‘English Writings’ 分類過的Archive

A Prize for all Chinese in the Struggle

2010年12月5日 1 則評論

Six years ago, on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests, I wrote of Tiananmen Mother Ding Zilin: “She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize; and in a braver, more honest world she would get it."

Ding lost her 17-year-old son on the night of June 3, 1989, during the bloody clampdown that ended the protests in Tiananmen Square for a more open China. Since then, despite repeated police harassment, she has tirelessly worked at persuading other families to stand up and count the lost ones they lost on that night.

She was never awarded the prize because the world has not been brave and honest enough with China in the 21 years since those protests led to so many deaths and drove so many of us into exile. We did have the support of the world when we took to the streets of Beijing, and in the aftermath of the bloodshed that followed. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Trade took the driver’s seat. Surely, many reasoned, economic prosperity would lead to political reform. That didn’t happen. And in one of countless cases in which it did not happen, two years ago Liu Xiaobo, an unremitting campaigner for political reform, was arrested in 2008 and subsequently given an 11-year jail sentence.

Liu, a lecturer at Beijing Normal University, where I was a student, was my advisor during the Tiananmen protests. I met with him every day and listened to his advice from almost the moment he rushed back from the United States to be with us. I’m grateful that the bravery and intelligence of my mentor has finally been recognized.

For too long, appeasement has been the name of the game when it comes to dealing with China – as if China was some kind of special case in which normal rules of civility do not apply. The Norwegians changed that on Friday when they finally recognized the struggles and sacrifices of Chinese on their native soil and in exile. They changed it by saluting Liu with the prize that has eluded everyone engaged in the struggle for a less repressive China.

We have had to wait too long, but I know it is welcomed by all Chinese in exile or imprisoned for their beliefs and who have been waiting for the world to finally put aside economic interests and call the Chinese government’s bluff. Let us not forget that this Nobel Peace Prize announcement comes in the wake of numerous announcements by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao that China needs to embrace political reform. The sincerity of these announcements needed to be questioned, and pressure needs to be applied to ensure that they are more than hollow words. Both of these things have now happened – decisively.

Speaking to the United Nations last month – two years after Liu was jailed, and echoing another jailed (and later exiled) campaigner for political reform in the late 1970s, Wei Jingsheng, who also deserved a Nobel Peace Prize – Wen said that political reform is a necessity for China to ensure continuous economic reform.

At the same time, Wen argued his point even more clearly in an interview he gave Fareed Zakaria on CNN: “I believe I and all the Chinese people have such a conviction that China will make continuous progress, and the people’s wishes for and needs for democracy and freedom are irresistible."

In fact, “Irresistible" was a bad translation. The Chinese word Wen actually used is best translated as “insuppressible". Unfortunately, the reality is that the government he represents has been suppressing so-called irresistible “democracy and freedom" since it came to power in 1949 – and for the entire 21 years it has not allowed me to come home and visit my ageing parents.

I am glad that the Nobel Peace Committee has chosen to call Wen on these statements and on what perhaps is the boldest thing he has said so far – also to CNN: “I believe freedom of speech is indispensable, for any country, a country in the course of development and a country that has become strong. Freedom of speech has been incorporated into the Chinese constitution."

What would Liu, two years into his 11-year sentence, make of that? What are any of us languishing in prisons or unable to go home supposed to make of it?

A lot of brave people in China have deserved the Nobel Peace Prize and not received it – including all my fellow students who died on June 4, 1989. Ding Zilin deserves it, Wei Jingsheng deserves it, AIDS activist Hu Jia deserves it, rights activist Ai Weiwei deserves it. To my mind – and I don’t think I’m alone in this – the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s recognition of Liu Xiaobo’s bravery and self-sacrifice belongs also to every brave Chinese who has stood up to injustice and suppression of basic rights in the country I call home.

This Article is published on the Guernica, an award winning online magazine of art and politics, Nov 7th.

Keeping the pressure on China

2010年10月18日 10 則評論

It may not be easy to reconcile the recent pledges by the Chinese premier that China will carry out political reforms with its official, outraged reaction to the Nobel peace prize awarded to the dissident Liu Xiaobo, a former teacher at Beijing Normal University who joined us student protesters in the Tiananmen uprising. But for China watchers – and for those of us involved in the rights struggle in China – the cries of "a blasphemy" and threats of diplomatic repercussions for Norway came as no surprise. This is the reaction to be expected from a government that does not tolerate dissent – and will never carry out reforms without a lot more pressure than it has received in the past two decades.

