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Monday, February 20, 2006

How Western companies are selling their souls for a piece of the massive Chinese market

As more and more people awaken to Communist China's abysmal human rights record, thanks to the numerous fumbles by web giants et al, I have a feeling that something good will happen...Meanwhile this piece gives a bit too much credit to the Liberals...Hmmm!

Yes, Master By Steve Maich 20 Feb. 2006 - It was March 2000, dot-com mania was in full swing, and the World Wide Web still seemed destined to bring fabulous wealth to the West and precious freedom to every dark corner of the globe. U.S. President Bill Clinton took the stage at Johns Hopkins University, expounding on the promise of democracy and freedom in the information age. Increased trade, engagement and technology would inevitably help open and democratize authoritarian holdouts like China, he said. The few remaining hard-liners, clinging doggedly to the past, were on the run. "Now there's no question China has been trying to crack down on the Internet," Clinton said, pausing to smile at his audience before delivering the triumphalist punch line. "Good luck." Laughter and applause.

Muzzling the Internet might have seemed like an impossibility when was streaking past US$300 a share, but almost six years later John Kamm looks back on the smug naïveté of Clinton's boast with a rueful laugh. "Guess what, Bill: they didn't need luck, they needed something else, and they got it." A former executive with Occidental Chemical Corp. and ex-president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Kamm has spent the past 16 years working for human rights reform in China. He has petitioned Chinese authorities on behalf of close to 1,000 political prisoners, and secured release or leniency for hundreds. But lately, he has watched in disbelief as some of the world's biggest companies meekly complied with China's most audacious crackdown in years.

Today, China employs approximately 30,000 cyber-police to monitor Web traffic and postings from the country's roughly 111 million Internet users. Writing articles "incompatible with the mainstream ideology" is prohibited. Posting messages that "damage the reputation of the state" can get you arrested. And publishing anything deemed to be a state secret can carry the death penalty. The list of banned websites now stands at 500,000 and growing.

Even with the full weight of the Communist regime behind it, the censorship effort would have been futile without equipment and know-how supplied by Western vendors like Cisco Systems Inc., SunMicrosystems Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp. And with the world's three dominant Internet companies -- Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft -- in a blind rush for a piece of China's spectacular wealth, Beijing has found all the willing accomplices it needs to strip the Internet of its anonymity, its freedom, and to turn it into yet another tool of repression. Google and Microsoft have recently launched Chinese versions of their Internet software that block access to topics that offend China's ruling party, such as democracy and Tibet. Yahoo recently handed over a Chinese journalist to authorities after he posted information critical of the government on an Internet message board.

But the questions of human rights and corporate ethics in China go far beyond a single industry and a handful of companies. China's emergence as an industrial and commercial power represents the biggest economic revolution in a generation, and in the rush to invest, critics say Western business is selling its soul, one ugly compromise at a time. This month, T. Kumar, Amnesty International's advocacy director for the Asia Pacific region, testified before the U.S. congressional human rights caucus, urging lawmakers to rein in big business before any more principles are sacrificed. "In the pursuit of new and lucrative markets, these IT companies are contributing to human rights violations," Kumar said. "Unless strong action is taken, this type of practice will not only increase, but is likely to move into other areas, which will lead to disastrous impacts on the Chinese people."

So far, there's little sign of any of the strong action activists are pleading for. This week, representatives from all three Internet companies as well as Cisco Systems have been summoned before the U.S. congressional subcommittee overseeing global human rights, where they're sure to face a grilling over their actions in China. But it's not clear how far Western lawmakers are willing to go to defend human rights in the world's hottest new market. Critics say it comes down to a fundamental clash between profit and social conscience, being waged across virtually every sector of the economy. But the Internet industry's recent string of capitulations set a new standard of submissiveness.

When Google agreed last month to launch a Chinese version of its Internet search engine that excludes information censored by the Chinese government and blocks access to the company's anonymous Gmail program, it blew a gaping hole in its carefully nurtured "good guy" image. Just a week before Google's bow to China's demands, the company flatly refused to co-operate with a U.S. Justice Department investigation into online pornography. The feds did not seek any information about specific users, only data on the amount of traffic to certain sites over a one-month period, but Google said the request was too intrusive and that it might expose trade secrets. Reporters Without Borders called Google's professed commitment to privacy "the height of hypocrisy in view of its strategy in China." Suddenly, its cheery motto "don't be evil" just seems like another piece of corporate spin.

Google is certainly not alone, however. Microsoft struck a similar deal, banning the use of words like "democracy" and "Dalai Lama" on the Chinese version of its Web publishing software. More recently, it agreed to a Chinese request to shut down an Internet blog belonging to prominent pro-democracy dissident Zhao Jing. But perhaps the most chilling case was that of Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for divulging state secrets over the Net. Tao anonymously posted details of the government's plans to limit coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on a pro-democracy website, and Yahoo handed over his identity to Chinese authorities, unleashing a storm of protest around the world.

Chris Smith, the Republican representative from New Jersey who chairs the congressional subcommittee on human rights, has been one of the industry's most ardent critics, and is sponsoring a draft bill that would require Web companies to establish a code of conduct for operating in repressive regimes, prohibiting them from facilitating unreasonable censorship or co-operating in the abuse of human rights. But getting companies to reverse themselves may prove more easily said than done. China's trade deals with Canada, the U.S. and the European Union give it enormous bargaining power whenever talk turns to sanctions and restrictions, and with every year of supercharged economic growth, its clout increases.

