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Swirling doubts herald major shifts at upcoming Chinese political meeting – The Washington Post

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Was Chinese Premier Li Keqiang challenging President Xi Jinping’s “zero covid” policy when he toured a university in southwestern China without a mask in May? Did Xi briefly disappear from the front page of the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper to quash a rebellion? Is Li making a last-ditch effort to usurp Xi?

Speculation about political infighting and schisms at the top of the Chinese Communist Party are a common feature of its secretive system of appointing new leaders. But this year, political silly season has started early, and the swirl of rumor has been especially intense.

That’s unsurprising in the buildup to the immensely important, twice-per-decade Party Congress in the fall, which is shaping up to be the most significant transition of power in China since the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square movement in 1989 sparked a messy inter-factional battle for control.

Most close observers of Chinese politics have brushed aside the idea of a fierce battle for power at the top of the party, arguing that Xi’s hold is so strong that he is near-guaranteed to take on a third term at this year’s meeting.

What is more unclear is whether the rumors flying around Chinese business circles and overseas Chinese-language media suggest a degree of pushback that will force Xi to compromise on personnel choices and water down some of his more ambitious policy objectives as he enters a third term.

China passes history resolution to enshrine open-ended rule of Xi Jinping

“What is unusual this time is that China as a whole is doing poorly ahead of a historic Party Congress,” said Minxin Pei, a political scientist studying Chinese politics at Claremont McKenna College. “Its economy is in terrible shape; the zero-covid policy looks increasingly untenable; and China’s relations with nearly all Western countries are at historic lows. This of course does not reflect well on Xi.”

Chinese scholars, however, maintain that nothing is out of the ordinary. Victor Gao, a former interpreter for past leader Deng Xiaoping now at the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing-based think tank, said in an interview that the rumors are merely part of the cycles of Chinese politics and will soon settle.

Gao did note that this year was particularly important because the transition will include significant turnover in the 25-member Politburo and the 200-odd Central Committee, where he expects new faces for about half of the former and at least a third in the latter. “You’re talking about changes, lots of changes. People retiring, lots of aspiring people trying to get up, being promoted,” he said.

To glean a sense of whether Xi’s rule is under serious pressure, international scholars carefully track promotions and demotions as well as signals in party propaganda. At the center of this informed guesswork — often called “tea leaf reading” — is the question of just how much Xi’s centralization of control has upended past competition and the delicate balancing of interests within the party.

After Xi’s decade-long campaigns to clear corruption and ensure loyalty, it’s unclear whether any cliques remain unified and influential enough to challenge his rule. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Xi is unopposed.

“It’s a huge political party, and at the end of the day, Xi Jinping cannot populate all the mid-level positions with trusted followers,” said Victor Shih, a scholar of Chinese politics at the University of California at San Diego.

In a recent book, Shih argues that autocratic political systems such as China’s create an incentive for strongman leaders to adopt a strategy of building “coalitions of the weak,” where politically compromised or inexperienced officials are favored for positions of power as a way of guarding the top leader from challengers.

This, Shih suggests, was the approach Mao Zedong took and Xi may be beginning to adopt. But doing so could mean promoting inexperienced officials incapable of tackling acute economic and foreign policy challenges. Xi faces a trade-off between choosing competent leaders who might later challenge him or taking a “safe route, which is what Mao did, to ultimately have a coalition of officials who are highly dependent on him.”

The exact processes of power brokering that China calls “intraparty democracy” remain shrouded in secrecy, but it is clear that Xi’s campaign to end infighting within the party has changed dynamics of internal contestation. Previous features of Chinese political maneuvering, such as an annual visit to the seaside town of Beidaihe, are less prominent, if they now exist at all.

Xi’s strict covid policies prompt rumblings of discontent in China

Xi’s control of the formidable party discipline and ideology apparatuses mean any challenger faces a steep coordination problem to challenge his power. “Getting rid of him would be a very significant political earthquake for the party,” said Olivia Cheung, a research fellow at SOAS University of London. “No matter how many of the elite do not like Xi Jinping, there is a consensus that the party wants to stay on in power.”

Restricted information has made it harder for experts to predict major turning points in Xi’s tenure. Few predicted the monumental decision to end presidential term limits, announced by Xinhua News in a terse statement only a month before it was voted on at the annual meeting of China’s legislature in early 2018.

Policymaking, too, has become less transparent under Xi, who has made greater use of “central leading groups,” many of which he personally chairs, to centralize control of decision-making. On issues including the pandemic, cybersecurity and curbing debt in the property market, Xi’s policies have in the last year repeatedly caused market panic, but there have been few signs any of them will be reversed.

Such upsets are rarely blamed on Xi but, rather, on local officials. Shanghai’s botched lockdown, for example, has not led to a shift in China’s zero-covid policy, but some analysts believe it may hurt the promotion prospects of Li Qiang, the city’s party boss and a Xi ally.

Similarly, Li’s recent prominence, read by some as an indication of a challenge to Xi, can equally well be explained as the premier being intentionally used as a figurehead in charge of resolving deepening economic woes.

A small uptick in Li’s mentions in state media doesn’t mean he is “surging back into power,” said Neil Thomas, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a think tank. “This is a way for Xi to make Li the face of economic policy in a year when economic policy is probably going to bring nothing but bad news.”

Mary Gallagher, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, said that Xi’s tenure has caused her to revise previous emphasis on China being unusual among authoritarian regimes, because before Xi, the party appeared to be moving toward institutionalization succession with top leaders bowing out after two terms.

“Having this expectation that every decade China’s leadership would change was really important in making China seem like a stable authoritarian regime,” she said. “Without those institutions in place, it not only makes investors nervous; it makes the next generation of leaders nervous.”

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'Pride is a protest' — queer folk voice power amid politics and pandemic – Mission Local

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Missing the Pride Parade was not an option for Emily. 

Though she attended numerous parades in the past as an out lesbian, recent political attacks on the queer community imbued a different sentiment for Sunday’s parade. 

“People think it’s time to have a rager,” Emily said. “But our rights are in danger as we speak.” 

So the 19-year-old threw on her rainbow-striped button-down and, friends in tow, came to San Francisco’s annual LGBTQ Pride Parade determined to counter “the [negative] way Republicans paint us.” How? By celebrating. “Queer joy is really radical right now,” she said. 

On Sunday, the city’s 52nd annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Parade kicked off at the Embarcadero and ended in usual fun at Civic Center. Parade participants included local gay politicos State Sen. Scott Wiener and District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, longtime queer organizations like Dykes on Bikes and San Francisco Bay Times, and any company that could capitalize on the optics. 

But as Emily said, for many spectators it was a few hours of radical joy. 

Take Malaki, a 16-year-old from Fresno. He didn’t know he was going to Pride until yesterday — his very first one — and the gay young man was thrilled. “I was visiting my family, and they asked if I’d like to go. I was like, yeah, Oh my god!” 

It’s been years since Malaki started noticing his feelings toward men had changed, and as a sixth grader, he realized he was gay. Luckily, Malaki’s family is supportive and inclusive, and joined him Sunday. 

“It’s so good to be here,” said Malaki, flashing a huge smile. “I feel so safe. I have a warm feeling that I am not alone, and that I’m able to be who I am. I can be hype!” 

Malaki, 16, enjoys his first Pride Parade. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

It was 13-year-old Bibi’s first Pride Parade too. “I really wanted to go,” he said, waving a transgender flag and holding a stream of colorful balloons. 

The new teen rose at 7 a.m. to make it from Novato on time, and thus he was perfectly positioned in front to collect the tiny flags and beaded necklaces that parade participants threw out.  

Bibi, assigned a female at birth, realized at the age of 10 that he was a transgender boy and bisexual. 

Accompanying him at the parade was his mother, Sol Rocha, who is still learning about how best to support her son. “It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “I’m learning, and it’s a process. But I want to understand. As parents, you have to accept them no matter what. Like when you held them as babies for the first time — unconditional love.”

Bibi, 13, and mom, Sol Rocha at the Pride Parade. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

Just a few people over, Courtney, Ash, and Trystan whooped at the roller skaters and pocketed Planned Parenthood condoms. 

“I wanted to go to Pride in 2019, but the pandemic happened,” Courtney said, who uses she/they pronouns. This was their first one “out” as a bisexual. “With everything going on, I wanted to support everyone. People want to take away our rights,” they said. 

Relatives on Courtney’s mother’s side rejected her after coming out, but after her mother passed, she cares less what her family thinks. And “if they think that I should stay in the closet, I don’t want to be in that family.”

Their friend Ash came from Willows, a small town near Chico. In that environment, Ash said he doesn’t correct people when they misgender him for “safety reasons.” But the parade is a relief, and a nice place to be with “like-minded people.” ​​

Trystan agreed. “Pride has always been a big thing for me until Covid-19 stopped that. This is my first as an adult. I can dress up more,” they said, pointing out the rainbow sequins on her face and the yellow, black, blue, and pink striped jersey. 

Trystan, Ash and Courtney grab their spots before the Pride Parade. Photo by
Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

Other parade veterans celebrated the post-pandemic party as well. Oakland resident Greg Cabiness, 66, and San Franciscan Sam Kaufman, 59, said “it was good to be out.” The pair have been partners for 10 years, and after some typical couple back-and-forth, figured out they had marched in it twice. 

“It’s nice. We may go to Civic Center after this. That’s where the party is at,” Cabiness said. “It seems like a more diverse crowd. A lot more allies and acceptance is good to see,” Kaufman added. 

Greg Cabiness and Sam Kaufman watch another Pride Parade. They’ve marched in two. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

And Emily, the 19-year-old in the rainbow button-down, brought along plenty of allies from home. One of Emily’s friends Isaiah noted he was adopted by gay parents. He’s been at Pride for years, and it’s a joy to return. His other friends stressed the importance of love at Sunday’s parade in the face of politics.

“When there’s so much shit happening with Roe v. Wade, it’s important to stick together and show there’s resistance,” said Matt, a Lower Haight resident. “People want to think of Pride as a party. It’s a protest.”

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How much influence should politicians have over police? – CBC.ca

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Controversy erupted this week when allegations came to light that the Liberal government may have tried to interfere in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where 17 people were killed.

According to RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a phone call that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair that the RCMP would publicly release information about the weapons the gunman used. Lucki was reportedly angry when the RCMP did not do so.

The Liberal government is alleged to have wanted the information made public to further their gun control agenda. Critics and opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to use the tragedy for political gain. Lucki, Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied that there was interference in the investigation.

But how and when — if ever — should those who make laws be able to boss around those who enforce them? When has police interference taken place, and to what consequences did it lead?

CBC News spoke to some experts in an attempt to explain the tense, legally fuzzy and often controversial relationship between police and policymakers in Canada.

Why is policing supposed to be separate from politics?

The Supreme Court of Canada cites the Rule of Law as the founding principle of Canada’s democracy. It’s considered important to our constitutional order that no one, even the most powerful politicians in the country, can think of themselves as above the law.

But there’s another reason for police independence — in our democracy the government is supposed to be accountable to the people, which means people aren’t suppose to fear police going after them on the orders of the government.

“I think what we want to do is avoid a ‘police state,'” Kent Roach, a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of law, said. “And by that, I mean we want to avoid politicians telling the police who to investigate and who not to investigate.”

In states where the government can tell police what to do, experts say a pattern quickly emerges of government critics and opponents ending up in jail.

For those reasons, police autonomy in enforcing the law and protecting the public is a key ingredient in most well-functioning liberal democracies.

“Political leaders are not supposed to micromanage police services, that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy,” Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said.

What does the law say?

While those principles seem like part of a basic civics lesson they’re ones Roach says many people, including police officers and politicians, often don’t understand well.

But there may be a reasonable excuse — the law itself isn’t clear.

“I think part of the problem here is that the lines of legitimate government direction to the police and illegitimate government direction are very vague.” he said.

While police independence from government is important in our democracy, Roach says it’s a principle that’s not always reflected in our laws.

“For example, the police cannot lay hate propaganda charges without prior approval of the attorney general,” he said.

“So there’s kind of no absolutes.”

Kent Roach, law professor at the University of Toronto, said Canadian law is very vague when it comes to inappropriate government direction of law enforcement. (Oliver Salathiel)

In Lucki’s case, the RCMP Act states the Commissioner “has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force” but “under the direction of the minister.”

Roach said the law is confusing because it doesn’t go into details about what direction means, including what type of direction is appropriate for a minister to give to an RCMP Commissioner. It also doesn’t say whether a direction has to be in writing or can be given orally.

“It’s utterly vague, right?” Roach said. 

Roach would like to see the RCMP Act amended to clarify what types of orders the government can legally give RCMP leadership. 

He said there is a clear divide between directions that set rules for police generally, which are acceptable in a democracy, and directions for police to act in a particular way in a specific case, or to take action against a particular person, which are not.

He says a legitimate government directive to police might be guidelines on what information the police are allowed make public, or ordering the police to stop using a particular technique or practice.

But a directive that would not be acceptable would be directing police to charge someone with a crime.

During the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, the government was found to have interfered with RCMP operations by directing how the Mounties protected then Indonesian president Suharto. In a public inquiry report on the summit, Justice Ted Hughes concluded that the government twice tried to interfere with police operations by attempting to get police to keep protestors away from Suharto.

Hughes recommended the government amend the RCMP Act to legally clarify police independence from government. To date, no government has taken up the recommendation.

Roach says there may be a reason for the lack of action and clarity.

 “I suspect that in some ways both the police and the politicians like to kind of keep the status quo, which is quite vague and murky,” he said. “I think that is unfortunate.”

What happens when politicians try to be police?

Politicians aren’t supposed to tell police what to do, but sometimes they can’t resist. While some politicians do come from a law enforcement background, most don’t — and it can show when they try to interfere with police work.

“They don’t have the the skill, the knowledge, the expertise, the lived experience, to make operational decisions,” Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at Western University, said.

She cited the 1997 APEC Suharto controversy as an example, but there are more recent ones too.

Huey says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s attempt to negotiate with the freedom convoy protestors earlier this year comes to mind — a move critical incident command experts told her made a bad situation worse.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson attempted to negotiate with Freedom Convoy protestors during the occupation of Ottawa earlier this year. Western University professor Laura Suey says the incident is a good example of why it’s a bad idea for politicians to take over law enforcement’s responsibilities. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

“Most police services that deal with public order have people that are highly experienced, highly trained professionals that specialize in negotiating in situations like that,” she said.

“So do we want the mayor going down and mucking around on something of which he knows absolutely nothing and had zero effect anyway?”

Roach says his favourite example involves former RCMP Commissioner Leonard Nicholson, the most decorated Mountie in history whose name the RCMP headquarters bears.

In 1959, the John Diefenbaker government told Nicholson to send more officers to police a labour dispute in Newfoundland. Nicholson chose to resign instead of comply with the order.

“So that kind of shows that this idea that the RCMP doesn’t like political direction … is built into the RCMP’s DNA,” Roach said.

Is there a better way?

If too much political interference in policing is an issue, there are also perils in too little.

Voters don’t elect police officers but do elect politicians, so they have a role acting as a check on police.

“Society also cannot afford to have a police service that is not accountable to anybody,” Oriola said.

A section of the Liberal’s 2021 campaign platform is dedicated to changes to the RCMP, in particular making the Mounties more accountable.

Oriola calls the government-police relationship a “delicate” one that requires “a fine balance” and one where intentions should be considered.

“Are you giving directions to the police service to punish political opponents, or are you giving direction … in order that we might have a better society, and improved society based on the policy priorities that you campaigned on?” he said.

Huey says more training for police services boards, who hire police chiefs, may allow them to make better hiring decisions, which in turn could inspire more confidence in police leadership and result in less political interference.

“I think that if we hire highly competent people, we need to give them the space to make the decisions,” she said. 

Roach says a potential solution, on top of more legal clarity on interference, is a law requiring any government ministers who direct police to do so in writing — including a requirement that the direction be public.

He thinks the RCMP Act could be amended with this requirement, and to permit it only outside of individual cases.

“It seems to me, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know what the minister is doing,” Roach said. “I think that that directive system could not only promote transparency, but could avoid all of these controversies.”

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Politicians should admit their dumb mistakes | TheSpec.com – Hamilton Spectator

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I can finally admit it: during my 20 years as a political staffer and elected politician I was involved in many political coverups.

Don’t get too excited, they weren’t the type of coverups that you see in movies or read about in political thrillers — no Canadian versions of Watergate, Irangate or any other gate.

No, over the years I have had to cover up the fact that politics is made up of human beings who make dumb mistakes. You see, those who work in politics and government are no different from the rest of the world. They send emails to the wrong people, miss important meetings because they forgot to write down the room number, and give the wrong drafts of speeches, briefing notes and other important documents to their bosses.

Spend a day in government and you will realize that it is nothing short of organized chaos — much more like Veep than House of Cards.

Unfortunately, as far as the public is concerned, the truth often doesn’t cut it. Can you imagine a politician admitting that the origin of their current quandary is that they couldn’t open a password protected document on their iPad or that they didn’t pay attention at a briefing because they had just learned that their son failed his math test?

Hence the coverup. People would be shocked to know how much time in government is spent trying to come up with any excuse except for the fact that mistakes happen.

I thought of this phenomenon recently when I read all the reporting about a Canadian official attending a national day event at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa and the media and opposition firestorm that followed.

With tensions running high between Canada and Russia, the presence of the official was probably not the wisest move, and it is legitimate to ask whether the Minister approved her attendance. I had to chuckle when sources came forward to tell the Globe and Mail that Departmental officials had checked with the Minister of Foreign Affair’s office, but her staff had been too busy to read the email because they were all involved in supporting the minister at an international conference.

Too busy to read an email?

It may sound like a dumb excuse, but I defy anyone to tell me that they have never been too busy to check their emails or phone messages or the ton of paper piling up in their in-basket.

It’s called being human. Even important people get overwhelmed, tired, and fed up with a constant barrage of information and requests. Even those at the top may find juggling all the demands on their time too much.

Yes, the stakes can be high in government and there needs to be extra checks in place. But in this case, we are talking about a reception. Although embarrassing, I don’t think any of our allies believe that Canada is growing soft on Russia or doesn’t take the war in Ukraine seriously.

The public seems unable to make up their minds. On the one hand they are contemptuous of politicians while on the other hand they seem unwilling to tolerate anything less than perfection from them and their officials.

Maybe if politicians were more willing to admit their dumb mistakes and the public showed a bit more understanding, less time would be spent trying to cover up the fact that governments are run by human beings.

John Milloy, a former Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, is the director of the Centre for Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College

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