Rebecca MacKinnon in today’s Washington Post

As Bill Gates and Hu Jintao clink their champagne glasses and the world marvels at the rapid advancement of China, Hao Wu lies in a dingy cell, trapped in the bureaucratic maze of China’s police state, where the arresters answer to no one and justice is carried out at whim.Rebecca MacKinnon, in a splendid op-ed piece in today’s WaPo, looks at this dichotomy. After a harrowing description of the recent arrest (more like a kidnapping) of AIDS activist Hu Jia, Rebecca focuses on Hao Wu.

Hao turned 34 this week. He personifies a generation of urban Chinese who have flourished thanks to the Communist Party’s embrace of market-style capitalism and greater cultural openness. He got his MBA from the University of Michigan and worked for EarthLink before returning to China to pursue his dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker. He and his sister, Nina Wu, who works in finance and lives a comfortable middle-class life in Shanghai, have enjoyed freedoms of expression, travel, lifestyle and career choice that their parents could never have dreamed of. They are proof of how U.S. economic engagement with China has been overwhelmingly good for many Chinese.

Problem is, the Chinese Dream can be shattered quickly if you step over a line that is not clearly drawn — a line that is kept deliberately vague and that shifts frequently with the political tides. Those who were told by the Chinese media that they have constitutional and legal rights are painfully disabused of such fantasies when they seek to shed light on social and religious issues the state prefers to keep in the dark.

Since Hao’s detention, Nina has spent countless hours pleading with police officers for information about his case, location and condition. After a month of getting nowhere, she started to chronicle her ordeal on a Chinese-language blog at . (You can read it in English at: .) It is a heartbreaking account of how China’s regime eats its young. In her first entry she describes her disillusionment: “the people I dealt with never showed police credentials (despite repeated requests), and never called each other by name. . . . I was angry at myself for my political naiveté, and angry at this place that displayed the police insignia but did not actually ‘Serve the People.’ ”

With Chinese President Hu Jintao in the United States this week, Americans have an opportunity to assess his regime. What is this country to think? On the one hand his government has raised the living standards of millions of its citizens with economic reform and international trade. On the other hand his underlings trample shamelessly on his people’s basic human rights.

Unfortunately, money talks more loudly than empathy, compassion or the urge to see justice carried out. So as usual, I expect there to be some tut-tutting about Zhao Yan and Hao Wu, some more op-eds like MacKinnon’s, and then some apologies to Hu for these bothersome distractions as the dealmakers sit down at the big table to do business. The plain truth is that when it comes to these injustices in China, most Americans simply don’t care, as long as they can get cheap shoes at WalMart.

The Discussion: 6 Comments

I found the best article yet on China today, posted it this morning, and now I can’t find my post or any reference to this article! Surely I couldn’t have dreamed I reasd it! It was in the Guardian and I believe written by Martin Jacques which started by raging against our appeasement of Hu. I’ve searched all over for it…

April 20, 2006 @ 7:45 pm | Comment

I started a comment on this post which got too long and turned into a post. I tried to send a trackback, but i think you have those disabled.

April 20, 2006 @ 9:07 pm | Comment

Great article and good to see Hao Wu getting some exposure in the WaPo. One minor quibble – Rebecca says:
“…his high profile writings were considerably more honest and edgy than those in the China Daily ..”

Actually Hao Wu was writing for China Daily as well, under the name Beijing Loafer. This is what he said on his blog on January 4th:

“The closest I ever interact with the government, is via Beijing Weekend, a weekly under China’s official English-language newspaper China Daily. I’m writing stories for them (hopefully) regularly. For the first story, I simply reedit my blog posting ‘Drinking With Chinese Characteristics’. In that posting I started the story by first describing a pimp selling me all sorts of girls in Sanlitun and not flinching when I joked that I wanted boys. I self-censored that part out because Beijing Weekend is a state-owned magazine.

The editor asked me to put it back.

IMHO, I think the media too often regard the ‘the government’ as too one-sided. There are people in ‘the government’ pushing the envelope like my editor and the writer for Beijing Reviews. But there are also those who are conditioned to act in the old authoritarian ways. “

Sounds quite prophetic now.

April 20, 2006 @ 10:07 pm | Comment

88s, great post, and I fully appreciate your point about how country’s place national interest above human rights. I’m not saying it’s wrong for Americans to care more about cheap shoes at Walmart than they do about Hao Wu, it’s just a fact of life. Unfortunate, for Hao Wu, but not surprising in the real world.

April 20, 2006 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

zhuanjia, very interesting points about China Daily and Hao Wu, thanks for the insider’s view.

April 20, 2006 @ 11:20 pm | Comment

Zhuanjia, yes, and I think this explains why Hao didn’t feel like he was going to get in any trouble for what he was doing.

It’s the arbitrary and personal nature of authority in China that causes so many of these problems.

April 21, 2006 @ 12:15 am | Comment

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