Corporate leaders were afraid it would end up like this. As far back as the early 1990s, when China first began reaching out to Western business, debates raged about how to operate effectively in China without getting tangled in a brier patch of ethical dilemmas. In the early days of the Chinese economic miracle, the main issues centred on the appalling working conditions in Chinese sweatshop garment factories and total absence of labour standards. In 1993, Levi Strauss decided to stop doing business in the country because it "could not ensure that its employees, or those working on its behalf, would not be subject to human rights violations." But over the next few years, companies like Nike Inc., Reebok and The Gap, under pressure from shareholders and customers at home, made major strides on labour standards. The controversies gradually faded, and in 1998, Levi's began making jeans in China again. Lori Tansey Martens, executive director of the Washington-based International Business Ethics Institute, says the corporate community gradually decided that bringing capitalism to a totalitarian regime wouldn't be as tricky as some had feared. "These were issues that were talked about in the early '90s, but we never really reached a consensus. And then, we got complacent."

With so much at stake, few paused to ask what moral compromises would be necessary to turn a poverty-stricken backwater into the world's next great industrial titan, in less than a decade. The massive Three Gorges Dam megaproject on the Yangtze River may stand as the most dramatic example of Western business aiding a quantum leap in China's economic development, without much thought for the human toll. Several Canadian companies, including Montreal engineering giant SNC-Lavalin, Acres International, Hydro-Québec and Dominion Bridge Inc., have been involved in various aspects of the Three Gorges endeavour, many of them backed by taxpayer money through Export Development Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency. But, as the project steamed ahead in the mid-1990s, and "Team Canada" trade missions trudged across the Chinese countryside promoting closer ties, few stopped to consider the forced evacuation of roughly two million people living in low-lying areas to be flooded by the dam.

To this day, public criticism of the Three Gorges development is prohibited in China, and the project stands as a black mark on Canada's human rights record abroad, says Patricia Adams, executive director of Probe International, an environmental group based in Toronto. "Three Gorges Dam is a spectacular case because it's so big and has been so notorious. But it's just one of many, many projects, and I think it shows the difficulty of dealing with a dictatorship," she says. "The principle should be, 'do no harm.' You have to be willing to walk away from a project if it violates your principles. China will change and it is changing, but when you're dealing with a government that mistreats its citizens, it's just as likely to mistreat companies as well."

After years of positive movement, it appears the more repressive and authoritarian forces within China are beginning to reassert themselves. Amnesty International reports that tens of thousands of people continue to be arbitrarily imprisoned every year. It estimates that close to 200,000 people are detained in "re-education through labour" camps across the country. One such camp is now home to Mao Hengfeng, who was reportedly sentenced to 18 months of labour last April for persistently petitioning the authorities over a forced abortion she underwent 15 years ago. But nowhere is the crackdown more evident than in the area of free speech, John Kamm says. Even moderate, pro-Communist papers now run the risk of being shut down if they stray from the party line, and hundreds of Internet cafés have been closed in recent months, reportedly for failing to control the surfing habits of their patrons.

Big business acknowledges those problems, but CEOs claim they are not equipped to deal with them. They say only government-to-government intervention can change the course of public policy. For the most part, companies insist that their mere presence in the country is paying dividends in the lifestyle and freedoms of the population, and the recent censorship controversy is no exception.

In the middle of the Google firestorm, company co-founder Sergei Brin told a reporter that a censored site is better than no site at all. "We ultimately made a difficult decision, but we felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 per cent that we ideally would like, will be better for Chinese Web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it." Google CEO Eric Schmidt elaborated on that point, insisting that it did not conflict with Google's "don't be evil" ethos. "We actually did an evil scale, and decided that not to serve at all was worse evil," Schmidt said. Yahoo! and Microsoft offer similar justifications, arguing that even if they wanted to fight for greater freedoms on the Web, their hands are tied by local laws. And besides, Bill Gates says repressive rulers are no match for the ingenuity of individual Web surfers. "The ability to really withhold information no longer exists," he said recently, in defense of Microsoft's censorship policy. "If there is a desire by the population to know something, it is going to get out."

None of that holds water with Kamm. In 1999, he founded the Dui Hua Foundation, which means "dialogue" in Chinese. That organization first uncovered evidence that Yahoo handed journalist Shi Tao over to the authorities. As far as Kamm is concerned, the recent Internet crackdown represents an important step backwards, and the role of American companies in it is nothing but a cowardly retreat. "I do not believe that any companies are facing overwhelming pressure from shareholders to engage in censorship and the abuse of human rights. I just don't buy it," Kamm says. "What did we learn at Nuremberg? If a law violates international human rights law, then you're obligated not to follow it. And in China, if it's a regulation that contravenes a law, then it is illegal. When [Yahoo founder] Jerry Yang says we have to respect the laws, regulations and customs of the countries we operate in, well, okay, what are those? Please show me the regulation that says you had to hand over Shi Tao's name."

Kamm says Westerners have a basic misconception that China is just plowing ahead, impervious to the opinions of meddling world leaders. Nothing could be further from the truth, he says. In fact, many in China's ruling elite are hypersensitive to the perception that it is an oppressive, regressive, totalitarian regime. They want to be seen as modern, moderate, and worthy of the superpower status implied by China's size, power and history. Most Westerners also don't realize that article 35 of China's constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech, and of the press.