Tiananmen Square protest, Beijing, 1989The petulant rhetoric of misunderstood authoritarian regimes can strike an amusing note (when the Dalai Lama won the 1989 prize, Beijing retorted that he was a "wolf in monk’s robes"). But China is not a "hermit state" like North Korea or Myanmar. It is the world’s second largest economy and, not so long ago, it was host to the Olympics. And this is the reason that the Norwegian Nobel peace prize committee’s decision to turn the screws should not only be applauded, but welcomed. It is hopefully the first of many steps the west will carry out to put pressure on China and ensure that premier Wen Jiabao’s calls for political reform are more than just a sop to critics abroad.

The time has come for the world to begin to engage China intelligently – something it has not done in the past 21 years I have been in exile. It is time to abandon the delusional notion that economic prosperity will lead to political reform – it hasn’t and it won’t. It is also time to abandon the specious argument that China’s "special conditions" justify authoritarian one-party rule. Yes, China is a big country but that does not automatically strip its people of rights we hold to be fundamental elsewhere.

We don’t have to look far to find two examples of authoritarian command economies that once imprisoned dissent and stifled free speech and are now prosperous democracies:South Korea and Taiwan. The west played a role in their transition – encouraging free trade and applying pressure when it came to human rights. It is time to take the same approach to China.

Pressure will not transform China into a thriving democracy any time soon. But it would provide hope to brave Chinese who struggle for voices to be heard and are seeking redress for land grabs, forced relocations and illegal detainment of petitioners among a host of other injustices.

In 1989, we exiled student protesters were received well in the west. We faced tanks and machine guns in Beijing, but we had the support of the rest of the world. This made us believe that with the support of the international community we could help pressure China into becoming a freer and more tolerant place. Unfortunately, all too quickly, it was business as normal and Tiananmen became an inconvenience. Before meeting us or giving us a venue to voice our views, people began to consider what kind of message that would send to the Chinese regime.

But not meeting us and sweeping our views aside sent another message to the Chinese regime – that the human rights movement in China was no longer relevant to the outside world, and we had become insignificant. I have been told as much during the course of my long and failed negotiations to either be allowed to return to China or for my parents to be issued passports so they can visit me.

Hopefully, the Nobel prize committee’s decision to recognize Liu will be a reminder to Beijing that human rights in China have not been forgotten. Hopefully it will be a reminder to others in the west that it is still possible to put principles ahead of business interests.

Chinese dissidents like Liu will continue to play the role they have done while the rest of the world mostly looked the other way. This is a common responsibility for all of us at odds with the regime in China – no matter whether in exile or facing injustice at home. But it is also a global responsibility because it is in global interests. Applying pressure where pressure is due is the only way to make China a more responsible partner on the world stage. And a freer, more transparent and more accountable China is a China that the world can talk to and negotiate with. To fail to engage with China in this way is to passively encourage China to go its own way, to make up its own rules.

Engaging with China is not only the right thing to do; it would be wrong not to do so. To not act is a kind of appeasement, and it sends a message to China that it can do what it likes with impunity. If we want to see a China whose astounding economic growth is matched by a political culture that speaks our language, we have to act together to bring that culture into existence.

I hope the peace committee’s latest decision inspires people worldwide to imagine that the message we send the Chinese regime does not have to be the one it wants to hear. The alternative is to risk another Tiananmen – or the creation of an intractable world power that tolerates dissenting opinions abroad as little as it does at home.


This article is published on the Guardian, Oct 12th, 2010

Stay With Me

2010年2月5日 15 則評論

The dream is still there
on top of the marble of the Avenue
without the dreamers around
and they will be quiet
for my life long, I am the surviver
because they need not to repeat
when echo don’t dissolve
and it will one day
become solid in the hand of a Chinese girl
she is more beautiful than the porcelain doll
then I can let go of them,
dreamers of Tienanmen Square
we will understand the smiles on our faces
and we will be quiet
unlike the night
stay with me now
stay with me

Written in June 1st, 2009

A declaration of oppression

2009年7月9日 201 則評論

As an ethnic Uyghur, I am horrified by the riots, deaths, injuries and arrests – the worst military-civilian clashes in modern times – in Urumqi, the city my parents call home. I have lost contact with them, and so – like everybody else now – I rely on reports filtering out of Xinjiang for news of what is happening there. I have to accept the government figures of 156 people dead, more than 1,000 injured and more than 1,400 arrests.

