A Writer Jailed, At Chanukah We Remember
On Wednesday, I wrote about Chanukah being a festival of freedom and dedicated it to the Egyptian people as they return to Tahrir Square again.
One of the important groups of any freedom or social justice movement is the writers. I write novels that hopefully bring some of the issues our society would rather sweep under the carpet. Our neglect of those who risked their lives to ensure our freedom or The Accidental Activist, which illustrates the empowered individuals who leveraged the Internet to defend themselves against a multinational corporation Turns out that fiction is a safer course than real life. The two individuals who stood up to McDonald’s in England (the real story that The Accidental Activist is based on) never found themselves incarcerated.
Shi Tao, a journalist in China discovered that and is still paying the price. Here is his story in 30 seconds.
In 2004, he sent details of government plans to restrict the activities commemorating the 15th anniversary of the pro-democracy rally in Tienanmen Square. Apparently he sent the information through his Yahoo email account, and Yahoo gave the information to the Chinese security forces. Shi Tao was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2005.
In 2007 he received the Golden Pen of Freedom award by the World Association of Newspapers. Tao’s family is apparently suing Yahoo and they are not the first. While I wish to condemn Yahoo, we do need to focus our attention on China and freeing Shi Tao.
Every Chanukah for the past three years I have highlighted Shi Tao’s plight. Suggestions of how to help can be found at Shi Tao’s Amnesty International page. I hope one day to be able to light a candle for freedom together with this brave man.
Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).