I've got another chinstroker up at New Left Project speculating about what the various press leaks close to the investigation of the whole affair may tell us about China's policy direction and those who would amend it.
Too busy to blog much right now, but here's a useful profile of He Peirong - Pearl He - the activist who met Chen Guangcheng after he went over the wall and drove him to Beijing and the loose campaigning network to which she belongs. She's vanished, believed in detention, from Friday.
There's a campaign underway for her release, but it doesn't seem to have broken beyond the disapora Sinosphere. Two others involved in Chen's escape, Hu Jia and Guo Yushan, were also detained. Hu, who met with Chen in Beijing, was released after 24 hours. As of now, nothing has been heard from Guo.
Under recent changes in Chinese law, people can be disappeared for six months before their whereabouts need to be revealed by the cops. This clearly hasn't happened with Hu Jia, though since he's only recently out of prison from the last time he tangled with the authorities, perhaps he's not considered central to any case the public security might want to bring.
Chen's family remains in detention by the Linyi cops. His nephew, who fought off an attack by local goons on the family compound with a couple of kitchen knives, is still believed to be on the run.
The leaflet informed him that during the London 2012 Olympic games the army will be putting missiles on the roof of his building and there will be soldiers on duty there 24 hours a day. He was not asked about this in advance, or given a choice, simply informed that his building was the best place to site these missiles.
It's going to be regular festival of fun, isn't it?
China Geeks has a nice analysis of the possible role played by security management funding in Chen Guangcheng's imprisonment:
As Chen himself notes, his imprisonment has created hundreds of well-paying jobs for local villagers, not to mention plenty of opportunities to make money on the side (I’m sure all those guards get hungry). As Chen also explains, anyone above the bottom of the guard organization is probably making additional money on the side by skimming from the money that’s handed down to pay the guards.
In other words, there’s an economic impetus for many people in the village participate in and perpetuate the imprisonment of the Chen family. And in a small farming village, the difference between 50 RMB a day and 90 RMB a day can be enormous. It’s no surprise the Linyi authorities haven’t had any trouble finding guards or — as far as I’m aware — met much resistance from villagers in the surrounding area.
But the village economy is small potatoes (figuratively) compared to what it sounds like the Linyi officials have done at higher levels. Within the Linyi budget, it seems the folks tasked with “maintaining stability” have been able to draw huge amounts of money to fund the Chen family’s continued imprisonment, and it’s doubtful anyone there is interested in seeing that budget shrink again. So, in addition to the legal risks associated with releasing Chen Guangcheng, many officials may also be worried releasing Chen would result in massive cuts to the local stability maintenance budget.
And as CG points out, some of that would be kicked back upwards to officials in Beijing, thus completing the circle.
Obviously a runaway budget is nowhere near the whole story. But If Chen's imprisonment had become a pillar of the local economy, that would explain the indifference and hostility to him from local villagers found by Murong Xuecun when he tried to visit Chen last November. It might also explain something else. Chen took the breeze for five days before he was discovered missing. Maybe some of the lads weren't in any hurry to stop picking up their per diems.
As per Chen's current whereabouts, it's still not been confirmed that he's in the US Embassy in Beijing, or indeed has already flown to the US, which is the latest hot rumour. It's also been rumoured that, being a Christian, he may be under the protection of the house church network in Beijing.
Wonderful account of the rise and rise and also, rise, of a rich village:
In 2011, the Xin Chang Jiang Group, comprising 17 subsidiaries, had 48 billion yuan turnover, placing it 195th among the top 500 businesses in China. By 2015, the group plans to generate 120 billion yuan in sales revenue.
"Only ponder the path to success, and don't seek pretexts for failure," Li said in a slogan, which is printed on the back of a monument in the village's central park, along with more of his beliefs, such as "care about common people and reward society".
Under his leadership, Changjiang has clearly prospered. The villagers get lavish annual stipends, live in spacious single family homes instead of the country's usual cramped apartments, drive imported cars, and get basic insurance and education.
On the other hand:
Families said they could not say no when the village proposed installing identical bronze gates at every household.
Villagers are not allowed to sell the gold and silver bars they were given because they are meant as commemorative items honoring Li, the village patriarch.
A slogan seen around the community reads: "Win honor for the government and don't bring it trouble."
I can confrim that Manchester City Council has neither issued me with gold bars nor told me what to do with them.
Chen is believed to have used the cover of darkness in which his blindness – he lost his sight at the age of five – gave him an advantage over his captors. He previously attempted to dig a tunnel without success.
Very interested to see how this one will go. The center's never fully backed the local authorities' insane measures against him; this might be embarassing enough for the locals to be in real trouble. I hope.
Update: Jamie here. Shortly after Chen escaped a gang of thugs working for the local government invaded the family compound. Chen's nephew, Chen Kegui, stabbed a couple of them in self defence and is now apparently on the run. Details here.
If it occasionally sounds faintly tragic – it's a hard heart that doesn't break a little at Hodkinson's stories of goths adapting their appearances to symptoms of ageing such as balding or becoming larger – it is more often a heartwarming tale of strong bonds and lasting companionship. "People have long-term friendships as part of the subculture and their patterns of behaviour were dominated by the subculture," says Hodkinson. "Some people would say to me, you're asking why I stay involved, but really it would be odd not to be involved. If you're so attached to the music and style and it's something that has got you a good sense of belonging and community and practical friendships, why would you break off with that?"
Maybe there's a bit less to this than meets the eye: ageing hippies have been around for long enough for me to notice that they were getting old, which is a long time. Still, gothiness has a dress code which in turn means that you have to make some positive adaptations as time takes its toll. Amateur researches in Whitby, for instance, reveal that there' is a certain age when men throw away the crimpers and go with the full Richard O'Brien effect; and that exo-corsets can impart a nice dignified-but-sexy look to the stouter lady. Anyway, the whole ethos is crepusculartastic doom and decay, so ageing fits right in. I look forward to proper hags.
I do disagree with the idea that Goths are essentially middle class. I always figured the ur-goth as working in a garage in Leeds, though maybe he or she now owns it. As I recall, there was a Polish goth band called Garage in Leeds back in the eighties, or maybe that's just a succubus inserted into my mind by the ghost of John Peel.
Citing multiple anonymous sources, the New York Times alleges that the real, or at least the urgent, reason for Bo Xilai's downfall was that he was bugging top level leaders. He was found out when bugs on a phone by Ma Wen, the Minister of Supervision, were discovered during an apparently inconsequential conversation between her and none other than Hu Jintao, whose own phone apparently has counter-surveillance devices installed.
The article makes clear that these allegations did not surface during Wang Lijun's conversations at the Chengdu US consulate. They also play no part in the apparent 'great man brought low by crazy wife' narrative being spun through leaks from the investigation into the Gu Kailai/Neil Heywood affair.
Bo and Wang Lijun allegedly bugged every significant party personage who visited Chongqing; apparently with the aid of Fang Binxing, the GFW architect, whose rumoured arrest James blogged about a few days ago. Involvement in this would explain Fang's disapperance neatly.
UPDATE: Since typepad for some reason won't let me comment on my own blog, I'll stick this in as an update:
Barry@ 2 : The Gu killed Heywood story has now become at least semi-official, through leaks from the investigation. How true it is is another matter. We know that it's the story the Party wants to tell. Still, it's the only story we have in answer to the question 'what happened to Neil Heywood'. I still don't believe the stuff about them having an affair, though.
Alex: Yes, the GFW is just the boundary within which sits a comprehensive information management system. If you're thinking of blogging about this, I'd recommend a scan of China Media Project (first under the China handle in the blogroll). As for opposition voices of the 'right' kind, this Wang Kang fellow in Chongqing is interesting: a professed reformer with no official connection shaping the government narrative on Bo and Gu.
The author of the notorious 'Rose in the Desert' tongue bath on Asma al_Assad has been explaining herself. What gets you a profile in Vogue, anyway?
I think that Vogue is always on the lookout for good-looking first ladies because they're a combination of power and beauty and elegance. That's what Vogue is about. And here was this woman who had never given an interview, who was extremely thin and very well-dressed and therefore, qualified to be in Vogue. And they had - Vogue had been trying to get her for quite a long time.
Ms Buck, the profile author, confirms that mrs Assad 'never ate' all the time she was with her. Yet she does seem to have been imbibing the Friedman:
Asma Assad called the ancient culture of the country its hardware. She speaks like a banker with a degree in computer science. She said what interested her were the people. They were the software. The software has been getting killed every day for 13 months by her husband's forces, and they're pretending nothing is happening.
So the whole Syrian thing is a software malfunction.