Japan Is Finding It Harder to Stay Quiet on China’s Abuse of Uyghurs

TOKYO — Last summer, Halmat Rozi, a Uyghur Muslim living in Japan, received a video call from his brother in China’s western Xinjiang region. His brother said he had someone he wanted Mr. Rozi to meet: a Chinese security officer.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, had been invited to Japan, and the officer had some questions. Were Mr. Rozi and his fellow Uyghur activists planning protests? Who were the group’s leaders? What work were they doing? If Mr. Rozi cooperated, his family in China would be well cared for, the officer assured him on a second video call.

The officer’s intent was clear — to discourage Mr. Rozi from doing anything that might hurt China’s reputation in Japan. The warning had the opposite effect. Mr. Rozi had invited Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, to surreptitiously record the second call, which was later broadcast to millions of viewers.

The footage provided a rare look at Beijing’s efforts to cultivate and intimidate Chinese ethnic minorities abroad, and it has contributed to a growing awareness in Japan of China’s repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

put in re-education camps in recent years in what critics say is an effort to erase their ethnic identity. Japan is the only member of the Group of 7 industrial powers that did not participate in coordinated sanctions imposed on Chinese officials last month over the situation in Xinjiang, which the U.S. government has declared a genocide.

signed a joint statement criticizing China over its “coercion and destabilizing behavior” in the Asia-Pacific region and its violations of the “international order.”

H&M learned last month when it became the target of a nationalist boycott in China for expressing concern about accusations of forced labor in Xinjiang’s cotton industry.

By contrast, the Japanese retail company Muji, which has more than 200 stores in mainland China, recently declared that it would continue to use cotton from Xinjiang despite the accusations.

Still, despite the economic and geopolitical risks, a growing group of lawmakers are calling for Japan to defend Uyghur rights. Members of Parliament are working on legislation that would give the government powers to impose sanctions over human rights abuses. And a broad cross section of Japanese politicians were pushing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to cancel Mr. Xi’s state visit to Japan before it was delayed for a second time by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Uyghur community in Japan, though estimated to be fewer than 3,000 people, has become more visible in the past year as it presses the government to act. Mr. Rozi’s story has played no small part. Since the broadcast last year of his call with the Chinese security officer, Mr. Rozi — a fluent Japanese speaker — has appeared in the news media and before a parliamentary group to discuss the abuses in Xinjiang.

The stories of other Uyghurs have also found a wider Japanese audience in recent months, including in a best-selling graphic novel featuring testimony from women who had been imprisoned in the Xinjiang camps.

As awareness has increased in Japan, concerns about Chinese human rights abuses have grown across the political spectrum.

For years, complaints about China’s treatment of its ethnic minorities were considered the purview of Japan’s hawkish right wing. Centrists and those on the left often saw them as pretexts for replacing Japan’s postwar pacifism with the pursuit of regional hegemony.

But China’s behavior in Xinjiang has forced a reassessment among many liberals. Even Japan’s Communist Party is calling it “a serious violation of human rights.”

“China says this is an internal problem, but we have to deal with it as an international problem,” Akira Kasai, a member of Parliament and one of the party’s top strategists, said in a recent interview.

Last summer, nearly 40 members of the Japanese legislature formed a committee for rethinking Tokyo’s relationship with Beijing. In February, a longstanding conservative parliamentary committee dedicated to promoting Uyghur rights expanded its membership to include lawmakers in the country’s center-left opposition parties.

The groups, said Shiori Yamao, an opposition lawmaker, are pushing the legislature to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. government, as well as parliaments in Canada and the Netherlands, by declaring China’s actions in Xinjiang a genocide.

Members of Parliament say they are also working on a Japanese version of the Global Magnitsky Act, the American law used to impose sanctions on government officials around the world involved in directing human rights abuses.

It is unclear how much traction the efforts will get. Mr. Rozi does not believe that lawmakers will go so far as to accuse China of genocide, but he is hopeful that Japan will impose sanctions.

