In Russia and China, the Darkness Deepens | National Review

In Russia and China, the Darkness Deepens | National Review

Yuri Dmitriev at work in 2006 (Courtesy of Russian Human Rights Alert)

On the homepage today, we have an Impromptus column, with a variety of issues. The first has to do with the long reach of the Chinese government. They make sure that Chinese students on American campuses stay in line. The students always have families back home. And some students inform on other students. This has been going on a long time. I first learned about it when I myself was in grad school. A Chinese classmate of mine told me how it worked. He did so with weary disgust. In recent days, Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, has said: Not on my campus, you don’t.

In my column today, I also discuss Russia, Poland, Mexico, gender confusion, the late E. O. Wilson, the King James Bible, and more.

After I wrote my column, some stories were reported. I would like to take them up here on the Corner. First, China — and Hong Kong in particular: “Hong Kong Police Raid Office of Pro-Democracy News Site, Arrest 7.” One of them is Denise Ho, with whom I podcasted in 2019: here. She is a remarkably poised and brave woman. All of these people have exhibited phenomenal bravery.

Hong Kong has been snuffed out. But Hong Kongers have provided a sterling example for all. The spirit of freedom is strong in them.

Another piece of news: “Russian court extends jail term for Gulag historian to 15 years.” The prisoner in question is Yuri Dmitriev, about whom I wrote in 2017. He is an extraordinary person: stubborn for the truth. They have put him through hell. Apparently, they intend to do it until he is dead.

Dmitriev was part of the Memorial society. Here is yet another story from yesterday: “Russian court abolishes country’s most prominent human rights group, Memorial.” Of course. Memorial was the conscience of Russia. Is the conscience of Russia. It was formed at the instigation of Andrei Sakharov. Its purpose was two-fold: to promote the truth about the past and to advocate democracy in the present. The Kremlin could not abide this organization.

The report I have cited begins, “Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the liquidation of the country’s most prominent human rights organization . . .” That word “liquidation” is a nice touch: a Soviet word. Putin & Co. are very defensive of the Soviet past. Often, when I write about Russia, my critics say, “Russia is not the Soviet Union, you know!” I know. But the question, increasingly, is: Does the Kremlin know?

Oyub Titiev is another human-rights defender with Memorial. I wrote about him last year. What these people are willing to risk, for the sake of the truth, and to help their fellow man — mind-boggling.

In Soviet days, the West was full of apologists for the Kremlin. In our own day, the West is still full of such apologists. Putin is seen, by many, as a nationalist hero. A defender of traditional values (whatever they may be). The attitude was summed up by Diane James, the UKIP leader, who said, “I admire him from the point of view that he’s standing up for his country. He is very nationalist. He is a very strong leader. He is putting Russia first.”

He is putting his dictatorship and his network first. Russians have precious little to do with it. You know who puts Russians first, actually? The workers of Memorial.

Last month, Putin presented the Hungarian foreign minister with Russia’s Order of Friendship. A bauble well earned. Who will be the friends of the political prisoners and other abused Russians? Who will speak out for Memorial?

Advocates of freedom, living in free countries, need to find their voice. In places such as Russia and China, the voices are being silenced.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.