sept. 16, Zhang stated that the NPC’s decision on Hong Kong’s election in 2017 was “the supreme legal authority.”
In making this claim, the Frontline commentary pointed out that Zhang was contradicting the Basic Law of Hong Kong, which requires the Legislative Council and the chief executive to approve changes to the means for electing the chief executive.
One week after Zhang’s statement, Xi Jinping spoke in a much softer tone in a Sept. 23 meeting with top Hong Kong business people.
Without mentioning the NPC decision on universal suffrage or the White Paper, Xi said: “The basic policy that the central government takes to Hong Kong hasn’t changed and won’t change. [The central government] will firmly hold onto one country, two systems and the Basic Law, supporting Hong Kong promoting the development of democracy and maintaining prosperity and stability.”
Xi’s statements on the Hong Kong issue were “sharp warnings to Zhang,” Frontline said.
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Tags: archaeology, China, Culture, Science, Society
By April Holloway
The Dongba symbols are an ancient system of pictographic glyphs created by the founder of the Bön religious tradition of Tibet and used by the Naxi people in southern China. Historical records show that this unique script was used as early as the 7th century, during the early Tang Dynasty, however, research conducted last year showed that its origins may date back as far as 7,000 years ago. Incredibly, the Dongba symbols continue to be used by the elders of the Naxi people, making it the only hieroglyphic language still used in the world today.
The Naxi people lived in the beautiful mountain province of Yunnan (“south of the clouds”) for thousands of years, where they developed their own rich and enduring culture. Today, most of the 270,000 Naxi people live in the county of Lijiang where they retain many of their ancient traditions.
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, Society
HONG KONG — The United Nations Human Rights Committee urged China on Thursday to allow elections in Hong Kong without restrictions on who can run as a candidate. The move appeared likely to draw strong criticism from Beijing, where officials decided in August to set strict guidelines for the 2017 election of the city’s next leader, prompting mass sit-in protests.
“Hong Kong China should take all necessary measures to implement universal and equal suffrage in conformity with the covenant, as a matter of priority for all future elections,” Cornelis Flinterman, a member of the rights panel from the Netherlands, said on Thursday, referring to an international agreement on political rights.
United Nations Calls on China to Allow Free Elections in Hong Kong
By Matthew Robertson
HONG KONG—A panel of United Nations experts on Thursday called on China to allow real universal suffrage in Hong Kong, the latest sign of international pressure and attention on the People’s Republic of China over its restrictions on Hong Kong’s political system, after tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have occupied major roads in the financial center for nearly a month.
Chinese communist authorities say they have already provided Hong Kong with universal suffrage. But the definition provided by the panel of 18 UN experts, differs from China’s.
Konstantine Vardzelashvili, the chair of the UN review session, said that “universal suffrage … means both the right to be elected as well as the right to vote.”
“The main concerns of Committee members were focused on the right to stand for elections without unreasonable restrictions,” she said, in statements made at the conclusion of the panel.
The panel, part of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, monitors Hong Kong’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a bedrock standard of human rights around the world.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, has since 1997 been a special administrative region of the PRC under a “one country, two systems” model. For decades Hong Kong activists have fought for the right to vote and stand in elections freely. Most recently they have been thwarted by decisions in Beijing which force candidates for the chief executive, the top position in the city, through a political sieve. Chinese authorities say that the Hong Kong public will be presented with two or three candidates that have effectively been vetted for their loyalty to the regime. Hong Kong citizens worry that such individuals will have little incentive to represent the interests of Hong Kong citizens.
The remarks by the ICCPR review panel were a follow up to recommendations put forward in March 2013 for Hong Kong to allow genuine universal suffrage. Chinese authorities responded last week that it was already trying to “forge consensus within the community so as to realize the implementation of universal suffrage.” The version of “universal suffrage” proposed by the regime, however, was found unsatisfactory to the United Nations panel.
Tags: CCP, Children, China, confucius institute, Falun Gong, human rights, Society
By Omid Ghoreishi
Is it possible for Confucius Institutes, a Beijing-controlled educational program cited by Chinese officials as a tool to extend the regime’s “soft power,” to follow both Chinese law and the law of the hosting nation?
A clause in the agreement between the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the headquarters of Confucius Institute (CI) obtained by Epoch Times through a request under Ontario’s Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act says that CI activities must be in accordance with the laws and regulations of both Canada and China. The school board, Canada’s largest, will vote on whether to terminate its partnership with the CI on Oct. 29.
Experience in at least one Canadian institution shows that this is impractical since in many cases the laws of the one-party totalitarian state contradict those of Canada’s parliamentary democracy, and so it may be that the Canadian law gets dispensed with.
“Canadian law is equality, non-discrimination,” explains David Matas, a Winnipeg-based human rights lawyer. China’s laws, on the other hand, institute “repression, discrimination, hostility,” toward any group the Chinese Communist Party chooses to target, including Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uyghurs, and democracy activists, among many others, Matas says.
In 2012/13, Matas took on a case involving a Confucius Institute instructor at McMaster University who, like other instructors hired in China to come to the university’s CI, had to sign a contract promising not to practice Falun Gong, a spiritual meditation system severely persecuted in China.
Sonia Zhao signed the contract out of fear that her refusal might reveal to Chinese officials that she in fact practices Falun Gong and as a result could face imprisonment like her mother, also a Falun Gong adherent.
“Initially [McMaster’s] defence was that it is not their jurisdiction and they didn’t know about it,” Matas says.
“I argued to the contrary that it was their jurisdiction because it was happening in Ontario and they must have known about it because the Hanban (CI headquarters in China) hiring policy was published on its website in English.”
Epoch Times reported in 2011 that Hanban has a stipulation in English on its main website stating that teachers at CIs must have “no record of participation in Falun Gong.”
Epoch Times also reported earlier this year that the website of Hunan University, which has an agreement to supply instructors for the TDSB’s CI, states that teaching candidates “will be assessed to ensure they meet political ideology requirements.”
For its part, McMaster held discussions with CI headquarters to eliminate the discriminatory requirement for the instructors coming to Canada. However, Hanban wouldn’t back down.
Eventually, the university decided to end its CI program since the Beijing-run organization didn’t follow human rights values and principles that the university follows and “holds dear.”
“There wasn’t alignment between what was happening in the two countries,” says Andrea Farquhar, assistant vice president of public and government relations at McMaster.
“Although we tried to see if there could possibly be a solution, it turned out that there wasn’t, so we did give them notice in December of 2012 that we would be closing [the CI], and it closed in 2013.”
‘Political Arms’ of Beijing
McMaster isn’t the only institution to close its CI. The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a statement late last year calling on all Canadian universities and colleges to cut ties with CIs, calling them “political arms of the Chinese government.” Shortly after, the University of Sherbrooke ended its CI program.
South of the Border, the American Association of University Professors echoed the statement of its Canadian counterpart and asked all American universities not to partner with CIs, saying hosting one enables CIs to “advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate.”
Two prominent U.S. universities, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Chicago, decided to end their relationships with CIs in the last couple of months.
Intelligence agencies and experts, including former Canadian Security Intelligence Service senior manager Michel Juneau-Katsuya, have also indicated that CIs are involved in espionage activities for Beijing.
The TDSB’s CI partnership was originally championed by former chair Chris Bolton while the rest of the board was kept in the dark about the details of the agreement. Bolton resigned in June a few months before the end of his term amidst concerns raised by parents and many of the trustees about the partnership.
Earlier this month, a TDSB committee voted to terminate the board’s CI partnership. That decision will be voted on by the entire board during a general meeting on Oct. 29.
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Tags: CCP, China, human rights, Society
By Chen Pokong
1. Teens, Youth, and Middle-Aged People
Scholarism, the Hong Kong Federation of Students ,and the Troika of Occupy Central are the three major groups that uphold the Hong Kong Occupy Central Movement. They are composed of high school students, college students, and middle-aged intellectuals respectively.
The perfect combination of teens, youth, and the middle-aged represents the mainstream and future of Hong Kong. This combination disseminates an explicit message: Communism is unpopular in Hong Kong and the Communist Party has no future in Hong Kong.
