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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Human Rights in China: Chen Guangcheng

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Amnesty International's report on China, The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises includes the pessimistic conclusion that in four areas related to the core Olympic values of "universal fundamental ethical principles" and "human dignity," China's human rights record has failed to come up to the mark. It suggests that, rather than improving the situation, the build up to the Olympics has seen the increased persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, censorship and the continuation of the death penalty for unwarrented offences.

The great thing about Amnesty, though, is that whilst it may often make pretty grim judgements on political behaviour, their motto that "It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" gives individuals the belief that exercising pressure on institutions to make a change, no matter how small, can have a positive effect in the long run. For most ordinary supporters, like myself, this takes the form of writing letters to embassies and presidents in far-flung corners of the globe. Given the timing of Amnesty's recent report, I thought I would copy below the text of my most recent letter to the Prime Minister of the People's Republic of China. This concerns the case of Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who has helped villagers to take legal action against the Linyi city authorities, who had allegedly been forcing women to have abortions so as to meet birth quotas set by central government.
Your Excellency,

On 24th August 2006, following a one-day trial, Chen Guangcheng was imprisoned for four years and three months for "damaging public property and gathering people to block traffic." Whilst in prison, Chen Guangcheng was beaten on the orders of prison guards, for refusing to have his head shaved.

In this year when China plays host to the Olympics, I urge you to consider the core Olympic values of "universal fundamental ethical principles" and "human dignity" in relation to the judicial system in China. In relation to this case in particular, I ask you to guarantee that Chen Guangcheng will not be subjected to further torture and ill-treatment whilst in detention, and to initiate a full and impartial investigation into his treatment in Linyi prison.

Chen Guangcheng was imprisoned for campaigning against the forced sterilisation and abortions the local authority was enacting in pursuit of birth quotas. Chen Guangcheng was making a legitimate argument for human rights to be respected in China. I ask you to ensure that all human rights defenders, such as Chen Guangcheng, are able to carry out their peaceful activities without fear of harassment or imprisonment.

I thank you for your time in reading this letter, and look forward to your positive response to these matters. I also wish you every success in hosting the Olympic Games in 2008.

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Posted by Alistair at 10:58 am


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