For years and years, the bread and butter of China
journalism was dissidents. This is in the days before there was an economy.
Dissidents would take a public position contrary to that of the Communist
Party, the authorities would arrest them, the human rights organizations would
publicize the event, and the media would phone the mother for a comment. There
are still dissidents and there are still people in jail in China for
expressing their political views, but it has all become a sideshow.
The number of dissidents actively monitored by foreign
governments has dropped considerably, and my understanding is the number is
probably around 25 for the whole of China now. The Chinese government
is now jailing far fewer people than before for dissidence, and those that ARE
jailed, I understand, often enjoy special conditions. The reason? "The
wind can change direction," I was told.
So what’s going on with the guy being jailed for expressing
an opinion via his Yahoo email account? It is monkeys and chickens time, I
would say. Setting a high profile example to steer people away from political
use of the biggest risk the party faces – the Internet.