Review of 2015

Dear Friend,
     2015 may be marked as the year when China's President Xi Jinping completed his China Dream on the implementation of his directives known as Document No 9 which attacks universal values, civil society, constitutionality, as the perils to the power of the CCP.
     While China has often put journalists in jail, the use of pressuring their family such as in the case of detaining the son of journalist Gao Yu 高瑜 in forcing her "confession" is a new low for the government.  Gao was sentenced to seven years in prison in April.
     Liu Wei 劉偉, a deputy editor of well respected Southern Metropolis News 南方都市報 was arrested in October for reporting on a corruption case even as Xi's campaign against corruption is being carried out leading people to wonder whether such campaign is meant to target Xi's political enemies.
     Perhaps the most absurd of China's control of the press is the detention and subsequent "confession" on TV by financial magazine Caijing's 財經 reporter, Wang Xiaolu 王曉璐 , for his article published in July 20 which the government claimed as causing the market crash in Shanghai.
     With human rights lawyers using China's own constitution and laws to defend their fellow citizens against official land grabs, arbitrary arrests, religious rights, etc., the government of China followed Xi's directive by putting more than 300 human rights lawyers, staffs, family members in detention, arrests, house arrests and under surveillance.
     China's government sees its control of information, news, distortion of history as a means to maintain social stability without recognizing that those with grievances must have some avenues to try to right a wrong without resorting to violence.
     It is only with the free flow of information that disasters can be avoided.  A case in point is China's great famine of 1958-1962 during which more than 40 million Chinese died.  Had there been freedom of the press and information, this man-made famine would not have lasted for so long and spread over most of China.
     China is facing a disaster in pollution.  Even by 1999, 80% of China's waterways had no fish in them.  Soil pollution is a well kept secret with China's political elite enjoying organic food grown under strict guidelines.  Air pollution is something that China's government cannot cover up thus making it necessary for China to participate in the Paris Climate conference.  Even as China claims to combat pollution, China's environmentalist Wu Lihong continued to be kept under surveillance.
     Despite the gloom on human rights in China, NGOs such as Visual Artists Guild can still find encouragement in keeping our work going.  Under international pressure, Gao Yu's appeal on her sentence resulted in her being released in November under medical parole.
     We wish you a Happy Peaceful New Year and thank you for your support on human rights throughout the year.
Ann Lau
Chair, Visual Artists Guild