Chinese activists demand definition of “subversion”

More than a hundred scholars, lawyers and activists, including dissidents Liu Di and Gao Yu, have signed a letter asking China’s legislature and highest court to define “subversion.”

The letter, which will be submitted March 1 to the National People’s Congress and the Supreme Court, said current subversion law was “unclear and limits the people’s right to speech and freedom,” according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.

“The definition and logic behind the laws are vague and makes room for abuse of the law,” the center said, citing the letter.

China’s communist government usually applies subversion laws to people pushing for political reform by signing petitions, posting Internet articles, distributing fliers or participating in demonstrations.

The letter came days after Amnesty International reported a “dramatic rise” in the number of people jailed in China for expressing opinions on the Internet.

That Amnesty International report has picked up amazing momentum and has breathed new life into the Great Firewall of China story. But is there any reason to feel that the report and the letter and the renewed worldwide interest will make any difference? Probably not. From the same article:

An open letter circulated before the Communist Party congress in November 2002 resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of at least six activists. The letter, signed by 192 people, appealed to delegates to release political prisoners, hold direct elections and make other reforms.

Cheers to the 103 signers, each of whom knows he or she may be carted off to prison for the sin of asking their government to explain itself.

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