Saturday, 24 December 2011

Stamping Out Jasmine Revolution Aspirations

The Chinese government has marked this Christmas with yet another outrageous prison sentence of someone voicing his discontent with how the country is run. Nearly two Christmases ago it was Nobel prize winner Liu Xiaobo with his 11 year jail term.

This time it was writer Chen Wei who was handed a nine-year sentence for inciting "subversion of state power".

He has published several essays online calling for freedom of speech and doing away with the one-party system.

Chen was one of hundreds of dissidents detained for going online to encourage protests in China inspired by those in the Middle East earlier this year.

He told the court he was not guilty and that "democracy will prevail" in China, insisting that his freedom to express his opinions is legal under the Chinese constitution.

His wife Wang Xiaoyan says the trial had been "a performance" and that the verdict had been decided before it began. When a trial with such serious charges ends in a verdict in only two hours, it's quite obvious more than just regular procedure is followed.

In addition to his nine-year sentence, Chen's political rights were taken away for two more years, possibly making it the harshest sentence ever meted out on those involved in the so-called Jasmine Revolution that tried to carry the momentum from the movements in the Arab Spring.

Wang, who was present in the court proceedings, said her husband's essays were misinterpreted and that he had done nothing to incite subversion.

"He is a very patriotic man. He did criticize the Communist Party, but that's stating the facts. That is not subversion," she said.

After the verdict was read, Chen did not appeal. Wang explained that Chen knew what the verdict would be and hoped that by not appealing the conviction that he would be able to finish the serving the term quickly and come home.

Chen's pro-democracy bent dates back to 1989 when he was jailed as one of the student leaders who organized protests at Tiananmen Square.

He is also a signatory of Liu's Charter 08, a manifesto that calls for democratic reforms.

The sentence handed down to Chen clearly illustrates the Chinese government's paranoia over anyone agitating for change in the political realm.

Its lack of tolerance for differing opinions reveals a stifling environment where the government refuses to entertain any differing opinions. Anything other than status quo is deemed "subversive".

And for the government, "subversive" can have any definition it wishes it to have.

No comments:

Post a Comment