Will China Dragon Bite in 2012?
Image Credit: Flickr / Mooney47

Will China Dragon Bite in 2012?


Strike hard and take prisoners. That’s the Chinese government’s message on how it will respond to perceived dissent in this Dragon year of 2012.

Just ask the writers Chen Xi, Chen Wei, and Li Tie. Chen Wei received a nine year prison term on December 23 on charges of “inciting subversion of state power” for on-line government criticism. Three days later, a Guiyang court handed down a 10-year sentence on the same charge to Chen Xi, for similar on-line criticism of China’s one-party rule. Then, on January 18 of this year, a Wuhan court sentenced Li Tie to a 10 year prison term for “subversion of state power” for writings that included reference to the official taboo topic of the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

Other victims of the Chinese government’s spate of politically motivated court rulings include the disappeared human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. On December 16, a Beijing court abruptly withdrew Gao’s grant of probation and ordered him to serve the entirety of a three-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power,” handed down on December 22, 2006. The court justified its decision on the basis that Gao had “seriously violated probation rules” despite the fact that he had been the victim of an apparent enforced disappearance – and thus in police custody – since April 2010. The Chinese government also targeted the disabled housing rights activist Ni Yulan and her husband Dong Jiqing. The couple faced trial on December 29 on spurious charges of “creating a disturbance” and “fraud” and currently awaits sentencing. And on January 18, police charged veteran human rights activist Zhu Yufu with “inciting subversion of state power” for writings including a poem that police interpreted as a call for popular unrest against one-party rule.

These cases represent more than the Chinese government’s well-documented contempt for freedom of expression explicitly guaranteed in Article 35 of the Constitution. They are also clear efforts to breed fear and sow silence among China’s beleaguered community of human rights defenders and civil society activists. The aim: to ensure that the 12-month senior Communist Party leadership transition this year proceeds without public challenges to the Party’s 61-year monopoly on power. China’s President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are preparing to step aside for a new generation of leaders, widely touted to be Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, in a secretive political succession that won’t be complete until in March 2013.

The Chinese government has reason to be nervous about its political legitimacy. It has delivered some impressive economic growth and boosted living standards at the price of an authoritarian one-party state which denies most citizens’ basic rights and freedoms and victimizes those who protest such abuses. It imposes sharp curbs on freedom of expression, association, and religion; openly rejects judicial independence and press freedom; and arbitrarily restricts and suppresses human rights defenders and organizations, often through extra-judicial measures. Despite that repression, Chinese citizens are increasingly aware of their rights and more vocal when they’re denied. By the government’s own numbers, more than 100,000 “mass incidents” or protests are estimated to occur annually in China, and the Chinese government now budgets more funds for “social stability maintenance” to contain outbreaks of popular discontent than for national defense.

But while repression is nothing new in China, the government’s intolerance toward perceived dissent has grown since the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Its victims include imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year prison sentence for “inciting subversion” over his role in drafting Charter ’08, an online petition advocating peaceful political change in China. His wife, Liu Xia, who hasn’t been charged with any crime, is believed to be under house arrest to prevent her from campaigning on her husband’s behalf. In February 2011, she said in a brief online exchange that she and her family were like “hostages” and that she felt “miserable.”

Such repression is likely to only worsen in 2012 due to lingering official unease about the “Arab spring” and the vulnerabilities it exposed in previously rock-solid authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. In response, beginning in February 2011, Chinese security agencies rounded up dozens of the country’s most outspoken critics, including the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, and “disappeared” them for weeks outside of any legal protection and judicial procedure. Upon their release, several of those individuals reported being subjected to forced sleep deprivation, interrogations, and threats while in custody.

papa john
February 8, 2012 at 09:53

@ari man, as a matter of fact, I should question your level of reading skills that could say much about your intelligence as well. LOL, your fellow wumao praised you but you didn’t comprehend, thus blasting him. LOL.

February 1, 2012 at 00:15

And Washington and America preached about “superior values”. Maybe “hypocrisy” is one of them. Washington and its brainwashed citizens by Big Business, are not exactly good role models for the world. So don’t preach to another civilization which have other resources to draw from.

January 31, 2012 at 13:26

Oops! Ignore my comments “Godknows”. I re-read your comments and I understand your meaning. Your well wishes is appreciated.

January 31, 2012 at 13:19

Errata :

” .. maintaining the image of the Chinese and defending the hardline actions of some of the leaders in the Standing Committee are different issues” ..

should read as

“In anycase, kindly do not confuse maintaining the image of the Chinese and defending the hardline actions of some of the leaders in the Standing Committee are same issues”.

January 31, 2012 at 13:12

PapaJohn, man, you make a heck of a lot of assumptions. Makes me question your level of intelligence.

In anycase, kindly do not confuse maintaining the image of the Chinese and defending the hardline actions of some of the leaders in the Standing Committee are different issues. Similarly, kindly do not lump the CCP as one monolithic whole. It is made up of people. Some good, some not as good.

Too many anti-China or anti-Chinese commentators use the abbreviation “CCP” as an excuse to tar and slur the entire Chinese people on account of the fact that the CCP as the government, like the Obama Administration which represents the American people in foreign affairs, represents the Chinese people. In a manner of speaking the CCP government or ruling party is synonomous with Chinese people to the outside world. The underhand slurs therefore, used in manner is unacceptable. And that need to be pointed out.

Moreover, the suggestion not to be extreme in castigating the CCP is not the same as saying the one-party rule system is acceptable and the same issue. On the contrary, a one-party rule lacks accountability to the people. The current system is also prone to manipulation by any influential faction at any time, and permit them to be in power ad infiniti. if you are a Chinese citizen, you would prefer the system to be transparent and not have the selection of political positions determined by these power brokers. An open election is better and reduces that risk of shadowy power broker calling the shots and degenrating into a Mafia-like organization.

Even Mr Putin is aware now that power comes from the people. He now understands too that the “social contract” between the ruler and the ruled must be muttually acceptable as to its terms and conditions. As a developing country, this “social contract” is a generation thing and need to be reviewed and amended accordingly to the generation changes. In this therefore, Beijing need to consider seriously political reforms to allow open elections as in Taiwan. Rather than calling any attempt to prevent a moving on to this stage a “fool’s errand”, I would say, be not like King Canute. You can’t stop the tide. It’s what people want. This institution need to be developed vigorously concomittantly with economic and social reforms.

John Chan, you are welcome. Keep up the good work.

“Godknows” …. Exactly how old are you? Your unrestrained and indisciplined statements says a lot.

And “PapaJohn”, you are surely using too big a brush to tar every Chinese by saying “lying and denial” is a way of life with the Chinese? You are very brave behind that anonymous pseudonym. Rest assure you won’t avoid hospital with that kind of racial insult otherwise.

Makes me wonder why racial taunts and insults and personal remarks from some extremist commentators are allowed in the Diplomat but not other commentators with even moderate and decent comments?

John Chan
January 31, 2012 at 06:57

USA is not a democratic society, and it never intends to be one. USA is a polyarchy.

USA’s Patriotic Act was passed without public and congress debate. Since the pass of Patriotic Act, the right to Freedom of speech, the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of fair trail are no longer protected by the law in the USA; the pass of Patriotic Act, Amendments 4 and 6 to the bill of right are deadened; yet Americans made no protest at all against such tramp on their constitutional rights.

If it is true that “China’s draft criminal procedure law to effectively legalize such disappearances, which remain a serious crime in international law,” then it seems China is following the wrong model, it is implementing USA’s Patriotic Act in China; since there is no outcry against USA’s Patriotic Act a serious crime in international law, it must mislead China to believe that legalize disappearances is an acceptable norm in international community and is not a violation of human rights.

Indeed, the USA, EU and the UK must act what they preach regarding human rights, failure to do so will only prove they are hypocrites, and they don’t say what they meant.

John Chan
January 31, 2012 at 05:00

Starting with bad mouthing others baselessly definitely is not a good start to practice English in the public, it reflects poor the contributor’s character.

January 31, 2012 at 00:04

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of your evident or explanation is useful to those extremists who have abnormal mentality.

They even won’t believe anything they see by themselves in China, and managed to fabricate “Tibet news” like CNN, or so-called “Jasmine Revolution” to amuse their audience. So, that’s nothing about truth, actually it’s about metal disease.

Keep patient, keep sympathetic, and try to amuse them whenever possible, it’ll do good for a peaceful world.

January 30, 2012 at 23:39

I’d read quite a few articles with many comments, but what disappointed me really is, half of comments are unbelievably irrational and ignorance, and boasting all kinds of extremism.

So Mr.ari, I DO recommend u just leaving it be, most of them have their brain washed by extremism, and that’s why they’ll surpass by us in the near future – stupid, irrational, and ignorance.

Note: I’m here practicing my English. :-)

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