To find out what might really happen to outspoken nonconformists in China, let’s examine what happened with a few high profile cases in the recent past and ignore any headlines designed to paint China’s leaders as evil.
According to the record, none of China’s dissidents since 1976 have been executed, and only two have been given a life sentence in prison: Wang Bingzhang and Ilham Tohti.
What about a few of the thirty-three who have been arrested and served or are still serving time in a Chinese prison? Oh, 33 is 0.00000243% of China’s population of 1.357+ billion people.
- In 1989, Tan Baiqiao was arrested for spreading counterrevolutionary propaganda; inciting counterrevolutionary activities; defection to the enemy, and treason— but due to international pressure, Tan was released and reached the U.S. in 1992.
- In 2002, Cai Lujun, a businessman and writer was arrested for “incitement to subversion and eventually sought political asylum in Taiwan in 2007.
- In 1995, Wang Dan was sentenced to 11 years in prison but was released on medical parole to the US in 1998 and is currently living in Taiwan.
- In 1998, Wang Youcai was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion but was released and exiled to the United States in 2004.
- In 1979, Wei Jingsheng an electrician was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for passing military secretes. He was released from prison for medical reasons and deported to the US in 1997.
What about other countries? There are laws in most countries that support what China does with its political dissidents.
For instance, in the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. & 2385, “Advocating overthrow of Government by force or violence”:
“Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
“Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or
“Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
“Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”
In addition, on May 4, 2012, the New York Times got it right with this headline, For China, a Dissident in Exile Is One Less Headache Back Home.
The NY Times said, “Based on past experience, China is often all too pleased to see its most nettlesome dissidents go into exile, where they almost invariably lose their ability to grab headlines in the West and to command widespread sympathy both in China and abroad.”
In fact, if you read the US law carefully, it sounds like it is also illegal to advocate the overthrow of another country’s government—just read the first paragraph in bold print above.
Moreover, fifty-two countries are led by authoritarian governments ruling over more than a third of humanity, so if you have to live under an authoritarian government, which kind is best? After all, everyone cannot live in Hong Kong, which is considered the freest economy in the world. Hong Kong (part of China) is followed by Singapore, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. The U.S. ranks tenth of more than 150 nations. China is ranked 138. Sources: The Freest Nations on Earth and Heritage.org
And what country puts more of its citizens in prison—China or the United States? The answer might surprise you. The United States has 698 people locked up for every 100,000 compared to China’s 119 per 100,000. – prisonstudies.org
In addition, according to Foreign Policy magazine, Joshua E. Keating, “found that single-party states—think China and Vietnam—are the most responsive to citizens’ demands, providing a higher quality of governance … the Chinese Communist Party has not lasted through the use of force alone, but also by making popular investments in China’s infrastructure and social services,” which has reduced poverty from more than 80% in 1949 to less than 13% today and increased the average lifespan from 35 years of age in 1949 to more than 75 today.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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