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China's Crackdown on Bloggers and Human Rights Activists

And America's polite response.

3:31 PM, Mar 31, 2011 • By KELLEY CURRIE
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But there's also Gao Zhisheng, an activist/lawyer whose desperate wife wrote a heartbreaking op-ed about his latest year-long disappearance in the New York Times; Liu Xianbin, a long-time democracy activist who last week was sentenced to 10 years after 9 months in illegal detention and a 2 hour trial; and Liu Xiaobo's wife Liu Xia, who has been under house arrest since her husband was awarded the Nobel prize last fall. These detentions and disappearances are also taking place against a backdrop of resurgent leftism under the leadership of so-called "Red princelings" like Bo Xilai, continued creeping statism in the economy, and deepening censorship.

One of the most worrying aspects of this emerging situation is the harsh crackdown on the weiquan lawyers, like Teng Biao, who have bravely represented other dissidents and activists in court, trying to hold the Chinese government to its frequent pronouncements that China is a country governed under the rule of law. While they have been subject to harassment for years, including threats to their law licenses and other pressures not to take up controversial cases, this latest wave of arrests and disappearances has sent a chill through China's legal community and those who watch it from the outside. Joshua Rosenzweig of the Dui Hua Foundation, an observer of China's legal system, wrote last week in the Wall Street Journal: "Lawyers are being targeted precisely because of their efforts to hold the Chinese government accountable for those commitments [to the rule of law]. What's happening in China right now looks less like rule of law than a sort of ‘law of the jungle’ in which power is exercised unchecked."

Or, as another, more colorful Beijing-based expatriate blogger Rude Noon noted in a must-read post: “‘The rule of law’ has become a Chinese buzz phrase, but they really have no idea what that means. There are no laws other than what the CPC (Ed.: Communist Party of China)  decides are laws. This is what can only be called ‘single party legal convenience,’ or, more accurately, ‘bullshit.’” (Read the whole thing here.)

Unfortunately, the State Department and the White House have been virtually silent on the crackdown that has been building since Hu Jintao returned from his January visit to Washington. Over the past two months, the White House's comments on human rights in China have been pretty much limited to a generic, glancing mention by Robert Gibbs during the February 11 daily press briefing in response to a question about the Middle East. When President Obama introduced Gary Locke as his nominee to be the new ambassador in Beijing, neither man mentioned human rights at all. 

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