(en) ASIA CONNEXIONS -- Jan/Feb (2/2)

Thu, 6 Mar 1997 11:16:14 GMT

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=09=09=09ASIA CONNEXIONS ... critical news and analysis about the Asia-Pacific ... =09 January/February 1997 =09=09=09 Message 2 of 2

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ CONTENTS:

[Message 1]

FOCUS ON KOREA: -- Labour erupts in South Korea=20 -- Poisoned Legacy: The Yonsei Student Uprising

[Message 2]

CANADA: -- "Canada fuels oppression," say flag burners

HUMAN RIGHTS PROFILE: -- China and Tibet

DISPATCHES FROM THE PHILIPPINES: -- Polluting the Philippines: Placer Dome and the tragedy of Calancan Bay -- Team Canada in Manila: "Canadian capitalists' hunting expedition"

NEWS SHORTS: -- Tibet, Indonesia, Vietnam, China, East Timor



In late November, as Jean Chr=8Etien was in Shanghai to shake the hand of Chinese Premier Li Peng (aka "The Butcher of Beijing") and finalize the sale of two CANDU nuclear reactors for $4 billion to China, a group of over 20 people attempted to burn the Canadian flag in protest at the University of British Columbia. The flag burning was held at the Goddess of Democracy statue which commemorates the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.=20

The flag burning was stopped as enraged onlookers, yelling profanities, grabbed the Maple Leaf. They screamed, "I'm proud to be Canadian ... I love my country ... We love the flag!" Other onlookers had jeered, "Burn your own flag!" and "Go back to your own country!"=20

Yang Chang, a UBC student, defended the attempted flag burning. "Canadians are involved, even if they don't know the extent of the government's betrayal of human rights," he said. "That's why we're burning the flag, as a wake-up call to all Canadians."

Another UBC student, David Jago, added, "The Canadian government has surrendered to the demands of big business. In doing so, the government willingly ignores the desperate need of Asian people to have their basic human rights recognized."

The CANDU deal, the largest since Beijing and Ottawa resumed diplomatic relations in 1972, has been severely criticized by both human rights and environmental activists nationally and internationally. A legal challenge has already been launched by the Sierra Club.

Protesters pointed to the sentencing of Tiananmen dissident Wang Dan to 11 years in prison and the recent VIP visit of Chinese generals to Canada at the invitation of the Department of Defence as further justification for the flag burning. [end]

[NOTE: Members of the Asia Connexions collective actively participated in the attempted flag burning.]

* * *


[According to the New Internationalist (No. 275, January 1996), China, along with Indonesia and Burma, rates among the =D2World=D5s Ten Worst Dictatorships.=D3 Other countries include Nigeria, Sudan, Zaire, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The following human rights profile of China is based on reports from Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch/Asia and the New Internationalist (NI).]

China, including Tibet which was invaded in 1949, has =D2tens of thousands of political prisoners.=D3 Torture is common in detention centers and prisons resulting in many deaths each year. Routine torture methods include beatings, electric shocks, shackles, sleep deprivation and exposure to extremes of cold and heat.

China=D5s compulsory birth control policy has resulted in what AI calls =D2coercion and ill-treatment.=D3 Forced abortions and sterilizations are common.

More than 2200 prisoners were executed in 1995; the 1994 figure was 1791.= =20 The actual numbers are probably much higher as the official number of executions is a =D2state secret.=D3 China has executed more people than the known figures for the rest of the world put together. According to AI, =D2the death penalty is widely used to instill fear into the population.=D3

Among the crimes punishable by death in China are robbery, theft, habitual theft, prostitution, publishing pornography, "hooliganism," destroying or causing damage to public or private property, drug- trafficking, tax evasion and disrupting public order.

The Chinese government permits no opposition and demonstrators are detained without trial. New 1994 laws have clamped down harder on freedom of expression and association. The recent sentencing Wang Dan and Guo Haifeng marks the final clampdown on Tiananmen Square dissidents who are all either dead, jailed, forcibly exiled or in hiding.

Despite what have been described as =D2human rights violations on a massive scale,=D3 NI has concluded that =D2[t]he West has swallowed its objections rather than forgo the delights of trade with the world=D5s second largest economy.=D3 [end]

[Next Issue: Human Rights Profile of Burma]

* * *

PLACER DOME IN THE PHILIPPINES: The unknown tragedy of Calancan Bay by Catherine Coumans=20

On March 24, 1996 a tunnel from a containment pit at the Marcopper copper mine collapsed and some 4 million tonnes of tailings completely filled the 26 kilometer Boac river and flowed into coastal areas on the island of Marinduque, Philippines.=20

Marcopper was managed out of Vancouver by Placer Dome Inc which owns 39.9% of the mine. The spill -- one of the worst in Filipino history -- has been widely reported internationally.=20

A UN report cited negligence on the part of the mine's management as a contributing cause and three Marcopper officials, two of them Placer Dome employees, were charged in the Philippines with criminal offenses. Those charges are now likely to be dropped following an indefinite postponement of hearings in the case on November 15. Indeed, Placer Dome has been "welcomed" by President Fidel Ramos to "continue its involvement in the Philippine mineral industry."=20

The President seems satisfied with Placer's response to the Boac spill which includes plans to set up a sustainable development fund by way of compensation for damages to Boac residents. Placer Dome is currently negotiating an end to its involvement in the Marcopper mine on Marinduque island and wants to leave the island to pursue lucrative mining projects in other parts of the Philippines. The company, however, refuses to accept responsibility for an even worse, but little known, environmental and social disaster.=20

The tragedy of Calancan Bay

From=201975-91, another open pit copper mine, also managed and co- owned by Placer Dome, dumped its mine tailings directly into the shallow waters of Calancan Bay, Santa Cruz, Marinduque. By 1991 a causeway of exposed tailings extended 4.7 kilometres out into Calancan Bay and 71 square kilometres of the coral rich bottom of the bay was covered with tailings.= =20

Placer Dome never sought nor received the consent of Calancan Bay villagers who relied on this bay for food and income and who were clearly going to be negatively affected. These villagers protested vigorously for the entire 16 years that tailings spewed into the bay.=20

Placer Dome was repeatedly advised by experts, and directed by government environmental authorities, to construct a submerged disposal system that would place the tailings deeper out to sea where corals and seagrasses would be less affected, and reduce the potential for acid mine drainage. Placer Dome did not implement this system and initiated attempts to rehabilitate Calancan Bay only when legislated to do so in 1988.=20

Twice, employees of Place Dome, Garth Jones (in 1981) and John Dodge (in 1988) interfered with the civil rights of Calancan Bay villagers. The villagers sought and initially received protection from government environmental agencies that ordered Marcopper to end dumping into the bay. Both orders were eventually overturned by the Office of President -- which prior to 1986 was Ferdinand Marcos -- after direct appeals from Jones and Dodge.=20

Placer Dome officials have repeatedly insisted they will not reconsider the question of the company's responsibility to provide compensation to Calancan Bay residents for 16 years of lost livelihood and the ongoing consequences of environmental destruction of their home.=20

Placer Dome now suggests Calancan Bay residents seek assistance under the sustainable development fund that may be set up in the wake of the Boac spill. The proposal shifts responsibility from Placer Dome to whomever will manage the fund locally and forces villagers to compete for consideration with others who will apply to the fund. [end]

[An upcoming issue of Asia Connexions will include an in-depth feature by Catherine Coumans on the Calancan Bay tragedy and the role of Placer Dome.]


1) Let C. Henry Brehaut (Senior Vice-President -- Environment) know that Placer Dome must offer Calancan Bay villagers individual and separate compensation for the loss of their livelihood and for the degradation of their bay. Write to him at P.O. Box 43, Suite 3201, 130 Adelaide Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M5H 3P5.=20

2) To show you support the struggle for justice for Calancan Bay villagers, send a copy of your letter to: Monsignor Senen Malapad, Social Action Commission, Sacred Heart Pastoral Center, Diocese of Boac, Boac, Marinduque, Philippines.=20

3) Contact the Calancan Bay Villagers Support Coalition in Canada for more information: 103611.663@compuserve.com

* * *


Jean Chr=8Etien's recent Team Canada trade junket to South Korea, the Philippines and Thailand was marked by several protests in Manila.=20

Prior to his departure for Bangkok, Chr=8Etien was met by over 50 Filipino activists outside his hotel. They were protesting against an incident last March when tailings from a mine in Marinduque province spilled into the Boac river. The mine was partially owned by Vancouver-based Placer Dome.=20

Earlier in his trip, Chr=8Etien had angered Church and opposition leaders b= y suggesting that Philippine President Fidel Ramos should run for a second term which is forbidden by law. Supporters of Ramos are currently trying to change the Filipino Charter to enable a second term.=20

Chr=8Etien was also met by other protesters criticizing his free trade and globalization policies. They shouted "imperialists" and staged a die-in in front the Prime Minister's hotel where he, nine premiers and a host of business leaders were staying.=20

"We are here not only to protest the Canadian capitalists' hunting expedition in the Philippines but also to join Canadian workers against Chr=8Etien's free trade and globalization policies," said labour leader Crispin Beltran at the protest.=20

The protesters were also opposing the free trade policies of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) which the Philippines led last year and Canada is chairing this year.=20

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that a Philippine organization, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), had told Canada's business delegation not to invest in the Philippines. In a statement, the KMU said that Canadian firms were seeking to "exploit Filipino workers and in the process cheat Canadian workers of their jobs and wages." [end]

* * *



Chinese authorities in Tibet have sentenced Ngawang Choephel, 30, to eighteen years in prison for spying. The sentence is one of the most severe to be handed down in Tibet since Ngawang Phulchung and Jampel Changchup, both monks, were jailed for nineteen years in 1989 for a variety of political crimes including advocating a democratic Tibet.

Choephel is a scholar and musician arrested more than a year ago and whose whereabouts were only recently acknowledged by Chinese authorities.=20 Choephel was researching Tibetan folk music and dance on a Fulbright scholarship. The Chinese government asserts that Choephel was a spy sent by the Dalai Lama with the aid of the United States.

Amnesty International accuses China of committing "gross violations of human rights" in Tibet which was invaded in 1949.=20


Political trials have begun in Indonesia as nine pro-democracy activists and a prominent independent trade unionist have been charged with subversion, a crime which carries the penalty of death.

The charges result from the unrest of July 27, 1996 when Jakarta saw the largest anti-government protests in three decades. At least five people were killed and hundreds injured.=20

The riots were sparked by the storming of the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI), one of three officially recognized political parties. The headquarters had been occupied by the supporters of Megawati Sukarnoputri who was ousted as PDI leader in a government-backed meeting she claims was illegal.

Nine defendants are from the unrecognized Democratic People's Party (PRD)= =20 which is a leftist group with a membership of only a few hundred. Party leader Budiman Sudjatmiko, 26, and his colleagues are accused of taking actions that could "distort, undermine or abuse" Indonesia's state ideology known as Pancasila.=20

Muchtar Pakpahan, 43, is the head of an independent labour union and the tenth defendant. In his indictment he is said to have taken actions that "clearly could lead to toppling or destroying of undermining" the government. Pakpahan has disagreed with Indonesia's "integration" of East Timor. He was a guest of the Canadian Labour Congress at its bi-annual convention last May in Vancouver.

All defendants were arrested shortly after the July 27 protests and have been in detention ever since.


Over 600 police officers -- many armed with electric prods and riot shields -- fought a pitched battle with protesters at the Kim No commune, near Ho Chi Minh City's airport in late December.

Vietnamese authorities were acting to "reclaim" farmland in order to begin construction of a luxury golf course. They were met by over 500 protesters who hurled stones and set two bulldozers and another vehicle on fire. Five people were reported injured.=20

Violence also erupted last May at the commune when police began ripping up rice plants from a field appropriated for a golf course. One woman was killed and scores injured.

According to the Hanoi Moi Daily -- the official paper of the Communist Party -- villagers had agreed to vacate their land and were praised for their district's traditional revolutionary fervour.

The luxury golf course is part of a US$177 million joint-venture with South Korea's Daewoo Group which is the biggest single investor in Vietnam.


China's crackdown against young dissidents continues as former Beijing University student Guo Haifeng was sentenced to five years in prison for "hooliganism" in January. The Chinese government claims that Guo helped fellow dissidents to flee abroad.=20

Guo's sentencing comes shortly after the secret trial and conviction of Wang Dan, 27, to 11 years in prison for "conspiring to subvert the government." Wang was a prominent student leader of the Tiananmen Square Movement of 1989.=20


East Timorese independence leader Jos=8E Ramos-Horta, plans to form a "shadow government" in exile according to Lusa, the Portuguese news agency.=20

Horta has said that jailed Timorese resistance leader, Xanana Gusmao, has already designated the names of those to serve in the governement in exile. Gusmao is serving a 20 year jail sentence in Indonesia and was the leader of the East Timorese guerilla army known as Falintil.

Horta, who lives in exile in Australia, has declined to disclose the names of those in the government but will do so later in the year. Last year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with the Bishop of East Timor, Carlos Belo. [end]

---------------------------------------------------------------------------= - =09=09=09 ASIA CONNEXIONS ... social justice ... human rights ... ecology ... labour ... =20 ... women's rights ... self-determination ... indigenous struggles ...

=09=09=09 2344 Spruce Street =09=09 Vancouver, Salish Territory V6H 2P2 =09=09=09 Tel: (604) 251-9914 Fax: (604) 733-1852 E-Mail: jaggi@vcn.bc.ca

ASIA CONNEXIONS aims to provide information, analysis and commentary about the Asia-Pacific and South Asia regions. CONNEXIONS will publicize local and national solidarity actions and bring them to the attention of the wider community. CONNEXIONS will also highlight issues igonored or downplayed by the corporate media such as human rights, ecology, class conflict, women's rights, labour rights, indigenous rights and democracy and self-determination struggles. CONNEXIONS will also publish stories about Canadians with roots in Asia. ASIA CONNEXIONS is independent and not directly affiliated with any party or organization.=20

People Working on this issue:=20 Brian James, D'Arcy Pocklington, Jaggi Singh

=09 Contributors: Elaine Briere, Catherine Coumans, Harold Lavender, Elsa Pang, David Webster

Thanks to Donna Clark, Audrey Maclellan, the Langara Students' Union, Lew MacDonald and the entire Latin America Connexions collective for their continued support and encouragement.=20 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------= -


A-Infos disclaims responsibility for the information in this message.

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