Rebecca’s got a great editorial today in the Washington Post about Hao Wu and the uneasy state of human rights in China. Building on Hao Wu’s detention and Nina’s experience advocating for her brother’s release, she talks about the fragility of middle-class existence in China:
Problem is, the Chinese Dream can be shattered quickly if you step over a line that is not clearly drawn — a line that is kept deliberately vague and that shifts frequently with the political tides. Those who were told by the Chinese media that they have constitutional and legal rights are painfully disabused of such fantasies when they seek to shed light on social and religious issues the state prefers to keep in the dark.
Jeff Ooi used part of his speech today at the Free Expression in Asian Cyberspace conference to call attention to Hao Wu’s case and the petition we’ve been running to try to put pressure on Hu Jintao. I realized – looking at the gawdawful URL on the screen during Jeff’s presentation – that I needed a better URL for the petition – you should now be able to access the petition at http://freehaopetition.com. I’m hopeful that the Post editorial will push more people towards the petition and that we’ll start generating more signatures.
Attending conferences like FEAC is always a useful reminder of how challenging and threatening free speech can be to authoritarian regimes. While China and Vietnam are detaining and arresting cyberdissidents, James Gomez from Singapore reminds us that dissident voices in his country face crippling libel and defamation suits, as well as a morass of laws designed to prevent them from using blogs and independent media to advocate for political ends. A speaker from Committee to Protect Journalists just reminded us that Nepal has detained 200 journalists since the beginning of the month for participating in, or covering, pro-democracy rallies.
In other words, Hao Wu’s situation is far from unique. But China’s technique of detaining individuals without charge, without information to the detainee’s families, without opportunity to challenge their detention is especially offensive and troubling. Will detentions of people like Hao Wu be on the table during discussions between President Bush and Hu Jintao? I don’t know, but I can hope.
Other posts from FEAC 2006: feac2006