Hong Kong during a massive march by 500,000 people in 2003. The rally was the biggest since 1 million people demonstrated against China's crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in June 1989. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
In 1989 the Chinese communist army stormed a mass demonstration in Tiananmen Square, killing several hundred people. In this image, a man blocking the tanks with his own body.
At the age of six, in 1995 Nyima was arrested by the Chinese becoming the world's youngest political prisoner. At present, the 19 years old Nyima's location is unknown.
1989 photo of student leader Wang Dan in Tiananmen Square Beijing calling for a city wide march. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
Wang Dan was released after nearly 6 years in Chinese prisons. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
About 80 dead, four monks torching themselves, a monastery badly damaged, and Chinese buildings set ablaze were reported from Lhasa on March 14, 2008. Already in April 1998 Thupten Ngodup (images) self-immolated as protest against the lack of international attention to the plight of Tibet.
ExWeb Special: Everest north side climber - how well do you know China?

Posted: Mar 11, 2008 07:52 pm EDT

(MountEverest.net) Wonder economy? Booming Tibet? Chinese billionaires?

46.7% of China's population survives on less than $2/day.

This spring we will see happy Tibetans wave the Chinese flag from the summit of Everest, all broadcasted to world media from Everest North Side BC. Xinhua will provide western news aggregators with cute stories and some climbers will nod in approval, but before you do - check the following facts.

No Democracy in China

Many western climbers seem unaware that China is not a free country.

In 1949 the Communist Party of China (CPC) took control over mainland China and since then there has been only one power, the CPC, in control. Where America worries about a few votes lost in Florida for a party candidate; there are no direct elections in China, making it effectively a single-party state.

Perhaps they all agree you say?

70 million, or only 5% of China's population are members in the communist party. 95% of the Chinese population has no influence on the political process at all.

The ghosts of Shigatse

Climbers have stated that Tibetans are faring well under Chinese rule.

Since 2001, China is led by a certain Hu Jintao. President Hu Jintao has worked the party route most of his life and as a Party Chief of Tibet Autonomous Region; he has been part of shaping present day Tibet.

Known as a hardliner in Tibet, Hu was responsible for the 1989 crackdown at Jokhang in Lhasa and also suspected to be involved in the unexpected death that same year of Tibet's 2nd highest religious leader, Panchen Lama.

In the 1989 crackdown, demonstrators waving the Tibetan flag (now outlawed) and shouting for independence were massacred, several thousand were injured and three thousand were imprisoned.

Only 51 years old, Panchen Lama died in Shigatse, a town well known by Everest climbers, after giving a speech critical of the Chinese occupation.

Shigatse is also the place where at least 25 Tibetan refugees, including 10 children between 8 and 15 years old, were put i jail after the shootings at Nangpa-La in 2006. Many of the prisoners were tortured with electric shock prods. The Nangpa La incident was not a single event; similar occurred in 2005 and 2007.

Following the untimely death of Panchen Lama, Dalai Lama selected his incarnation, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.

Incarnation was outlawed, and at the age of six, in 1995 Nyima was arrested by the Chinese becoming the world's youngest political prisoner. At present, the 19 years old Nyima's location is unknown.

Fighting for democracy

Some climbers seem to believe that freedom is unimportant to the Chinese people.

Brave and unfortunate locals have actively fought for democracy in China. Student Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and 10 of his friends were jailed by the Chinese government and fled China after their release years later.

Wang's danger lay not in his bad-ass appearance (he is soft-spoken and wears large glasses) but in the words he said:

"We make no attempt to conceal the aim of the current student movement, which is to exert pressure on the government to promote the progress of democracy. Peopleâs yearning for democracy, science, human rights, freedom, reason, and equality, which lack a fundamental basis in China, have once again been aroused." â"May 1989

Freedom of the Press - printed media

Mainstream media frequently reprint Chinese press releases unchecked. Local media is dominated by the governmentâs communist People's Daily and Xinhua; never or seldom criticizing the government of China.

Foreign media based in China are not allowed to interview Chinese citizens without prior consent of the party. An exception to the rule is applied for the Chinese Summer Olympics, from January 2007 until October 2008.

Freedom of the Press - internet

The "Golden Shield Project" or "the Great Firewall of China" is the name of China's network of firewalls and proxy servers at the Internet gateways aimed to prevent certain internet traffic. The ultimate purpose is to keep the Chinese people in the dark about what happens in the world and to build a gigantic database over people and websites to be blocked by the government.

Examples of censored websites are Wikipedia, YouTube, Voice of America, BBC News and of course websites supporting democracy in China, Tibet freedom etc.

Search engines such as Google have agreed to help censor their content. Google China now screens websites blacklisted by China and blocks them.

China's economy

Mainstream media often report on China's "wonder economy."

In 1978, the Chinese communist party initiated market-based financial reforms, making the country an economical super power. The last 30 years have however been fruitful not only for China, but most of Asia.

Considering the huge foreign investments (stretching for the 1.3 billion people market); the Chinese success is not striking when comparing to Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and other emerging economies in Asia.

China is still only number 86 in the world; behind countries such as Taiwan, South-Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and Iran - ahead of India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Many countries in Asia have had great growth rate, often double digits, in the post war period. China reached its growth late in comparison and is actually lagging due to its communism.

The communist ideals

We are often told about the 345 000 new millionaires in China (2007 APF) and 5000 extremely rich people (more than $30 million) and more than 100 billionaires. Compare though to India, far behind China in foreign investments, but already with 100 000 millionaires and 27 billionaires in the country.

In spite of communist ideals, the difference between rich and poor has increased in China. Half the population is living on less than $2/day - that's 650 million people or the equivalent of US and Europe combined. The situation is even worse than the average in rural China and occupied Tibet.

The simple fact is that in spite of a wildly booming economy, shoveled with foreign capital; communist China makes a bad job in taking care of its poor.

The communist country on the other hand has done an excellent work in creating millionaires and ultra rich. It is not far fetched to compare to the infamous Industrial Revolution in 18th century Britain where in a very short time a mass of extremely wealthy people were created, while the workers' standard of living actually dropped.

- China's GDP/capita is $7700 for 2006. This places China number 86 among the 179 states monitored by IMU (International Monetary Union).

- China's GDP/capita is twice that of India ($3800) and three times its neighbors Pakistan ($2700) and Nepal ($2000), but not surprisingly far behind countries such as USA, Britain, Japan, France and Australia ($32000 - $45000/capita).

- Comparing China ($7700) with East Asian neighbors, China somewhat surprisingly is not doing very well. Taiwan ($31000) and South Korea ($24000) are way ahead and so are countries such as Iran, Thailand and Indonesia.

- The average income for the richest 20% in Beijing was $3600 in 2005. The poorest 20% only made $890/person.

- The average annual income in 2005 in China (Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics) was $1100.

- According to Xinhua the increasing gap between poor and rich is widening and can lead to social unrest. The most affluent one-fifth of Chinaâs population earn 50 percent of the total income, with the bottom one-fifth taking home only 4.7 percent, said a recent report by the official Xinhua News Agency.




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