China: The Merit of Obedience

After a perfunctory trial, dissidents get stiff sentences

Even before the trial began, the atmosphere in courtroom No. 01 of the Beijing Intermediate People's Court was foreboding. Black curtains were drawn across the windows, and most seats were filled with men in uniforms. Only two women in the third row, clearly apprehensive, looked out of place.

At 8:30 a.m. the lights suddenly brightened, and Chen Ziming, 38, one of China's leading dissidents, was led in. Stepping into the dock, he looked up at the gallery -- and into the eyes of his mother and his sister. It had been more than a year since they had seen him. For...

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