Uncensor China

This is a cross-post from the Zumio blog.

Just a quick note to mention that yesterday, Amnesty International Australia’s Uncensor site was launched. This is the project I’ve been involved in, though the work I’m doing isn’t on the site yet.

The site is part of Amnesty’s campaign in the lead up to the Olympics being held in August in China, focusing on internet censorship and repression. I’ve been following the blog for a couple of days now and the writing there is excellent – really informative.

The “Search for Freedom” function (in the right sidebar) shows first hand China’s censorship regime at work, and clearly highlights how Google is participating in the “Golden Shield” system.

You may have heard about the Fuwa, the Chinese Olympics mascot. Well it seems that they left someone out – meet Nu Wa the Uncensor mascot. Nu Wa (who’s name means “outraged, angry young boy”, wants to set the record straight by speaking about the human rights abuses suffered by people in China.

I really dig the site, as does Priscilla. Well worth checking out…

Another action for Tibet

Again, fromAshley:

Another urgent online action for Tibet – this one is to ask the IOC to intervene and ensure that the olympic torch doesn’t go through Tibet (including Lhasa and Mt Everest). The Chinese government are planning these stops on the torch relay to try and legitimise their occupation of Tibet. At this point in time, we have grave concerns that if the torch were to go through parts of Tibet it would only inflame the already tense situation, leading to further protests and likely violent reprisals from the large Chinese military presence now assembled in Tibet.

(More from Ashley, who is an active member of the Australia Tibet Council, on the situation here.)

The email action is here.

And GetUp now have an action targeting our PM:

As Australians, we are in a unique position right now to help stop the cultural genocide taking place in Tibet. That’s because Kevin Rudd is visiting Beijing to meet the Chinese President and Premier – the two men who are able to put an end to this crisis. With the impending Beijing Olympics, where the world’s eyes will focus on China, we have a once in a decade chance to make a real difference.

The GetUp action is here.

Tibet petition

I got this from my friend Ashley (who rarely sends this kind of thing I might add) via email and I think it’s worth supporting/promoting:

I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This is really important, and I thought you might want to take action.

After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. But violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now considering a choice between increasing brutality or dialogue, that could determine the future of Tibet and China.

We can affect this historic choice. China does care about its international reputation. Its economy is totally dependent on “Made in China” exports that we all buy, and it is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power.

President Hu needs to hear that ‘Brand China’ and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to join me and sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama — and tell absolutely everyone you can right away. The petition is organized by Avaaz, and they are urgently aiming to reach 1 million signatures to deliver directly to Chinese officials.

Thank you so much for your help!

China internet censorship and Tibet

I was a bit late to the news about Tibet, finding out only yesterday about what’s been happening. A brief news snippet on JJJ said that the Chinese government says that about 16 “innocent civilians” were killed, but the Tibetan government in exile claims more than 60.

Of course, no-one knows because, in typical fashion, the Chinese government have shut-down media in Lhasa. Internet censorship continues, with YouTube blocked for posting foreign news reports on the riots and Chinese response.

Also on that JJJ news snippet, they stated the Chinese government also claims that it has been exercising “extreme restraint” in its response to protests – if this is extreme restraint, I’d hate to see what they are really capable of.

Rebecca McKinnon has a good post that touches on a variety of issues around internet censorship and engagement. But I just wanted to highlight her first point:

The Chinese system of Internet censorship and media propaganda may have a lot of holes, but when tested by events like the Tibet unrest this past week, so far it’s holding up well enough for the regime’s purpose.

I’m privileged to be working on a project at the moment for Amnesty International Australia that highlights the issue of Chinese internet censorship and its effect on human rights. Hopefully this action will help bring about change so that Chinese netizens can get an unfiltered view of their Government’s actions (more on that later).

She points to the Davesgonechina blog, highlighting the following point (among others):

Watching the build up to the Olympics has been, for me, like watching the world’s biggest, slowest traffic accident. For a while now its been pretty obvious that alot of contentious issues about China were going to come to the front as we approach August 8th, but the problem is that there are two completely separate parallel worlds on these issues: the Chinese one, and the rest of us. Westerners have been exposed to rhetoric and information about Tibetan discontent, Darfur’s international and Chinese dimensions, and of course old chestnuts like Tiananmen provide a larger context of long term, ongoing problems. Meanwhile, Chinese mainlanders by and large have no knowledge of these events or issues. While for the rest of the world the Olympics will be largely a referendum on China’s ability to deal with what everyone else has talked about for years, for Chinese citizens it will be about China winning a beauty pageant of sorts.

Two Worlds, Two Dreams: prepare for the SchizOlympics.

It’s an interesting take on the situation – one that is likely to get more heated as the Games draw near.

