Cuba removes ex-parliament chief Alarcon, others from Communist Party central committee

HAVANA – Cuba’s president has announced the removal of former Parliament chief Ricardo Alarcon and several other leaders from the Communist Party’s powerful Central Committee.

In comments broadcast on state-television Tuesday, Raul Castro made clear that those leaving the 118-strong committee had not made any mistakes or committed any crimes. He said they were moving on in the normal course of events.

“This door leads out, without it constituting any demerit,” Castro said. He spoke at a previously unannounced meeting of the Central Committee.

Alarcon, 76, was one of Cuba’s most visible politicians and the point person for relations with the United States. He stepped down as parliament chief in February.

Among the others removed were Jose Miguel Miyar Barruecos, 81, who was secretary of the Council of State for three decades, and Misael Enamorado, 60, the party chief in Santiago de Cuba.


Bodies of More Than 200 Stalinist Purge Victims Discovered

The remains of 208 people believed to have been victims of the Stalinist purges have been discovered by a search team near Voronezh, Interfax reported Friday.

Members of the Don Search Team, who were responsible for uncovering the bodies, said that the executions were almost certainly carried out during the most grievous months of the Great Terror, between January and February, 1938.

An anthropological investigation will now be carried out on the remains in a bid to compare any biological data with archival records.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of research groups have sought to find and honor the victims of political repression, as well as conducting proper burials for unknown fallen soldiers.

With Appointment of PRC Vice Chair, a Setback to Jiang Zemin’s Faction

As the Chinese Communist Party concluded its largest leadership change in a decade, Li Yuanchao, an ally to new Party leader Xi Jinping, was on March 14 named Vice Chairman of the People’s Republic of China.

Li’s appointment is significant for two reasons, both pointing to a weakening of former leader Jiang Zemin’s faction. First, propaganda czar Liu Yunshan, a Jiang loyalist, missed out on the post, and second, Li is the first Politburo member to become Vice Chairman since 1998, bucking Jiang’s unwritten rule that only a Politburo Standing Committee member could take the position of Vice Chairman.

Li ranks next after the top seven officials in the Standing Committee, and will wield some degree of power in his new role, Hong Kong-based newspaper Takungpao reported. Besides being the first deputy chief of the Central Committee’s Hong Kong Macau Coordination Team, Li will also assist Xi Jinping with foreign affairs.

Li’s appointment is a sign of Xi’s firm grip on the reins of power: Unlike his predecessor Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping is also in command of the People’s Liberation Army, whereas Hu remained in Jiang Zemin’s shadow for many years of his leadership.

After Li took his post, some mainland media, like Hangzhou Daily, publicized comments he made during a 2010 conference as head of the Party’s Organization Department, saying he would set up a special task force to crack down on corruption involving the buying and selling of government posts.

Epoch Times commentator Zhou Xiaohui said these reports were aimed at Xi’s political opponents, as Jiang Zemin and his henchman Zhou Yongkang, the former security chief, are “notorious for their involvement in graft.”


To be promoted, provincial-level cadres must bribe at least half of the standing committee members for no less than 10 million yuan (over $1.6 million) each, according to a January article in Hong Kong’s Trend Magazine. The starting price for influential senior Party members like Jiang is 30 million yuan (over $4.8 million).

Zhou Xiaohui believes the recent reports’ mention of Li’s 2010 comments could be a sign that Xi wants his help to take out Jiang and his allies.

At a January meeting, Xi signaled his intention to crack down on corruption among the “flies” and “tigers,” referring to both lower- and senior-level officials.


