Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Let's all go to China

Seriously, why not? Imagine the times we'll have: being checked so thoroughly upon entry they'll be able to count the hairs on our moles, coughing to death on the pollution (which, if I remember correctly, now outranks Mexico in terms of unbreathability), living in conditions not deemed to be called "squalor" with the rest of the populace, seeing families send their kids off to work for a little money ... and watching the government crack down on law-abiding law firms for daring to protect Human Rights.

Okay, so perhaps it won't be such a nice time after all. But you can't call it uninteresting, not when stories like this one emerge. The Yitong law firm, which is well-known for often taking high-profile cases defending dissident activists, is being ordered by the government to close down for six months, which would effectively kill the firm.

Beijing - One of China's most prominent human rights law firms is fighting a government closure order, as authorities here step up a crackdown on troublesome lawyers.

At a hearing next week the Yitong law firm, which has been at the center of several high-profile political cases, will appeal a ruling by a local Justice Department in Beijing suspending the practice for six months, according to managing partner Li Jinsong.

"That would kill the firm," says Mr. Li. "They are distorting facts ... to get revenge" for the way the firm's lawyers have criticized or defied government agencies, he charges.

The closure order, which activists here say is unlikely to be overturned at the hearing, is part of "a wider effort to stifle and intimidate lawyers who aspire to defend human rights and the public interest," says Albert Ho, chairman of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group in Hong Kong. "This is really a very serious matter."

The Yitong partnership is well known for having represented some of China's most famous dissidents, including Hu Jia, an AIDS activist who received the European Parliament's top human rights award last year and is now serving a three-year sentence for inciting subversion.

I could spend most of the next year ranting about China's abhorrent and blatantly dictatorial regime, but I'll restrain myself, namely because I only know the basics and not the details. (Basics = China sucks.) You gotta feel sorry for poor Hu Jia (mentioned above), though – in one country his Human Rights activism awards him one of the most prestigious awards on the planet, and in another he's thrown in jail for three years for the same activism. That's tragic, IMO. Anyone got Amnesty International's number ...?

It also doesn't help China's image that its leaders are cowardly and hypocritical two-faced filthy liars, either.

China has appeared truculent recently in the face of challenges to its human rights record. Beijing reacted to a critical report by the UN Committee Against Torture last November by angrily denying all the charges, and rejected almost all the recommendations that other countries made during a review of its record earlier this month by the UN Human Rights Council.

"Internationally, China denies there is any problem, and domestically it takes punitive action against those who point out the problems," says Ms. Hom. [That's Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China]

Well-(and politely-)put, Ms. Hom.


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