In February China launched a campaign against dissent that has resulted in the detention of those criticizing the Chinese government without giving the accused a trial.
Chinese blogger Fang Hong was detained on April 24 and sentenced to serve one year in a Chongqing re-education labor camp for using a blog to mock the chief of Chongqing’s Communist party, Bo Xilai, despite his removal of the blog post following the orders of web censors.
Hong’s blog arose from Chongqing’s prosecution of a lawyer, Mr. Li, who defended a man being prosecuted for perjury. Mr. Li was himself charged after his former client testified that he had encouraged him to make false torture allegations. However, many believe that Mr. Li was framed by the government for opposing the campaign of Bo Xilai. Mr. Li was convicted and sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
This year, the lovers of freedom have enjoyed the selection made by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The image of the kind China they tried to paint during the Beijing Olympics is now far away. Today the real China is portrayed to the world for not releasing Liu and for preventively arrestng the relatives, friends and associates of the awarded dissident. The economic fate of China has changed thanks to free market forces. But that doesn’t mean at all that the Chinese leadership will allow a real political reform. At this time of global financial crisis, we can not forget that many governments have ignored their own volition and the deplorable human rights situation in the last Communist empire, thinking more than anything that China buys their debt and that that money can pay for their own domestic financial excesses. But in a fit of human decency, the Free World will celebrate Liu’s Award.
A Chinese proverb says: “One generation plants the trees, but another is enjoying the shade.” People like Liu Xiaobo are planting the trees. It may take more or less time, but future generations will definitely enjoy the shade.
Imagine what would happen if Spain declared Franco a “national hero”… And I don’t think he actually killed half a million Communists…
Indonesian Dictator Suharto
By the time his 31-year rule finally came to an end amid riots and demonstrations in 1998, Suharto had become one of the most reviled dictators of the late 20th century. He was charged with the murder of half a million suspected Communists in the 1960s after he put down a coup against his predecessor, Sukarno (a restoration of order that also led swiftly to the-then Major-General’s ascent to power). He stood accused of genocide in East Timor, more than one-quarter of whose population perished after his 1975 invasion and subsequent occupation of the former Portuguese colony. Free speech and democracy in Indonesia were crushed, with dissidents jailed or summarily shot. As if that were not ignominy enough, he also had the distinction of being branded the most corrupt world leader of all time by the NGO Transparency International, which estimated he looted up to $35bn from the state coffers.
On his death, it may have been said “he will never be forgotten“, but one would have thought most Indonesians would fervently wish the opposite. However, in a move that has caused consternation to human rights activists and heated debate in the country’s media, the Indonesian government is now proposing that the former dictator be formally declared a “national hero”.
Imprisoned Chinese democracy campaigner Liu Xiaobo on Friday won the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that drew furious condemnation from the authoritarian government and calls from world leaders including President Barack Obama for Liu’s quick release.
Chinese state media blacked out the news and Chinese government censors blocked Nobel Prize reports, which highlighted Liu’s calls for peaceful political change, from Internet websites. China declared the decision would harm its relations with Norway and promptly summoned Oslo’s ambassador to Beijing to make a formal protest.
…The Nobel committee praised Liu’s pacifist approach, ignoring threats by Chinese diplomats even before the announcement that such a decision would result in strained ties with Norway. Liu has been an ardent advocate of peaceful, gradual political change.
The Nobel committee cited Liu’s participation in the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989 and the Charter 08 document he recently co-authored, which called for greater freedom in China and an end to the Communist Party’s political dominance.
Two related themes, however, thread their way through all the novels of Mr. Vargas Llosa, who won the Nobel literature prize Thursday. These themes are a fascination with the human craving for freedom (be it political, social or creative) and the liberation conferred by art and imagination. Indeed, storytelling itself remains a central concern in the author’s work, in both his taste for willfully complicated narratives and his philosophical preoccupation with the ways in which subjectivity acts as a distorting prism for our apprehension of the world.
Ernst Zander was a youngster when he was captured by the Soviets after the war. After doing some time at a prison at Jamlitz, he was sent on to Buchenwald. The Nazis had used the site as a concentration camp where an estimated 50,000 people, were executed or starved and worked to death.
After World War II, the Soviets used the same facility for one of their biggest internment camps. Zander ended up there, because the Russians accused him of being a "Wehrwolf" – the standard term back then for a German who tried to fight Russian tanks and machinery as the Red Army advanced toward Berlin in the final stages of the war. He denies these allegations, saying that he was imprisoned for no crime at all. He says the conditions he and other prisoners faced at the Buchenwald camp were harsh.
"Our family did not know that we were being held in the camp. We could not write to anyone. We were so alone. It was a very bad situation," Zander told Deutsche Welle.
The director of the Buchenwald memorial site foundation, Volkhard Knigge, hastens to add that all the war-time allies had their own internment camps in Germany, emphasizing that of course the Soviets too had the right to have such camps after all the cruelty they’d experienced at the hands of Nazi Germany. But he points out that the Soviet internment camps differed from those of the Western allies.
…The last three camps — Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and Bautzen – were only closed as Soviet internment centers in 1950, several months after the founding of the communist German Democratic Republic. Some of the inmates were sent on to Soviet gulags such as the one at Workuta. Others were sentenced to long prison terms after show trials that went down in history as "the Waldheim trials" after a small town near Chemnitz in Saxony. Others were freed.