Of course, I am skeptical about such figures. As a student leader in the 1989 student protests, I am still waiting for reliable government figures as to how many people died on June 4. It makes me wonder why it is today – when so little has changed politically in my homeland and I, like many others, remain in exile –the numbers are so high … and so exact?

The only conclusion I can come to – even if the real numbers are even higher – is that the Chinese government wants to send a zero-tolerance, brutal message to the Uyghur people of Xinjiang, the greater Chinese population and to the outside world that Uyghur dissent will be met with force. Beijing also no doubt expects that, when it releases statistics on the civilians it has shot in the streets, it will also have the broad support of China’s predominantly Han population. When Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang gave a press conference denouncing the Uyghur protests as “organised violent crime … instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country”, he showed a video as proof with what I can only describe as a smirk on his face, giving the impression that we are now dealing with a China that no longer cares about global opinion.

The broad consensus in China is that the Han Chinese occupation of formerly Uyghur and Tibetan territories has brought prosperity and liberty from feudal regimes to the subjects of “liberation”. In this sense, all opposition to Chinese cultural dominance and rule is viewed as a kind of betrayal. In fact, a nationalist netizen made precisely this point in a riposte to my blog on the recent events in Urumqi. The Han people, he pointed out, are the dominant force and can bring a better life to the Uyghur.

I replied that I was skeptical of arguments of this kind. If it was a logical position, we might argue that we would have been better off supporting the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. The Japanese too promised us a better life – and, who knows, perhaps, they might have been able to provide it.

The dominant Han culture of China is quick to react to any perceived attack on national pride – which is often conflated with ethnic notions of what it means to be “Chinese”   – and the Japanese invasion is currently more emblematic of national humiliation even than the Opium Wars,  which, incidentally, is another unsettled grudge for the nationalists of China. Despite this, the average Chinese has a patronising attitude to the “minorities” it brings enlightenment and prosperity to. There is very little – let’s be honest, none – sensitivity about ethnic sensitivities for minority ethnic groups that feel politically oppressed and squeezed out of opportunities by the mounting numbers of Han “immigrants” who, in cities like Urumqi and Lhasa, have come to outnumber the indigenous populations.

I live in exile because I stood up for political reform in 1989. I regret my exile. I am in pain because I am not able to be with my parents in this difficult time. But I still believe I believe democracy is an eventual means to freedom from political oppression. I also believe that democracy means the broad representation of all interest groups. I believe democracy should not serve the interests of nationalism.

I do not argue that independence for Xinjiang or Tibet is the answer to our problems. But I will argue that ethnic self-determination is. By this, I mean  a fundamental  right: that the ethnically distinct Uyghurs, like the ethnically distinct Tibetans – and I would argue the same for the culturally and politically dissenting people of Taiwan, the country I call home – have the right to decide whether they want to be part of China.

My people in Xinjiang have never been offered this choice. Those that live in Urumqi now live in a city that is 70 per cent Han Chinese. They were in hiding Tuesday as thousands of armed Chinese roamed the streets singing the Chinese national anthem and crying “exterminate the Uyghurs”. The government response to the Uyghur explosion of frustration that sparked this crisis – for having become politically oppressed and treated as a minority in their homeland – was to label them “separatists” and “terrorists” and to shoot them in the streets.

I am of China. I was born in modern China. I once struggled publically to make it a better place. But I cannot be a nationalist in country where nationalism trumps democracy – a place where nationalism is an excuse for brutal suppression of protest and dissent.

The Uyghur people are a politically oppressed minority – and, of that political oppression, cultural and economic oppression follows. I cannot help but think that the prompt government release of casualty numbers in Urumqi reflects an official attitude that the indigenous people of Xinjiang are not entitled to even the rights of regular Chinese citizens – or, to put it more simply, the domestic outrage they deserve.

I can only hope that, as the foreign reporters that the Chinese government took the highly unusual move of allowing to witness an “internal conflict” file their reports, the world understands that China has effectively declared war on an oppressed minority group within its own borders.

