**Too Old and Frail to Re-educate? Not in China **
BEIJING — In the annals of people who have struggled against Communist Party rule, Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying are unlikely to merit even a footnote.
The two women, both in their late 70s, have never spoken out against China’s authoritarian government. Both walk with the help of a cane, and Ms. Wang is blind in one eye. Their grievance, receiving insufficient compensation when their homes were seized for redevelopment, is perhaps the most common complaint among Chinese displaced during the country’s long streak of fast economic growth.
But the Beijing police still sentenced the two women to an extrajudicial term of “re-education through labor” this week for applying to hold a legal protest in a designated area in Beijing, where officials promised that Chinese could hold demonstrations during the Olympic Games.
They became the most recent examples of people punished for submitting applications to protest. A few would-be demonstrators have simply disappeared, at least for the duration of the Games, squelching already diminished hopes that the influx of foreigners and the prestige of holding the Games would push China’s leaders to relax their tight grip on political expression.
“Can you imagine two old ladies in their 70s being re-educated through labor?” asked Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son, who said the police told the two women that their sentence might remain in suspension if they stayed at home and stopped asking for permission to protest.
I’m amazed that anyone in China would apply for a permit to protest and expect to get a permit to protest. In the story a gov’t official said that if you approved one application it would lead to a “chain reaction” of others wanting to voice their problems as well.
Well, uh, yeah. Freedom’s like that. So keep your grip tight, keep all the foreigners away from the nasty stuff you’re doing – and have a nice Olympics.