CENSORED for Inciting Subversion of State Power

Security at Tiananmen Square
Security at Tiananmen Square

A new report calls attention to China’s widespread surveillance and censorship at a time when America would rather avoid the comparison.

by Benjamin Hayward.

For two months, I was not allowed to step outside my apartment. Our home phone, cell phones, and Internet were all cut off. Guards blocked our apartment door with a large table. After this, I was kidnapped with a black hood put over my head, tortured, and beaten until I lost consciousness.

Chinese author Yu Jie’s first book, Fire and Ice, a collection of essays, was named one of the top 10 books of the year in 1998 before it was banned. He has faced increased surveillance, scrutiny, and censorship ever since. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was monitored continuously by plain-clothes officers stationed outside his home. Then, when it was announced that Liu Xiaobo, his close friend and affiliate at the Independent Chinese PEN Center, would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his activism in China, Yu Jie found himself cut off from the outside world, effectively silenced by the Chinese government, unable to contact anyone for at least two weeks. When he announced he would be writing his friend Liu’s biography, he was taken by security officers and held for three days.

A Whole Nation Censored and Silenced

Yu Jie’s story, and those of countless others—indeed a whole nation of censored and silenced individuals—is told in a report released by PEN International in May. Titled “Creativity and Constraint in Today’s China,” the 64-page document gives a sobering account of the extent of surveillance and censorship in China through an analysis of the arrest and detention of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, essays from ten persecuted Chinese writers, and the details of 40 writers and journalists still imprisoned in the country. The document concludes with a list of recommendations to the Chinese government to ensure the protection of the rights of its citizens, but the essays leave one with a gloomy sense that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will implement none of these recommendations in the foreseeable future.

Many hoped that the 2008 Olympics would be a benchmark in China’s progress towards a fair and just society. In 2001 when China was awarded the right to host the Olympics, concerns over China’s human rights abuses were considered by the selection committee. In response, China pledged …

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