Thursday, 20 September 2012

A note on what may be considered 'subversion'

A long time ago I had a long-running discussion with some of the people who run the Hidden Harmonies website on whether Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo's conviction for subversion showed that the mere writing and publishing of articles on the internet alone was considered subversion in China. The discussion ended, as always on that den of crazed nationalists, with them maintaining the position most favourable to the Chinese government (that Liu Xiaobo's real crime was spying even though he was never charged with that, nor any proof of spying other than innuendo offered at the trial) in defiance of the evidence of their own eyes.

It is therefore with no satisfaction or surprise that, following a link from JR's blog, I read the indictment of Chen Pingfu, a man whose crime was described thus:

"The Gaolan County Public Security Bureau has concluded its investigation of this case. The Gaolan County People’s Procuratorate submitted his case to the Lanzhou Municipal People’s Procuratorate for examination and review for indictment. The examination conducted according to law has found that:
Between July 2007 and March 2012, the defendant Chen Pingfu registered blogs or microblogs under the name “Chen Pingfu” on NetEase, Baidu, Sohu, Mtime.com, Sina, Tianya, and other websites where he published or reposted 34 articles including [list of blog post titles]. In these articles he expressed such inflammatory views as that Marxism, Leninism, Mao Zedong Thoughts, Deng Xiaoping Theory, Three Represents, and Scientific Development have no benefit for the society and the people; that the Communist Party rule knows only to push ordinary people around and not let them make a living; that the current system is not democratic enough, and that democracy and constitutionalism should be implemented.
The aforementioned facts of crime are proven by documentary evidence, material evidence, and the defendant’s statements."

Whilst Chen Pingfu's sentence is still yet to be announced, it is clear that, at least according to the Gaolan County People’s Procuratorate, the mere writing of articles critical of the Chinese government is subversion. Chen's 'crimes' consist of writing and publishing articles saying no more than what 95%+ of the Chinese people think in private: that communism is nonsense and the current system of governance is essentially dictatorial. No other offence is mentioned.

I do not expect the people at Hidden Harmonies to acknowledge that Liu Xiaobo went to prison merely for criticising the government publicly, nor do I expect that they would admit that this is what Chen went to prison for when, as will certainly be the case, he is eventually convicted for the same 'crime'. Experience has shown that  there is literally no distortion that hard-line nationalists are incapable of swallowing, nor any incontrovertible truth that they are incapable of denying. However, thinking people should bear in mind that China still is a country where mere criticism of those in power is a crime.

12 comments:

James said...

Good post, G. I forgot about Hidden Harmonies. Stumbled over there by accident once. Insane. Any harmonising they do - bar making sure we're all in 'harmony' with the CCP - certainly remained hidden from me.

justrecently said...

The last discussion I had on Hidden Harmonies was years ago - the way discussions went were almost entirely predictable, and I was surprised how every debate would walk the same treadmill, even though it was "Web 2.0", and one would think that a technology that would allow very different people to participate would still the signs of dynamics you might have expected. Maybe that's what harmonization is about.

Anyway, it seems that Allen was bored some day - or took a real interest, I can't tell, really -, and commented on one of my blogposts. Our discussion comes to my mind now, because he set out from a dogma - that only the state (and in a Chinese context, the party, I suppose, could work for the welfare of society, i. e. the public benefit, I seem to understand. And while NGOs needed to be "watched", he believed that only government cannot escape its responsibility that it is there to serve the people.

It seemed to me that he found my arguments insulting, and tried to stay polite ("while we agree on a lot, we also disagree on key premises"). I couldn't see much agreement in our exchange, though.

The difference between this disagreement and that disagreement - Chen Pingfu's "contradictions" - is that Chen Pingfu and the procuratorate can't avoid each other, as netizens can. When someone is "wrong on the internet" in China, it becomes an unbearable "provocation".

justrecently said...

Link to my discussion with Allen here.

On a different note, I'd like to comment on your posts more frequently, but it usually takes me between five and fifteen tries to prove that I'm "not a bot".

FOARP said...

@JR - Wait, you're not? Here was me thinking all you Preussen were ruthless automatons . . .

FOARP said...

And yeah, you're quite right. A taxi driver cussing off against the government to an expat passenger in Longhua is safe to do so. Even if his words reach the authorities, no-one cares. But as soon as a post is made on a blog the author becomes a public person even if his audience is very slight.

FOARP said...

Actually, I reminded of the old East German joke about the two Stasi officers:

Fritz: "Hans, we've known each other for a long time. Just between you and me, what do you think of the government?"

Hans: "Are you being serious?"

Fritz: "Absolutely"

Hans: "Well, err, I guess I think much the same about them that you do."

Fritz: "I ARREST YOU IN THE NAME OF THE STATE!"

justrecently said...

Which reminds me of the stasi officer who is made redundant in 1990 and lands a job as a scullion. Unfortunately, to open a can is an overwhelming challenge. After turning the can in his hands for a quarter of an hour, he despairs, reaches for a rolling pin, and bangs on the can: Open the door! Stasi!

buffalo permanent makeup said...

Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

FOARP et.al - my comment is robably very late for this thread, but I have just returned home from six months in China and I am catching up on the China blogosphere - I am a long time occasional reader but very occasional commenter. I don't do read/comment much while in the heavenly kingdom.

Anyway, I wonder whether the attitudes and tone in the china blogosphere have gotten a very sharp turn for the worse in the past six months. For example the crowd at Hidden Harmonies seem to be much more nuts than in the past. An example is here (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2012/12/how-the-nyt-encourages-dehumanization-of-the-han/) where a HH blogger (melektaus) is lashing out on a sympathetic commenter for daring to use the phrase "might have overstated". The irony is that the commenter (NM Cheung) is defending the blogger but that is lost all in a blind rage.. Many other examples like that are round.

So I wonder whether this sharp turn for the worse is related to the fact that this year the US election coincided with the CPC change of guard. All the associated theatrics from both sides (Senkaku/Diaoyu, Romney tough on China, etc etc) seem to have not done much good for "east west harmony" - this btw mirrors my experiences over the past six months in China. Or it just might be me and I forget the way it has always been in the blogosphere..

Comments ?

Anonymous said...

FOARP et.al - my comment is probably very late for this thread, but I have just returned home from six months in China and I am catching up on the China blogosphere - I am a long time occasional reader but very occasional commenter. I don't do read/comment much while in the heavenly kingdom.

Anyway, I wonder whether the attitudes and tone in the china blogosphere have gotten a very sharp turn for the worse in the past six months. For example the crowd at Hidden Harmonies seem to be much more nuts than in the past. An example is here (http://blog.hiddenharmonies.org/2012/12/how-the-nyt-encourages-dehumanization-of-the-han/) where a HH blogger (melektaus) is lashing out on a sympathetic commenter for daring to use the phrase "might have overstated". The irony is that the commenter (NM Cheung) is defending the blogger but that is lost all in a blind rage.. Many other examples like that are round.

So I wonder whether this sharp turn for the worse is related to the fact that this year the US election coincided with the CPC change of guard. All the associated theatrics from both sides (Senkaku/Diaoyu, Romney tough on China, etc etc) seem to have not done much good for "east west harmony" - this btw mirrors my experiences over the past six months in China. Or it just might be me and I forget the way it has always been in the blogosphere..

Comments ?

Scottie said...

It depends on the level of criticisms. There are still many criticisms of Chinese gov't on mainland Chinese websites and blogs. Many times these critical comments are deleted, other times they stayed there.

Also, people like prof. Hu Xingdou 胡星斗, who has been quite critical of many of China's policies are still around and offering his opinions. I don't think he has ran into any major problems with the authorities in the past. So it also depends on who the critic is.

As for Liu Xiaobo, given he was involved with June 4th, the government probably see him as the prime target and a repeated offender. I do hope he gets released soon.

But overall, yes, criticisms of the gov't in public can be troublesome. But many Chinese still do it and have been doing it for a long time now. As for HH, given it is an English site, I am not sure how representative it is of Chinese blogsphere, especially of the more critical voices from the Chinese.

Anonymous said...

I believe some intellectuals like Zhang Ming who is a signee of the 08 charter and Yu Jianrong who has called for reforms both turned out to be and still is trouble free with the government. So for some people, they can afford to be more critical of the state publically. And certainly there are criticism of the current regime on Chinese websites. You just have to search for them. This is not to say anyone can be totally trouble free in criticizing the Chinese gov't in China, though.