Sources

Meet China's Most Open Party Leader

Both by what he says and what he blogs, Chinese politician Zhang Chunxian appears to want to truly hear from the people he's charged to lead. But he may have pushed his luck by posting messages on his microblog account directly from inside a Comm

Zhang Chunxian (E.O.)
Zhang Chunxian (E.O.)


BEIJING - From the transport ministry to Hunan party secretary then boss for the restive region of Xinjiang, Zhang Chunxian's every promotion is tracked by Chinese journalists. But in certain circles, Zhang is best known as the highest-ranking official in China to communicate directly through a Twitter-like microblogging platform.

Hong Kong's media christened him "the most open secretary" in China, and he's known to Internet users as the "online secretary." But the 300,000 people who follow his account on the microblog Tencent Weibo haven't heard from him in nearly a year. On March 18, he announced a break from tweeting, shortly after the conclusion of China's most closely-watched political event, the so-called two sessions of the National People's Congress where he garnered headlines by tweeting from within the proceedings.

During the congress, he also sent a message of congratulation to Alim Halik, a Xinjiang-born lamb kebab seller who was getting married. Halik had previously impressed Zhang by donating 100,000 yuan ($16,000) - most of his profits for the last eight years – to support poor students and, with Zhang's endorsement, had been voted Person of the Year for 2010 in an internet poll organized by state news agency Xinhua.

In April 2010, when Zhang arrived in Xinjiang, the region had been cut off from the Internet for ten months in the aftermath of rioting by Uighurs, the ethnic group to which Alim Halik belongs.

Zhang had restored the region's Internet access on May 14. While in charge of Hunan, a province in central China, he promoted the Web as a "channel to listen to public opinions, to pool people's wisdom and solve their problems."

He has been canvassing opinions online since 2006, when he incorporated Internet users' suggestions in his report for the 9th Party Congress of Hunan Province. The following year, he registered under his real name on Rednet, a well-known local blogging forum. He later posted an official New Year greeting and has made online statements at the beginning of every year since.

He has also heeded other online suggestions, for example by demolishing a coal chimney at the headquarters of the Hunan Provincial Party Committee in 2008.

Hand-in-hand

Zhang opened his microblog, or weibo, March 2, 2011, where he was identified as "Zhang Chunxian, a member of the 17th CPC Central Committee, the secretary of the Party committee of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and the first political commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps."

He began with a letter, promising to "walk hand-in-hand" with Xinjiang people on weibo. Unlike many other officials with weibo accounts, Zhang maintained his personally, and within a day of signing up, he had received 5,000 messages and comments. He told journalists that he had read them all and stayed up late for four days answering.

His replies addressed questions about education, technology, employment, social security, housing and prices, and he sought to realize changes, referring many of the grievances that he heard to the relevant government departments.

One such comment came from Wang Jinfang, a farmer near the border with Kazakhstan, who felt cheated after selling her grain for a price far lower than the one she saw on the invoice from her country's grain bureau. After Zhang's intervention she promptly received a written answer from the bureau.

Read the original version from E.O.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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