If businessmen were to show as much courage in the face of Communist leaders as they do in the boardroom, China would be a far more liberated place than it is today. "Business people are supposed to be able to do this kind of thing, they should be natural at it," Kamm says. "You should be able to sell the guy on something he may not want to hear initially. That's what salesmanship is!" But after more than a decade of cajoling and lobbying high-profile CEOs, Kamm has yet to convince a single one to make the promotion of human rights part of their strategy in China.

That's especially depressing, considering that business leaders have shown in the past they can be agents of profound social change, on those rare occasions when they put their mind to it. In 1971, General Motors Co. invited a black preacher named Leon Sullivan to join its board of directors. Sullivan was a well-known figure in the U.S. civil rights movement, and throughout the 1960s had organized several boycotts of American companies that refused to respect equal rights for blacks. When he joined the board of GM, Sullivan launched a crusade that would change the course of corporate and world events.

At that time, the world's biggest automaker also happened to be the largest employer of blacks in South Africa, where the apartheid regime mandated that companies maintain strict racial segregation in the workplace, and prohibited blacks from holding management positions. For more than 15 years, Sullivan used his position on GM's board to tear away at apartheid's barriers one brick at a time. In 1977, Sullivan drafted a list of six principles advocating equal rights and opportunities for GM's black workers. The company adopted the principles even though they directly contravened South African law, and over the next decade Sullivan convinced more than 100 Western companies to follow suit. Finally, in 1986, he notified the South African government that he would begin encouraging companies to pull out of the country altogether unless apartheid was abandoned. In 1990, when the legal structure of apartheid was officially dismantled, it was due in no small measure to the pressure of the international business community.

Lori Tansey Martens looks back on what Sullivan helped accomplish and wonders where all that courage has gone. Sullivan died in 2001 at the age of 78, and there doesn't seem to be anyone rushing to fill his shoes. "He made it okay for companies to operate in South Africa, essentially by saying, 'We're going to do business here but we're going to be civilly disobedient, because we believe the laws are immoral, irresponsible and unethical.' South Africa needed the foreign investment, so it turned a blind eye and ultimately capitulated. But business is missing the opportunity to do the same thing in China."

John Kamm, though, isn't holding his breath. "China ain't South Africa," he says. "Even when it was an important economy, South Africa never even came close to the level of importance being afforded to China. People were willing to cut off their pinky if necessary with South Africa. But nobody is even willing to contemplate losing the great China market. They're just scared to death they're going to miss out on the great gold mountain that's out there somewhere."

And so, in the absence of a champion among North America's business leaders, the calls for international legal action are growing louder. Human Rights Watch recently began a campaign for a treaty at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that would make it illegal for companies to be party to human rights abuses anywhere they operate. But others worry that any attempt at an international human rights treaty is bound to fail. Lloyd Axworthy was Canada's minister of foreign affairs under Jean Chrétien until he left politics in late 2000, and he learned first-hand just how powerless national governments can be to sanction big business for its actions in foreign countries.

In the late 1990s, Calgary's Talisman Energy formed a partnership with the state oil company in Sudan, and was soon accused of supporting the government's ruthless attacks on civilians and rebel groups in the country's southern regions. Talisman insisted the allegations were false, and repeated the familiar claim that its presence in the country was actually improving conditions. Axworthy became convinced something had to be done. "I had my baptism of fire on this issue," he recalls. "We ran into several problems. First, it was impossible to get any agreement at the UN Security Council on any form of sanctions against Sudan or against companies that were complicit in government bombing and attacks on the people in the south. I went to see what tools were in our arsenal, and we found we couldn't do any sort of domestic action unless it was sanctioned by an international body. So we were in a Catch-22."

With his hands effectively tied, Axworthy asked the federal foreign affairs committee, then chaired by Liberal Bill Graham, to develop legislation that would require Canadian companies to uphold social, environmental and ethical standards when doing business offshore. "That was then cancelled under my successor," he says. "So now we're still in a position that we can't do anything about a Canadian company that wants to act as a rogue in other parts of the world."

To many, it seems Canada and other nations have simply lost the will to fight. If the response to human rights abuses a decade ago was weak, over the past few years it has faded completely, and the case of Sudan is a prime example. Talisman finally pulled out of Sudan under heavy public pressure in 2003, but the legacy of its time there still hangs in the air. Under the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act, companies can be sued in the U.S. courts for violations of international law, and in 2002 the Presbyterian Church of Sudan, along with several survivors of the vicious civil war, brought a claim against Talisman, alleging that the company's facilities were used as a base for government attacks against civilians. Last year, the Canadian government petitioned the court, asking that the suit be thrown out. "Should the suit proceed, Canadian firms will likely absent themselves from Sudan and therefore not contribute to its economic revitalization out of fear of the U.S. courts," the letter said. "Through the extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Claims Act, U.S. courts' assumption of jurisdiction creates a 'chilling effect' on Canadian firms engaging in Sudan."

Government officials refused to comment on the letter, which was sent just as the full extent of Sudanese government atrocities in the Darfur region were coming to light. But Axworthy was appalled to learn of it. "That's nonsense. The Alien Tort Act is one of the things the Americans do reasonably well. The fact that our embassy would write a letter like that -- I'm repelled."