Given these, there are two propositions that follow: Will Hong Kong’s youth live longer, or Beijing’s political patriarchs live longer? Will the universal values that Hong Kong people insist on live longer, or the one-party dictatorship that the Party leadership compound of Zhongnanhai adheres to live longer?
2. Illegality Against Illegality
Beijing accused the Hong Kong Occupy Central movement of being illegal. Nonetheless, civil disobedience is an illegal defiance meant to restore legality by means of illegality.
But one thing which is for sure is that the central government of the Beijing regime was illegal in the first place—it violated the “Basic law,” breached the “one country, two systems” formula, and broke the promises stipulated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
So, Hong Kong people simply followed suit. It is a kind of illegality against illegality, which is similar to the old Chinese saying, “to subdue the enemies by learning from their strong points.”
3. The Consequences of Violence
Throughout the Occupy Central With Love and Peace movement, the occupiers have always upheld pacifism and love for Hong Kong. They have never thrown a bottle or a paper ball. They even picked up the garbage on the ground and sorted it out.
Being unarmed, they held up their empty hands during their demonstrations. These kind of peaceful demonstrators are indeed few and far between. However, taking orders from the Beijing regime, the Hong Kong Government turned out to resort to a large amount of tear gas and pepper spray, trying to forcibly disperse the protesters as soon as possible.
This action in turn triggered another large-scale protest participated in by over 200,000 Hong Kong residents. The Occupy Central movement thus became occupying Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, which has long been a civilized territory, the chaos is in fact the consequence of the government’s violence.
4. Red Versus Black
To deal with the massive Occupy Central movement, it is reported that Beijing authorities finally came up with an alternative idea under the bottom line of “no compromise and no bloodshed.” That is, mobilizing the underworld to carry out sinister tricks by thugs to intimidate, harass, and attack Occupy Central protesters with violence.
The appearance of those masked men who forcibly demolished the barricades is no different from the terrorists in the Middle East, and their nature is equally evil. Under the evil forces’ incessant intimidation and vocal abuse, Chow Ting, a member of Scholarism quit the movement.
The (communist) red and the (triad) black have long belonged to the same family. No wonder the former Politburo member Bo Xilai failed after he advocated “singing red and fighting black”—his attempt in the megacity of Chongqing to revive a Maoist fervor for communism while pretending to fight organized crime. If something is self-contradictory, how can it not be doomed to collapse?
5. Black and White
Not only did those who are against Occupy Central movement lay siege to Occupy Central protesters, but they also participated in the forcible demolition of the barricades. We do not rule out the possibility that among those who are against the Occupy Central movement, there are some gangsters and some pro-communist residents.
In fact, the CCP’s special skill is to instigate struggles between groups. But people didn’t expect that it would still be applicable 65 years after it took power.
However, black and white are two distinct things. The anti-Occupy Central members’ joining the underworld side inadvertently proved the fact that those who associated with the underworld are in fact no different in nature from those in the underworld.
6. Hong Kong People Versus Chinese People
Some people from mainland China don’t understand the Hong Kong people’s fight for freedom, and even disdain or condemn them. They said, “Hong Kong people have been enjoying so much democracy and freedom, but they are still not satisfied. Hong Kong people are spoiled.”
This kind of mindset suggests that not only should people in mainland China not enjoy democracy and freedom, neither should the people in Hong Kong.
This situation is similar to the Chinese saying that caged birds ridicule the birds in the sky, while domesticated animals mock wildlife. The Zhongnanhai leadership should be secretly delighted that its birdcage policy and raising-pig philosophy have been so successful.
Growing up in different environments, the Hong Kong people’s concepts of democracy, universal values, and an independent personality differ tremendously from the Chinese mainlanders’ nationalism and slave personality—as much as if they were water versus fire.
7. The Scandal About the Chief Executive
Amid the heated Hong Kong democracy protests, a scandal about the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying happened to come to light. He was accused of accepting approximately US$6.5 million in secret funds, without declaring them.
Who made this news public? The public doubted that it was the Beijing regime that leaked the news. In fact, between compromise and recourse to force, dismissing Leung Chun-ying might be a perfect intermediate solution, as it may be a step that avoids embarrassment for both sides.
