The protests that led to the Egyptian revolution last year were organized in part by Wael Ghonim, who used an anonymous Facebook page to coordinate the demonstrations. In his new book, Ghonim explains how social media helped transform his country.
Reports about Apple's behavior in China, conducted by way of its Taiwanese intermediaries at Foxconn, have been coming out for a number of years now. But perhaps none were as damning as the monster New York Times article that was just published. A few key allegations should be highlighted.
1) While Apple has been tediously slow to enforce its own worker guidelines at Foxconn, the leading supplier for iPad and iPhone assembly, lives have been needlessly lost.
"Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning."
2) While workers have been toiling at 72-hour work weeks, sometimes at less than Chinese minimum wage, Apple has posted record profits.
"Tuesday, Apple reported one of the most lucrative quarters of any corporation in history, with $13.06 billion in profits on $46.3 billion in sales."
3) Apple's complicity in Foxconn's abuse of its workers has not been incidental.
"We’ve known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they’re still going on,' said one former Apple executive who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. 'Why? Because the system works for us. Suppliers would change everything tomorrow if Apple told them they didn’t have another choice... If half of iPhones were malfunctioning, do you think Apple would let it go on for four years?'"
4) Steve Jobs sought to mislead the public about the actual conditions at Foxconn (well-documented by Apple, which has regular audits) telling attendees at a conference, "I mean, you go to this place, and, it’s a factory, but, my gosh, I mean, they’ve got restaurants and movie theaters and hospitals and swimming pools, and I mean, for a factory, it’s a pretty nice factory."
Currently, all prefectures of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), including Lhasa, are closed to all foreign travelers. Permits stopped being issued last week and the reports from Lhasa indicate that permits will not start being issued again until at least July 25 of this year. Of course, officially Tibet is "open" according to most Chinese consulates, embassies and even the Tibet Tourism Bureau, but in reality it is closed with no permits being issued. If you are looking for any official news of this, you probably won't find it. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation of Tibet" and celebrations are scheduled to take place through the TAR. Foreigners are not being allowed to the region in case there are protests (or worse) during the anniversary celebrations. If you have booked a tour to Tibet between now and late July, I strongly suggest contacting your agency for a refund or moving your tour to later this summer or fall when the area reopens.
- Losang, Life on the Tibetan Plateau blog
Losang also reports that many areas of Tibetan Sichuan in the west and north of the province are currently closed to foreign travelers. It looks like China is planning to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the "peaceful liberation of Tibet" by keeping most Tibetan areas as closed armed camps inaccessible to world travelers.
With an impending European visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Ai’s release served a strategic purpose and came after weeks of intense international pressure. Both Britain and Germany had lobbied vociferously on Ai’s behalf; on the façade of the Tate Modern museum in London, huge letters spelled out “Release Ai Weiwei,” and at the recent art fair in Basel, Switzerland, visitors perused avant-garde artwork, wearing paper masks of his face. “They just had to free him,” says a European ambassador to China, requesting anonymity. Otherwise, “this would have been a trip about Ai Weiwei and nothing else.
The first tightening came when Chinese security forces began to "tidy" the city in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and its thousands of international visitors. Among those tidied away was Hu Jia, an Aids activist who concluded that the authorities' lack of respect for Aids patients and orphans was rooted in a disregard of human rights. He was imprisoned for fear he might embarrass the authorities during the Games.
It was pretty minor stuff. Among others arrested were people protesting at being forced from their homes for Games redevelopment. Two elderly women were given "re-education" sentences merely for requesting permission to demonstrate. In the months that followed there was low-level harassment of lawyers who acted for such victims.
But it was with the award of the Nobel prize to Liu Xiaobo last October that things moved up a gear. Beijing reacted angrily, blocking all foreign news broadcasts into China.
I was relieved to read of Ai Weiwei's provisional release today. The dissident artist has spent three months in confinement for unspecified charges from Chinese authorities. Will post more about AWW later today.
I'm at Art HK, Asia's leading art fair, and the one-finger salute is from the 2007 sculpture "Marble Arm" by outspoken artist-activist Ai Weiwei. As we all should know by now, Ai was detained by Beijing authorities almost two months ago in an ongoing campaign against Chinese activists. Ai has since been accused of tax evasion.
"Marble Arm" is linked to a series of provocative snapshots featuring Ai raising his middle finger to various symbols of power from the White House to Tiananmen Square. On reserve, it has a prospective buyer who is willing to pay $280,000 for the work.
And today, that marble middle finger is greeting prospective buyers and curious visitors at Art HK's Galerie Urs Meile exhibition space.
But it is a lonely protest. Among the 260 galleries at the international art fair, "Marble Arm" is the only work by Ai on display.
There are a few "Where is Ai Weiwei?" freebie pins and t-shirts available from Galerie Urs Meile and two other dealers at the fair. But for the most part, at Asian's largest art fair, China's most well-known artist is noticeably missing.
Ai Weiwei may be languishing in Chinese detention, but the influence of the prominent artist and social activist has permeated Hong Kong's burgeoning art scene, from glitzy art fairs to edgy street art.
The cavernous halls of the ART HK International art fair straddling the iconic harbour are filled with a blitz of works, from the nature-inspired art of Iceland's Olafur Eliasson to male nude photographs by Zhang Huan.
But tucked inside one of nearly 300 galleries cramming the stark white spaces, a single marble sculpture of a life-sized arm and hand giving an unseen person the middle finger has gained widespread attention for its particular poignancy...
While China's artists have largely been silenced over the plight of Ai, who was detained by authorities in April for evading a "huge amount" of taxes amid a clampdown on dissent, a tenacious and angry band of young artists in Hong Kong have emerged as a major force rallying to Ai's cause.
This video tells you all you need to know about the current state of press freedom in the People's Republic of China. While it's often noted that this kind of intimidation is done on a local or provincial rather than national level, I don't buy it- it's far too easy for central authorities to issue directives but passively allow local intimidation to continue unabated.
After being tailed by secret agents during an assignment for ABC TV's Foreign Correspondent program, reporter Stephen McDonell decides to confront his shadows. They're not happy. Foreign Correspondent's investigation of China's underground Christian boom is called 'True Believers' and airs in Australia on Tuesday May 17 at 8PM. It will be available internationally on our website soon after - www.abc.net.au/foreign.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC) performing a Bob Dylan cover of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" acoustic at the Abolition Concert for the Global Forum on Human Trafficking in Carlsbad, CA on 10/08/09.