Op-Ed Contributors

Political activism cannot be a legal shield

Updated: 2011-04-09 07:26

(China Daily)

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Editor's note: The following article, an editorial, was published in the Global Times on April 8.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is being investigated over "suspected economic crimes", according to authorities on Thursday. Some Western media outlets immediately questioned the charge as a "catch-all crime", and insisted on interpreting the case in their own way.

Western media claimed that Ai was "missing" or had "disappeared" in previous reports, despite their acknowledgement of Ai's detainment. They used such words to paint the Chinese government as a "kidnapper".

Now they describe the police's charge as "laughable" and flout the spirit of the law. They depict anyone conducting anti-government activities in China as being innocent, and as being exempt unconditionally from legal pursuit.

Diplomats and officials from countries such as the US and Germany on Wednesday rebuked China once again over human rights. A mayor from South Korea also issued a statement pressuring China to release Ai soon. Such intensive intervention has barely been seen in China of late.

Ai's detention is one of the many judicial cases handled in China every day. It is pure fantasy to conclude that Ai's case will be handled specially and unfairly. The era of judicial cases involving severely unjust, false or wrong charges has gone.

Nowadays, corrupt officials and the occasional dissident may view their own cases as being handled unfairly: The former believe their merits offset faults, and the latter see China's legal system as maintaining an "illegal" existence. Ai once said China was living a "crazy, black" era. This is not the mainstream perception in Chinese society.

China's legal system ensures the basic order of this large-scale country. It guarantees the balanced development of civil livelihood and social establishment. Besides, it maintains an economic order that not only propels domestic growth but also generates foreign exchanges powerful enough to purchase US treasury bonds.

The integrated legal system is the framework of China. The West wants to bring changes to this framework, shaping it as it pleases and transforming the nation into a compliant puppet. It has succeeded in creating many such puppets around the world.

China is not the dangerous place of Western description. Otherwise, Ai would not have returned to China from the United States, and Western diplomats and businessmen would not view China as the best place for doing business. But like other safe places in the world, China is only safe for law-abiding citizens, and nobody is allowed to see illegal acts go unpunished.

The charge of "suspect economic crimes" does not mean Ai will be found guilty. The case should be handled properly through legal procedures, and Western pressure should not weigh upon the court's decision.

If Ai's "suspected economic crimes" are justified, the conviction should not consider his "pro-democracy" activities. The only relation between the two is probably the lesson that anyone who engages in political activities needs to keep "clean hands."

If Ai is found not guilty, his acquittal should transcend politics too. However, the authorities should learn to be more cautious and find sufficient evidence before detaining public figures next time.


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