Political prisoners are those who act within the scope of law, who are non-violent, but are jailed by the government. In a country with rule of law, political prisoners should never exist. Therefore the imprisonment of people for their speech or belief is a reflection of repressive regime.
China has the largest number of political prisoners in the world. The world learned about Liu Xiaobo in jail due to Nobel peace prize. But many people like him, more than 1,000 political prisoners, are currently languishing in jail. Who are these 1,000 people? There are 6 major groups: (1) Dissidents (2) NGO activist (3) Journalist and lawyers (4) People who try to practice their religion (5) Petitioners due to injustice (6) Ethnic minority activists.
1. Dissidents who speak out for political reform.
This group of people are very similar to Liu Xiaobo. They are intellectuals, writers and political activists who write and speak out for political change. Their seek peaceful change by directly demanding the government to respect human rights. They are jailed simply because their speech and practicing freedom of assembly.
2. Activists who help unprivileged people
Hu Jia is such an example. He helped to expose AIDS epidemic in Anhui villages. In China, these group of people are called "rights defenders". They are a growing number of people who are speaking out the truth. Huang Xi who set up a website to help people with no resort to legal system. He was arrested and still in jail today.
3. Journalists and lawyers (and other professionals) who expose truth
According to Reporters without Borders, China is the world’s biggest prison for journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents. RWB's annual report of 2010 tells that there 31 journalists and 74 netizens currently imprisoned in China for ambiguous charges such as "inciting subversion" and "revealing state secrets." This is an increase from 28 jailed journalists reported by Human Rights Watch in 2009.
4. People who practice their religious belief
1) Falun Gong practitioner
Since 1999 when this group of people were labeled as "sect" by then Chinese president Jiang Zeming (after their large-scale peaceful protest), this group has been under severe persecution. Anyone who practices Falun Gong is forced to renounce it, otherwise they are detained and jailed. More than 3413Falun Gong practitioners have died in detention due to torture. Here is a list of all those who died in detention with names and reports (See also the corresponding Chinese report). The persecution continues. In the last 6 months alone, 776 Falun Gong members were arrested around China, according to Minghui.org report.
People who practice Christian belief outside the government-sanctioned church are facing harassment and detention. See this report.
3) Tibetan Buddhist
Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, was taken into "protection" by the Chinese government in 1995 at the age of 6, just days after being recognized by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the previous Panchen Lama. Now age 21, he is still a political prisoner.
5. Petitioners who seek government help
Large score of petitioner come to Beijing to seek justice from the only government office that claims to be the last resort for justice. Yet, they are arrested, beaten and even put in asylum to keep them out sight of the public. According to 64Tianwang.com, police detained more than 1000 petitioners in Beijing in one night on September 28 this year.
6. Ethnic minority activists who engage in peaceful protest
1) Tibetan activists
The persecution of this group is well documented by exile Tibetan people. Here is a very recent report: In April 2010, 8 teenage monks were arrested for taking part in protests of demanding the Dalai Lama’s return.
2) Uyghur minority activists
On May 19, 2008, Pastor Lou Yuanqi, a prominent house church leader in the town of Qingshuihe, Xinjiang province was detained and later charged with "inciting separatism."
The long list of political prisoners suggest the Chinese government's effort of suppressing any voice. In a repressive regime, the only way to control people for speaking truth is putting them to jail. Nobel peace prize shed light on the this dark side of China. How can such a brutal regime continue to exist and trample all its own laws on basic rights? Inside China, people are continuing to fight for their rights. The government will not stop until it yields to pressure from all sides.