Passport

It's winter again for Chinese dissidents

Earlier this evening eight police raided the home of prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia, confiscated two computers, and told him to report to a police station for further questioning on Thursday, in a move that potentially presages a further crackdown towards rights activists in China.

A skinny firebrand, Hu made his name fighting for better treatment of AIDS patients. Like the better known international artist and provocateur Ai Weiwei, Hu made a point of using the law to fight the system, even if his adversaries didn't always operate legally. In a 2006 interview with Radio Free Asia, after describing being detained for 41 days, accused of nebulous crimes and warned that "more misfortune would come upon me if I continued to take part in those activities," Hu said: 

I am going to sue the Beijing Public Security Bureau, because they have become more and more reckless in violating human rights, which not only has brought misfortune to my family, but also to many other families. In order to put restraint on them, to awaken them, and to make them repent, I must use the law as my weapon...

Arrested in 2007 and charged with the menacingly broad crime of "inciting subversion of state power," Hu spent three years in prison, before being released in June of 2011, four days after Ai emerged from his 81 day detention.  Ai kept agitating, in November offering supporters the chance to help pay a tax bill from the government that he claimed was politically motivated. Hu remained active on Twitter, but mostly kept quiet. 

Beijing remains in the thralls of what one journalist called The Big Chill, a crackdown on activists, human rights lawyers, and bloggers. While things have been relatively quiet over the past few months, Hu's treatment might be the start of a new wave of seasonal arrests and detentions related to the political transition slated for later this year, when Xi Jinping, barring any major changes, will be announced as the new Chairman of the Communist Party. Like the Olympics were China's coming out party, the 2012 National Congress in China is Xi’s debut; he would prefer that Hu and others didn’t spoil it with their simmering voices of discontent.   

FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

Passport

Do Americans really hate Europe that much?

Back in June, shortly after Mitt Romney's entry into the race, I wrote a short piece noting the anti-European rhetoric in Mitt Romney's announcement of his candidacy, and predicting that Republicans would try to pain the president as a Brussels bureaucrat. After all, the "European" charge is a one-stop-shop shorthand for socialist economic policies, timidity in foreign affairs, and suggesting that there's something not-quite-American about the president without getting into dangerous racial territory.

Judging by last night's New Hampshire victory speech, Romney is doubling down on this line of attack:

“President Obama wants to ‘fundamentally transform’ America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great.

“He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity.

“This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America.

And later:

“I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.

On MSNBC this morning, Chris Matthews thought this was an effective tactic, saying something to the effect of, "A lot of Americans have done their European vacations. They thought the French were rude to them and Venice smells." (This isn't an exact quote. The clip isn't posted yet.)

But I'm still not quite convinced that Americans are that hostile to Europe. Granted, this hasn't been a great year for the European economic model, but it hasn't exactly been a great one for the American economic model either. As Andrew Sullivan notes, Americans probably wouldn't mind Germany's unemployment rate. 

Americans may not want to live in Europe, but they don't really hate it. A 2009 Pew Research Center poll found that 77 percent of Americans have favorable views of Britain, 66 percent for Germany and 62 percent for France. (The French number nearly doubled since 2003 when tensions were high over the Iraq War.)

Granted these numbers are from before the worst of the financial crisis (Although another poll released this year found that 55 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the E.U.) but I'm still not sure that U.S. hostility toward Europe -- particularly in the general electorate -- is as palpable as Romney seems to think it is.

Also, does Romney really want to come into office having spent his entire campaign bashing longtime U.S. allies?

Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT