The polity that is China dissident “markets” in everything

Activists tell of ‘being travelled’ – sent on lavish trips, chaperoned by police – to keep them out of the government’s way.

As top Communist leaders gathered in Beijing the veteran Chinese political activist He Depu was obliged to leave town – on an all-expenses-paid holiday to the tropical island of Hainan, complete with police escorts.

It is an unusual method of muzzling dissent, but He is one of dozens of campaigners who rights groups say have been forced to take vacations – sometimes featuring luxurious hotels beside sun-drenched beaches, trips to tourist sites and lavish dinners – courtesy of the authorities.

It happens so often that dissidents have coined a phrase for it: “being travelled”.

He, 57, had not been charged with any crime but officers took him 1,400 miles (2,300km) to Hainan for 10 days to ensure he was not in the capital for this year’s annual meeting of China’s legislature, he said.

Two policemen accompanied him, his wife and another dissident for dips in the ocean and visits to a large Buddha statue, he said.

“We had a pretty good time because a decent amount of money was spent on the trip – the local government paid for everything.”

Altogether eight activists have told Agence France-Presse of being forced on holiday in recent years.

The pointer is from Mark Thorson.


That's nothing. Our President appointed Hillary Clinton Secretary of State so she wouldn't complain about him.

And inconvenient people like Lois Lerner get put on government-paid retirement. Just to avoid embarrassment to the party, you know.

Won't this incentivize even more dissent?

It will, but according to the article, they only give trips to top dissidents with the most influence. The unknown dissidents are jailed and beaten. There are high start up costs and risks.

In which case, it is only profitable to become a dissident if you expect to become influential. You are incentivised to build reputation in the dissident community surreptitiously, until you are "too big to jail". Once you become influential and are sent on luxurious vacations, you must also act like you do not enjoy them, in order to maintain your reputation as a genuine dissident.

The officials doing this probably don't have big-picture incentives. They just need their event to go smoothly.

But if you think about the big picture, the overall effect on the strength of dissent is not clear. It may incentivize dissent, but people joining the movement for ulterior reasons may weaken the opposition overall. Also, the dissident movement may lose credibility with the public if they are perceived as happy to receive cushy government perks.

Which officials? If you're the chief of police, you want one of these star dissidents in your city, so you can get a subsidy from the central government to mind him while on a forced vacation to Hainan or other resort destination. If you own a major hotel at one of these destinations, you want your lobbyists in Beijing to push for expanding the program. We've got feedback loop possibilities here for developing the dissident travel industry.

Sorry, comrade, you're not famous enough to be travelled, so you're getting a beating. Try updating your Weibo page more often, and say more interesting stuff. If you don't get another million followers by the end of next month, you're getting another beating.

The incentive might well be important, as every certified nutjob from Stalin to Mao knows.

These guys are probably not proper dissidents, they are probably well respected party members with some ideas that are a little uncomfortable for the leadership. That is exactly the kind of people who would have got a lead-slug purging back in the good ole days. And thats because they are the guys who are likely to drive incremental change.

The party can't be bothered to consistently punish these guys and that increases the odds in 20 years time the party will take the Polish example, and just stop bothering to rule. The difficulty is that Polish communists stood to get rich by stepping down, the Chinese ones are already rich.

How will non-dissenters ever learn about the fate of dissidents? The gov is very effective at preventing this sort of information from leaking.

They should be happy and content and recognize the kind and generous hand of the Party. Get back in the pool you rebellious scum!

Such a lack of cynicism - the political positions that such dissidents are supporting are more easily discredited in the eyes of others when various media organs report on such 'vacations.'

At least they are less hypocritical than the climate folks flying to Tahiti for conferences.

Beats a trip to the mental institution any day.

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