Before the recent dive in the Chinese microcap market, I made a decent profit trading small (but profitable) Bulletin Board Chinese stocks. Tinkerbell style bookkeeping occurred in a few of these stocks (a given in the BB game) and I got smacked accordingly, but in the end made out okay. This past week that market appears to be coming to life again.
As I contemplate jumping onto that roller-coaster ride again, some events in China have been bothering me lately. Undeterred after being caught adulterating milk with melamine, a toxic chemical that increased their profits and killed Chinese babies, some of the guilty milk companies actually REPEATED their melamine poisoning once the initial outcry died down. The next troublesome event was the collapse of Chinese schools in the 2008 earthquake that killed thousands of students, yet left neighboring buildings still standing. Unlike those solidly constructed buildings, it turns out China’s shoddily constructed schools had never been designed to withstand quakes at the high end of the Richter Scale. Next comes a tidbit I just recently came across. Researchers found that a whopping 31% of Chinese scientific papers submitted to a national scientific journal in the last two years contained plagiarized material. That’s a LOT of cheating. Because the Chinese government advances careers based strictly on the number of papers published, the pressure to produce these papers is enormous, though it’s pretty much agreed no one reads them.
But the topper is the story of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident serving an 11-year jail sentence for advocating political reform, who was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. A writer and former professor who stood between Tiananmen Square students and the soldiers and tanks ready to blast them into oblivion, Liu was a major force in ending that stand off without a blood bath. Since then the government has stripped him of his job, jailed him on and off for twenty years, and silenced his voice in his own country. So crushing has their censorship been that few Chinese people in the street today even know who he is. Nor do they know he’s been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since the government has blocked news of that “political tool of the west” In all media. When Liu’s friends arrived at a private celebration banquet the night his prize was announced, they were immediately arrested and hauled away.
Attempting to interview his wife, Liu Xia, at the couple’s home, foreign reporters were blocked by a wall of police. Though she was briefly transported to her husband’s jail 300 miles away to deliver the news, his wife has since been put under house arrest. And both her cell phone and Internet connection have (surprise) been cut.
For those making investment decisions based strictly on dollar signs, these events have little to zero significance. I find it hard, however, to keep overlooking the Chinese government’s suffocation of free speech when dealing with differing opinions, especially opinions suggesting a loosening of their power. Like Thomas Jefferson, Liu wrote a pro democracy paper calling for the expansion of freedom in his country and the end to one-party rule (modeling it in fact on Jefferson’s writing). But unlike Jefferson, who was applauded and honored for his contribution to his countrymen’s freedom, Liu was condemned, jailed and silenced.
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