Axworthy has heard the calls for binding treaties, but he doesn't see much hope for them unless national governments take control of their own companies. "There's lots of talk about global compacts at the UN and voluntary codes of conduct, but we haven't advanced the debate in terms of what does it really mean and how do you get the companies to buy into it?" Tansey Martens agrees -- if you can't get companies to stick to their own stated values, and if governments won't bring their own corporate sectors to heel, then treaties are mere words on a page. "Hundreds of global companies have signed on to the UN Global Compact on Human Rights, and nobody knows what it means," she says. "You could drive a truck through the loopholes in some of these statements of principle."

For now, the threat of bad publicity is the only real weapon in the fight to reassert a corporate conscience in the developing world -- and there are some reasons for hope. Human Rights Watch claims several top executives have privately lamented the race for the bottom in China, and endorsed the idea of a binding code of conduct at the OECD. This month, Bill Gates suggested the Internet industry needs to get together and agree on a common set of principles to deal with censorship in China and elsewhere. And then there's Representative Chris Smith's proposed bill in the U.S. Congress.

It's a start, Kamm says, but this is a crossroads for East-West relations. Western leaders -- both corporate and political -- seem ready to let all the gains of the past decade slip away for the sake of a quick profit, and it may soon be too late to stop the slide. "Yahoo's treatment of Shi Tao was a watershed, and now the wraps are coming off," he says. "It appears there was a lot more of this kind of thing than we previously thought. On balance, business has been a force for good. That said, we have enabled and sat back and done nothing about negative things that have been happening. If we allow that to go on, and let the Chinese government believe they are so big and so important that we will not fight for human rights,that will be very dangerous. We are at a critical moment."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Communist Spy TV: Phoenix television rises

Phoenix television rises

By Tony Wong

Liu Changle--one of China's biggest tycoons

Is Liu Changle's real identity a spy from the Chinese military linked to a Chinese Intelligence network? It wouldn't be surprising as four senior Phoenix TV employees were charged with stealing military secrets in the US last year. Read more on this (at the end) and Phoenix TV's role in inciting hatred against Falun Gong in the excerpt below from The Real Story of China's Jiang Zemin - Chapter 13

"It is also important to note that during that time Jiang made use of Hong Kong media which had been paid off to malign Falun Gong. Hong Kong's Phoenix Satellite Television went to great lengths and was the most insidious of the bunch. On the surface it seemed unbiased, neutral, but in truth, the CCP's most important propaganda articles and decrees were delivered to the station directly for broadcasting. Not a single word was to be changed, and anyone who had misgivings about the propaganda campaign was simply dismissed. The station's staff knew that at critical times and on critical issues, Phoenix TV played a role that CCTV could not.

Liu Changle, CEO of the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television, was (or is) an undercover agent under the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the People's Liberation Army. [3]

After the April 25, 1999, Falun Gong gathering at Zhongnanhai, Liu was secretly sent by Luo Gan to collaborate with the pseudoscientist He Zuoxiu. Starting as early as May of 1999, Liu put forth a great deal of effort starting rumors and concocting TV programs specifically meant to frame Falun Gong and its founder. He also published a book expressly to discredit the founder of Falun Gong. Its contents would be almost humorous for their inaccuracy and perversity were the consequences not so regrettable. Phoenix TV disguised its connections with the CCP government by broadcasting popular programs that attracted regular viewers and, under the guise of normalcy, used reports that seemed objective to in fact spread Jiang Zemin's fabricated stories on Falun Gong and influence public opinion. Many of the station's viewers in mainland China and Chinese living overseas were sorely misled. After these things transpired, a number of staff from Phoenix TV ran into serious problems. Liu Changle was interrogated and investigated on grounds of reportedly having been part of the financial crimes of the former president of the Bank of China, Wang Xuebin, as well as other illegal activities; Zhao Liqun, deputy president of the station and the man responsible for Chinese-language programming, died in a plane crash; one of the station's hostesses was in a severe car accident; and a reporter from its news department was kidnapped."

TORONTO (Toronto Star) 18 Feb. 2006
- When Liu Chang Le first arrived in Canada in 1987, it was as a relatively lowly official of the Chinese government — a reporter for Beijing's central government radio station.

Fast forward 19 years and Liu is hosting an elegant dinner for more than 200 in the ballroom of Toronto's Fairmont Royal York Hotel. On his right is Chinese ambassador Lu Shumin. On his left is Toronto's Deputy Mayor Sandra Bussin.

In the flower-draped room, dining on saffron chicken, are some of the most influential men and women in Toronto's Chinese community.

They have come to honour Liu on the launch of his Phoenix Television network in Canada, but also to bask in the presence of China's biggest broadcast media tycoon and one of its richest men.

Liu is not only symbolic of China's new capitalist elite, he is representative of a tidal wave of foreign-language programming that — for better or worse — is destined for Canadian shores.

Phoenix has not been without controversy: Opponents charge that Liu's network is thinly veiled propaganda for the communist government, while his competitors say Phoenix's presence threatens to wipe out local ethnic broadcasters.

One thing is certain: Liu, a large, imposing man over six feet tall, knows how to make an impression.

On this night he has flown in his top anchors from Beijing to host the dinner, an advance team of seven from his Los Angeles bureau, and several more staff from New York. The evening starts with not a phoenix, but perhaps more appropriately with a lion dance — the lion representing a potent symbol of power in Chinese mythology.

