A Cup of Tea

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To follow on Simon’s post below about Zeng Jinyan, it’s worth noting what Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had to say yesterday regarding human rights. During a joint press conference with U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Yang said, “The Chinese people enjoy extensive freedom of speech,” according to the Financial Times.

“You could ask 10 people on the street to stand in front of public security officers and freely say ‘human rights are far more important than the Olympics’ 10 times or even 100 times and I’ll see which officer arrests them,” the newspaper quoted Yang as saying. “If they get tired, the public security officer would probably offer them a cup of tea.”

I’m guessing Yang wasn’t intentionally referring to the practice of state security agents asking activists out for “a cup of tea.” It’s at those meetings that dissident types are told to mind their behavior or the next meeting won’t be so pleasant. And his timing could have been better. On the same day that Yang made his statement, a petition organizer was seized in Beijing, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an NGO. The organizer, Wang Guilan, had helped compile some 12,000 signatures to a document that said, “If a country cannot protect the basic human rights [of its people], then it obviously is not a modern and civilized country,” CHRD reported.

“As citizens of the host country of the Olympic Games, we hope we have … the human rights and respect enjoyed by civilized societies,” the letter continued. Wang was apparently detained by police from her home province of Hubei. Where she is right now isn’t clear, but presumably she’s getting that cup of tea.

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