Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is what real oppression looks like

I hear a great deal from various parts of the political spectrum that this country has become a tyranny, an authoritarian state, even a totalitarian one. While I do not like (and am on record as not liking) many of the developments in this country and would like to change (and am on record as wanting to change) many political developments, I consider comments like that to be an insult to people who live under real tyrannies.

Try this one.
China's crackdown on domestic dissenters continues, with a 10-year prison sentence issued on Friday to Liu Xianbin, a founder of the China Democratic Party and a signer of Charter 08, a pro-democracy charter. Mr. Liu was sentenced for subverting state power, which in China can mean anything the authorities want it to mean, even advocating for democratic freedoms.
This pattern of political behaviour started in February, round about the time things started shifting in the Arab world.
Mr. Liu's latest jailing is part of a crackdown that started in February, when a U.S.-based website posted a call for peaceful democratic protests in China. Beijing proceeded to round up scores of activists, human rights lawyers and others. Some have been confined to house arrest; others, like blogger Ran Yunfei, have been criminally detained.

The most worrying cases are those who have simply "disappeared" into the maw of China's extralegal shadow jails. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been tortured before, hasn't been seen since April 2010. Teng Biao, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian haven't been heard from since February.

The government is also squeezing the media, both domestic and foreign. The South China Morning Post reports that an outspoken columnist for Southern Weekly, a relatively liberal publication by Chinese standards, was recently pressured into a two-year "sabbatical." Internet censorship remains heavy. Foreign journalists in China's biggest cities have had their movements restricted and some have been physically assaulted by security agents.
Of course, things are not as bad as they were under Mao. Is that enough?

Oh and for those who tell me that what matters is China becoming a great economic power - many of those arrested and disappearing ones have been trying to tell the reality of that economic development. One cannot know the truth about the economy in countries where there is no freedom of speech. The two hang together.


  1. A friend of mine is married to a charming Chinese lady from Shanghai. They go back to visit family an relatives have been to visit here. He says that the thought patterns are different. Chinese people like to feel that the government is strong and that they are under control. It sometimes shows itself in odd ways. He thought his wife might be worried about family in Shanghai because of the Japanese Tsunami - not at all! "The government would never allow that to happen" was her confident reply.

    He also says that it is widely believed that the Japanese were the authors of their own catastrophe - that the earthquake/tsunami was the result of an undersea atomic bomb test which went wrong and that the business with the power station is to give credible cover for the resultant release of radiation..

  2. Re: "The government would never allow that to happen" was her confident reply.

    I can easily imagine a member of the British post-war generation saying the same much the same thing. This sort of trust in the political establishment is quite common, as they are regarded (foolishly in my opinion) as being a bulwark against the capitalists/bankers/<insert>.</insert>

  3. "I hear a great deal from various parts of the political spectrum that this country has become a tyranny, an authoritarian state, even a totalitarian one."

    I agree that we are not a tyranny or anywhere close to it. Nor was we particularly authoritarian. However are you sure we are not totalitarian, abet democratic-totalitarian? I say this on the basis that it is difficult to come up with many areas of private life or the commercial sector into which the state is unable or unwilling to intrude, and this is surely the definition of the term?

  4. No, I don't think that is the definition of the term. Intruding is one thing (and I am very much against that, which is why I consider this government to be no better than its predecessor) and controlling it totally is something quite different. If we are to fight we need to define what it is we are fighting.