Nicholas Bequelin: Crackdown in China

In the International Herald Tribune, Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says China is now undergoing, “the largest crackdown on dissent in over a decade,” which has just recently gotten international attention due to the disappearance of artist Ai Weiwei:

The authorities are clearly casting a wider net over all advocates of “global values”— the code word in China for human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression. Everyone from veteran dissidents to lawyers, rights activists, NGO coordinators, journalists, writers, artists and even ordinary netizens are being targeted.

In the past six weeks, Human Rights Watch has logged over a hundred cases of detention for advocacy across the country. Eight of China’s top human-rights lawyers were arrested in mid-February and have not been heard from since. Up to 20 people are facing prosecution for the loosely defined crime of “inciting subversion,” which includes criticism of the Communist Party. Writers, bloggers and critics have been threatened with arrest.

The authorities’ methods are also distinctive this time around. Gone is the reliance on short-term detention and house arrest; instead, the Public Security’s Bureau No. 1 branch — the secret police in charge of “Domestic Security” — have opted for a mix of arrests on state security charges and extrajudicial tactics such as disappearances, physical intimidation or beatings by plain-clothes thugs, as well as threats of torture and retaliation against family members and work associates.

This shift to extrajudicial tactics was tacitly acknowledged by the authorities when a government spokesman warned on March 3 that “the law was not a shield” for people “creating trouble for China.”

China Geeks has compiled a list of everyone detained, arrested, or otherwise disappeared in the current crackdown.

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