Beijing can ask Leung to step down under the pretext of a corruption investigation and calm down the Hong Kong people’s anger. After winning the first-stage victory, Hong Kong people may calm down temporarily.
8. Color Revolution
Beijing refers to the Occupy Central movement as a “color revolution.” However, color revolution is not a negative term, but something positive.
All the color revolutions that occurred around the world were movements in which people overthrew authoritarian tyrants by taking to the streets or launching a great revolution, such as the “Velvet Revolution,” the “Tulip Revolution,” the “Orange Revolution,” “Jasmine Revolution,” and so on.
The Chinese regime’s defining the Hong Kong Occupy Central movement as a color revolution is tantamount to agreeing that Beijing is a dictator and a tyrant. In fact, Hong Kong Occupy Central movement is dubbed by the public as the “Umbrella Revolution.” Since the umbrella revolution is an anti-dictatorship revolution aiming to fight for freedom, it turns out to be one of the great color revolutions.
9. Foreign Forces
Beijing has said there are foreign forces behind Hong Kong people’s Occupy Central movement, and explicitly specified the U.S. government.
This accusation suggests that all the Chinese people, including the Hong Kong people, are all obedient subjects or citizens who are not supposed to criticize or protest against the Chinese regime. As long as there are Chinese people, Hong Kong people included, who criticize or protest against the regime, they must have been ordered by foreigners, or received money from foreigners to carry out the conspiracy plotted by foreigners.
In actuality, the Chinese regime has in this humiliated all the Chinese people: You are all slaves who were born a slave, and your IQ is lower than that of foreigners; if you were not ordered by foreigners to do so, how could you come up with the ideas of criticism, protest, and rebellion?
10. Ripple Effects
Hong Kong Occupy Central movement has attracted global attention. People around the world are aware that Hong Kong people do not agree with or accept the CCP’s rule.
Taiwan’s pro-independence campaign thus came up with campaign slogans reading “If you vote for the KMT, Taiwan would become Hong Kong,” “Taiwan people are worried “Today’s Hong Kong may be tomorrow’s Taiwan.”
Even Taiwan’s pro-China president Ma Ying-jeou had to stand up to make it clear that Taiwan will never accept the one country, two systems policy; and that he firmly supports the Hong Kong people’s fighting for genuine universal suffrage.
In addition, Ma also imitated Deng Xiaoping’s saying of “letting some people get rich first,” by calling on Beijing to “let some people get democracy first!”
Obviously, the Hong Kong Occupy Central movement is expanding its ripple effect.
Chen Pokong was a member of the 1989 student movement in China. After twice serving time in prison, Chen was exiled to the United States. He writes regularly on, and is the author of several books about, China and its politics.
Translation by Billy Shiyu
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Epoch Times.
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Tags: CCP, China, Hong Kong, human rights, Society
A photo captures the city’s imagination and helps it let go its anger
By Li Zhen
HONG KONG—On Sept. 29 the government withdrew the riot police, and at least 100 thousand students and adults continued gathering outside the central government offices in Admiralty, and in Causeway, Wan Chai, and Mong Kok. After a night of terror on Sept. 28, the mood in the city had shifted, a shift perhaps captured by an Epoch Times photograph that went viral.
On the night of Sept. 28, a young protester stood opposite the police outside the Central Government offices. Suddenly, and without provocation, the police discharged pepper spray.
The young man was preoccupied with filming, and the pepper spray went onto his face and in his eyes. He cried out in pain, “We are unarmed. How can you attack us like that?”
The policeman standing opposite the young man said, “I know, I know.” Then, while dressed in the face shield and gas mask that made him look like something other than a human being, the policeman took out his own water bottle and began rinsing the young man’s eyes.
At that moment, Epoch Times photographer Yu Gang snapped a photo.
The simple image has touched countless Hongkongers. They find the photo soothing in a time of trouble. It seems to encourage people to set aside their anger, and the positive feelings it engenders are circulating through the Internet and into society.
Within a few hours after the photo was uploaded to the Hong Kong Epoch Times Facebook page, over a million people saw the post in their news feed.
