"They began calling him Big Brother (dage), with a note of affection."
December 20, 2018 12:44 AM   Subscribe

Recently, the Beijing police took my brother sightseeing again. Nine days, two guards, chauffeured tours through a national park that’s a World Heritage site, visits to Taoist temples and to the Three Gorges, expenses fully covered, all courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security.
China’s Bizarre Program to Keep Activists in Check by Jianying Zha. This is a portrait of her brother, democracy activist Zha Jinguao, whom she wrote about eleven years ago for The New Yorker (with a short postscript).
posted by Kattullus (6 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I seem to recall, once, reading an article about the life of a Secret Service agent. One of the lesser-known jobs of the Secret Service was to find anyone they had listed as "Definitely will attack or try to harm the president if he visits this city", and keep them distracted– the article mentioned going to the movies with one of those people a lot while the prez (Obama at the time) was in town.
posted by Quackles at 1:41 AM on December 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

The fact that an activist's sister is allowed to be a TV anchor and author of books shows me that China is not that bad. In the authoritarian regimes I study there is no way that activists' siblings can be employed.
posted by k8t at 2:05 AM on December 20, 2018

The main article is about China's approach to treating a certain kind of dissident, whose moral authority comes in part from suffering. The current approach seems to be focused on limiting the opportunites democracy activists have of acquiring social capital through public action and martyrdom.
posted by Kattullus at 3:04 AM on December 20, 2018 [9 favorites]

China is not that bad

I think China is the most sophisticated authoritarian regime on the planet. They choose the approach that works best towards the goal of keeping everybody under control. Whether it's disappearance, concentration camp, cultural eradication or something more benign depends on the situation.

Of course these are still half measures employed while the State is working on the ultimate solution of the social control problem.
posted by hat_eater at 5:41 AM on December 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

Jianying Zha is a US citizen, probably since the 1990s.
By the 2000s, she was back in China partly to represent a US institution.
She explains her personal story here: - including a bit about her time as a regular talk show guest ( not anchor) in China (of course this was still subject to censorship ).

This was in the period of liberalization in the lead up to the 2008 Olympics where a more open China seemed to be on the horizon. This faded and state controls got much stricter especially after the Xi regime started in 2012 with cracking down on speech, tightening up of ideological controls and boosting of state propaganda in major ways.
Jianying’s US citizenship is confirmed here
posted by Bwithh at 7:24 AM on December 20, 2018 [7 favorites]

The fact that an activist's sister is allowed to be a TV anchor and author of books shows me that China is not that bad

More than 10% of the population of XinJiang has been put in concentration camps; that seems like a fairly silly thing to say.
posted by smoke at 12:38 PM on December 20, 2018 [10 favorites]

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