Category Archives: Indonesia

Our Vanishing World: Rainforests

East Creek investigation finds clearcutting rare intact old-growth on Vancouver Island


Rainforests are a crucial feature of Earth’s biosphere. Apart from being critical to Earth’s climate and vital carbon sinks, the major player in Earth’s hydrological (water) cycle, a massive producer of oxygen and home to most of the world’s species, rainforests are the home of a large Indigenous human population. They are also the source of many vital resources, including medicines, used by humans around the world.

However, the vast range of ecological services that rainforests have provided for the 400 million years of their existence, and which have been critical to the survival of Homo sapiens since we first walked the Earth 200,000 years ago, are not measured and valued by accountants and economists. Have you ever seen a balance sheet or set of national accounts that includes an entry for ‘Value of ecological services taken from nature and on which life and our entire production of goods and services depend’?

Because these services have been available without the need for human management or intervention, and given the primitive conception of accounting and economics that humans use, the ecological services of rainforests are given no monetary value. Hence, essential ecological services are treated as worthless by virtually everyone in the industrialized world. As a result, modern industrialized humans have decided to systematically destroy the rainforests in order to extract a vast amount of short-term profit for the benefit of a few and the temporary satisfaction of many. So if we do not value ecological services such as oxygen and water generation as well as climate and weather-moderating capacities, what is it that we do value by destroying rainforests?

A small proportion of rainforest is logged to provide attractive rainforest timbers – such as teak, mahogany, ebony and rosewood – for a variety of decorative purposes, including making furniture, which can last hundreds of years.

However, a much wider range and vastly greater quantity of rainforest trees are cut or burnt down for purposes such as the following: acquiring timber used in construction, clearing land to establish cattle farms so that many people can eat cheap hamburgers, clearing land to establish palm oil plantations so that many people can eat processed (including junk) foods based on this oil, clearing land to establish palm oil and soy bean plantations so that some people can delude themselves that they are using a ‘green biofuel’ in their car (when, in fact, these fuels generate a far greater carbon footprint than fossil fuels), mining (much of it illegal) for a variety of minerals (such as gold, silver, copper, coltan, cassiterite and diamonds), and logging to produce woodchips so that some people can buy cheap paper, including cheap toilet paper.

In essence then: We trade the essential life-giving and sustainably-available ecological services of Earth’s rainforests, also home to Indigenous peoples and countless wildlife, for hamburgers and other processed junk foods, carbon-intensive ‘biofuels’, paper and some building and furniture materials, as well as some minerals. Obviously, some humans are far from clever at ‘making deals’.

But if you think that is bad, consider this: ‘by one estimate, a hectare of livestock or soy is worth between $25 and $250, while the same hectare of sustainably managed forest can yield as much as $850’ harvesting, depending on the location, such products as medicinal plants, rubber, nuts and fruits while benefitting from a range of ecotourism services and research opportunities. Of course, you have to know how to manage the forest sustainably to yield this much income but that sort of intelligence is rare and invariably escapes those focused on destruction for short-term profit.

So how bad is this rainforest destruction? Well, worldwide we are currently destroying rainforests for these unsustainable and mainly short-term products at the rate of 80,000 acres each day.

Moreover, beyond the devastating impact this has on Indigenous peoples, forcing increasing numbers of them to leave their destroyed homes in the rainforest to try to survive elsewhere, this rainforest destruction is also the key driver of species extinctions globally with one million species of life on Earth threatened with extinction. As reported in the recent Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services researched and published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – the scientific body which assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services this provides to society – ‘Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history. The IPBES Global Assessment ranks, for the first time at this scale, the 5 direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impact. So what are the culprits behind nature’s destruction?’ Number 1. on the IPBES list is ‘Changes in land and sea use, like turning intact tropical forests into agricultural land’.

Let me briefly illustrate the nature and extent of this destruction by discussing rainforests in just three locations (the Brazilian Amazon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia/West Papua) where the destruction of rainforest was greatest in 2018 and which are representative of elsewhere around the planet where even World Heritage listed areas are ongoingly under threat.

The Brazilian Amazon

While the Amazon in South America occurs in several countries, two-thirds of it lie within the borders of Brazil. Unfortunately, since his fraudulent election in 2018, the neofascist, corrupt and insane president Jair Bolsonaro – see the definition of sanity, which Bolsonaro does not come close to meeting, in “The Global Elite is Insane Revisited” – has promptly eliminated years of painstaking effort by committed indigenous and environmental activists to convince previous governments to protect the Brazilian Amazon from the worst corporate and other depredations.

For just a taste of the documentation on Bolsonaro’s actions in accord with elite interests and to the detriment of Indigenous and environmental well-being, see the following articles/report.1

The key drivers of rainforest destruction in the Amazon are soy production and cattle ranching. Brazilian soy accounted for 14.3% of the country’s total exports, generating $31.0 billion in 2017, while cattle exports accounted for about $5.4 billion. Because Brazil leads the world in exports of both of these commodities, it is the world market for these products that is driving these industries to aggressively expand activities to the detriment of the rainforest and Indigenous peoples.

But the Amazon is huge, you might say: Does it matter if we destroy some of it for soy and cattle farming? Well, one recent study suggested that deforestation of 20–25% of the Amazon would be the tipping point beyond which it would cease to be a functioning rainforest ecosystem and this, as you might expect, would be catastrophic. Moreover, recent severe droughts appear to be ‘the first flickers of this ecological tipping point’ suggesting that it is already imminent.

So, to reiterate, the key driver of rainforest destruction in the Brazilian Amazon is consumer-generated demand for certain products in other parts of the world. And while the US and European countries play critical roles in destruction of the Amazon, China is the largest importer of agricultural products from Brazil so its government and consumers are complicit too. For example, as China’s demand for Brazilian soy surges due to the trade war between the United States and China, ‘it could drive further ecological catastrophe: 13 million hectares (50,000 square miles) in the Amazon and Cerrado could ultimately be cleared to meet this additional demand.’

The point then, is this: governments and ordinary people (in their role as consumers) in other parts of the world can play a vital role in defending the Amazon and its Indigenous peoples by choosing what they buy from Brazil. Boycotting rainforest timber, beef and soy bean products are powerful options to consider. But don’t forget, there is no point simply identifying and boycotting Brazilian timbers, beef and soy beans. If you want impact on the total market (to prevent one country’s timber, beef and soy beans being substituted for another’s), then you must boycott them all (unless you can clearly identify the source of the product as local and sustainable). Obviously, this takes commitment. The future of the Amazon depends largely on enough of us making that commitment.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa

The rainforests of the Congo Basin in central Africa are the second largest on Earth. Much of this rainforest lies within the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, crippled by corrupt government for decades and a new president elected earlier this year who has inherited a corrupt and inefficient state apparatus.

Unfortunately, therefore, rainforests in the Congo have long been under siege on several fronts. With rebel soldiers (such as the Rwanda-backed M23), miners and poachers endlessly plundering inadequately protected national parks and other wild places for their resources, illegal mining is rampant, over-fishing a chronic problem, illegal logging (and other destruction such as charcoal burning for cooking) of rainforests is completely out of control in some places, poaching of hippopotami, elephants, chimpanzees and okapi for ivory and bushmeat is unrelenting (often despite laws against hunting with guns), and wildlife trafficking of iconic species (including the increasingly rare mountain gorilla) simply beyond the concern of most people.

The Congolese natural environment – including the UNESCO World Heritage sites at Virunga National Park and the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, together with their park rangers – and the Indigenous peoples such as the Mbuti (‘pygmies’) who live in them, are under siege. In addition to the ongoing mining, smaller corporations that can’t compete with the majors, such as Soco, want to explore and drill for oil.2

Unfortunately too, as with rainforests elsewhere, ‘What Happens in the Congo Basin Doesn’t Stay in the Congo Basin’: it impacts on regions across Africa playing a part, for example, in recent droughts in Ethiopia and Somalia causing millions of people to depend on emergency food and water rations.

As with the Amazon, you have some powerful options to consider if you want to save the Congolese rainforests and their Indigenous peoples. Again, refusing to buy rainforest timbers, conflict minerals and wildlife products is a good start but remember that key minerals in your computer and mobile phone are illegally sourced from the Congo so your thoughtful consideration of minimizing how many of these devices you own can play a part too. For a fuller account of this exploitation and its destructive impact on the rainforests and its Indigenous peoples, with references to many other sources, see ‘500 years is long enough! Human Depravity in the Congo’.

Indonesia and West Papua

Indonesia has the most extensive rainforest cover in Asia – and is home to hundreds of distinct Indigenous languages and over 3,000 animal species including Sumatran tigers, pygmy elephants, rhinoceros and orangutans – but the forests are being systematically degraded and destroyed. Rainforest cover has steadily declined since the 1960s when 82 percent of the country was covered with forest; it is less than 50 percent today. The rainforest is being destroyed by logging, mining, large-scale agricultural plantations (especially for palm oil), colonization, and subsistence activities like shifting agriculture and cutting for fuelwood. Much of the remaining cover consists of logged-over and degraded forest although large areas, including of the island of Kalimantan/Borneo (shared with Malaysia and Brunei), have been stripped bare.

Logging for tropical timbers and pulpwood (to make paper) is the biggest cause of rainforest destruction in the country where as much as 75 percent of the logging is illegal. Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of tropical timber, which generates more than $US5 billion annually. And more than 48 million hectares (55 percent of the country’s remaining rainforests) are concessioned for logging. Destruction of the rainforest in Indonesia has opened up some of the most remote places on Earth to development: as rainforests in less remote locations have been decimated, timber corporations have stepped up practices on the island of Kalimantan/Borneo and the occupied West Papau, where great swaths of forests have been cleared in recent years. In fact, 20 percent of Indonesia’s logging concessions are in West Papua, despite ongoing resistance by West Papuans.

Unfortunately, the fastest and cheapest way to clear rainforests for plantations is by burning. Hence, every year ‘hundreds of thousands of hectares go up in smoke as developers and agriculturalists feverishly light fires before monsoon rains begin to fall. In dry years – especially during strong el Niño years – these fires can burn out of control for months on end, creating deadly pollution that affects neighboring countries and causes political tempers to flare’.

Mining operations, including for coal, also have a devastating impact on the rainforests and their peoples. By far the worst of these projects, however, is the gigantic gold, silver, and copper mine in occupied West Papua, run by Freeport-McMoRan. As widely documented, the mining company has dumped appalling amounts of waste into local streams, rendering downstream waterways and wetlands ‘unsuitable for aquatic life’. Relying on large payments to Indonesian police and military officers, the mining operation is ‘protected’; this has resulted in many West Papuans being killed.

The waste from the mine, estimated by Freeport at 700,000 tons each day, covers several square miles and Government surveys have found that tailings from the mines have produced levels of copper and sediment so high that almost all fish have disappeared from vast areas of wetlands downstream from the mine.

Like other powerful corporations in Indonesia (and elsewhere), Freeport-McMoRan is well aware that there is little official interest in its abuses of local people and the environment as long as corrupt officials are given sufficient incentive to ignore them. As elsewhere in many parts of the world, therefore, corporate access to resources includes serious human rights abuses and persistent conflicts between companies and local communities which is ignored by corrupt politicians.

Apart from the rainforest itself and the millions of people who live in them, destruction of the rainforest threatens the habitat of iconic species like Sumatran tigers and orangutans, as well as many others, and plays a part in destroying the climate too.

But the damage does not stop with the issues noted above. Forests across the world are being destroyed to make fabrics for clothing we wear every day. Fabrics like rayon, viscose and modal are all made from trees and, every year, more than 120 million trees are cut down to make clothing. This is done by companies such as Forever 21, Under Armour, Foot Locker, Prada Group and Michael Kors. You can join the Rainforest Action Network in campaigning to get these laggard companies to adopt responsible sourcing policies for their forest-based fabrics.

Bizarrely, while its incredible rainforests, along with its coral reefs and beaches, play a part in attracting tourists from across the world to see Indonesia’s charismatic native species – such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Komodo dragons, whale sharks, sea turtles and manta rays – and to experience its adventure and dive destinations, this tourism also contributes significantly to the destruction as rainforests make way for tourist facilities.

So, as with Brazil and the Congo, you can boycott rainforest products from Indonesia and other countries where rainforests are being destroyed. Along with suggestions made earlier, responsible choices about the clothing you wear and the tourist destinations you choose (or boycott) will all make a difference.

The ‘Big Picture’ Fight for the Rainforests: What can we do?

A great deal. Halting rainforest destruction might be a complex undertaking but it is imperative if we are to have any prospect of preserving life on Earth. So I hope that you will consider the many options I have offered above and those I mention now and do as many as you can, even if you are already working on other critical issues such as the climate and the struggle to end war and the threat of nuclear war.

If you want easy options, you can support the campaign efforts of organizations that defend rainforests, Indigenous peoples and wildlife such as the Rainforest Action Network, the Rainforest Information Centre, the Rainforest 4 Foundation and Rainforest Rescue which work closely with Indigenous and local communities while campaigning against the governments and corporations destroying rainforests, as well as the banks and insurance companies that support this destruction.

If you recognize the pervasiveness of the fear-driven violence in our world, which also drives the massive over-consumption of resources by people in industrialized countries then consider addressing this directly starting with yourself and by reviewing your relationship with children.3

If you wish to campaign strategically in support of Indigenous peoples and local communities in their struggles to halt the destruction of Earth’s rainforests.4

The governments and corporations that profit from the destruction of the rainforests are deeply entrenched and not about to give way without strategically focused campaigns to make it untenable and unprofitable for them to do so. This will include convincing key personnel, whether company directors of corporations involved in rainforest destruction, cargo ship owners, trade unionists (in many industries) and the many other agents involved in the rainforest destruction-to-customer supply chain, as well as ordinary consumers of rainforest products, to make conscious choices about the products they supply, use and/or buy. So strategy is imperative if we are to get corrupt and/or conscienceless governments and corporations, as well as people further removed from the source of the destruction, to end their role in rainforest destruction before it is too late.

The big deforestation drivers are timber, palm oil, cattle and soy while mining, oil drilling, clothing and dam construction all play significant roles too, depending on the country. And, as reported by the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project): ‘The ABCD (The Archer Daniels Midland Company [ADM], Bunge, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Company) trader companies have a large impact on countless commodity supply chains. For example, they represent up to 90% of the global grain trade. With a wide array of clients that go from Nestlé to McDonald’s, their role in managing deforestation risk is crucial’ and, so far, grossly inadequate.5

Given the strategic sophistication necessary to tackle this complex problem effectively, if you want to view a 15 minute video of (or read a couple of short articles about) the inspirational Melbourne Rainforest Action Group (MRAG) that successfully led a national campaign from 1988 to 1991 to halt imports of rainforest timber into Australia, you can view it here: ‘Time to Act.’

In those cases where corrupt elites control or occupy countries, such as those controlling Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and West Papua, it might be necessary to remove these corrupt governments as part of the effort thus helping to restore the political space for local populations to defend rainforests and their rights.

You might also consider joining the global network of people resisting violence in all contexts by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World.’

But if you do nothing else while understanding the simple point that Earth’s biosphere, including its rainforests, cannot sustain a human population of this magnitude of whom more than half endlessly over-consume, then consider accelerated participation in the strategy outlined in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth.’

Or, if none of the above options appeal or they seem too complicated, consider committing to The Earth Pledge

Out of love for the Earth and all of its creatures, and my respect for their needs, from this day onwards I pledge that:

  1. I will listen deeply to children (see explanation above)
  2. I will not travel by plane
  3. I will not travel by car
  4. I will not eat meat and fish
  5. I will only eat organically/biodynamically grown food
  6. I will minimize the amount of fresh water I use, including by minimizing my ownership and use of electronic devices
  7. I will not buy rainforest timber
  8. I will not buy or use single-use plastic, such as bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws
  9. I will not use banks, superannuation (pension) funds or insurance companies that provide any service to corporations involved in fossil fuels, nuclear power and/or weapons
  10. I will not accept employment from, or invest in, any organization that supports or participates in the exploitation of fellow human beings or profits from killing and/or destruction of the biosphere
  11. I will not get news from the corporate media (mainstream newspapers, television, radio, Google, Facebook, Twitter…)
  12. I will make the effort to learn a skill, such as food gardening or sewing, that makes me more self-reliant
  13. I will gently encourage my family and friends to consider signing this pledge.

Feeling overwhelmed? Still prefer something simpler?

I wish I could, in all sincerity, offer you that option. If it were still 1990, I would. But the time for simple actions to make a difference is long past and time is now incredibly short.

In essence, you have a choice: understand and act on the crucial importance of rainforests before we destroy their integrity and lose them completely. Or help to accelerate the human rush to extinction as a consequence of failing to do so.

  1. Bolsonaro Caps Natives’ Lands, Pleasing Farmers in One of First Acts,” “Rainforest on Fire: On the Front Lines of Bolsonaro’s War on the Amazon, Brazil’s Forest Communities Fight Against Climate Catastrophe,” “Bolsonaro’s Clearcut Populism. ‘The Barbarism has Begun’,” this report from Amazon Watch: “Complicity in Destruction II: How northern consumers and financiers enable Bolsonaro’s assault on the Brazilian Amazon” and “Amazon Deforestation Accelerating Towards Unrecoverable “Tipping Point”.”
  2. For a taste of the reading on all of this, see “Virunga National Park Ranger Killed in DRC Ambush,” “The struggle to save the ‘Congolese unicorn’,” “Meet the First Female Rangers to Guard One of World’s Deadliest Parks” and “The Battle for Africa’s Oldest National Park.”
  3. If you want to understand and address the fundamental cause of violence in our world, see “Why Violence?” and “Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.”
  4. See “Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.”
  5. See “Revenue at risk: Why addressing deforestation is critical to business success” which contains a long list of hundreds of companies (on pages 39-46) which are making zero effective effort to end their rainforest-destroying business practices.

China’s BRI Could Save Destroyed Southeast Asia

Most of the people in the West or in North Asia usually never think about it, but Southeast Asia is one of the most depressed and depressing parts of the world.

It has been through genocides, wars and atrocious military regimes.

Then, those monstrous income disparities.

Jakarta beggars at night

According to The Bangkok Post, in 2018, “the 10% poorest Thais had 0% wealth.

50% of the poorest Thais (25 million people) had 1.7% of the country’s wealth while 70% (35mn) controlled 5%.” In the same year, 1% of the richest Thais controlled 66.9% of the country’s fortune.

Indonesia is not doing much better. In fact, if it were to provide correct, unmassaged statistics, it would easily overtake Thailand as the most unequal country on earth. But Indonesia does not even declare the precise number of people, as I was informed by my colleagues, UN statisticians. It still claims that it has around 270 million inhabitants, while in reality, even ten years ago, there were more than 300 million people living on the archipelago.

Except in the Communist Vietnam, super-rich Singapore, and (still) relatively wealthy Malaysia, poor people matter very little. Or more precisely, they do not matter at all. They do not exist. And poor people form the great majority in this part of the world, although you would hardly read it from the pages of official government bulletins.

Jakarta – smog and huge slums between skyscrapers

It is enough to see Jakarta, Manila or Bangkok from the air, to understand that the Southeast Asian megapolises are totally fragmented, so they can serve the elites. Skyscrapers, malls and enormous hotels are surrounded by miserable houses and slums. Terribly inadequate public transportation (corrupt governments have been regurgitating every year, for decades, great numbers of cars and polluting scooters wishfully called ‘motorbikes’, instead of providing decent massive public transit systems) has made Jakarta and periodically Bangkok, some of the most polluted and depressing cities in the world.

Crime is out of control. Thailand has, per capita, according to Interpol, a higher murder rate than the United States. In the Philippines, before President Duterte came to power, cities such as Davao and Manila were suffering from some of the most horrid crime statistics in Asia. Indonesia, again, has escaped scrutiny, simply because of the absolutely amazing ability to hide the truth.  Most of the crimes committed there, particularly sexual ones, are never reported, and if reported, not registered.

The modern history of this part of the world is perhaps the most brutal on the planet. Brutal, but hushed up. The education system in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand is geared not to educate the children and young people about the monstrous genocides committed on the territory of Southeast Asia.

To mention just a few ‘occurrences’, the West murdered several million people in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, during the so-called ‘Vietnam War’ and ‘Secret War’. It carpet-bombed poor Laos and Cambodia, while supporting the most atrocious feudal regimes all over ‘Indochina’. It also displaced millions of peasants. As a result, multitudes died from hunger.

Indonesia perpetrated three genocides, killing millions. First, during the 1965-66 one, triggered by the U.S.A. and its allies, murdered 1 – 3 million intellectuals, artists, teachers, Communists and members of the Chinese minority. The second was the U.S.A, U.K. and Australia-backed occupation of East Timor, which took lives of 30%-40% of the islanders. The third genocide is the on-going, horrendous occupation and plunder of West Papua.

Burma, broke and divided by British colonialism, is yet another story. And so are the monstrous Malaysian massacres, which took place in 1969. And various massacres of the opposition as well as of immigrants in Thailand. The Thai bombing of Vietnam and Laos, to impress handlers in Washington, and the U.S. massacres in the Philippines, as well as the brutal civil war there in Mindanao.

The list goes on and on. It is a brutal horror show, the never-ending awfulness of Western neo-colonialism, as well as the sleazy servility of local rulers.

The results are omnipresent: the beaches of entire countries are devastated. Whole enormous islands like Borneo, Papua and Sumatra are finished, scarred and poisoned by local and multi-national corporations. It is smoke and filth, clogged rivers, collapsed cultures, entire civilizations. No mercy, no compassion, no future.

Jakarta – smog and huge slums between skyscrapers

But it is all hushed up. Crimes are denied. Outraged, confused nations are called ‘lands of smiles’, or ‘’friendly and tolerant archipelagos’.

It is insane, but tens of millions of foreign tourists descend on this ruined part of the world, annually. They see nothing. Some like it. They only nurture their complexes of superiority here. They do not want to understand anything. They choose to be blind. Cheap sex, shitty alcohol and beach food, as well as monumental sunburns. They continue the demolition work which has been triggered by their governments.

*****

The mood is terrible. In Indonesia, foreigners and even locals get insulted in the middle of the day, just for being ‘different’. Whites are. Chinese are. Indians are. Black people are, with terrible regularity and brutality.

In Thailand, foreigners get killed and raped, for almost no, or very little, reason. The terrible occurrences are reported almost weekly by the local and foreign press.

Privatized Malaysian boardwalk – now for a fee

Poor people feel that their beaches, their cities, have been stolen from them. In Indonesia, on the Bali and Lombok islands, everything has actually really been looted from the locals.

Societies have crumpled. The plunder of the resources, of nature, of everything, was already taking place for years and decades, even centuries.

No one knows the way out of this nightmare. Most of Southeast Asia knows nothing else than this subjugation. And it is not even called a nightmare. In Southeast Asia, or in the West which controlled these societies for as long as one can remember, the horror is being glorified.

*****

And yet, yet… On the same continent, not far away, an enormous country, governed by the Communist Party, and professing ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ has been building a totally new society, defining and implementing an ‘ecological civilization’, pulling hundreds of millions of citizens out of poverty, constructing a great scientific base, the fastest trains on earth, massive transit systems in each and every city, first rate schools and universities, and stunning concert halls, opera houses and museums.

And all this with only a fraction of the financial resources, calculated on a per capita basis, of those of the West.

China… A country with 6,000 years of history and culture, with about 1.4 billion inhabitants, and with an absolutely, diametrically opposite economic and social system from that which was force-fed, for decades, to the people of Southeast Asia by the West.

A country, which, by 2020, as promised by her President Xi Jinping, will have no one, be it in the cities or in the villages, living in extreme poverty.

China, a country which is growing in order to serve its people. A country which is using capitalist companies in order to fulfill Communist and socialist goals. A country with a centrally planned and greatly successful economy. Where all land belongs to the government, and the entire future – to the people.

Beijing Egg – the biggest opera house in the world

Imagine this country, near the decaying colossus of the mainly miserable, oppressed Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia, with mostly failed systems which has forced hundreds of millions of human beings to live in filthy, destitute cities and in the feudal countryside.

And now, China, with its culture based on communalism and internationalism, is extending its hand, and basically saying: “Let us grow together! Let us help our people, let’s struggle side-by-side for a much better world. Let us save, liberate, empower your hundreds of millions of men, women and children; let us protect them from hunger, illnesses, functional illiteracy and the lack of a decent future!”

All this, despite the fact that in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and elsewhere, Chinese people were often treated like animals, killed and raped in pogroms, and kept away from the governments.

This extension of the hand is called “BRI” – “The Belt and Road Initiative.”

And it is, most likely, the greatest global and internationalist initiative in the history of humankind.

It is the most optimistic, truly socialist, vision for our planet, based on sharing and the genuine commonwealth of nations.

An enormous belt of high-speed railroads, roads, super-fast communication corridors, ports and airports, but also schools and universities, high-quality hospitals for all, of film studios and publishing houses, theatres and museums.

As this essay goes to print, China just inaugurated amazing, 4.300 km long railroad, cutting across Africa, from Tanzania to Angola. This project alone will save dozens of millions of lives. I worked in Africa, for several years. I know.

I have worked in more than 160 countries on this planet. I have seen a lot. But I have never encountered any vision so confident, so positively revolutionary, and at the same time, so kind.

*****

The West will fight. It will do everything in its power to prevent the BRI from succeeding.

It will not let Southeast Asia go without a struggle. As it is not letting Central Asia go.

Recently, I analyzed the so-called “Uighur Issue”, in my detailed report compiled in Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan and Indonesia – “March of Uighurs” it is called. The West and its allies are radicalizing, arming and militarizing the Uighur ethnic minority, doing all they can to sabotage the BRI, by attempting to destroy its important center – Urumqi – in Northwest China. This may slow the projects aimed at inter-connecting China, entire Central Asia, Iran, and even Turkey and parts of Russia.

The same has been happening in Southeast Asia. The West has unleashed a tremendous propaganda force; it has employed countless NGO’s, as well as thousands of local ‘academics’ and ‘journalists’, trying to smear all China’s attempts to pull the region out from slumber and above all, from the toxic dependency on Western colonialist powers.

I have been monitoring this occurrence, in among other places, the Philippines, where the administration of President Duterte has moved the country much closer to Beijing, and away from Washington, improving greatly the lives of the great majority of the Filipino people. President Duterte enjoys the support of around 80% of his citizens, but is brutally attacked by Western media and NGO’s. He calls China “the kindest nation on earth”. This can never be forgiven in the West.

The same can be said about Laos, where China is basically revamping everything; pulling this poor and historically ruined country back to its feet, by building a high-speed rail system, modern energy sector, while constructing hospitals, schools, and even brand-new cities. And what did West do in Laos? It fought a ‘Secret War’ here, a side-kick of the Vietnam War, basically carpet-bombing with B-52s, a big part of the countryside, killing hundreds of thousands of people, just ‘preventively’, so they do not become Communists. Washington and Thailand never even apologized for these crimes against humanity.

Now when China is rescuing its neighbor, a fellow Communist nation, the West is blabbing nonsense about the ‘environment’ and ‘debt-trap’. Anyone who bothers to travel to the Plain of Jars or other ruined parts of Laos, will discover minefields left after the carpet-bombings. People are still dying there, and Western companies which produced these monstrous cluster bombs do not even share technical specifications with the de-mining agencies. Great concern about the environment! Here, U.S. bombs are used as village fences.

A similar situation in Cambodia.

And several other nations in the region, including Burma.

*****

Nobody is laughing out loud, at those Western NGOs and propaganda outlets, mainly because the West and its servile local regimes have managed to sweep their crimes, genocides and economical plunder, under the carpet.

The downfall, or call it the near collapse of Southeast Asia, is not being defined as a downfall. Far from it.

Nowhere has brainwashing been so intense and so successful as in this part of the world. The great majority of local people are nowhere near to even beginning to comprehend what had been done to them. People do not know that they are the true victims, or that a different world is actually possible.

The Brits, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spaniards, have all managed to get away with the plunder and murder, mainly because ‘education’ has been shaped by the local ‘elites’, read: shameless treasonous servants of the Western imperialism. Talk to ‘educated’ (pro-British) Malaysians; read the books of their contemporary writers (almost all funded ‘from abroad’). Then you will understand.

The United States is still admired in Indonesia, a country thoroughly impoverished and ruined by Washington’s greed and geopolitical ambitions.

But Indonesia with a quality of life equal to that of poor Sub-Saharan African countries, is not officially considered to be poor, or deprived, or fascist or even feudal. Nobody seems to be questioning its ridiculously perverted statistics. The Philippines, too, was not defined as poor and destitute, before the arrival of President Duterte, even as millions were fleeing to all corners of the world, attempting to make a living often under horrid conditions, in places such as the Gulf.

No one is laughing, because people were stripped off their ability to compare.

The glorification of capitalism and imperialism has been too powerful.

As has the smearing of Communism.

And as has been the professional and consistent attempts to discredit everything Chinese, first by the racist European colonialists, and later by Cold War warriors and propaganda gurus from Washington and London.

*****

China led by the Communist Party; socialist China with its own characteristics, is clearly misunderstood. The BRI is also, and absolutely, misunderstood. Not because it is not transparent – transparent it is. But because Western propaganda is, so to speak, constantly and professionally muddying the waters.

Everything about China’s success is turned upside-down. The biggest fear, total horror, of the West and its lackeys in the new type of colonies here, is that China is both Communist, and a tremendously successful nation.

I am not going to argue here whether China is Communist or not, and if it is, to what extent. To me, it clearly is. Both Communist and successful. As well as internationalist. That is why I am decisively on its side, and on the side of BRI.

What is indisputable is that the intentions of the West to discredit both the PRC and BRI have absolutely nothing to do with trying to find solutions to the horrid problems our world in general, and Southeast Asia in particular, are facing.

The West does not want to find solutions. It wants Southeast Asia to remain ignorant, divided and servile.

The intentions of the West are clearly self-serving. Their only goal is to keep control over this resources-rich part of the world. And to prevent China from gaining its rightful position in Asia.

For centuries, the West kept plundering, killing and enslaving Southeast Asian people. That simple. Full stop. The nightmare is continuing, to date. This time, local elites are fully involved, although, frankly, they were always involved, acting shamelessly as go-betweens for the colonialists and the enslaved people.

It is time to try a different approach, an approach which has already saved hundreds of millions of people from misery; by giving them new lives, education, health, culture and dignity. An approach which now puts ecology and the quality of life well above business and economic growth.

The people of Southeast Asia have to be informed about the choices they have.

It will not be easy, as there is no free, no alternative press there. The mass media and ‘education’ are controlled by the elites who, naturally, want to maintain the status quo.

But there are choices. For the first time in many years.

Once the people of Southeast Asia know the truth, colonialism will end. Rapidly, almost immediately.

China and its system are showing great example by their deeds, not just by words. Wherever China comes, new winds are blowing. New societies are beginning to grow. Rationality blossoms. Nihilism disappears.

Soon a new chapter of Asian history will begin. The continent will be united, by belt and by road, by solidarity, determination and a great revolutionary spirit which will lead to the unstoppable renewal of this part of the world.

• (First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook)

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Women We Are Fighting For

There are stories that are unrelated to the news, but can explain much better than many combat reports, why people like me are fighting against the Empire and imperialism, with such determination and vehemence. Not all stories are ‘big’ or ‘heroic’; not all include famous people or iconic struggles. Not all take place on battlefields.

But they ‘humanize’ the struggle.

Once in a while, I like to share such stories with my readers. As I will do right now.

Because without them, frankly, nothing really makes sense.

*****

It was a hot, humid night in Jakarta; a megapolis with the worst pollution on earth, and with some of the most monstrous contrasts on our planet. A literally sinking city, constructed against the people; fragmented, serving only the few hundred thousand extremely rich (most of them accumulating wealth through corruption and theft), while condemning millions of struggling individuals to a slow death.

For the ruthless Indonesian elites and their Western handlers, the poor of Jakarta (the great majority of city dwellers) simply do not exist. They live in crammed slums, called kampungs – literally translated as villages. Kampungs fill huge spaces between the skyscrapers, malls, and mostly empty five-star hotels. Individuals living there consume very little, and therefore matter close to nothing. Even their number is underplayed in the official statistics.

One night, my small film crew and I were driving though the Klender neighborhood in East Jakarta; a poor, religious and monotonous part of the city.

Re-editing my big film about Indonesia after the US-sponsored military coup of 1965, an event which I often describe as an “Intellectual Hiroshima”, I had to again spend a few days in Jakarta, collecting latest footage, filming contrasts between the people and feudal elites.

We were all tired. Traffic jams have brought the city to an almost permanent gridlock. The pollution is unbearable. Life has come to a standstill. As planned by the regime, no one seemed to be thinking. Nothing seemed to be working.

We were driving past Klender train station a few minutes after midnight.

There were two young women standing by the side of the road. One of them caught my eye. She was clearly a prostitute, or a ‘sex-worker’, as they would call her in the West. But in reality, no, she was not a ‘worker’; not her. Just an abused, tired women.

I liked her face. Hers was an honest, good face. And after all that nonsense I heard during the day, after all that ‘feel good’ crap, I needed to hear something real, honest.

“Stop!” I shouted at my driver. He stepped on the brakes, then backed up a few meters.

“I want to talk to her,” I explained. Then to her: “I want to talk to you.”

She did not find my request strange. She nodded. After years of moving all around the world, while documenting the state of our humanity, I have developed certain instincts. I can tell from the faces of people, whether they have a story to tell; and whether they have the desire to speak. She did, both.

We emptied the front seat for her, next to the driver. She got in. Jakarta is a dangerous city, especially for women. But she did not seem to be frightened. She trusted me, as I trusted her.

“My name is Andre,” I said. “I am a filmmaker, and this is my team”.

“My name is Risna,” she answered and smiled.

“I want to hear your story,” I said.

“OK,” she said.

“Do you mind if I film?”

“Go ahead. I don’t mind.”

I put my GH5 over my knee, turned on the little light on the ceiling of the car, and pressed the “Record” button.

Just like that. No coaching, no preparation. And then it happened. She spoke. Clearly. Bitterly. Honestly.

*****

“It was four of us,” she began, softly:

Four children. Little ones. Two boys and two girls. Our father, a pious religious man, used to use all of us. He had sex with us, with males and females. By then our mother was gone. He wanted to get married for the second time. To a young woman. But he had no money. And so, he began pimping all of us, for cash, so he could save enough, to start his new family. All four of us… you know; we all failed in life. At seven, I often slept on the streets. My siblings are all dysfunctional. I got married, had children, but my husband left me. I’m thirty years old now. I do this to support my children, and my brothers and sister.

Trains kept passing-by. Loud express trains, rushing to far away cities: Yogyakarta, Solo, Surabaya.

“I couldn’t talk to anybody. Here, it is always woman’s fault. No matter what happens, it is woman’s fault.”

I was frozen in my seat.

“This is my story.”

“And now?” I could not think about anything else to ask.

“Now I am speaking to you.”

I stopped the car in the middle of the night. I wanted to hear a story of a woman who was working by the side of the road. And that is precisely what I got: she described to me, briefly, her life.

She did it in a simple, touchingly naïve, pure way. There was nothing unnatural in her voice.

She spoke for herself, and for millions of Indonesian women like her, too.

I cared about her, but did not know how to express it, what to say.

We spoke for a bit, about the terrible fate of women in Indonesia. About the hypocrisy of this society. But it was well after midnight, and she had to earn her living. I had to let her go.

“You will be in my film, together with your former President Gus Dur, and the greatest writer, Pramoedya Ananta Toer.”

She nodded, in a matter of fact way.

“What do you dream about?”

And that’s when her eyes filled with tears:

“I want to raise my children as a good mother; from honest work.”

I looked at the monitor of my camera. 8 minutes and few seconds had passed since I began recording. One human life, in a summary. One complex, broken human life. I bowed to her. Shook her hand. Thanked her.

“Do you have hope?”

She looked at me, deep into my eyes. Then she nodded.

“Yes!”

*****

At night, I couldn’t sleep.

I knew all about what she was talking about. My friend who works for the UNDP once explained to me, that Indonesia has one of the highest child abandonment rates in the world. And also, one of the highest amounts of sexual child abuse cases, particularly inside families; committed by family members. All these topics are taboo, and no ‘official’ study can be produced, as most women are only willing to speak ‘off the record’.

In Indonesia, after 1965, everything collapsed; was destroyed. But this downfall, and almost nothing related to it, can be discussed openly. Here, the fear of truth is omnipresent, and I will soon address this shocking issue in one of my upcoming essays.

*****

In 1979, when the pro-US Somoza’s regime collapsed and the Sandinistas took over the devastated Nicaragua, my friend, an American poet and translator, happened to be in Managua.

He was very young and confused.

He understood, theoretically, the greatness of the revolution. But he was still lacking examples.

Then, one afternoon, he saw a bus. A beat-up public bus, slowly moving towards the center of the city, while sun was setting down, behind the hills.

He told me the story, a long time ago, in New York, as I was ready to depart for Peru, to cover the so-called Dirty War:

It was the end of the week. The bus was full of girls; young women from slums. Some were barefoot. But they were dressed in their best. They were travelling to the center of the capital, to dance!

The voice of my friend broke. He was overwhelmed by his memories.

Do you understand? Before, they only went to the rich parts of the city in order to serve, to be humiliated, used; to labor for the rich. Now, they were going to those clubs that only a week ago were frequented exclusively by ‘gringos’ and local elites. They were going to dance. It was their country, suddenly. It was their city. They were free. The country belonged to them.

“This is when I understood,” he concluded, “that the revolution was right. Not because I studied Marxism, not because of some theory. But because these girls from the poor neighborhoods of Managua had suddenly gained the right to dance. They gained their right to exist; to be alive!”

*****

In Cuba, they say: “Everyone dances, or no one dances!”

Covering the world, documenting wars, conflicts, but also revolutions, I often encounter women like Risna.

Whenever countries collapse, whenever they are destroyed by savage capitalism, by religious extremism, or by subservience to imperialist powers, women suffer the most. It is almost the rule.

Most of them suffer in silence, as even their voices are being muted.

The more oppressive, regressive society gets, the more subjugated are its women.

Their humiliation, repression, suffering gets glorified as virtue. While rape, molestation, and submission are hushed up, never discussed. In countries such as Indonesia, if a woman protests and speaks about her fate, she gets ridiculed, discredited, or even thrown into prison, as has happened recently, on several well-publicized occasions.

Western hypocrisy is obvious: while everyone there is obsessed with ‘political correctness’, London, Washington and Paris are glorifying, supporting and even producing regimes which treat women worse than animals.

*****

Risna deserves to be in one of those proverbial buses which are taking women to the once exclusive clubs, so they can dance. In a rough translation of the metaphor: ‘so they could become the owners of their own fate, of their cities, and their country’.

Women like her are the women we are fighting for.

Their stories are our stories. Be they in Managua, Jakarta, Kampala, or Mumbai.

They are as significant as those stories from the war zones near Syrian Idlib, or Afghanistan, or Libya.

Not to tell such stories would convert us, revolutionary writers, into liars.

Originally published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

March of the Uyghurs

Important note: The Uyghurs have managed to create a very old and deep culture. Most of them are good, law abiding citizens of the PRC. Also the great majority of followers of Sunni Islam are peaceful people. This work is addressing terrible problems related to extremism and terrorism, most of them crafted and then fueled by the West and its allies. The goal is to damage China. The victims live in various countries.

*****

Uyghurs man in Istanbul

They are everywhere, where their Western, Gulf states and Turkish handlers want them to be.

Their combat as well as political cells and units are based in Syria and Indonesia, in Turkey and occasionally in Egypt.

When they are told to kill, they murder with unimaginable brutality; decapitating, or cutting to pieces priests, infants, old women.

They are China’s worst nightmare. They are unleashing religious fundamentalism and foreign-sponsored militant nationalism and separatism. They are potentially the greatest obstacle and danger to President’s Xi Jinping’s marvelous BRI (Belt and Road Initiative).

Both the West and Turkey are glorifying them; the most extremist of Uyghurs. They are financing and arming them. They are labelling them as victims. Uyghurs are now a new ‘secret weapon’, to be used against Beijing’s determined march forward, towards socialism with Chinese characteristics.

The West and its allies are doing all they can to smear China (PRC), to derail its progressive course, and to arrest its increasingly positive and optimistic influence on all the corners of the world. They invent and then support/finance all imaginable and unimaginable adversaries of the Communist Party of China. Religious sects are the favorite ‘weapon’ used against China by both North America and Europe. That is true about the extremists who belong to Tibetan Buddhism, concentrated around an agent and darling of the Western intelligence agencies, the Dalai Lama. Or yet another radical Buddhist/Taoist extremist sect – Falun Gong.

The West does everything in its power to destroy China. It was clearly detectable 30 years ago during the so-called Tiananmen Square Incident (an event supported by the West, and later twisted by Western mass media), as it has been obvious during two recent ‘rebellions’ in Hong Kong, fully sponsored by Western organizations (NGOs) and governments.

The latest chapter of the anti-Chinese attacks, conducted by the West, is perhaps the most dangerous, and the ‘best crafted’ multi-national onslaught against the interests of both China (PRC) and the developing world, particularly the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.

It is the so-called Uyghur issue.

*****

Muslim girls selling halal food in China

Uyghurs live predominantly in the northwest of China. They were recognized as ‘native’ in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China. They belong to one of the 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities of China, and are predominantly of Muslim faith.

For decades, some Uyghurs fought for independence from China (before the Communist PRC was declared on October 1, 1949, there were at least two Uyghur independent states declared in the region, the one most known – the First East Turkestan Republic – with the help of the Soviet Union).

Since the formation of the PRC, China has offered equal rights and constantly improving standards of living to the Uyghur minority. However, several extremist Muslim factions have kept fighting, brutally, for a Turkic independent state. They have not been representing the majority of Uyghurs, but being against the PRC, have enjoyed moral and financial support from the West, its allies in Gulf states, and from Turkey.

Dr. Gaye Christofferson, wrote in September 2002, in her work “Constituting the Uyghur in U.S.-China Relations: The Geopolitics of Identity Formation in the War on Terrorism” how divisive the actions of the Uyghurs were on the territory of the PRC:

Uyghur separatists and independence movements claim that the region is not a part of China, but that the Second East Turkestan Republic was illegally incorporated by the PRC in 1949 and has since been under Chinese occupation. Uyghur identity remains fragmented, as some support a Pan-Islamic vision, exemplified by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, while others support a Pan-Turkic vision, such as the East Turkestan Liberation Organization. A third group would like a “Uyghurstan” state, such as the East Turkestan independence movement. As a result, “[n]o Uyghur or East Turkestan group speaks for all Uyghurs, although it might claim to”, and Uyghurs in each of these camps have committed violence against other Uyghurs who they think are too assimilated to Chinese or Russian society or are not religious enough.

This was before the big propaganda push from the West; during the years when even Western academia was still relatively free to assess the situation in Xinjiang.

But soon after, the North American and European policy changed and radicalized.

In the West, the Uyghur issue was designated as ‘central’ and ‘essential’ to achieve three main goals:

  • To smear and humiliate China, portraying it as a country that ‘violates human rights’, ‘religious rights’ and the rights of minorities.
  • Uyghurs were literally inserted by NATO countries, including Turkey, into several violent combat zones: in Syria, Afghanistan and Indonesia, to name just a few, with one sole purpose: to train and to harden its fighters, who could be later deployed as de-stabilizing factors in China, Russia and former Soviet Central Asian Republics.
  • To sabotage great infrastructural projects, particularly the BRI. BRI is the brainchild of China’s President Xi Jinping. High-speed rail links, highways and other infrastructural arteries would be going through Xingjian, towards east. If brutal terrorist attacks backed by the West and its Islamist allies, and perpetrated by the Uyghur terrorists, would shake the region, the entire project which has been created in order to help to improve life for the entire humanity, (by wrestling various poor and developing countries from deadly Western neo-colonialist embrace), could be jeopardized, even collapse.

But what is really happening?

For several years, I investigated this ‘issue’; in China and Syria, in Turkey, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Indonesia.

It is because I consider it to be one of the most important and one of the most dangerous issue our planet is now facing.

I was able to trace patterns, and to find roots. What I discovered is disturbing and threatening. For China and for the world.

The “March of Uyghurs” is backed by “useful idiots”, all over the Western world, but also in Turkey, and elsewhere. They want to “defend victims”, but in this case, the ‘victims’ are actually ‘victimizers’ and usurpers.

Here I am putting my findings (and the findings of other colleagues and comrades) on the record. I do it so no one who is searching for truth would be able to say now or in ten years: “I did not know”, or “The information has not been available.”

Before we begin, let me point out how enormous the hypocrisy of the West is: The TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party, which is the militant wing of the Uyghur’s separatist Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM)), has been designated as a terrorist organization by China. But not by China alone; also, by the European Union. Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Pakistan! The terrorists supported by the West and at least by part of its public, is designated as a terrorist organization by London, Brussels and Washington.

Using Western logic, it is obviously quite acceptable to train terrorists in Syria or Indonesia, for the horrible mass killing of Chinese people, but it is not acceptable to have them operate on the territory of European Union, or the United States.

*****

Office of Uyghurs in Istanbul

The frontal Western attack against China and its actions in Xingjian began in 2018. Propaganda salvos were fired long before, but the ‘semi-official’ beginning of the ideological combat came in August 2018, when Reuters published a story with the title “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” It went like this:

GENEVA (Reuters) – A United Nations human rights panel said on Friday that it had received many credible reports that 1 million ethnic Uighurs in China are held in what resembles a “massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy.”

Gay McDougall, a member of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, cited estimates that 2 million Uighurs and Muslim minorities were forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the western Xinjiang autonomous region. 

“We are deeply concerned at the many numerous and credible reports that we have received that in the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability (China) has changed the Uighur autonomous region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone’,” she told the start of a two-day regular review of China’s record, including Hong Kong and Macao. 

China has said that Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tensions between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority who call the region home and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

William Engdahl lashed at the Reuters report on pages of 21 Century Wire:

In August Reuters published an article under the headline, “UN says it has credible reports that China holds million Uighurs in secret camps.” A closer look at the article reveals no official UN policy statement, but rather a quote from one American member of an independent committee that does not speak for the UN, a member with no background in China. The source of the claim it turns out is a UN independent advisory NGO called Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The sole person making the charge, American committee member Gay McDougall, stated she was “deeply concerned” about “credible reports.” McDougall cited no source for the dramatic charge.

Reuters in their article boosts its claim by citing a murky Washington DC based NGO, the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). In an excellent background investigation, researchers at the Grayzone Project found that the CHRD gets hundreds of thousands of dollars from unnamed governments. The notorious US government NGO, National Endowment for Democracy, is high on the list of usual suspects. Notably, the CHRD official address is that of the Human Rights Watch which gets funds also from the Soros foundation.

This is how the new chapter of anti-Chinese ideological attacks (and attempts to stop them) began.

And soon, they intensified. The Western propaganda apparatus unleashed dozens of articles, which, while claiming that China has been building several detention centers for Uyghurs in Xingjiang, failed to provide any proof that extreme harsh measures were being applied against the religious and political extremists in Northwest China.

The most amateurish, speculation-based one, was printed on June 1, 2019, by The Telegraph (“China’s Uighur Muslims forced to eat and drink as Ramadan celebrations banned”):

Beijing has long sought to arrest control of this resource-rich region where decades of government-encouraged migration of the Han – China’s ethnic majority – have fuelled resentment among Uighurs. The biggest outburst erupted in 2009 in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, resulting in 200 deaths.

Now, the ruling Communist Party has launched a propaganda campaign about snuffing out “criminal” and “terrorist” activity. All across Xinjiang – meaning “new frontier” – are bright red banners reminding people to fight illegal, “cult” behaviour, listing hotlines to report suspicious activity.

“Love the Party, love the country,” hangs a streamer at one mosque, just above the metal detector. A highway billboard proclaims, “Secretary Xi is linked heart-to-heart with Xinjiang minorities,” referring to Chinese president Xi Jinping.

The government is working to present an image of a happy, peaceful Xinjiang, in efforts to boost tourism and attract investment; this is the linchpin for Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road initiative.”

Many thinkers, however, have been bravely putting this kind of ‘reporting’ into context. My close friend and co-author of our book “China and Ecological Civilization”, a leading U.S. philosopher and progressive theologian, John Cobb Jr., has many years of involvement in China. He wrote for this reportage:

A standard tactic of the U.S. government is to create situations in which another government has little choice but to use violence. Its use of violence is then treated as proof that “regime-change” is needed. Sometimes it even justifies war. The Iranians shooting down an American spy drone, for example, almost led to an overt American attack on Iran. China has been placed in such a situation with regard to one of its Islamic minorities. There is real danger that the Uighurs will use violence against China. China thus far has responded by an effort at massive, compulsory re-education which can be depicted as forcing citizens to spend much of their time in “concentration camps.” That the minority is Islamic is then used in American propaganda to imply that China persecutes religion. Propaganda can also create anti-Chinese feeling among religious people all over the world, and especially among Muslims both in China and elsewhere.  

If we think that anything that weakens those who refuse American domination is good, then we can admire the skill of the CIA. If we care for truth and justice, our task is to bring to light the cruelty and injustice of the subversion and the lies.

*****

Uyghurs in Turkey

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ‘fell in love’ with Uyghurs when he served as the mayor of the country’s largest city – Istanbul. He erected a monument to them, and declared that the Turkish nation had roots in “Turkestan”.

He allowed hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs to migrate to Turkey.

Immigration office in Izmir, Turkey which processes Uyghurs

Being a NATO-member country and at least in the past, one of the closest allies of the United States, Turkey readily helped the West with its colorful anti-Chinese campaign.

But that was not all. Far from it. NATO nations and their ultra-religious allies in the Gulf, decided to overthrow the Arab-socialist government in Damascus, Syria. Turkey readily participated in the ‘project’ from the very beginning, sacrificing its historic ties with the Assad family.

As early as in 2012, I investigated, with the help of the Turkish translator of my books, the so-called refugee camps in the border area of Hatay (with its ancient capital of Antakya). While several camps were truly serving as refugee centers, others like Apaydin, were training Syrian terrorists, as well as foreign jihadi fighters.

Apaydin camp in Hatay Turkey near Syria

In those days, Serkan Koc, a leading Turkish left-wing documentary filmmaker, who has produced several groundbreaking works on the subject of the “Syrian opposition”, explained to me in Istanbul:

Of course, you do realize that those people are not really ‘Syrian opposition.’ They are modern-day legionnaires collected from various Arab countries, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, paid by Western imperialist powers. Some are members of Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Most are militant Sunni Muslims. One could describe them as rogue elements hired to fight the Assad government.

With help of the Mr. Koc’s contacts in Hatay, I managed to establish, as early as in 2012 and 2013, that some of the ‘legionnaires’ were actually Uyghurs. I also received confirmation that they were being smuggled from the Hatay area ‘camps’ directly into Syria, fully armed and equipped.

Terrorists were also trained at the NATO air force facility ‘Incerlik’, near the city of Adana. Exactly how many Uyghurs went through that air base, has so far not been established.

On the Syrian war front, the toughest, the most brutal and the most dangerous assassins in the presently terrorist-controlled area of Idlib, are Uyghurs. But this fact will be addressed in the following chapter of this report.

*****

In Istanbul, I teamed-up with my colleague and comrade, Erkin Oncan, a leading Turkish journalist and thinker, who presently works for Sputnik. For years, he has been reporting on the movement of the Uyghurs.

Together, we visited the Zeitinburnu neighborhood on the outskirts of Istanbul, where we met Erkin’s colleagues, who took us on a ‘tour’ of significant Uyghur ‘landmarks’, including the office where Uyghurs have been recruited, allowed to work semi-legally, and then, many of them, sent to Syria and Iraq.

There are approximately 50,000 Uyghurs living in Turkey (10 million live in China and all over the world). Zeitinburnu, has the greatest concentration of Uyghurs in the country. Here they own businesses, restaurants. Old people enjoy a relaxed life, drinking tea and leading endless conversations in public places.

But this tranquil mood is only a façade. Here is where many Uyghurs arrive. From here, they get injected abroad, where they learn their deadly ‘trade’, how to become hardened and merciless fighters. They go to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or as far as Indonesia.

As early as on April 9, 2015, BGNNews.com in Istanbul, reported:

The network is based out of Zeytinburnu, a district on Istanbul’s European side which is home to a community of Uighurs who live in Turkey. It is headed by Nurali T, a businessman who has been facilitating the movement of Uighurs from China to Syria and Iraq via Turkey since 2011. He is known by his code name Abbas. An individual who works for him, AG, says that a total of 100,000 fake Turkish passports have been produced, 50,000 of which have been shipped to China to be handed to fighters recruited to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

According to the article Uighurs are joining the fight, traveling from China through Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Malaysia, which has no visa requirements with Turkey. A fee of USD 200 is taken from the recruits.

The fighters then spend a night in Istanbul in motels, hotels or safe-house apartments before heading to Turkey’s Southeast and East the next day to cross into Syria and Iraq.

The individuals carrying fake passports are often caught at the airport in Istanbul. As to why they have been able to enter Turkey and not get deported, AG says, “Turkey has secret dealings with the Uighurs. The authorities first confiscate the passports but then release the individuals.”

Erkin and his friend talk about the present situation in Turkey. And about what Uyghurs are expected to achieve:

Members of TIP – Turkistan Islamic Party – are repeatedly saying that ‘in Syria we are training for jihad, and we will go back to China, and fight.

The question is, how would Uyghur fighters be moved back to China; from both Turkey, but especially from Syria?

Erkin replied:

My theory is, that China is on high alert, and if the fighters would be sent first from Syria to Turkey, and then to China, it could be done only if the ID’s were changed and falsified. Because China has names, it has lists, and it has information. If Turkey decides to secretly change their ID’s, and sends them to China, it could be possible, but, as you said yourself earlier, the Afghan route is also possible. The IS fighters are also gathering there, the TIP is gathering there, in Afghanistan; some parts of the Western Afghanistan tip, which is not far from the border with China. I think that TIP will try to go directly to China, but most of the attempts will fail. They will attack from Afghanistan. As you know, Russia recently declared that the IS has formed a new caliphate in Afghanistan, which would fortify the jihadi climate in the country. Turkey will try to send a number of Uyghur fighters there, although I don’t know how many.

I also think that Turkey will try to divide Uyghurs into two groups. You know that Uyghurs always travel with their families. Sending them anywhere with the families is very hard. But sending fighters first, and then ‘deporting’ the families, is another thing. Deporting the families could be done under ‘humanitarian cover’. So, I think, the fighters will go first, secretly, and then, families will be deported.

But where would the families be ‘deported’ to? To China?

Yes, because in Izmir and Hatay, Uyghurs are taken care of by the Turkish government. There are always, exclusively, women and children, but no men.

On June 2019, I went back to both Hatay and Izmir, just to confirm what I was told in Zeitinburnu.

Hatay, Turkey

But before that, we traveled to Aksaray in Istanbul; to one of the notorious Uyghur restaurants, owned by an AKP member. Uyghurs are managing the place. It is the place where separatist leaders meet, regularly; every month, or at least every second month. The former boss of this place was arrested on charges of human trafficking. My colleagues explain: “We have no idea what charges, exactly, or what happened to him. If he was still in prison, we would definitely know.”

The Police HQ is very close to this eatery, which I do not want to identify by name, at least not for this report, not yet. Paradoxically, some members of the police force who are supposed to be tracking down human trafficking, regularly gather here. So too, naïve Chinese tourists in search of good spicy Chinese food from the Northwest of their country.

I am told:

According to my source here, police once spotted a human trafficking cell here, but did nothing… Police is actually controlling these cells, even giving new names to those who are supposed to be sent to Syria. Police is in charge, and the government officials actually know who is going to Syria, name by name. Some profits from this, and from other restaurants like this one, are going directly to the Uyghur separatist association.

Actually, there are many restaurants like this, but this one is the HQ for the Istanbul area. It tries to stay humble, not flashy, with hardly any signs in Arabic.”

I am also explained to:

All of our sources confirm the same: ‘Police and the state/government know everything, and they make sure to control the action.

Governing and mainly right-wing nationalist and pro-Western opposition parties in Turkey are all supporting the Uyghurs. The Opposition even more than the ruling AKP, so there is very little chance that the policy will get reversed anytime soon.

Most of the Turkish media outlets echo Western sources, and are openly hostile towards China.

However, the government does not want to antagonize China, openly. It has some cooperation, at least when it comes to the tracking of criminal activities.

One thing has changed, I was told by Abdulkadir Yapcan, who covers legal issues related to Uyghurs:

If China provides IDs and names, Turkey will investigate and press charges. If China fails to provide detailed information, Turkey will do absolutely nothing. This is at least some change, since 2016. Although, so far, there was only one case…

Uyghurs have gone violent, even in Turkey, on several occasions. The most documented ones were an attack against the Thai consulate in Istanbul in 2015, and an attack on a nightclub in Zeitinburnu, in which 39 people lost their lives, mainly Turkish and Saudi citizens.

*****

Uyghur Fighters in Afghanistan

On the outskirts of Kabul and Jalalabad in Afghanistan, I regularly encounter people who are escaping from the increasing presence of ISIS in various parts of the country. Some are now forced to live in the camps for internally displaced people, like that in Bagrami, just on the outskirts of the capital.

My sources in the country are speaking clearly about the movement of the jihadi cadres (mostly ISIS) from Syria to Afghanistan. Among them are, as expected, Uyghurs.

These individuals arrive after being fully trained. They are battle-ready, indoctrinated and extremely brutal, even by the standards of Afghanistan; a country which has been battered by civil wars and invasions.

The proximity of Afghanistan to China, with which it has a short border in the east, but also to the former Soviet Central Asian Republics (Afghanistan has borders with Turkmenistan Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), is making it an ideal group to be used for subversion against China, Russia and the Central Asian republics.

It is essential to understand, that China’s BRI is designed to connect China with the entire world, using several infrastructural corridors, some of which would be following the old Silk Roads, passing through Central Asia, cutting through Iran, Pakistan but also Afghanistan. The city of Urumqi, and Xingjian Province generally, will be some of the most important hubs. Those in the West who want to disrupt this, perhaps, the most important global project, are strategically using Uyghur separatists, terrorists and religious fanatics, to bring uncertainty, even chaos, to this part of the world.

Several top al-Qaeda members such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, and Mustafa Setmariam Nasar ─ who had met Uyghurs in Afghanistan where they trained as mujahidin ─ have expressed personal support to their cause’. The Uyghurs East Turkestan independence movement was also personally endorsed in the serial “Islamic Spring’s 9th release” by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the chief of Al-Qaeda.

It is also important to recall that during the Battle of Kunduz in Afghanistan (in 2015), foreign Islamist militants joined both Taliban and ISIS, in an assault on the city. Among them were Uyghur as well as Chechen, Rohingya, Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek.

TIP is fighting in Syria and elsewhere, but the organization’s leadership is based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but with most of its members operating illegally on the territory of People’s Republic of China.

Uyghurs are encouraged to murder and they are trained and hardened in Syria

A lady, a mother of three, is sitting on the porch of her temporary home, in the Syrian city of As Suqaylabiyah. She slowly recounts the horrors she had to live through, before escaping from her village in the Idlib area:

The terrorists who committed mass murder in my town, are Uyghurs. My cousins and other relatives, were killed. By Uyghurs; yes, by them. In April, 2014. They were shot. We stood against them, trying to defend ourselves. Then they began killing us, first in the fight, then in revenge. After that, they cut off heads of those they murdered.

“Were they the most brutal of the terrorists,” I asked.

Yes. From north to south, from east to west of Idlib province. They are monstrous. They are under the command, under control of Nusra Front. They kidnap soldiers, and kill them brutally. They kill entire families and kill them in a way I cannot even describe. The easiest death is when they shoot and then behead you. They are like monsters.

She knows. She escaped them by a miracle:

I still remember; I fled with what was left of my family, at 4am. Uyghurs were killing, and so were Indonesians; totally brainwashed, mad. You know, my family consists of teachers; teachers of Arabic language. I have 3 children. They were not going to spare anyone…

I met Ms. Noora Al Khadour and 17 years old daughter, Naia, from the Kafer Nboudah village:

We are terribly scared of Uyghurs; of their crimes. I don’t even want to remember what has happened. Although I know that I have to speak to you; to people like you… in order to stop all that madness. You know, I had to flee with my four children, on a motorbike, like in some crazy movie…

She tries to find words, how to begin:

First: we had to switch off our brains, in order to survive. What was happening was far from ‘normal’. It was horror. It is almost impossible to describe… I am just a simple woman. They entered our town and began beheading. Shooting… Their faces; their expressions – your heart stops thinking about them. I am so lucky that during that night I did not lose any family members, because we escaped almost immediately.

I ask whether Uyghurs and their TIP are using narcotics, when they attack villages. My question triggers a huge discussion.

“Definitely,” Ms. Noora replied. “They could not act like this, if they were in a ‘normal’ state.”

My friend, Anas, who is accompanying me, chips in:

My friend from the SAA (Syrian Arab Army) told me that the pockets of the jackets of the terrorists are always full of drugs. Uyghurs are using captagon.

Soldiers standing by, confirm that whenever a terrorist is captured, his pockets are full of ‘combat drugs’.

I am wondering, in horror, what would a well-trained platoon of TIP terrorists do if it were to overrun a village in China. In the two last decades, Uyghur separatists carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks in China, killing countless people. But they never held an entire village anywhere in the PRC.

*****

Syria, Idlib front line – Commander Nabel

In As Suqaylabiyah I sit across a table from the commander of NDF (National Defense Force), Nabel Al-Abdallah. We speak Russian. He takes me; drives me, to the frontline, all the way to the edge, where Al Nusra positions are clearly visible. Then he invites me back, to this beautiful part of Syria, when “all this madness is over”.

Back at his command center, he explains:

We are not afraid of Uyghurs, but we are taking their threat very seriously. Look, inside the Idlib area which is controlled by them, terrorism ‘grows’. If, after improving his combat skills here, a fighter returns to China, it would represent a tremendous danger. Uyghurs are the worst fighters; the toughest fighters. And right in front of us – Idlib – is the world capital of terror. It is a laboratory of terrorism. There are terrorists from all over the world. There, Uyghurs are learning the deadliest trades.

He pauses, offers me aromatic Syrian tea. Then continues with his thoughts:

Uyghur terrorists are targeting our people. They are brutalizing them. If we do not have solutions, soon, terrorists will damage the entire world. Our problem is not just Uyghurs and ISIS, not only TIP or Nusra. Our problem is the ideology which they represent. They use Islam, they commit barbarity in the name of Islam, but all this is backed by the United States and the West. The Syrian Army and National Defense Forces are sacrificing their soldiers for the world, not just for this country.

There are conflicting reports, as for how many Uyghurs fighters are still inside Syria. The generally accepted number is around 2,000, but that includes families.

Syrian tank near Idlib facing Uyghurs and other terrorists

Commander Nabel clarified:

400 to 500 fighters are now in Idlib area. And all international terrorists based in Idlib are under Al-Nusra Front command. They are supported by Qatar, United States, Saudis, and Turkey. Officers of the U.S. intelligence are there – inside my country. There are Turkish observation points, Turkish military forces.

Again, I am being driven along the front line. I visited several Syrian positions and towns, including As Suqaylabiyah. It is still war here, around Idlib – real, tough war. Mortars are exploding not far from us, and landmines are being discovered and defused in the vicinity. People are dying; they still are.

Near Muhradah, at the Mahardah Power Station which was recently liberated by the SAA, soldiers discovered several charred bodies. I was told, they were most likely “Asian” terrorists. But were they Indonesians or Uyghurs, nobody could tell.

Turkey-Syria border

The leader of the National Syrian Defense in Muhradah, clarified:

Uyghurs are tough fighters. They are under Al-Nusra front. They are very evasive, operating under different names. They are all there – inside – in Idlib. When Idlib falls, they will fall together with it.

I am shown maps.

Most likely, when all this is over, the Uyghurs will be “moved” elsewhere. Back to Turkey, to Afghanistan, or, if nothing is done to stop them, back to China.

A Syrian analyst who does not want to be identified, wrote for this essay:

Danger of Uyghurs operating in Syria is multi-faceted:

First of all, they can form no part of any integral solution, because they do not belong to Syria. One way or the other, their presence is harmful; dividing the country. The latest information about their deployment here is clearly showing that they are intentionally being used by Turkey, in order to prevent the SAA from regaining control over Idlib. Back in 2016, the SAA tried to infiltrate the territory all the way to Jisr ash-Shugur, in Idlib, from Latakia countryside. But all military actions failed, due to the might of the TIP (Turkistan Islamic Party) which is operating in the area. It is good to mention here that the TIP spearheaded the attacks on all SAA posts in Jisr ash-Shugur and committed massacres there.

The second issue is: a direct threat to the Chinese interests in the region. with intimidations being spread online and posted via the accounts linked to “Malhama Tactical” (The group, founded by a pseudonymous Uzbek jihadist called Abu Rofiq, operating in Syria, supporting anti-government terrorist forces* note of the author). There is also great danger of the Uyghurs returning back to China and recruiting hundreds of youth extremist, separatist fighters, who could then decide to initiate attacks against the PRC.

For the reasons mentioned above, China has to be involved in all the efforts to neutralize such threats. And the world has to understand its defensive actions.

*****

 Uyghurs in Indonesia and Rest of Southeast Asia

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, has been, since the 1965 US and UK backed right-wing military coup, a staunch ally of the West. Communism and atheism are banned there, and the most extreme and grotesque forms of capitalism are practiced all over the archipelago. Racism in Indonesia is fabled; the country has committed three genocides since 1965, including the on-going one in the occupied West Papua.

The Chinese minority was always the target of countless pogroms and discrimination. This began in the era of Dutch colonialism, and continues until now.

On top of it, most of the Indonesian Muslims are practicing the increasingly intolerant, radical Sunni Wahhabi Islam, with roots in Saudi Arabia (Wahhabism was developed with the substantial help of the British imperialists).

Right-wing, religious, pro-business Indonesia has generally seen China (PRC) as an enemy. Right after the 1965 coup, tens of thousands of Chinese people were murdered in cold blood, hundreds of thousands were enslaved, countless women gang-raped, millions forced to change names, abandon their native language, character and culture. Many elements in the Indonesian regime and apparatus have enthusiastically joined the West in its new crusade to destabilize Beijing and its internationalist vision for the world.

The Uyghurs have become the perfect tool for the anti-Beijing combat. According to Pak Wawan from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (not his real name), some Uyghurs began commuting from China to Turkey and eventually Syria with the fake Turkish passports, as early as one decade ago. This bewildered some Indonesian immigration officers, at the main international airport in Jakarta. But the ‘confusion’ was soon clarified, and the Uyghurs were allowed to proceed; to continue on their deadly march.

Pak Wawan told me more, during our encounter in the West Javanese city of Bandung:

There were ‘friendships’ forged between the Uyghurs and local, Indonesian, Islamist radicals. Some Indonesian people even travelled to Urumqi. Connections have been forged, and eventually many travelled to Indonesia, for ideological work, fundraising and combat training. These contacts and links go way back to the times when both sides were based in Mecca, Medina, Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. The visa regime between the two countries (Indonesia and China) is relatively lax, and so, people from TIP have been able to enter Indonesia hassle free. Once here, most of them became imams, but others went on to join camps and get training as jihadi fighters, particularly in the middle of the Island of Sulawesi.

Pak Wawan continues:

These people have a huge network. They also have networks in Thailand and Malaysia. Recently, they deported them from Pattaya, Thailand. Most of their cadres had studied at various religious universities, mostly in the Saudi Arabia, or at least somewhere in the Middle East.

When they come to Indonesia, they carry with them a book of propaganda, as well as videos, with the aim of boiling mistrust and hate towards China. Among other things, the book says that the Chinese people are: kafir (“ingratitude” (toward God)), and that they are najis (dirty). The book is calling for the banning (again) of all symbols of Chinese culture.

It is a tremendously racist, violent book. Similar texts have been distributed in Indonesia against Shi’a Muslims, with the predictable help of Saudi Arabia.

According to Pak Wawan:

In Indonesia, it is estimated that there are some 200 Uyghur students, with the main purpose, to work as ustads/imams (religious clerics), and to infiltrate the system. Some are simply trapped here. Some of them are involved in subversive activities, together with the members of the Indonesian jihadists. Their goal is to go back to Syria, and eventually to China.

In the restive island of Sulawesi, there are expected to be several Uyghur fighters, still on the loose, although four of them were caught, tried and sentenced to lengthy terms in prison (in 2015), for joining the radical terrorist group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT or East Indonesia Mujahedeen) with its leader Santoso aka Pakde aka Abu Wardah. The Santoso group has already pledged allegiance to ISIS under the leadership of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

The imprisonment of 4 Uyghurs in Indonesia in 2015, could be interpreted as a change of course by Jokowi’s administration. The same as Turkey, Indonesia has been the victim of deadly terrorist attacks, and begins to see the Wahhabi jihadi cadres as a danger. Also, the attitude towards China is starting to change, as least in the recent years. China is seen as a partner, mainly when it comes to investment into the collapsing Indonesian infrastructure.

But it is still a confusing situation.

Some Uyghurs are arriving, lately via the International airport in Manado, Sulawesi. Others are travelling by boat, from the Muslim part of the Philippines.

What is significant is that the delegations from two major Indonesian Muslim organizations – NU (Nahdlatul Ulama – the largest independent Muslim organization in the world) and Muhammadiyah – were invited to Urumqi in China, shown around, and at the end declared publicly, that there is no oppression of the Muslims in China.

It became clear that those who were continuing to spread anti-Chinese rumors in Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia, were financed and supported from abroad.

Rossie Indira, an Indonesian writer and publisher, who has been helping with this report, visited several radical groups in Java, as well as the leading politicians, who flatly refused to smear China on behalf of the West.

Of course, the hardened Islamist organizations never changed their tune. Mr. Atip Latiful Hayat, Chairman of the Expert Council of ANNAS Indonesia (Anti-Shia National Alliance), spoke to Ms. Rossie Indira about ‘human rights’ and the oppression of Muslims by the PRC. ANNAS Indonesia openly declared that “Balikpapan Muslims will support both morally and materially any strive for the liberation of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province of China.”

Mr. Okta, from the program department of ACT, an NGO from West Java, which used to be heavily involved in collecting money and goods for the Uyghurs, declared that the issue is not their priority, anymore.

Poster %22Free Uighur to Practice Islam at ACT West Java office in Bandung

Dina Suleiman, a legendary Indonesian academic and writer, who regularly defends both Syria and Iran, stated for this report:

ACT published its yearly report, but we could not find details on where all the money went. They only published that a certain amount was donated to countries outside Indonesia, but no details. An accountant friend of mine looked into their published reports and said that they (ACT) used all kinds of terminology to validate using the percentage of donations for their own needs. He told me that it could be that up to 60% of the donations were used for their own needs.

A typical case of endemic Indonesian corruption? In this case: good. Better if money gets stolen, than if it was to reach Uyghur extremists!

Mr. Inas N. Zubir, the Chairman of the Hanura Faction in the House of Representatives is part of the faction in the Indonesian political system, that is openly questioning what is behind the smearing of the Chinese government in connection with the Uyghur ‘issue’. He spoke to Ms. Rossie Indira, recently, for this report:

Indonesian people have to be careful when they hear about the problems related to Uyghur Muslims, because the news about the alleged discriminatory treatment by the Chinese government that has been lately circulating, only came from the international media and a number of western NGOs. Meanwhile, a number of western countries were later found to have less harmonious relations with China.

The Central Committee of Muhammadiyah (by its Chairman, Haedar Nasir) met with the Chinese Muslim Association (Vice President of the association: Abdullah Amin Jin Rubin) in September 2018. Abdullah Amin Jin Rubin had denied the above allegations. He stated that Muslims in China as a whole, including Uighurs, had the same freedom and received good treatment from the government. The proof is: in Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are located, there are 28,000 mosques and more than 30,000 imams to lead prayers. Even in Xinjiang, the government participates in supporting the establishment of Islamic College. So, the religious life of Muslims is good.

I suspected that the issue of discriminatory treatment of Uighur Muslims was deliberately raised by certain parties in the country to discredit Joko Widodo’s government. I think the opposition intentionally portrays Joko Widodo’s government as a government that does not care about the suffering of Uighur Muslims.

*****

Several Jihadi cells in the Philippines and Malaysia are also pledging support to the Uyghur extremists.

During the year 2017, the jihadi cadres (mainly ISIS) attacked and overran the city of Marawi, on Mindanao Island, Philippines. What followed was a prolonged battle between the military and the terrorists. I was told by the army commanders that among the dead militants, there were several “foreign fighters”. Some were Indonesians, others came from Malaysia. It was indicated to me that there were ‘others’, particularly from China, although there was no concrete confirmation about the Uyghurs.

March of Uyghurs has to be Stopped

And what is it that the Chinese media, and the Chinese people have to say on the subject? Naturally, it is not easy to find much of non-Western voices, in the propagandist anti-Chinese cacophony carried by outlets such as Yahoo News or Google.

As early as in 2013, China Daily published an article by Li Xiaoshuang named “Western media’s coverage on Xinjiang worthless”. It passionately expressed what the North American and European mass media has been trying to silence, for over a decade:

The Western media has become the propaganda machine for the Uyghur separatists.

As a Xinjiang native, I am outraged by the false reports in Western press about what has happened in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region during the month of Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims all over the world…

Citing just a Uyghur activist as the only news source, the reports accuse Chinese authorities of banning Muslims from fasting and praying in mosques, coupled with biased commentary that the Chinese government is suppressing Uyghur ethnic groups and transferring huge numbers of Han Chinese into Xinjiang to dilute the Uyghur culture.

Without first-hand accounts, not mentioning repeated clarifications from the Xinjiang government, how dare these media outlets be so irresponsible? How can the world learn the whole truth?

It reminds me of the riot in the region on June 26, leaving 27 people dead. It was definitely a massacre, but some Western media, as they have done so before, described the attacks as part of an ethnic conflict. They portray terrorists who betray their religion by killing innocent people as “heroes”, seeking religious or political freedom…

On March 20, 2019, Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi of Global Times reported with much more urgency:

Misleading headlines, groundless accusations, obscure interviewees, double standards are not hard to spot in many articles covering China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Western media outlets.

Recent months have seen an intensive outburst of such reports which have tainted China’s anti-terrorism efforts in the region by adopting tactics including using words with a negative connotation, providing incomplete information and stirring readers’ emotions.”

It is not often mentioned in the West, but there are some 20 million Muslims living in China. According to the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA), there are more than 21 million Muslims in the country. According to SARA there are approximately 36,000 Islamic places of worship, more than 45,000 imams, and 10 Islamic schools in the country. In China, Islam has some interesting nuances: for instance, there are mosques led by female imams, there. All over China, halal food is available, and actually very popular. Many people show great interest in Muslim culture, at least theoretically.

During my 2018 visit to the Chinese city of Xian, I was impressed by the great effort the Chinese government has been making to support Muslim culture in this historical center of multi-culturalism from which, centuries ago, the legendary Silk Road had been initiating. Islamic civilization, its music, food, centers of worship and architecture are now the greatest magnet, bringing tens of millions of visitors from all over China.

I clearly saw that there was no discrimination in Xiang. My conclusions were the same as those of the emissaries of two Muslim mass movements of Indonesia, who were allowed to visit Xinjiang. We found no brutal treatment of the Muslim and their religion in China.

*****

It often appears to me, and to other experts on China, that the Chinese people and even the Chinese government, do not know how to defend themselves against the vicious and totally unfair attacks against their country; attacks which are coming from abroad.

China “wants peace”. It is offering friendship. But it is insulted, constantly attacked and humiliated in return.

The truth is obvious: The West does not desire peace. It does not care about justice. It never did. It only wants to control. For as long as China is doing well; better than the West; for as long as its political and social system are becoming more and more popular, all over the world, and particularly in developing countries, Washington, Paris, London, Berlin, but also Tokyo, will never stop, attacking and provoking Beijing.

In order to prosper, and even in order to survive, the Chinese Dragon will have to fight. Only a defeated, humiliated and conquered China would be ‘accepted’ by the West. A China which respects itself and helps others will be attacked and brutalized by the West.

The great Chinese poet, Su Shi (1037-1101) once wrote: “The scenery varies when people watch from close or far, or from different sides.” What he meant was that Mount Lushan will not show its true features just because we are right in the mountains.

The same could be written about politics. Just because one lives in China, it does not guarantee that he or she would be able to fully understand the viciousness and determination of the anti-Chinese attacks, which are conducted by the foreign adversaries. Also he or she would not necessarily realize why they are being conducted.

The attacks against China are not only of an economic or military nature. Religions are some of the mightiest weapons of the China’s foes. Be it radical Buddhism, evangelical Protestant Christianity, or, as now, radical Islam.

China has to defend itself, by all means. Extremist Uyghurs are marching. Many of them are brutal, and extremely dangerous. They have already murdered thousands of innocent people, in various countries. Their goal is to break the integrity of China and its great internationalist projects. They are determined, well-funded, and thoroughly selfish. Their desire for ‘independence’ has been ignited and financed by foreign powers.

The plan of the extremist Uyghurs is simple: to perfect terrorist and extremist tactics, and combat skills abroad, then return to China and begin spreading the nightmare at home.

The West is readily “helping” to fuel their deadly march. China’s Ecological Civilization, the end of poverty in the most populous country on earth, and BRI, are seen as a danger to Western supremacy, at least in places such as Washington, London and Brussels.

China has all the right to defend itself. It has a full obligation to do so.

It is the duty of thinkers from all over the world to tell the truth. If they stay silent, or if they sell their dignity for money and privileges, as so many in the West are doing right now, they will be condemned by future generations.

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

In Indonesian Borneo: Humiliate Native People, then loot their land

You will never read about it, but Dayak people, the “First Nation” of the enormous island of Borneo, are broken, robbed and brainwashed.

“Unity in diversity” it says; the motto of Indonesia. But it could be argued that the opposite is true. There is very little unity, and less and less diversity, as the country is controlled from Jakarta, an enormous, overpopulated stinky and sinking megapolis which is located on the island of Java.

Jakarta does not want to allow any dissent. For half a century it has made sure that everyone on this huge and unfortunate archipelago thinks the same, while desiring no improvement. Here, everyone is religious, everyone anti-Communist and fanatically pro-capitalist. The result is: the country collapsed, a long time ago, but ‘no one noticed’. While the Western media is paid ‘not to notice’.

“It is a modern-time colonialism”, I heard thousands of times. Java is perceived by many who are living on those proverbial thousands of islands (the Indonesian archipelago has over 17 thousand isles which are spread over a great area), as a colonialist, aggressive and morally corrupt entity. No wonder: after independence from Netherlands, the country was formed, generally, along the old colonial boundaries.

During the era of the progressive anti-imperialist President Ahmed Sukarno, Indonesia was at least a co-founder of the Non-aligned Movement. It nationalized its natural resources, while building an enlightened socialist motherland.

That did not last very long. Following the West-sponsored brutal military coup of 1965, socialism was destroyed, Communists and atheists murdered, and the US-style neo-colonialist rule managed to smash all hopes for a better future.

Ever since, most of the islands have been run as colonies: pillaged, and oppressed. The ‘transmigration’ policy has been turning local people into a minority, at least in the various ‘strategic’ areas. Those have literally been flooded with state-sponsored immigrants from Java, Southern Sumatra, and other densely-populated Sunni Muslim parts of the country.

Modern-day Indonesia has lived through three cruel genocides in its modern history: one triggered during and after the fascist coup (1965/66), then one that was perpetrated in (formerly) occupied East Timor, and the one, on-going one, in the conquered West Papua. But that is not all: terrible inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts have been shaking Indonesia for decades: from Aceh to Sulawesi, Ambon, Kalimantan (Borneo), to name just a few. Anti-Chinese pogroms have been common for centuries.

If there were to be a referendum, most of the islands, including the tourist island of Bali, would opt for independence. But that is a hushed fact, as it would never be allowed. The unproductive and depressingly over-populated island of Java virtually lives off the plundering of the riches of the entire archipelago. Indonesia’s ‘wealth’ mainly comes from commodities; from unbridled plundering of the outer islands.

Polluted waterways of Kalimantan

That, of course, is true about one of the biggest booty – the enormous Kalimantan.

Many of the filthy rich Javanese families are connected to the plunder. Their wealth comes directly from destruction of the archipelago. The five-star hotels surrounded by Jakarta’s slums, malls with overpriced European brand names, and tasteless villas in gated communities, are built on blood and robbery.

*****

The island of Borneo is the third largest island on earth, after Greenland and Papua. It is shared by Indonesia (where it is known as Kalimantan), and also by Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. And it has, or more precisely, it used to count on all kinds of imaginable treasures, from oil to coal, gold, uranium and timber.

 

 

Entering Indonesian Kalimantan from Malaysia

It also used to be one of the most pristine and stunning parts of the world, covered by plush native forests, which grew all along the mighty and clean tropical waterways.

Borneo’s native people, the Dayaks, used to live in true symbiosis with nature. Whatever their internal problems were, they never tried to conquer other islands.

But this self-contained paradise had been brutally penetrated and eventually destroyed; first by the Dutch colonialists, and later by the legendary Javanese greed united with Western multi-national companies.

Today, Borneo, or at least its Indonesian part, is almost entirely ruined. Most of its forests have been cut down, giving way to the endless and toxic oil palm plantations. Rivers where gold is being mined both legally and illegally, are poisoned by mercury, while entire mountains are levelled by local and foreign mining companies. Coal mines are of tremendous proportions, and expanding.

Horrid palm oil

The wisdom of the local people is still alive, but only deep in what is left of the native forests. Most of the ‘modern-day’ Dayak people have been cannily incorporated by the regime into the system which thrives on plundering of the land and of all that nature holds above and below the surface.

*****

Mr. Krisusandi, the chief of “Dayakology Institute” located in the city of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, does not hide his frustration, when he sits across the table from us, in his office:

West Kalimantan has more than 150 ethnic groups of Dayaks. Each has its own language and culture… and that’s only in the area of West Kalimantan! To call them all by the same name – Dayak – is derogatory, inaccurate.

Local people used to inhabit some of the richest lands on earth, in terms of natural resources,” I suggest. Mr. Krisusandi agrees:

Precisely. And this is precisely the curse; the key to understanding why, compared to other indigenous societies, the oppression of Dayaks is the worst.

During Suharto’s ‘New Order’, the regime developed stigmas and stereotypes, belittling and humiliating Dayaks; like that they are ‘backward’, ‘primitive’ and ‘uncivilized’. The military, the fascists, got used to judging Dayaks as forest dwellers and destroyers. The result: Dayak society got discriminated against, losing its culture, independence, and even began feeling shame for being what it is.

Because of that shame, Dayaks have been lulled into converting to Islam, or to Christianity. And after that, they were not Dayaks, anymore! Consequently, they were forced to accept the centralized education system, which has been totally ignoring the local knowledge.

That was, of course, not all. The so-called ‘New Order’ of Suharto’s pro-Western cronies and collaborators, was determined to liquidate all left-wing beliefs. That’s what it was ordered to do by Washington. And Indonesian culture before 1965 was at least ‘communitarian’, if not out rightly Communist. The cultures of Dayak people were no exception.

Mr. Krisusandi confirmed, readily:

’New Order’ believed that it had hegemony on ‘modernization’. And they saw even traditional ‘longhouses’ as something ‘Communist’. They used to call them ‘filthy’, or even ‘fire hazards’. The regime was totally anti-Communist, and it branded all Dayaks as ‘Communists’. Actually, it went to such an absurd extreme that each and every person who refused to abandon his or her longhouse and traditional way of living, was branded as a Communist.

To be a ‘Communist’ was, for decades, synonymous with the highest crime, punishable by death.

It was terrible suffering to be a Dayak then, and in many ways, it still is now. On top of it, all this was accompanied by the theft of land.

As I mentioned before, most of the Dayaks were forcibly converted to Islam, or Christianized. For some, it was the only way how to get ahead. Those who accepted Islam were registered as ‘Malays’, and as a ‘reward’, some were even allowed to became government officials.

*****

Julia, a female activist and researcher from West Kalimantan, now a PhD student at Bonn University in Germany, gave a similar testimony as Mr. Krisusandi’s:

The marginalization and stigmatization of Dayak people in West Kalimantan during the New Order era occurred in a structured and in a systematic way. For example, at the beginning of the New Order period, there was a massive demolition of longhouses, Dayak traditional settlements, in West Kalimantan. Only few survived, and those that remained were only in the inland areas, such as Kapuas Hulu. Infrastructure facilities (mainly roads) to access Dayak settlements in remote areas were also very far behind, with the consequences such as the lack of access to education, health services, etc. The social stigma was created: Dayaks were perceived as backward, stupid, and primitive. Most of Dayak people have been feeling embarrassed to be associated with their Dayak identity. There were even attempts made to rename “Dayaks”, calling them “Daya”.

Ms. Fidelia, a retired schoolteacher, who lives in Singkawang, West Kalimantan:

Based on my experience as a primary school teacher during the 1980s, I felt that compared to the other students, my Dayak pupils found it relatively more difficult to grasp knowledge. Most of the Dayaks live in the interior of Borneo. For more than three decades, Suharto’s government made the conditions of the rural Kalimantan very tough; the interior of the island remained underdeveloped and very hard to access. Because of this isolation, people have been experiencing lack of basic services and facilities, such as education.

Misery in rural Kalimantan is widespread. Enormous palm oil plantations turned huge areas into monocultures. Local people who stayed, are now forced to basically import everything from outside. Life has become extremely expensive. Thousands of villages are literally surrounded, choking by commercial entities. The traditional, natural way of life is totally ruined.

*****

To obtain any substantial information in the cities and villages of Kalimantan, is almost impossible. That is why the tragedy of this plundered island is almost ‘undocumented’.

People are scared to talk, or they do not comprehend their own conditions and their position in the Indonesian and global context.

In Banjarmasin, Palangkaraya, Pontianak and in other urban and rural areas of Kalimantan, people who live in absolute destitution, are refusing to even admit that they are poor. The inhabitants of filthy and hopeless slums lacking almost all basic services, consider their life ‘normal’, and most of them describe their state as ‘pasrah’, which means ‘abandoning, surrendering their lives to fate and God’.

Just as in the rest of Indonesia, oppressive forms of religion (mainly Saudi-style Wahhabi Sunni Islam) have already managed to take full control over the population. Under such conditions, no rebellion is possible. This is, of course, a brilliant arrangement for savage capitalism and for the bunch of corrupt captains of the Indonesian regime.

Since 1965, the logic of pro-Western rulers was simple and effective: ‘Do not allow the arts, philosophy and creativity to ‘pollute’ people’s minds. Kill everything socialist and communist. Make Indonesian citizens simple, pious, uniformed, and uninformed. Smash everyone who is different.

Native people in the resource-rich parts of the archipelago (such as Kalimantan) were the most affected. They have been treated precisely as the South Americans were treated by their Spanish or Portuguese colonialist masters and tormentors: all the resources have been stolen, while local beliefs and languages smashed. Simultaneously, totally foreign religious concepts have been pushed down their throats. Those who were willing to collaborate, were given important government and academic positions, ridiculous titles, and at least some cut from the loot.

Monstrous mines in Borneo

The price was terrible: the destruction of both land and the original population. The ‘primitive people of the forest’ were actually much more advanced than their conquerors. They knew how to live with their nature, their environment. Before colonialism, rivers and forests, mountains and villages were intact and thriving. The destruction of local culture led to the collapse of the environment, and in the case of Borneo, of the entire island.

*****

I am making a long documentary film here: about this damaged culture, and about the whole island that used to be much closer to ‘paradise’, than any other place on Earth. As I film, in all the corners of Borneo, I feel terrified. What I see is indescribable. I have to use visuals, images, to prove the point. Words are not enough. It often feels that the destruction is unreal; that all this is just a nightmare, that I will wake up, that the horror will go away. But it is real; nothing goes away. People, their greed, are capable of ruining anything, even the most stunning places on our planet.

Mr. Krisusandi speaks about his Institute of Dayakology with pride:

We established it, in order to return dignity to our people.

Then he recalls the terrible on-going struggle:

In the beginning, when the destruction of the longhouses began, there was a fight. But the government was canny; it introduced so-called logging concessions. It also accelerated trans-migration from several over-populated parts of Indonesia, predominantly from Java. In the name of ‘development’, government took over all land, and sold it to companies that began planting palm oil, or introducing indiscriminate mining. Dayaks could do nothing. They became powerless; coolies on their own land.

During the so-called ‘reform period’, after Suharto stepped down, the situation marginally improved; but by then, the Dayaks had almost no intellectuals. And those who were ‘educated’ during ‘New Order’, had typical ‘developmentalist’ mindsets. They sold out; they even began oppressing their own people.

A prominent educator from West Kalimantan, who did not want to be identified out of fear of losing his job, clarified:

On my island, being so-called educated could lead to something negative. A Dayak person who goes through the formal Indonesian education system, could and usually would end up following only his or her own mercantile interests, and consequently do harm to both community and nature.

What he meant is that the person often chooses to work for the companies or the government, that are intensively ruining the Borneo island, while further indoctrinating and disempowering local population.

%22Communist%22 – the-longest longhouse in the world deep-in-rainforest

While deep in Borneo, one year ago, we visited a longhouse, where we were told by Mr. Paulus, the elder in a traditional Bali Gundi longhouse in the Putusibau area:

People who go to school; they get smarter and cannier and then they work for the government and companies, they forget to help their villages and hometowns. As long as they get money they do not care anymore.

Recently, President Jokowi decided to at least give some land back to the Dayak people. It was a symbolic gesture, but practically, nothing changed, and almost nothing was returned to the native people.

As confirmed by Mr. Krisusandi:

It is now actually almost impossible to give anything back to the people. West Kalimantan consists of roughly 12 million hectares of land. Concessions, those for palm oil, mining and other commercial activities, were already given 13 million hectares. With national parks, a total of 16 million hectares is already committed. So, just calculate: it is 4 million hectares more than total area of West Kalimantan!

I think about those once mighty and pure rivers, endless tropical forests, deep and ancient cultures of local people. I close my eyes, trying to imagine hundreds of already vanished species of fauna and flora. Then, I imagine the huge, repulsive, kitschy dwellings of local ‘elites’, in Jakarta and Surabaya. I imagine European and North American cities built from the loot of places such as Kalimantan.

Kalimantan Devastation

“Will Dayak people fight for their rights?” I asked.

“Maybe the next generation will,” comes the hesitant reply. “But not this one. Definitely not this one.”

In Palangkaraya city, we spoke to one of the most prominent Dayaks, an author J.J.  Kusni, a man who spent long years in France, but finally returned to his native land.

I filmed his long, passionate testimony, in which he expressed sadness, even outrage over the state into which the Dayak people were reduced.

“Philosophically, a Dayak is a fighter,” he said.

But the spirit of Dayak people was obviously smashed. Most of them have become victims, while others were convinced to convert themselves into collaborators. The entire Indonesian part of the Island of Borneo is now burned down, poisoned and logged out. There are few ‘protected parks’, but even in the middle of them, commercial activities are now detectable. Entire original cultures here are humiliated. People are confused. Most of them gave up, accepted, resigned.

Destruction and thorough ruin are being propagated as ‘progress’, by the Indonesian regime. Brainwashing is passed as ‘education’.

“Through the national and even village government structures established by Suharto, everything in Kalimantan became “Javanized”,” explained J.J. Kusni.

“So, what are the Dayak people doing?” I asked.

“They are crying,” he replied curtly.

First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Hundreds Died “as a Result of the Indonesian Elections”

It truly looked grand, impressive – the fourth most populous country on earth voted in general elections, which were held on 17 April 2019. Hundreds of positions were for grab: that of the president, the vice president, members of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), and members of local legislative bodies. There were 190 million eligible voters in the country, and sixteen parties, including four new ones.

The only “tiny” spoiler of this magnificence was that, as always in post-1965 Indonesia, not one single political party was really representing the people. All of them were pro-business, all controlled by the oligarchy. Almost all the candidates were ‘competing’ with each other, trying to prove to the increasingly fundamentalist Muslim majority of the country, how Islamic they really were.

In Indonesia, Communism is banned. Atheism is forbidden as well. Belief in market fundamentalism and religious zeal are the two ‘norms’, expected from any individual who is aiming at any important political office.

On 17 April 2019, people voted. Or more precisely, they came to put pieces of paper into boxes, as they were told by their Western handlers.

In the end, it was down to two main choices: an incumbent President “Jokowi” (Joko Widodo by his real name), and the retired General Prabowo.

Jokowi, originally a humble furniture-maker and later a mayor of the city of Solo in Central Java, could be defined as ‘progressive’, but only in the Indonesian or Southeast Asian political context. He looks so attractive because his challengers have mainly been mass murderers and outright kleptocrats.

However, during the first term in the highest office, Jokowi did almost nothing to stop the genocide and plunder in West Papua, or the alarming surge in the influence of Wahhabism (Saudi-style Islam, supported by the West), which is blocking Indonesia from any intellectual (scientific, artistic, philosophical) achievements.

Whenever accused of being a ‘Communist’, Jokowi bent, going out of his way to prove that he has nothing to do with the real Left. When attacked for ‘not being Muslim enough’, he immediately began ‘leading public prayers’, bringing Muslim politicians into his team, and acting religiously. He failed to defend his former allies who were destroyed by the Islamists, including highly-popular former governor of Jakarta – Ahok – who recently spent time in prison for ‘defaming Islam’. Periodically, often at the request of the United States, Jokowi antagonized China. That’s when his critics from the extreme right were attacking him for getting ‘too chummy’ with Beijing. Indonesia is racist, and many Chinese (as well as members of other ‘non-mainstream groups’) here died during the countless pogroms committed throughout past centuries.

“Don’t pay attention, all this is just a political maneuvering,” it was said by his supporters. But if that was so, it was a terribly ugly maneuvering, to be frank! Just an example: One lady teacher, who exposed her sexual harasser and as a result was thrown into jail, got zero protection from President Jokowi. The increasing Islamisation of Indonesian society, often unconstitutional, goes unchallenged. Compared to the era of the progressive Muslim cleric and past President, Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia is regressing, increasingly resembling the oppressive Gulf States.

The correct argument of many (at least relatively secular) Indonesian citizens, is that, were the other main candidate – the retired General Prabowo – to win these elections, the country would basically collapse; go back to Suharto-style fascist, military dictatorship. Prabowo is actually married to one of Suharto’s daughters. And he has a record, almost a ‘career’ of being a mass murder: from East Timor to Java itself. He surrounded himself by the most conservative Muslim cadres, as well as by the anti-leftists and the oligarchs.

Once before, during the previous elections, Prabowo lost to Jokowi. Most likely, this – 2019 elections – was his last chance.  Joko Widodo and his PDI-P won, with 55.5% votes, while Prabowo Subianto ended up with the support of only 44.5%.

On 21 May 2019, the General Elections Commission declared “Jokowi” and his running-mate Amin as the winners.

Prabowo and his team disputed the election results, and protested against Jokowi’s victory.  One day after the results were announced, deadly riots erupted.

Around the time election results were released, Reuters reported:

Indonesian police arrested a man on Friday accused of creating an anti-Chinese disinformation campaign to incite racial hatred, amid a proliferation of rumours alleging Chinese involvement in post-election unrest that has raised fears of ethnic violence.

Police say the suspect created a viral hoax using a photo of three Indonesian police officers at protests this week with a caption describing them as secret Chinese soldiers based on their “slanted eyes”.

*****

Of course, we all knew that it was coming. One week before the disturbances, I was still in the Indonesian capital, filming a group of insane-looking women, gathering in front of the Sarinah shopping center. Their hair covered, maniacal expressions on their faces, they were shouting into my camera:

We love Prabowo! He is good; he is so smart, he is our President!

Almost the entire extreme Islamist apparatus stood by the former genocidal General. Many housewives obsessed with military uniforms, were ready to support him, unconditionally, until the bitter end.

Life in Indonesia is empty and monotonous. The 1965 US-orchestrated coup destroyed much of the culture and spirituality. Intellectualism had been wiped out, and so were the arts. Political diversity eliminated. Only cheap pop is now available. Pop, as well as the most fundamentalist forms of religion.

No wonder that in such a ‘climate’, elections as well as the World Cup (to which Indonesia never qualifies, but which it follows with maniacal loyalty), manage to fully mesmerize the society.

And in a nation which since 1965 has perpetrated 3 genocides and various deadly unrests, an excessive obsession with anything, is never constructive, in fact, is often devastating.

To some of Prabowo’s ‘obsessive supporters’, he impersonates power, machismo, righteousness and “Muslim values”. The people he killed or gave orders to kill? Who cares – they were all some ‘separatists’, commies, atheists. That’s how the majority sees them.

*****

On 22 May, 2019, the pro-Prabowo camp rioted in Jakarta and other Indonesian cities. 6 people were murdered and 200 injured. That has been a very ‘conservative’ estimate, although both sides were accused of manipulating numbers (Jokowi’s camp downwards, Prabowo’s upwards).

Muslim jihadi cadres were apparently involved, too, accused of stabbing and intimidating.

Armed forces crushed the riots. It had to be done, as the rioters were mainly paid thugs and Islamic fundamentalists.

Counting votes in Pontianak, Borneo. Hardly a strenuous task

Earlier, some 600 died, during “the lengthy voting and counting process”. The official numbers were 569, while the unofficial spoke of 700, even 800. Yes, the counting process was very taxing, but perhaps no other elections in the world (in peacetime) registered such a high mortality rate among officials and volunteers. But then again, Indonesia is a very poor country, and many of its citizens are suffering from various undiagnosed diseases. Long hours and difficult conditions during the elections put great pressure on the volunteers. Still, such a mortality rate is unprecedented.

Supporters of Prabowo in Jakarta

Prabowo’s team immediately claimed “the deaths were linked to fraud that disadvantaged him.” Most likely, it is not the case. However, Jakarta and the provinces remain tense.

*****

Most likely, Prabowo was defeated, for good. “Goodbye, General!” But the fact that a genocidal cadre like him managed to get 45% of votes is by itself extremely alarming.

Now, in what direction is Indonesia going to go, under the “second Jokowi term”?

Even after monstrous slaughter of men and women belonging to left-wing organizations during Suharto era, Communism and socialism are increasingly vilified once again. Religions are force-fed to the de-intellectualized and badly informed population. The treatment of women in Indonesian society is despicable. Capitalism is glorified, in fact, it is never even publicly challenged.

Jokowi has been flying all over the world, begging for more foreign investment, while his cabinet was promising to ‘liberalize’ labor laws even further.

The environment of Indonesia is thoroughly plundered, as its economic growth (sluggish, considering unbridled population increase, but still at 5%) is fully dependent on the export of commodities.

There are no doubts that Indonesia will continue decaying and cannibalizing itself under the extreme capitalism regime, while intellectually regressing under Wahhabi Islam.

Jokowi may improve ports, airports, and build few new highways, mainly in order to facilitate the extraction of raw materials by local and foreign companies. But unless he fully reverses the course on which Indonesia was forced to embark after the 1965 Western-orchestrated coup, no essential improvements can be expected. There are no indications that he has the capacity or stamina to challenge and change the regime. After all, he is himself a product of the post-1965 era.

For now, extremism and fundamentalism have been defeated, although by an alarmingly narrow margin. However, it was not a revolution, but destructive inertia that won once again.

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

Indonesian Elections: Two Right-Wing Candidates Claiming Victory

She deserves better

In Indonesia, both presidential candidates have declared victory, just a few days after the elections that were held on 17th April, 2019. Both of them are pro-business, both Muslim, and both insist that the Communist Party should continue to be banned. Neither of them is even thinking about stopping their country from committing one of the bloodiest genocides on earth, that in West Papua; or ending the unbridled plunder and environmental disaster on the third largest island in the world, Borneo (in Indonesia known as Kalimantan).

Country is tense. The final results will be announced on May the 22nd, but anything could happen before that, including violence and clashes between the two camps.

If both candidates are pro-business and anti-Communist, then what is the fuss about, really? What makes these elections so different from the previous ones, and what makes the situation so volatile?

The explanation is simple: while the current president ‘Jokowi’ (his real name is Joko Widodo) is a former furniture-maker from a city in Central Java – Solo (also known as Surakarta) – who first became the relatively successful mayor of his city and then governor of the capital Jakarta, before being elected as Indonesian president in 2014, his rival Prabowo Subianto is the Indonesian answer to Bolsonaro: a man who was trained in the United States at Fort Benning, and who was deployed in East Timor in the early 90’s, becoming the commander of Kopassus special forces, committing mass murder there, and using the notorious hooded “ninja” gangs, during the so-called operation “Eradicate”. His murderous career did not end there: In 1996 he embarked on terrorizing villages in the occupied and plundered West Papua. Two years later, in 1998 his troops kidnapped and tortured at least nine anti-Suharto activists.

His military career ended there, after he publicly took responsibility for the kidnappings.

But in Indonesia, brutal deeds are hardly ever condemned or punished. The killers who participated in the 1965/66 US-backed coup and consequent mass murder of between 1 and 3 million leftists and intellectuals, are still proudly appearing on Indonesian television shows, bragging about committing monstrous assassinations, raping women and children, and about ‘saving the country from the Communist menace’. They usually receive standing ovations, as documented in Oppenheimer’s film the “Art of Killing”.

