Trials of human rights activists in China

August 2016

Harassment and trials of over 230 human rights lawyers and activists are underway in China.  This is part of a crackdown started by the Chinese government in July of 2015.  The trials are extremely dubious with suspects turning up and uttering robotic statements in court reminiscent of the Soviet trials decades ago.  People are arrested, denied access to lawyers and detained in unknown locations.  This by a country which is on the Security Council of the UN.

The charges include nebulous statements such as ‘harmed national security and social stability’.  The courts are sealed off and foreign journalists are not allowed entry being blocked by large numbers of police.

The US embassy in Beijing has said:

[the] US remains concerned by the Chinese governments continuing efforts to harass, intimidate and prosecute defense lawyers and human rights activists for their work.

The prevailing narrative concerning China is that of a country growing stronger.  True the relentless predictions of when it would overtake the USA have disappeared of late but nevertheless, stories about its military buildup and foreign investments still fill the pages.  But this activity of cracking down on dissenters, the strange abductions of Hong Kong booksellers, a strictly controlled press and the Chinese internet wall do not speak of strength but of a leadership which is fearful.  The one party system has delivered so far but with more and more Chinese travelling the world and finding ways to circumvent the internet wall, there must come a time when sufficient people realise the fictions told to them are just that.

Last year the Chinese premier was given a shameless welcome in the UK as part of the government’s policy of cosying up to China in the hope of receiving their investment.  It is interesting that Theresa May has paused the Hinkley Point power station investment – with substantial Chinese money – and one of the concerns is security.  With Stuxnet in mind (where software was introduced into Iranian centrifuges to get them to burn out) the worry must be that the Chinese government will introduce a deliberate flaw in the design to activate if need be.

The Chinese government has managed to achieve world wide condemnation for these trials and they are to be deplored.  Let us hope that a more robust attitude is adopted to the Chinese government in future and the craven approach by George Osborne and David Cameron is no more.

Sources: Amnesty UK; Los Angeles Times; Washington Post; The Guardian

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