China’s Defiance on Rights Stirs Fears for Dissident

The New York Times reports on the disappearance of activist lawyer Gao Zhisheng and the climate for human rights activists in China now:

Emboldened by China’s newfound economic prowess but insecure about its standing at home, the Chinese Communist Party has been tightening Internet censorship, cracking down on legal rights defenders and brushing aside foreign leaders who seek to influence the outcome of individual cases.

In December, the authorities executed Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen, on drug trafficking charges despite Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s personal plea to President Hu Jintao that Mr. Shaikh was mentally ill.

During President Obama’s state visit to China in November, the plight of a pro-democracy advocate, Liu Xiaobo, was reportedly at the top of his list of concerns. A few weeks later, on Dec. 25, Mr. Liu was given an unexpectedly harsh 11-year sentence for publishing an online petition that sought expanded liberties.

John Kamm, a veteran American human rights campaigner, said that during three decades working in China he had rarely seen such a hard line toward dissidents — and unbridled defiance against pressure from abroad.