Thursday, 21 April 2011

Compare and contrast

Here's Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei excusing Ai Weiwei's imprisonment for what has now been almost three weeks without charge:

And here's US State Department spokesman Mark Toner excusing the refusal of US authorities to grant private, unmonitored access to the UN Special Rapporteur to Bradley Manning, currently in prison awaiting trial on charges including "aiding the enemy":

This is not to draw any kind of general equivalence between the wrong-doings of their respective governments. However, if the United States is going to say that it has "nothing to hide" and then refuse to grant unmonitored access to people who in any other country would be called political prisoners, then the differences between it and China are not as big as you would otherwise think.


Michael Turton said...

Same thought I had. Fortunately China is not in a position to rip the US. Otherwise the US government has handed them a ton of leverage.

Gilman Grundy said...

Yeah, it's not that I think that Manning necessarily and under all circumstances has no case to answer (although some of the charges brought - particularly that of aiding the enemy, seem absurd). However, the treatment he has received, and the US government's actions, cast significant doubt on his treatment.

justrecently said...

Another thought - provided that Mannings is guilty as suspected (which is a big IF, and could remain one, depending on the way he will be tried), it is obvious to me that what was clearly confidential (different from the vague Chinese definition of state secrets).
In a case such as Wikileaks, a ordinary criminal court should be a much better place to decide if and how Mannings should be considered guilty.
A comparison between China's and America's legal system would be uncalled for in my opinion, but then, that's not what your post is about anyway. Mark Toner failed completely - and as a side note, I wish that Germany had correspondents and journalists who'd show the same doggedness in having their questions answered.

Lot Grundy said...

Whilst the clip didn't show it, it probably wasn't there anyway: a reporter questioning the verisimilitude of the party representative's statement's.

Obvious point, but worth making.

Gilman Grundy said...

Lot, I asked Jim Fallows, China correspondent for the Atlantic why western journalists in China didn't ask the government why they were blocking websites, even if they knew they were only going to get stonewalled:

"In principle , I agree – it would be valuable to hear a formal confirm/deny. In practice, there is no point even in trying to get an answer. I speak from experience! (It’s like saying: Wouldn’t it be good to get Scalia to answer whether he really gave the election to Bush in 2000. ) Among other things it is entirely in the government’s interest NOT to be clear about these things. Ambiguity works in their favor. For form’s sake journalists try every so often for answers. But it’s purely formal"

I guess that's about it. Your not going to get an answer, so don't even bother trying.