Daily Archives: April 18, 2007

A fall in mass protests thanks to the “Violent Big Brother”

Asia News | Apr 17, 2007

Enormous investments have militarized the nation even more, which now has a Big Brother watching their every move. 

The leaders of 13 provinces and municipalities met yesterday in Xi’an to discuss social security and repression mechanisms. Latest data on mass protests was presented, showing a nationwide decrease thanks to new military investments and spying methods.

China’s major provinces have claimed a dramatic fall in crime, protests and mass riots due to “significant government investment in strengthening public security”. For some Chinese observers, this is a euphemism for increased surveillance and militarization, which sacrifices human rights laws in the name of espionage and the use of force. 

At a national public security meeting in the north-western city of Xian , Shaanxi , yesterday, top party officials from 13 provinces and Beijing exchanged know-how on increasing security personnel and upgrading technology to safeguard social stability. 

Top security chief and Politburo member Luo Gan, Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang, president of the Supreme People’s Court Xiao Yang and Procurator-General Jia Chunwang attended the meeting, which was broadcast live on the official website.

The number of “mass incidents” – a euphemism for protests and riots – in Shaanxi dropped by nearly 27 per cent last year, after more than 300,000 were named to head security control centres set up around the province’s vast countryside.  Similar statistics also in Jiangsu, Liaoning and Henan. Dong Lei, the province’s deputy party chief, explains that “Surveillance had also been widely deployed, with 69 per cent of areas above the village level installing remote screen monitoring systems”.

The Communist Party is perennially worried about social unrest – fuelled by corruption, illegal land grabs and a rising gap between the rich and poor.

With a key party congress slated for later this year and the 2008 Olympic Games looming large, the central leadership has apparently geared up its efforts to ensure a stable social environment. The government has conceded greater press freedom to foreign reporters and fears that the population may use this “window of opportunity” in censorship to underscore emergency situations of social crises.  This is why Wang Anshun, the newly appointed Beijing city deputy party chief, vowed at the meeting to make a “huge security investment” to ensure a safe Olympics extravaganza.

And yet some observers note that these results “are not the fruit of political projects which answered the needs of the local population” but rather come from “the enormous investments which have militarized the nation even more”, which now has a Big Brother watching their every move. 

Therefore they conclude, “The central government needs to deal effectively with the root causes of social unrest. If legal mechanisms to protect rights are ignored in favour of spying techniques and brute force, the result will be disharmony, they seek to avoid”.

Shooting puts gun control back on agenda

Gulf Times | Apr 18, 2007

The deadliest school shooting in US history has put gun control firmly back on the agenda, with calls for tighter restrictions on gun ownership to prevent such a tragedy ever happening again.

Two major advocates of gun control said that while full details of Monday’s shooting at a Virginia university were not clear, the tragedy just showed how much of a problem gun violence posed in American society.

Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said that while it was still not clear what motivated South Korean student Cho Seung-Hui to go on the rampage, it was simply too easy to get hold of a gun in the US. The mass shooting came almost eight years to the day after two gunmen ran amok in Columbine High School, killing 13 people, and six months after a lone gunman shot dead five people at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. “Since these killings, we’ve done nothing as a country to end gun violence in our schools and communities,” said Helmke. “If anything, we’ve made it easier to access powerful weapons.”

“It is long overdue for us to take some common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur,” he said.

Ladd Everitt of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said that while it was not known whether Cho legally owned a gun, the shooting highlighted how much of a problem gun violence had become, with a spate of recent shootings. “We still live in a society where gun violence is an overriding concern,” he said. “We’ve had a series of these high profile, very violent shootings that have taken a lot of victims.

“We continue to lose more than 30,000 people every year in this country to gun violence,” he said, calling for the introduction of “sensible” gun laws.

“The illegal gun market in this nation is really fed by a number of loopholes in existing laws that allow criminals and children and other prohibited purchasers persistently and easily to get guns,” he said.

More than 30 states had yet to close loopholes allowing convicted felons to buy weapons at gunfairs, for example, with no background checks, he said.

“It’s loopholes like that really feed the illegal gun market and which we should be targeting.” The National Rifle Association, a leading US pro-gun group that cites the right to bear arms enshrined in the constitution, declined to comment on the shooting but offered its condolences to the families of the victims. Newspapers joined the call for tighter restrictions on gun ownership.

The New York Times called Monday’s carnage “another horrifying reminder that some of the gravest dangers Americans face come from killers at home armed with guns that are frighteningly easy to obtain.”

“It seems a safe bet that in one way or another, this will turn out to be another instance in which an unstable or criminally minded individual had no trouble arming himself,” it said in an editorial.

“Sympathy was not enough at the time of Columbine, and eight years later it is not enough,” it said. “What is needed, urgently, is stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage and such unbearable loss.”

The New York Daily News called for laws to be tightened, deriding one of the pro-gun lobby’s favorite phrases. “Right, sure, guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people. We’ve heard it already,” the paper said in an editorial.

“We do not know if yesterday’s crazed shooter had his guns legally registered to him or not. That’s hardly even the point now.

“This is insanity, and this must stop. We agree, frankly, that if guns are outlawed, as they say, only outlaws will have guns,” it added.

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