ANALYSIS: China’s Stealthy Holiday Crackdowns

Dissident convictions and acts of censorship seem timed to avoid lumps of coal from international observers.

By Sarah Cook

As families across the United States were preparing for their Thanksgiving feasts last month, a Chinese court in Changsha sentenced prominent rights attorney Jiang Tianyong to two years in prison. His alleged crime was trying to “overthrow the socialist system” by publishing articles online, speaking to foreign news outlets, and publicizing his clients’ cases via social media. At first glance, the timing of the decision may appear coincidental. But the Chinese government has a long history of sentencing free expression activists or ramping up censorship while observers in leading democracies are distracted with major holidays. This year may be no different.

Just two years ago, Guo Feixiong, another well-known activist, was sentenced to six years in prison on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest holiday shopping days in the…

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