Hiatus update, and a China comment

Thanks to many people who wrote with kind inquiries about my terse "going offline" note of several days ago. I had meant merely to be private, rather than willfully cryptic. To be somewhat less cryptic but still discreet: for a while I am out of China and in California, with my father.

Let me mention only one point I would have mentioned earlier, if it hadn't happened just when I was scrambling to arrange a trip from Beijing to Los Angeles: the sentencing of Hu Jia to three and a half years in prison is serious and dismaying news.

Hu is best known for his work advancing the rights of people with AIDS and HIV in China. He was arrested early this year on charges of "inciting subversion of state power," because of quotes and articles on his blog and in foreign papers, and was convicted and sentenced a few days ago. Rob Gifford's book China Road, mentioned here earlier, includes some descriptions of Hu and his work. Except by the Chinese security services, he is widely admired and respected and considered a "reformer" rather than a rebel directly challenging the legitimacy of the Chinese regime.

Here is the one and only mention of his sentencing that I see in the China Daily, official voice of the government to the outside world. That is worth comparing with the statement from the U.S. State Department, hardly a source of rabble-rousing observations about China. Or with this, from Rebbeca MacKinnon. Or this posting by Simon Elegant, of Time. Elegant is writing about Tibet rather than Hu Jia, but he explains the perverse logic, which applies in both instances, by which internal Chinese repression and controls are very likely to be tightened just as the world turns its attention to the country for the Olympic Games, rather than relaxed -- as normal PR instincts would dictate and as the regime promised years ago when China was bidding for the Games. The paradox, as discussed earlier here and elsewhere, is that much of real, daily Chinese life is fairly free-wheeling and uncontrolled. But what the Chinese regime is showing is the most repressive side of its nature, at the time the world's attention is directed there.

Hu Jia's case is on a scale different from the events in Tibet, but in its way it is as disturbing.

With that, again going dark for a while.