A look back at 5 years ago

This week, my wife and I are celebrating 5 years of marriage together.  At times we both forget just how much we went through to be together.  We met in Beijing, in the most beautiful hostel that I think either of us had ever stayed in– The Red Lantern.  http://www.redlanternhouse.com/

She was staying there with a group of friends, I was there with my good friend Billy and his wife Virgia.  We had been touring China from Hong Kong up and were a little weary from the long journey.  We had a plan to stay the night at the Red Lantern and then head up and spend the night on the Great Wall of China.  I had managed to arrange through the Chinese network the chance to do an overnight on the Wall and we jumped at the opportunity.

Except that I met Lili the night before– and had seen something very special in her.  To make a long story short, I decided to let Billy and Virgia have a romantic night alone on the Wall and decided to haul up the Great Wall, take a picture and haul ass back to the city and spend some time with my German friend.

lili3

So there is the picture.  As you can see, it was COLD.  Winter like conditions in April.  Still grey everywhere.  Cold.  I hoofed it up to the top, been there, done that, time to go meet my wife– thank you very much.

The next day, we went our separate ways– only to meet up at the same Buddhist Temple.  This picture was taken from there…. Billy and Virgia had arrived back from the Great Wall– had an awesome time and we decided to go to the temple to see the big buddha on display– and Lili and her gang of Germans were also there. Here is a picture from that afternoon.

lili2

The next 24 hours were really what sealed our first moments together– I invited Lili out to have a duck dinner with us at one of the “famous” duck restaurants in China. She agreed and we went and had a great time with it. After dinner we split up from Billy and Virgia and went to see what Beijing was like at night. We wandered over to a small monastery which overlooked this beautiful pond and talked through the night about everything. It was such a fun evening that we floated back to our hostel.

The next day we split up, she went her way and we headed off to Xian. We texted back and forth– I was lost inside of her. We made plans to see each other again as soon as possible– which took a month or so– keep in mind that we had to travel 24 hours just to see each other… Such a crazy time.

… and here we are… 5 years into a marriage. Marriage is tough– make no mistake. Raising children is tough. Keeping a family together is tough– but it really is the most important thing you can ever do. Remembering the struggles that we went through just to be able to see one another is something that I forget from time to time, which is why we celebrate these milestones– it gives us the opportunity to think about how lucky we are to find love in our lives.

lili first

China’s Olympic Paranoia

China urges Nepal to ban Everest climbs amid fear of Olympics protests
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA

The Associated Press

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KATMANDU, Nepal — China has asked Nepal to keep climbers off Mount Everest this spring, a move that would prevent pro-Tibetan protests when the Olympic torch is carried to the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Nepalese officials said today.

The organizers of the Beijing Olympics have not released an exact date for the planned ascent, but preparations point to late April or early May. Activists critical of Chinese policy in Tibet have unfurled protest banners at the Everest base camp in the past.

Nepalese officials said a decision should be reached soon on whether to approve Beijing’s request to shut down climbing on Everest until May 10. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said China made the request last month.

Expeditions from the Chinese side of the peak have already been banned until May 10, with authorities saying they are concerned about “heavy climbing activities and pressure on the environment.”

Everest straddles the border of Chinese-controlled Tibet and Nepal, home to many Tibetan exiles and activists. May is considered the best time to climb Everest, but climbers have to be on the mountain weeks before to acclimatize to the harsh weather and high altitude.

Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule turned violent in Tibet’s capital Friday, with shops and vehicles torched and gunshots echoing through the streets of the ancient city. A radio report said two people had been killed.

China's Olympic Paranoia

China urges Nepal to ban Everest climbs amid fear of Olympics protests
By BINAJ GURUBACHARYA

The Associated Press

Related

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Information

Everest news and information: www.mounteverest.net
KATMANDU, Nepal — China has asked Nepal to keep climbers off Mount Everest this spring, a move that would prevent pro-Tibetan protests when the Olympic torch is carried to the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Nepalese officials said today.

The organizers of the Beijing Olympics have not released an exact date for the planned ascent, but preparations point to late April or early May. Activists critical of Chinese policy in Tibet have unfurled protest banners at the Everest base camp in the past.

Nepalese officials said a decision should be reached soon on whether to approve Beijing’s request to shut down climbing on Everest until May 10. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said China made the request last month.

Expeditions from the Chinese side of the peak have already been banned until May 10, with authorities saying they are concerned about “heavy climbing activities and pressure on the environment.”

Everest straddles the border of Chinese-controlled Tibet and Nepal, home to many Tibetan exiles and activists. May is considered the best time to climb Everest, but climbers have to be on the mountain weeks before to acclimatize to the harsh weather and high altitude.

Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule turned violent in Tibet’s capital Friday, with shops and vehicles torched and gunshots echoing through the streets of the ancient city. A radio report said two people had been killed.

Chinese beat "Citizen Journalist" to Death

BEIJING, China (CNN) — Wei Wenhua was a model communist and is now a bloggers’ hero — a “citizen journalist” turned martyr.

Wei Wenhua was beaten to death after he took pictures of a streetside fracas between villagers and authorities.

1 of 2 The construction company manager was driving his car when he witnessed an ugly scene: a team of about 50 city inspectors beating villagers who tried to block trucks from unloading trash near their homes.

Wei took out his cell phone and began taking pictures. The city inspectors saw Wei and then attacked him in a beating that lasted five minutes. By the time it was over, the 41-year-old Wei was slumped unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital but was dead on arrival.

His death earlier this month continues to stir controversy. In China’s mainstream media and in the blogosphere, angry Chinese are demanding action.

After the Web site sina.com published news of Wei’s beating, readers promptly expressed their outrage. In one day alone, more than 8,000 posted comments. Bloggers inside and outside China bluntly condemned the brutal killing. Watch the swirling controversy over Wei’s death »

“City inspectors are worse than the mafia,” wrote one Chinese blogger. “They are violent civil servants acting in the name of law enforcement.”

Another blogger asked, “Just who gave these city inspectors such absurd powers?”

Known as “chengguan” in Chinese, city inspectors are auxiliary support for police. They are expected to deal with petty crimes. Their tasks include cracking down on unlicensed trading. They frequently are seen chasing street vendors off the streets and confiscating their goods.

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Critics have said they often abuse their authority and prey on the weak. In the central city of Zhengzhou last year, 1,000 college students scuffled with police and overturned cars after city inspectors roughed up a female student who had set up a street stall. These incidents prompted the government to redefine the role of city inspectors.

Still, observed Jeremy Goldkorn, editor in chief of Danwei.org, “Some bloggers [are] saying this whole chengguan system is prone to corruption and abuse and it should be disbanded.”

Beijing scholar Xiong Peiyun wrote in Wednesday’s Southern Metropolis Daily, “Perhaps no one wishes to face this question. Wei Wenhua’s death stands as clear proof of the violent ways of local city inspectors. It’s 2008 and another citizen goes down. When will we stand up and restrain the law enforcement violence of this city inspectors system?”

More and more victims of abuse already are standing up. “It’s the latest in a series of incidents which have pit provincial government authorities against citizens — those who are protesting against something who are recording and blogging and writing about something that they consider scandalous,” Goldkorn said.

Some journalists and bloggers have even compared Wei’s fatal beating to the Rodney King case, when the Los Angeles police repeatedly clubbed him. Others say this is reminiscent of the 2003 death of graphic designer Sun Zhigang in the Chinese city of in Guangzhou. The 27-year-old college graduate was fatally beaten while in detention for not carrying proper identification. The public outcry, amplified in the country’s blogosphere, prompted China’s premier to restrict police powers of detention.

Years ago, killings such as these would not have received such attention, and victims would have been forgotten, but with modern technology in the hands of ordinary citizens, abusive officials are getting caught in the act.

China’s burgeoning economy allows a relatively freer flow of information. In September, China had 172 million Internet users, 10 million more than the last official count was released in July. Officials said about 4 million Chinese go online for the first time every month.

Millions have opened blogs, too. Mobile phone users also reached more than half a billion in September, according to the government.

Even though Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of speech, China continues to restrict the flow of information. Fearful of the surge in Internet and mobile phone usage — and the information they are able to transmit — the Chinese authorities are stepping up efforts to monitor and restrict their use, according to Reporters Without Borders, which fights against censorship and laws that undermine press freedom. A few Internet data centers have been closed down, along with thousands of Web sites.

Controversial blogs are blocked and unblocked multiple times. But silencing these citizen journalists is getting more difficult.

Days after Wei’s January 7 death, a government official in Tianmen city, Wei’s hometown, was fired, four others detained and more than 100 placed under investigation. Chinese authorities now appear to be taking these cases seriously.

Goldkorn said: “It’s the kind of trouble that is very threatening to the party and the government, because it’s the kind of trouble that questions their reason d’etre. So when looking at things like this, in the back of their minds, is always, ‘Could this develop into a real mass incident that has the power to threaten the stability of China?’ “

Meanwhile, bloggers are heaping eulogies for Wei. So far, no one has seen the pictures Wei took that day. It is thought his camera was destroyed in the beating.

“Eternal repose to Citizen Wei Wenhua,” wrote blogger Wang Gongquan. “In the face of violence and brute power, he lifted a citizen’s rights, conscience, responsibility and courage.”

Reporters Without Borders said, “Wei is the first ‘citizen journalist’ to die in China because of what he was trying to film.”

China not living up to its promises for Human Rights

China not keeping its word on human rights, report says
By Maureen Fan

The Washington Post

BEIJING — The 2008 Olympic Games have become a catalyst for more repression in China, not less, according to an Amnesty International report released Sunday and aimed at pressuring the Beijing government a year before the start of the world’s premier sporting event.

The 22-page report says China’s illegal detention and imprisonment of activists and other measures have overshadowed some modest reforms, including how the Chinese legal system reviews death-penalty cases and the loosening of some restrictions on the foreign press.

To win its first Olympics bid, China promised in 2001 to improve human rights, increase environmental protections and address the city’s traffic problems. The Games are expected to attract 500,000 visitors, including thousands of journalists, giving China a chance to showcase itself before a huge international audience.

In recent weeks, however, various groups have begun arguing that China has not done enough.

Last Wednesday, four American tourists were detained after unfurling a banner at a base camp on Mount Everest that read, “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008,” a play on the Beijing Olympics motto.

On the same day, French presidential candidate Segolene Royal said that if elected president, she would not rule out a boycott of the Olympics unless China used its influence with the government of Sudan to stop ongoing atrocities in the Darfur region. “All means must be used,” she said. China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, has major oil investments in Sudan.

Furious Chinese officials have accused critics of trying to politicize the Games.

“We believe that it’s against the goodwill of the people from all over the world to boycott or oppose Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics with any excuse or political reasons,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, who promised that China would host a distinguished Olympics “with its unique characteristics.”

Amnesty International and others said the Olympics provide a rare opportunity to effect change in this image-conscious nation.

“It’s only about a year to go and we don’t see any genuine effort by the Chinese administration to improve human rights,” said T. Kumar, advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific for Amnesty International. “The efforts they’re taking are stopgap — the public statement about extra review for the death penalty, the additional movement for international journalists. It’s just enough to keep the criticism at bay.”

Chinese authorities have been using the Olympics to round up those they consider potential troublemakers, including human-rights defenders, housing activists, lawyers and people attempting to report on human-rights violations, the Amnesty report said.

Referring to the warnings of public-security officials that they might force drug users into yearlong rehabilitation programs, the Amnesty report said, “Fears remain that these abusive systems are being used to detain petty criminals, vagrants, drug addicts and others in order to ‘clean-up’ Beijing ahead of the Olympics.”

The report welcomed one official reform: the restoration of Supreme Court review of death-penalty cases. But Amnesty said it worried that a “limited paper review” would not expose human-rights violations such as police use of torture to obtain confessions.

Amnesty also took the International Olympic Committee to task for not living up to its stated commitment to act if it did not see progress on security, logistics or human rights.

IOC members have said they expect Beijing to keep its word. The organization, whose top leaders just returned from two weeks of meetings with the Chinese government in Beijing, said officials needed more time before commenting on the Amnesty report.