China’s Communist regime must have mustered all its internal-security and message-crafting resources to ensure that Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo rotted, ailed and died as discreetly and seamlessly as possible, while maximizing anguish and fear among his loved ones and sympathizers.
Yet, so petrified was the dictatorship of the dying writer and his ideas, that its micromanagement of his last few days was visibly clunky. Beijing’s soft-power geniuses seem to have bickered over the idea of bringing foreign doctors in at the last minute. Shouldn’t we just let Liu die unseen off-camera rather than attract attention? Or would an invitation to overseas medics make us look humane? (Could we even get the world to think the foreign doctors were culpable in his lack of treatment?)
Global Times portrays Liu as a victim of the West (which conned him into thinking governments should obey their own constitutions) and also falls back on the old line implying that China’s economic progress excuses/requires incarcerating and killing critics.
This argument would be more convincing if they supplemented the record of rising prosperity with the undeniable reduction in the quantity of Communist Party barbarism and blood-shedding over the same period. Thus annual per-capita GDP in the 1950s-60s was US$100 versus US$6,000 today; and the average annual number of deaths from political/ideological causes in the 1950s-60s was (say) 3 million versus (say) 3,000 today. For a paranoid psychopathic mafia increasingly obsessed solely with keeping power, we’re headed in the right direction! But of course, if the one-party state could be honest it would cease to exist and wouldn’t need better PR.
In Hong Kong, Leninist dictatorship continues to grind away. Today the High Court will rule on the disqualification of oath-mangling pro-democracy lawmakers. If Beijing wins, it succeeds in weakening the legal system and the legislature. It also further diminishes the credibility of the local government, and Beijing’s image as a capable sovereign of a pluralist society. Net result: it further strengthens the alienation and hostility of the population, especially the younger and more-educated. Which leads me to declare the weekend open with a reminder that, while this is going on, Taiwan is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the end of martial law.