This article is published July 8th, 2009, The Guardian

Categories: English Writings

Twenty Years On

2009年6月4日 326 則評論

Twenty years ago, in the aftermath of the bloodshed in Beijing, when I first went into hiding, my mother had a stroke. It paralyzed one side of her face. I was 10 years in exile before my brother told me. I do not regret what we did in Beijing that year the Berlin wall fell, when there was so much hope of change in the air, but the deaths have haunted me for 20 years, and I want to hug my mother and tell her. “sorry”.
I can’t. China will not issue passports for my parents. China will not allow me to go home. It is difficult to explain the feelings I have at this moment to a world that has come to see China as a responsible member of the global community – the motor of global economic growth, the miracle that will re-jump-start global capitalism. But the feelings can largely be summed up as disappointment – disappointment that China’s “progress” has been so one-sided.
The crime we committed in 1989 was to hope for change. In 1919, students campaigned for change, for a China that was genuinely part of the modern world. In 1989, we did the same. In 2009, change has come to China. It is a country awash with foreign investment – a country that is superficially the same place that readers of Wall Street Journal live in. I have not seen it with my own eyes, but I know that China today has Seven-11s and Metros and malls and discos and outlets for Italian brand names … Hooters. China has walked in space.
In part, the change we hoped for has happened. When the people of Beijing took to the streets in 1989 –however people might read it today – they were acting out of frustration. In 1989, when I went into exile, I said the reason for the protests initially was that China’s youth wanted Nikes, wanted to be able to go to a bar with their girlfriend. Such things were not possible in the China I grew up in. They are possible today, largely because China’s university students rose up in 1989, and the workers’ unions and the common people joined them. The government realized It had no choice but to liberalize the economy, if it was going to keep popular discontent at bay.
In short, 20 years on, I believe the protests in of 1989 were a kind of tragic success. China got its Nikes and discos. Unfortunately, China did not get the other change we yearned  for – political reform. For many years, I have been of the opinion that a deal was struck with the people of China. The deal was economic prosperity in exchange for political quiescence and continued and unchallenged one-party rule. For years, I have been describing it as a “lousy deal”. But today, on the anniversary of the bloodshed that ended the protests, I would like to add that it is an illusory deal. 
For the past decade or more we have been hearing about China’s development. But shopping malls and designer brands that come at the expense of an open society is not, to my mind, development at all. What is more, China’s illusion of development comes at a cost not only to the Chinese people but to the global community. The result is that the world’s third largest economy is in the hands of a leadership structure that does not speak the same language as the rest of the modern world. Whatever critics might say the state of democratic politics in the rich world, neither the West, nor Japan – nor even Taiwan – routinely imprisons and exiles open debate.
China is with us on a daily basis – in television news reports, in the newspapers, in blogs and in movies. It is in your living room. But politically China is a man in an ill-fitting suit and he does not speak your language. He will not until he learns that there can be no true development until open debate and dissenting opinions are essential ingredients in the emergence of a developed society.
In 1989, as I said, we wanted Nikes and discos. But we also wanted to belong to a country that truly lived up to the heritage it is so proud of – a great nation with an important role to play on the world stage. We wanted China to allow open debate about its future, and we wanted to be part of that future. This has still not happened. If it had, I and all the many exiles like me, would be allowed to come home. At the very least my parents would have been issued passports and I would be able give my mother the hug and the apology she deserves for all the heartache and anxiety I have put her through.

This article is published today, 2009,06,04 at the Wall street Journal Asia

Amazing similarities

2009年3月2日 尚無評論

Leaving in exile for nearly 20 years, I wonder all the time how much I can be the same with my fellow Chinese left behind, classmates, childhood buddies, or just average Lao zhang and Xiao Wang walking on the street of Beijing.

I know the difference must be enormous. 20 years living aboard have given me opportunities to learn so much more than I would ever have if I spent the last 20 years living in China.

Few days ago, I was surfing the internet, looking for some old time literature and music. I was searching for those that made some strong impacts to me twenty some years ago. Novel such as 北方的河, 海水下面是泥土 or an old song from a TV series. They are a little old now as they are not the most hit item on the net, digging them out can be a labor. The return from the search-engine on those entries often direct me to BBS where people talked about or, doing the same, searching for those. Messages left on those BBS have convinced me for one thing. The similarities of thought on those are quite amazing. Maybe we lived through a time period when accessible cultural materials are so limited, our focus were often directed to same items; maybe we lived through a time period when surrounding are so challenging, our outlooks were often shaped to same types; maybe we lived through a time period when the hope are so faint, the quest for it were often merged to same path.