Most likely, Jokowi won by approximately a 10% margin, but against him, there is an entire force of increasingly influential right-wing Islamist groups and movements. They want extreme capitalism, they want strong conservative rule, they want a physical crackdown against the leftists (particularly ‘hidden Communists’), some want Sharia Law and a Caliphate; in brief, they want Prabowo.

The election campaigns were dirty and low. Prabowo’s people tried to accuse President Jokowi of being a closet Communist (and a secret sympathizer of the once powerful political party PKI, that was crushed in 1965 and banned until now), and of being a ‘non-Muslim’.

In Indonesia, these are extremely dangerous accusations. People blamed of siding with the ‘Communists’ or even leftists, are often confronted by physical violence and could face prosecution in the courts, and then lengthy prison terms. Without exception, they are banned from participating in political life. Being ‘non-Muslim’ or even worse, being branded as ‘anti-Islamic’, means that a person has all doors slammed in his or her face. To illustrate the point: the extremely successful governor of Jakarta, ‘Ahok’, was both Chinese by blood, and progressive by political belief. As a result of his socialist reforms, he was thrown into jail after being accused of ‘insulting Islam’, a ridiculous and never proven charge.

The fact that Jokowi is interested in participating in China’s BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), has gained him an avalanche of accusations from Prabowo’s camp, that he is ‘pro-China’, and therefore a Communist.

In extremely racist Indonesia, which perpetrated three genocides and countless pogroms against its minorities in little more than half a century, being ‘Chinese’ is another ‘crime’. Between the 1965 coup and the reign of President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) who lifted the ban, everything Chinese was forbidden: from spoken and written language, to films, names, traditional lamps and dragons, to cakes.

The West, of course, has been admiring and supporting all this, from 1965 until now. It cherishes fascist, anti-Chinese, extremely capitalist Indonesia, ruled by brutal military and increasingly radical (pro-Western) Wahhabi Islamists; a country that allows, even encourages the unrestrained plunder of its own natural resources; enriching North American, European and Australian companies,while impoverishing its own indoctrinated, uninformed religious and obedient population.

*****

President Jokowi is no hero. While pushing for some very moderate reforms in such areas as medical care and slowly although reluctantly improving Indonesian infrastructure, he is refusing to defend victims of Islamism and of regressive local culture, which brutally oppresses and intimidates both minorities and women, and which still bans both ‘atheism’ and many of the left-wing ideals as well as all Communist movements.

“He is Javanese,” a local architect explained. “He never confronts his enemies directly.”

But some are now beginning to question: “How much compromise becomes really ‘too much’?

Not long ago, Jokowi stepped back and let his friend and political ally, Ahok, be tried unfairly, consequently ending up in prison.

Prison in which Ahok was held

When a lady teacher got sexually harassed by her superior and publicly denounced abuse, demanding justice, she was arrested, tried and thrown into jail. Not her tormentor, but her! Instead of stepping in and ordering her immediate release, Jokowi cowardly remained ‘impartial’, and even refused to ‘pardon her’.

He also does absolutely nothing to stop the genocide and plunder of West Papua. Instead he is building new roads there, to help to move the loot extracted by the foreign and local mining and timber companies. The Papuan opposition and freedom fighters are hunted down, tortured and killed.

On the island of Kalimantan, unbridled plunder and the environmental destruction goes on and on, unchallenged and unquestioned.

Devastating floods in Jakarta

In the meantime, draconic laws are curbing free flow of information and are now muzzling all potential left-wing opposition.

The extremely low level of education and knowledge (after the demise of the greatest Indonesian [Communist] writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, the country does not count one single world-class thinker, writer or scientist) is happening to uphold the depressing status quo. It often looks like the country of 300 million is basically involved in only two major activities: the plunder of its minerals and timber, and the ‘business’ (selling all that is being looted).

It is important to repeat again: this is precisely where the West wants to have Indonesia, since 1965. And this is where it has it now.

So what is the response of Jokowi, when he is accused of being ‘pro-Chinese’, or a ‘Communist’, or ‘non-Muslim’?

The response is shameful: Whenever attacked, he truly ‘bends’, and immediately begins officially distancing himself even further from left-wing ideals. He makes ridiculous gestures (like not going to the 2nd BRI Forum in Beijing, whereas both the Malaysian PM Mahathir and the president of the Philippines, Duterte, are proudly attending). Or, he goes to Mecca periodically, to show how devoted he is. He publicly leads prayers, and above all, he had chosen as his running mate Ma’ruf Amin, a former Indonesian Ulama Council leader.

Earlier, in 2016, Jokowi appointed General Wiranto (another murderous military cadre from the Suharto’s era), a Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, an extremely powerful position. What next, ‘appeasing’ the Indonesian fascist, regressive forces? Nobody knows.

*****

In the past, perhaps the most important Indonesia’s artist, 82-years old Djokopekik, had survived imprisonment, isolation and censorship. Now he lives with his wife and eleven dogs, on the outskirts of the historic Javanese city of Yogyakarta, on a vast compound, near, as he says, a ‘ghost infested river’.

Great Indonesian painter Djokopekik

Political and ‘red’ to the core, Djokopekik appeared in my feature documentary, about the 1965 massacres. Now, predicting that Jokowi gained the majority of votes, he appears to be cautiously optimistic:

Of course, the victims of this government’s slowness are already mounting… but Jokowi never had it easy. You see, he used to be just a small businessman, and then a mayor of Solo. Only in Jakarta, after teaming up with Ahok, he learned about the politics. There and then, all that hate was thrown at him…

Jokowi was born in 1961, and in 1965 he was only 4 years old. Like others, he was greatly influenced by Suharto’s ‘New Order’ propaganda. He is not yet a political animal; not savvy yet… But if he would be really brave and determined, chances are that there would be another 1965; another coup.

Just to illustrate to you how bad are things here: If Prabowo would win, many of Jokowi’s supporters would be gone; killed…

So, what do the supporters of Prabowo say?

Mr. Reza Esfan Asjoedjir, former General Manager of a fertilizer producing company, Pusri, shared his thoughts for this essay:

Maybe Prabowo is not the best candidate. But in more than 4 years, the performance of the government of Jokowi is far from good. Whether when it concerns economy, or good corporate governance… and they don’t care about the interests of the Muslims. I am sorry, but the indecisiveness towards the PKI (former Communist Party of Indonesia), is irritating, too. After all, we still have the laws that ban the Party, right? Also, Jokowi opted to be close to the People’s Republic of China. Other issues include his positive attitude towards LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender). Also, he already broke many promises.

Now in Indonesia, many families are bitterly divided over politics. Arif (not his real name), an up and coming filmmaker from Central Java, is not hiding his disgust with the present situation in Indonesia:

I am ‘golput’ (against voting). But my family not only voted for Prabowo; they are actually actively campaigning for him.

Prabowo secured a clear and decisive victory in Aceh, West Sumatra and West Java, the strongholds of Islamism, conservativism and backwardness.

In most of the villages of Central Java, including Plaosan (known for its ancient temple complexes), most of the local farmers are supporting Jokowi. However, the ‘other side’ often comes and intimidates them.

Ms. Rum, a small coffee and noodle stall owner:

There were many visitors to the temple asking me whom I voted for, but I did not tell them. I just laughed, noncommittedly. But I voted for the candidate that has already proven to be able to rule, which is our current President. During the 2014 elections, there were many issues that were thrown in Jokowi’s face, such as being anti-Muslim, or a member of the PKI, and many other things. But we were not convinced hearing such things. During these elections, they did not dare to use those issues anymore; at least not here. But they said that ‘how come Jokowi who comes from such a humble background could become a mayor, then governor, and then president; that is, if he is not using ‘black power’.

Ghosts; Indonesia is too obsessed with ghosts, with black magic and other irrational beliefs.

Now, many farmers at least get some help from the state; not much but at least some, and some food, if they are in need. And this goes a long way here, in a still desperately poor Indonesia.

Ms. Ponirah, craft-maker and seller:

I voted for Jokowi. He is the best, especially for the ‘little’ people like us here. During the previous administration of SBY, what we received as aid for the poor people was only very bad-quality rice. We couldn’t even eat it. Now we get good rice and also some other basic necessities. In this village, Jokowi won! Jokowi Yesss!

*****

All this is still very far from ‘real changes’; far from where other countries in Southeast Asia that have broken away from the traditional ‘client states of the West mentality’ are right now: Vietnam, and even the Philippines.

But it appears that the ‘worst scenario’ has been prevented: the ‘Bolsonaro development’, or worse still: a scenario that would take Indonesia back to the days of the military dictatorship of the murderous imbecile – General Suharto.

If his re-election is confirmed, Jokowi should toughen up and do what the deposed left-wing President Abdurrahman Wahid (a progressive Muslim cleric, a socialist, and until his death, my dear friend) tried to do on behalf of Indonesia; to apologize to the Communists, to tell the truth about the genocides of 1965 and in East Timor, to stop the on-going genocide in West Papua, to halt the plunder of natural resources all over archipelago, to curb savage capitalism, legalize both Communists and atheists, and thoroughly reform education, upholding the secular Constitution of Indonesia.

Like in South Africa, Chile, Argentina and elsewhere, those who collaborated with the West, murdering and torturing their own citizens, should be exposed, arrested, and tried for treason and violation of basic human rights, instead of being allowed to join the government, or to run for office.

For Indonesia to prosper or at least to get out of the horrific state it is now in, it has to return to the pre-1965 era, and resume an independent, patriotic and socialist course, the sooner the better.

It is clear that Jokowi will not have guts to do all this. But at least he should create conditions for others to do what he, perhaps, does not even dare to dream about, yet.

In the meantime, the regressive forces have to be stopped. Indonesians should not allow themselves to be reduced to the level of Afghanistan, where the West has implanted and then supported the Wahhabi Mujahedin, in order to destroy socialism.

Right now, the two presidential candidates of Indonesia are claiming victory.

Polls are indicating that this time, again, Jokowi is the winner. However, at least 40%, and perhaps more, voted for a former fascist and murderous general.

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• Photos by Andre Vltchek

BRI Forum in Shanghai and how Western “Reports” are Smearing China

The second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation is about to open in Beijing. It will take place from 25th to 27th April, 2019. The Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to deliver the keynote address.

It is expected to be an event of tremendous proportions and importance: leaders from 37 countries will participate, including Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Duterte of the Philippines. Beijing will host 5,000 guests from 150 countries, as well as 90 international organizations.

Africa – BRI: New China built highway

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has already been reshaping the world, fundamentally. Previously at the mercy of the Western imperialist powers, their armies, propaganda apparatuses and brutal financial institutions; Africa, the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia have suddenly discovered that they have alternatives and choices. For various parts of the world, decades and centuries of stagnation and humiliation under colonialist and post-colonialist regimes have begun to come to an end. Entire nations have been freeing themselves, realizing their great hidden potential.

All this because of BRI; because of China as well as its close ally, Russia.

Entire huge railroad projects in East Africa as well as in the once devastated Laos (devastated by the insanely brutal Western carpet-bombing campaigns, which are still called a “Secret War”) are now connecting continents. Along the railway lines, schools are growing, and so are medical facilities, community learning centers and cultural institutions.

BRI Project:  China building high speed train

The BRI is not only about the economy, not only about infrastructure and development, it is also about the well-being of the people, about the culture, health and knowledge. It is aiming at connecting people of different races, life philosophies, and beliefs.

And the rulers in the West are horrified. Nothing outrages them more than the prospect of losing absolute control over the world. For them, it is not (and never was) about improving the lives of hundreds of millions of impoverished people. They had centuries of absolute power over the planet, and all they did was to enrich themselves, murdering and robbing in all corners of the globe. For them, it is about ‘winning or losing’, about maintaining its colonies and ‘client’ states; by all means, even by the most brutal ones.

For China, (through BRI), it is all about spreading wealth everywhere. The firm belief in Beijing was and is: If the world is doing well, China will prosper, too.

*****

And so, in Washington and London, and in so many other centers of Western might, thousands of ‘professionals’ are now employed and busy smearing China and its most ambitious international (and internationalist) projects. Smearing and spreading nihilism is an extremely well-paid job, and for as long as China is rising and the West declining, it appears to be a permanent one. There will be no deficit when it comes to funding all those anti-Chinese ‘academic reports’, fake analyses and articles. The more of them, the better; the more ridiculous they get, the better remunerated they are.

Take this one, for instance: “Grading China’s Belt and Road”.

With all those footnotes and ‘references’, it looks professional and academic. It can impress millions of China-phobes and China-bashers in Europe and North America. Suffering from complexes of superiority and “Yellow-Peril mentality”, they are searching for, and then welcoming all vicious attacks against Beijing and its initiatives.

Look closer, and it is ‘reports’ like this that are clearly nothing more than thinly disguised propaganda work ordered by those who are aiming at discrediting China and its internationalist efforts.

In its Executive Summary, the report states:

Since its launch in 2013, what China calls “One Belt, One Road” has emerged as the corner- stone of Beijing’s economic statecraft. Under the umbrella of the Belt and Road, Beijing seeks to promote a more connected world brought together by a web of Chinese-funded physical and digital infrastructure. The infrastructure needs in Asia and beyond are significant, but the Belt and Road is more than just an economic initiative; it is a central tool for advancing China’s geo-political ambitions. Through the economic activities bundled under the Belt and Road, Beijing is pursuing a vision of the 21st century defined by great power spheres of influence, state-directed economic interactions, and creeping authoritarianism.1

As Beijing prepares to host the second Belt and Road Forum in late April 2019, countries that once welcomed Chinese investment have become increasingly vocal about the downsides. This report is intended to serve as a resource for governments, corporations, journalists, and civil society groups now re-evaluating the costs and benefits of Belt and Road projects…

In brief, it is propaganda; anti-Chinese propaganda, anti-Communist (or call it ‘anti-central-planning- propaganda).

It is also a tool for all those who are ready to criticize China, defining its marvelous efforts as a ‘debt trap’, among various other derogatory terms.

A leading academic at the University of the Philippines (U.P.), Roland G. Simbulan, agreed to analyze the origin of the CNAS report for this essay:

The April 2019 Report “Grading China’s Belt and Road” by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) seems to be one of the latest findings and studies of American conservative think tanks which are in fact aimed at discrediting China’s economic thrusts through China-financed infrastructure, land and sea transport, investments, etc. These are China’s answer to the U.S.’ global military build-up and encirclement of its fast rising rival superpower. China is trying to avoid the mistakes of the Western powers including the U.S. and the former USSR by not engaging in a tit for tat arms race. Instead, it is answering back with its Belt Road Initiative as well as other economic and market initiatives aimed at reinforcing China’s strengths while avoiding a direct attack on where the U.S. is strongest and has more advantage: the U.S. global military forces.

It is obvious from the backgrounds of the CNAS fellows who are authors of the report that they are all connected with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. National Security Council. The American Enterprise Institute is a quasi-U.S. federal government think tank composed of recycled officials of the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State. It is also obvious that they have consolidated the economic and political reports of all the U.S. intelligence community which are coordinated by the U.S. National Security Adviser.

And obviously, CNAS is not hiding where it stands, ideologically. It quotes such right-wing warriors as the French President, Emmanuel Macron, the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the Minister of Energy in the defunct and discredited Ecuadorian government, Carlos Perez, and other unsavory figures.

Roland G. Simbulan continues:

While the CNAS Report may indeed have identified some of China’s vulnerabilities in the management of its China-funded projects which can easily merit criticism, i.e., sovereignty eroding, non-transparent, unsustainable financial burdens, locally disengaged, geopolitically risky, environmentally unsustainable, and corruption-prone), let us remember that China’s BRI was only launched in 2013. The U.S. and its Western Allies, including the multilateral institutions that they have created to assure U.S. neoliberal control of national economies since 1945 have engaged in practicing these “challenges” and dangers that it accuses China of initiating through BRI projects “for China’s geopolitical ambitions.

These may be valid as in the case of the 10 case studies identified by the CNAS Report. But it is too soon to make conclusions in such a short time from 2013-2018. For these are also practices that have long been inflicted by the U.S. Empire and its allies since the end of World War 2 to assure economic, political and military hegemony. Unintentionally, the seven (7) challenges or dangers of China’s BRI identified by the CNAS are really challenges that are continually being inflicted by the U.S. Empire and its Western allies on weaker and smaller countries. Precisely, many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are turning towards alternative international institutions such as ALBA in Latin America and BRI BECAUSE of the onslaught that they have long experienced with the PAX AMERICANA i.e. the U.S. and its allies.

Can the CNAS show that their sponsors and patrons are doing better, or can do better? The best way for the U.S. to counter the Belt Road Initiative (BRI) is to show AND prove that they can offer a better deal with developing countries in need of assistance for their infrastructure and development projects.”

