Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

China Overturns Sentence: Wart Removal?

Let's say for the sake of discussion someone in America were to speak out against the federal government's practice of funding abortions. Maybe this person didn't like the fact that some of his tax dollars were lumped into the $250 million or so Planned Parenthood gets every year from the federal government.

Then, let's say the federal government was unhappy with this vocal critic, ginned up some charges against him, tried him, found him guilty, and put him in the slammer for four years.

Welcome to the people's paradise, China.

Chen Guangchen, right, was sentenced to four years and three months on charges of "damaging property and organizing a mob to disturb traffic." Actually, the "crime" was Chen's efforts to expose the heavy forced abortion and sterilization toll of China's one-child policy.

Chen had accused local health workers in the city of Linyi city of forcing hundreds of people to have late-term abortions or sterilizations.

What's unique about Chen's case? Certainly not that a critic of government policies got his life ripped apart for speaking out against the communist government.

No, BBC reports, what sets Chen apart is that his case has been successfully appealed.
The BBC's Beijing correspondent says successful appeals are extremely rare in China's court system, so the ruling on Mr Chen came as a welcome surprise to his lawyers and family.

His case will go back to a lower court in Yinan County, one of Mr Chen's lawyers, Li Jingsong, told the BBC.

"The court said it was because the process of the first trial was unfair and facts and evidence... were not tenable and did not hold water," Mr Li said.

What's also different about Chen is that his case got some international visibility and support. Those who are not so lucky are not likely to see their cases appealed or their prison terms reduced.

Still, what's up? What's making China do things so unusual as granting appeals to anti-state social activists?

Think interlocking rings. With the Olympics on their way, China is starting to burn off some of its more visible warts.

One very large wart China may be in the process of at least trimming a bit is the fact that the country executes about eight times more people than all the other nations on earth combined. Yesterday China passed a law returning review of death penalties to the Chinese equivalent of the Supreme Court, taking that responsibility away from lower regional courts.

I opposed the people's paradise getting the Olympics in the first place. Still do. But if China doesn't do what I expect them to do -- throw all potential protesters in jail before the Olympics begin -- and actually starts some human rights reforms, then it won't be a total loss.

I'm still certain there will be more lock-ups than reforms, though.

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