Mr. Rozi came to Japan in 2005 for a graduate program in engineering, eventually starting a construction company and opening a kebab shop in Chiba Prefecture, on Tokyo’s outskirts. He was not political, he said, and steered clear of any activities that might be viewed unfavorably by the Chinese government.

Everything changed in 2018, after he learned that several members of his wife’s family had been detained. Communication with his own family had also become nearly impossible amid the security clampdown.

The experience convinced Mr. Rozi that he needed to speak out, and he soon began participating in protests calling for China to close the camps. Before long, he had become a prominent voice in Japan’s Uyghur community, making media appearances, meeting with politicians and running seminars on the situation in Xinjiang. When he received the surprise phone call from his brother, he knew that his activism had caught the attention of Chinese officials.

Since Mr. Rozi’s appearance on the Japanese public broadcaster, the Chinese government has made no further attempts to contact him, he said. Phone calls to his family have gone unanswered.

He is afraid for his relatives. But speaking out has been worth it, he said: “Now pretty much everyone here knows about the Uyghurs’ problems.”

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Godfather of Hong Kong Democracy Movement Convicted for Big 2019 Protest

HONG KONG— Martin Lee, the 82-year old lawyer credited with helping found Hong Kong’s democracy movement, and newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai were among seven veteran activists found guilty by a judge on charges related to a mass demonstration in 2019.

The Thursday guilty verdicts raise the prospect of jail time for a prominent group of democracy campaigners who have been fighting to preserve the rule of law in the former British colony since before it was returned to China in the late 1990s. Sentencing on the charges, which can carry up to five years’ jail time, was set for later this month.

“We believe we were just exercising our constitutional rights to protest come what may,” said the labor leader Lee Cheuk-yan, one of the defendants, after the verdict. “It will be a badge of honor for us to go to jail for fighting for freedom and rights for Hong Kong people.”

The trial is part of a wave of prosecutions under way in Hong Kong as China crushes dissent in the former British colony. Amid a continuing crackdown that worsened last year when China imposed a sweeping national security law, many of the city’s democracy campaigners are now either on trial, in jail or living in exile.

After the judge read out the verdict Thursday, a lead prosecutor called on the judge to revoke bail until sentencing, saying the offenses were serious and risked plunging Hong Kong into anarchy by undermining public order. Defendants however, were granted bail but can’t leave Hong Kong.

The group was found guilty of organizing and attending an unauthorized assembly in August 2019, a rainy day in which hundreds of thousands of people gathered in the city Hong Kong to protest the mainland government’s growing intervention in the city.

Hong Kong police arrested more than 50 pro-democracy figures for allegedly plotting to destabilize the government. WSJ’s Andrew Dowell reports on how the biggest crackdown since the national security law was imposed chips away at the city’s rule of law and global status. Photo: AP/TVB

Police initially approved a gathering at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, but declared it illegal after the huge crowds overflowed into the streets. Many marched to the city’s financial district in defiance of a ban on a procession outside the park.

Many of the activists found guilty on Thursday are facing additional illegal assembly charges in upcoming trials stemming from other days of protest. Two other defendants earlier pleaded guilty.

Hong Kong’s mainland-backed authorities are also prosecuting 47 mostly younger pro-democracy politicians on a more serious charge of subversion after a citywide primary election they participated in was declared in violation of the new national security law, which was imposed on the city by China just before midnight on June 30.

Those charges carry sentences of up to life in prison.

“The democracy movement has transitioned from protesting in the streets to defending itself in court,” said Avery Ng, secretary general of the League of Social Democrats, who attended the trial. He is also awaiting trial on protest-related charges.

Mr. Lee is a gray haired, U.K.-trained lawyer who co-founded the city’s first pro-democracy party and helped write Hong Kong’s foundational legal document, the Basic Law. The guilty verdict was his first in a lifetime of peaceful activism that has been carried out meticulously within the law.

