China is in the midst of what many overseas scholars say is its harshest crackdown on human rights and civil society in decades, marked by officially-sponsored paranoia about foreign forces The Los Angeles Times reports:
Communist Party leaders have, for example, pointed to the fact that some organizers of the 2014 Hong Kong democracy protests met with representatives of the National Endowment for Democracy, a Washington-based nonprofit group, as proof that the demonstrations were a U.S. plot. China recently warned citizens to be careful about dating foreigners, lest they turn out to be spies.
“As an old timer who’s been studying China since the Mao era, I have to say it’s the worst I’ve seen since then,” said Susan L. Shirk, chair of the 21st Century China Center at UC San Diego. “It’s very discouraging.”
The current crackdown, Shirk said, represents a turnabout from what appeared to be relatively steady gains in individual freedom in China.
“It’s not been a smooth straight line, and it’s true that this process has been slower than many people anticipated,” she said. “But we didn’t anticipate what looks like a U-turn back to the bad old days of a highly repressive police state.”