August 21, 2008

The People's Heroes Demand The Right to Protest

When people ask why I’m so passionate about Tibet, I feel confused by the question. I don’t understand why the Tibetan struggle isn’t apparent to all liberty loving people. Their struggle is exactly the same as the desire for Sicilians to remain Sicilian in nature and practice. Sicilians are (so far) lucky to not be persecuted for practicing cultural activities or demeaned (at least in public and with government support) for cuisine, clothes, live styles, etc. Unfortunately for their cousins the Roma, Northern League fascists have signaled them out as scapegoats for all that’s wrong with Italy today. But be sure that the heat can come down on any other group that does not see exactly the same world as il imperatore Napolesconi. But in Tibet today people are afraid to display their ethnic pride. It is also not the case for the 56 “recognized” ethnic minorities that make up part of the Han dynasty, such as the Zhuang, Uyghurs, Mongols, Taiwanese, etc.
But I digress…

Two women in China are sentenced to one year at a labor camp because they asked, A S K E D permission to publicly protest the loss of their homes due to the Olympics! Are you shocked? Wait, there’s more … THEY’RE IN THEIR SEVENTIES AND ONE IS LEGALLY BLIND! Tell me more about how fabulous China is, please!
Chinese Woman, 79 with Disabilities, Sentenced to Labor Camp
As we draw nearer to the close of the Summer Olympics and the wall-to-wall coverage of the various events, stories of the toll these games have taken on the Chinese people continue to leak out, despite incredible efforts by the government of that nation to hide the reality of life in China. Now we read of two women in their late 70's and how they have been sentenced to a year in a labor camp as part of what the chinese government refers to as a re-education program. While you pause and wonder what threat two little old ladies could pose to China, know also that one of them is blind and has other disabilities.
Perhaps you caught the NBC Nightly News Report earlier this week that examined the process that China established through which citizens could petition for the right to protest at three specially appointed locations during the Olympics. It turns out that of 77 requests filed by citizens that none of them were granted. [my bold] Further, it appears that some who have made these requests have been arrested or, as in this case, sentenced to re-education programs which appear to be nothing more than a quick and convenient way to punish people without allowing the individuals any rights or chance to defend themselves.
Wu Dianyuan, 79, and her neighbor Wang Xiuying, 77, [right on, sisters!] were notified Sunday that they were to serve a yearlong term of re-education through labour, said Wang’s son, Li Xuehui. Officials did not specify a reason and still had not acted on the order, he said.
Instead, the pair were under the observation of a neighbourhood watch group and it was unclear if they would be sent to prison, he said.
The order followed the pair’s repeated attempts to apply for permission to protest their forced eviction from their homes. China agreed to allow demonstrations in three designated areas during the games, which end Sunday. So far, there have been no protests in any of the official areas.
The re-education system, in place since 1957, allows police to sidestep the need for a criminal trial or a formal charge and send people to prison for up to four years to perform penal labour.
Beijing has pointed to the special zones — public parks far away from Olympics venues — to defend its promise to improve human rights in China that was crucial to its bid to host the games.
Obviously China never had intentions of allowing citizens or foreigners for that matter any right to voice or exhibit opposition to their way of rule, especially during the Olympic games. Unfortunately, while the world is being treated to one of the finest exhibitions of sport and athletics ever to have taken place at the summer games, many of the people of China have been moved from their homes, lost their jobs and been displaced so that we don't see their reality.
I don't expect that NBC will revisit this story and report to the average American that people wanted to protest but have been sentenced to hard labor and prison for daring to consider the possibility. The average person will only remember Michael Phelps and is incredible gold metal performances. However, at least for the next year and perhaps longer, a blind chinese woman will pay for wishing for the right to express her views while the world moves on to other issues.

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