Archive for china

The Reckoning-Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Posted in film with tags , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last night I saw the New York premier of The Reckoning. The crowd was quite astonishing. There were two prosecutors from the International Criminal Court, Christine Chung and Fatou Bensouda, both are also featured in the film. The top brass from Human Rights Watch were also present along with one of the prosecutors from the Nuremberg trials. When Pamela Yates, the director, introduced him he got a standing ovation.

The film was stark and penetrating. It discussed the worst war crimes and crimes against humanity of our time, but did so in a rational, rights based justice context. The main character in The Reckoning is the International Criminal Court itself. Founded in 2002, its mandate is to try the perpetrators of crimes that have been committed since the court’s inception. A stipulation exists that the court may only make cases against member states, unless the UN Security Council has referred them to mount an investigation.

In other words, the ICC is based on a treaty, when a country signs on to the treaty, it then formalizes its stand against impunity, and it makes its citizens eligible for possible investigation. However, the process requires the court to be a last resort only applied if a country proves unable or unwilling to try its own perpetrators. Over 100 countries have signed on to the treaty, but the United States, China, Russia, and Iraq have all refused to do so.

Since its founding the ICC has made cases against the leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, war lords in the Congo and the people with the most responsibility for the Darfur genocide, including Al-Bashir, the president of Sudan. They have also built a preliminary case in Columbia against paramilitary leaders and the corrupt members of government who support them.

Like any other court the way the ICC operates is by gathering evidence and using to to try criminals. By insisting upon rule of law in the international arena they are able to combat atrocities in areas of the world where there has been no justice and powerful leaders remain punished for their crimes.

This is an extremely important aim. The film shows the victims of abduction, child soldiers who were forced to be killers or sex slaves, women who were raped and babies that were beaten to the point of brain damage. Distressingly the restriction that the court faces is its lack of an enforcement arm. As the ICC has not been granted a military or police force it must rely on the national forces of each member state or wait for the UN Security Council to agree to send UN forces.

Right now an ICC arrest warrant for President Al-Bashir stands, but his forces will not turn him in, and as Sudan is a sovereign state no other country’s military can enter and arrest him, without it being seen as an act of war. The Security Council could go in and enforce the warrant, but they have yet to do so. As China and the US hold sway on the council its unlikely that this result will occur.

A beacon of hope in the world, the ICC stands as a glass giant in the Hague, but the question the film poses is will its halls be filled with prosecuted criminals, or will it be rendered ineffective as little more than a symbol.

“Family” Planning- Irene Tung on Queer life in China

Posted in People of Color, politics, queer with tags , , , , , , on December 26, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

This Article was written by Irene about her very interesting recent trip to China.

Dou Dou and Feng, a Chinese lesbian couple from the city of Shenyang in Northeast China, plan to have a baby together.  However, they have no intention of ever coming out to their parents.

I met them this October at a lesbian, bi and trans organizing training in Anshan in the Liaoning province of China where I was helping to conduct workshops on global LGBT history and organizational development.  Feng and Dou Dou (pronounced DOUGH-dough), both 23, created and maintain a popular web-based bulletin board that provides information and on-line counseling to Chinese lesbians. They were among activists from throughout Northeast China who attended the training.

Over breakfast one day, I asked Dou Dou and Feng, who requested to be identified only by their nicknames, about their plans for the future. They have been together for several years and have decided not to come out to their families. Instead, Feng plans to arrange a fake marriage with a gay male friend.  They will hold an elaborate wedding with friends and extended family, buy property together and live together. Dou Dou will stay “single”.  Feng and her gay friend will stay in their queer relationships, but maintain the facade of a heterosexual married lifestyle to their families. Dou Dou and Feng are both only children, as per China’s one child policy. They are part of a generation of children, born after the policy was enacted in 1979, who are facing severe pressure from their families to marry as they enter their mid-to-late twenties. Many are considering fake marriages, a practice which has created tremendous controversy in the Chinese queer community. Some see it as selling out, while others counter that the pressure from their family is too strong for them to bear.

When I asked Feng and Dou Dou about having children, they said that they definitely plan to have a child within the fake marriage arrangement.  The child would bear the gay man’s surname. It would call Feng, “mom”, the gay friend, “dad”, and Dou Dou, “godmother”.  But Dou Dou says she would still consider it her child. They say they wouldn’t tell the child the truth about the fake marriage until he or she becomes a teenager. Both of them see it as the only viable way for them to raise a child together.

One evening during dinner with other conference participants, someone asked if my partner and I plan to have kids.  I had traveled to China with my partner, who is Irish-Italian from South Jersey.  We answered that we were unsure, but that it was a possibility.  At that point, the three young gay men at the table literally jumped out of their chairs in their enthusiasm to volunteer themselves as sperm donors. We were a little taken aback, not quite sure what to make of it. It became clear very quickly however that they were only interested in providing sperm to inseminate my white partner, and not me. In response to their offers, we poured another round of drinks and told them we would think about it.

It turns out that Chinese people are obsessed with biracial, hapa babies. I spoke with several people in China who believe that hapa children are not only more beautiful, but also more intelligent. In Beijing, I met one couple that is actively seeking a white sperm donor.

Some lesbian couples in China who–unlike Feng and Dou Dou–are out to their families, hope to raise children together as openly queer parents.  Couples seeking to do so face significant legal and cultural obstacles. The Chinese government has actively opposed LGBT couples raising children. In 2006, it banned adoption of Chinese children by foreign gay couples, citing a stipulation that adoptive couples must be “healthy”. Also, unmarried women are not officially allowed to buy sperm from authorized sperm banks in China.

While the act of homosexuality is decriminalized in China, activists have recently reported an increase in surveillance, raids and arrests of people involved in queer organizing activities, especially in the period leading up to the Olympic Games this past summer.  Despite these challenges, the movement is growing in strength.  This November, following the training in Anshan and similar events in other cities, the first national alliance of lesbian, bi and trans organizations, representing thousands of members, was formalized in Shanghai. (Support their efforts!)

An amazing break dancing performance by two teenage trans boys at the closing ceremony of the conference in Anshan.

An amazing break dancing performance by two teenage trans boys at the closing ceremony of the conference in Anshan.

photo from one of the panel discussions. The banner reads, “2008 Lesbian Camp, Lesbian Networking, Anshan”

photo from one of the panel discussions. The banner reads, “2008 Lesbian Camp, Lesbian Networking, Anshan”

Ming Ming, from Beijing, wearing a t-shirt that says, “We demand to watch homosexual movies.”  The t-shirts were created as part of an anti-censorship campaign to respond to the Chinese government’s ban of all films that refer to LGBT themes.

Ming Ming, from Beijing, wearing a t-shirt that says, “We demand to watch homosexual movies.” The t-shirts were created as part of an anti-censorship campaign to respond to the Chinese government’s ban of all films that refer to LGBT themes.