One netizen responding to the photo wrote, “Of course we understand they [the police] are just doing their jobs. We are not mad at them. We are mad at the authorities.”
Another wrote, “I used to be a policeman and understand they have to obey orders when on duty. Why only put the blame on frontline police? From my point of view, it’s the commissioner who should take the most responsibility. He should apologize and be dismissed from his position. Note that it is DIMISSED!”
“The police have gone too far, but the chief criminals are [Chief Executive] Leung Chun-ying and [Police Commissioner] Tsang Wai-hung. Should have them kneel and apologize to everybody,” wrote a netizen.
Another netizen wrote, “I heard the police kept saying ‘sorry’ to protesters while firing pepper spray.”
Some netizens also showed support and admiration for the reporters and photographers working at the front lines. “Without you guys, there won’t be any news. Thank you all for risking your lives to record everything from the beginning,” read one post.
The photographer Yu Gang said that while covering the protests he was caught in the tear gas and could hardly breathe. A few people helped him get out of that place, and one of them was a policeman. Yu remembered he saw the word “police” on one person through a translucent rain coat.
Peacefulness, Compassion, and Tolerance
After the police fired volleys of tear gas into the crowds on the night of the 28th, the authorities obviously realized the gravity of the situation and changed their tactics.
Condemnation for the police action immediately descended on Hong Kong from around the world, and statements of support for democracy in Hong Kong were forthcoming from the UN Secretary General, the White House, and Canada’s foreign ministry.
In Hong Kong, the indignation over the use of pepper spray and tear gas against unarmed students and protesters is citywide and extends through all parts of society.
Beneath the indignation, there is a mutual grief. Hongkongers have lost faith in the police, and a relationship built over a long period of time is now gone.
There are reports that the Hong Kong police are split on how to handle the demonstrators. Some are tormented at having targeted unarmed and compassionate young students, some of whom may be their relatives or people they know. After the night of tear gassing, some police announced their resignations on Facebook.
In the current situation, the police will have a hard time increasing the violence. Hong Kong is a special region. It is a small city with a population of about 7 million. Inhabitants here share the same Chinese traditions and also the colonial culture inherited from the United Kingdom. They mainly speak Cantonese and some English. They identify with one another.
The pro-democracy protesters have won over the whole city, even the entire world, with their peacefulness, compassion, and tolerance.
A Hongkonger wrote on Facebook that he has never seen such polite demonstrators. They have not damaged a single car or harmed any public facilities or anything at all. They did not attempt to fight back after being doused with pepper spray and being immersed in clouds of tear gas. They pick up their trash and clean up after themselves.
During their demonstrations, they sing and cry. They distribute food and water in an orderly way. Some students study at the site.
When the coordinator of the rally asked the protesters to leave after the police unleashed the tear gas on the 28th, none left. Instead, more people came to join. They are fighting for a better Hong Kong and displaying the true spirit of Hong Kong for the whole world to see.
As a Hongkonger wrote on the internet, “At this moment, I have to admit that I’m truly proud of you all, my fellow Hong Kong people!”
Translated by Michelle Tsun.
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Tags: CCP, China, Falun Gong, human rights, labor camps, persecution of dissidents, Society
By Carol Wickenkamp
Electric shock weapons, dart guns, stun shields, thumb cuffs, restraint chairs, and spiked batons are just some of the specialty weapons designed to inflict pain being exported by Chinese companies closely aligned with, or owned by the state, according to a new report by Amnesty International.
Some of the equipment discussed in the report, such as ordinary handcuffs and restraints, a limited number of controlled stun weapons, and certain blunt striking instruments, all have legitimate law enforcement purposes, the report says.
But many of the weapons are “intrinsically cruel, inhuman and degrading, and therefore should be prohibited” from manufacture in the first place, the report says.
There are currently no comprehensive international covenants governing the manufacture and export of police weapons, and part of Amnesty’s advocacy work following the report will be to begin establishing such a mechanism—with China perhaps serving as a negative example.
Read more: China Markets Tools of Torture
Tags: Body & Mind, psychology, relationships, Society, Spirituality
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.”
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