Are China’s Dissidents in Danger?

May 6, 2012

This week much of the Western media has been busy touting fears for the safety and future of China’s blind dissident Chen Guangcheng.

A Reuters report by Andrew Quinn and Chris Buckley fulfilled the China bashing and fear mongering of the week by reporting in the lead paragraph that Cheng “feared for his life just hours after leaving the U.S. Embassy under a deal that Washington had hoped would defuse the crises with Beijing.”

However, what are the odds that Chen should fear for his life for protesting China’s urban one-child rule and abortion policies?

To find out what might really happen to Chen and other dissidents in China, let’s examine what happened with a few high profile cases in the past and ignore the alleged language designed to paint China’s leaders/government in an evil light.

According to the record, none of China’s dissidents since 1976 have been executed and only one is serving a life sentence. In fact, if Chen ends up in the US, that is not uncommon.

For Example:

1. 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.

2. In 2002, Cai Lujun, a businessman and writer was arrested for “incitement to subversion and eventually sought political asylum in Taiwan in 2007.

3. 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.

4. In 1998, Wang Youcai was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion but was released and exiled to the United States in 2004.

5. 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.

In fact, there are laws in most countries that support what China does with its political dissidents.

For example, 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 says, “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 may be illegal in America 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

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.

Recommended — A Snapshot of Democracy in Asia

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Invisible White Elephants

May 18, 2010

In the debate about China with Timothy V, one of his quotes stuck in my mind. Timothy V wrote, “Concerning the Chinese students, I’ve met students from all over China. From Fujian to Beijing. From the rural areas to the big cities. I have one close friend who was born in northeast China and grew up in Beijing. None of them have very much good to say about their home country. One common thread that they have is that they say they have more freedom to move around here in the U.S. than in China…”

I find it interesting that so many Chinese students and one close friend would all bad mouth China to a foreigner like Timothy V. The hundreds of Chinese I’ve met would never talk about their country like that to a foreigner even if that was how they felt. In a collective society like China, it isn’t proper to talk about the “White Elephant” in the room.

That is, unless those students were Tibetan separatists, Islamic Uyghurs or one of the dissidents who fled China after the Tiananmen Square incident and was bitterly stranded in the United States. In China, the police and state security closely watch any person considered a subversive, which would explain the fear and distrust these students have for the police in China.

Even in the US, the FBI, CIA and Secret Service watch suspected terrorists closely. If they didn’t, there would have been another 9/11 by now or worse.

Chinese supporting China in front of a Sears

Consider that during the 2008 Beijing Olympic protests, Chinese nationalism, even from Chinese Americans, was at an all time high. The Chinese government had never seen so much support from Chinese all over the world.

In an April 2010 post on the “FrumForum” about Chinese Nationalism, it said, “If they ever did have a free election here, the Chinese Communist Party would win 70% of the vote.” and “…young nationalists hesitate to criticize their own government because (1) they share the widespread feeling that on balance, their government has done a good job improving their lives (China is on track to 12% growth in 2010!) – and (2) over-emphatic criticism would cost them their audience by pushing them far out of the mainstream of Chinese opinion.”

David Frum even shared a meal in China with a highly educated woman in the arts. American-educated, English-speaking, progressive-minded. Frum said they talked about the burden of censorship in the arts – and she bristled. ‘If you offend the authorities, you are just stupid. Everybody knows where the lines are, why cross them? Our idea of freedom is different from yours, why can’t you accept that?”

Could it be that Timothy V casts doubt on what I write about China because of whom he knows and that limits his perspective leading to flawed opinions?

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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