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A prisoner of conscience on trial in China
Liu Xiaobo

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[Beijing] Mr. He Depu, a prisoner of conscience, finds himself standing trial. As I understand it He Depu has always been willing to help people, but his behaviour has been low key.

Although we don’t associate that much, I have grown to respect this man very much. After joining the Democracy Wall movement of 1979 he remained true to his beliefs even admitting his membership of the Democratic Party after its suppression by the Chinese Communist Party and signing his name to the open letter requesting the Chinese Communist Party to release arrested Democratic Party members.
He suffered badly from inhumane treatment in the labour camp, where amongst other things the prison guards forced him to stand stock still for 85 days on end.

Every time I met up with He Depu, he would always say, "take
care of yourself" or "mind yourself ". He appealed on behalf of other prisoners of conscience (like Xu Liwen and Wang You Cai) and spoke out for groups oppressed by the government.

He was dismissed from his workplace and impoverished, yet he was still willing to pull out his emergency money to subsidize prisoners’ (forgotten-by-society) family members.

He didn’t write a great deal, but what he did write was focused on rationally and gradually encouraging Chinese political change.

Although he was a Democratic Party member, he did not advocate the promulgation of the organisation. The prosecution's case against him amounts to only four charges, but these do not support the charge of subversion.

However, if the wicked political powers in China want to mount a case against you, they will find a way, whether it is constitutional or not.

Within 24hours of He Depu’s abduction the "Shenwu" (China’s manned space mission rocket) had lifted off and safely returned, whipping the Mainland media into a frenzy of praise of the government claiming, "the Chinese nation's thousand year long dream of flying to the heavens has been realized" ,"the wisdom of the leadership of the Chinese communist party has led us to this success" and "all our nation’s peoples support the leadership" .

However, it was obvious that the media coverage of the Shenwu launch was a carefully staged event. The event was not broadcast “live” as the leadership were concerned that any negative occurrences would reflect badly upon them and cause them to lose face. The success or failure of the mission itself was of no consequence. The true issue in the eyes of the senior leadership was the favourable portrayal of its achievements.

Although the general public is supportive of the successes of the “Shenwu” program’s successes, they are by no means as enthusiastic in their support of this event as they were for the Dong Fang Hong satellite. Their focus is directed much more obviously and indifferently inward towards their own self interest rather than showing any concern for national affairs.

The spectacle of the Shenwu launch makes one focus on the contrasts. The mission itself was in reality technically unspectacular, in start contrast with the exaggerated claims spouted by the media.

One sees the President’s and Premier’s personal encouragement of spaceman Yang Liwei, the public accolades and the spotlight of media attention, and contrasts this with the gloomiest corners of the ‘real’ China.

What is the 'real' China? A China where there is only behind-the-scenes plotting, secret arrests, violent interrogations, laying of false charges and persecution.

A China where open, public and just legal proceedings have suffered the same fate as open, fair and balanced reportage.

A China where the nation’s conscience has grown accustomed to dictatorship and political power plays. A China where the people, blind to the suffering of the hidden victims, simply look the other way.

In the gloomiest corners of the real China is a prisoner of conscience, He Depu.

China, the third country in the world to have sent a person to outer space, is actually being controlled by a vicious regime that unceasingly persecutes prisoners of conscience in dark prison cells.

The people’s conscience and their national spirit are also being trampled. In the face of such barbaric political power, at a time when people are proud of "Shenwu’s ascent to the sky” they should at the same time not forget about the shame of a government guilty of persecuting talented people and should speak up for all those who are suffering on their behalf.

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