Reaction to poem shows severe censorship policy
China’s authoritarian government is as tense a topic now as it was 60 years ago. Various activist groups’ attempts to modernize China into a democracy only increase the tension.
Last Friday, these tensions were pushed even further when Zhu Yufu, one of the founders of the federally unrecognized Democracy Party of China, was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for circulating a poem titled “It’s Time” online. He is accused of writing this poem to rally democratic activists to promote an uprising in China.
From an American perspective, Zhu should have the rights to free speech and the press.
Freedom of speech is an innate liberty to humanity that should not be repressed.
The alleged subversion of state power not only has a grave overtone, but it is also difficult to repeal, especially with a criminal record.
Zhu was imprisoned twice before this incident: once from 1999 to 2006 for helping the foundation of the Democracy Party, and again from 2007 to 2009 for pushing a police officer.
In a nutshell, the law states that anyone who tries to defame the government in order to undermine its authority will endure a long prison sentence.
This includes even the most minor of offenses, like a blog article, or in this case, a poem.
Zhu’s poem suggests that the Chinese citizens should assemble to attempt a rebellion against the authoritarian party, like the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia early last year, that resulted in the ousting of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The Jasmine Revolution argued for fair and equal rights, and it expanded into Egypt.
Zhu insinuated that the Chinese activists should cause a similarly effective uproar to fight for democracy.
It may not be the prettiest or cleanest campaign, but in the face of such opposition, great measures are often necessary to ensure freedom of speech.
If Zhu had written this poem in America, a lawsuit and a trial would most likely not even be considered. It’s a simple classification of freedom of expression, a right that should be extended universally. In America, the implications of China’s regulations on freedom of expression seem unjust.
The Chinese government plays by a different set of rules, a set that Zhu’s actions clearly break. Zhu attempted to undermine the government and therefore broke the law. In China, it is just another example of committing a crime.
Perhaps the Chinese government will someday reach a compromise and accept such democratic values, but for now, the words of Abraham Lincoln come to mind: “The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.”
The best way to repeal Zhu’s sentence and fight for democracy might be to revolt, or it might be to play the game and wait for the other team to lose its footing.