Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Tiananmen Square Massacre at 31: Bearing Witness and Standing with Hong Kong


Thirty one years ago the Chinese Pro-Democracy Movement that had taken to the streets in April of 1989 was violently crushed by the Chinese communist dictatorship beginning on the evening of June 3, 1989. By dawn on June 4, 1989 scores of demonstrators had been shot and killed or run over and crushed by tanks of the so-called "People's Liberation Army." A 2017 declassified British diplomatic cable revealed that "at least 10,000 people were killed. The Chinese Communist regime still defends committing this massacre.

The Chinese Communist regime still refuses to apologize for the June 3rd-4th, 1989 massacre when thousands were killed on the orders of the dictatorship.

For thirty years tens of thousands of citizens in Hong Kong would gather in June to remember and bear witness for the victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Looking the other way at the crimes visited on tens of millions of Chinese nationals is now threatening many more lives around the world following the coronavirus coverup and the active complicity of the World Health Organization. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was right "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The failure to hold China to account has led to a global pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands of people and crashed the global economy.

This year, for the first time, using the pretext of COVID-19 the gathering to remember in Hong Kong was banned.

We in the free world will continue to bear witness, demand justice and stand with Hong Kong.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

#MiamiProtests Why was a Sandinista Flag on display at a protest for George Floyd?

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial 'outside agitator' idea." - Martin Luther King Jr. , Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

Mothers mourn their murdered children in Nicaragua. Victims of the Sandinistas
I have no doubt that white supremacists and Neo-Nazis are exploiting the civil unrest in the United States, targeting the police who they hate, and making a bad situation worse, but they are not the only ones. Antifa and other hard Left elements are also doing the same introducing symbols and rhetoric that take away from the cause of justice for George Floyd.

In the Miami Protest on May 30, 2020 demanding justice for George Floyd a picture was taken of two individuals holding up the black and red flag of the "National Sandinista Liberation Front" (FSLN) in the midst of the protest, and it was posted on Twitter by a self-described militant of the Sandinista cause.

If we believe, as Reverend King did, that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" then these individuals need to be called out for carrying a banner, representing Daniel Ortega, a dictator who uses his security forces to murder, torture and rape opponents in Nicaragua to maintain power. Ortega has a lot more in common with Derek Chauvin, and has been placing his knee on the necks of Nicaraguans collectively for years jailing and killing many.

Mother demands justice for her murdered son on May 30, 2018 in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan mothers have been killed by Daniel Ortega's repressive forces for demanding justice for their murdered children. How can people of good will associate and promote such a regime? Two years ago on Mother's Day in Nicaragua, that was celebrated on May 30, 2018, a peaceful protest march was carried out in solidarity and mourning with mothers whose children had been killed in previous weeks by the Sandinistas. The mothers carried photos of their murdered children. During the march Ortega's henchman killed 16 more Nicaraguans and nearly another 200 were injured.

Young man shot by Ortega's repressors taken to hospital. 5/30/18. (AP /Esteban Felix)
According to a 2018 United Nations report, many of those arrested "were subjected to extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, rape with rifles, and torture with Taser guns, barbed wire, tubes and attempted strangulation." Death squads are operating in Nicaragua today.

Why would advocates for justice for George Floyd associate with people carrying such a loathsome symbol?

Should they not show solidarity for the victims of Daniel Ortega and not march together with his supporters? 

What would George Floyd do?

Paula Hernandez, mother of Michael Gonzalez (age 24) shot to death by FSLN on May 30, 2018

Friday, May 29, 2020

American Martyr 2020: Justice For George Floyd

“If this age is to survive, it must follow the way of love and nonviolence that [Gandhi] so nobly illustrated in his life.” - Martin Luther King Jr., All India Radio ,1959
George Floyd
George Floyd, "Big Floyd", spent his life serving others and evangelizing in one of the most difficult neighborhoods in Houston, TX.  He was known as a person of peace. Floyd moved to Minnesota in 2018 and two years later was killed.

A local shop keeper called police over a $20 counterfeit bill, and the police suspected that Floyd had passed the bill.

