Dear members,

I'm happy to report that we had a packed house on October 26 to hear artist and activist Ai Weiwei speak at the FCCJ. He was inspiring - exactly the sort of guest speaker we want to draw to the club. And the timing was perfect, coming just as Xi Jinping was anointed Chinese president for a precedent-breaking third term.

Ai spoke with our correspondents, associate members and the public about press freedom, freedom of speech and the harsh realities of China under Xi's rule. He said it was probably inevitable that China and the West would clash given their sharply divided values. He also explained how three generations of Chinese leaders had committed themselves to building the economy – “Get rich first”, as Deng Xiaoping said – to help bring millions in the country out of poverty. But no longer. The power of Xi and the Communist Party are paramount, as demonstrated by the humbling of the country's billionaires. “They're not talking about making money first anymore,” Ai said.

Kudos to David McNeill and Pio d'Emilia for leading the questioning and drawing Ai out to tell the stories of his life. And special thanks to Ilgin Yorulmaz for flagging that we should do a press conference during his visit to Japan, and to Akiko Saikawa for organizing the event with her usual skill and calm. This was by far the biggest PAC lunch that we have had since the start of Covid.

For anyone who missed it, the full discussion is on YouTube.

Ai Weiwei, Artist.

There are a growing number of encouraging signs that your club is making progress in emerging from the pandemic. Earlier this month, we hosted an event with a defector from the Unification church, a young woman who goes by the pseudonym Sayuri Ogawa. Just 26, she demonstrated incredible bravery in speaking about the church's treatment of its members, despite threats from the organization and from her own parents. Her appearance sparked widespread news coverage that continues to this day. The attempts to stop her press conference were raised in parliament, as the LDP continues to come under attack over its ties to the church.

The FCCJ is proud to support the principles of free speech, in this case and as part of our ongoing efforts to examine the Unification church scandal. Press freedom and freedom of speech are inevitably dependent on each other. The FCCJ is once again taking its place as the premier destination for global journalism in Japan, one of the three pillars for our future.

Thank you all for your ongoing support.


Peter Elstrom