No Chinese activist is safe, inside or outside China

Even if you have fled China, if you are perceived by the government as being overly critical of the CCP you just might disappear, until you reappear in a Chinese prison. This upsetting article shows just how far China will go to persecute and silence its critics. Leaving the country might not be enough to escape its grasp. The article notes the disappearance of Li Xin, a human rights activist and columnist for the Southern Metropolis Daily, who vanished into thin air shortly after talking on the phone from Thailand with his wife. Even more terrifying is the case of political activist Wang Bingzhang, who had fled to the US, when he was lured to Vietnam to meet with other human rights activists.

“They were conferring over lunch in a restaurant near the China-Vietnam border when several men speaking Chinese ordered them into a car,” Wang’s daughter, Ti-Anna Wang, recounted in a Post op-ed. “Beaten, blindfolded and gagged, my father and his two colleagues were abducted into China by boat. They were left in a Buddhist temple in Guangxi Province for the Chinese authorities.”

Wang Bingzhang was sentenced six months later to life in prison and has been confined ever since — going on 14 years. He is 68 years old.

This blood-pressure-raising piece makes it clear that no one is safe, that China under Xi is exerting a take-no-prisoners approach to dealing with its enemies, even though “none of the victims has engaged in violence or committed crime.” And reaching its tentacles outside of China to kidnap activists is not very unusual. Brazen as these kidnappings are, the world has remained largely silent. The writer says you can understand this only if you follow the money. It’s all, he says, about business. China is just too big a player in international business for politicians to challenge it.

Britain may feel slighted when China makes a mockery of their agreement on Hong Kong autonomy. Sweden might wish that its passports would be respected, and the United States might regret China’s increasing repressiveness.

But business, apparently, come first. As long as that remains true, it appears that no critic of China, of any nationality, in any nation, will be safe.

China has become hell for thousands of activists and lawyers. When it seems it can’t get any worse, Xi always surprises us. Every day we see more stories of repression, whether it’s bookstore owners in Hong Kong or lawyers on the mainland. Forced public confessions in the style of the Cultural Revolution’s struggle sessions have been making a comeback as Xi pushes China ever further toward Maoism. I read stories like this and I have no regrets for leaving China, despite my love for so many of my friends there.

There are no limits to how far the party will go to silence any form of dissent (I know that’s nothing we don’t already know, but it is only getting worse). In a post below, I compared the disappearance of Hong Kong booksellers to the Nazi campaign called Nacht und Nebel. That is not extreme; check the link. People vanishing into the night is an exceptionally brutal form of repression, filling activists and lawyers throughout China with terror. When will the world speak out?

Update: America speaks out about the vanished booksellers. Good.

The United States has called upon China to shed light on the mystery surrounding the five missing Hong Kong booksellers, and to allow them to return home.

In a daily press briefing on Monday, the spokesman for the State Department, John Kirby, said that the US is “deeply concerned” about the disappearances of the five men associated with the Causeway Bay bookstore.

“These cases, including two involving individuals holding European passports, raise serious questions about China’s commitment to Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework,” said Kirby.

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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.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

This needs to be said plainly: Xi Jinping is showing the classic signs of being a paranoid dictator. The people he’s having kidnapped essentially do not represent a real threat to the CCP, yet they are being targeted as if they were enemies of the state.

Would even Mao have reached out to target people in other countries? Deng was happy to let the Tiananmen protesters who escaped overseas be, and I can’t think of any instances of Jiang or Hu having people kidnapped overseas either.

Assassinations may well be the next step.

February 2, 2016 @ 9:29 pm | Comment

Lucky that those ‘activists’ happen to be Centralians. If they are in America, hoho. You wouldn’t even know about them.

Gary Webb, an independent American reporter who goes everywhere that CNN and NYTimes refuse to go, was found dead in his home with 2 gunshot to his head. Local sheriffs quickly deemed it a suicide, and his wife insisted no investigation to be made, and insisted that his body to be burned ‘as soon as possible’.

‘Suicided’ is a common tactic for any political opponents of the American elite. Remember DC Madam ? Another common tactic is to dump one’s body into a cement truck. There’s a common saying in the American northeast, that the sidewalks of NYC and Boston may just have the insides of some of the past American activists.

February 3, 2016 @ 9:21 pm | Comment

Lucky that those ‘activists’ happen to be Centralians.

You mean they’re from that city that had to be demolished due to toxic pollution?

Richard, I have to say you should feel insulted about the low quality of trolls you have working on your blog nowadays. I almost miss Pug_ster . . .

February 4, 2016 @ 6:43 am | Comment

Came by for old time’s sake; all these posts about journalists being kidnapped by the state (sort of, given it’s extrajudicial and extraterritorial in a Chinese kind of way), Tibetans with little recourse other than to burn themselves alive… yep- that’s the China I knew and loathed. And yet, reading to my son before bed about Chinese New Year customs, and the joy he brings my step-parents when he travels to see them in Huangzhou, there’s a little part of me that took something positive from my eight years in Peking. Then I remember how the state lied about SARS, bird ‘flu, child slavery, fake eggs, and listening to ‘China’s Got Talent’ when my wife’s cooking and it’s all lost in a fog.

February 11, 2016 @ 6:12 am | Comment

Wow! Richard Burger is writing posts again, we have a fully paid up member of the 50 cent army, and FOARP and Laird Keir are commenting – it’s like 2007 all over again. All we need now is a quick message from nanheyangrouchuanr and to express hope that things are going to get better under Hu Jintao. Pass me a fuwa – I’m off to anticipate the Olympics!

February 15, 2016 @ 5:18 pm | Comment

I wonder what happens to mascots like the fuwa once they have outlived their usefulness. In my mind I like to imagine a gulag somewhere in the frozen Dongbei… all five fuwa chained to each other smashing rocks… Jingjing and Chacha the internet police mascots from 2006 supervising them… Haibao the 2010 Shanghai Expo condom thingy sneakily smuggling cigarettes up his anus… In some ways it must resemble the inner workings of the Politburo.

February 15, 2016 @ 5:23 pm | Comment

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