Tue, Dec 05, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: The time of pleasing China is over

On Tuesday LAST week the Yueyang City Intermediate People’s Court in China’s Hunan Province sentenced Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-che (李明哲) to five years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”

Lee told Chinese media that he confessed to and regretted the offense, would not appeal the verdict and accepted the prison sentence.

The case highlights the increasing danger to Taiwanese traveling in China and comes at a time when Beijing is also tightening its autocratic rule domestically, a clampdown that is not directed merely at political ideas.

The Beijing authorities have used concerns over potential fire hazards as an excuse to tear down more than 10,000 illegally built homes and drive out tens of thousands of “low-end” people — disadvantaged people with low incomes, often temporary workers from other parts of China — in the cold of winter.

One Chinese Communist Party (CCP) district secretary issued orders to the demolition squads to be tough and ruthless, and said that they should tear down whatever they could today and not wait until tomorrow.

Following Beijing’s removal of its “low-end” population, Ningbo also launched a “great investigation and regulation” drive focused mainly on the subletting of housing, and Guangzhou also announced that it would regulate sublets.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the next political slogan in China will be: “Everyone is responsible for the elimination of the ‘low-end’ population.”

Low-income temporary workers in big cities are unable to stand up to state violence and have no choice but to accept being pushed around, but they are the only ones being pushed around. Just like Taiwan has Lee and his wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), China has Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) and his wife, Liu Xia (劉霞).

In 2008, following the publication of Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo was also arrested on charges of subverting state power, only to be convicted the following year.

Liu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, was unable to attend the award ceremony and was kept locked up until his death earlier this year. Not even his ashes were released. Liu Xia still has not regained her freedom.

Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia in China, and Lee Ming-che and Lee Ching-yu in Taiwan had different backgrounds, but they were all on the receiving end of the same state violence, which is clear evidence of the dangers in contemporary China.

Today, this danger is focused on the elimination of “low-end” people, but who will be targeted tomorrow? The power struggle within the top leadership has begun and it is just a matter of time before it spreads to society at large and the economy.

The world in general, and the Taiwanese government and public in particular, must understand that there has been a qualitative change in China over the past five years.

Despite what some people think, this change does not mean that the CCP has left communism behind or that it is a “new” communist party. Instead it means that the “soft” authoritarianism of former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) has given way to a return to the “hard” dictatorship of the Mao Zedong (毛澤東) era.

Soft authoritarianism was not the result of political reform, but rather of those in power in the wake of China’s economic growth using their power to enrich themselves, and these considerable economic interests weakened political discipline.

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