Sunday, May 6, 2018
China’s Declining Freedom
Recent governmental developments in China send chills up the average Chinese citizen’s spine. Ironically, though, these regressive, oppressive changes also shine brightly upon the American constitution.
Numerous setbacks in China’s government situation have raised concern around the world. I highlight two recent ones while demonstrating how they elicit a renewed appreciation for our American freedoms.
First, between October and December 2015, five staff members of Causeway Bay Books in Hong Kong vanished. These renditions rarely, if ever, occur in our country. Two of the missing publishers ended up in mainland China, having been subjected to incarceration and interrogation. One ended up in Shenzhen, right across the Chinese border from Hong Kong.
When the UK relinquished its control of Hong Kong in 1997, the mainland government agreed to a “two systems, one country” policy to last a half-century. The disappearances raised questions about China’s adherence to the agreement.
They are absurd, in any case, because what country kidnaps its own citizens?
Xi Jinping, China’s current president, was in the process of consolidating power when the men vanished.
The unprecedented disappearance of these people in Hong Kong, and the bizarre events surrounding it, shocked the city. It crystalized international concern over the possible abduction of other Hong Kong citizens.
Why were the men kidnapped, terrifying them, their friends and families?
Because they were either writing, or promoting, books against their supreme leader.
One of those arrested, Gui Minhai, was working on a book about Mr. Jinping tentatively titled, Xi and His Six Women. Another prepared to publish a book entitled, Godfather of China, Xi Jinping.
Observers agree the real reason for the arrests surrounded increasing restrictions on political expression under Xi. In a June 2016 press conference, Lam Wing-kee, one of the men arrested, detailed his eight-month detention, describing how his confession and those of his associates had been scripted and stage-managed.
Sounds like Nazi Germany, don’t you think?
Second, and occurring just recently, during my third trip to China with its lovely, warm people, Xi Jingping was appointed as President-for-Life.
The Chinese “parliament,” formally known as the National People’s Congress, passed constitutional changes removing term limits in effect since the 1990s. Out of a possible 3000 delegates, two voted against the change and three abstained.
When do you ever see such consensus?
Only in a country run by tyrants.
Mr Xi, who would have stepped down in 2023, defied the tradition of presenting a potential successor during last October’s Communist Party Congress. Instead, he consolidated his political power. The party voted to enshrine his name and political ideology in the party’s constitution—elevating his status to the level of modern China’s founder, Chairman Mao.
You may dislike Trump, but at least he’ll be gone in two-years, six-years, or even sooner if more dirt emerges from the Michael Cohen investigation, not to mention special prosecutor’s Mueller’s one.
These depressing developments in China shed a bright light upon the freedoms we here in America tend to take for granted.
Despite the many awful events occurring in this country, we still have the freedom to speak our minds on any street corner.
We are free to write about whatever we want, whether it be an expose of the president’s sex life or his mobster-like behavior.
Mr. Xi’s supporters rationalize the changes, considering them necessary for him to achieve his goals or reflecting the echoes of Confucianism.
Sounds like pure nonsense.
Having taught psychoanalytic ideas in China for nearly a decade now, I find the changes personally disturbing.
Some of my students and friends there consider leaving the country; others fear some kind of a government confiscation of monies or properties like occurred when Mao came to power in 1949.
Just last March, I travelled to Shenzhen where one of the Causeway Book staff members was incarcerated. Google had just recently been blocked by the government. Crossing the border from Hong Kong reminded me of stories I heard about traveling from West to East Germany at the height of the Cold War.
It was frightening.
There were delays, personal searches, and jamming of private mobile phone networks.
Call it what you will, but it sure seems like Mr. Xi has simply become another despot, joining the ranks of similar autocrats like Putin in Russia or Erdogan in Turkey.
Hardly a consolation, but the rise of these tyrants around the world highlight the rather amazing freedoms we can easily take for granted.
We have them.
We should celebrate them.
We should join ranks in standing up against any regressive, oppressive movements like are occurring in China.
How refreshing that a common American citizen like me can freely write such negative comments about these developments in China.
How depressing that I must wonder if, because of just such writing, I will be able to travel again to China to teach about my beloved profession.
Meanwhile, hats off to the framers of the US constitution.
It remains, indeed, an awesome document.
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP