Voices of Dissent - Censorship Chinese Style
Posted in: Censorship at 20/05/2008 11:34
Olympics organisers have hit the home straight in full stride. Games venues are getting their final touches. Beijing's stunning "bird's nest" stadium has been unveiled to international acclaim. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers wait impatiently as the torch teasingly approaches.
With about 80 days to go, China is seizing its chance to showcase the Olympics - and its own economic marvel - to the world. Nothing can quell the excitement or spoil the nation's finest hour... not even the horrific earthquake in China's southwest - and certainly not a small group of activists for human rights.
After all, the Games slogan "One World, One Dream" implies little room for dissent.
But when China pitched for the Olympics, it promised to promote human rights. So far, as Four Corners discovers on a journey to China, that promise remains unfulfilled.
Activists and writers who speak out and criticise the state are accused of subverting it. They are being jailed, kept under house arrest, harassed, abducted and bashed. Their daily movements and contacts, their phone calls and emails are watched.
Activist Hu Jia's open letter, "The Real China and the Olympics", denounced China's human rights record and was blocked on Chinese websites. Hu wrote that China held the world record for detaining writers and journalists even after its Games bid succeeded. Last month Hu himself was sentenced to three and a half years in jail for writing on-line articles that described the Communist Party's power as despotic and totalitarian and accused police of behaving like gangsters. He did not preach violence.
Hu's wife is watched around-the-clock. When reporter Liz Jackson and a Four Corners team go to her home to interview her - legally and openly - they quickly discover the intimidatory power of China's security police.
"We have no judicial independence. We have no free press. We have no free election. We have serious political corruption," says one of a small group of lawyers who, despite beatings, lousy pay and serial court defeats, keep on defending activists, doggedly presenting freedom of expression as their defence.
Tibetan writers describe their cat and mouse game with authorities, their freedom perpetually on the line as censors block or pull down their blogs.
A rural activist collected thousands of signatures calling for "human rights, not the Olympics". Two months ago he was jailed for five years for incitement to subvert the security of the state. His family tell Liz Jackson how they too have been threatened with arrest if they talk to foreign reporters.
As the world gets set for the first Chinese Olympics, Jackson lays out cases where lives have been upturned so that the Games can begin, without distraction from "Voices of Dissent"... on Four Corners 8.30 pm Monday 19 May, on ABC1.
This program will be repeated about 11.35 pm Tuesday 20 May; also on ABC2 at 8 am Tuesday. The programme is also available for viewing from: