Adam Boulton
In A Tiananmen Rebel's Glass Prison

Blogtiananmen_2 By Peter Sharp in Beijing

It is not much of a view, but for Bao Tong who is beginning his 13th year under house arrest it is his world.

Looking out across waste ground from his nondescript sixth-floor apartment in a shabby block in West Beijing, he tells me this is where he will die.

"Welcome to my glass prison," he says.

Bao Tong is the most senior Chinese Communist Party official to be jailed following the Tiananmen Square uprising. He was convicted in 1989 of passing information on the imposition of martial law to the students.

He served a seven-year term of imprisonment. But the Party never forgets those of its own who deviate from the path and on his release he was immediately placed under house arrest.

To visit Bao Tong is to take part in a carefully choreographed display of police bureaucracy.

A guard opens the door to the apartment block. In the darkened, freezing cold concrete lobby another police officer sits behind a plain metal desk. He takes your press credentials and carefully, slowly transcribes them by hand into a ruled notebook.

Then you are allowed to pass through another door and left to take the lift to the sixth floor.

In an irritating act of pettiness the guards have removed all the numbers to the apartments on the sixth floor providing another minor, if annoying, obstacle to those who dare visit.

But it is the randomness of his incarceration that is so unsettling. Some days his guards will actually allow him to leave the apartment building. Some days they will follow him. Some days they won't.

On some occasions he is allowed to go to lunch. Some days the guards will take an adjoining table and order their meal with him. On other days he will be left alone.

If he takes the subway he is tracked by a man on a cell phone who reports to a car above when he exits the station.

His phone is tapped and has been cut off completely for months.

It is not a life - more an existence that has been placed on hold.

But years of house arrest have done little, if anything, to crush his political beliefs.

He is 75 now but looks a good 15 years younger, and in a firm voice makes it clear he regrets nothing.

"I am still the same person I was then. At the time, I thought the use of military force by Deng Xiaoping to suppress the students was wrong, was criminal. I still think this. Back then, I felt it was the right thing to do to oppose Deng Xiaoping. And today I still feel I was right."

He is convinced if democracy comes to China it will come from below, rather than above.

"When Chinese people stand up for their freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, freedom to set up their own political party, and freedom of religion - this will be the start of democracy."

Despite his house arrest, Bao Tong remains surprisingly well-informed about events in China. He spoke knowingly of recent political demonstrations in the south, never covered by state media.

The visit of Gordon Brown gave him the opportunity to compare and contrast life in Britain and China.

"In England, people can say what they want. They can praise Gordon Brown, or they can criticise him. But Chinese people can only praise the Communist Party," he said.

"England has freedom of speech, China doesn't. England has freedom of the press, China doesn't. England has freedom to vote, China doesn't. In Chinese elections, the Communist party gives you five candidates for five positions. You can only choose those five. And they call these elections."

Bao Tong insisted on accompanying us to the ground floor to say goodbye.

A guard held the door open for us. Bao Tong stood in the doorway, gave us a wave and a smile before turning round and, looking straight ahead, walked to take the lift back to the sixth floor.

He never once acknowledged the presence of his warders.

Written by Sky News, 17/01/2008


i've posted two videos on youtube called "a chilly chinese new year," about the current situation with media freedom in china and the fact that there are still people in prison from 89.

The Chinese authorities do not treat their people well enough. The Chinese cannot voice their opinions freely, nor air their grievances openly. Individuals are treated virtually as property of the State and are at the mercy and will of the State. At all times, it seems the Chinese must show allegiance to the Party and tow the party line. The Party exerts an all controlling influence, encompassing a rigid, bureaucratic society. Individuals rights are severely curtailed. The rest of the world can influence China to become less of the above.

Chinese families are being forcibly evicted from their homes, demolished wholesale for infrastructure of the Olympic Games. No say in the matter, little or no redress and no home to live in. Nations could refuse to join the Games, boycotting the event altogether, until such time as the authorities there become more people friendly. Party invitations returned to sender. So doing would result in the ruin of many peoples enjoyment and the hopes of competitors, hours spent in training, left shattered. Attempts to embarrass the Chinese Government could also backfire, with conditions even worsening for the Chinese, not improving. Society well-being is more important than any sporting event, but forceful and tactful multi-directional diplomacy is more likely to have an effect. I don’t dispute that control is required, and policies like one child per family seem draconian, but essential if the population needing food and shelter is to be managed. All that is asked, is that the authorities there demonstrate less of the suppression and a bit more humanity and compassion, by actually listening to and acting upon the concerns of people.

That gentlman shows how out of date he is when he said that Britain has freedom of speach,
Its been a long time since we had that freedom removed from us.

Are we allowed to criticise Gordon Brown now, when did that change?

Hail, Mr. Bao, one of the few brave men in China who dare to stand up for his political opinions. Nobel Peace Prize should consider Mr. Bao Tong for his role in promoting democracy in China through his peaceful means of expressions to the world community.

Hail, Mr. Bao Tong!

What a sad state of affairs if I may say so, particularrly in this day and age. China, who is to host the Olympics, need to redress such matters of "Freedom" immediately as the whole world descends upon its shores. So, as the man is 75, at least let him enjoy life with a little bit of dignity. It really is a matter for the people of China to ensure the world is not subjected to these inhumane acts as like many a party within, the world never forgets.

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