Revered in Hong Kong, Mr. Lee has been singled out for criticism for decades by Beijing as a symbol of democratic opposition to authoritarian Communist Party rule. Many in Hong Kong see his prosecution as an indicator of how far Beijing plans to go to stamp out dissent in Hong Kong.

Meantime Mr. Lai, the publisher of Hong Kong’s stridently pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily, is facing a number of legal charges, including a charge of foreign collusion under the new national security law. That could put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

A rags-to-riches media tycoon in his early 70s, Mr. Lai has also been an outspoken critic of the Communist Party dating back to the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. After the protests began in 2019, Mr. Lai made-high profile visits to the U.S. to meet with officials including then-Vice President Mike Pence and build support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. He is already in custody and appeared in court surrounded by police in green jumpsuits.

Demonstrators march during a protest in Hong Kong on Aug. 18, 2019.

Photo: Kyle Lam/Bloomberg News

Others charged include Margaret Ng, a 73-year-old barrister; Albert Ho, a 69-year-old lawyer and activist; and Leung Kwok-hung, also 64, a longtime politician and activist known as “Long Hair.”

Police arrested the group in early-morning raids in April 2020. About two weeks later, China said it would impose the national security law on Hong Kong.

Write to John Lyons at john.lyons@wsj.com

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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Nawal El Saadawi, Advocate for Women in the Arab World, Dies at 89

Dr. Saadawi was among some 1,500 activists jailed by President Sadat shortly before his assassination in October 1981. She was released three months later and published, in Arabic, “Memoirs From the Women’s Prison,” in 1983.

Her message and manner drew equivocal assessments in the West.

After the first of Dr. Saadawi’s books to be translated into English, “The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World,” was published in the United States in 1982, by Beacon Press, Vivian Gornick, reviewing it in The New York Times Book Review, wrote, “For an American feminist it is a curious work.”

“Written by a Marxist who has read Freud,” she went on, “in a country and for a people that require an educated introduction to the idea of equality for women, the book seems disoriented by the inorganic nature of its understanding.”

Four years later, reviewing Dr. Saadawi’s novel “God Dies by the Nile,” the Indian-born American writer Bharati Mukherjee wrote that the author “bears down on social issues with directness and passion, transforming the systematic brutalization of peasants and of women into powerful allegory.”

She added, “This directness may put off American readers.”

Under President Mubarak, Sadat’s successor, Dr. Saadawi was placed under police guard, supposedly to protect her from Islamist threats. Her name was included on a so-called death list published in Saudi Arabia.

After fleeing to Duke, where she taught from 1993 to 1996, Dr. Saadawi wrote two more volumes of autobiography. When she returned to Egypt she continued to face fundamentalist accusations of apostasy and heresy. She announced plans to run for president against Mr. Mubarak in 2004 but resolved instead to boycott the election when her followers were threatened.

Into her 80s she seemed to suggest that her struggle was far from over.

“Do you feel you are liberated?” she asked a writer for The Guardian, a woman, in an interview in 2015. When the writer nodded her head, Dr. Saadawi said, “Well, I feel I am not.”

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Hong Kong, Its Elections Upended, Reconsiders Its Dream of Democracy

HONG KONG — From her first protest at age 12, Jackie Chen believed she could help bring democracy to Hong Kong. Each summer, she marched in demonstrations calling for universal suffrage. She eagerly cast her ballot in elections.

Now Ms. Chen, 44, is not sure if she will ever vote again.

“If we continue to participate in this game, it’s like we’re accepting what they’re doing,” she said. “That would make me feel like an accomplice.”

The Chinese government has upended the political landscape in Hong Kong, redefining the city’s relationship with democracy. Its plan to drastically overhaul the local electoral system, by demanding absolute loyalty from candidates running for office, is leaving factions across the political spectrum wondering what participation, if any, is still possible.

enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which pledges that universal suffrage is the “ultimate aim.”

Beijing has now made clear that it has no plans to meet that aim — at least, not on the terms that many Hong Kongers expected. The changes are also likely to slash the number of directly elected seats in the local legislature to their lowest levels since the British colonial era, meaning the majority of lawmakers would be picked by government allies.

