New Way In China To Fight Sexually-Transmitted Disease: Deny Passports To Women

Analysis: In Menglian County, a remote area of China's Yunnan province, young women's passport applications are being rejected. Local officials say it's because too many have gone abroad to become prostitutes, and come back with

In Amsterdam's red light district (jakemark)
In Amsterdam's red light district (jakemark)

By Yang Tao

BEIJING - A 24-year-old woman from Menglian County, a remote rural area of southwest China, reported recently that had her passport application rejected. The reason authorities gave: since 2005, too many women from the area have gone abroad to become prostitutes; and when they come back home they spread sexually-transmitted diseases such as AIDS.

Besides, officials note, too many local young men haven't been able to find wives because of this emigration.

In light of this situation, says the local government, it has simply decided to refuse passport applications from women aged 16 to 35, unless they happen to need to travel for a government mission.

It's true that too many women from this impoverished area go abroad to make money as prostitutes, but in a lawful society no government department has the right to deny the legal rights of ordinary people. If there is no law forbidding holding a passport then it's not up to public security officials to make their own laws to deal with prostitution.

This latest restriction harms the legal rights of citizens, because there are of course many who go abroad for study, business, or tourism. If we follow this logic then a man with a passport might be engaged abroad in illicit activities, perhaps visiting prostitutes and bringing home unpleasant diseases of his own. Should their applications be rejected?

And at the same time, the new law won't actually manage to stop those involved in criminal activities, who will always find a way to circumvent such restrictions. Even the chief of immigration of Mengliang County, Yang Zhonghua, agrees on this point.

In fact the reason why these women are prevented from going abroad is to save the face of the local authorities criticized for the high level of venereal disease registered on their municipal performance indicators.

Today it's women's passports, maybe tomorrow their clothes will be regulated: a sharp reminder that unrestricted power is always bound to destroy the rights of citizens.

Read the full story in Chinese

Photo - jakemark

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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


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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