Videos emerged demonstrating that he had been detained by the police, ended up on the ground with three police officers pinning him down, and one officer standing by and looking around. One of  the officers pinning him down placed and kept a knee on his throat.  Floyd told the police who were pinning him down: "Please I can't breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. They're going to kill me." Minutes continue to pass and, he died. 
George Floyd holding up a bible with friends in Texas.
These are times when those engaged in crimes have names that seem to point to their guilt. Last week a women with the last name of a fictional serial killer (Ripley) murdered her autistic son, but tried to cover it up blaming it on two non-existent black men who she claimed had ambushed her and had kidnapped her son.

Now the police officer charged with his murder, Derek Chauvin, who placed the knee on George Floyd's neck and disregarded his pleas to be able to breath has a last name (Chauvin) that is linked to the origin of the word chauvinism in the 19th  century, to Nicolas Chauvin, that signifies prejudice and hostility to outsiders.

In the discussions of lethal force used by the police there is an understandable focus on black men, because according to a 2019 study one in 1,000 can expect to be killed by the police, and they are most in danger during their life time. However, one in 2,000 men of all racial groupings, including the majority white population, can expect to be killed by the police during their life time. Reforms can take place that can reduce these numbers and place them in line with other Western countries. For example, neighboring Canada has a rate of police killing civilians of 9.7 per 10 million that is one third that of the United States that has a rate of 28.4 per 10 million.

We can do better.

These are strange, terrible days with COVID-19 claiming over 360,00 lives worldwide, with over a 100,000 fellow countrymen dead, racial tensions rising in the midst of chronic anxiety, and fear that we are just at the end of the beginning, with tough times lying ahead with a pandemic and economic collapse.

Protests have exploded into riots, and innocents are also impacted, and it is ironic and tragic because Floyd lived his life as a peacemaker in his community.

The death of George Floyd for one rare moment united a divided America in condemnation for this unjust killing, and thanks to the video footage led to the firing of the four officers involved, and the charging of one of them, Chauvin with murder and manslaughter. The others need to be held to account.

These are times when many are suffering through no fault of their own. But let us remember the words of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., "unearned suffering is redemptive."

The pursuit of justice and the reduction of impunity is not an easy journey, but it is both a needed and a worthy undertaking that requires great discernment and wisdom that often times necessitates hard earned experiences with injustice.

Monday, May 25, 2020

#WeRemember: 48 years ago today student leader Pedro Luis Boitel who fought against the Batista and Castro dictatorships died on hunger strike

Martyred student leader Pedro Luis Boitel fought by Fidel Castro's side to bring an end to the Batista dictatorship and restore Cuban democracy. However as Castro came to impose a communist regime the student leader became a liability.
Pedro Luis Boitel was born in Cuba to a family of modest means of French origin. He studied at the University of Havana while working as a radio technician. He was also a poet. Opposing the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista he joined the July 26 movement led by Fidel Castro. The majority of the movement's members like Pedro were anti-communists.

Once Batista left for exile and Fidel Castro took control the anti-communist members of the July 26 movement became an obstacle to absolute power. Following the revolution, Boitel returned to University were his fellow students nominated to run for the presidency of the Federation of University Students in 1960.  Fidel Castro personally intervened to remove him from the presidency. Pedro Luis Boitel's threat to the emerging communist regime was that he refused to betray the Federation of University Students and sought to maintain academic freedom and autonomy.

Pedro Luis Boitel at CMQ Radio Station
As time went on and the dictatorial nature of the Castro regime became more apparent, the student leader became an opponent to Fidel Castro. Condemned to a decade in prison in 1961 he served the cruel and unjust sentence but as the date of his release came and went prison officials refused to free him. 

Boitel while imprisoned continued to challenge the repression and the impunity of regime prison officials. He left a powerful impression on his fellow political prisoners. In 2009 Gregorio Asorio in an interview discussed how he first met Boitel while in prison for his opposition to the Castro dictatorship in the 1960s. Prison officials condemned black Cuban political prisoners for opposing Castro, thinking that they should be grateful to the dictator ,and this thin man challenged the guards declaring that Cuban blacks were part of the Cuban nation, and had helped found the Cuban nation in the struggle for independence. This man then cited Jose Marti's quote that anything that divides humanity is a sin against humanity.  Gregorio introduced himself and asked his name, and learned that he was Pedro Luis Boitel.

In response to the years of cruelty, torture and now denial of his freedom he went on hunger strike on April 3, 1972. Pedro Luis Boitel died forty eight years ago on May 25, 1972 after 53 days on hunger strike in Havana in the Castillo del Principe. Academic freedom and autonomy ended in 1960 replaced with fear, repression, and ideological litmus tests to attend university. It has still not been restored today. He was buried in an unmarked grave.

Fifteen years later, in the documentary Nobody Listened, Boitel's mother spoke on camera about her son's imprisonment and death.  

El destierro

por Pedro Luis Boitel

Melodía distante que invade mi habitación
sombras que transitan los rincones de mi mente
mis manos, el destino con vivencias ha encadenado
esa, esa es la ley del desterrado.

Cruces de experiencias grabadas en mi piel
lastimándome cual el mortífero desdeño de una mujer
recubierto de épocas efímeras subsiste mi corazón
dependencia nostálgica de un niño que se olvido de crecer.

Memorias transformadas en fantasmas
aquellos que me asedian mientras reposo
omnipresentes sombras que perturban mis sueños
mientras yo evoco mi país a mi modo.

Isla que desaparece en el horizonte
crepitante estación que alguna vez ocupé
hoy sólo este éxodo marchito recoge el viento
pétalos esparcidos en una corriente ausente de mar.

El destierro me vincula al pasado
soy esclavo de un concepto, de una idea
busco entre los recuerdos el principio de todo
más sólo hallo cenizas, parcialmente sepultadas durante mi trayectoria.

El destierro me ha sentenciado a vivir encarcelado a la nostalgia, compartiendo su celda
pero al transcurrir los años he aprendido a despertar,
y ahora en mi realidad busco mi emancipación, mi senda.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Stand With Hong Kong

The really frightening thing about totalitarianism is not that it commits 'atrocities' but that it attacks the concept of objective truth; it claims to control the past as well as the future. - George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune (4 February 1944)

Over the past 71 years the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has murdered tens of millions of Chinese citizens, backed the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Kim regime in North Korea. The CCP through its lack of transparency, silencing of Chinese scientists and journalists, has led to a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands and crashed the global economy.

This blog has followed the freedom struggle in Hong Kong over the years.  The Umbrella Revolution in 2014, and continued the resistance to totalitarian repression. Students were jailed for non-violently defending their city's freedom and the world  responded with acts of solidarity in the midst of worsening repression.
With Nathan Law at Initiatives for China event in 2015

We cannot remain silent before the enslavement of the citizens of Hong Kong by the Chinese communist dictatorship that is violating its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.  We must stand with Hong Kong and the forces of freedom and democracy. Now is the time to speak out and be counted.  

China will bypass the city’s own legislators to clamp down on activists in Hong Kong

Thursday, May 21, 2020 12:07 PM

Beijing has today announced that it will impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong.
It is said that the Chinese National People’s Congress plans to chart legislation for a new national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong; the new law is to be introduced to the city through promulgation. This signals Beijing’s abandonment of previous plans to instruct the Hong Kong Legislative Council to enact Article 23 of the city's Basic Law, which allows the criminalisation of acts of “treason, secession, sedition, or subversion” against China.

The act to bypass the city’s own legislators is a significant shift, as it demonstrates that Beijing is now unafraid and willing to renounce the very principle of “One Country, Two Systems”, the foundation for the transfer of sovereignty agreed in the Joint Declaration, thus marking an end to the city’s autonomy.

A previous attempt to enact Article 23 in 2003, which coincided with the SARS epidemic, was successfully stalled after 500,000 people bravely took to the streets in protest. Widespread resistance forced the administration to announce that further attempts to introduce the legislation would have to first undergo public consultation. Yet the Chinese government is now ramming through its planned legislation without giving Hongkongers any say.

The Beijing-controlled administration in Hong Kong has already arrested peaceful pro-democracy campaigners and used COVID-19 related social distancing laws to stifle protests. This startling new development sounds a death knell for the city’s autonomy under One Country, Two Systems, signalling unprecedented and fundamental threats to Hongkongers’ rights, freedoms, and way of life.
A spokesperson from grassroots campaign group “Stand with Hong Kong” commented:
“Hong Kong is being frog-marched towards a police state. What is left of our legal and political system is being shredded up before our eyes. Any pretence at autonomy is being rapidly undermined. Hongkongers oppose any introduction of laws to criminalise free speech and expression. As Hongkongers, we will keep fighting to defend our rights and freedoms.

We call upon the British Foreign Secretary and the British government to denounce these actions and to hold China to account for this latest fundamental breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, before it is too late.”