Is it all unethical?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “ethical” in relation to my clothing business. When I was writing this post the other day, I was thinking – how amazing is it that we kind of accept that the fashion industry operates unethically.

I thought, how hard must it be to turn up to work knowing that you’re contributing to sweatshop labour and environmental damage just so you can do your day job? That by accepting working in the industry, you are effectively accepting unethical work practices.

Having spoken to a few folks since, however, I’ve started to work out that there are a lot of folks working in the industry that are, in fact, wanting and trying to do the right thing – it’s not as clear cut as I once thought.

More

Sorry

Priscilla does a wonderful job of not only eloquently expressing her feelings about saying sorry, but also mine (thanks P.)

I too have set my Facebook status to say I’m sorry – but I’ll also repost what Priscilla says ‘coz it’s exactly what I want to say too:

I regret that this happened to you, and I realise that it caused suffering and anguish for you and your family. I hope this never happens again.

P.S. I feel like this new government is sorting out a whole bunch of unfinished business. Still lots to do, but we’ve signed Kyoto, and now said sorry (both of which are far too long overdue). In the coming weeks WorkChoices will be scrapped. It’s progress – but back to the starting-line, not forward. Hopefully the momentum will continue to push across the line…

Saying Sorry

Who woulda thunk it would be so hard. Anyways… the Government is about to say sorry, and GetUp are running an action as a show of support. I’ve added my name – passing it on here in case y’all want to join in…

Of course, it is but a small step, but I think important all the same. Next is actually taking the time to work with the indigenous community to improve health and education services – not “us” telling “them” how to do it, but truly working with people to make a lasting difference. It’s the very least we can do…

But, as a first step, tell your MP you back back the apology.

Free Burma!

International bloggers are taking action on 4th October to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. Bloggers will refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4, except for one banner with the title “Free Burma!”.

Free Burma

In honour of Anita

If Anita can whip up an empire, you can too

I heard the news about Anita Roddick’s passing last night on JJJ’s Hack program. I have to admit I was quite shocked to hear it – in fact emotionally touched and saddened… still am.

As Dave so eloquently put it “She left the planet and it’s inhabitants with a much better chance of survival than if she had not been born…”

Anita was absolute hero of mine. I first heard about the Body Shop’s “different” way of doing things, and thought I’d read Anita’s semi-biography “Business as unusual“. It was tremendously inspiring to read about Anita’s journey from the small shop recycling bottles because she had to, to the spread of the Body Shop internationally.

Through the Body Shop she was a pioneer of what was to become known as Fair Trade, took an activist stance on animal testing and women’s rights, all the while building a successful international business. Proof positive that profits do not have to trump people and the environment – they can happily work together.

Throughout her life she was a passionate human rights and environmental activist, who really was alone for many, many years in her role as ethical business-woman. (Business-woman period, for that matter.) Her later books were a call to action for us all to take a stand, to “take it personally”, and to make our voices heard and our actions count.

I found myself quite emotionally low last night. I feel I personally owe her a debt of gratitude, even though I’ve never met her in person.

But I think about what her advice might be – I think (I hope) it would be “keep fighting the fight and make whatever difference you can, in work and life”. Hopefully I can do that sentiment justice…

To paraphrase Augie March: Anita, thanks for the memes. Your life is an inspiration.

Anita Roddick

P.S. both images on this post were taken from the home page of AnitaRoddick.com, Anita’s personal website. Check it out and help Anita’s legacy live on…

Update: Philippa over at ActNow posted a great opinion piece on Anita. “However, the loss of this figure should not bring us to look hopelessly at the sky but requires consumer’s attention to be cast on other businesses and their actual intentions towards their stakeholders.”

China: the world is watching forum

Got this via email today. I’m going – anyone else interested in coming along?

We’re pleased to invite you to “China: The World is Watching”, presented by the Amnesty International (Australia) Business Group, on Wednesday 5 September.

The forum, featuring Sophie Peer from Amnesty International and Gordon Renouf from the Australian Consumers Association, will detail the risks and opportunities which Australians may face in doing business in China. Speakers will outline an “ethical consumption” viewpoint on goods consumed in Australia from China. The session will outline the human rights situation in China and the repression caused by the actions of international IT companies. The obligation that China now has to be more transparent and the opportunity to improve human rights presented by the Beijing Olympics will be highlighted.

The details:

  • Date and Time: Wednesday 5 September 2007, 6.30pm to 8pm
  • Location: Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, Level 1, 280 Pitt St Sydney
  • Format: Q&A and drinks follow our speakers
  • Cost: Entry by voluntary donation, $10 suggested
  • Lucky door prize: 2 nights accommodation at your choice of 25 deluxe Mantra Resorts nationwide, courtesy of Stella Hospitality Group
  • RSVP: By email to nswaia@amnesty.org.au or register at the door