Beijing rulers scorn law, rights, lives
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2019 - 12:00am

Gloom hangs over Hong Kong. Citizens fear the death of political and economic freedoms guaranteed in the 1997 handover from Britain. Tolerance by China’s communist rulers is ending. The island’s Beijing-picked legislature has enacted the extradition of certain lawbreakers for trial in the mainland. The Beijing-inspired law looks harmless. Yet Hong Kongers suspect it aims to quell dissent, a cherished if oft trampled right. In recent years activists have vanished then resurfaced China-side in manacles to face frivolous charges. A book publisher on communist hierarchs’ scandals was abducted in Thailand then jailed in China for a ten-year-old road infraction. As days of protests reached a million strong, the law was paused. But Hong Kong’s chief executive likened the marchers to a child whose tantrums must not prevail. Beijing belittled them as but a minority of the seven-million population, and rallied supporters to sign multiple times online in a pro-extradition petition. Talk is rife that face-recognition spyware have identified the protesters. Mass detentions are anticipated. In hospitals, police have tried to arrest those injured by tear gas and plastic bullets.

Tiny Hong Kong pitches in seven percent to China’s foreign trade. Will Beijing risk with a crackdown the island’s status as special financial zone? No doubt it will, dissidents aver, warning Taiwan independence movers of similar impending fate. The communists allegedly mouth rule of law but enforce rule by Party. They scorn right to life. This month, the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, the defense chief justified the killing of tens of thousands of demonstrating youths and workers as “correct policy” from which China now enjoys “stability.” Commissars in Beijing historically have disparaged their countrymen’s welfare. As many as 45 million perished from famine in Mao Zedong’s forced farm collectivization and socialist industrialization in his 1950s Great Leap Forward. Two million intellectuals were slain in his 1960s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Mass displacements from hundreds of townships marked the construction of the communists’ showcase Three Gorges Dam. What’s a million more Hong Kong lives to them?

All the more, what are others’ lives to them? Twenty-two Filipino fishers were left floundering in the sea after a Chinese steel launch rammed their anchored wooden boat in the dead of night. The larger China craft, likely with its maritime militia, did not stop to aid its victims, contrary to international law and human instinct. When three Filipino Cabinet men denounced the misdeed, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman derided them as “politicizing” an “ordinary accident.”

The Chinese were poaching in the Recto Bank, 80 miles off Palawan and well within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone. Defying a UN court ruling, Beijing claims the oil- and gas-rich sea feature that is 600 miles beyond its own EEZ.

Beijing cares not for the 650 million people of Southeast Asia. It deems the entire South China Sea as its internal waters. Its naval militia routinely rams Vietnamese fishing craft and poaches in Indonesian, Malaysian, and Bruneian jurisdictions.

Beijing’s despots are taunting war. It is itching to re-impose in the South and East China Seas illegal air and sea defense identification zones against all nations. The communists feign friendship. Yet they fan Chinese jingoism in the region. Defense of imagined Chinese territorial waters is the communists’ only reason left to stay in power.

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Manila among the Philippines’ 82 cities has character. Its unique site, past, features, and outstanding citizens make it stand out. Sadly on its 448th founding anniversary on Monday, Manila is deteriorated. Due to congestion and neglect it is described as the dirtiest, stinkiest, darkest, and noisiest. Yet Manila need not be so. New elected leaders can restore it to its old glory.

Manila has a combination of historic and modern vistas. It has Fort Santiago, within the walls and amid cobblestone streets of Intramuros. The Spanish designated Manila the colonial center. With the old Manila Cathedral and San Agustin church and those in Quiapo, Binondo, Malate and Santa Ana are the newer Ellinwood Church, Quiapo mosque, temples and synagogues – in freedom of worship. Separated by Liwasan Bonifacio and Mehan Garden are the old Post Office, Metropolitan Theater, and City Hall. The original Congress and Departments of Agriculture and of Finance buildings now house the National Museum. In Manila too are Malacañang and the Supreme Court.

Manila has a sea to its west, and a river separating its north and south sides. Along a boulevard and a bay walk are the Navy HQ, a yacht club, the Ocean Park, and Manila Hotel. At the edge is the Luneta, with the venerated Rizal Monument. Parallel are a zoo, a sports stadium, malls, and restaurants old and new. Manila has North and South Harbors, the old Tutuban central train station, and modern light rail transits. There stand the Central Bank and old University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines, Letran College, Mapua Institute of Technology, and De La Salle University campuses. In Paco is an ancient burial ground, and at the edge of the city La Loma, North, and Chinese Cemeteries. There are tourist districts of Ermita-Malate; commercial, Sta. Cruz-Divisoria; industrial, Pandacan, San Nicolas; and residential, Sampaloc, San Andres.

This space is not enough to list Manila’s features. Clean and light them up; fix squatting and traffic; control the trash, smog, noise, and crime. Manila can live up to its name as the national capital.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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