Chi­nese pres­i­dent ‘crushed ex­pec­ta­tions’

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ASHISH KU­MAR SEN

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping promised to tackle cor­rup­tion in the coun­try’s vast com­mu­nist power struc­ture, yet in his seven months in power, Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have cracked down on ac­tivists who fight for hon­est gov­ern­ment.

More than 150 ac­tivists are es­ti­mated to have been ar­rested since the sum­mer, crush­ing hopes that Mr. Xi would root out cor­rup­tion.

“It seems with ev­ery new em­peror there is hope for a new China dream, but it has turned into a China night­mare,” said Bob Fu, pres­i­dent of the China Aid As­so­ci­a­tion, based in Mid­land, Texas.

“Xi Jin­ping crushed ex­pec­ta­tions so fast. The sit­u­a­tion is very wor­ri­some.”

On Tues­day, the wife and daugh­ter of Yang Maodong, a prom­i­nent hu­man rights and anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivist bet­ter known by his pen name, Guo Feix­iong, told mem­bers of Congress that Chi­nese of­fi­cials have pre­vented them from con­tact­ing him since his ar­rest Aug. 8, and they worry that he is be­ing tor­tured in cus­tody.

“Be­cause he was tor­tured the last time he was ar­rested, this time the au­thor­i­ties have re­peat­edly de­nied le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives and fam­ily ac­cess to him, so we have ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve he has been tor­tured se­verely or has en­gaged in a hunger strike,” said Zhang Qing, Mr. Guo’s wife.

Hu­man rights ac­tivists also fear for his safety.

“Tor­ture is en­demic in cus­tody in China and the fact that his lawyers have had so much trou­ble get­ting to see him, we are ex­tremely wor­ried about his where­abouts and well-be­ing,” said So­phie Richard­son, China di­rec­tor at Hu­man Rights Watch.

China’s new lead­er­ship made clear in the spring that it would not tol­er­ate any pub­lic gath­er­ings of the kind or­ga­nized by the New Cit­i­zens’ Move­ment, a grass­roots cam­paign for greater gov­ern­ment trans­parency and an end to cor­rup­tion.

Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested at least 18 peo­ple af­fil­i­ated with the New Cit­i­zens’ Move­ment, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights Watch.

“Th­ese de­ten­tions sig­nify Chi­nese cit­i­zens’ grow­ing re­solve and Bei­jing’s grow­ing fears,” said Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith, New Jersey Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House For­eign Af­fairs sub­com­mit­tee on Africa, global health, global hu­man rights and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Mrs. Zhang, her daugh­ter, Sarah Yang, T. Ku­mar of Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, the blind Chi­nese ac­tivist Chen Guangcheng, and Mr. Fu tes­ti­fied be­fore Mr. Smith’s sub­com­mit­tee Tues­day.

A Chi­nese Em­bassy spokesman in Wash­ing­ton did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Mr. Guo was ar­rested Aug. 8 in the south­ern Chi­nese city of Guangzhou on the charge of dis­rupt­ing or­der in a pub­lic space. His as­so­ci­a­tion with the New Cit­i­zens’ Move­ment is seen as the likely rea­son for his ar­rest.

“Guo’s de­ten­tion ap­pears to be reprisal for his sup­port of gov­ern­ment trans­parency and calls for ac­count­abil­ity,” Mr. Smith said. “We are not only call­ing on Bei­jing to re­lease this brave and heroic in­di­vid­ual …, we are also call­ing on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to raise his case in­di­vid­u­ally.”

Even be­fore he as­sumed the pres­i­dency, Mr. Xi, who is also gen­eral sec­re­tary of China’s Com­mu­nist Party cen­tral com­mit­tee, pledged to go af­ter “tigers” and “flies” — a ref­er­ence to pow­er­ful lead­ers and lowly bu­reau­crats.

“Xi Jin­ping goes out in pub­lic and calls for a crack­down on cor­rup­tion, and he gets to run the coun­try, while [anti-cor­rup­tion ac­tivist] Liu Ping does that and she gets pros­e­cuted. The hypocrisy is as­ton­ish­ing,” Ms. Richard­son said.

Ms. Liu — along with fel­low ac­tivists Wei Zhong­ping and Li Si­hua — was put on trial on Mon­day in China’s east­ern Jiangxi prov­ince on the charge of il­le­gal as­sem­bly.

Some an­a­lysts are skep­ti­cal about how far Mr. Xi’s anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign will go.

“In a sense, cor­rup­tion is the glue hold­ing to­gether the sys­tem. Pro­vid­ing the abil­ity to ac­cu­mu­late il­licit wealth is one way for the [Com­mu­nist] Party to se­cure loy­alty from its mem­bers,” said Ed­ward Sch­warck of the Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute for De­fense and Se­cu­rity Stud­ies in Lon­don.

“That is why Xi’s cam­paign can only go so far be­fore it be­gins to threaten the foun­da­tions of party rule. The New Cit­i­zens’ Move­ment has shone a light on the hypocrisy be­hind the anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign and is now be­ing tar­geted as a con­se­quence.”

Mr. Fu, who first got to know Mr. Guo in 2004 and helped his fam­ily come to the U.S. in 2009, said Mr. Guo him­self was de­ter­mined not to flee.

“He pre­ferred to stay in China be­cause he felt China needs him more than the U.S.,” Mr. Fu told The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Mr. Fu last spoke with Mr. Guo in July and said the ac­tivist had no inkling of his im­pend­ing ar­rest.

“He sensed there was a ma­jor crack­down, but felt he was safe be­cause he was do­ing ev­ery­thing as per the law,” Mr. Fu said.

Mrs. Zhang called on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress to press China to re­lease Mr. Guo and other pris­on­ers of con­science. She also asked that of­fi­cials at the U.S. Em­bassy in Bei­jing and U.S. Con­sulate in Guangzhou visit Mr. Guo to as­cer­tain his well-be­ing.

Mrs. Zhang de­scribed her hus­band as an idealist who has been on the front lines of the strug­gle for democ­racy and free­dom in China.

“That’s why he was sin­gled out to be per­se­cuted this way and he de­serves our at­ten­tion from the out­side world,” she said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, shown last week with Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev, pledged to crack down on ram­pant po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion, but that was be­fore he took of­fice.

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