Monday, December 28, 2009

Liu Xiaobo

Regardless of what you think of the process Liu Xiaobo is going through right now, the Christian Science Monitor's recent piece on the story has to stand out as some of the worst reporting on it thus far---at least in terms of the headline chosen, "Will West's Criticism of China for Jailing Top Dissident Backfire?"

The title refers to a long-running debate in human rights circles, both within China and abroad, as to the best way to support individual P.R.C. prisoners of conscience. NYU's Professor Jerome Cohen provided a thoughtful take on the topic a while back in the South China Morning Post (available via CFR here).

I don't blame the Monitor for trying to add to the debate. The problem is that they added zero. Evidence for the "backfire" thesis? One single quote from Tom Doctoroff, "the Shanghai-based Greater China CEO of US advertising agency JWT," who says you get the best results on human rights (his specialty I'm sure) through behind-the-doors conversations. Oh yeah, a real reliable, independent source with NO business interests whatsoever in China of all places...

Then, the reporter gets some good responses from Teng Biao, Josh Rosenzweig over at Dui Hua, etc. Except none of them deal with the issue of backlash and publicity / versus quiet.

Again, may just be bad work on the part of editor. But a serious question like this deserves better.