Hong Kong Activists Mail Christmas Cards to Political Prisoners in China

The worn bars in the cell block are seen at Alcatraz Island, a 22-acre rocky outcrop situated 1.5 miles offshore in San Francisco Bay, August 11, 2011. Seventy-seven years ago on August 11, 1934, a group of federal prisoners classified as "most dangerous" arrived at the new high-security penitentiary designed …
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China dressed in Santa Claus outfits spent the Christmas holiday mailing cards to political prisoners and the Chinese officials who imprisoned them.

The Alliance said it was able to amass 1,300 cards, about a thousand of them addressed to political prisoners, including jailed human rights lawyers Wang Quanzhang and Yu Wensheng. Some of the remaining cards were sent to Chinese Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, Premier Li Kequiang, and other top officials.

“The Alliance is sending Christmas cards we have collected from a number of Hong Kong citizens, hoping that these will give them strength, as well as playing our part in the struggle for freedom, justice, and human rights, as well as our common aspiration of democracy,” said Alliance Vice President Toynee Chow.

Alliance chairman Albert Ho, himself a human rights lawyer, said many of his colleagues remain behind bars, while others have been arbitrarily stripped of their law licenses. He denounced these practices, along with China’s oppression of religious and ethnic groups, as “extremely uncivilized” and grimly predicted the situation would get worse unless China’s leaders feel the eyes of the world are upon them.

One of the names frequently mentioned by the Hong Kong activists, and indeed chanted outside the post office as they mailed their avalanche of Christmas cards, is lawyer Wang Quanzhang. The Chinese government held Wang incommunicado for the better part of four years, then attempted to dispose of his case with a quickie secret hearing on Wednesday. Wang cleverly sabotaged the effort, doubtless at the cost of even more extrajudicial imprisonment, by firing his government-appointed lawyer soon after the proceeding began.

“The government tried to make this happen with minimal attention from diplomatic missions and the media. Obviously, this backfired spectacularly,” human rights activist Peter Dahlin told the Washington Post on Thursday, applauding his friend Wang’s display of resistance. International observers have denounced China’s depiction of Wang as a subversive foreign agent because of his work with Dahlin.

“This was the most bizarre form of a show trial imaginable, where they couldn’t even put on a show,” said Jerome A. Cohen of New York University.

He said the Chinese government’s obsession with secret trials for political prisoners like Wang Quanzhang was a sign of “insecurity, not strength,” since it is increasingly clear the lengthy “black jail” detentions and closed-room trials are carried out in violation of Chinese law.

The United Nations said there are “serious human rights concerns” about Wang’s detention and show trial, while Amnesty International dismissed the hearing as a “sham.”

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