The top story this week was the fallout surrounding Li Yang’s abuse of his wife. Li is the head of “Crazy English” which is probably the best known English learning program in China. Last week pictures were post on Weibo by his wife that documented the abuse, and begged him to stop hitting her in front of their children. This was a shock to Li who said, “I hit her sometimes, but I never thought she would make it public since it’s not Chinese tradition to expose family conflicts to outsiders.” Adam Minter wrote an excellent piece for Bloomberg with a closer look at this case, and what it says about domestic abuse in China.
The biggest lesson from this article is that China does not have laws that actually protect women and children from domestic abuse, something I covered in an earlier post
Several activists who were detained during the failed “Jasmine revolution” revealed that they had suffered various forms of torture while they were being held by authorities. Many of them were forced to make taped confessions, which they fear will be used against them in future cases, while others were injected with unknown substances, or interrogated about their sex lives. These conditions made it easier to understand why gov’t critic, Liao Yiwu, chose to escape from China. His piece in the New York Times echoes these revelations. He says, “I had no intention of going back to prison. I was also unwilling to be treated as a “symbol of freedom” by people outside the tall prison walls.”
Another important story this week came from Barbra Demick, who reported on how China limited the celebration of Ramadan in Xinjiang, by forcing Muslim students to eat during fasting times . Local governments know that riots and protests are far more costly for their careers than human right’s abuses. In situations like this the national gov’t usually remains silent, and local leaders try to guess what action they should take to maintain stability. A leaked propaganda document hints where this idea may have come from as it states that the goal of the Party is still to “weaken the roots of religion.”
In “Hutong Economics” Evan Osnos captures one of the looming problems in China, the poor construction of millions of new buildings. Which is a question that frequently crosses my mind because I live in a 20 year old building, that looks 50+ years old. Several of my friends also live in “new” apartments that are already facing serious problems, which is also the case in Ordos where Melissa Chan of Al Jazeera noticed that despite having hundreds of buildings, it lacks a single functioning supermarket.
Finally I would highly recommend watching this TED talk with Yasheng Huang: Does democracy stifle economic growth? In this talk Yasheng compares China and India to highlight that the often mentioned “benefits” of a dictatorship, may not actually be the key to China’s growth. His clear discussion of a variety of economic factors help make it clear that China is succeeding despite its authoritarian gov’t, not because of it.