Saturday, 18 August 2007

The Crackdown in China Begins

As I predicted when I reviewed the recent article written about China by Ming Campbell (but I suspect mainly ghost written) the widely expected crackdown before the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China has begun. Jonathan Watts has again written one of his great articles for the Guardian linked here.

The core of the article is:

"Chinese journalists privately say the current atmosphere is stifling. International civil rights groups say the rules are a new threat to press freedom.

"This crackdown is a legal gun to the head to responsible journalists who want to report on the basis of facts," said Sophie Richardson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "China has a long track record of using similar campaigns to weed out news that the authorities find objectionable because it exposes social and political problems."

"In recent decades, China has gone through cycles of media opening and repression. Since president Hu came to power five years ago, there have been steps backward - such as the jailings of several prominent journalists - and steps forward, including the easing of restrictions on foreign correspondents at the start of this year.

"But as was the case ahead of the last party congress in 2002, the leadership has reverted to bunker mode". (Sounds familiar).

Hopeful now Ming? I'm not.

There is also a clampdown on NGOs such as those supporting the rights of Chinese citizens with HIV.

The human rights situation in China is going exactly as predicted. There are no grounds for optimism at the moment unless increased pressure is brought to bear from the West.

It is time that the Liberal Democrat leadership stopped trying to appease Beijing and stood up for what we are supposed to believe in. True freedom and human rights for all the world's citizens.

Yes, the way to influence Beijing is through constructive engagement but someone should be putting a flea in the ear of the Chinese Ambassador.

The Liberal Democrat Front Bench needs to show some leadership here. This is what our core supporters expect from us. This is our mission and the Olympics should not deflect us from campaigning internationally on our core values.

I'd normally spend some time looking at the People Daily articles and critiquing them but apart from one allusion to the fact that not everyone is happy about the commissioning of a new nuclear power station near Dalian, Liaoning Province, the press coverage is so deadly dull that you would think China had gone to sleep for August (which it actually doesn't do). The only coverage is postive "spin" on trying to control the air pollution in Beijing. I frankly don't think that they've got a prayer at the moment.

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