Chinese Rights Activist Joins List of Those Facing Subversion Charge

Edward Cody reports in today’s Washington Post:

An activist who helped organize a petition complaining that Chinese want “human rights, not the Olympics” will be tried for inciting subversion against the state, his lawyer said Thursday.

Yang Chunlin, whose trial was set for Tuesday in the far northern city of Jiamusi, has been in police custody since July undergoing investigation for a long history of dissident political essays, corruption allegations against government officials and appeals for reforms in China’s authoritarian Communist Party system, according to the lawyer, Li Fangping.

Yang, 53, is among half a dozen activists known to be accused and put on trial for subversion on the basis of their writings in what appears to be a tightening of state controls over public expression in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics in August.

Another activist, Hu Jia, was formally charged in late January for his blogging under the same broadly framed Chinese law that bars “inciting subversion of state power.” The writer Lu Gengsong was sentenced to four years in prison Feb. 5 on the same charge, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Read also, Paul Mooney’s piece on USNEWS: Preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, China’s Authorities Go After Human-Rights Advocates.

Beijing’s official stance on its human-rights record has been to slap away any public criticisms as attempts to politicize the Olympics. On January 31, the state-run People’s Daily defiantly stated: “Those who want to use the Olympics to discredit China, and those who think the Olympics will promote China to change in the way they ‘hope’, are doomed to be disappointed. Their efforts will be futile.”

To the contrary, critics say that pressure can work, pointing to recent instances of China being influenced to get involved in diplomatic efforts concerning North Korea’s nuclear programs and the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region. Earlier this month, U.S. film director Steven Spielberg quit as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics, responding to criticism from activists such as actress Mia Farrow over China’s continuing support for the government of Sudan. Farrow has called for an Olympics boycott and has said that Spielberg’s promotion of the games in Beijing could make him a latter-day Leni Riefenstahl, who became known as Hitler’s filmmaker for her glowing depiction of the 1936 Berlin games.

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