I just saw this in the New York Times: Whistle-Blowers in Chinese City Sent to Mental Hospital. Not so shocking; almost expected, even. What is odd is that it was even published. The story originated in a state-owned Chinese regional newspaper. Then it was picked up by the major state-owned media: People's Daily and Xinhua, which is astounding. People's Daily offers these headlines for today (not exactly critical stuff):
China registers historic progress in human rights
Chinese maritime patrol near Diaoyu Islands irreproachable
Economic stimulus package to improve people's livelihood
I did some research a few years ago that had me reading Chinese newspapers (translated). I was looking for articles about energy and East Asian relations, but you can glean quite a bit just from the tone and style of news stories. This story would never have been published five years ago.
And maybe not much has changed. The story has been picked up by media outlets from Tasmania to Croatia, but one day after it was published I couldn't find the story on any Chinese site, though I did find this unrelated story: Whistle-blowers given protection. A quick search for Xintai (the name of the city and mental hospital) on the English version of Xinhua returned this lovely picture:
My Mandarin is a little rusty, but I'm going to guess it reads "Sorry, your search has returned no results, but look at these cute cats... so cute".
* with apologies to John Cassavetes.