Thursday, November 23, 2006

Wing Lam (1981-2006)

Just learned that a friend of mine passed away last month...
Still trying to come to grips with the news. A mix of numbness, shock, and sadness.

I met him first in London in the final year of my studies at SOAS. He was an exchange student from Leiden, where he was studying Chinese. We had classes together once or twice a week, shared the lunches and movies, drinks and outings. Like me, he grew up between two worlds and two cultures, and we found comfort in each other knowing that we were not alone. One of the many things that we had in common.

I last saw him sometime ago here in Leiden, just before he went on an year exchange in Taiwan. He went on a trip to the seaside. And never returned.

My heart goes out to his family and loved ones... may they have the strength and comfort to cope in these dark moments.

Dear friend, you will be much missed.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Within the next few hours polling stations will open. Parliamentary elections, six months or so after the collapse of the previous coalition over the Ayaan Hirsi Ali affair.

It's really hard to know who to vote for. The parties seem to have similar standpoints, and the mud-throwing, slander, name-calling, accusations and counter-accusations really makes me feel politics is becoming more and more about power, and how to get it. Real issues like welfare, heath care, education, integration, European affairs seem to be tools to divide and rule, to gain sympathies and votes, in order to ultimately gain power, and control.
And it's really off-putting.

Basically this time it's down to the incumbent Prime Minister Balkenende (of the Christian Democrats, CDA) and Wouter Bos (of the Labour Party, PvdA). One or the other will be prime minister, depending which party gets more votes. All the others, VVD (Liberals), GroenLinks (GreenLeft), SP (Socialist Party) etc etc seem to be sidelined. The strange thing about Dutch elections is you don't vote for a person, but for a party list. And the parties with the most votes will try to bridge a majority coalition within parliament to form a government. Who becomes prime minister is not up to the voters, but to the parties.

(Bos and Balkenende: TV debate 3 Nov 2006 RTL4)

For one thing I will absolutely not vote for the incumbent parties. This is the government that has been slowly dismantling the welfare state, that has done little to deal with the polarising and alienating phenomenon between locals and foreigners. This government unconditionally toed behind the so-called 'intervention' in Iraq. This has been a government that cares more for rules and regulations and utterly unconcerned with the 'human factor' in immigration and asylum affairs under the wishy-washy leadership of a prime minister who madly preaches 'virtues and values' [normen en waarden], but then locks up children in prisons and openly declared his opposition against same-sex marriage.

Some people are calling for a strategic vote. Already months ago commentators have identified this election as a 'battle' between the (current CDA, VVD) right, and the opposition (PvdA, SP, GroenLinks) left, with a bunch of opportunistic post-Fortuyn parties trying to siphon off votes on issues like being tough on immigration and Muslims. Then there's the Party for Animals (Partij voor de Dieren), which has attracted a large following due to the support of celebrities and prominents. It's likely they'll get into parliament, because many people are probably fed up of all the power-politics and party bickering.

I think like many, the deciding moment will be when I go into that booth and press the button.

May the best person win.

Monday, November 20, 2006


"Tibetans from all over India have been converging on New Delhi for the past two days to voice their opposition to China's continued occupation of their country and to Hu Jintao's brutal policies in Tibet when he was the Party Secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region and in 1989 was responsible for the crackdown on peaceful protests and the imposition of martial law in Lhasa."

"Just this past May, the Chinese government defamed His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Tibet and reinstated their patriotic re-education of the Tibetan people. Those who fought against the Chinese re-education policy were imprisoned and subjected to various tortures. Tibetans in Tibet enjoy no freedom under Chinese rule, and every year many thousands risk their lives escaping over the Himalayas into exile."