Detentions Illustrate Limits of Free Speech in China

In the run-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing a year ago, there was much talk that playing host to the Games would force China to become more open and respectful of human rights, especially freedom of expression. Yet, as the New York Times reports, a year later little has changed for one petitioner who traveled to Beijing last September and was detained in a “black jail”:

Ms. Huang was released from the hotel, the Lizhou Cement Factory Rest House, on July 17. She said she expected to remain under a form of house arrest for one year in her hometown, under police surveillance. The case is one of several that starkly illustrate how the Summer Olympics and the Paralympics in Beijing last year failed to expand freedom of speech in China, despite assertions by the international organizers of those games that the events would push the Chinese government toward more democratic policies.

Ms. Huang traveled with 10 others from the town of Liuzhou in Guangxi Province to Beijing last September to protest four cases of property seizure involving local officials. But after being interviewed by an American journalist, they were seized by plainclothes police officers who had followed them from Guangxi. Ms. Huang, two older sisters and their 79-year-old mother, all of whom had traveled to Beijing, were arrested.

The mother was soon released, but Ms. Huang and her infant son were kept for 314 days in a hotel in Liuzhou. Her two sisters were held in a detention center.