Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tokyo "e il suo tempo"

Tokyo metropolitan art museum

After Leonardo da Vinci at Ryogoku Edo Tokyo museum, we visited Ueno Tokyo metropolitan art museum for Botticelli exhibition. Certainly admirable but there are actually very few works of art from both da Vinci and Botticelli.

Exhibitions introduce far too many minor work, details of apprentices or sketches. Already noticed at recent Gauguin exhibition in Shiodome. In the end, an impression to be caught in the nets of promoters instead of spending immeasurable pleasures for a few hours. Paris, London, New York etc museums remain the very top in quality, critics said...

Let's hope Tokyo, capital of Japan, will invest less in ridiculous public work and costly buildings to grease the wheels of Abe and Masuzoe political machines, and think about a policy to transform Tokyo into a hub of beauty, creativity and authenticity for creators and artists, past and contemporary.
"Japan economic animals" are very disappointing beyond their business obsessions seen post World War II. With the too few international recognition results noticed by severe overseas watchers. Inspired though by overseas creators and geniuses, Tokyo remains very disappointing in the field of art with the old Japan running according to one sole principle : profitability. Urk...

PS: Many free lands remain abandoned for various reasons in Tokyo and as soon as the land owner or relatives have got the land grabbed by the real estate quasi gangsters, buildings without any style and originality appear (nor earthquakes resistance apparently). Why not a "law" to force each ward or chome to build modern and environment friendly seniors care-centers and nursery schools on currently abandoned land of Tokyo? Mr Masuzoe said he is the richest mayor of the world. What is he waiting for making his city better and agreeable for elders and young couples desperate to have a family and social services in accordance with basic expectation from politicians and to challenge, say, the so called demographic bomb of Japan and plenty of other city afflictions...? Now don't tell me that I forgot that mafia runs large part of the metropolis!

* Tokyo "e il suo tempo": Tokyo et son temps"

Translated from French.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kobe Earthquake 21 years ago!

The Great Hanshin earthquake (阪神・淡路大震災 Hanshin Awaji daishinsai). The name of the Kobe earthquake on Tuesday January 17, 1995 at 05:46:53 JST. I covered all week the events for France Inter France Info RFI etc at that time as the first French reporter on zone while authorities were shy of showing real pictures of the damage until around 0900 am for Japan TV state channel. Local country was in chaos, prime minister Murayama (Japanese Socialist Party) has been criticised as he refused the sending of armed forces to rescue the victims. I was in Kobe region on January 17 in the evening catching the first Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kobe but we had to stop at Kyoto for risk of new quakes. Then after securing a room in a hotel in Kyoto I decided to reach Kobe. Not much transportation of course. Chaos. I then walked from Osaka to Kobe and reported there during a week. I could sleep there (as a refugee with Japanese homeless near by city hall) By following Friday in my evening news report I voiced that 5.000 people had died. Some further reports mentioned 6000 to 10 000 died a year after, with lots of homeless remaining. Today there are still homeless from the Kobe earthquake... One thing had been criticised then was the refusal of Japanese customs officers to let French Firemen of Paris come to help and rescue Kobe victims with their Pompiers de Paris's dogs which I heard Chirac had specially sent to Japan. Later on, the European leader Mrs. Cresson (European Commissioner for Research, Science and Technology) was one of the first leader to visit Kobe as a testimony of support.

Update today Jan 17, 2016
"33 seniors die ‘lonely deaths’ in 2015 at public housing for Kobe 1995 quake victims"

KOBE--Thirty-three elderly people died alone and unnoticed in 2015 in public housing units for victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the lowest figure since 2000, Hyogo prefectural police said.

The number of “kodokushi” (lonely deaths) was down by seven from 2014. Their bodies were eventually discovered among a total of 265 buildings in Hyogo Prefecture used mainly by people whose homes were destroyed in the 1995 earthquake.

The average age of the 33 was 75.1. Twenty-five were 65 years old or older, accounting for 75.8 percent of the kodokushi. Three were in their 90s, 11 in their 80s and nine in their 70s.

Illnesses caused 22 of the deaths. Two died in accidents, such as choking on food. One death was a suicide.

The bodies of 17 of the seniors were discovered within a day of their deaths. But in one case, the body was found five months after death.

Jan. 17 will mark the 21st anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which killed more than 6,400 people, destroyed buildings and homes, and forced thousands to live in temporary housing.

The highest number of kodokushi in Hyogo Prefecture was 77 in 2002.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Japan's tolerance stress test

How Japan today often misunderstands basic principles of freedom of expression and denies access to information. A few words about it.

I am quoted in an article of January 2016 published in the Number One Shimbun (our publication at the FCCJ) "A Messy Maul for Japan's Rugby PR" written by my FCCJ and ex-Board colleague Fred Varcoe. Just one detail to add to his informative report.

Defend access to information is a must. In this article, Fred also recalls events that happened in Tokyo during a press conference held by FIFA Sepp Blatter but controlled by Japanese organisers prior to the 2002 World Cup. And what I did when I saw that we, foreign media, were restricted to ask questions although we were allowed to attend. The language stuff. It was early 2000's.

After FIFA president press conference prior to 2002 World Cup ended, while I did succeed in passing a barrage of chairs and local staff, I finally could talk to Sepp Blatter (in French), briefly, about the turmoil and discrimination provoked by Japanese organisers prior to the 2002 World Cup. Other events happened where we could see the discrimination towards foreign media. The first one being of course for journalists to be excluded of the Kisha Club system. The venerable institution that forbids the public of Japan to have access to non filtered news. Dozens of books were written about this grave lack of principle perpetuated in Japan for decades.


This year 2016, Japan will host the G7 in Mie prefecture at Isé. It is going to be a huge frustration for all of us, the media. Over 3500 journalists who will be kept very far away from the event. (If I remember 1993 New Otani G7, it is like a far dream long gone, as we saw with the media disaster Toyako 洞爺湖 G8 summit) I know that authorities are aware of it. It is a difficult issue for them but worst for us.

Access to information must be granted, media should be respected and officials must stop playing with journalists, treating them like if they are a variety of "criminals" ("You are foreigners so potential criminals" a civil servant told me once!)

Japan is often lacking elementary respect for the international media and for our hundreds of millions of viewers-listeners-readers. This truly reflects the abyss of understanding of what press is in the West, how it operates in democracies and what happens in Asia. Hong Kong today, China are well known examples, and also in Japan, a fact less known from the public.

Japanese security officers are getting awfully rude at foreign media, even block access to conferences thanks to zealous staff (It happened again at last TICAD in Yokohama).


On discrimination in Japan, one very interesting book recommended on NBR Japan U.S. Forum by Ivan P. Hall explains about the "Silence Barrier that has permitted Japan’s profound racial discrimination to purr along undisturbed well into the 21st century."

URL of data quoted:

- Number One Shimbun (Our publication at the FCCJ)

- NBR Japan U.S. Forum;7a628837.1601

- “Embedded Racism: Japan’s Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination.” The author: Dr. Debito Arudou. Publisher: Lexington Books, a division of Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, 378 pages. Available both in hardback (ISBN 978-1-4985-1390-6) and as an eBook (ISBN 978-1-4985-1391-3).

(Translated from French language)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Korea, Japan state compensation agreement on the "comfort women"

Japanese invasion of Indochina (Sept 1940)

It is a show in Seoul and Tokyo but isn't only a communication trick pushed and followed very seriously by the US? But I can see the Uyoku 右翼団体 (Japanese right wingers) still angry and noisy, same as their South Koreans counterparts disagreeing on this "deal". The battle won't stop, as I said on Twitter there is nothing about the legal aspect, it's just an other apology with a reasonable amount of money in the package. State money. Yes. Again. ("There has long been resistance in South Korea to past Japanese apologies because many here wanted Japan to acknowledge that it has a legal responsibility for the women. Japan had long argued that the issue was settled by a 1965 treaty that restored diplomatic ties and was accompanied by more than $800 million in economic aid and loans from Tokyo to Seoul. JP Today The responsibility of why, who and how this crime could happen and is again settled by government with cash. "Both sides have agreed to refrain from criticising each other on this issue in the international community" Exactly similar to the post war deal of 1965 . Koreans are sceptical and did not agree to remove the statue symbolising the comfort women built in 2011 outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Seoul and Tokyo will nevertheless be able to use the deal for their flocks and interpret the deal the way they want. What about historical judgement and legal follow up? What about the new teaching on comfort women in text books? 46 former "comfort women" are still alive in South Korea.

Japan will now have to face the scrutiny of other comfort women elsewhere, in China for example. And in the rest of Asia, and... what about ex Indochina countries? Vietnam, Laos Cambodia and France during the 1941-1945 period? Not sure the US will be there to help if Japan and its revisionists continues on the mode of "we saved Asia from the white colonialists". By the way, why havent't the Japanese de-colonized the Asian countries in the early 1940's? Here we are and remain in a situation of a total hysteria spread by Japanese revisionists. The current prime minister Abe Shinzo has not whitewashed all ambiguities on this historical myth!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Submission or departure, China based foreign correspondent's dilemma

The job of a foreign correspondent is to ask questions, file a report and do the follow up. Therefore to feel the air of the time and act consequently, the rest is of no importance.

1987: 2 years before "Tiananmen 1989" an AFP correspondent was expelled from China for reporting on students demonstrations... 2015 Ursula Gauthier, from L’Obs magazine, attacked in state media for article criticising Beijing government’s approach to Muslim minority in Xinjiang, she will be expelled from China December 31st.

I have seen late 80’s the first demonstrations of students walking to Tiananmen, it was before 1989. The students, foreign, many from Africa and Arabic countries, were complaining about the harsh conditions of living in their universities and dormitories. They felt discriminated. At a time when Peking was “opening” cash was pouring in China from abroad, from Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Europe, U.S. Students from China, ordinary Chinese started to live with a sense of freedom, more happily, free to start their business in free markets. The call of cash for work finally liberated in free markets allowed the Chinese business ancestral energy to do what they do best too: commerce. They expected freedom too.

Expulsion of journalists from China... An old story. Le Monde's correspondent in China 1976 -1982 Alain Jacob wrote in 1984 in his book "Un balcon à Pékin, le nouveau pouvoir en Chine" (A balcony in Beijing, the new power in China ISBN-10: 2246278813) that there are 2 ways to be a correspondent in Peking: you write everything you want to the point to irritate the Chinese authorities and you risk to be obliged to close your Peking office, end your work of information for your office, and/or be expelled, or, you choose astutely how to report about events in a historically very self reliant country such as China and let the office opened.

In China, being there and watching is the rule. (In Japan too) Those are societies were information is power and everything will be made to conceal information. So you need a guy to organise how to watch what’s happening. If you close the office, your media is dead and cannot say legitimately that it knows what is happening. Diplomats won’t help much, lie a lot, play with you, enjoy their no tax privileges. Journalists must be there.

Alain Jacob lived and worked in China 1976 -1982 at a crucial and dangerous time after the death of Mao Zedong and the arrival of Deng Xiaoping. Writing astutely means that you will assess the situation and have opportunities to meet VIPs, government, party members, militaries, influential people, heirs of power makers etc. When China's political laboratory decides to turn pages of its history quicker or slower, it is up to reporters to smell the wind of political campaigns and to decide what's best for the media headquarters. Stay or close or be expelled. Never, absolutely never a foreign correspondent will dictate to Peking what to write or what to think. In addition to read stories that are fake, cheating reality, working for other interest than plain reporting. Unfortunately, Chinese authorities use the hard way to deal with foreign media.

During the cultural revolution, during Tibetans demonstrations, during countless farmers' unrests and nowadays Chinese workers and salarymen protests and demonstrations in China’s kingdom for bankers giving serious headaches to the government of China, we witness such violence from police or army or gangsters against the "people." But it is not always the case, so what is the magic filter?