I found amazing similarities in the ideas that was buried in very different choice of words between myself and those who left behind, classmates, childhood buddies, or just average Lao Zhang and Xiao Wang walking on the street of Beijing. I found these similarities soothing, to an anxious heart worries about exile may change too much.

Categories: English Writings

Ma Ying-Jeou’s Trigonometric Challenge

2008年3月6日 尚無評論

If there is no surprise, Ma will become the
president of Taiwan
in little over a week, and resume his office in two months.  With all the problems he is facing, Taiwan’s international
status will be a more and more important issue he must deal with.


Taiwanese people want a membership in the UN, in
what way, with what name maybe hard to agree, but hoping for the government to
do something about it is overwhelmingly coherent.


China, on the other hand, yelling anti succession, blocking
all access of Taiwan on its attempt to claim its name on any international
arena, not only on UN membership but also WHO and many others.  Any time Taiwan
wants to use the name Taiwan
or ROC will be boycott by the Chinese government.


The West, worry they may piss off the government
that controls the largest economic engine of the world, took the easiest stand,
repeat one of the most out dated diplomatic statement of the time: “Status Quo!”


is an obsessed democracy.  Even if Ma
wants to ignore this demand of people on having an appropriate international
status Taiwan
deserves, the opposition will make sure that voice will be heard.  This will become a big pressure to Ma for


Is this a solvable trigonometric challenge?


If one pays enough attention, one would
understand the true interest
of all three parties that hide behind the tumultuous
and hostile and tough voices and actions.


What Taiwan really wants is dignity,
safety, equality and participating opportunity.  Do they really want to declare as an
independent country?  Many politicians
argue that that is the only way to secure those wishes.  China’s military threat make people hesitate
about taking any action toward that directions, but at the same time, it makes
people believe more and more in some day it maybe the only way.  Military threat aside, the cultural tie and
economical interests are playing no small part in peoples mind.  In sum, people in Taiwan are undecided about weather
they should claim independent or not.


That is actually the only thing China cares.


It should be understood that China don’t really want reunification with Taiwan, but they sure can not tolerate Taiwan
to become independent.  This may sound
funny or even contradictory to many who don’t understand the totalitarian
thinking.  To the Chinese regime, to
reunify with Taiwan would only be extra credit, and nobody will be blamed if
that is not done, because the separated status was passed down from the last
generation or even from Mao time.  The
current regime does not have any responsibility of carrying out the
reunification that was not done by Mao or Deng. 
However, it was also seen to the regime that neither Mao nor Deng lost Taiwan.
 Whoever losses Taiwan while in the office will
face tremendous challenge.  It was just a
status of temporarily non-unified.  That
is the status quo China


The West’s true interest now is to have a stable
cross strait relation.  At the beginning,
US and the West supported Taiwan
being an allied-force against communism. 
Time goes by, for other interest, earlier geopolitics, now economy, the
West betray Taiwan.  But after all, in the mean time this allied
force developed into a democracy.  It
became an inconvenient fact that Taiwan
is democracy and China
is not, and they have to take sides from time to time.


Given these are the true interests; is there a
chance to find a solution that satisfies all parties?  The answer is yes.  It is not easy and will take quite some
creative thinking, but, yes.


The key relay on the fact China wants nothing more
than Taiwan forsake the possibility of Claiming independent; and in the myths
of “One China” to be respected that was created over the long time of
propaganda and self-hypnotism.  If it is guaranteed
that Taiwan
will not claim independent and agree on some terminology of “One China”,
Chinese regime is willing to give up so much on the negotiation table.


Assume there is a negotiation table, whereas China has the economic, military and diplomatic upper-hand,
it may seems Taiwan
has little bargaining chips.  But in
fact, giving China those
words of guarantee is the biggest chips Taiwan has.


If Taiwan
can get dignity, security, equality and opportunity to participate in the world
arena in exchange of those wording, in my humble opinion, this is a good
trade.  The only issue left is, last but
not the least, the trust issue.  Lack of
trust have brought China to use military threat against Taiwan, blockage in all
international arena against Taiwan;  lack
of trust have made Taiwanese people not being able to sense with the Chinese
regime.  And that is an issue can be
solved by international involvement.  If
the deal is endorsed and guaranteed by the West, if Taiwanese people are
convinced that they can actually get what they truly want without worrying
Chinese may change their mind after they have entered and agreement, they will
take this deal.


Let us countentplay a little further, after a
dramatic hand shaking between Hu Jin-Tao and Ma Ying-Jeou in Washington DC or
Paris, the communiqué was announced, and it reads like this: “The two
governments on the two side of the Taiwan straits meet today and agrees that
there is only one China in the world. 
The two governments are equal brotherly members of this one China;  The two government declare that under this
condition, they will never use military force against each other;  In the world, the two governments will support
each other in all areas according to the best interest to their people,
including United Nation; ”  Following the
communiqué, PRC announce full military adjustment and remove of all missiles
against Taiwan, and form a cooperation mechanism with Taiwan defense force for military
coordination;  Taiwan’s UN membership is
agreed by all nations with no obstacle;  State-head
of Taiwan jointly take part in all international occasions side by side with
their Chinese counter part…


Of course, this is only a countemplay.  But the logic is not.  Ma Ying-Jeou has a chance, a genuine chance
to realize this.  This maybe is the only
chance too.  Even if the development of
history sets a different course, it is beneficial to understand this chance
truly does exist.

Categories: English Writings

China Mocks the Spirit of the Olympics

2007年9月3日 1 則評論

When the Summer Olympics take place in Beijing next year, I will not be there. The obvious reason for this is because I was a student leader in the protests of 1989 that resulted in what is now often referred to as the June 4 Tiananmen Massacre, and have been in exile ever since. But the less obvious corollary of this is that I will not be there because China is not ready to embrace the Olympic spirit.

I think it is safe to say that, if the Chinese government were ready to embrace the Olympic spirit of unity, inclusiveness and equality, all of us who are exiled from our homeland would like nothing else than to be in Beijing next year. After all, it would be an opportunity, not only to enjoy the Olympic festivities, but also to be reunited with out families. The fact that this will not be the case makes a mockery of China’s “One World One Dream” Olympics slogan, and its pretensions to being a mature member of the global community.

Mine is simply one of countless stories of exile from the world’s fastest growing economy, but I think, in view of Beijing’s triumphalism about hosting the world’s premier sporting event, my exile and what it means for me personally is worth mentioning. Not only will it not be possible for me attend the Beijing Olympics, but the Beijing government will continue to hold the family I have not seen in 18 years hostage, and will no doubt continue to refuse to issue them passports so that we can be reunited in a foreign country.

I am sure that many people who attend the Olympics next year will be aware to some degree or other that, despite the
newly sanitized streets of Beijing (involving the eviction of 1.5 million people, according to the Center on Housing Rights and Evictions), the awe-inspiring sporting facilities, and the grand panoply of the ceremonies, there is a dark side to the festivities. But, as the International Olympic Committee did when it awarded the event to Beijing, they will have decided that China has still made great strides towards becoming a better place than it was in the summer of 1989, and it deserves a chance.

I wish this were true. If it were, I would be joining family and friends in Beijing next year.

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics are regularly described as “China’s coming out party”. Nineteen years after the world watched the student occupation of Tiananmen Square, the subsequent decade-and-a-half of record-breaking economic growth is poised to culminate in a spectacle calculated to awe the world and marginalize the hecklers who point to China’s poor human rights record, its petrodollar complicity in genocide in Darfur, its occupation of Tibet and its aggressive stance on unification with Taiwan, as evidence that China is not yet mature enough to host the world’s most coveted sporting event.

Politics have been an issue at nearly every Olympics since the 1936 Berlin meet, when athletes were expected to shout “sieg heil” as they marched past Adolf Hitler’s chancellor’s box. Germany and Japan were not invited, and the USSR failed to show, at the 1948 London Olympics; 11 Israeli athletes died as a result of an attack by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics; and more than 60 nations boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But, it seems likely that the Beijing Olympics, despite the hecklers, will go ahead without any boycotts, and – if Beijing has its way – without incident in Beijing itself.

The reason for this, I believe, is related to the complexities of the West’s perceptions of and relations with China. A strong case can be made that the protests leading up to June 4 in 1989 were instrumental in opening up China,
forcing the government to acquiesce to the demands of an educated emergent middle class. But the suppression of the protests came at enormous cost to China on the world stage, and the government has been paying for it ever since in
terms of western scrutiny of its human rights record.

At the same time, however, when Deng Xiaoping toured southern China in 1992 and called on Chinese to go into business “even more boldly” and “more quickly” to create a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics, the

West put its post-Tiananmen qualms behind it and poured into China with a flood of foreign investment. This is perfectly understandable. Since the Opium Wars, the West’s relationship with China has hinged on how to inveigle the world’s most populous nation into opening its doors to the global economy.

Fifteen years on, China has become an important motor of global economic growth. In this way there are two opposing western views of China: the one-party state that denies basic human rights and imprisons or exiles dissenters, and global powerhouse, home to 1.3 billion potential consumers.

When Beijing hosts the Olympics next year, it is the latter view it is looking to capitalize on. Despite the relentless trickle of negative press about China – the disparities of wealth and poverty, environmental degradation, suppression of human rights – over the past decade the world has beat a path to China’s door, and the government in Beijing sees the Olympics as an opportunity to put on a spectacle that will finally eclipse the world’s lingering images of bloodshed in the capital.

It is very possible that government will be successful in this endeavor, but as one of countless exiles from modern China who will not be able to be there in person, the summer of 2008 promises to be a major betrayal of the Olympic spirit.

For Pierre de Coubertin, who was responsible for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1900, one of the four principles of the games was to achieve a truce, “a four-yearly festival of the springtime of mankind." I find this idea of a “truce” interesting because the reality is that Beijing has no plans for a truce of any kind. The intention is for Beijing to parade itself to the rest of the world as the China everybody doing business with it and the government that rules by slogans and an iron fist would like to pretend it is: an open, harmonious and peaceful society that is taking its rightful place as a global leader.

The idea behind this four-yearly festival is that the world put its conflicts behind it and comes together in a spirit of unity. In Beijing, that will not happen because any Chinese national who has a grievance with the country’s one-party government will have no part to play in the celebrations.  That list includes anyone who campaigns for greater autonomy in Tibet, my homeland of Xinjiang, my adopted home of Taiwan, anyone who has struggled to expand participatory politics in China or to have the right to worship as they choose, or anyone who has dissented publicly from whatever the current Party line happens to be.

There should be no mistake about this. China’s “coming out party” is nothing of the sort. The party in Beijing will be the Chinese Communist Party’s “coming out party”. This government has long seen participating in the Olympics as a legitimizing maneuver, not only on the world stage, but also in terms of winning glory for the Chinese nation, playing on nationalism and simultaneously conflating China with the one-party state that rules it – as the famous saying
goes, without the Communist Party, there would be no modern China.

The state has devoted enormous resources into transforming itself into an effective sporting nation. It was not until the Los Angeles games in 1984, that the PRC managed to win its first gold. But by the 2004 games in Athens, China was in third place behind the United States and Russia, sweeping up 32 golds.

Winning the right to host the Olympics, then, is the final act in this more than two-decade crusade by the CCP to achieve legitimacy through sporting prowess.

Of course, the Chinese government itself knows that its motives have little resonance with the Olympic spirit, and as a result it is cloaking the event in the familiar, fuzzy rhetoric of unity we see in the official slogan, “One World, One Dream”, which the official website helpfully explains, “conveys the lofty ideal of the people in Beijing as well as in China to share the global community and civilization and to create a bright future hand in hand with the people from the rest of the world.” Similar sentiments can be seen in the website’s explanation of the Beijing Olympics emblem – a calligraphic seal that features a wriggly human being who appears to be dancing, and which symbolizes a China

that is “opening its arms to welcome the rest of the world to join the Olympics, [in] a celebration of ‘peace, friendship and progress of mankind’."

If this is the message to world, at home the Chinese government is using the Olympics to repress dissidents and  activists, while at the same time using the games to more firmly establish the legality and validity of its rule. The terrible pity of this is that the Party is exploiting national pride, and denying the Chinese people of the right to enjoy the true spirit of the Olympics. Meanwhile, the world’s participation in the event is an act of collusion with a political party that in recent years has presided over a remarkable period of economic growth, but has nevertheless throughout the past six decades since 1949 been responsible for far more setbacks than it has successes. It also continues to be as oppressive as it was when I was forced into exile in 1989, despite the foreign-invested veneer of westernization that can be seen in the major cities.