The dancers wind their way around the tables and eventually bow deferentially to the head phoenix himself — Liu, in exchange for a lucky packet.

The symbolism is palpable: Even the mighty lion must bow before the phoenix — a Chinese symbol of royalty. But the reality is, in Canada, the phoenix has not been given the most royal of receptions.

"I was actually a little surprised that there was so much opposition, that it took us so long to get to this market," says Liu later that evening. "I really didn't expect to run into so many difficulties coming here."

Liu's station is one of the first foreign Chinese-language stations to be recently approved by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). But he had to face the ire of elements of the Canadian public who questioned his close ties to the communist party.

Liu served in the People's Liberation Army as a colonel and eventually worked his way up to becoming a manager in the Central People's Radio Station, where he was responsible for overseeing the highly sensitive military affairs section.

Moreover, about 9 per cent of Phoenix's shares, which are listed in Hong Kong, are owned by the Chinese government. Phoenix has also been accused of glossing over significant political issues such as Tiananmen Square and Tibet in an attempt to show the government in a positive light.

But in an interview, Liu seems to alternate between sincere joviality and steel-eyed businessman, especially when he bristles at the comments that his station could be anything but an objective media entity.

"Yes, Phoenix has a very good relationship with the Chinese government. It doesn't mean that we are automatically a propaganda mouthpiece for the government," he says. "There are many Canadians who are friendly toward the Chinese government. Does that mean they are mouthpieces of the Chinese government?"

Most Canadians, of course, don't have a claim to companies that are partially owned by the Chinese, but Liu insists his station — the only private enterprise allowed to report news in the Mandarin language — has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to reporting.

"We run a very objective service, we are not slanted or attempting to denounce or hurt anyone. We are only here to serve the Chinese community," he says, drumming his fingers on the mahogany table beside him. It is likely, though, that given his political connections and his standing in China's business hierarchy, these are not allegations that Liu would normally hear in person — nor would his detractors care to deliver them personally. But certainly, compared to his competitors in China, Liu may have a point.

Phoenix's glossy packaging — which includes a 60 Minutes-style "investigative reporting" show and a channel of 24-hour news modelled after CNN — is a lot slicker than channels run by state broadcaster China International Television Corp.

While CITC is the sanctioned mouthpiece of the central government, Phoenix has managed to push the envelope ever so slightly including reporting on SARS and doing some live reporting from Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

And so far, he has met with success, with an estimated audience of 130 million with his five channels, mostly in mainland China, but also in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe and the U.S.

The company does well over $100 million (U.S.) annually in advertising revenue. But Liu says the potential — given a mainland population alone of more than one billion and a wide-ranging diaspora of ethnic Chinese — is barely tapped.

While Liu moves forward on his plans for creating the first truly global Chinese broadcaster, observers say no matter how he may try to spin it, his success ultimately depends on the largesse of the Chinese government.

"Let's face it, what he's showing are programs approved by the state," says Leslie Chan, a professor of new media studies at the University of Toronto. "I think the Chinese government would like to show to the outside world that there is some opening up, that citizens may be allowed to some extent to question freely, but really this is an adjunct of the state machinery."

Still, Chan says broadcasters in general have been given much more leeway than in the past. When Chan was in Beijing last summer he was surprised to see an investigative segment on television looking at counterfeit wine.

"You have to give them some credit. A few years ago you wouldn't see anyone questioning the status quo, but there is some progress," says Chan.

In Canada, there is more to come. Currently nine channels from CITC dubbed the "Great Wall" package are awaiting approval before the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission. (CRTC)

If those channels are approved, it will be a crowded universe in the Canadian Chinese-language television market moving from two homegrown channels to 14, making it one of the most competitive markets in the world.

But there is no secret why broadcasters such as Phoenix are choosing to do battle here: China has been Canada's Number 1 source of immigrants since 1998, with Hong Kong holding the top position before that.

There are an estimated 1,250,000 ethnic Chinese in Canada with about 510,000 in the Greater Toronto Area, according to advance data from a Diversity in Canada study by the Solutions Research Group.

According to the study, which will be released March 1, 97 per cent of Chinese Canadians 15 years or older watch some kind of television, with more than half watching at least some TV in a Chinese language, either Cantonese — which skews toward Hong Kong viewers, or Mandarin, which appeals to mainland Chinese immigrants.

According to Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group, while the Cantonese-language community is well served, there are still "a limited amount of services" available for Mandarin speakers, which creates an opportunity for Phoenix.

The fertile influx of immigrants has created a huge market, which media companies have rushed to tap.

Canada's Chinese print media has already experienced a vicious newspaper war, with a fourth daily Chinese newspaper appearing in Toronto last November. Even traditional media companies, such as Torstar Corp., the parent company of the Toronto Star, were unable to resist the allure: It most profitably bought Hong Kong-based Sing Tao newspaper's Canadian operations in 1998.

For Liu, the attraction is simple: "Canada is a really important market for us. For one thing, the market is huge. There are more ethnic Chinese here than the entire 41 communities of Europe," he says.

Another bonus, says Liu, is that Canadian Asians are typically professional and what he calls "high quality" thanks to Canada's "ingenious and clever" immigration policies of attracting the best and the brightest — the most sought after audience for advertisers.

The broadcaster with the most to lose is Vancouver's privately held Fairchild Television, which also owns sister company Talentvision. Fairchild broadcasts in Cantonese, while Talentvision broadcasts in Mandarin.

According to the diversity study, the top channels for all Chinese Canadians are Fairchild, followed by CityTV, Omni2 and the CBC. Chinese Canadians are also more likely than average households to have digital cable.

Not surprisingly, Fairchild filed an intervention with the CRTC arguing the market would be "saturated" with Phoenix and the additional channels.

"We just want a level playing field," argues Fairchild president Joe Chan, who says that unlike Phoenix, local companies such as Fairchild must provide at least 33 per cent Canadian content at all times. "They can amortize their costs over many countries so it doesn't cost them anything to come here."

Another issue to consider, says U of T's Chan, is that state-run broadcasters have deep pockets. Unlike the competition, they also don't necessarily have the bottom line as their top priority.

"If the state objective is propaganda, then all their programs are funded and they don't have to recoup their money from advertising, if they consider getting their message out as the main part of their mandate," says Chan.

The road for Liu and other foreign- language channels was paved in a controversial decision by the CRTC last year. The regulator ruled that Italian language RAI International 2 would be allowed as a digital tier channel, as long as it also provided the existing domestic channel Telelatino. Before that ruling, third-language services were rejected if they were considered to be in competition with domestic channels.

Now that the floodgates are open, Canada's domestic channels must contend with the global ambitions of entrepreneurs such as Liu.

After resigning from his radio post, Liu based himself first in Singapore, where he traded in petroleum. He subsequently expanded into real estate and infrastructure projects in China. By the mid 1990s, he had become rich enough to consider taking a run at the media business — but as an owner.

During its early years, Phoenix had only one channel. But it has now expanded to five. The company went public in 2000.

And despite Liu's connections, the company has had a bumpy ride, achieving profitability only in the last two years. The company's market capitalization of $5.68 billion Hong Kong means it is worth about $845 million Canadian. In addition to his privately held wealth of real estate and other assets, Liu owns a substantial 37.6 per cent of Phoenix shares, or $318 million. The other significant shareholder is media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Liu's Phoenix station has been available on the Rogers network for just over a month at $19.95, but he claims more than 3,000 subscribers have already signed on. Rogers has been a champion of Liu's channel, as well as the Great Wall package being considered by the CRTC. In an earlier interview with the Star, David Purdy, head of Roger's television division, said the cable operator was simply giving consumers more choice.

Liu's company is already in talks with other cable and satellite companies and expects to make an announcement soon that their programming will be available across Canada.

While Phoenix currently only has one freelancer based in Toronto, Liu says he will likely install a full-fledged bureau. Liu talks about the first time he saw Toronto as a reporter. He brought his camera. He liked the friendly people. During the interview, a staff photographer continuously clicks away while a television reporter and camera operator dutifully rolls tape. It is a noteworthy moment. The Phoenix has risen, and Canada's television landscape will never be the same.

My response to the editor:

Phoenix TV: Another Chinese Spy Network

While flamboyant Liu wines and dines our officials to get his mega dollar market rolling, there are other pressing issues at hand that we must not overlook. Last year, four Phoenix TV employees were charged with stealing military secrets in the US. It is clear that Liu’s background as boss of the military affairs section has all to do with this Chinese Intelligence unit! Liu who prides himself of offering objective service through Phoenix TV, is simply trying very hard to make it look like China is being the ‘nice guy’. It is an open secret that this state controlled TV is a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party but it’s much more than that—it is yet another Chinese espionage network operating in our own backyard! So we get two in one—great glossy package Liu! Please let’s not be so naïve. It’s time for Rogers to allow homegrown New Tang Dynasty TV on the Canadian airwaves for true balanced reporting.

Four arrests linked to Chinese spy ring

CI Centre: See Related Articles towards the end

Epoch Times: Coming to Canada: China Spy TV?

Making Waves, Carefully, on the Air in China; Head of Private TV Network Curries Party's Favor While Testing Limits

Friday, February 17, 2006

Global Relay Hunger Strike for China's Human Rights

Gao Zhisheng, the lawyer “who defies the Communist Party”

Italy (AsiaNews) 17 Feb. 2006 - Five human rights activists have disappeared of late. Together with Gao Zhisheng, they are fighting to “restore human rights in China”. AsiaNews introduces the man who makes Communist government leaders tremble with his open letters, his criticism of political and religious repression and his legal work in defence of the persecuted. His group has launched a hunger strike which has drawn many participants and enjoys widespread media coverage.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Five human rights activists have disappeared recently.

For days now, the telephones of Hu Jia, Qi Zhiyong, Ma Wendu, Ma Ouyang and Wen Haibo have been switched off and their homes are controlled by plain-clothes officers. Some sympathizers claim they have been arrested by police.

The five activists were taking part in a hunger strike launched by the lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, for “the restoration of human rights in China”. Their arrest confirms how Gao and this group – described by many as the “future class of China’s democratic leadership” – provoke fear among China’s leaders.

Gao is famous for his legal battles and his dossiers denouncing persecution suffered by Christians in Xinjiang as well as the repression of thousands of people belonging to the Falun Gong movement. For years, he has fought against the violence of the Chinese Communist Party through legal means. In recent months, police persecution forced him to flee Beijing. The hunger strike he launched, which has attracted hundreds of participants from around the world, is Gao’s “last attempt” to draw the government’s attention to the injustices suffered by the population of China.

Despite Beijing’s censorship and violence leveled against Gao and his group, their work is very well known in China and abroad.

Gao, future “president of a Communism-free China”

Gao Zhisheng, Christian, lawyer and human rights activist, became famous across China for his criticism of the Communist Party, the open letters in which he invites government leaders to change the way in which they rule and for his unyielding fight to defend persecuted Chinese, especially Falun Gong members and unofficial Christians.

On 18 October 2005, he sent an open letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, calling on them to “rebuild China on the foundation of democracy, law and respect for the constitution”. Politicians, journalists and common people have started to describe him as “the first President of a China free from Communism”.

His campaigns for human rights and freedom of worship have put Gao’s own tranquility and career on the line. As recently as 2001, the Chinese Justice Ministry had named him as one of the “Ten outstanding lawyers in China”. Today, Bejing’s Bureau of Justice has shut down his office and threatens to deprive him of his professional qualification. However, his fame and legal ability make it difficult for the government to stop his activities, which are attracting ever more followers.

Defending Christians and the Falun Gong

Hailing from the highlands of northern Shaanxi province, Gao got a middle-school diploma and he later served in the military. To survive, he started to sell vegetables on the streets of the northern province of Xinjiang. One day, he noticed an advert in a newspaper: “Self-study course in law is your shortcut into the legal profession.” He decided to try and after years of studying, he became a lawyer in 1995.

In the legal community, Gao is known for the free service he provides to defenceless people. “I was born poor and I know how poor people feel. So I know what I should do.” In the first two years of his legal profession, which he practiced in Xinjiang, Gao compiled a lengthy dossier about the persecution of unofficial Christians: Protestants arrested and accused of terrorism, elderly believers tortured in prison, and so on. Moved by their testimonies, Gao embraced the Christian faith.

In 2001, he moved to Beijing and started to work on a series of prominent penal cases, including that of the lawyer Zhu Jiuhu, who is fighting the illegal expropriation of hundreds of private oil fields in Xinjiang. At the same time, he presses ahead in presenting petitions on behalf of those who are persecuted, and defends them in court. He often goes to Shandong, where he compiled a long dossier on persecution suffered by members of the Falun Gong, the religious movement subjected to a ruthless vilification campaign. Gao gathered testimonies of torture and killings of members of the Falun Gong, perpetrated during their detention or imprisonment. Among others, Gao cites the experience of a woman who was first tortured and then left to die before her relatives’ eyes.

The Falun Gong dossier was the subject of the first open letter sent to Hu Jintao on 18 October 2005. But publicly denouncing the matter put Gao in a bad light with the authorities. On 26 October 2005, Tsai Lei, vice-director of the Department of Lawyers of Beijing’s Judicial Bureau, called the lawyer for a meeting and told him: “In the first place, the open letter which exposes and denounces the persecution of the Falun Gong damages the image of all Chinese lawyers and in the second, it goes against professional morality and the nature of the lawyer. If you intend to cooperate with us, you must reconsider the open letter. If you do not do so, I will be forced to make other arrangements”.

Assassination attempt

On the morning of 3 November, members of the Department of Lawyers went to Gao’s office “for an inquiry” and during the “visit”, they told Gao they were shutting down his office because “he failed to complete the appropriate procedures for a change of address after moving the law firm and he illegally offered legal papers to lawyers who do not form part of his office”. The note about the closure of his office read: “If Gao does not correct these violations, his qualification to practice the legal profession will be cancelled”.

Gao described the accusations as “simply a frame-up” because his employees had sought to notify the Judicial Bureau about the change of address several times, but the authorities would never accept the request which later became “proof of a crime”.

On the afternoon of 18 January last, a car with a covered number plate, driven by a man wearing a balaclava, suddenly and swiftly rammed the pavement of a Beijing street where the lawyer was walking: Gao saw the car and escaped death by throwing himself into an alley.

After the attempt against his life, Gao launched “an international hunger strike for the restoration of human rights in China” and called on “all those who have democracy at heart” to participate. Participation is widespread and the hunger strike is still going strong: to stop it, police have no alternative but to spirit strikers away.

Related Articles:
Epoch Times: Call for Relay Hunger Strike

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Rally to Support 8 Million Resignations from the CCP

Photo: Guo Guoting was guest speaker at a recent rally in Victoria, BC

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Rally to Celebrate 8 Million Official Resignations from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and to Support the Global Relay Hunger Strike for China’s Human Rights

  • WHEN: Sunday, February 19th, 2006 at 1:30pm
  • WHERE: Vancouver Art Gallery at Robson Square

A wave of resignations from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was triggered by the release of an editorial series called the "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party” a year ago. For the first time, the Chinese people have access to an uncensored history of the CCP and an opportunity to re-think their fate and China’s future. They can now look squarely into the history of CCP, and at the deaths of 80 million Chinese Nationals since the Party gained power in 1949. Its use of brutal repression is well known today.

The speed at which the resignations have occurred across all levels of society indicate that this phenomenon represents a profound awakening for the Chinese people. Therefore many observers have suggested that the last fortress of Communism is quietly collapsing. We believe this moment will be compared in history to the time just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The pictorial display will show the various campaigns of genocide headed by the CCP over the last half century up to the present-day persecution of Falun Gong.

In the wave of ‘quitting the CCPmovement, Mr. Gao Zhisheng, famous human rights lawyer also know as the Martin Luther King of China, launched a relay hunger strike in Mainland China on February 7 which has quickly spread overseas. Guo Guoting, a Shanghai rights lawyer now residing on Vancouver Island and guest speaker, will be starting a hunger strike on the 19th to protest the persecution and crimes of terror committed by the CCP. Support from local Dajiyan/Epoch Times employees and volunteers is also extended to Dr. Li Yuan, Technical Specialist for Dajiyuan/Epoch Times, who was brutally assaulted and robbed last week in his Atlanta home presumably by CCP Agents. If China is to progress towards a bright future these acts of terrorism must be stopped--everyone who is concerned about Communist China is warmly welcome to join in the rally.


“It is easier to alter rivers and mountains than to change one's nature.” In comparison with China’s 5000-year history, the 55 years of the CCP’s rule are but the blink of an eye.

History has proven that every time the CCP loosens its bondage and chains, it does so without intending to abandon them. After the Great Famine of the early 1960s, the CCP adopted the “Three-Freedom and One-Contract” (San Zi Yi Bao) program aimed at restoring agricultural production, but without the intent to change the “slave” status of Chinese peasants.

The “economic reform” and “liberalization” in the 1980s had no constraint on the CCP’s raising a butcher’s knife to its own people in 1989. In the future, the CCP will continue to alter its façade but will not change its iniquitous nature.

Some people may think that the past belongs to the past, the situation has changed, and the CCP now is not the CCP of an earlier era. Some may be satisfied with false appearances and even mistakenly believe that the CCP has improved, is in the process of reforming, or intends to make amends. They may constantly push away troublesome memories of the past. All these can only give the CCP’s band of villains the opportunity to continue to survive and threaten humankind.

All the efforts by the CCP are designed to make people forget the past. All of the people’s struggles are a reminder of the injustices they have suffered at the hands of the CCP.

In fact, the history of the CCP is one that has severed people’s memories, a history in which children do not know the true experiences of their parents, a history in which hundreds of millions of citizens endure the enormous conflict between despising the CCP’s bloody past and holding out hope for the CCP’s future.

When the evil specter of communism fell upon the human world, the Communist Party unleashed the scum of society and utilized the rebellion of hoodlums to seize and establish political power. What it has done, by means of carnage and tyranny, is to establish and maintain despotism in the form of a “Party Possession.” By using the so-called ideology of “struggle” that opposes nature, heaven’s laws, human nature, and the universe, it destroys human conscience and benevolence, and further destroys traditional civilization and morality. It has used bloody slaughters and forced brainwashing to establish an evil communist cult, creating a nation of warped minds in order to rule the country.

Throughout the history of the CCP, there have been violent periods when the red terror reached its peak, and awkward periods when the CCP narrowly escaped its demise. Each time, the CCP resorted to the full use of its cunning means to extricate itself from crises, but only to head for the next round of violence, continuing to deceive the Chinese people.

When people recognize the CCP’s villainous nature and resist being deceived by its false images, the end will arrive for the CCP and its unscrupulous nature.

Web giants on defensive over Chinese Holocaust remarks

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By Stephanie Kirchgaessnerin

I'm sure the 'Web Giants' are really scared now...

WASHINGTON ( 16 Feb. 2006 - The giants of the internet industry were put on the defensive yesterday when US lawmakers compared their compliance to Chinese censorship laws with the use of IBM's technology in the organisation of the Holocaust.

Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco later responded to stinging criticism of their business practices - including accusations that they have "enthusiastically volunteered for China's censorship brigade" - saying the issue was too big for the companies to tackle on their own and that the US government needed to take a leadership role.

The international relations sub-committee hearing on Capitol Hill was not the first time corporate executives had been taken to task by lawmakers for their business practices. But the presence at the hearing of Google and Yahoo, which pride themselves on facilitating the exchange of information around the world, and who have never before come under such harsh scrutiny, underscores that congressional pressure is building on the groups to take action to address concerns such as China's human rights record.

Google yesterday admitted that its decision to enter the Chinese market and censor the results of its website was "reasonable, though we cannot be sure it will ultimately be proven to be the best one".

"If we determine that we are unable to achieve the objectives [we have set out], we will not hesitate to reconsider our approach to China," said Elliot Schrage, vice-president of global affairs at Google.

Mr Schrage and other executives were at times left speechless under the relentless questioning of California congressman Tom Lantos, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who asked each of the companies whether they felt "ashamed" and whether they would agree to discriminate against women if asked to by a repressive regime.

"Your abhorrent activities in China are a disgrace. I simply do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night," Mr Lantos said.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican legislator, emphasised the Chinese government's persecution of minorities in China, and introduced Peter Yuan Li, a Chinese-born American who was beaten in his home in Georgia this month. Mr Li has accused Chinese agents of being behind the attack because of the work he has done as a software engineer trying to get controversial websites through Chinese firewalls. In a Financial Times interview, the Falun Gong practitioner described being subjected to a ferocious beating at his home by Chinese and Korean speaking men who stole two laptops and his home telephone.

Related Article:

Epoch Times: U.S. Internet Companies Hammered by Lawmakers