*****

Mr. Sidqy LP Suyitno, an Indonesian high government official and former State Finance and Monetary Analysis Director of the Ministry of National Development Planning, is also puzzled by some of the wording in the report. When asked about the BRI project to build the bullet train from the Indonesian capital Jakarta to its city of Bandung, he contradicted the report:

Geopolitically Risky? It seems NOT to be. It seems more like making bilateral relations with Japan uncomfortable. The Japanese have been enjoying the benefits when it comes to relations with Indonesia, ever since Suharto’s dictatorship: the automotive industry is more like an oligopoly for Japanese cars in Indonesia. And what do we get back? We still don’t have our own car industry, our national car or our own national motorcycles production. Even though we have a very large “captive market”; in 2018, 1.1 million cars & 6.5 million motorcycles were sold in Indonesia.

Apparently, what he is referring to, is that while the Japanese car industry flooded Indonesia with its cars and badly polluting scooters, there were no benefits to the state or to the people of Indonesia. I can go much further and point out that according to my investigation, the Japanese car industry corrupted the government officials in most of the Southeast Asian countries, “convincing them” not to build public transportation, instead choking both cities and the countryside with outdated models of private motor vehicles, consequently bankrupting citizens in the process.

In brief: Japan has managed to ruin Southeast Asian cities, preventing them from developing public transportation. And now should it be trusted in such places like Indonesia to develop a high-speed rail system? Indonesia, Laos and Thailand do not think they should trust Japan too much. They trust China much more. And the same goes for the Philippines. Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, when re-elected last year, stopped several high-profile projects with China, but now, it seems, has been discovering an appetite for cooperation with Beijing.

But the report speaks (using unacademic language, suddenly) about how China poached the high speed train project from the Japanese.

Kenya – BRI: New modern train terminal in Nairobi

Professor Mira Lubis, from Tanjungpura University in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, stated for this essay, her hope that BRI could improve life and environment on her devastated island:

From what I know about BRI, I believe that its efforts would be mutually beneficial for both Indonesia and PRC. In Southeast Asia, the focus of BRI will be what could be described as the Maritime Silk Road. Indonesia is an archipelago with over 17,000 islands. Since 2014, our government is aiming at transforming Indonesia into what it calls the ‘Global Maritime Axis’. It means, developing ports and shipping lanes among other vital projects. This would be in synergy with BRI; BRI could strengthen Indonesia as a maritime power.

My island, Borneo, is ecologically damaged. I hope that it could directly benefit from the cooperation with China and its BRI. China is at the forefront of the struggle for ecological civilization, and I believe in its wisdom. I’m optimistic that BRI might help to bring sustainable development to Borneo.

*****

The CNAS report is ‘all over the place’, selectively attacking BRI and China for its involvement in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South Pacific (Oceania).

In his essay “China’s road to a win-win ahead of BRI forum” published by the Asia Times, renowned Brazilian analyst Pepe Escobar wrote:

Relentless reports that the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are a perfidious neo-imperial debt trap set up by Yellow Peril 2.0 are vastly exaggerated.

Beijing clinched a proverbial showering of BRI deals with 17 Arab nations, including Egypt, Lebanon and Oman. Not by accident, the forum this year was called Build the Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity. Up to 2018, 21 Arab nations had signed BRI memoranda of understanding

These nations are not only BRI partners, but 12 of them also went for strategic partnerships with China…

Little wonder why!

Say China or BRI in Africa, just pronounce those names, and most of the people will show great enthusiasm. Every — even the Western surveys — clearly indicate that all over the continent, people harbor extremely positive feelings forwards China.

In Kenya (where I used to live), I repeatedly heard those who were working on countless Chinese projects, repeat:

This is the first time we are treated by the foreigners like human beings.

Kenya – BRI new government building in Nairobi

People in Europe and North America love to adopt ‘politically correct speech’, but words somehow do not translate into deeds. Chinese workers may sometimes be rough, but they treat Africans like brothers and sisters. They also try to compensate them as if they would be their own.

But the CNAS report only criticizes China’s involvement in Africa, while African voices are rarely allowed to penetrate the uniform and dogmatic Western mainstream media.

An influential Ugandan analyst and opposition figure, Arthur Tewungwa, wrote for this essay:

The basic assumption of Africans is that they are stupid and ignorant of history, politics, and the global financial arrangement of the world. The scaremongering of Chinese global domination does not really wash on a continent that is still under a sustained attack from the very forces that led us into slavery, colonialism and its manifestation, neo-colonialism. Using the Ugandan opposition’s criticisms of the government’s (a staunch ally of the US and its regional sheriff) misuse and theft of Chinese aid while ignoring the fact that the same has been going on for the last 30 years with IMF and World Bank funds which the opposition has been criticizing, confirms that assumption.

Ugandans don’t view China as a dangerous hegemon; they are still too busy trying to extract themselves from the current relationship with hegemon that has had its boot on the country’s neck for the last 300 years. The opposition criticism was aimed at the conduct of America’s principal, not the misrepresented intentions of China. The IMF and World Bank have not covered themselves in glory in Africa and ignoring that fact just plays more into China’s hands.

*****

In the South Pacific (Oceania) where I also spent several years of my life (writing a book about the plight of Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia), CNAS dishonestly criticizes the BRI project in Vanuatu.

Let me be brutally frank here: The West has almost ruined the entire Oceania by its unbridled consumption, by neo-colonialist policies; from the Solomon Islands to the Marshall Islands. Global warming has caused the near disappearance of such wonderful countries like Kiribati, Marshall Island and Tuvalu.

What has the West done to save them? Nothing! Just dumping junk food on Samoa and Tonga, on the Federated States of Micronesia, or on the Marshall Islands (RMI).

China has patiently and full-heartedly been trying to help: by planting mangroves, building anti-tsunami walls, elevating government offices, schools and medical posts up on stilts. It has built stadiums in order to improve the health of the desperately obese local population (on some islands, around 90% of the population are suffering from diabetes).

And what has the West done, after observing the great success of China? It went to Taiwan, and as the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the RMI, Tony de Brum explained to me, began ‘encouraging Taipei’ to bribe local governments, so they would recognize Taiwan as an independent country; something that even the West has not done. As a result, predictably, Beijing was forced to break diplomatic relations and to withdrow its help. The result: Taiwan has done nothing for Oceania. Only the ordinary people in South Pacific have become the victims.

Laos – BRI. Bridge over Mekong River for high-speed train

Those South Pacific countries that ‘stayed with China’ are doing incomparably better. Why don’t we hear about all this from the West-sponsored reports? Why do we only read dirt, as well as nihilist speculation? Why not facts? Why not the truth, that it is the West that is destroying the world, and has been for decades and centuries?

*****

BRI is not perfect, yet, but on the global scale, it is the best that humanity has right now. And it has been improving, month after month.

Ugandans had 300 years of horrors of ‘Western democracy’ and ‘freedom’. Latin Americans have been beaten into submission for over 500 years.

In Washington, London and Paris, they love to say: “we are all the same”. Such ‘logic’ washes out their crimes. It means: “everyone is as greedy and brutal as we are”. But, no, we are not the same! Cultures are different, on all corners of the globe. Some countries are expansionist, aggressive and obsessed with self-righteousness as well as complexes of superiority. Some are not. China is not. It never was. It never will be. If attacked or antagonized, it defends itself; and if threatened in the future, it will defend itself again. But it does not build its wealth on plunder, and on the corpses of the others, as the West has been doing for long centuries.

BRI is the exact contrast to the Western colonialism and imperialism. I say it not because I am defending some theory on these pages, but because I have seen the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ in action, in places where I have lived and worked: Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Latin America and Africa. In places where almost no one dares or cares to go: except for those few tough and ‘insane’ individuals like myself, and for the Chinese internationalists! I know such places intimately. Places where local people are almost never given an opportunity to speak; they never appear on the pages of the Western mass media, or on television screens, or in reports such as the one published by CNAS.

Until recently, their voices and lives mattered nothing. Now they do. They matter a lot.

These people exist; these people are alive; they want to breath, to live and to dream. I swear they do. And for them, especially for them, now exists the BRI!

• All photos by Andre Vltchek

Lethal Fluctuations: The Death Penalty in Asia

The Malaysian government last year expressed a surprise change of heart on a policy long held dear; it would reconsider the death penalty. The case of Muhammad Lukman, sentenced to death in August for the purchase and sharing of medicinal marijuana, did much to stimulate outrage.  On October 10th, law minister Liew Vui Keong announced that it would be abolished.  Doing so would leave such last bastions as Vietnam, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

In other parts, capital punishment is either continuing its grim dance (in Singapore, usage is on the rise; in Vietnam, it remains consistently high) or getting back in business, singing its deadly siren song.  Killing people in the name of state vengeance is becoming vogue even as it retreats in other contexts.  The Kingdom of Brunei, despite having it on the books since the days of being a British protectorate, is only now contemplating, in all seriousness, putting people to death who have a liking for, or find themselves committing, sodomy.  (Lesbian reverie will see a penalty of 40 lashes and a potential prison sentence of 10 years.)

In the Philippines, an aggressive, insistent President Rodrigo Duterte has proven something of a trail blazer, scorching his way through human rights quibbles and filling the morgues.   In July 2017, he explained the rationale for using capital punishment without mercy in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA).  “It is time for us to fulfil our mandate to protect our people.  Tapos na’yan.  For so long we have to act decisively on this contentious issue.  Capital punishment is not only about deterrence, it’s also about retribution.”

Duterte’s view of the penal code is stripped of ornate reasoning.  It is one of vengeance and pessimism, marshalled against any hope of restorative justice or therapeutic reform.  The law, a legacy of the Spaniards and then translated into English, with revisions, “is the essence of retribution.”  The attitude there involved “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  You took life, you must pay with it.  That is the only way to even.  You can’t place a premium on the human mind that he will go straight.”

The result has been one of carnage: over 5,000 deaths between July 1, 2016 and November 30, 2018, if you believe the official figures, or the greater number of 12,000, if you believe in activist assessments.  This pool drew on a total of 164,265 arrests (“drug personalities”, no less) as part of 115,435 anti-drugs operations.

In Sri Lanka, the interest has also been rekindled, inspired, in no small part, by the blood lust of the Philippines leader.  The Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena felt moved by Duterte’s efforts to combat drug trafficking, a true “example to the world”.  “I hope to carry out the first hanging within a month or two.  I appeal to human rights organisations not to try to pressure us on this decision.”  From a prison population of 1299 facing capital punishment, 48 are convicted drug offenders.

The Sri Lankan case had a twist.  While Sirisena had announced an end to the 43-year moratorium on capital punishment for drug-related crimes, complemented by Justice Minister Thalatha Atukorale’s clearing of the decks for five drug convicts to be dispatched, a reality started to sink in: the state lacked the necessary trained instruments of death.  The moratorium had been so lengthy so as to make the system rust.  Expertise in breaking necks, in other words, was lacking. The last executioner to reach retirement age left the post in 2014.  Three others have spent short stints gazing at unused gallows without rewarded effort.

Advertisements to fill the vacancy were duly put out for two hangmen.  In the Daily News, a call out for applications with “an excellent moral character” was made.  They would also have to pass a test of “mind and mental strength”.

Such debates about the formalised death penalty in the Philippines and Sri Lanka avoid the obvious point.  Where to with the death squads who have donned extra-judicial uniforms?  Duterte’s encouragement of police brutality and extra-judicial killings (“my only sin,” he claims) is the stuff of legend.  Sri Lanka can also count itself as an enthusiast in the extra-judicial killing game.  In some states, the death penalty, dormant or otherwise, is a reminder about how state operatives go about their business of sowing terror when they prefer to avoid courts.

While the death penalty has, at its core, a flawed philosophy, its attractiveness often lies in its sheer conclusiveness.  Such decisions are final, doing away with the problem.  They are economic – a corpse is less of a strain on the public purse than a living inmate.  To that end, imposing the death penalty can result from trivial impulses.

Such monstrous triviality was recently in play in Thailand. In Phuket, the airport authorities have been entertaining the possibility of grave punishments for those taking “selfies” on Mai Khao Beach, a site known for sightings of low, incoming aircraft.

“People and tourists will not be allowed to enter this area to take photos,” an emphatic Phuket airport chief Wichit Kaeothaithiam has claimed.  He issued further warnings: no drones, no shining lights, quite frankly nothing at all to distract incoming planes, would be tolerated.  Violating the provisions of the Air Navigation Act was a matter, quite literally, of death.  “The maximum penalty is the death sentence.”  Distractive idiocy, the authorities in Phuket suggest, is no excuse.

Lobbies and Belated Groundings: Boeing’s 737 Max 8

Lobbies, powerful interests and financial matters are usually the first things that come to mind when the aircraft industry is considered.  Safety, while deemed of foremost importance, is a superficial formality, sometimes observed in the breach.  To see the camera footage of the wreckage from the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 was to be shocked by a certain irony: cameras were found lingering over an inflight safety cards on what to do in the event of an emergency.  For those on board that doomed flight, it was irrelevant.

The deaths of all 157 individuals on board the flight en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa on Sunday might have caused a flurry of panicked responses.  There had been a similar disaster in Indonesia last year when Lion Air’s flight JT610 crashed killing 189 people.  Two is too many, but the response to the disasters was initially lethargic.

Concern seemed to centre on the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), deemed vital to prevent the aircraft from stalling.  Sensors within the MCAS might, according to accident investigator Geoffrey Dell, have sent “spurious signals to the flight management computers and resulting in the autopilot automatically pushing the nose of the aircraft down”.  If so, then the ability to manually counter those actions, a safety design feature of previous aircraft autopilots, would have to be questioned.  Troubling Dell was another question: why did the pilots fail to disconnect the autopilot when it played up?  Ditto the auto throttle system itself.

When it comes to safety in the aviation industry, powerful players tend to monetise rather than humanise their passengers.  A company like Boeing is seen as much as a patriot of the US defence industry as a producer of passenger aircraft. The company’s presence in Washington is multiple and vast, characterised by the buzzing activity of some two dozen in-house lobbyists and twenty lobbying firms. Lobbyists such as John Keast, a former principal at Cornerstone Government Affairs, have links with lawmakers such as Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi nurtured since the days he was chief of staff.  Wicker spokeswoman Brianna Manzelli was, however, keen to narrow that influence supposedly wielded by Keast in a statement made to CNN.  “While at Cornerstone Government Affairs, John Keast lobbied for a variety of clients including Boeing on defence issues only.”

Such combined lobbying efforts cost $15 million last year alone, which makes Boeing’s contribution relatively small to trade groups, but significant in terms of outdoing such competitors as Lockheed Martin.  Added to the fact that CEO Dennis Muilenburg has an open channel to the White House, the campaign favouring the Max 8’s continued, and unmolested operation, was hitting gear.  A Tuesday call made by the executive to Trump after the president’s tweet on the dangers posed by complex systems suggested some serious pull.

For a time, it seemed that the lobby was doing its customary black magic, and winning, attempting to douse fires being made by the likes of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Union calling for a temporary grounding of the Max 8.  Certain pilots had noticed control issues while operating the Max 8 over US airspace.

Boeing initially convinced the Federal Aviation Administration, which failed to note in a surly statement from Acting FAA administrator Daniel K. Elwell any “systematic performance issues” worthy of grounding the model.  “Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action.  In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

This statement stood in stark contrast to that of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand.  “Currently, there is no clear indication for the actual cause of accidents in Indonesia & Ethiopia, and no evident risk management measures or any mechanism to ensure the safety of 737 Max 9 aircraft from the aircraft manufacturer.”

The lobby’s traction has gradually slowed on the Hill, and its tittering has, at least for the moment, started to lose conviction.  Calls started to come from lawmakers that the 737 model needed to be looked at.  Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) suggested grounding the aircraft as a “prudent” measure. “Further investigation may reveal that mechanical issues were not the cause, but until that time, our first priority must be the safety of the flying public.”  Democratic senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were also itching to convince the FAA to ground the Max 8 “until the agency can conclusively determine that the aircraft be operated safely.”

Other lawmakers, ever mindful of Boeing’s influence in their states, preferred to leave the regulators to their task.  Till then, the planes would be permitted to continue taking to the skies.  “Right now,” cautioned Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), chair of the subcommittee overseeing aviation and a political voice for a state hosting an important Boeing facility, “the important thing is that relevant agencies are allowed to conduct a thorough and careful investigation.”

It was President Donald Trump who ultimately decided to reverse the earlier decision by regulators permitting the aircraft to continue flying.  The emergency order put the US in step with safety regulators in 42 other countries. “I didn’t want to take any chances,” explained Trump.  But ever mindful of Boeing’s shadowy hold, the president added a qualifying note. “We could have delayed it.  We maybe didn’t have to make it at all.  But I felt it was important both psychologically and in a lot of other ways.”

The FAA’s continued “data gathering”, previously deemed insufficient to warrant a grounding despite the quick response in other countries, had led to the opposite conclusion.  This included “newly refined satellite data available to the FAA”.  But Elwell was unwilling to eat anything resembling humble pie. “Since this accident occurred we were resolute that we would not take action until we had data.  That data coalesced today.”  A coalescence demonstrating, in more concrete terms, how safety, while important, tends to lag in the broader considerations of profit and operation in the aviation industry.