China intensifies the crackdown on dissent

Chairwoman Hautala opened a screening of the ‘Emergency Shelter” film at the One World Film Festival at the European Parliament.[:]
In her introductory remarks she noted that while the economic situation of the country has catapulted China into the league of genuine financial heavy weights during the recent years, the crackdown on human rights has decisively worsened.

Since the Arab Uprising the Chinese authorities have intensified their assault on human rights, freedom of speech and assembly.

Even the imprisonment and subsequent disappearance – I am saying disappearance because it is not possible to verify his whereabouts – of author, democracy activist and 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mr Liu Xiaobo, is already old news in this rapidly deteriorating situation.

Eight of China’s top human-rights lawyers were arrested in mid-February and have not been heard from since.

Globally renowned artist and government critic, Ai Wei Wei has not been seen since he was detained while passing through security checks at Beijing airport on Sunday, 3 April.

While Ai Wei Wei stands accused of economic crimes, everyone from veteran dissidents to lawyers, rights activists, NGO representatives, writers, bloggers, journalists and even ordinary citizens are being attacked in order to silence them.

While much of the information is strongly guarded, Human Rights Watch has been able to verify up to 20 people who are currently facing prosecution for the loosely defined crime of “inciting subversion,” which includes criticism of the Communist Party.

China is going through the largest crackdown on dissent for over a decade, she noted. The reasons for this have been presumed to be twofold; the Arab Uprising and internal power struggle eyeing the upcoming change in leadership.

While we must strive to understand the causes of the crackdown, we must not let this explain these violent measures. Locking up dissidents is not about change in leadership in China or events in Tunisia. It is about fundamental position of the state that disregards the value of human life. The recent events are only the latest manifestation of this. We must therefore not let ourselves be led into believing that an extraordinary nightmare has only now begun – the ordinary people who have ended up on the wrong side of the officials have lived it for a long time. For them, this is nothing new.

It is these ordinary citizens, dissidents and activists who pay the heaviest prize for the current crackdown and traditional disregard for basic rights of individuals. In my work as the Chairwoman of European Parliament Human Rights Subcommittee I am often reminded that all the repression we tend to discuss in rather abstract terms, at the end of the day always has a tremendous human cost.

Today, we have the opportunity to listen to one of those stories.

The business lawyer Ni Yulan took on sensitive cases for petitioners and those who rebelled against the forced demolition of their homes. Jailed twice for her actions, and severely injured from police beatings, she was released from jail in April 2010. Her own house had been demolished, and together with her husband, Dong Jiqin, they were left homeless.

Through a story of an individual, can at times be the best way to understand the troubles and challenges of the given situation.

We must honor these people who at a time of challenge and difficulty decide to give faces to the injustice. While admiring their courage, the least the European Union and we here at the European Parliament can do is to carefully listen to what they have to say.