Wednesday, October 17, 2007

China's "Harmonious Society"

On Monday, China's ruling Communist Party opened its 17th Party Congress. Held every five years, the party congresses are important symbolic events where changes of leadership and/or policy are often announced. They are also where the new party Central Committee is elected, which in turn will select the Politburo. The Party Congress is one of the Chinese Leninist party-state's essential rituals, as it was in the Soviet Union.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on one thing the Chinese Communists are doing to ensure that this year's event goes smoothly:

As China's ruling Communist Party holds its most important conclave in five years, the government has launched an unusually harsh crackdown on potential troublemakers, say Chinese and international human rights groups.

Scores, perhaps hundreds, of petitioners, democracy activists, religious figures, and human rights workers have been abducted, imprisoned, or confined to their homes over the past six weeks, according to rights monitors.

"This definitely seems to be the worst in years," says Phelim Kine, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch. "It is much, much more comprehensive and wide-ranging" than earlier sweeps.

The Monitor gives a disturbing example of just how Beijing is maintaining peace and social harmony:

That is what Li Heping, a dapper young lawyer who has made a name for himself defending dissidents, says he believes happened to him on Sept. 29.

After leaving his office in the company of one of the policemen who has been shadowing him for months, he says, he was forced into a car by four men in civilian clothes, who covered his head with a piece of cloth and drove him to an unknown destination.

In what appeared to be a basement, he says he was beaten unconscious by men armed with tire irons and electric cattle prods. He was then released in the middle of the night in woods outside Beijing with a warning to leave the capital and give up his law practice.

"The government says it wants a harmonious society, but what happened to me was a slap in the face for the rule of law," Mr. Li says. "The trouble is that when people demand that the government respect their rights, and the government cannot do that, then they are seen as enemies."

Yes, nothing epitomizes a "harmonious society" quite like beating a dissident with a tire iron.


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