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July 24, 2017

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Is China likely to build a better world?

China's leader, Xi Jinping, has been busy traveling the world to deliver the message that China is a responsible power, ready for world leadership. The official Xinhua news agency said of his visit to Hamburg for the G-20 gathering: "Chinese President Xi Jinping has demonstrated China's readiness to join the rest of the world in building a better world for everyone."

Within China, however, not everyone would agree that a better world was being built for them. Sunday marked the second anniversary of the "709 crackdown" against human rights defenders, which began on July 9, 2015. According to China Change, an organization that works with Chinese democracy advocates, more than 300 human rights lawyers and activists have been detained, disappeared, temporarily rounded up and interrogated.

To mark the second anniversary, the China Human Rights Lawyers Group, founded in 2013, issued a statement in which it recalled the first arrests, that of Beijing-based lawyer Wang Yu and her husband, Bao Longjun, and their son, Bao Zhuoxuan.

"This was a prelude to the mass arrests of the July 9 sweep," the group said. "After July 9, over 360 lawyers and citizens around the country were summoned and subjective to coercive, high-pressure interrogations. The family members of lawyers and rights activities were also implicated and subjected to constant threats and intimidation."

These events have not gone unnoticed overseas. The New York City Bar Association also issued a statement marking the "709 Crackdown" on Sunday.

"In what amounts to nothing less than a 'war on law' that is unprecedented in its scale and severity," the New York body said, "Chinese human rights lawyers and activists have been summoned for questioning, kidnapped by secret politic, detained incommunicado in 'black jails' and other prisons, humiliated and subjected to marathon interrogation sessions and other forms of sadistic psychological and physical torture, including sleep deprivation, forced medication (often with grave consequences for mental and physical health), brutal beatings, electric shocks, prolonged subversion in water, death threats, and months of solitary confinement."

It ascribed responsibility for this "infamous 709 Crackdown" directly to President Xi Jinping.

Also very much in the international news these days (though not in China where the media is controlled), is the treatment China has meted out to its best known dissident, Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Given an 11-year sentence on Christmas Day, 2009 for "subversion of state power," Liu is now dying of liver cancer. Still, the Chinese government won't allow him and his wife to go abroad for medical treatment.

It is hard to believe that Chinese prison authorities, who knew Liu suffered from hepatitis B, was unaware of Liu's liver cancer until it had metastasized. The Shenyang judicial bureau released a statement June 28 that doctors found suspicious symptoms during a routine physical checkup on May 31. A medical team was convened and a week later diagnosed Liu with liver cancer.

Both Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia, have repeatedly asked to be allowed to go abroad for medical treatment. The Chinese authorities have allowed Dr. Marcus Buchler of the University of Heidelberg and Dr. Joseph M. Herman of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to visit him in the First Hospital of China Medical University in Shenyang.

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