Thursday, April 28, 2011

Great Leap Backward

by Nicholas D. Kristof

New York Times
April 27, 2011

Since China is in the middle of its harshest crackdown on independent thought in two decades, I thought that on this visit I might write about a woman named Cheng Jianping who is imprisoned for tweeting.

Ms. Cheng was arrested on what was supposed to have been her wedding day last fall for sending a single sarcastic Twitter message that included the words “charge, angry youth.” The government, lacking a sense of humor, sentenced her to a year in labor camp.

So I tried to interview her fiancé, Hua Chunhui, but it turns out that Mr. Hua was recently arrested and imprisoned as well. That’s the way it goes in China these days. The government’s crackdown is rippling through the country, undercutting China’s prodigious growth and representing the harshest clampdown since the crushing of the Tiananmen democracy movement in 1989.

The reason? Surprising as it may seem, the government is worried that China could become the next Egypt or Tunisia, unless security forces act early and ruthlessly.

“Of course, they’re scared that the same thing might happen here,” one Chinese friend with family and professional ties to top leaders told me. A family member of another Chinese leader put it this way: “They’re just terrified. That’s why they’re cracking down.”