Though officials still nod to universal suffrage, theirs is a circumscribed version. A Chinese official in Hong Kong suggested last week that establishment lawmakers chosen through small-circle elections, of the type favored by Beijing, were equivalent to those elected by the general public.

“The establishment camp is also pro-democracy,” the official, Song Ru’an, told reporters. “They’re all chosen through elections, and they all work on behalf of the people.”

repeatedly delayed.)

Screening candidates would ensure that future politicians were more moderate, Mr. Choi said. “Right now we have people who want to mess things up,” he said, standing under a giant Chinese flag that his group had erected on a sidewalk in North Point, a working-class neighborhood where support for the government runs high.

“There will be a new pro-democracy wing that comes out, and they probably will actually want to act in the interests of the people,” Mr. Choi said.

Hong Kong’s electoral system has always been skewed in favor of the establishment, but many residents had still hoped their votes could send a message.

arrested 53 people in January for participating in an informal primary ahead of those elections. The elections themselves were postponed for a year, and officials say they may be delayed again.

Ms. Chen, the democracy supporter who is unsure about voting again, said the electoral changes were more disheartening than the national security law.

“Voting isn’t organizing anything or trying to subvert the government,” she said. “It’s just each person voting to express their individual views. If we don’t even have this basic right, then I just don’t know what to say.”

Beijing has said the changes are meant to block candidates it deems anti-China, or who have openly called for independence for Hong Kong. But moderates also worry that they will be shut out of the new system.

Hong Kong’s politicians have long described their role as juggling the demands of two masters who are often at odds: Communist Party leaders in Beijing, and the people of Hong Kong. But Beijing has increasingly insisted that its will come first, a mandate crystallized in the new election rules, which allow only “patriots” to hold office.

mass movement for universal suffrage in 2014, many supporters worried that dreams of democracy were dead. But when those demands resurfaced in 2019, the crowds ballooned.

Faith in that resilience has shaped the life of Owen Au, who was in high school in 2014. Invigorated by those protests, he enrolled at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to study politics. He was elected president of the student union. He dreamed of running for higher office.

He knows that is impossible now. He is facing charges of unauthorized assembly related to the 2019 protests, and he said he would never qualify under the candidate-vetting system anyway.

But far from pushing him out of the political arena, Mr. Au said, the crackdown will guarantee that he stays in it. He expects that no major company will hire him. Besides activism, he doesn’t know what else he could do.

“I have no choice but to keep working on it,” he said. “But it’s not a bad thing. Most of the other paths, I’m not so interested in. But this one could ignite my hope.”

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Amazon Versus Unions

A labor union’s effort to organize about 5,800 Amazon workers in Bessemer, Ala., has turned into a national story. The workers are now voting whether to join the union, in an election that runs through March 29.

I asked Noam Scheiber, who covers workplace issues for The Times, to explain what’s going on. Our conversation follows.

David: Why has this one local union election become such a big deal?

Noam: Amazon is the second-largest private employer in the U.S. In the more than 25 years since its founding, the company has successfully resisted unionization at all of its U.S. facilities, which now number in the hundreds. But labor leaders believe that a single high-profile success will reverberate across the country.

There are already signs that they may be right. Some nonunionized Amazon workers on Staten Island walked off the job last year, to protest pandemic working conditions. And the union that’s trying to organize the workers in Alabama — the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union — says it has received more than 1,000 inquiries from other Amazon workers since this campaign started.

some justification.

Amazon exerts a lot of influence over working conditions for tens of millions of other workers. When Amazon enters an industry, it often forces the competition to adopt similar labor practices — partly on pay, but also squeezing efficiency out of workers. Consider, for example, that shares of Walmart, Target, Kroger and Costco swooned after Amazon announced its acquisition of Whole Foods back in 2017.

Amazon and the union have made competing claims about whether the jobs already come with good wages and benefits. Can you help us understand them?

