[Reader-list] More on Chinese intellectuals

Rana Dasgupta eye at ranadasgupta.com
Wed Dec 22 12:51:26 IST 2004

Writer held as China turns on intellectuals

Jonathan Watts in Beijing
Wednesday December 22, 2004
The Guardian

The Chinese police arrested one of the country's most influential 
journalists yesterday in the latest phase of their campaign to stifle 
critical discussion by prominent liberal intellectuals.

The detention of Chen Min, the chief editorial writer at China Reform 
Magazine, has heightened concern that the Communist party may be 
reverting to old-style repression to counter the spread of independent 
thinking on the internet, in the universities, and in the increasingly 
bold media organisations.

Coming after the arrest or demotion of at least half a dozen other 
"public intellectuals" - a term of former media praise that has suddenly 
become an expression of political abuse - it has upset the hope that 
President Hu Jintao will allow more freedom of expression than his 
predecessor, Jiang Zemin.

Mr Chen, who wrote under the pen name Xiao Shu, was working in his 
office when security officers arrived unannounced. "They went to the 
magazine office and took him away," an unnamed source told Reuters.

The tactic appears to be similar to that used in several other cases.

On December 13 three prominent reform advocates, Yu Jie, Liu Xiabo and 
Zhang Zuhua, were held by the police and accused of revealing state 
secrets to foreigners: a catch-all phrase often invoked in clampdowns on 

Two weeks earlier the poet Shi Tao was arrested on his way to his 
mother's house and his wife was warned not to tell anyone he was missing.

Echoing past campaigns against "rightists" and "counter-revolutionary" 
critics, the clampdown was heralded by a furious invective against 
"public intellectuals" in the Liberation Daily on November 23.

In language observers said was reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, 
it accused such intellectuals of "arrogant elitism".

They were trying to "estrange the relationship between the party and 
intellectuals and between intellectuals and the masses", said the 
commentary, which was reproduced in full by People's Daily, the party 

Shortly afterwards reports emerged of a "grey list" of liberal academics 
and journalists whose writings were no longer allowed to be published in 
newspapers and magazines, all of which are controlled by the state or 
the party.

Journalists say the propaganda department has also lengthened its list 
of forbidden topics, including stories about the growing gap between 
rich and poor and a number of big protests in the provinces.

As was the case in many previous political campaigns, the targets appear 
to have little in common other than a record of challenging someone in 

Among those who have been either demoted or detained are Jiao Guobiao, a 
media professor at Beijing University, who accused the propaganda 
department of using Nazi tactics to cover up corruption and disease; Li 
Boguang, a lawyer who has represented farmers against the government in 
one of many cases of alleged illegal land seizures; and Huang Jingao, a 
local party official who blew the whistle on corruption among his 
colleagues in Fujian province.

The clampdown fits into a long cycle of loosening and tightening 
intellectual expression in China, the last major phase of which took 
place in the late 1980s and ended with the massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Although most of those arrested recently have subsequently been 
released, making this a relatively restrained clampdown compared with 
the violence of previous campaigns, it has disappointed liberal 
supporters of President Hu. Many had expected him to loosen media 
restrictions after removing Mr Jiang from the senior military post this 

But in the face of increasingly frequent reports of unrest in the 
provinces and strikes in urban centres, Mr Hu appears to have moved in 
the opposite direction.

Silenced voices of dissent

Chen Min
Chief editorial writer at China Reform magazine.
Detained 21 December without explanation.

Yu Jie
Founder of the China PEN, the pro-freedom of expression organisation.
Detained 13 December and accused of revealing state secrets.

Liu Xiabo
Democracy activist imprisoned after the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests 
and president of China PEN.
Detained 13 December and accused of revealing state secrets.

Shi Tao
Poet and journalist
Detained 24 November accused of revealing secrets.

Li Boguang
Lawyer and writer who represented farmers against the government.
Detained 14 November.

Jiao Guobiao
Beijing University professor who accused the propaganda department of 
shielding corrupt officials and whitewashing Chines history. Stripped of 
teaching responsibilities.

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