Friday, July 02, 2010
APEC 2011? Hawaii should tell world leaders where to go
by Larry Geller
While speaking about the global exposure Hawai`i will receive as a result of the APEC meeting, Governor Lingle said, "This is clearly the opportunity of a lifetime." [hawaii.gov, 2011 APEC Hawai`i Host Committee Members Announced, 4/2010]
Governor Lingle is promoting the 2011 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meeting as a huge benefit for Hawaii. Actually, it may be that anyplace but here would be a better deal for us.
Like other state pipe dreams, holding APEC here is unlikely to bring much benefit aside from filling up the hotels during the event. It should be something like the Honolulu Marathon on steroids. That’s the good news, and perhaps all of it.
Look—dentists meet here, real estate folks meet here, and we have not become the world center for any of it. They do enjoy their stay, I’m sure, and deal with the credit card bills only after they return home.
The gov thinks APEC will showcase Hawaii. She should be afraid of that, not looking forward to it.
Now, there could be some benefit for the rest of us. Maybe whoever is mayor at that time will be pressured to fix up the streets and clean out beach restrooms. This could lead to a few new jobs as city government expands enough to do the work it should be doing anyway, minus APEC.
Maybe they will think about how delegates will cope when looking for (almost nonexistent) public toilets. Heads of state will have no trouble finding a place to pee, but if any staff do venture out to check out our town, they might discover that we are not visitor-friendly in the same way many other European and American cities are.
There could be much bad for Honolulu and Hawaii. Will HPD round up homeless people the way Bangkok police forcibly moved about 10,000 before the 2003 summit in Thailand? Will there be water or sound cannons on the streets of Waikiki? How will tourism be impacted by the presence of riot police and sophisticated weapons systems? Suppose police actually pull the trigger even once? Will tourists run scattering back to their hotels and thence to Tokyo?
In 2011 Hawaii will still have terrible schools, will still be a tourism-based economy, will still have a high cost of living and low wages. No amount of paint will cover that over. APEC leaders have read about Hawaii’s infamous Furlough Fridays already. Maybe by 2011 they’ll forget, but we ought to think carefully about what they will see while they are here that will make the negative impact worthwhile. The administration propaganda is that it will be good for business. If tourism, our main business, is impacted, then we will be hurting rather than celebrating.
The following snip is not from some alternative website, it is from CTV, Canada's largest private broadcaster, on the aftermath of the just-concluded G20 summit:
So much for using the Group of 20 summit as a showcase for Toronto as a place to live and do business.
The security forces’ handling of the weekend’s protests at the G20 meetings isn’t giving the economic development people much to work with when it comes to their post-summit advertising campaigns.
Come to Toronto, for work or pleasure, and enjoy having your civil liberties trampled and your right to free expression stifled. Avail yourself of our hospitality in a crowded detention pen, with free stale buns and water when (or if) your hosts get around to it. Partake of an invigorating massage, courtesy of police officers wielding truncheons. The best part – there’s no charge! Except that seems to mean the cops will pick you up, hold you, then let you go without ever following through criminal charges or prosecution, suggesting they had nothing on you in the first place.
The image of Toronto, post-summit, is that this is a place where the rule of law isn’t what it used to be, where the democratic right to protest can be suspended if it’s inconvenient. That is the message the world is seeing, thanks to social media like Twitter and YouTube, which enabled citizens to post real time accounts and videos of apparent police overreaction, and mainstream media like the New York Times, which published a story on the police actions that cast the city in an unfavourable light.
That is not merely a problem for those who believe in civil liberties – it’s also a blow for the business aspirations of Canada’s largest city. CTV, [Police G20 tactics give Toronto a black eye, 6/28/2010]
The same story ran in the Toronto Globe and Mail with the following sub-head:
Economic development people don’t have much to work with when it comes to their post-summit advertising campaigns
Toronto probably blew it by passing a special secret detention law just for the G20 conference and by their heavy-handed police tactics. See: Canadian Civil Liberties Group Mulls Lawsuit as Details of Mass Arrests, Unprecedented Powers at G2O Come to Light (Democracy Now, 7/2/2010). The lawsuits and fallout from the police action will extend quite a bit into the future, and certainly won’t contribute to any benefit the city was hoping to reap by hosting the meeting (with an expenditure of $1-2 billion).
Looking at prior APEC meetings should have given our state administration enough pause to have said “no thank you.” APEC 2011 will not resemble a convention of painless dentists carousing at a Waikiki hotel.
APEC by its nature attracts attention and demonstrations. APEC meetings have been accompanied by protests, not all violent, but there is plenty of bad news for the googling. Singapore (2009) passed draconian restrictions on protest, and so things went well. Hawaii isn’t Singapore.
The next scheduled meeting will be November 13–14, 2010 in Japan. We can watch and see how it goes for them. Hawaii follows, November 12–13, 2011.
Here’s some snippets as a result of some googling.
2008, Lima Peru: Lima is in a state of lockdown for a weekend APEC summit that will bring together the leaders of 21 member economies, among them US President George W. Bush and his Russian and Chinese counterparts.
"We are in a state of maximum alert and we have mobilized 39,000 police officers and members of anti-terrorist units," Peruvian General Julio Vergara, in charge of security for the event, told AFP.
Metal barriers have been placed around the summit's venue -- an already well-protected army headquarters -- and security details are deployed at delegates' hotels. Helicopters and air force planes patrol the sky.
Escort squads have also been assigned to each of the heads of state and government, and police snipers are stationed on several rooftops, while teams prepared for radiological, chemical and biological attacks are on standby.
2007, Syndey, Australia: Surfers and singers protested in Sydney Friday ahead of an Asia Pacific summit that has prompted the largest security operation ever staged in Australia.
Activists said the security clampdown involving more than 5,000 police and troops had forced them to get creative when making their point, as authorities have placed tight restrictions on traditional activities such as marches.
Without doubt the cheekiest protest is an event called "Bums for Bush" scheduled for later Friday, where organisers were hoping to set the world record for mooning with the exposure of 2,000 behinds.
2005, Busan, S. Korea: Thousands of farm activists and union workers hurled bottles in a clash with police near a meeting of Pacific Rim leaders on Friday and had to be quelled by water cannon.
The clash broke out about two km (1.2 miles) from the convention center where leaders from 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies were meeting.
About 2,000 farmers and farm activists and 3,000 union workers took to the streets of Pusan to denounce APEC, the World Trade Organization and U.S. President George W. Bush, who was attending the leaders' meeting.
Organizers had hoped as many as 100,000 would attend. They said police had turned back busloads of people on highways before they even got to Pusan.
2004, Santiago, Chile: Protesters opposing the visit of President Bush to the Asian-Pacific Economic forum clashed with police early Saturday and stray gunfire left at least three people wounded in working class districts across the Chilean capital.
The protests began after President Bush arrived Friday for the 21-nation forum. Gunfire left one gas station attendant with a bullet wound to the leg in northern Santiago, while a police officer in a southern suburb also was hit by a stray bullet, Police Cmdr. Enrique Rivera said.
The APEC forum has sparked days of clashes between demonstrators and police. Many of the protests have centered on downtown Santiago, miles from the main convention site, as police repeatedly used tear gas and truck-mounted water cannons to scatter protesters.
Protests erupted in poor outlying neighborhoods far from Santiago's modern city center and the well-guarded luxury hotels where Bush and fellow world leaders were holding meetings. Thousands of police, including elite units with automatic weapons and officers on horseback have clamped down on the areas.
2003, Bangkok, Thailand: The massive security operation and wholesale expulsion of poor residents underway in Bangkok for the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit on 20-21 October provides another example of the gulf between the world’s ruling elites and ordinary people.
Whenever leaders of the major powers meet anywhere in the world, police-state conditions are now imposed, ratcheting up the attacks on democratic rights in the name of security. Bangkok is being turned into a virtual fortress for the summit.
In preparation for the visit of government leaders, including US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has ordered a social cleansing of the city. Some 10,000 beggars, homeless people, prostitutes and so-called illegal immigrants are being rounded up and forcibly moved. More than 20,000 troops and police have been mobilised for this sanitising operation.
1997, Vancouver, B.C., Canada: Frustration is mounting in Vancouver. Politicians from around the world meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference. UBC students carry protest signs, angry that the issue of human rights isn't on the APEC agenda. The RCMP try to clear the area but chaos erupts. Protesters tear down a fence and pepper spray is shot into the crowds. Later, an unapologetic Prime Minister Chrétien brushes away the pepper spray incident, saying "For me, pepper, I put it on my plate."
Hawaii’s state government worked hard to bring APEC to Honolulu, so it’s going to happen. At least, let’s understand what they have gotten us into.