I reported in China about Uyghurs anti nuclear demonstrations for France-Inter during Deng Xiaoping, I visited Tibet during heavy tension, emergency period, crime and murders. I stayed at some Chinese people house in spite of the risk to be arrested by compound guards. Never arrested  but on the contrary many interesting things happened.

I have seen foreign reporters who were in China under foreign orders of kicking the Chinese backs, I have seen while in Peking the people who were true foreign correspondents who had knowledge, recognition and contacts with Chinese authorities, with eventually private visits by Chinese generals, officials, or invitations, some inviting at their official villa, or visiting the correspondents’ homes at night in their limousines... Not even 10% of the foreign media can say with honesty that they have "contacts" with Chinese leaders. I don't mean sharing from time to time the same restaurants. Today, it looks much easier than before to meet leaders and people of importance, but it could be said that this is where the "entrapment" starts.

So I feel really sorry for Mrs Gauthier, especially she lived so long in China. She must have known. And she won’t bow. So she will leave. Something is tragic and remains obscure in this story. China's mood remains, as she knows well, quite complicated to perceive, quite frustrating. She fell and Paris Quai d'Orsay did not show for her more help than Paris ever did for others, or for Tibetans or opponents behind the usual "langue de bois diplomatique" stale language from the government officials...

But the job of a foreign correspondent is to watch, ask questions and to know. Therefore to be there, smell the air of the time and act consequently, the rest is of no importance.


Articles also quoted:

China Expels Reporter for French Wire Service
January 27, 1987 By JIM MANN | Times Staff Writer
“…Lawrence MacDonald, 32, a reporter for Agence France-Presse and a U.S. citizen from San Luis Obispo, Calif., was the first journalist to cover the series of student demonstrations that began last month in the city of Hefei. He was the second foreign correspondent to be expelled by China in the last six months and the third since 1984….”

China expels French journalist who questioned treatment of Uighurs
"...Shortly after publishing a story that suggested China was using the Paris attacks to justify crackdowns on Uighur people, Gauthier was the subject of editorials in state-controlled media and even death threats, L’Obs said...."

French Libération daily: "La correspondante à Pékin de l’Obs, Ursula Gauthier, a annoncé avoir été informée vendredi par les autorités chinoises qu’elle serait de facto expulsée le 31 décembre... En poste dans la capitale chinoise depuis six ans, la journaliste est l’objet depuis un mois de virulentes attaques de la part de médias d’Etat et d’officiels à la suite d’un article "Après les attentats, la solidarité de la Chine n'est pas sans arrière-pensées" sur la politique décrite comme répressive suivie au Xinjiang, vaste région en majorité musulmane de l’ouest de la Chine.

(Translated from French)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Caroline Kennedy in Tokyo "Democracies cannot function without a strong relationship between a free and independent press, and a transparent and accountable government."

 U.S. ambassador in Japan Caroline Kennedy

I went today to the press event at JNPC in Tokyo to listen to the U.S. ambassador in Japan Caroline Kennedy: "Democracies cannot function without a strong relationship between a free and independent press, and a transparent and accountable government" said the daughter of John Kennedy. She reassured Japanese through the media that the U.S. and Japan share the same priorities when it comes to dealing with these problems. The U.S. Ambassador added that the two countries, Japan and the U.S. will work together even more closely in 2016. Kennedy was speaking at the Japan National Press Club, a little more than two years after first taking up the post.

"America is grateful to the people of Okinawa for their support and is working hard to reduce the impact of its military bases on the island", she said. She also expressed her confidence that the U.S. Congress would ratify the TPP pact with the 12 nations of the Pacific. She also signed the golden book of the Japanese press club in mentioning the importance of the freedom of the press. All smiled and immediately thought about Japanese prime minister's team criticisms about Japanese and foreign journalists working in Japan.

She was fragile and committed, she trained for this exercice. "She had to rehearse" one American media journalist told me. It is said that she does not like the exercice of public communication so much. I found her convincing less for Okinawa and the future of our security but for her words for women at work and for families, for children to raise and for the responsibility of education.

She also talked about various education initiatives between Japan and the US, she also quoted "Operation Tomodachi" that her predecessor handled in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident and the tsunami of March 2011. I hope she will come to the Fccj as a guest speaker sometimes soon around the G7-2016 preparations. People were impressed after she left the room under the applause of the audience. Good work!


Monday, December 14, 2015

忠臣蔵 "The 47 Ronin" : Always the most popular tale in Japan

Every year, December 14th at Sengakuji Temple 泉岳寺 in Tokyo, thousands of Japanese and foreign tourists visit the resting place of the 47 Ronin and pay homage to their dedication to Bushido... Under the fallen leaves, I too go for a stroll to the historical place. Around me, Bushido fans, pilgrims, tourists, families coming with their new born babies, all taking a rest in a Yatai 屋台 (mobile food stall). It's Monday but Japanese will skip the office eventually to pay respect as shown on this video: 

The story of the 47 Ronin 元禄赤穂事件, known as Chushingura 忠臣蔵 (tale of the loyal retainers) is one of the most popular Samurai tales in Japan, it is said to be the ultimate expression of the samurai code of honour. It is also one of the most successful Kabuki play.

The plot: The story began on april 21st 1701, when lord Asano Naganori, the Daimyo of the Ako Domain (Today's Hyogo prefecture) was forced to commit ritual suicide for attacking Kira Yoshinaka in Edo Castle (Today's Tokyo) a rude and arrogant Master of Ceremony under the Tokugawa Shogun.

The loyal 47 Ronin took over a year to planned their surprise raid on Kira's mansion. On a snowy December night, they strike on Kira’s home, taking everyone by surprise.

After killing Kira, they went to their Master's Grave, and turned themselves in to the authorities. For committing such a vendetta, the 47 Ronin were requested by the Shogun to commit seppuku 切腹, the ritual self-disembowelment.

Today in Japan, the 47 Ronin and samurai like Musashi Miyamoto are regarded by the Japanese people as Cultural Heroes and they are honored in traditional holidays and a in countless kabuki plays, movies, novels and manga.

Every year, the Gishisai Festival takes place on December 14th in Ako city in Hyogo prefecture, in memory of the 47 Ronin. On that day, schools and business are close and the streets are decorated with banners and colored lanterns. In Tokyo, also on December 14, Sengakuji Temple holds a festival commemorating the event.

While I filmed the Sengakuji, the temple was protected by police and guards, I could hear not far from there, loudspeakers of the nationalists' trucks with Enka music, the Japanese sentimental ballades music. Some say Enka song is a postwar expression of modern Japanese nationalism.

The location where the Ronin committed seppuku is not in Sengakuji but just on top of the Takanawa hill, up the temple, in an isolated and sober garden on the other side of the ex-property of Prince Takamatsu 高松宮宣仁親王.

Japanese strategists always need time to prepare, plan, adjust, and strike with the utmost precision and success. This scenario was repeated uncountable times in ancient and in modern Japan.

"... The Samurai were knights who defended and fought for their lords at a time when useful farming land was scarce and in need of protection. They believed in duty, and gave themselves completely to their masters. The Samurai believed that only after transcending all fear could they obtain peace of mind and yield the power to serve their masters faithfully and loyally even in the face of death..." Hagakure 葉隱 The Book of the Samurai.


Friday, December 11, 2015

"Anonymous" battle Japan's prime minister Abe's whaling

On Thursday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s official website was hacked to protest Japan’s plans to hunt whales. The Anonymous hacker group has posted a Twitter message claiming responsibility…" 

Hackers linked to Anonymous have targeted websites related to whale and dolphin hunting before, New York Times say. The group claimed responsibility last month for the shutdown of several government sites in Iceland, another nation that practices whaling. Indeed two Japanese whaling ships and 2 escort vessels departed for the Antarctic last week, "drawing condemnation from anti-whaling groups" as well as governments that oppose the practice, including those of Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

The Anonymous attack all happened after Japan launched a new counterterrorism unit "in an air of secrecy" the Mainichi quoting AP said on Tuesday, with "journalists only allowed to photograph its 24 members from behind."

Tokyo is expanding its international espionage work after the deaths of five Japanese citizens at the hands of Islamic militants this year. The recent Paris attacks have also raised fears ahead of a Group of Seven summit in Japan next year and the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.

"Motonobu Abekawa, a former official at the Public Security Intelligence Agency and a terrorism studies expert at Nihon University said the new Counterterrorism Unit-Japan includes staff from the foreign and defence ministries, the National Police Agency and the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, Japan's version of the CIA. Initially made up of four leaders and 20 Tokyo-based experts focusing on Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and north and western Africa, it eventually is to also include 20 intelligence officers assigned to overseas posts, possibly in Amman, Cairo, Jakarta and New Delhi."

Japan has no institute to train intelligence agents, so they will have to learn on the job. In its annual security report published Monday, the National Police Agency stressed the need to raise alert levels for next year's G-7 summit in western Japan because it could be "a perfect target" amid escalating extremist attacks in Europe and the Middle East. Japan plans to obtain passenger information from airlines, install body scanners at major airports and step up identification of foreign visitors at hotels. A new police unit will search for Internet content related to extremist groups.

Some experts raised caution over the security measures, saying they could help the government exercise undue power over citizens and interfere with their freedom of information. "There is a risk that the terrorist attacks in Europe will be used as an excuse by Japan's authoritarian lawmakers and police bureaucrats to expand their powers," said Jiro Yamaguchi, a political science professor at Hosei University. In an article he wrote in The Japan Times, he cited a 2010 leak of internal police documents showing false accusations against Muslim residents in Japan treated as terrorism suspects. EoQ.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Tibet Butter Lamp Memories

Dalai-Lama: “A strong action on climate change is a human responsibility”

I am very touched to see a small delegation of Tibetans joining the COP 21 in Paris. "Tibet Third Pole team making Tibet climate crisis heard in Paris" For years the Dalai-Lama urged nations to do something against Tibet excessive mining, deforestation and river diversion and recently again the Dalai-Lama asked for "strong global action to limit global warming and to protect fragile environments, including the Himalayan glaciers and Tibetan" plateau  

Tibetans at COP 21 in Paris December 2015

Impressive crowds in Tibet Lhasa are seen on these photos: "Butter lamps are seen at the Jokhang Temple Lhasa, on the Butter Lamp Day, a festival to commemorates Tsong Khapa, a master of Tibetan Buddhism Dec. 5, 2015" Xinhua China news reported. 

Barkhor Bazaar-Lhasa-Tibet

Chinese media choose their words cautiously such as using the word "tradition" and not religion or faith but at least they talk about Tibetan rituals. "Tibetan pilgrims adhere to the tradition to light butter lamps and pray for a good fortune on the annual Buddhist event."


Watching the Potala and Jokhang images in December, I feel like needles in my heart. It was that very same place where I reported in Tibet and during Tibetans unrests, at the end of the 80's. Tibetans and monks demonstrations started in autumn 1987. Especially September, October and November 1987. 2 years of tension ended savagely in March 1989. I remember the Tibetans who took to the streets in Lhasa and elsewhere as the anniversary of the "1959 Uprising" approached. A martial law was imposed. I was in Lhasa just before.

I could walk everywhere I wanted, alone, without being followed too obviously, say. Most fascinating certainly, I managed to enter and stay inside the Potala. I spent time with the monks in the 1000 rooms, 10 000 shrines and 200 000 statues, and it was not always easy to access some chapels, I had to climb red painted ladders. Walking all alone among divinities only encouraged by dozens of Monks staying at each shrine. In a place where not a foreign person even not a Tibetan could enter was extraordinary. Beijing had just opened the access to Tibet in 1985. Few tried the journey. Less tried to enter when riots started. A rare moment of intensity that certainly impressed my life for years. In the middle of rampant violence, from Chinese and Tibetans, I was there, high on the top of the red mountain, talking with monks about Tibet, Tibetans, Buddhism, war, watching the valley from the terrace of the private apartments of the Dalai-Lama. I also met some high ranking priests. Things were then said, at low voice not to be heard from spies within Potala. It opened my eyes on matters of  life and eventually on international politics. Things are not what they seem, naturally.

Later on I told the Dalai Lama how I could stay in his apartment. He acknowledged the effort with sympathy and with some embarrassment too. Or was he just a bit emotional when I described where he received his people in his private appartement facing the amazing view of the Lhasa valley through thin yellow curtains flying in the cool wind of winter?

Barkhor Bazaar-Jokhang Temple-Lhasa-Tibet

I talked to many different people while I was in Tibet. I never really understood how I could stay free as a bird, first of all buying a CAAC plane ticket Beijing Chengdu and Chengdu Lhasa, allowed to sleep at Chengdu airport and then free to embark for Gonggar Lhasa airport and then walking entirely free during days of reporting in Lhasa and monasteries around Lhasa. There, I saw Chinese military and police everywhere, they paraded, unarmed, every afternoon at 3 pm in front of the Jokhang precisely. I could sense tension both side, mostly racial prejudice, reciprocal between Chinese Hans and Tibetans. I witnessed a lot during biking several dozens of kilometres every day, at an altitude of 3600 meters. At night I could meet Chinese and Tibetans. I remember a terrifying full moon festival. Murder behind the Barkhor bazaar streets...There was no car available except military trucks and police jeeps. I often saw military cars fell into the low side of the road when I was going to Sera monastery where one monk has been killed by police. 2 months before Lhasa demonstrators had stoned the police offices in front of the Jokhang. Confusing youth, active militants, spooks? Who were these people working in the hotels who had packets and letters to be brought outside Tibet and posted not from Lhasa but from abroad...?

A few weeks after my reporting, I went to Thai-Cambodia jungles to report about sinister Khmers Rouges and then returned to Paris early spring and broadcasted my exclusive reports on France Info and RFI. I had met Chinese diplomats in Paris and we talked. I guess my balanced reporting allowed to meet both sides concerned and to voice my stories to the world audience without being hurt, attacked or threatened at that time.

One thing amazed me during my stay in China "opening and modernisation" policy under Deng Xiaoping ruling was the enormous energy developed by all to open their doors to the foreign world whom they trusted, until a certain point. Though I remember I was warned by people in Lhasa that it "would become difficult for me to stay longer" and that I had to think of leaving, while still safe. But who were these people and did they really fit the authorities opinion? Or were they simply zealous spooks, local bureaucrats? I had been told by one of my source in Lhassa that my hotel room has been visited and that they found my recording equipment and microphone, press card etc. They let me free. Some were arrested for simply taking photos of some areas near police offices.

Everything was made for me to enter and to leave peacefully Tibet with an infinite sympathy for the people I had to leave. At no time I have felt in danger. Although I knew that behind their religious fervour, Tibetans were actually opposing a strong sense of nationalism, struggling for their freedom, refusing to submit to the Chinese. On the other side the Chinese, sure to bring modernism to Tibetans and secure the streets, wished that Tibetans would devote in return a form of patriotism for China and appreciation for the modernisation of Tibet. Tibet seen from Beijing as an old feudalistic system. Extraordinary was to witness how a democratic Buddhism was actually the engine to a fervour political riot against China central government system. Chinese officials said that their system was most appropriate for the present time in Tibet.

Months passed. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Peace Nobel Prize in 1989. Then, arrests and repression with military tanks facing the Jokhang became daily scene in the streets of Lhasa prior to a  succession of new waves of modernisation of Lhasa by Chinese central government. Fight continues. Priests demonstrate, police arrest them, some for years in jail. Tibetan traditional homes disappear more and more. People self-immolated. A people is in danger to disappear. "Lhasa is being destroyed by excessive commercial development. Lhasa doesn’t exist for only tourists, there are real people who live here and it’s also a religious place" critics say.

Today the Potala is located 35 Beijing Middle Rd, Chengguan, Lhasa, Tibet. Tel: 86 891 683 4362...

From the terrace of Jokhang Temple-Lhasa-Tibet

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

FTA: The tough words on Europe by Akira Amari, Japanese minister Economic Revitalisation

Why EU and Japan stays far apart on a Free Trade Agreement? Because of the TPP…  

Mr. Akira Amari, Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization - FPC Japan Nov 30 2015

On FTA Japan Europe,  Japan and the European Union, which agreed to launch FTA talks in March 2013, started this week their negotiations in Tokyo. One of the areas where we definitely need to see liberalisation on the Japanese side is the agriculture sector, especially food and drinks, EU negotiators said. The answer of Japan came very abruptly on Monday by Mr. Akira Amari, Minister in charge of Economic Revitalization. Amari had hard words on Europe scarcely heard from a Japanese official, I asked Mr Amari a question about EU-Japan FTA negotiations versus TPP at a fascinating briefing at FPC Japan, in Tokyo, November 30th opened to foreign press and embassies.

Amari was tough. Proof that Japanese politicians of this magnitude know exactly what they do and say, no-one here writes it for them. Proof too that there is a malaise in the construction of TPP versus Europe. I do not recall any statement of this magnitude in recent months between Japan and Europe, interesting enough.

SOUNDCLOUD 3min 33 sec

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the most important trade agreement in world history, in both economic and geopolitical terms. It incorporates 40% of the global economy, including its largest and third-largest countries. It will increase the income of the participating countries by almost $300 billions. It sets the stage for eventual expansion into a comprehensive Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific that will include virtually every country in the region, perhaps including China and India. This is if you are optimistic. Integration mechanism also show huge imbalance between Asian and Pacific nations and the U.S. in matters of development and political systems.

The European Union, over 50 years of existence, its original Common Market was created of six countries, it was much smaller than the TPP. But today the European Union is a politico-economic union of 28 member states that are located "primarily" in Europe, North to South West to East, it included ex Soviet Union nations and incorporated the new comers into its integrated political and economical system. Europe covers an area of 4,324,782 km², with a population of over 508 million Europeans.

The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 28 member states. EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed by the Inner Six countries in 1951 and 1958, respectively. Then the community and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states, and, in power by the addition of policy areas. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union under its current name in 1993 and introduced European citizenship. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009.

By comparison, the TPP includes only 12 countries and is only a free trade agreement between the U.S. and Japan. These two countries together account for about 60% of its economic relations. Some models show that, by 2025, its exports and imports will each grow by $140 billion annually and its national income could reach more than $100 billion.

By comparison, the economy of the European Union generates a GDP (nominal) of about €14.303 trillion (US$18.451 trillion in 2014) and a GDP (PPP) of about €12.710 trillion (US$16.773 trillion in 2014) according to International Monetary Fund

The geopolitics of the new TPP agreement wishes to be more important than its economics. After Europe, the TPP will provide the first binding institutional ties between the U.S. and East Asia. But there is a major geopolitical risk that the Asia-Pacific region could divide into two broad economic zones if China does not join the TPP. In matters of integration, Europeans have the know-how, TPP is still at the beginning of its not yet decided structural path.

On November 25, 2015, Japan adopted the General Policy Framework of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Still unclear on issues such as food among other items.

For Europeans, a free trade agreement between the European Union and Japan, should not replicate the Trans-Pacific Partnership concluded by the United States, Japan and the 10 other Pacific Rim countries. In this context, Japan and the European Union, which agreed to launch FTA talks in March 2013, started this week their negotiations in Tokyo, which will be the last round for this year 2015.

Positions are still far apart in many areas. The negotiations will move well into next year according to Bruxelles’negotiators. “The EU is ready to eliminate its tariffs on automobiles provided that concessions received in return will be sufficient.

NB: After the interview, I asked Mr Amari if he would drink Chili wine or Bordeaux when he is going to the restaurant with his guests and friends, he looked at me with a big smile and gave me a gentle tap on the arm with un "air entendu"...!