Saturday, 30 June 2007

As the reconstruction of my blogsite continues some will have noticed a couple of new buttons recently. The first relates to Amnesty International's "Irrepressible" campaign which has a very interesting narrative:

"Be irrepressible
Chat rooms monitored. Blogs deleted. Websites blocked. Search engines restricted. People imprisoned for simply posting and sharing information.

The Internet is a new frontier in the struggle for human rights. Governments – with the help of some of the biggest IT companies in the world – are cracking down on freedom of expression …".

Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. It is one of the most precious of all rights. We should fight to protect it.

Sign up to this campaign if you haven't done so already.

I've also put a button on my site supporting the Tiananmen Mothers who have been campaigning, in the face of harassment from the Chinese Government's security apparatus, for a full enquiry into the events surrounding the Tiananmen Massacre on 3rd-4th June 1989 and punishment of those who gave the orders for troops to move in and kill protesters. If there were any morality remaining in the Chinese Communist Party then Li Peng and a number of others responsible for this incident would currently be serving prison sentences. Please support the Mothers in their struggle for justice for their loved ones and for the right to publicly grieve their loss.

Help Free Zmitser Dashkevich, Prisoner of Conscience in Belarus

Amnesty International have appealed for help in securing the release of Zmitser Dashkevich, aged 25, a leader of opposition youth movement "Young Front". He is serving an 18 month prison sentence "for organising and participating in an activity of an unregistered non-governmental organisation”.

"Amnesty International considers Zmitser Dashkevich to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, and is calling for his immediate and unconditional release".

There is further information and how you can help here .

Amnesty is asking that messages of support and cards be sent for Zmitser's 26th Birthday which will take place on the 20th July.

As has been highlighted by Jonathan Fryer, human rights abuses continue in Belarus and opposition politicians are frequently denied the right to dissent.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

R.I.P. Lennard Woods

Some very tragic news this evening. My friend Lennard Woods, Chair of the Bromley and Chislehurst Liberal Democrats sadly died of his injuries today after being knocked off his bicycle yesterday in Greenwich Park on the way home from work.

Lennard was a true champion of Liberalism having stood for election to Bromley Borough Council several times (the last time with me last year in Plaistow and Sundridge Ward), the earliest in 1982 if my memory is correct. He was a hard working campaigner and a mainstay of the Red Lion Tendency.

He was incredibly kind to Qun, Anna and myself when we moved to Bromley and helped Qun to settle in by kindly lending her Chinese language books from the library where he worked.

He also came down twice to Folkestone and Hythe constituency with other colleagues from Bromley and Chislehurst to help the Shepway Liberal Democrat campaign during this year's local elections.

We had only spoken on Monday and it is hard to take in that he is no longer with us. He will be sorely missed by his friends and my family's thoughts are with his daughters Pippa, Naomi and wife Jane.

Rest in peace Lennard.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Free Chen Guangcheng

Regular readers of my old blog Liberal Legend (Mark 1) will recall that I highlighted the case of blind human rights activist Chen Guangcheng who was jailed for leading protests against forced abortion and sterilisation in Shandong Province, China.

Sadly it appears that, much as expected, Chen has suffered beatings in prison at the hands of fellow prisoners according to a BBC report for daring to try to appeal against his conviction on trumped up charges.

Amnesty International has declared Chen Guangcheng a prisoner of conscience. The Chinese authorities should free him as he is yet another example of corrupt local officialdom abusing the human rights of fellow citizens.

It is long overdue for the Chinese Government to realise that for as long as local officials do not have to face competition for their posts through genuinely open and competitive election by their fellow citizens they will abuse their powers. The time for the Fifth Modernisation is long overdue.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

I don't believe it!!!


Reading my last couple of posts I am getting worried that as my 38th birthday fast approaches I am turning into a bit of a Victor Meldrew.....

And I haven't even started talking about some of the nonsense written about me closer to home....

Then I discover what has happened to my old blogsite! Seems that it's been hijacked by some spammer or other. I DON'T BELIEVE IT!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Guardian Talks Rot

I have to admit to reading the rubbish in the Guardian today with a large amount of disbelief.

It is highly unlikely Ming would have been foolish enough to do a deal with Brown in the light of Labour's pathetic record on civil liberties. Had he done so he would have risked splitting the party.

Many of us who have had the dubious pleasure of dealing with Labour in the North of England know what an appalling lot they are. I could never imagine being in a coalition with illiberal lackies such as Roberta Blackman-Woods whose nausiating desire to climb the ministerial greasy poll has led to her leaving her conscience somewhere in the North Sea.

My stomach has turned at the thought.

Oh Come on Japan!

I have read with disbelief claims by certain right wing Japanese MPs that what happened in 1937 in Nanjing did not violate international law. Even if the numbers killed were to be as low as 20,000 which is hugely unlikely (my view is that the truth is somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 based on eyewitness evidence and evidence on the ground) genocide is still genocide and a crime in international law. Sino-Japanese relations are not helped by these absurd claims and they only serve to stoke up instability in the region.

Prime Minister Abe should act against some of these MPs who are as bad as Holocaust deniers in the West.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

64 - The number the Chinese Communist Party wants everyone to forget

The above is an excellent assessment of the situation in China related to the tragic events of 4th June (6 4) 1989 and the subsequent repression of information about the Tiananmen Incident which continues to the present day in China.

A significant number of young people in China today do not know what happened on that date. It is up to all of those of us who remember those tragic events to continue to bear testimony and assist the education of China's young people.

Help Free Two Chinese Prisoners of Conscience

Amnesty International is currently supporting two prisoners of conscience, Ye Guozhu and Mao Hengfeng.

More information on how you can help the fight for human rights in China here.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Slavery in China - How Could It Happen? Oh Too Easily.

Jonathan Watts, the Guardian's China Correspondent has, amongst others, brought to the attention of the British public one of the most shocking episodes to emerge out of China for several years.

Shocking though this episode is, it would not come as too much of a surprise to experienced China analysts. There is an ancient Chinese saying "Tian gao, huangdi yuan" which translates as "the sky is high and the emperor is far away". In modern parlance this literally means that local authorities can do as they like since the Central authorities are not keeping a close eye on them. For over a decade now the Central Chinese Government has had significant problems keeping an eye on government officials in townships and villages, some of whom have been notorious for running their patches as personal fiefdoms and creating ever more ingenious ways of overtaxing the local population. Some of these officials, due to a lack of democratic accountability and a corrupt relationship with both police officials and local businessmen have found the temptation to take kickbacks, fail to enforce environmental regulations and labour legislation (which are actually pretty poor in China anyway) and turn a blind eye to appalling practices in mines, brick kilns, construction sites and factories just too hard to resist. After all, Deng Xiaoping said "to get rich is glorious". They control the power so why shouldn't they see some of the benefits?

When combined with the general attitudes of city dwellers towards their fellow citizens from the countryside which frankly verges on total contempt ("nongmin"=farmer/peasant is a term of abuse in China amongst city dwellers) and you have the background conditions for what has gone on in Shanxi and Henan.

The Communist Government is now reaping what they have sown. They have tried to have their cake and eat it. They have wanted the economic development that capitalism brings but they have failed to create the institutions which are necessary to underpin it which includes political pluralism. They have set their face against the roadmap to a liberal democracy which was followed in Taiwan. By doing so they are going to unearth even more examples of this sorry episode.

The only tragedy is that the Chinese people will probably be unable to see this episode for what it is. Proof that a one-party state fails to protect the interests of the vulnerable and the poor. China is no longer Communist but the regime, through the kind of society it has created, is showing an increasingly unpleasant resemblance to Pinochet's Chile. The only positive out of this whole sorry episode is that at least the Central authorities allowed the media to show what had happened. The problem is that the glaringly obvious political lesson will not be learned.

China really does need to start liberalising and then move towards a multiparty state where competition for power will reduce the incentives for local government officials and police officers to take bribes and abuse the human rights of their fellow citizens. The Communist Government has to realise that it is incapable of supervising itself. Supervision has to come from the Chinese people themselves.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Liberalism Down the Years

Those who know me well know that I draw a lot of strength and encouragement from the wider Liberal Movement, core Liberal ideals within the Liberal intellectual tradition and from the great Liberal thinkers and doers down the years. There are some really great people in the Party and I've had the pleasure of working with some of them over the past nearly 20 years I've been a member of the Liberals and then Lib Dems. I still believe that.

No, I haven't had a good time of it lately in the Party it has to be said.

Word has recently got back to me that persons unnamed were spreading a rumour around that I had had a nervous breakdown. Well, that was news to me!

Frankly I wouldn't give my enemies the satisfaction of taking them or what they have tried to do to me that seriously. Life is too short and is for living. I certainly wouldn't indulge myself in that kind of self-destruction.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

The Return of the Liberal Legend Blog

I've decided to revive my blog and frankly, in the light of what I had to put up with from certain elements in the Shepway Liberal Democrats in recent times I am rather sorry that I ever agreed to delete my old one.

A core Liberal value is freedom of speech and it is that freedom I intend to exercise.

If this bothers anyone they have two choices:

  • put up with it; or
  • sue.

Life is simply too short to be forced into silence and there are too many human rights abuses going on in the world, examples of intolerance and appalling goings on for me not to speak out.