It’s a week or two later than I expected, but at least it’s finally happened.
Liu Di, 23, a former psychology major at Beijing Normal University who wrote under the computer name “Stainless Steel Mouse”, was freed from Beijing’s Qincheng prison on Friday, the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said on Sunday.
Two other “cyber dissidents”, Wu Yiran, 34, and Li Yibin, 29, also were freed from a jail for political detainees on Friday, it said in a statement.
The release came just over a week ahead of a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to the United States. China frequently times releases of dissidents to coincide with important trips abroad or visits by world leaders.
This was predictable. The case was simply too controversial, too shocking for China’s trading partners (and everyone else) to just accept with a shrug. She was just a kid, and her arrest sparked a well-deserved international outcry.
So should we break out the Champagne and celebrate? Afraid not. From the same article:
Police also detained at least two people for organising online petitions for Liu’s release. Du Daobin, a civil servant, was detained in October, while Luo Changfu, a 39-year-old laid-off worker, was sentenced to three years in prison.
China has been cracking down on Internet content — from politics to pornography — as the government struggles to gain control over the new and popular medium.
I hope that ‘s clear to everyone. By releasing Liu Di, they’re admitting they didn’t have enough evidence to indict her. But the petitioners, who we now all know were correct in claiming her imprisonment was unjustified, they are now in jail! There’s a twisted irony here.
So as crackdowns on cyber-dissidents increase, this happy ending to one of the more outrageous cases should not be any reason to celebrate or let down our guard. To the contrary; all the recent news indicates the problem is getting much worse, not better.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.