Beijing’s ‘Two Meetings’ Meet, Rubber Stamp Ready

By Matthew Robertson

Among the vanguard propaganda rolled out in the lead up to the “Two Meetings,” a major political event being held in Beijing this week, was a photo comparison: A shot from a press conference in 2001 juxtaposed with that from this year’s event. In the first, bouquets of fresh flowers were heaped across the dais. In the second, they had vanished.
“Media are all paying close attention to the new atmosphere at the Two Meetings,” an earnest newsreader with the official Hebei Satellite said. “The smell of frugality is all around.”
The boastful thriftiness is supposed to reflect the tone of the new leadership under Xi Jinping, who was made General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) last November.
But it was not received very well by an increasingly politically-savvy and plugged-in populace, who on a variety of online forums ridiculed the affected display, and pointed out that corruption is rife in the Party, which wastes much more money than a few flowers.
The current conclave—that is, of the National People’s Congress, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which gather in Beijing for two weeks of meetings—will be used to highlight some of the policies that Xi wishes to push forward early in his leadership.
The meetings are held every year, but this year’s event will see the new communist leadership coronated with their state roles: Xi Jinping will become the Chairman of the People’s Republic of China, and his right-hand-man, Li Keqiang, will replace Wen Jiabao as Premier.
Wen, still the current premier (the handover officially takes place on the last day of the meeting), gave his work report on March 5, highlighting what he called the achievements and failures of the leadership over the last five years. Often given to public displays of emotion, at this year’s event Wen said in the concluding remarks to his 30-page work report: “Under the leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as General Secretary, let us unite as one and work hard to finish building a moderately prosperous society in all respects.”

Other matters that are expected to be put under discussion, or have policies implemented for, include a reshuffling of the bureaucracy, minor changes in control of state-owned enterprises, and measures to reduce the smog that chokes the country.

However, many observers of the Chinese political system regard the meetings mostly as a “flower vase” event, and an attempt to show that China is not actually ruled by a small group of men at the top. But the real power resides in the Communist Party that sits above the 3,000 delegates that have been called to Beijing.

Thus, none of the real business in the management of state affairs will be actually decided during the meetings, according to analysts.

“The issues that will be discussed are things that have already been decided,” says Cheng Xiaonong, a former aide to ousted reformist Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang. “The leadership just needs a rubber stamp. So now we will see the stamp being put on.”

That requires thousands of “people’s representatives,” dressed in the military and ethnic garb respectively, raising their hands to give the appearance of voting on one or another matter of public business.

These individuals are carefully vetted for political reliability, most of them are actually members of the Communist Party, and they are chosen by the Communist Party.
“For representatives to the Political Consultative Conference, it’s not a matter of whether the individual wants to do it or not,” says Ge Jianxiong, a delegate himself and the head librarian at Shandong University, in an interview with Financial Times Chinese.

“If it’s a non-party member, then the United Front Department submits your name, and if it’s a Party member, then the Organization Department submits your name, and Party Central approves them,” said Ge Jianxiong.

The all-encompassing Party control over the process, which was originally meant to show that Communist Party rule is mediated by other institutional forces, reveals the charade, according to Hu Ping, a senior commentator and analyst of the Chinese regime, based in New York.

“It’s a gathering of people reading the lines on a script,” he said in a telephone interview. “Even the identity of the people attending the event is selected. They may want some new faces, so if they need a woman, they find a woman, if they need a grassroots worker, then they get a grassroots worker. And if they need a peasant, they find a peasant.”
Hu Ping referred to an interview conducted in 2010 between the activist-artist Ai Weiwei and Li Yuxiao, the chief editor of the QQ web portal, one of the most frequented in China.

Li said that in 2006, when his company began reporting on the Two Meetings online, most of the comments from netizens were negative, but there were still some positive ones. But after that “It was 100 percent abuse toward the Two Meetings, the delegates, and Party leaders.”

“At that point we had no choice, we had to shut down the comment function. Because as soon as you looked you could see, they’ve completely lost the peoples’ hearts,” Li said.


Originally posted on Truth in China:

February 02, 2013 | By a Minghui correspondent in Jilin Province, China

( Falun Gong practitioners Mr. Xie Guichen and Ms. Tan Chengxiang from Shulan City, Jilin Province, were arrested on July 30, 2012, for distributing Shen Yun Performing Arts DVDs. They were detained for about six months. Mr. Xie was so badly tortured that he had to be sent to a hospital for treatment. The police forbade the practitioners’ families from visiting them. Their families recently learned that Mr. Xie had been sentenced to 10 years in prison and Ms. Tan to 8 years.

Arrested and Denied Family Visits

Mr. Xie Guichen from Senshu Village and Ms. Tan Chengxiang from Xinfeng Village distributed Shen Yun Performing Arts DVDs to villagers in Gangzi Village on July 30, 2012. Village head Wang Liping reported them to the police. Baiqi Town Police Station head Cao Tiesheng, deputy head Yang Chunrong, and…

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