Italy Attempts to End Chinese Embargo
Since 1989, following China’s response to the pro-democracy student protests in Tiananmen Square, a ban on arms sales had been placed on China. Recently, there have been discussions regarding lifting the 17-year-old ban. China has been on the forefront, calling the ban a "relic of the cold war.” In Europe, other countries have been leaning towards a similar decision. During a visit to Beijing, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said that Italy wishes to lift the embargo in the near future. France has also made calls for a lifting of the ban. Other EU countries have been more divided on the issue. The US has been the most vocal in its opposition to a lifting of the ban, highlighting China's human rights record and concerns that arms sales to China may hurt relations between China and Taiwan. Italy is not as concerned as the US. The Italian Prime Minister said that he and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently had "constructive discussions" regarding human rights. Mr. Prodi’s remarks followed a six-day visit to China during which the two leaders signed 15 bilateral agreements on a number of issues, including trade and agriculture.
Free Speech Threatened in Turkey
In Turkey, writer Elif Shafak was acquitted on September 21st of charges that her novel insulted Turkishness under a controversial penal code that may threaten freedom of expression. The Bastard of Istanbul, a bestseller, contains passages that allegedly portray the massacre of over a million Armenians in 1915 as Turkish genocide. For a long time, Armenians have claimed that this tragedy was genocide by the Ottoman Turks, but Turkish leaders strongly deny it. Riot police outside the courthouse tried to hold back protesters on both sides of the issue. Such trials pit liberals against nationalists in a country still being considered for membership in the European Union. Other writers and journalists have also been prosecuted on the same penal code. Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s most famous author, faced trial last December. Before Pamuk’s trial was terminated on technical grounds, his car was damaged, and his supporters were attacked.Kemal Kerincsiz, a prominent nationalist lawyer involved in Pamuk’s and Shafak’s prosecutions, says that being part of the Union would “strip away our Muslim and Turkish identity." He views people like Shafak as "world citizens, half-Turks." Shafak supports Turkey’s integration in the West and does not believe Turkish society is so polarized. She says, “Too many people see the world in black and white, us and them. That’s wrong. Ambiguity, synthesis: these are the things that compose Turkish society, and that is not something to be ashamed of."
DRC: Democracy in Practice
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) prepares for the second round of the first free presidential elections it has held in 45 years. The second round of elections was preceded by the Congolese Supreme Court’s validation of the first round election results, which determined that President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba are candidates for the upcoming second round. Kabila is currently in the lead with 44.8% of the votes. The United Nations, led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, will help organize this event, which is the “largest and most complex” the organization has ever managed. The primary concern of the UN official and the DRC candidates is that the elections take place in a peaceful environment and deliver results untainted by unlawful interference.
With an electorate pool of 25.5 million voters and over 50,000 polling stations scattered across a territory approximately the size of Western Europe, security concerns are not unreasonable. The spokesman for Mr. Annan warned that “any incitement to hatred and violence during the electoral period is unacceptable, and anyone engaging in such activity [will] be held accountable.” It appears that the UN will play the role of international keeper of democracy in these elections, thus allowing the DRC to successfully practice its new democratic order. “This historic event is a milestone in the country's peace process,” said Annan in his praise of the first free Congolese elections.
There’s Censorship in China?
The control the Chinese government has exerted over its 11,000 periodicals and 600-plus radio and television stations has not decreased, but recently the public’s anger and response to this issue has dramatically increased. And the response is no longer from the journalistic community exclusively. Many people in the fields of business, government, and law have begun protesting and speaking out against the closure of newspapers and the firing of editors from independent periodicals across China. In an ironic twist, one such closure is the Bing Dian, published by the Communist Youth Party as a weekly supplement to their publication, China Youth Daily. The Chinese government no longer risks upsetting the subversive and progressive sector, but is in danger of alienating its own power base in the Communist Youth Party. The closure of Bing Dian is attributed to the controversial articles written by Lung Ying-tai, who wrote in an open letter of protest to the Chinese president that "Among 10,000 horses, there was only one left - and now its throat has been cut.” The Bing Dian newspaper will be reopened, but its two chief editors will conveniently be absent.
Too Much Pressure to Achieve
In the United Kingdom, Archbishop Dr Williams is concerned with the amount of pressure placed on children in school. He believes a ban on advertisements aimed at children should be considered since 1 in 10 children have mental health problems. The department, however, says the children are doing well with the tests. The archbishop also said that parents should be concerned with their children's work and mental health, and that commercial and educational pressures need to be challenged and changed for their influence on children. Dr Williams said a mother's return to work is not as much an issue as children dealing with pressure and developing mental health problems. A dozen teachers joined together along with writers and psychologists to write a letter about the escalation of childhood depression.