Friday, July 30, 1999

Hawaiian convention
on sovereignty issue

Bullet The issue: The Native Hawaiian Convention meets tomorrow to consider Hawaiian sovereignty.

Bullet Our view: The sovereignty movement has been damaged by dissension.

THE Native Hawaiian Convention opening tomorrow is clouded with uncertainty. It could have been a historic event in the movement for Hawaiian sovereignty. But the refusal of some Hawaiian organizations to participate has placed a question mark over the proceedings.

The convention is a product of a referendum held in 1996 on the question of electing delegates to propose a native Hawaiian government.

Forty-one percent of eligible Hawaiians participated in that vote, of whom 73 percent supported an election of delegates. But when the election of delegates was held last January, only 8.6 percent of those eligible voted. The turnout was disappointing, but the organizers pressed on, and the convention is being held, with opening ceremonies at Iolani Palace.

There are a number of well-qualified delegates, among them Myron Thompson, former director of the state Department of Human Services and Bishop Estate trustee; Dante Carpenter, former state senator, Big Island mayor and administrator of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; and Charles Maxwell, longtime Hawaiian activist.

Opposition to the convention and the referendum that authorized it is based on the unpersuasive contention that the process is tainted by the state of Hawaii's sponsorship.

The chief opponent, Ka Lahui, which claims 20,000 members, is trying to set the Hawaiian community's course on sovereignty independently of the convention.

Meanwhile OHA is also planning a separate conference on sovereignty, tentatively scheduled for October.

The sovereignty movement seems to have lost momentum since the centennial of the overthrow of the monarchy in 1993.

The bickering between the rival groups hasn't helped. But there is also a realization that a consensus must be reached on a definition of sovereignty.

Potential bases of a Hawaiian nation, however it may be defined, already exist. There are the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which is operated by a board elected by Hawaiians and receives a share of state revenues from ceded lands, and the Hawaiian Home Lands, reserved for the use of Hawaiians by federal law.

The Bishop Estate, dedicated to Hawaiian education, and other Hawaiian foundations could also be important factors in sovereignty.

Many non-Hawaiians are willing to consider acceptance of Hawaiian sovereignty on reasonable terms. However, demands for full independence and for the return to Hawaiians of all ceded lands -- lands held by both the state and federal governments -- are unreasonable and stand no chance of acceptance.

The Native Hawaiian Convention is a start at formulating Hawaiian sovereignty. There is a long way to go before that vision can become reality. Unity among Hawaiians will be essential for success.

Chinese repression

Bullet The issue: China has ordered the arrest of the leader of Falun Gong.

Bullet Our view: The crackdown illustrates the paranoia of the Chinese leadership.

THE measures the Chinese leadership is taking to deal with a group devoted to meditation and exercise are startling. They suggest a government that has lost all sense of proportion in its determination to crush any conceivable threat to its authority.

The latest step in the crackdown on the group, Falun Gong, is an order for the arrest of its leader, Li Hongzhi, who lives in the United States. The warrant, which was read on television, accused Li of disturbing public order and spreading superstition.

The charge itself is absurd. In what other countries could someone be arrested for spreading superstition?

There is no chance that China will be able to take Li into custody. The State Department ruled out that possibility because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with China. Despite the arrest order, it wasn't clear whether China would even seek his extradition.

Washington has been critical of Beijing's crackdown on Falun Gong. When the group was banned last Thursday, a State Department spokesman said the U.S. was "disturbed" by the ban and by "some heavy-handed tactics" used against the group.

Li, a former low-level government worker who founded Falun Gong in 1992, has denied accusations that the group has political ambitions.

Meanwhile, the government campaign against the sect has resulted in the destruction of more than a million books, posters and other seized materials and arrests of hundreds of members.

Falun Gong is one of many schools of qigong, a traditional practice that tries to improve health through exercise, meditation and attempts to channel unseen forces. Its doctrines draw on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism.

It is hard to believe that the government of President Jiang Zemin could view such an innocuous group as a threat, but Beijing clearly does.

This government can tolerate no independent organizations in Chinese society. Falun Gong's problem is simply that it demonstrated an ability to mobilize large numbers of people for peaceful protest.

Unlike the youthful demonstrators at Tiananmen Square 10 years ago, these people, many of them middle-aged, are interested in meditation and exercise, not political change.

But there is nothing like persecution to politicize people. The crackdown on Falun Gong reveals the Chinese leadership's paranoia. It could create the very threat that the government is trying to repress.

The vote in the House this week approving extension of what was formerly called most-favored-nation trade status for China was welcome because it is important to maintain involvement with Beijing. But such action should not be taken as approval of Chinese repression, of which the treatment of Falun Gong is a distressing example.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin