Outrage In China As Concrete Cones Keep Homeless Away From Underpasses



GUANGZHOU - For a country like China, founded on the precepts of fairness and justice, where the proletariat are supposedly the masters, this wasn't supposed to happen.

Thanks to photographs posted this week by a Chinese blogger, we see the space under a viaduct in Guangzhou city covered with sharp protruding mini concrete pyramids. The nasty-looking teeth-like cones are 10 centimeters high and cover the whole area underneath the elevated road.

Obviously they have been put there so those on the margins of society give no thought to congregating there, even if some manage to sleep in a narrow place nearby: see photo below.

After the news was disclosed it immediately spread across China and caused a public firestorm. The majority of people are appalled at the inhumanity of the Guangzhou authorities as well as their contempt for basic human rights. One blogger asked: "If the authority has the time to do such things, why can't it use the energy and money in helping these people instead?" reported that another commentator added: "Who gives you the right of using tax-payers' money to make life difficult for people?"

After days of public indignation, the Guangzhou Municipal Construction Committee's official finally admitted that the cement cones in several locations of Guangzhou were put there 10 years ago. Originally they were indeed intended "to prevent tramps from living there", according to the Nanfang Daily.

According to many bloggers who responded to the incident, many other Chinese cities apart from Guangzhou use the same "eyesores', as many put it, to fend off the destitute.

Like those all over the world, China's major cities are full of the impoverished. Often they are migrants who come from the rural areas, and end up stranded on the streets without being able to find any work. The Chinese authorities used to implement an administrative procedure of forced custody and repatriation. They detained people who didn't have a residence permit (the hukou) or a temporary living permit and returned them to where they could legally live or work. The regulation was abolished in 2003 under public pressure after a poor chap called Sun Zhigang was beaten to death while in custody because he happened not to have the right papers on him when searched.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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