Wildlife and conservation festival in Qinghai
There has not been much good news about NGOs in China recently, so here is a welcome tonic:
Founded in 2007, Shan Shui is a Chinese NGO “dedicated to conservation practices” and focusing on biodiverse areas, including Sanjiangyuan, an area of the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai Province that contains the headwaters of the Yellow, Yangtze, and Mekong rivers. In 2014, Shan Shui launched the Nature Watch Program to build a database of biodiversity data and the results of conservation work.
This year, together with the country government of Nangqen, Shan Shui organized the Nangqen International Wildlife Watch Festival, which took place from July 20-23 in the Sanjiangyuan area. Seventeen teams of wildlife watchers from across China and overseas competed to photograph as many birds, mammals, and plants as possible over three days. Beijing-based ornithologist Terry Townshend blogged about the festival:
Nangqen is a stunningly beautiful place… Overall, the teams recorded 17 species of mammal, 94 species of bird and 230 species of plant, providing a wonderful snapshot of the biodiversity at this special site — citizen science at its best… There were so many things that inspired me about this festival. The involvement of the local Tibetan communities and their relationship with, and respect for, the wildlife. The spirit among the teams of sharing information and helping each other to see as much as possible.
Townshend has participated in a number of wildlife preservation projects in China, including school education projects and studies of wildlife. One initiative he spearheaded was organizing a team of volunteers to attach tracking devices to a group of Beijing swifts, and then map their annual migration all the way from the Chinese capital to southern Africa and back. Listen to this Sinica Podcast for more on the extraordinary journeys of the swifts, who average 124,000 miles of flight in their lifetime, barely landing for years on end.
Russia and China: Silk Road rivals
Crisis Group has released a new report that examines how “Russia’s and China’s separate visions for Central Asia could transform the region’s political and economic landscape as well as relations between the two Eurasian giants.”
- The report also looks at how “the new geopolitical realities could offer both economic prosperity as well as worsening instability and conflict” to the new Central Asian states that peeled off from the Soviet Union.
- Russia needs good relations with China to counterbalance its problems with the West.
- However, the two countries compete for political and economic influence in central Asia, and while the official Russian view on relations with China is rosy, Crisis Group says that “Russian experts privately frequently warn of challenges faced by Central Asian states in relations with China.”
Eastern Lightning cult back in the news
On May 28, 2014, five people attacked and killed a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in a small city in Shandong Province. A bystander filmed the murder on a mobile phone and the footage spread rapidly on the internet.
- The killers turned out to be members of the Church of Almighty God (全能神 quánnéng shén), also known as Eastern Lightning (东方闪电 dōngfāng shǎndiàn). The organisation is a doomsday cult founded in 1990 by a physics teacher named Zhao Weishan 赵维山 who claimed to have found the female Christ in the form of young woman from northwestern Shaanxi province.
- The Chinese government banned the church as a cult in 1995; Zhao and his female Chinese Jesus are apparently in exile in the U.S.
- During the trial of the five McDonald’s murderers, one of the accused said that his group had wanted to convert the victim but they killed her after she refused to tell them her phone number.
Eastern Lightning are in the news again: Chinanews.com reports (in Chinese) on the detention of 18 members of the group in eastern Zhejiang Province, the shutdown of two of their “lairs” (窝点 wōdiǎn), and confiscation of computers and propaganda pamphlets. Sixth Tone has a good summary of the news in English. The cult’s own website is here.