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Saturday, December 17, 2005


tze ming

Hi Yan. Following on from my email, in the context of the all-encompassing 'Chicken' game that is at the core of the actual negotiations:

I don't think it's for the best to
a) take the 'bring down the WTO' call literally and make that the source of the grand feeling of despair that might strike you amid the chaos of the streets (extravagant opening bargaining positions are common in Hong Kong marketplaces; similar lessons apply to civil and political society);
nor b) think as though the demonstrations, rather than the negotiations themselves, are what gets to 'bring down th[is particular round of] the WTO;
nor c) think that the pro LDC-demonstrators having a more coherent policy-platform en masse would make any difference to the success of the LDC negotiating teams inside the WTO process
nor d) think that the pro LDC-demonstrators don't support the negotiators and observers within the WTO process who are advocating for their rights;
nor e) be too ready to assume that the 2010 offer on farm subsidies is anywhere near a realistic agreement;
nor f) think that if this round collapses over a lack of agreement on the 2010 deadline that it's somehow the fault of the 'movement'. If the LDCs pull out of the round and 'bring down the WTO', it actually shows that the WTO is *working* to the degree that LDC governments can say 'no' to an offer.
nor g) forget the difference between 'bringing down' (ie blocking) one round of the WTO and destroying all current and future systems of global trade negotiations.

After the Cancun round I thought that there might be a morphing of the demonstrator's rhetoric towards 'take over the WTO' or 'democratise the WTO' - but I guess when you've 'brought down' one round, the call gets infectious. The rhetoric might change - we'll see come the next round eh?

tze ming

And before I get accused of fascism, I thought I'd put in the rest of what I wrote to you:

[O]utside of the clash point, the cops shouldn't teargas peaceful protesters, that's that. Cops do not have the right to teargas people for 'jeering' at them. They will do it of course. I mean, this is the WTO, and to be fair, they've seemed about as restrained as I've seen, only judging from MSM reportage. ...But the fact remains - the right to peaceful assembly does not depend on 'not jeering', or 'not being far enough away from people who are taking part in aggressive action over which I have no control'. The right to peaceful assembly also does not depend on being right. You gotta be consistent about this 'rights' stuff... right? There's a difference between expectations and standards.

A Reader

there's a good discussion going on here.

re: the police response, the question seems to be what is appropriate? what is acceptable? you seem to feel that the police were completely justified in all their actions yesterday. can you say with certainty that not a single police officer reacted beyond what was reasonable?

i feel that yes, on the whole, the police were very restrained and THEY HAD EVERY RIGHT TO DEFEND THEMSELVES, but that a few did do too much, such as one officer i personally witnessed stepping out of the defensive line, charging forward at a protester and swinging his baton furiously. (yes, the police were under attack, but i felt that particular response was over the line.)

another example reported and shown by cable tv is a policeman shoving a camera and injuring the camera operator because he didn't want to be filmed. is that ok too?

take a look at this video of Korean police:

do you think their reactions are justified? if we don't stand up and say no to the relatively minor offenses by police we saw yesterday, things could one day end up being just like the actions in the video and someone will probably say, "yeah, they got what they deserved. what did they expect?"

i agree though that people shouldn't egg others on to do violent things which they aren't willing to do themselves. yes, cheering and jeering can be a form of egging people on. but is being only an observer in and of itself bad? i don't think so. after all, that's exactly what a journalist does. observe. not get involved in the action.

as for your disgust at the spectators, weren't you also doing the same thing? if it was noble for you to be an eye witness to these events, why not the other people? if it was OK for you to get right in the face of the officers and farmers and take photographs, why not everyone else? because you are a professional photographer? in this age of blogging and citizen journalism, everyone has the same right to be there as professional photographers and journalists.

one minor point of clarification. some protesters attempted to turn over police vans but they did not succeed in doing so. not that it justifies their actions in any way.


this is the best article about WTO I read in the blogsphere these days. Indimedia is full of cynicism. I'll never go there.

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