A dissident former professor and frequent critic of the Chinese government was reportedly arrested on Wednesday during an interview with an American news outlet in which he was criticizing Chinese government policies.
What's the background?
This was not 84-year-old Wenguang Sun's first run-in with Chinese authorities. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in 1974 on charges of “attacking Great Leader Chairman Mao.” In 2004, he published “A Century of Disasters: From Mao Zedong to Jiang Zemin.”
In 2005, the Chinese government denied his passport application and he has been unable to leave the country ever since. In 2009, when he was on his way to a memorial for a leader who was dismissed for supporting the Tiananmen Square protesters, Sun was beaten so badly that four of his ribs were broken. He was also detained twice for “counterrevolutionary speech,” according to Human Rights Watch.
In July, he wrote an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, criticizing him for his “checkbook diplomacy” and for getting rid of term limits to keep himself in power indefinitely.
What happened this week?
On Wednesday, Sun was doing a phone interview with Voice of America. He was under house arrest at the time. In the interview, he criticized President Xi for investing $1 billion in African infrastructure instead of using it to address poverty in China.
As he was discussing this, Sun suddenly said in Chinese, “Here they come again, the police are here to interrupt again.”
VOA continued to capture audio as Sun threatened to get a knife if the men didn't leave.
“It is illegal for you to come to my home,” he can be heard saying. Then the call ended. He has not been heard from since.
In spite of frequently facing the wrath of Chinese authorities, Sun refused to keep quiet. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Sun said, “If my rights are infringed then I have to fight back. I can’t just give up my rights.”
Responding to this incident, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted that incidents in China should remind Americans that despite the frequent usage of “tyranny” or “authoritarianism” in American politics, citizens in China are facing true tyranny.
Every time you hear overblown rhetoric about how we are on the verge of “tyranny” or “authoritarianism” in America remember what real tyranny& authoritarianism looks like. In #China the police arrested a Xi critic while he was in the middle of a live interview. https://t.co/EQuMCc8Qpr
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 2, 2018