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September 29, 2005

Lost in Translation

Hey there everybody. Well, while I'm stuck in visa extension hell, I figured that I'd let those of you with a gift for foreign tongues play around on the site. The translation buttons you see below this entry (courtesy of Altavista Babelfish) have also been added somewhere down on the sidebar for your future translating pleasure. I hope this will allow some of my Chinese friends to understand a bit more of what I write here.

As for my visa situation, it looks like I'll be off to Almaty in Kazakhstan sometime next week. Jakshemesh! I'll be heading up to Urumqi on Sunday night to get started on my Kazakh visa. With any luck I'll be (legally) back in Korla in about two weeks.

P.S. For those of you that might be interested, Hua Shan Middle School's website can be found here. (Hua Shan is where I'm currently teaching 9 to 12-year old kids the English language.) For a version poorly translated into English by Google, you can click here.


posted September 29, 2005 at 06:42 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (34)

September 26, 2005

Visa Trouble

This is indeed a sticky situation.

Unfortunately, because of the fact that my original Chinese visa was only good for 30 days, my total time allowed in this country only adds up to 10 months (30 days plus 3 three-month extensions). Since I've signed on to teach here for 12 months, this conflict obviously presents a problem. Without any clear advice on what I should have done about this problem, I foolishly decided to take matters into my own hands.

Having previously had no problems getting a visa extension even though I was a week overdue, I decided that I would this time wait 6 weeks (until the end of October) after my visa expired to get my new extension. It would mean that I would technically be here in China illegally, but at least my next visa would last until the end of January, when I plan on travelling to the US. Unfortunately, that plan hasn't worked out.

My Chinese boss, Mr. Tao, found out about this situation and immediately took me down to the Public Security Bureau (PSB) office this afternoon so we could get it extended. They refused to extend my visa and threatened Circle English with a ¥10,000 fine! (Supposedly, government officials in Xinjiang are having to run a very tight ship these days as the 50th anniversary of the province approaches.) It doesn't look like my employers will have to pay, but I'm going to have to leave the country (or almost leave) ASAP in search of a new visa. Likely targets include Hong Kong, Islamabad (Pakistan), and Almaty (Kazakhstan).

Does anyone out there have any advice on obtaining Chinese mainland visas in these locations? I'll keep you updated on my status. Wish me luck!


posted September 26, 2005 at 06:25 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (67)

September 21, 2005

China's Legal System

Well, it's not like I wasn't aware of some, err, serious flaws (shall we say) in the Chinese legal system. But an article in today's New York Times tells a damn scary tale. Basically, some poor schmuk who happened to have been seen by some children near the scene of a crime is tortured for days on end by the police until he confesses. He's then sentenced to death. What makes him different from all of the other people that this probably happens to is that he somehow managed to get his conviction overturned... something very, very rare here in China.

Now, it's not like these sorts of things (or at least similarly scary forced confessions) don't happen back in the good ol' US of A, but in China there isn't usually much time - if any at all - between a death sentence and bullet in the head. That, and the fact that China accounts for at least 90% of the executions carried out around the world annually (somewhere between 4,000 and 10,000/year) make the story of Qin Yanhong's exoneration that much more amazing. I've posted the story below since the NYTimes.com starts charging for it's articles after a few days...shhh!

Deep Flaws, and Little Justice, in China's Court System

ANYANG, China - For three days and three nights, the police wrenched Qin Yanhong's arms high above his back, jammed his knees into a sharp metal frame, and kicked his gut whenever he fell asleep. The pain was so intense that he watched sweat pour off his face and form puddles on the floor.

On the fourth day, he broke down. "What color were her pants?" they demanded. "Black," he gasped, and felt a whack on the back of his head. "Red," he cried, and got another punch. "Blue," he ventured. The beating stopped.

This is how Mr. Qin, a 35-year-old steel mill worker in Henan Province in central China, recalled groping in the darkness of a interrogation room to deduce the "correct" details of a rape and murder, end his torture and give the police the confession they required to close a nettlesome case.

On the strength of his coerced confession alone, prosecutors indicted Mr. Qin. A panel of judges then convicted him and sentenced him to death. He is alive today only because of a rare twist of fate that proved his innocence and forced the authorities to let him go, though not before a final push to have him executed anyway.

Justice in China is swift but not sure. Criminal investigations nearly always end in guilty pleas. Prosecutors almost never lose cases brought to trial. But recent disclosures of wrongful convictions like Mr. Qin's have exposed deep flaws in a judicial system that often answers more to political leaders than the law.

"Our public security system is the product of a dictatorship," Mr. Qin wrote his family when he was on death row. "Police use dictatorial measures on anyone who resists them. Ordinary people have no way to defend themselves."

The viability of China's Communist Party depends more than ever on its ability to create a credible legal system. The party needs the law to check corruption, which has eroded its legitimacy. The authorities want people to turn to the courts, rather than take to the streets, to resolve social discontents that have made the country more volatile than at any time since the 1989 democracy movement.

The law, in other words, has become a front line in China's struggle to modernize under one-party rule. Yet Mr. Qin's persecution and similar miscarriages of justice that have come to light this year suggest that China is struggling with a fundamental question of jurisprudence: Do officials serve the law, or do laws serve the officials? Or, to put it another way, is the Communist Party creating rule of law or rule by law?

Twenty-seven years after Deng Xiaoping declared at the outset of China's economic reforms, that "the country must rely on law," the Communist Party realizes that it cannot effectively govern a thriving market-oriented economy unless people trust in law. Hundreds of thousands of new lawyers, stronger courts and a blizzard of Western-inspired codes protect property, enforce contracts and limit police powers.

Disgruntled peasants, displaced urban homeowners and newly wealthy entrepreneurs demand that the authorities respect constitutional rights long treated as notional. Even inside the system, some policemen, prosecutors and judges have tried making the law into a more independent force.

But the transition has been arduous, and the outcome remains uncertain. Beijing draws the line at legal challenges to senior officials or important government agencies. The courts rarely if ever rule in favor of political protesters. Even in business cases, political influence often proves decisive.

Criminal law poses one of the biggest challenges - and most pointed sources of discontent. The police and courts still rely mainly on pretrial confessions and perfunctory court proceedings to resolve criminal cases instead of the Western tradition of analyzing forensic evidence and determining guilt through contentious court trials.

China's criminal laws forbid torture and require judges to weigh evidence beyond a suspect's confession. But lawyers and legal scholars say forced confessions remain endemic in a judicial system that faces pressure to maintain "social stability" at all costs.

The police and government officials in Anyang, the northern Henan county seat where Mr. Qin was interrogated, and authorities in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, declined repeated written requests to discuss his case.

But Mr. Qin, his family members and several people involved in his defense said the case showed how political motives and collusion among police, prosecutors and the courts could make the law a source of terror for people who lack the power or money to defend themselves.

A Suspect Investigation

Just after noon on Aug. 3, 1998, Jia Hairong, a 30-year-old peasant woman, was found murdered on her family's farm in the village of Donggaoping, an hour's drive from Anyang, according to court documents. Her pants had been cut off with a razor blade. She was raped and strangled, her body stashed behind tall cornstalks.

The police found a plastic alarm clock and the razor blade at the scene. They determined that both items were stolen from a nearby home just before the assault.

Court documents do not make clear whether physical evidence - fingerprints, blood, semen, traces of clothing - could have identified the killer. If there were such forensic leads, they were not followed.

Instead, the police relied on the accounts of three children who were playing outdoors in Qinxiaotun, a village about a mile east of Donggaoping, the records show. The children recalled seeing Mr. Qin, who lives in Qinxiaotun, walking from the direction of Donggaoping that afternoon.

Around midnight on Aug. 4, four officers arrived at the steel plant where Mr. Qin worked nights and took him away for questioning.

Mr. Qin is a tall, shy, doe-eyed man who rarely travels farther than a bicycle ride from his dirt-floored village home. When he speaks - friends say he generally speaks only when spoken to - he has a heavy local accent that even Anyang residents have trouble understanding.

The police would not tell him why he was being detained. But through the early morning hours, he was told to detail how he spent Aug. 1 to 3, and especially the afternoon of Aug. 3. He said he had stayed at home that day before going to work at night.

After the police said a witness told them that he walked through the village that afternoon he amended his story, recalling that he visited the family farm, a short distance from home, to fertilize the fields.

"The farmland is close, so it is not like leaving home," Mr. Qin said later. "But they thought they had caught me lying."

He was handcuffed and shackled. He still had no idea what he was suspected of doing. But he overheard some officers and drivers discussing a local murder. He wondered if his detention had some connection.

"I kept asking them what this was all about," Mr. Qin said. "No one would tell me."

A senior detective named Shen Jun took charge of his interrogation, court documents show. Mr. Qin described Mr. Shen's approach as polite, even conciliatory at first. The detective said he was investigating the theft of an alarm clock. He said Mr. Qin's fingerprints matched those found on the clock.

"He said it was a cheap little alarm clock and that there was no reason to lie," Mr. Qin said. "I should just confess. "Then everyone could go home."

Mr. Qin said he hoped his detention really was prompted by a petty theft. But instinct told him not to admit stealing something he did not steal. So the pressure intensified.

Mr. Shen organized four teams of two policemen each. The teams interrogated Mr. Qin in consecutive six-hour shifts, day and night, for three days.

The questioning quickly turned to torture. Mr. Qin said he was made to sit for many hours on the open metal frame of a chair without a back. His feet and arms were strapped to the chair legs and his body slumped through the frame, forcing the backs of his knees and his lower back against the sharp edges. The technique is known as "tiger stool."

Alternately, Mr. Qin's hands were handcuffed behind his back and cinched up until they were above his head and his arms felt as though they would separate from his shoulders. This was referred to as "taking a jet plane."

He described the pain as piercing. But he said he suffered even greater agony from lack of sleep. The police poured frigid water on his head and pounded him awake when he nodded off. They referred to this as "circling the pig." By his third day in detention, he said, he felt delirious.

"It would take a superman to resist," he recalled.

Finally, pressed to specify the color of the stolen alarm clock, he made a guess: "White." An officer whacked his head and asked again, "What color was the clock?" "Red," he offered, but he got another blow. Then he said, "Green." The beating stopped.

Soon thereafter, Mr. Shen told Mr. Qin his theft of the alarm clock proved he had killed Ms. Jia. The police now had all the evidence they needed, he said, but Mr. Qin must cooperate fully to avoid the harshest punishment. That meant he must volunteer every detail of the crime, three times over, and confess a complete narrative.

Still dazed, Mr. Qin hazarded guesses to every question - was she wearing shorts or long pants? did he strangle her with his hands or with a rope? - until he was allowed to sleep.

In the eight months between his arrest and his trial, Mr. Qin wrote a series of anguished letters home, urging his family to disregard the charges.

"Every word of the confession is a joke," he wrote in one letter to his older brother in early 1999. "To this day, I have no idea what the victim looks like, and I certainly didn't know the color of her pants."

Unwavering Conviction

In prison, Mr. Qin tutored himself in criminal law. His letters cited passages that he felt would aid his defense. Article 38 of the Chinese Constitution forbids extracting confessions by torture and "frame-ups." Article 46 of the 1996 revised Criminal Procedure Law declares that "oral confessions" are not sufficient grounds for conviction. Article 12 mandates that suspects must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

His anger convinced his older brother, Qin Yanqing, who became his tireless champion. The elder Mr. Qin petitioned legal officials in Anyang and Zhengzhou to review the case. He exhausted the family savings on travel and lawyer fees.

He even sought out Mr. Shen. But the detective expressed unwavering conviction.

"I stake my 20 years of leadership experience as a guarantee," the elder Mr. Qin quoted Mr. Shen as telling him. "If your brother did not commit this crime, then I will accept punishment."

When the trial opened in April 1999, 50 relatives and villagers went to Anyang to testify on Mr. Qin's behalf. But the three-judge panel ordered the trial closed and excluded them from the courtroom, villagers said.

The prosecution brought no witnesses, and Mr. Qin said the judges prevented him from calling any. Mr. Qin vigorously recanted his confession. His lawyer argued that the prosecution's case, which depended wholly on the confession, was invalid. The trial was over before lunch.

Six months later, a judge visited Mr. Qin in prison and delivered the verdict: Mr. Qin was guilty of rape and murder, and would be executed. Mr. Qin had a right to appeal.

On death row, his cell contained 15 people and one toilet. He said that in his two years there, a dozen cellmates were escorted away in the early morning hours and executed with a bullet to the back of the head.

He was spared that fate not by his appeals, or by new DNA evidence, but by a stroke of luck that might count as a miracle.

One day in January 2001, a retired soldier named Yuan Qiufu walked into a police station in Linzhou, a town not far from Anyang, and told the officer on duty that he had raped, robbed and strangled 18 women. He provided voluminous details of his killing rampage that included an unerring account of the rape and murder of Ms. Jia and the theft of a green alarm clock.

Reversal of Fortune

Even in the world's most populous country, such definitive exonerations are not common. But this year alone about a dozen similar reversals of fortune have come to light, suggesting that legal officials and the state media are paying more attention to problems in the judicial system - and that such problems run deep.

For example, last May, She Xianglin, a 39-year-old former security guard in Hubei Province, was released from jail after serving 11 years when his wife, whom he was convicted of murdering, returned for a visit. In 1994, she had run away and remarried in another province. The police decided that a body they found must be the wife's and that Mr. She must have killed her.

In June, a 30-year-old laborer in Shanxi Province was released from custody after a boy he confessed to killing and dumping into the Yellow River last year came back home. The boy had migrated to a city to find work.

In July, three police officers in Yunnan Province were convicted of torturing a man into saying he killed a prostitute. The man had been scheduled to go to trial for murder in 2002 when someone else admitted committing the crime.

Official statistics show such abuses are numerous. The Supreme People's Procuratorate, China's Justice Department, said in July that 4,645 criminal suspects had suffered human rights violations, including torture during inquisitions, in the previous 12 months.

Top officials are pushing to improve criminal procedures. Some legal scholars say one measure under consideration could give suspects the right to have a lawyer present during interrogations.

But such changes, if they come, will take time. China's Communist Party-run legislature has been urged to consider many new protections, like a right to remain silent. But such proposals have gone nowhere because the police steadfastly oppose them.

The last time the government overhauled criminal law procedures, in 1996, it toughened an existing ban on forced confessions, while declaring that suspects were entitled to a presumption of innocence. The current publicity campaign effectively acknowledges that the 1996 rules did not have the desired effect.

One obstacle is China's long history, in which criminal law was viewed as an extension of the power of the emperor rather than an objective code that applies to everyone. Confession amounted to a submission to authority, while a plea of innocence was viewed as a form of rebellion.

The legal code of the Tang Dynasty, for example, specified that guilt could only be finally assigned through confession, and that cases could not be officially recorded without a confession.

Li Bin, a defense lawyer and former government prosecutor in Yunnan, who was involved in the trial of the three policemen on charges of forcing a confession, said the problem was systemic.

In China's top-down political system, the police, prosecutors and judges respond mostly to incentives from above, Mr. Li said. They pay a much higher price for failing to maintain the appearance of social order than for torturing suspects, he said.

"The judicial system is set up to protect the authority of the government," he said. "It is not set up to protect the rights of suspects."

'No Hard Feelings'

The disclosure that Mr. Yuan, the serial killer, had murdered Ms. Jia set off alarm bells among Anyang officials. But the concern was the possibility that the wrongful arrest, prosecution and conviction of Mr. Qin could damage careers, Mr. Qin's family members and an investigator in the case who is based in Beijing said.

The officials' response was to suppress the new information - and keep Mr. Qin on death row.

The investigator talked to the local officials involved, but asked to remain anonymous because of restrictions on speaking with reporters. He said that the authorities in Linzhou, who were handing the case of Mr. Yuan, and those in Anyang, responsible for Mr. Qin's incarceration, agreed between themselves to keep the crucial part of Mr. Yuan's confession secret. Mr. Yuan would be prosecuted for 17 murders instead of 18, leaving Mr. Qin's conviction intact.

"Their attitude was that if my brother was released, 20 officials would suffer," said Qin Yanqing, Mr. Qin's elder brother. "But if he was executed, only one person would suffer."

The agreement held for more than a year. It came to light only after an official in Linzhou joked about the matter to a reporter for a national legal affairs publication. Although the reporter did not publish an article on the subject, he did alert authorities in the capital, who ordered an inquiry.

In May 2002, a provincial-level legal investigation determined that Mr. Qin should be released. He was given a suite at a hotel. The Anyang County police organized a banquet.

"When I got back to my room, I cried and cried," he said. "I could not control myself."

A few days after his release, Mr. Qin went to the county police station and demanded to see Mr. Shen. The detective rushed out of a meeting to greet him, shaking his hand and apologizing profusely, Mr. Qin recalled.

"He said my case had been a severe lesson for them all," he said.

But whether they treated it that way is unclear. It took Mr. Qin and his brother several months to negotiate compensation. Local authorities eventually agreed to the equivalent of $35,000 in damages for four years of incarceration on false charges.

But the payment came with strict conditions. Mr. Qin had to agree not to talk about the matter with the news media or to petition higher authorities for more money.

He initially accepted those terms. But he broke the pledge this year, he said, because the authorities had refused to fully exonerate him. Although he has a notice from the police confirming that he was arrested in error, the notice attributes the arrest to a "work mistake." Mr. Qin has never been declared innocent of murder.

"They hope they can just make this disappear with no hard feelings and no problems for anyone involved," he said.

The last time Mr. Qin visited the police to press for a full restitution, he discovered that Mr. Shen had been promoted. He is no longer a detective team leader, but Anyang County's deputy chief of police.


posted September 21, 2005 at 05:11 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (19) | TrackBack

September 13, 2005

State Secrets

China's National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets announced yesterday that the country would no longer regard death toll figures from natural disasters as a state secret. The death tolls resulting from various historical incidents, however, remain off limits. What most surprised me is the fact that China has a National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets! Wouldn't it be easier just to burn all the documents? And you'd think they would hide a department like that in the Ministry of Information, or something. Can I get a job with them? You know I can keep a secret! It makes me wonder what other funky-named government agencies might exist over here.

The Xinhua article and accompanying editorial announcing the loosened restrictions was edited, apparently, by the Ministry of Doublespeak. The meaning of the following statement is unclear:

Keeping secrets is a way to ensure state security, but information publicity is another way to achieve the same end, an official who declined to be named from the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets said.

Or, how about:

Some scholars hold the view that the democratic processes of a country are closely related with its phase of social and economic development and the governance capability of the government.

Huh? You can read the full text of both the article and the editorial below.

Natural disaster toll no longer state secret

BEIJING, Sept. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- China no longer regards the death tolls in natural disasters and related information as state secrets, reversing a practice that has lasted for decades, a government spokesman announced here Monday.

"This is the first time we stand under a spotlight," said Shen Yongshe, spokesman for the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets, "We hope this is a good start."

The decision marks a major step taken by the government toward "administering according to law" and "building a transparent government," said Shen.

He attributed the previous secrecy to "decisions made based on historical background," but declined to elaborate.

Death from natural calamities used to be taboo among government officials. Analysts think that under a planned economy, from early 1950s to late 1970s, the Communist Party of China feared that exposing death figures could tarnish its image, draw blame from the public, or trigger social turmoil.

