Where is the Chinese Shostakovich?
BBC News reports today - A prominent activist who publicised human rights abuses across China has been convicted of subversion and jailed for three-and-a-half years. Hu Jia, 34, was convicted of "inciting subversion of state power and the socialist system", his lawyer said. He has long campaigned for the environment, religious freedom and for the rights of people with HIV and Aids.
In 1997 Adrian Abbotts wrote - Over thirty million people are estimated to have disappeared through China's gulags since 1949. Fox Butterfield's all too valid critique that when a dissident was sent to a prison camp in the Soviet Union it was headline news, but when it happened in China no-one cared came instantly to mind. The former Soviet Union was for years subjected by the West to the propganda attacks of the Cold War while China, though worse in many ways than the USSR, remained a curiosity shop on the edge of the universe.
It is changing a little now, but names such as Wei Jingsheng amd Phuntsok Nyidron (A Tibetan nun serving nine years for demonstrating, whose sentence was increased by a further eight years in 1994 for singing a song of independence while in jail - she is on the right in the photo below) do not yet trip so easily from the tongue as Sakharov and Solzhenitsyn, and China remains a blind spot in the eyes of the West, visible only when it comes to trade.
Chinese troops can kill hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators in Lhasa or the centre of their own capital, live on television with running commentary, yet 'favoured nation' trading status is not withdrawn by the United States, and British towns twin happily with Chinese cities in a way that would have been unthinkable with the Soviet Union or South Africa a decade earlier. This is all apart from the evidence linking Western companies with the export of precision-made torture instruments to China, none of which have been prosecuted.
It is curious to think that the adults involved in such decisions, presidents and prime ministers included, who are themselves instrumental in perpetuating the worst excesses of totalitarianism this planet has yet produced, would be horrified should their child return from school having been told that the Holocaust was a good thing.
Will we find the Chinese Shostakovich here?
Second quotation from Naked Spirits, A Journey into Occupied Tibet by Adrian Abbotts; out of print, but well worth searching out. Photo credits: Hu Jia European Parliament, Phuntsok Nyidron with fellow dissident Ngawang Sangdrol from Tibet Chine Actualité. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk