When President Bush arrived in Beijing last weekend, China greeted him with a red carpet, twin national anthems and President Hu Jintao’s commitment to “raising the level of human rights enjoyed by the Chinese people.”
But far from the cameras, China mobilized for Bush’s visit in a very different way: by detaining, monitoring or silencing a vast array of government critics.
The campaign, quietly launched days before Bush’s arrival, swept up activists and their relatives, lawyers, petitioners and dissidents, young and old, the prominent and the unknown. It was systematic and highly effective. An examination of how that process unfolded offers a window into the mechanics of authoritarianism, a primer on how China’s regime blunts what it sees as the dangers of free expression and packages an image to the world.