Monday 4 April 2011

The Disappeared

It seems that there is no let-up in the crackdown on Chinese dissidents, one which both preceded the flash-in-the-pan Chinese "Jasmine Revolution", and is continuing after it has fizzled. The latest victim: internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, whose sunflower seed display I went to see in London last year, and whose defiance towards the Chinese dictatorship has become steadily more forthright in recent years.

It seems that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken Ai up on the offer he made two years ago when the state security services called him over for a little chat:

"Here’s a few words: Don’t come again to find me, I will not cooperate. If you must come, then bring your instrument of punishment."

This list compiled by Custer over at the Chinageeks website tells the sorry tale of those human rights activists known to have been arrested or detained so far. The only thing I can add to what has been said by others is:

1) Given the past track-record of the CCP in this regard, do not expect an end to this crackdown any time soon. It would be natural for people to assume this is connected to next year's scheduled hand-over of power from the Hu/Wen team to the likely Xi/Li partnership. This ignores the natural logic that such things take on - once a justification, however lame, has been found for imprisioning someone, no-one is going to admit that they have made a mistake.

2) This is the real face of the CCP. Some in the China commentariat have spent years telling us that change is just around the corner with the rise of a new generation of foreign-educated leadership, and that anyway the dictatorial powers of imprisonment without trial, censorship, etc. were merely a vestigial remnant of the past which would gradually wither away. The truth is that the CCP had no intention of giving up these powers - it's existence relies on them, and there is no sign that the CCP wishes to dismiss itself from power, foreign educated or not.

3) Many have also spoken of a moderate faction within the CCP. At the moment, the best that can be said is that if this moderate faction exists, evidence of its influence is somewhat lacking.

4) Some have gotten rather depressed about this, even abandoning all hope of improvement in the situation in China, and expats among them have started talking about leaving the country*. Personally I think this is overblown. China, whilst certainly richer, is still much the same country it was when I first arrived there in 2003. If your presence in a place is predicated on it turning into something radically different, this is a somewhat foolish position to have.

[Picture: "Remembering" an installation by Ai Wei Wei displayed at his "So Sorry" exhibition at Haus der Kunst, Munich, January 2010. The display is made up entirely of school rucksacks, which spell out "Seven years, she lived happily on this Earth", a quote from the mother of a child killed when her poorly-constructed school collapsed during the Sichuan Earthquake. Via Wikicommons.]

*Jg is not actually planning on leaving the country. He's just pissed off.


Anonymous said...

FOARP. To be sure you are correct, but do not include Yang Hengjun in your list of HR PRC totalitarian victims.

He is a tosser and a self-publicist, who just experienced a serious reality check when he encountered the PSB with a lot of pressure from the Chongqing leadership.

Most Missions from God end in failure, but not in this case.


justrecently said...

An unwarranted arrest is an unwarranted arrest. Some or many people on the list may be egotist, spiteful or not-my-kind-of-people in daily life - who knows -, and others may be great citizens of their country, but that's something I can only tell when knowing people personally, and in terms of justice, it doesn't matter.
There's no reason to remove Yang from the list. Everyone who is arrested without transparent reasons needs to be removed from the detention centers - in China, in Guantanamo, and elsewhere.

Gilman Grundy said...

@KT - I have no list. The list is Custer's. As for Yang Hengjun being a self-publicist, I do not claim to know anything about the man, but I would say that it is hard to now such things for sure.

As JR pointed out, even a "self-publicist" can be mistreated. The only thing I would add is that concentrating on the case of Yang Hengjun is a side-track from the main point - that innocent people are being imprisoned in this campaign, and it is uncertain when any of them will be released.

Anonymous said...

Theupshot of the WikiLeaks documents, the ones on China, was the observation of a Communist Party school dean made to US dips that "there is no reform wing of the Communist Party" economically or politically. The basic view was that you have princeling families fighting over economic spoils and a cautious bureaucrat faction trying to limit the damage to the economy but unable to move anything forward. Economic reform halted with Zhu Rongji's retirement and meaningful political reform hasn't been in the cards since before 6/4/89. (Slim)

Gilman Grundy said...

@Slim - Cautious bureaucrats v. robber princelings - That's so insightful that I thoroughly intend to write an article about it claiming it was my own idea.

James said...

Good as ever G.

Think #4 a bit unfair though. Someone wanting to leave because they've finally had enough is not necessarily the same as someone having based or predicated, as you put it, their life there on the possibility of change.

It's quite possible and more than fair to want to change aspects of the place in which you live without that change being the reason you were there in the first place.

jg said...

I am still trying to figure out where you and China Geeks have came up with the idea that I am talking about leaving China. I never say not insinuate such a thing in my post which you link to. And to the best of my knowledge I haven't spoken to you or C. Custer about my future plans. That is a "foolish mistake." Unless, of course, you know something about my situation that I don't know.

Gilman Grundy said...

@Jg - Weasel answer: "I didn't say you were planning to leave the country".

Actual answer: "I was just riffing off Custer's post, I did read your ost but just assumed that Custer knew something that I didn't".

KingTubby said...

FOARP You are getting snarky. Its the nature of these kinds of forums for people to make points which are either missed or misunderstood by their intended recipient.

Ill go thru my Yang claim in detail and send you the link.

Gilman Grundy said...

@KT - Once again. Custer's list is his own, not mine. I am not taking a view on Yang Hengjun's disappearance or otherwise. Feel free to post whatever you like about him, but don't get the impression that I'm arguing about it, because I'm not.

And being snarky is what I'm all about.

jg said...

@ FOARP You're right. I'm just pissed off. Actually very pissed off, and it doesn't seem to be subsiding. Who knows, I might just end up writing myself out of here if I don't cool down a bit. There is a concern among many here that what we've seen over the past two months is just the beginning, the big drops before the harder rain.

Gilman Grundy said...

@JG - I would say that things that make you angry in China will make you angry even after you leave the country. Look at me, I left China towards the end of 2007 and have only been back for a few weeks since, but I'm still writing about it, both because it interests me, and because I feel strongly about some of the things that are happening there.

Moreover, politics and corruption aside, China isn't such a bad place, and I wouldn't still be willing to go back there if an interesting enough opportunity came up. The only thing I might have some qualms about is raising a family in China.

Bill Rich said...

If there will be any real change, and a big "IF", it would not come from within the CCP. Who and what kind of change will happen depends really on when the Chinese people start thinking about "CCP" as them and not "us". Please watch how Chinese people talk about their own party or government (but not individuals) in China for us, whether there is any subtle change in how they refer to the government. This would give us from the outside some indication.

Anonymous said...

Just to round out my Yang claim:

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