Thursday, December 15, 2005

Protest Scene

been busy... hope you have been out on the streets!


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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hong Kong on High Alert

10/12/2005 12:43 - (SA)

Hong Kong - Emergency services were on high alert with police out in force patrolling on land and at sea on Saturday, a day before the first scheduled protest against next week's World Trade Organisation summit here.

Police said they were mounting their biggest operation yet as the first of what is expected to be some 10 000 protesters began flooding into the city.

An estimated 9 000 policemen will be on duty during the sixth WTO ministerial summit, which opens on Tuesday and wraps up on December 18.

Three large demonstrations are planned during the meeting, the first of which was scheduled for Sunday afternoon with a march from the city's downtown Victoria Park to government offices near the summit venue in Wanchai.

Others are planned for Tuesday and the following Sunday.

According to reports, police have received intelligence suggesting troublemakers are planning to storm a steel ring of security placed around the convention and exhibition centre, where the meeting will be held.

"The latest message is that Tuesday is the big day and arrangements are being reviewed accordingly," a police source told the South China Morning Post.

Police have stepped up patrols in and around the convention centre which is bounded on three sides by the territory's famous harbour.

An exclusion zone that extends about 300m out into the harbour has been set up around the centre, while police frogmen have been checking the abutting sea walls and jetties for bombs.

The authorities here fear a repeat of the 1999 WTO ministerial conference in Seattle, which was disrupted by activists who smashed windows, sprayed graffiti and set rubbish skips alight.

The area around the convention centre, where the 11 000 conference delegates, journalists and representatives of non-governmental organisations will be based, has taken on the appearance of a fortress.

Office building windows have been boarded up and overhead walkways have been covered in nylon mesh to prevent them being used as vantage points for missile-throwing rioters.

Rubbish bins in the area have been removed, while loose paving stones have been replaced and sewage grates welded shut to prevent protestors using them as projectiles.

Access roads have been blocked by large water-filled crowd control barriers and traffic was being redirected around the venue site, causing traffic chaos.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ministerial Conference Week of Protest Update

December 11

Stop Collusion Rally, 1PM, Central Government Office
Cultural Solidarity Program, 8 PM

December 13
Opening Rally sponsored by the Hong Kong People’s Alliance (HKPA), 11 AM, Wanchai Demonstration Area

December 14

Forum on Trade and War sponsored by the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS),
9 AM – 5 PM, ILPS Pavilion

December 15 to 17

Youth and Students Caucus Against the WTO sponsored by the Asian Students Association, Hong Kong University

December 16
Women’s Tribunal, 9 AM – 3PM, Boys and Girls Club in Wanchai

December 18
No to WTO! Closing March, 2 PM, Wanchai Demonstration Area

December 19-21

General Congress of the Asian Students Association

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Itinerary for the week of Ministerial Conference

The event that we have all been preparing for is now here. The WTO/IMF Ministerial Conference 6 will be held in Hong Kong from Dec 13-18. We have made plans for activites to be held from Dec 11-18.

The information below details the consensus between the civil societies and the police representatives on the venues for public activities, procession routes and rally space.

Now that the following consensus have been reached, get off that lazy chair and we will see you on the streets:

1) Public activities

Areas designated for the use of the Alliance and its related NGOs are: three soccer pitches at Victoria Park, its Central Lawn and Bandstand, as well as the Southorn Playground soccer pitches.

There will be sufficient instructions and road signs for overseas participants who join the public activities.
Smooth flow in all the passageways in these areas will be ensured and facilitated the flow in case of contingencies.

Management and control
A control panel and work closely with the Police and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to handle events and occurrences taken place in these areas.

2) Procession and demonstration

The procession routes:
11 December (Sun)
Victoria Part -> Hennessy Road -> Queensway Queen's Road -> Central Government Headquarters
13 December (Tue)
Victoria Part -> Gloucester Road -> Great George Street -> East Point Road -> Lockhart Road -> Marsh Road -> Rally Area in Northern Wan Chai
18 December (Sun)
Victoria Part -> Hennessy Road -> Marsh Road -> Rally Area in Northern Wan Chai

Rally area
The Cargo Handling Area in Northern Wan Chai and Wan Chai Sports Ground are the designated rally areas.

First aid support
Both the civil societies and the Police will provide first aid support.

Letter of No Objection
The Police have issued a letter of no objection.

3) Central Activities of HKPA

"Kong Yee Sai Mau: Stop Collusion between Government & Business!"
Rally: 11th December, 2005 (Sun) 2:00 p.m.
Venue: Victoria Park, march to Central Government Office
Cultural Event: 11th December, 2005 (Sun) 8:00 p.m. Victoria Park

"People Power to Protect our Livelihood, Security & Dignity"
Assembly and Rally: 13th December, 2005 (Tue) 11.00 a.m. Victoria Park, march to Wanchai Demonstration Area

"Onward With Peoples' Struggles, NO to WTO!"
Assembly and Rally: 18th December, 2005 (Sun) 2.00 p.m.Victoria Park, march to Wanchai Demonstration Area

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lamy Squares Off With NGOs before the Ministerial Conference

Lamy, NGOs in open battle before Hong Kong Ministerial

GENEVA, Nov 30 (KUNA) -- Trade unions and civil society organizations presented a detailed letter to World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy on Wednesday explaining how the WTO services negotiations have been undemocratic and undermining the consensus mode of decision-making.

The letter was in response to a 17 November letter from Lamy that claimed NGOs had misinterpreted the negotiating process.

Civil society took Lamy to task on his claim that the NGO critique was based on a "misunderstanding of services talks." In a point by point critique of Lamy's letter, the organizations rebuffed Lamy's arguments.

They pointed out that many developing countries submitted objections to elements of the services text, but those objections were repeatedly ignored by the Chair of the Services negotiations, Mexican Ambassador Fernando de Mateo.

The letter cited statements from WTO members of ASEAN (Brunei Darusalam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia) and the African Group, Jamaica and Barbados among others that the Services negotiating text did not reflect their concerns.

They further reiterated that the Chair of the Services talks had indeed implied that there needed to be consensus by all WTO members to remove items from the negotiating text, so-called reverse consensus.They cited informal discussions held amongst Services negotiators on October 17-18 to substantiate their claims.

Representative of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Shefali Sharma told reporters in Geneva that it was impossible to come to a fair agreement with bad process.

"The issues in the services negotiations and the current Hong Kong text are very serious - particularly for developing countries. The WTO continues to evade international norms for negotiations, even as we are just days away from the sixth Ministerial. We remain concerned that the new approach to the draft text is further exacerbating problems of legitimacy in the WTO," added Sharma.

Assistant General Secretary of Public Services International (PSI) Mike Waghorne stressed that the current draft services text represented a threat to tens of thousands of public sector workers around the world.

"We fully sympathize with developing countries that say that the whole process of drafting the services text for Hong Kong has set aside their concerns about their own services development in the interests of multinational services companies from the North," added Waghorne.

Focus on the Global South's Associate Researcher Aileen Kwa said it was common practice that Chairs abuse their power in the WTO and put forward texts that predominantly contained the positions of the powerful WTO Members, the US and the EU.

Kwa added that the positions and voices of a large majority of the developing world were wiped off the slate and these texts were then presented to Ministers in a secret "Green Room" meetings for endorsement. At the same time, countries were warned by the powerful, not to dissent.

"This makes a mockery of the 'bottom-up' negotiating process Lamy claims he is now putting in place. The process in the Services Council could not be more top-down," stressed Kwa.

Concerning Doha Development Round, Sharma siad that the current deal has been a bad offer for the developing world and rejecting it in the Hong Kong ministerial would be a success for the peoples of the world.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Culture and WTO in Hong Kong

International Network for Cultural Diversity


There is a major risk that culture activists who fought so hard to secure the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention on cultural diversity may believe they can relax and that the imminent WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong from 13-18 December poses no real risk to culture.

The Convention provides no guaranteed protection from trade agreements and the impact of free trade rules on the rights of governments to adopt policies that promote local culture and genuine cultural diversity.

Indeed, there is mounting pressure on all WTO members to make new commitments on a range of services, including in the audio-visual sector. One serious attack has been deflected, for now. What was called "quantitative benchmarks" would have required "developed" countries to commit a minimum of 139 of the 163 services sub-sectors (85%) to the rules of the GATS, while "developing" countries would have had to commit 93 subsectors (57%).

That would almost inevitably have impacted on services related to culture. After massive pressure from Third World governments and activists that proposal has been dropped from the text of what governments are supposed to agreed on. But the European Union is insisting that it should be back on the agenda in Hong Kong.

It is vitally important to maintain pressure on all governments not to accept this restriction on the sovereign rights of governments to decide their own policies.

A second point of attack now appears more threatening. It is called the
"plurilateral" approach. Basically, a group of countries will draw up their ideal set of commitments on a particular service by February 2006 and require all other governments to respond to their demands.

These clusters of countries are known as the "friends" groups. One of the most notorious is the "friends of audio-visual services", led by the US. But there are also groups on telecoms, education, computer services, postal services, distribution and more.

Under the latest proposal these "friends" groups would collectively present their demands to some or all other WTO governments and those governments would have to enter into negotiations about those requests. That removes the right of governments at present to ignore such requests. It is not hard to imagine the pressure that will come on poorer, small or vulnerable countries to give in especially if they are told that is the price of concessions in an area of importance to them, such as cotton or sugar.

To spell this out the US and its allies could demand that all governments that are signatories to the UNESCO Convention enter into negotiations to open up their audio-visual services. True, they could negotiate and still say no. But we know how hard that can be. The same could happen with telecommunications and computer-related services, where First World transnational corporations want to gain control of the digital platforms. Or in distribution services, where Wal-Mart or Video-Ezy aim to control what videos, music or books are on sale to

This proposal is currently contained in the text that Trade Ministers will discuss at the WTO meeting in Hong Kong in December. It is urgent and essential to put pressure on culture ministers, trade ministers and political leaders to oppose this threat to services. If it is allowed to proceed, all the fine words of the UNESCO Convention will mean very little.

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