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Friday, March 17, 2006



On the imprisonment of Ren ZhiYuan :

From http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16785

“According to the US-based Human Rights in China, Ren, a secondary school teacher in the eastern province of Shandong, was charged with posting several articles deemed subversive, including “The Path to Democracy” in which he asserted the right to resort to violence to overthrow tyranny.

These comments come under the heading of freedom of expression and we consider that you cannot condemn someone simply on the basis of their statements,” said Reporters Without Borders. "

Actually, Reporters Without Borders is wrong. The imprisonment does not violate China's freedom of speech laws. Human rights watch has stated that Ren attempted to overthrow the Chinese government by asserting "the right to resort to violence to overthrow tyranny".

The US supreme Court had set a precedent for such cases in Gitlow vs New York in 1925. Freedom of speech is a right, but if it is used to the purposes of overthrowing the government, then whoever does it can be prosecuted. Gitlow was prosecuted.

See: http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/140/

Some notable quotes:
"For present purposes we may and do assume that freedom of speech and of the press which are protected by the 1st Amendment from abridgment by Congress_ are among the fundamental personal rights and ``liberties'' protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment from impairment by the states."

"And, for yet more imperative reasons, a state may punish utterances endangering the foundations of organized government and threatening its overthrow by unlawful means. These imperil its own existence as a constitutional state. Freedom of speech and press, said Story (supra), does not protect disturbances of the public peace or the attempt to subvert the government. It does not protect publications or teachings which tend to subvert or imperil the government, or to impede or hinder it in the performance of its governmental duties. It does not protect publications prompting the overthrow of government by force; the punishment of those who publish articles which tend to destroy organized society being essential to the security of freedom and the stability of the state. And a state may penalize utterances which openly advocate the overthrow of the representative and constitutional form of government of the United States and the several states, by violence or other unlawful means."

Gitlow vs New York 1925 is one of the most important cases involving free speech right


Hardly stuff that he should have been imprisoned over. The Chinese State is just too paranoid.

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