Nothing cheerful I can say about this.

Hu Jia, about whom I have timidly written before, has been imprisoned for three-and-a-half years for “inciting subversion of state power.” 

Somewhere recently some jovial vice premier made some quip about how a Chinese person could go up to a policeman and say all sorts of things without being arrested.  It’s a joke that cuts both ways, because it really assumes that it would be the most natural thing in the world for the police to make the arrest.  But in any event, that’s pretty much what Hu Jia did and they pretty much locked him up.

Obviously, he has been put away to encourage (or in this case, discourage) the others. Which is why I find particularly annoying paragraphs like this, written for a Chinese-diaspora audience by a fellow called Barry Sautman, who commented on the “hooligan” characteristics of the rioters (or call them what you will) in Tibet and said:

The recent actions in Tibetan areas differ from the broad-based demonstrations of “people power” movements in several parts of the world in the last few decades. They hardly show the overwhelming Tibetan anti-Chinese consensus portrayed in the international media. The highest media estimate of Tibetans who participated in protests is 20,000 — by Steve Chao, the Beijing Bureau Chief of Canadian Television News, i.e. one of every 300 Tibetans. Compare that to the 1986 protests against the Marcos dictatorship by about three million — one out of every 19 Filipinos.

I’m not a hard-core independent Tibetist (even the Dalai Lama isn’t, after all) but it’s not difficult to see why the people on the street are only the people with nothing to lose, or that they vent a resentment which is more widespread than their numbers alone suggest.  It’s tip of the iceberg territory.

There is nothing much that Hu Jia says which seems remarkable – at least to us.  It’s different in China, of course.  Hu could shut up and get on with his life in a more low-key way.  Most of us do.  But he won’t.  He’s not reasonable or practical or sensible.  People like that can really get up authorities’ noses.  Not just in China, but everywhere, though it is easier for us to see the mote in their eye in that regard before the logs in our own. 

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