The brutal treatment of champions of freedom is a stark reminder that market reforms are not enough to serve as the foundation of a free society. Atlas Network reports.
The Chinese economy has been a powerhouse on the world stage in the past three decades after a series of reforms in which the ruling communist regime began to allow private farming, private businesses, and regional competition, along with privatization of government services and tax cuts. Although some analysts suggest that the nation’s success is beginning to decline, both its status as a “most favored nation” trading partner of the United States and elsewhere and its integration with worldwide culture makes it easy to forget that China is still a dangerous place for dissenters. Those who advocate political liberty and freedom of conscience are often arrested, detained, or simply abducted without formal acknowledgment.
In a recent commentary for National Review, Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips told the story of Guo Yushan and He Zhengjun, affiliated with Chinese Atlas Network partner the Transition Institute. Both men were tireless advocates “on behalf of pluralism, democracy, and the rule of law,” leading victim-relief efforts and working to expand the rights and freedoms of Chiense citizens. They were both formally arrested this month, their activities viewed as a threat to the power of the Chinese Communist Party.
Still another man affiliated with the Transition Institute, Huang Kaiping, was detained by the Chinese government last fall, and, according to reports, “police do not acknowledge Kaiping is in their custody.” His wife, Zhou Qinghui, recently released a letter describing her personal struggle with her husband’s months-long disappearance.
“Every day I’m apprehensive, yet hopeful,” she wrote. “I prick up my ears to listen for footsteps at the door, expecting you to knock, ready to let you in. At the same time, I despise the prospect of the police coming to the door. In the past, I thought that this house was our home, and that home is a place that makes one feel safe. When people that you detest rummage through all your possessions and search your home, it feels like every single part of your private life has been pried into, completely exposed. Only then did I realize that you were right, that it’s inner strength that makes us feel safe, and that it’s family that makes us feel warm. On the one hand, I hate this house; on the other, I’m using all my energy to preserve it, because I hope that when you come home, I’ll be able to give you that warmth, and support you with my embrace.”
Still other individual rights activists have been detained in recent years, including Pu Zhiqiang, a free speech lawyer who combated arbitrary detention, and Guo Feixiong, who helped villagers remove corrupt officials from office. Pu has been “subject to inhuman mental and physical torment” during his time in captivity, according to a December letter from his wife.
The brutal treatment of these champions of freedom is a stark reminder that market reforms are not enough to serve as the foundation of a free society. Freedom of conscience, speech, and assembly are also crucial elements of human dignity and liberty.
“When people ask us why we do what we do, they should know it is because it is our honor to be able to cooperate with such people as Huang Kaiping, Guo Yushan, and so many other good and honest and decent people,” said Tom G. Palmer, executive vice president for international programs at Atlas Network.
Read “Silencing Guo Yushan,” by Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips