Peace prize and police prize.

 The awarding of the Nobel peace prize to jailed political activist Liu Xiaobo is proving a timely and appropriate reminder to the rest of the world how richly China deserves the ignoble police prize.

In fact the PRC, as it’s often called for short, has never been the People’s Republic of China as it so falsely claims, but actually the Police Republic of China. Run for the benefit of the Communist party and its corrupt, self-serving cadres and cronies by possibly the biggest force of thought police, speech police and political police the world has ever seen.

Of course the PRC has had lots of competitors over the years for the prize of top police state on the planet. The KGB-infested Soviet Union, for example, gave it quite a run for its money back in the days of the Stalinist collectivisations, purges and show-trials.

But Mao Tse Tung went one better during his so-called ‘Cultural Revolution’, recruiting virtually the entire youth of the nation as vigilantes to help victimise the Chairman’s usual suspects.

And let’s not forget the June 4, 1989 massacre of students, workers and others calling for human rights and political freedoms, under the doubtlessly approving gaze of the late Mao’s portrait in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Admittedly there’s been a major change since then, in that the PRC has embraced capitalism while, with typical contempt for the truth, still claiming that the ruling party is communist.

This terminological paradox is possibly a sop to the PRC’s few remaining ideological allies, like North Korea, otherwise known as the PRK or Police Republic of Korea, which is arguably even more of a people’s prison than China ever was.

In fact, under the rule of its dead but allegedly ‘immortal’ leader, Kim Il-sung and current ‘dear leader’ Kim Jong-il, the entire nation has been nothing but a concentration camp whose inmates appear to be starved of everything from the truth to sufficient food.

And if the video footage that occasionally emerges from the place is any indication, the Kims have put the ‘long march’ that led to Mao’s Police Republic of China to shame by keeping their populace occupied with nothing but marching for the past 65 years.

As pathetically poverty-stricken as it is, of course the Police Republic of Korea would implode virtually overnight without the aid and support of the Police Republic of China. Which brings us to my ultimate objection to the PRC: while it may not be the absolute worst police state in the world at this moment, or at least as long as such strong competitors as North Korea and Burma exist, it’s undeniably the biggest and most powerful.

Thus it serves as a very bad example indeed, both on the global stage in general and in the forum of the U.N. in particular, and also as a source of funds and moral – or rather immoral – support for other would-be police states everywhere.

And, let’s face it, there are more police states in the world than you can poke the proverbial stick at. I’m too tired and/or lazy to look them all up and list them by name, but suffice to say they make up much of the continent of Africa, a large proportion of the Middle East, a good deal of South and Central America, almost all of Central Asia, at least half of South-East Asia and even the otherwise idyllic Pacific.

To name a few names uncomfortably close to home, there’s Fiji, for example, though apparently a palm-fringed paradise, is now every much a police state, though by no means as clean, safe and prosperous one, as Singapore.

Indonesia claims with some truth to be far less of a police state these days than it was under Soeharto’s Golkar regime, though I suspect that it continues to repress and exploit the people of its province of Irian Jaya as ruthlessly as ever.

And of course Malaysia is as close to a police state as former Prime Minister Mahathir and his successors have been able to make it while clinging to some semblance of democracy.

The judiciary and most other civil institutions including the electoral commission are hopelessly politicised, and the police and anti-corruption authorities, far from performing their roles as protectors of the people, are in partnership with their political oppressors.

Admittedly Malaysia’s not yet in China’s league in the police-state stakes. Internet criticism of the government is still grudgingly tolerated, as witnessed by the continued existence of sites like Malaysiakini. And critics and demonstrators who offend the regime sufficiently to get themselves arrested are often, as in the recent case of crusading cartoonist Zunar, quickly released.

Such mercifully brief incarceration certainly beats the 11 years that the new Nobel peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo is serving for political activism in the Police Republic of China.

On the other hand, just as in China, detention or arrest in Malaysia can sometimes be a death sentence, as it proved for witness Teoh Beng Hock and countless others who have suspiciously died in official custody. And short of death, there’s always the threat of imprisonment without charge or trial under the Internal Security Act.

With so many penny-ante police-states like Malaysia’s and dozens of others around the world seeking approval and support for the ways they mistreat their citizens, it’s tragic that a nation as big, strong and rich as China feels so insecure as to provide such an appalling example.

But then the U.S., ostensibly the world’s most powerful force for freedom and justice, often performs pathetically poorly in its self-appointed role as global policeman. So poorly, in fact, that President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel peace prize last year for promising to close the Bush administration’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp and stop the CIA from torturing terror suspects.

Let’s hope that Premier Wen Jiabao is sufficiently shamed by his nation’s winning this year’s police prize to set the noble Liu Xiaobo free, and start reforming China sufficiently to put himself in the running for next year’s Nobel peace prize.

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