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Chinese Postscript To Egyptian Death Sentence

Chinese Postscript To Egyptian Death Sentence

BEIJING – There was an interesting Chinese twist to last week's ruling by an Egyptian court to sentence 529 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death. While the decision was widely condemned in the West, it has also drawn criticism from an unusual source: China’s state-backed media.

Xinhua News English edition featured a story entitled News Analysis: Egypt's mass death sentences raise human right concerns. Xinhua quoted Mohamed Zarie, an Egyptian lawyer and human rights activist, as saying, "It took only three days for the court to decide to execute over 500 humans, raising questions about human rights in general and justice in particular, which is one of the most important pillars of the state… it is catastrophic if the judiciary gets involved in political disputes."

Chinese-language sources also denounced the Egyptian move. Xinhua reports “The United Nations Expresses Shock about Hundreds of People Sentenced to Death in Egypt.” QQ News featured the following headline: “The U.N Calls Egypt’s Death Sentence of Hundreds of People a Violation of International Human Rights Law”.

The coverage is notable because international human rights campaigns, which in the past have included criticisms of Beijing, are often mocked by China's state media. Moreover, the Chinese government itself is widely believed to carry out more death sentences than the rest of the world combined.

Some however have pointed out recent reforms to limit the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty in China, and reduce political interference in the judicial process. Could the finger-wagging abroad be a sign of something changing at home?

-Brendan O’Reilly, a writer and educator based in China, specialized in Chinese foreign policy. He is the author of 50 Things You Didn’t Know About China (Alchemy Books, upcoming). He blogs at chineserelations.net


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food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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