China rounds up dissidents as President Obama touches down in Beijing
Chinese officials have rounded up dozens of Beijings’s tiny coterie of activists and petitioners in case any dissident tries to approach President Obama, who arrived in the city today.
The arrests continued to gather momentum even as Mr Obama told an unprecedented question-and-answer session with Shanghai students that freedom of information and expression were vital for a stronger, more creative society.
Among those detained was Qi Zhiyong, a dissident who lost a leg during the crackdown on the student-led protests in Tiananamen Square in 1989. He said that he had been held for trying to organise a human rights seminar on November 9 in a Beijing park. He and fellow organisers had planned for the seminar to last until the end of President Obama’s visit.
He had applied to police to stage a protest during Mr Obama’s visit “to press him to pay attention to human rights in China, people’s livelihoods and the relatives of jailed people, as he comes only to talk about climate change”.
Mr Qi said he was being held in the Beijing suburbs and had been charged with unlawful assembly and disturbing the social order.
As during the Olympics, the act of merely petitioning to lawfully to hold a protest was met by the Chinese government with arrest and imprisonment. And as is always the case under the Chinese Communist Party’s rule, there is no rule of law, only rule by law:
Also detained was the activist Zhao Lianhai, who attracted the attention of the authorities last year when he organised an online support group for parents of the thousands of children who fell sick after being fed tainted milk powder last year.
The activist group Human Rights in China said that Mr Zhao was handcuffed and taken from his home late on Friday night by police officers who searched his house and took away computers, a video recorder, a camera and an address book. When he refused to go with them, because the summons did not state a cause, the police filled in a summons for “provoking an incident”.
These are the actions of a government that deserves no support from President Obama. It is tremendously disappointing that he validates their hold on power by saying nothing or worse than nothing. He continued to support the “One China” doctrine and glossed over China’s ongoing illegal military occupation of Tibet as “differences”:
Mr Obama voiced public recognition of Tibet as a part of China – a remark that Beijing values. President Hu stood beside him impassive when he referred to the exiled Dalai Lama whom Beijing blames for unrest in Tibet and has branded a “jackal in monk’s robes”. Washington, Mr Obama said, supported the early resumption of talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama “to resolve any concerns or differences the two sides may have”.
This is not leadership. It’s bland, ineffectual, and immoral passivism in the face of
gross human rights abuses genocide and a brutal military crackdown. Am I surprised? No, not terribly. But I am disappointed nonetheless.