Archive for August 4th, 2018

“I have my freedom of speech,” he said – and then the cops dragged him away.

Saturday, August 4th, 2018
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The octogenarian dissident in China speaks out. Now one knows where he is. (Photo: Youtube)

Here’s the news you probably didn’t hear this week: 84-year-old professor and activist Sun Wenguang in China was speaking on Voice of America when the Chinese authorities burst into the room and dragged him away. His final words to the world: “I have my freedom of speech.”

He hasn’t been seen since. Is he dead? Is he beaten? We don’t know. From the Washington Post:

Viewers listened as Sun recounted his ordeal live on air. “Here they come again, the police are here to interrupt again,” Sun said in Chinese. “Four, five, six of them.”

Sun asked what the men were doing in his home and threatened to get a knife. “It is illegal for you to come to my home,” he said. He defended his VOA interview and called on the security officials to respect his rights.

They didn’t, of course.  According to Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist in Beijing,  “They did that on air, and they didn’t care if it was in front of the whole world. This is an attack on press freedom, too. It just shows that they are willing to pay any price” to silence him.

At the time of his … shall we call it arrest? … he was criticizing China’s foreign investments: “People [in China] are poor. Let’s not throw our money in Africa. Throwing money like this is of no good to our country.”

Who is Sun Wenguang? He retired physics professor from Shandong University, he spent more than a decade in and out of prison at various times from the 1960s to the 1980s for criticising communist leader Mao Zedong. According to the BBC:

The long-time government critic is one of the original signatories of “Charter 08”, a manifesto which called for political change in China.

In 2009, Prof Sun was beaten while visiting the grave of Zhao Ziyang, a communist leader who was purged for supporting the Tiananmen protests of 1989.

The then 75-year-old said at the time he had suffered three broken ribs and injuries to his hands and legs. He was later admitted into hospital.

Prof Sun has also been denied a passport, according to the New York Times, and so is unable to leave the country.

Perhaps it’s time for Google to reconsider its confidential plan to release a censored version of its search engine for China. It’s own employees are furious. Read about it at The Intercept  here. Meanwhile, you can hear the Voice of America recording of his abduction below.