Thursday, December 14, 2006


Scrambling away from the sleepy provincial town that considers itself the navel of democracy, four days per month, I feel the heavy tiredness of the world. Some of the scramblers wonder whether the Institution of Democracy we work for is indeed a democratic institution. There is a lot of philosophising about power. The consensus in the accidental group of thinkers was that there is right wing and left thinking about power. Security is an interesting example. Some want to deploy more and more men and material in order to impress, shock and awe the possible opponent or trespasser into submission. Security services heavily armed, young boys, kid still, with uzi's supposed to make us feel safer in airports, riot police, mounted police, all are emanations of the power base. In the opposite way of thinking one would minimise the visual impact of security. Their task would be to defuse, to accept non-violent manifestations of disagreements, to protect the protesters right to free speech. I think this division is a good gauge for the democratic content of certain policies. China for instance has consistently cracked down on dissident writers and journalists, some of whom have been sentenced to up to 19 years. Sending an e-mail can be considered leaking state interests as happened to Shi Tao, serving a ten-year prison sentence. Since August this year, PEN has observed with some concern a steady rise in the number of new arrests. They include Zhang Jianhong (aka Li Hong), a prominent writer, arrested on 6 September 2006 and charged on 12 October with ‘inciting subversion’, and Yan Zhengxue, a dissident writer and member of Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), arrested on 18 October 2006 also on subversion charges. Both are held for their critical writings published online and dissident activities.
Former prisoners consistently report high levels of ill-treatment and medical neglect in Chinese prisons, which adds to PEN’s concerns for the welfare of those detained. Those held in pre-trial detention are particularly at risk, for example Tibetan writer Dolma Kyab, who reportedly contracted tuberculosis whilst in pre-trial detention at the TAR Public Security Bureau Detention Centre. If you happen to be moved write to

His Excellency Hu Jintao
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council
Beijing 100032

and inquire about the health and treatment of the prisoners.

Pen centres and Amnesty International can provide a list with names of people detained in prison for writing what they thought.

No comments:

Post a Comment