Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rogue Official, or Just an Official Who Got Caught?

Jeremiah Owyang's tweets [1] [2] reminded me of a story that I had previously placed in my Google Reader shared items. (Don't look for it in the feed now; once I blog about something, I take it out of my shared items.)

Anyway, both Jeremiah and I saw a piece in TechCrunch that began as follows:

A Chinese blogger has been beaten to death by Government authorities for the crime of attempting to record a protest on his mobile phone.

When Wei was present at some sort of confrontation or protest by local villages against municipal authorities when more than 50 municipal inspectors turned on him, attacking him for five minutes.

Lucky that these municipal authorities weren't manning the LG booth at CES. But I digress.

As Jeremiah said after reading this story, "That really makes me sad, and angry."

TechCrunch goes on to note that Chinese officials aren't covering up this case. As reported by CNN:

Police have detained 24 municipal inspectors and are investigating more than 100 in the death of Wei Wenhua, a 41-year-old construction company executive, Xinhua reported on Friday.

The swift action by officials reflects concerns that the incident could spark larger protests against authorities, whose heavy-handed approach often arouses resentment.

CNN notes the circumstances that started the confrontation, the filming, and the murder in the first place:

On Monday Wei [Wenhua] happened on a confrontation in the central Chinese province of Hubei between city inspectors and villagers protesting over the dumping of waste near their homes.

A scuffle developed when residents tried to prevent trucks from unloading the rubbish, Xinhua said.

When Wei took out his cell phone to record the protest, more than 50 municipal inspectors turned on him, attacking him for five minutes, Xinhua said. Wei was dead on arrival at a Tianmen hospital, the report said.

For more thoughts on the death of Wei Wenhua, see posts in, So Opinionated,, and The Newshoggers. (Interesting to note that both and the Newshoggers believe that the same thing could happen here in the US.)

Returning to China, this story doesn't make for good news just a few months before the Olympics. Ah, the Olympics. Everybody loves the Olympics in China, don't they?

Writer arrested after criticising Beijing Olympics

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of dissident writer Wang Dejia, who was arrested at his home in Guilin, in the southern province of Guangxi, on 13 December and was charged with "subverting state authority." He uses the pen-name of Jing Chu.

"Eight months before the Beijing Olympic Games, it is very worrying to learn of the arrest of another writer who had criticised the way the games are being organised," the press freedom organisation said. "It suggests that there could be an increase in repression of Chinese who dare to voice reserves about the games, either online or to foreign journalists."

Wang was arrested when police came and searched his home in the Quanzhou Chengbei district of Guilin on the afternoon of 13 December, removing articles, books and his computer. His family said he was accused of defamation and was taken to the Quanzhou Chengbei police station in the early evening. Later that night, the family learned that he had been charged with "inciting subversion of state authority."

His brother and his cousin went to the police station where he had been taken, but were not allowed to see him.

His arrest could be linked to articles he had written and posted on the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum and the Aboluowang forum. They carry such headlines as "Illegal possession of state secrets: a Communist Party invention for persecuting prisoners of conscience", "Manacled Olympic Games will bring the public nothing but misfortune" and "With journalist Li Yuanlong sentenced to two years for four articles, how much will I get?".

Wang met US embassy representatives in October to discuss the human rights situation. His family thinks his arrest is linked to both the meeting and his articles.

Robert Ménard of Reporters Without Borders refers to Weng Dejia and others like him as the Olympic prisoners. Here's what Ménard says about the world's reaction, or lack thereof:

One would expect an outcry in response to such a level of repression. All those looking forward to the 2008 Beijing games should speak out, as it is impossible to imagine that this great sports event will not be marred by the detention of people such as Hu [Jia] and Wang [Dejia].

But the International Olympic Committee is saying nothing and is rejecting all appeals for help. The Olympic sponsors are not saying anything either.

And foreign diplomats rarely speak out in defense of China's political prisoners because they are too scared of upsetting Beijing.

Like many others, we had long thought that the government would ease the pressure and allow human rights activists a chance, albeit a limited one, of expressing themselves before and during the games.

But the political police have been given their orders - to arrest dissidents, keep files on foreign journalists, and compile a blacklist of foreign human rights activists.

Ménard suspects that this will backfire:

Such repression will only radicalize the protesters.

The Tibetans, defenders of religious freedom, and all those who feel betrayed are planning to demonstrate during the games.

They may spoil the party. And who is to blame? The Chinese government and only the Chinese government.

And if the protests don't work, Human Rights Watch (whose prime concern is the ability of workers to organize into independent labor unions) has published a helpful list of International Olympic Committee sponsors as of 2008.

Atos Origin
Tour les Miroirs - Bat C
18, avenue d’Alsace
92926 Paris La Défense 3 Cedex
Tel: + 33 1 55 91 20 00
Fax: + 33 1 55 91 20 05

The Coca-Cola Company
P.O. Box 1734
Atlanta, GA USA 30301
Tel: +1-404-676-2121
Fax: +1-404-676-6792

General Electric
General Electric Company
3135 Easton Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06828-0001 United States
Telephone: +1-203-373-2211
Fax: +1-203-373-3131

John Hancock
John Hancock Financial Services
200 Clarendon Street
Boston, Massachusetts 02117
Tel: +1-617-572-6000

Eastman Kodak Company
Commercial Imaging Group
343 State Street
Rochester, NY 14650 USA
Telephone: +1-585-724-4000
Fax: +1-716-724-0663

Lenovo Group Limited (formerly Legend Computer Systems Limited)
No. 6 Chuang Ye Road
Shangdi Information Industry Base
Haidian District
Beijing 100085, China
Tel: +86-1-2590-0228
Fax: +86-1-2516-5384

McDonald’s Corporation
McDonald’s Plaza
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Tel: +1-630-623-3000
Fax: +1-630-623-5004

Panasonic (subsidiary of Matsushita Electrical Industrial)
Matsushita Electric Corporation of America
One Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
Tel: +1-212-698-1365 (U.S. investor relations)

1006, Oaza Kadoma
Osaka 571-8501, Japan
Tel: +81-6 6906 1763
Fax: +81-6 6908 2351

250 Taepyongno 3-Ga
Seoul, Korea
Tel: +82-2 728 4811
Fax: +82-2 752 7926

Swatch SA
Jakob-Stämpflistrasse 94
CH-2500 Biel 4
Tel. +41-32-343-9580
Fax +41-32-343-9581

900 Metro Center Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404, USA
Tel: +1-650-432-3200
Fax: +1-650-432-7436

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