The company typically pays rank-and-file warehouse workers between $15 and $20 per hour and offers health care and retirement benefits. For a full-time worker, that translates into about $700 a week. Amazon touts its compensation package as “industry-leading,” though most of its workers are likely earning well below the national weekly median of about $1,000 for full-time workers.

tends to be higher than for nonunion workers, even when you control for factors like education and experience. But I suspect Amazon will likely raise wages even if the union loses, because credible threats of unionization tend to drive up wages even at nonunion companies.

Joe Biden offer stronger pro-union words than any president in decades — and then see Marco Rubio, a conservative Republican, also encourage the Bessemer workers to join a union. Is it possible that labor unions are on the verge of growing again?

There’s an element of social contagion here, in which successful activism by some workers can inspire others. We saw that during the teacher walkouts that began in West Virginia in 2018 and quickly spread to Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona. The same has recently happened in digital media and among white-collar tech workers.

That said, it’s hard to believe we’ll see a reversal in the decades-long decline in unionization, as opposed to a slowing of the decline, absent a major change in U.S. labor law. The current law gives employers enormous advantages in a union campaign. They can subject workers to a barrage of anti-union rhetoric, through mandatory meetings, emails, signage. Unions have no comparable way of getting their message out. And the law rarely results in more than a slap on the wrist for employers that fire workers for supporting a union.

What would “a major change in U.S. labor law” look like?

Something along the lines of the PRO Act that the House just passed, which would dramatically increase the penalties for retaliating against workers who organize. Or card check, which would allow workers to unionize if a majority sign cards, allowing them to bypass a contentious election like this one.

Another approach would be sectoral bargaining, in which a union could bargain with all the major employers in an industry by getting, say, 10 to 20 percent of the industry’s workers to sign cards. That would diminish the incentive of any one employer to fight a union campaign out of a fear of competitive disadvantage. Germany, France and Norway use sectoral bargaining.

won the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor, for turning old structures into new affordable housing.

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    “Have you ever wanted to control my life?” a 15-year-old TikToker with 3.3 million followers asked in a recent online video. He then asked his fans what game he should play with friends — dodgeball or catch — and 78 percent chose dodgeball. Fans have also voted on what he should watch, what video games he should play and what to name his pet hamster.

    Taylor Lorenz, a Times tech reporter, writes. One of those companies is NewNew, where fans pay to vote in polls, like the dodgeball one, to determine a creator’s daily choices. Five votes cost $4.99.

    “It doesn’t matter how boring you think you are, there’s someone out there who would find your life interesting to the point that they’re willing to pay,” NewNew’s founder, Courtne Smith, said.

    Influencers are joining such platforms for the promise of diversification, Taylor writes, leaving them less beholden to a the ever-changing algorithms and pay structures of a few social media giants.

    play online.

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    Activists call on Coca-Cola, Delta to fight Republican anti-voting bills in Georgia

    Civil rights groups are escalating pressure on major Georgia companies including Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines to forcefully oppose sweeping new restrictions that would make it harder to vote in the state.

    Sign up for the Guardian’s Fight to Vote newsletter

    The campaign is focused on some of the largest employers in Georgia and some of America’s most recognizable brands. Home Depot, UPS, Aflac, and Southern Company are also among the companies activists are targeting.

    The organizations say the companies’ support could help kill the measures, which are championed by Republican lawmakers and would cut early voting in some of the state’s most populous and non-white counties, require voters to show ID when they vote by mail, and limit the availability of ballot drop boxes. Another bill would entirely eliminate a state policy that allows any voter to cast a mail-in ballot without an excuse.

    The restrictions come after the state saw record turnout in the 2020 race and surging participation among non-white voters, resulting in the election of two Democratic senators and victory for Joe Biden in the state.

    “It is a dangerous thing for the business community to be silent,” said Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate, to the Guardian. “We are obliged at this moment to call for all voices to be lifted up. And for the alarm to ring not only through the communities that are threatened directly, but by those businesses that rely on the durability of our democracy.”

