Wednesday, September 25, 2013


"Journalists watch pre-recorded testimony by Gu Kailai, the wife of former Chinese politician Bo Xilai, at a hotel in Jinan, China." (Ng Han Guan/Associated Press)
Execution of Chinese Street Vendor Sparks Internet Outcry
By Barbara Demick
The Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2013
"Millions of Chinese took to the Internet to protest the execution of a 37-year-old vendor who had stabbed to death two municipal officials he said arrested and beat him for hawking meat skewers without a license. Xia Junfeng had argued that he was a poor, honest man who was only defending himself against the notoriously brutal urban management officers known in China as the chengguan -- and nearly 3 million Chinese agreed. As news of his execution by lethal injection was announced Wednesday, Chinese microblogs were flooded with outrage. On one popular site alone,, Xia's name was the most searched of the day, and 2.8 million people posted messages, almost all supporting him. Many contrasted his case to that of ex-Politburo member Bo Xilai's wife, Gu Kailai, a lawyer by profession, who was convicted last year of premeditated murder for poisoning a British businessman. She was given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison. 'Gu Kailai was a member of the privileged class who knew what crime she was committing,' wrote one outraged critic in a comment later expunged by censors. 'Xia Junfeng was struggling at the bottom of society to survive. His death is an injustice. There is only tyranny.' 'Hero Xia, rest in peace. Your anti-repression spirit will continue to inspire the repressed. Your name will live in history,' wrote another. Xia's wife said she and her mother-in-law were given 30 minutes notice Wednesday morning that they would be allowed a brief visit with the condemned man before the execution. 'He was calm. He didn't cry. He just kept telling us that he was defending himself,' Zhang Jing said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

WORK (Qatar)

"Fans take their seats before 2009's Brazil v England friendly in Doha, Qatar." (Owen Humphreys/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
How Many More Must Die for Qatar's World Cup?
By Nick Cohen
The Observer, September 21, 2013
"With the European football association, Uefa, reaching the unavoidable conclusion that you cannot play competitive sport in the 50C heat of a Qatari summer, the way is clear for the international football association, Fifa, to break with precedent and make a decision that does not seem corrupt or senseless or both. All being well, the 2022 tournament will be held in the winter. Just one niggling question remains: how many lives will be lost so that the Fifa World Cup™ can live up to its boast that it is the most successful festival of sport on the planet. 'More workers will die building World Cup infrastructure than players will take to the field,' predicts Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. Even if the teams in Qatar use all their substitutes, she is likely to be right. Qatar's absolute monarchy, run by the fabulously rich and extraordinarily secretive Al Thani clan, no more keeps health and safety statistics than it allows free elections. The Trade Union Confederation has had to count the corpses the hard way. It found that 83 Indians have died so far this year. The Gulf statelet was also the graveyard for 119 Nepalese construction workers. With 202 migrants from other countries dying over the same nine months, Ms Burrow is able to say with confidence there is at least one death for every day of the year. The body count can only rise now that Qatar has announced that it will take on 500,000 more migrants, mainly from the Indian subcontinent, to build the stadiums, hotels and roads for 2022. Not all the fatalities are on construction sites. The combination of back-breaking work, nonexistent legal protections, intense heat and labour camps without air conditioning allows death to come in many guises.