The timing of the latest measures have a particular irony, with music icon Bob Dylan due to play concerts in both countries over the next few days (in Beijing tomorrow, in Shanghai on April 8th, and in Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon — on April 10th).
The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, known for being a gadfly to the communist regime, was arrested at an airport in Beijing on Sunday, and has not been heard from since. Dozens of others have met similar fates since China began cracking down on even the slightest whispers of a “jasmine revolution” in the wake of popular protests against dictatorial regimes in the Middle East — and hundreds more are living under house arrest. (One mild way of expressing support for Ai Weiwei might be by following his Twitter account — currently at over 74,000 followers).
In Vietnam, a well known critic of the regime, Cu Huy Ha Vu (who is the son of a Vietnamese revolutionary leader) has just been sentenced to seven years in jail. Via the AFP, the U.S. State Department spokesman is quoted thusly:
Vu’s conviction runs counter to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and raises serious questions about Vietnam’s commitment to the rule of law and reform. No individual should be imprisoned for exercising the right to free speech.
He’s been accused of spreading anti-state propaganda through writings and interviews since 2009. The head judge is quoted as saying:
Cu Huy Ha Vu’s behavior is serious and harmful to society. His writings and interviews blackened directly or indirectly the Communist Party of Vietnam.
So, communists are doing what they do best: cracking down, repressing dissent, accepting no dispute. They are bringing shame on themselves, and demonstrating once again the bankrupt nature of their anti-human ideology. The communists in China and Vietnam have given up, largely, on the strict economic socialism that was imposed at the cost of so many lives, but they haven’t given up on the most tempting fruit of all: control.