If you think that lowering the embargo and trading with Cuba will help bring about democracy and human rights you may want to read this editorial from the Wall Street Journal. It demonstrates how despite its explosive economic growth how China is still a barbaric country that doesn’t respect human rights.
China’s Great Leap Backward
In most countries, a blind social activist who taught himself law to fight for the rights of the disabled and other victims of abuse would be a hero. In China, Chen Guangcheng’s reward for doing this is prison.
After courageously exposing forced abortions and sterilizations that even the government agrees are against the law, he was sentenced Thursday to four years and three months on trumped up charges of “gathering a crowd to disrupt traffic” and damaging $680 of government property. Three lawyers who sought to defend the blind activist were detained by local police in the northeast Chinese province of Shandong and accused of stealing a wallet. The judge then announced that Mr. Chen’s silence during the “trial” amounted to an admission of guilt.
Despite China’s impressive progress in the economic arena and its repeated claims to be building a fairer legal system, the law is taking a great leap backward.
On Friday, Chinese journalist Zhao Yan was sentenced to three years in jail on dubious charges of fraud. A researcher for the Beijing bureau of the New York Times, Mr. Zhao was detained two years ago on charges of “leaking state secrets” after a story in the Times revealed that former President Jiang Zemin was about to step down as China’s military chief. The Times has repeatedly denied that Mr. Zhao was involved in this story, and prosecutors didn’t produce evidence that the report fit even China’s elastic definition of state secrets. After President Bush twice raised the Times researcher’s case with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Beijing had to be a bit more careful. So it let the state-secrets charges fail and dug up an unrelated five-year-old fraud charge to avoid setting Mr. Zhao free.
Meanwhile Ching Cheong, Hong Kong correspondent for Singapore’s Straits Times, is waiting to hear his fate after a secret trial two weeks ago, again on charges of leaking state secrets. He was detained last year while trying to collect a manuscript containing interviews with the late reformist leader Zhao Ziyang, who sided with the student demonstrators in the 1989 Tiananmen protests.
Mr. Chen’s case is the most tragic of all. He was guilty of doing no more than what Beijing has repeatedly urged disgruntled citizens: Use the country’s embryonic legal system to tackle abuses by local cadres. After years of helping disabled people win cases against local government agencies, Mr. Chen last year brought a lawsuit on behalf of the victims of sterilizations and forced abortions inflicted by population-control officials in Shandong’s Linyi City. Though China still has a one-child policy, both practices are now officially illegal. Some officials in Linyi responsible for forced sterilizations and abortions were sacked after Mr. Chen’s lawsuit prompted an investigation by Beijing.
None of this was enough to save him when local officials took revenge. He was detained, beaten and ultimately imprisoned. Beijing police looked the other way as Mr. Chen was abducted from under their noses by Shandong officials. That fits a recent pattern in which the Chinese leadership has repeatedly sided with corrupt local officials against their accusers. Beijing’s actions in cases such as these undermine China’s claims that it is committed to the rule of law.