On July 28, 1976, the country witnessed the devastating Tangshan earthquake in north China's Hebei province. However, the report of a 240,000 death toll was only released three years later.

In 2000, China passed a regulation defining the death toll in natural disasters as a "state secret."

But the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, has driven the government to become more transparent.

"In fact, China has begun to make public the death toll of major natural disasters and annual totals over the past a few years," said Zou Ming, a senior official of the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

"It is beneficial to wake up both the public's and the government's awareness of disaster prevention and relief," he said.

Monday's announcement, which abolished previous stipulations, has drawn a wide range of responses from various social sectors.

"Information publicity actually helps the government to build its trust among people, and its international image as a responsible country," said Fan Hong, a professor with China's prestigious Tsinghua University.

"It is already a shared international practice to release the death tolls in natural calamities to the public, be it 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, or the Hurricane Katrina that slammed the United States," She said.

"As a country with vast territories, China has also been haunted by various natural disasters," said Gao Jianguo, a researcher with China Seismological Bureau, citing that only in this summer, four consecutive strong typhoons have assaulted China's coastal provinces, the most recent, in Khanun, killing at least 14 people and leaving nine others missing by Monday at noon.

"This makes the publication of disaster-related information rather vital, to prompt more efficient disaster-relieving work in the whole society," Gao said.

As the Internet grows more popular, information is harder to be kept secret, said Liu Daoping, a local governor in southwest China's Sichuan Province, a place which frequently suffers from natural disasters.

"The free flow of information poses great pressures to our local officials," Liu said, "Just like criticism from superiors, we have to deal with these things conscientiously."

Chinese people today are getting more chances to peer into the government's secrets, ranging from state documents to personnel changes within the government, and enjoy their rights to be involved in state affairs.

The drafting of the "Regulation of the Publicity of Government Information" is underway. "It will do away with the government's original secrecy principle," member of the drafting committee Xie Shenwu said.

Keeping secrets is a way to ensure state security, but information publicity is another way to achieve the same end, an official who declined to be named from the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets said.

"One thing for sure is that China will have fewer secrets," he added.

China moves ahead with transparency

BEIJING, Sept. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- China announced Monday it has declassified materials relevant to the death toll in natural disasters.

This change and many others before it indicate the government is serious about transparency.

There have been so many similar developments in recent years that people have begun to take them for granted. They include the establishment of a spokesmen system across the country, the reform to make public administrative decisions at the grass-roots level and then gradually upward through higher levels and the availability of road maps to go through administrative approval procedures on government websites.

If the situation now is compared with that ten years ago, it is clear "big changes" have taken place in terms of government transparency. The adjective "stunning" may be applied if the comparison is made between the present and twenty years ago.

These developments have formed an irrevocable trend or growing public participation in government aided by advances in technology.

The government has been increasingly promoting transparency to enhance efficiency and stem corruption.

The people in China, an increasing number of whose daily needs are being met, now exhibit more readiness to care for public affairs.

Modern information technology has greatly facilitated mass communication and reduced the leeway of deciding whether or when certain affairs should be publicized.

After steering China's economic and social development successfully and steadily over the years, it appears the government is now willing and capable of advancing transparency constantly and steadily.

In announcing the policy change Monday, a government official said that kind of information was classified confidential in view of the historical conditions the country faced in the past.

Some scholars hold the view that the democratic processes of a country are closely related with its phase of social and economic development and the governance capability of the government.


posted September 13, 2005 at 05:50 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (19) | TrackBack

September 12, 2005

Fun with GIFs

Who said animated GIFs are useless and annoying!?! Not now. Sure, this page will load a lot slower now, and those of you with dialup connections (do you still exist?) will be sitting around pulling your hair out. But who can deny that the hilarious animated GIFs below are worth any amount of suffering? Enjoy.

I still have a way with the ladies! Not the prettiest face in North Yorkshire, eh?
An unparalleled acrobatic feat! Damn you and your animated GIFs!
A teaching tool for my students. Not another dish of fish-smelling eggplant. Uggh.

