A Christmas/ New Year Recollection

22 Dec

Dedicated to the political prisoners who will spend their time in prison during Christmas/ New Year.

As families prepare for the festive season with visits to friends and relatives, John Tan will be spending his time in prison for wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a kangaroo in a judges’ robe. Singapore’s Attorney General Walter Woon had decided that John, along with Isrizal and Shafi’ie should be prosecuted for ‘contempt of court’. While the latter two had finished serving their seven day sentence, John would have missed Christmas with his family and friends because he has a longer 15 day sentence which started on the 16th. These three activists have shown that while political disobedience may come with a price, their struggles will be remembered as part of the increasing edifice of dissent in the tiny red dot.

Our closest neighbour, Malaysia, continues its detention of the Hindraf Five who has been arrested last year for ‘spurious charges of having links with the Tamil Tigers of Sri Langka’ according to Aliran. They were arrested for organising mass rallies calling for an end to discrimination against the minority ethnic indians.

In Burma, political activists have been given extreme lengthy prison sentences for being involved in the 2007 anti-junta demonstrations. They include prominent 88 Generation students such as Min Zeya, Kyaw Min Yu (also known as Ko Jimmy), and Ko Jimmy’s wife, Nilar Thein. Amnesty International estimates that there are at least 2,100 political prisoners within the country.

Further north, China has not let up its persecution against Tibetian and Chinese activists demanding the state to practise greater accountabilty and respect of human rights. One of China’s most famous political dissident, Hu Jia, who has won various human rights awards, was sentenced to three and a half years in April this year for ‘inciting perversion’ while his wife, Zeng Jinyan is under tight police supervision. Liu Xiabo, one of the prominent signatories among hundreds of the petition, ‘Charter 08’, calling the Chinese government to respect human rights, has since been arrested and remained in custody.

According to International Campaign for Tibet, in a statement on International Human Rights Day, there are at least ‘over 900 Tibetans who have been detained since the uprising against Chinese rule’ in March.

In Israel, the Shmintistim or conscientious objectors are young yet courageous high school students who, despite peer and societal pressure, have chosen prison sentences instead of serving in a military which is responsible for the Occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Many of them have been featured in this blog and have been subjected to numerous prison sentences for standing up to their convictions. Yuval Ophir-Auron who is currently serving his third sentence will not be spending Hanukkah and New Year with families and friends.

P.S. My wishes goes out to these prisoners of conscience, and many more unnamed, who are in prison for continuing the good fight.


One Response to “A Christmas/ New Year Recollection”

  1. joni December 22, 2008 at 5:55 pm #

    Hear Hear.

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