China: is it taking the Mickey?

Whatever you think of Steven Spielberg - and I think some of his films are great! - you certainly cant keep China, the Olympics and human rights out of the news now.

The latest case to come under the spotlight is Yang Chunlin, a former factory worker turned land campaigner who dared to organise a petition saying "We want human rights, not the Olympics". His petition quickly attracted 10,000 signatures, but also gained the attention of the ever-vigilant Chinese authorities.

Theyve put him in prison for six months and are now putting him on trial for inciting subversion of state power (he made his first court appearance yesterday, handcuffed and shackled).

Meanwhile, his family says he was tortured in prison - including by being shackled to an iron disciplinary bed for long periods.

How is all this supposed to clamping down on real threats to mighty Chinas security?

According to Yang Chunlins lawyer Li Fangping, Chinese prosecutors see the petition has having stained China's international image and, hence, its being subversive. The prosecution said the statement went abroad and was widely reported by the foreign media, having a highly negative impact on China's international image," Mr Li says.

Quite how having this case publicised around the world is helping Chinas image is a tough one, but then Chinas management of its international image is far from perfect anyway. Why do I say that?

Well, apart from the fact that China itself connected human rights and the Olympics when it was bidding for them, new moves to ban SpongeBob SquarePants, Mickey Mouse and Pokemon from Chinese television screens seem well, a bit heavyhanded!

Read into the story and its actually about a dose of Chinese economic protectionism - Chinese cartoons for Chinese people - but its not great timing! Lets hope that Chinas bristling desire to crush all dissent wont extend to Scooby-Doo, Daffy Duck and Wily E Cote.

Thats all folks!

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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