Friday, 28 January 2011

Trying to Shut Up Dissent

I'm at Hong Kong International Airport waiting for my flight to leave... I'm trying out the Traveler's Lounge for Amex card holders... it took me a while to find it, but it's behind the Gucci shop before Gate 60. It's OK... a quiet space with some food and drinks.

Cathay Pacific kept advising passengers to arrive three hours before departure but that was quite unnecessary as security staff were very efficient opening up several lines and moving things along quickly.

Immigration was very fast too as long as you have a Hong Kong ID card.

I'm reading the paper now and disappointed to see China continues its stranglehold on journalists there.

Columnist Chang Ping was recently sacked because his employer, the Southern Daily Group, was under pressure from a propaganda inspection teams. The company will not renew his contract which ends at the end of next month because he refused to compromise by insisting on writing columns for other publications.

Last year Chang was banned from writing for the Southern Weekly and The Southern Metropolis News.

He is best known for writing about political and social topics, including democracy, media censorship, the failures of government policy and Tibet. His writing is considered logical and not radical.

Veteran journalists say the government is very wary this year with more anniversaries -- the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution and the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party of China -- so it aims to get rid of outspoken voices in the media.

The government also seems alarmed by the growing number of social problems such as land evictions, land disputes, mass protests, censorship and human rights, Chang said. He added how the incident with Google and Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo created alarm and that the government needed to control public opinion.

"The authorities have become increasingly incompetent in censoring the media," Chang said. "They believe that the traditional way of bottling up the media will stifle social unrest at an early stage, and social stability is their top priority.

"However, it's this kind of policy that harms social stability," he continued. "I am worried that the pent-up pressure will explode one day."

Nevertheless Chang is determined to continue writing one way or another. "My freedom of expressing my own views shouldn't be taken away," he said. "I am not sure how effective my commentaries are but I believe every little effort helps."

So far more than 1,600 journalists and academics have signed an online protest about Chang's sacking and news of it was circulated on microblogs.

Thank goodness for people like Chang who will do whatever it takes to try to make the government accountable for its actions.

And the government will not be able to shut them all up as they will continually find new ways to get their voices out.

Meanwhile the authorities need to realize there is no simple solution to achieving a harmonious society. If only the government would begin to own up to its faults then perhaps many of these tensions would begin to subside..

1 comment:

  1. it is high time for china to wake up from her dream of stifling dissent and unrest. look at what is happening in tunisia, egypt. the wind is blowing. people is yearning for freedom. action and reaction. strong action invites stronger reaction.