China’s Brutal Police State


Before Time Warner assembled a galaxy of American media owners and international robber barons (as muckrakers used to call plutocrats), human rights activists Robert Bernstein and Fang Lizhi wrote a long appeal in the September 23 ‘New York Review of Books.’ It was addressed to the convenors of and participants in the celebration of the Chinese politburo’s 50 years of strangling free speech.

Bernstein and Lizhi urgently asked that human rights be placed on the agenda of this “global conference.” But business ethics prevailed over common decency.

That letter to American media owners contained a list of “Cases of Urgent Concern in China” as compiled by the New York?based Human Rights in China. I’ll quote from that list, then add cases from another human rights group. I hope some of the readers and viewers of Time Warner’s many media properties will write to its chairman, Gerald Levin, and ask him if he feels any shame for toadying to Chinese president Jiang Zemin in order to add to Time Warner’s profits.

From the list: “Yu Dongyue is serving a 20-year prison term for defacing the Mao portrait in Tiananmen Square. Yu, a former editor of Jiyang Daily who refused to acknowledge his guilt or cooperate with authorities, has been savagely beaten and kept in a tiny isolation cell at the Yuanjian Labor Reform Camp in Hunan, which has brought on severe mental illness.”

Li Hai, 44, a former Beijing student and leader of the 1989 democracy movement, was arrested in 1995 for making public a list of individuals who are serving lengthy prison sentences for their participation in the 1989 demonstrations [in Tiananmen Square]. He was subsequently sentenced to a nine-year prison sentence for “prying into and gathering high-level state secrets.”

The following cases were sent to me by Nina Shea, director of Freedom House in Washington, who has researched and exposed horrifying violations of human rights around the world.

“Savage beatings against Christians [the ones not officially approved by the government] were on the rise at the end of last year. . . . On December 24, in Liangzhuang Village, Xushui county . . . a 12-year-old girl, who told interrogators she became a liturgy lector out of religious conviction, was beaten so badly she had to be hospitalized. In November, a Protestant woman in Henan suffered brain damage in beatings by security agents.

“On May 9, 1998, Chinese police, in collaboration with the United Front Work Department of the Chinese Communist Party, raided and bulldozed a Catholic Church in Luoyuan county of Fujian province while some of the congregation were assembled for worship. During the raid, the police, armed with guns and electric batons, kicked and beat anyone who resisted arrest. Three female parishioners were seriously injured. Within two hours, the 600-square-foot church was bulldozed.”

The parishioners will now have to go underground. Will Time Warner contribute some goodwill lanterns?

In a previous column, I mentioned that Jiang Qisheng, a leader of the Tiananmen prodemocracy protests, is being tried for “inciting the overthrow of state power.” He had called for the lighting of candles in memory of the students killed in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The Journal of Human Rights in China (350 Fifth Avenue, Room 3309-10, New York, NY 10118; contributions are tax deductible) reports that before trial, Jiang Qisheng was “taken from his home by police, without a warrant and absent all due process.”

American apologists for China’s police state—including William Jefferson Clinton—praise Chinese officials for their progress in bringing the rule of law to that nation. None of these apologists has ever been tried by a Chinese court.

Now Clinton is delighted at bringing China into the World Trade Organization. But under the agreement, China will not have to stop child labor or release imprisoned labor leaders. The penalty for trying to organize workers is four years in a labor camp.

Arthur Waldron, professor of international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in the October 1 Wall Street Journal:

“A little more than a decade ago, one could hope that the elite [would adopt political reforms]. The administration of Zhao Ziyang grasped the imperative of reform. But Mr. Zhao has been under strict house arrest. . . . [President] Ziang and his colleagues, by contrast, show no signs whatever of understanding the necessity of political change or possessing the qualities to carry it out.”

Meanwhile, the November 10 New York Times reports that “four founders of the outlawed China Democracy Party have been declared guilty of subversion and given prison sentences ranging up to 11 years. . . . The party was formed in June 1998, during President Clinton’s visit to China.” Most of the leaders are in labor camps or prisons.

What do prospective senators Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton have to say about “constructive engagement” with China?