P.S. These images are brought to you courtesy of Daniel and his camera with it's awesome animated GIF feature. Hooray!


posted September 12, 2005 at 03:34 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (35) | TrackBack

September 08, 2005

Chinese Criticism

You might be interested in reading an editorial that appeared in today's People's Daily (the Communist Party mouthpiece and top newspaper here in China) criticizing the U.S. government's response to Hurricane Katrina. While the criticism is fairly harsh (the response "disgraced" our country and is "really a shame on the United States"), the spelling mistakes are more entertaining. Did you know that New Orleans has been "plunged into archery"? Some places "even saw expositions"! I know things are pretty f#%&'ed up in New Orleans, but it must be really nuts with all those arrows flying around. Anyway, you can read the article below for yourself.

New Orleans, another facet of American civilization

The disaster brought by Hurricane Katrina is perhaps unprecedented in the American history. Some people associated it with the tsunami happened last yearend in the Indian Ocean and called it "a tsunami of America"; others were reminded of the terror attacks New York suffered four years ago, and called it a "natural disaster version of 9/11".

Doubtlessly, the losses caused by Katrina are huge. But many experts asked whether the tragedy is a pure "natural disaster", since in some places of southern America, especially in New Orleans city, many people took the opportunity to loot.

On the fourth day after the hurricane, reports came out about looting, gunfire, rape and baby stealing. The whole city was plunged into archery, without electricity, drinking water or food, and some places even saw expositions. Rescuers were attacked by a sniper when pulling out patients from a hospital; bodies lay about on the street and gangsters, axe and steel tube in hand, took away all medicines of a hospital.

Facing such a severe situation, President Bush announced in a broadcast speech on September 2 that 7,000 active-duty army men will be sent to affected areas to keep order on top of the 4,000 troops already arrived. America seems fighting a city war at home; New Orleans has become Baghdad.

On the afternoon of September 2, 300 National Guards members from Arkansas arrived at the city, with shoot-to-kill orders.

People have reason to feel disgusting: when Indonesia was hit by tsunami last year, everybody lent a helping hand and nobody looted. But now this happed in the United States, showing people another side of this "civilized country".

In fact, it revealed fragility of the American society, as well as despair and disorder in a state of anarchy. Katrina swept away not only people's homes, but their dignity. Just as German weekly Der Spiegel pointed out, the scene of carnage in hurricane-affected areas, which can only been seen in some backward African countries in the past, disgraced the United States before the entire world.

People also remembered the classical work, "Gone with the Wind", for the hurricane only added to the ugliness instead of sweeping it away.

For the Bush administration, "unexpected" perhaps can be a lame excuse, but it can never explain away the government negligence of duty. As a matter of fact, ever since the "September 11", the Congress had cut anti-flood allocation to Louisiana, which later became a main reason for slow rescue work this time. Some congressmen reveled on September 3 that since taking office in 2001, Bush has been axing funds against natural disasters year after year.

In the face of the hurricane, Americans accepted the challenge but failed to beat it off. This is really a shame on the United States.

By People's Daily Online


posted September 08, 2005 at 05:17 PM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (31) | TrackBack

September 03, 2005

School Starts

Public schools are back in session here in Xinjiang, with the first week already having been completed. I'm no longer teaching at Korla's Railway Middle School, but at the well-funded magnet school/academic behemoth known as Hua Shan. A bit to my surprise, I'm teaching 4th, 5th, and 6th graders this semester. Great kids overall, but it can be tough to simultaneously control sixty 9-year old kids (and to then do it again five times in a row). Sigh.

The good thing about my new teaching assignment is that the school is just across the street from my apartment... literally. It's so close that I can see my apartment from many of the classrooms in which I teach. So close that I can hear the bell between classes while I'm lying in bed. At least I won't lose track of time.

I'm already busy taking new photos to post on the blog.


posted September 03, 2005 at 11:14 AM unofficial Xinjiang time | Comments (32) | TrackBack