For those who missed it, Instapundit is having a go at the Chinese authorities and…Walmart. November 7th is the anniversary of arrest of Liu Di by plain-clothes police. No charges have been made and she has not been heard of for the past year. Petitions have been started, in China, with people putting their real names to them and being arrested for that themselves. This is the story:
Until the authorities tracked her down a year ago Friday, she (Liu Di) was one of the most famous Internet web masters in China. A third-year psychology student at Beijing Normal University, Ms. Liu formed an artists club, wrote absurdist essays in the style of dissident Eastern-bloc writers of the 1970s, and ran a popular web-posting site. Admirers cite her originality and humor: In one essay Liu ironically suggests all club members go to the streets to sell Marxist literature and preach Lenin’s theory, like “real Communists.” In another, she suggests everyone tell no lies for 24 hours. In a series of “confessions” she says that China’s repressive national-security laws are not good for the security of the nation.
But since Nov. 7, 2002, when plain-clothes police made a secret arrest, Liu has not been heard from. No charges have been filed; her family and friends may not visit her, sources say; and, in a well-known silencing tactic, authorities warn that it will not go well for her if foreign media are informed of her case.
It is largely the attention of the Western media and public that keeps dissidents afloat and their oppressor in some sort of check. Those who are visible beyond the barrier erected between the oppressed and the outside world tend to fare marginally better. At least they get publicity for their sacrifice and if the campaigning on their behalf is persistent enough, they may even get out of whatever hell-hole communist officials put them in. The thousands (in China probably an order of magnitude larger) ‘small’ human tragedies go unnoticed just as they did in communist Russia and Eastern Europe.
Looking back at the Cold War days it seems incomprehensible that such horrors could be tolerated next door to Western civilisation and capitalist liberal democracies. Marxism and communism – top candidates for the most barbaric and inhuman ideologies – have absolutely no redeeming features, whether in practise or in theory. Not only they create a living hell for ‘ordinary people’ but they bring destruction to those who perpetrate it. Communism, time and again, produces monstrous regimes that like Saturn devour their own offspring.
And for those who believe that letting China ‘evolve’ out of its totalitarianism is the best way forward, this conclusion is not an optimistic one.
…the Chinese security and police are regularly told to crack down. There may be exceptions, as when the daughter or son of a high party member or rich family gets in trouble; or when there are excesses of youth.
But these are exceptions. The rest – labor activists, upstart college students, journalists, writers, intellectuals, professors, dissidents, religious believers with too much spunk, those who stand out in a too-public fashion or attract too much attention – are warned, or arrested. In this reading of China, free expression is not improving in the short- and midterm.
Despite some changes of style, more arrests are taking place, and ordinary Chinese are still strictly censoring themselves.
It is the pressure from the outside that can have the greatest impact on what happens in totalitarian regimes. Glenn Reynolds thinks that challenging Walmart is a way to increase it. Well, that’s good enough for me.