    There is precedent for the effort. Corporate pressure has previously helped bring scrutiny to some of the most controversial bills in US state legislatures, including an anti-LGBTQ+ measure in Indiana and a discriminatory bathroom bill in North Carolina.

    Georgia activists have bought billboards near company headquarters, full-page advertisements in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, protested outside Coca-Cola headquarters, and have helped 55,000 Georgia voters send messages to company leadership, said Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, which is helping lead the effort.

    But it is particularly hypocritical for corporations to stay silent on voting rights, Ufot said in an interview. Many of them issued statements last year at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests acknowledging the need to improve racial equity in the United States. Georgia-based companies often tout the state’s history in the civil rights movement, she noted. Coca-Cola bought billboards honoring the life of John Lewis, a titan of the voting rights movement, when he died last year.

    “It makes me wonder whether or not they were doing it for clout,” Ufot said. “This feels like these are the character moments when you get to see … whether or not they walk their talk. It’s one thing to post your solidarity on social media and it’s another thing to stop something really harmful from happening to the Black community.”

    Several provisions in the bill would disproportionately harm Black voters, data shows. Black and other non-white voters are more likely than their white counterparts to cast ballots on weekend days of early voting, including on Sundays, when many Black churches run “Souls to the Polls” programs to get parishoners to vote. The bill would allow counties to only offer a single day of weekend voting in addition to the single Saturday already required under law.

    The response from the businesses so far has been muted. “We continue to engage with Georgia’s elected leaders on this issue. Delta’s shared values call on us to make our voices heard and be engaged members of our communities, of which voting is a vital part of that responsibility,” said Lisa Hanna, a Delta spokeswoman, in a statement.

    Companies such as Delta may be wary of wading into the debate around voting. In 2018, Georgia’s lieutenant governor tried to kill a tax break for Delta after it cancelled a group discount rate for the National Rifle Association, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    On Friday, the Georgia chamber of commerce released a statement to CNBC saying it had expressed “concern and opposition” to provisions in the legislation in the legislature. (It did not say which ones). Representatives from Coca-Cola and Home Depot told the Guardian they were “aligned” with the chamber’s position.

    But it’s not clear exactly what they mean by “aligned”. After the Washington Post published a story on Monday saying Home Depot opposed the new restrictions, the company went out of its way to clarify that its alignment with the chamber did not in fact mean it opposed the legislation.

    Ufot said she rolled her eyes when she read the statement from the Georgia chamber of commerce, which was “not worth the paper it’s written on”.

    “What Republican legislator is supposed to look at that and say ‘I have pissed off Home Depot and their lobbyist, let me withdraw my support from this bill’?” she said.

    Ufot and other activists are also calling on the companies to pause political giving to Georgia lawmakers who back the voting restrictions.

    Since 2018, corporations have donated $7.4m to politicians backing voting restrictions in the legislature, according to Popular Information, an independent newsletter. That includes $34,750 from Coca-Cola, at least $41,600 from Delta Airlines, $34,500 from UPS, $38,700 from Southern Company, and $7,250 from Aflac.

    Ann Moore, a Coca-Cola spokesperson, said the organization had paused political giving in January. Sara Gorman, a Home Depot spokeswoman, said a company-associated PAC, a political giving organization, “supports candidates on both sides of the aisle who champion pro-business, pro-retail positions that create jobs and economic growth”.

    On Tuesday, Salesforce, a software company headquartered in San Francisco said it opposed one of the bills in the legislature “as it currently stands”.

    LaTosha Brown, a co-founder of the organization Black Voters Matter, noted that opponents of the voting are making their voices heard in other ways, too. Last week, under pressure, officials in Hancock county, which is more than 70% Black, voted to ask Barry Fleming, one of the sponsors of the sweeping voting bills, to step down as the county attorney.

    “They can’t sit on the sidelines where we’re literally fighting for our right to vote,” Brown said. “This should be a no brainer.”

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