When China made its most recent Olympics bid, it promised the IOC and the international community that it was prepared to make substantial improvements in human rights. But, just four days after winning the bid, then deputy prime minister, Li Lanqing, announced that China should step up its efforts to counter the Falungong, a spiritual movement whose members are routinely imprisoned – at least 100 are thought to have died in detainment. The then vice-president, Hu Jintao, weighed in next, saying it was essential for China to counter separatist movements  “orchestrated by the Dali Lama and the world’s anti-China forces.”

This should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all the OIC, which took the surprisingly naïve position that holding the Olympics in Beijing was likely to improve China’s human rights. The opposite was always bound to be the case. For Beijing to pull off the kind of Olympics it would like to, it is forced to repress anything of a political nature that might mar its moment of glory.

Amnesty International, for example, is calling for the immediate release of Ye Guozhu, who was arrested in December 2004, and is serving a four-year prison sentence for attempting to organize a demonstration against forced evictions in Beijing, after two restaurants he owned were demolished in 2001 to make way for Olympics sports facilities. His relatives say he has health problems after having been tortured in prison, and it is claimed he was beaten with electro-shock battens in Beijing’s Chaobai Prison.

An equally high-profile example is human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was convicted of “subversion” in December 2006, and is now under house arrest. While under formal arrest, he claims to have been treated harshly by police. Meanwhile, in April this year, four pro-Tibetan independence protesters were arrested, after they hung up a
Free Tibet banner at Mount Everest base camp, protesting the government’s plans to relay the Olympic torch through the Tibetan Himalayas.

According to the Olympic Charter, sport must be “at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.” But groups protesting against, or calling for boycotts of next year’s Olympics point to a host of CCP transgressions against both a peaceful society and human dignity.

A commitment to reform or abolish China’s “re-education through labor” policy appears stalled, possibly so as to clean up the streets of Beijing of vagrants and drug-users ahead of the Olympics. Meanwhile, Amnesty reports that the lead up to the Olympics has seen “moves to expand detention without trial and ‘house arrest’ of activists, and … a tightening of controls over domestic media and the Internet.”

For the most part, the foreign community seems to have found it relatively easy to ignore these domestic affronts to the spirit of the Olympics. The issue of Darfur is proving somewhat more problematic. Names such Bob Geldof and Mia Farrow have publicly criticized China for supporting the atrocities in Darfur through massive subsidies to oil-rich Sudan.

In March this year, Farrow wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal that popularized the term, “the Genocide
Olympics”. A Google search for the latter, five months later, produces close to 1.5 million hits.

For any Chinese – even those of us in exile – this background to China’s successful bid for the Olympics should be more a cause for self-examination than for celebration. Ideally, the Olympics I would like to attend next year would be the ultimate culmination of the kaifang – open – policy that was ushered in by Deng Xiaoping in 1979.

Deng’s “open door” policy was a revolutionary turning point in modern Chinese history, and for all the problems facing China at this juncture, it has been successful in raising the living standards for millions of Chinese people. Unfortunately, China’s new-found economic openness has never been matched by the openness that is needed to reform the country’s oppressive one-party state. And this being the case the games that will take place next year will belong to that state, not to the Chinese people, the vast majority of whom will not be allowed anywhere near the Olympics festivities in Beijing.

For my part, if I were permitted to return to China for the Olympics, I admit I would seize the opportunity – it would be my chance to see the ageing parents and the brother I have not seen in close on two decades. But, the long-awaited family reunion aside, I think it unlikely I would find much else in the way of cause for celebration.

——Published Far Eastern Economic Review, Cover date 2007.09.04.

This article has won the Hong Kong Human Rights Press Award, (Oped) 2007.

Categories: English Writings

The Tiananmen Knot

2007年6月3日 2 則評論

The recent comments by veteran Hong Kong politician Ma Lik have reignited media interest in the events of June 4, 1989, sometimes – though less frequently in these heady days of the China economicmiracle – referred to as the Tiananmen Massacre. Mr Ma’s comments may have been inopportune and ill-considered, but the media interest in and subsequent public debate on the issue have brought to light issues that laid buried in recent years.

On May 15, Mr Ma, who is chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, stated at an informal press conference that the June 4 crackdown was not a massacre because troops in Beijing did not fire “indiscriminately” at the protesting students. It has to be said – there is not point pretending otherwise – that these were foolish words. Mr Ma has seized on the word “massacre” and, in denying that it can be strictly apply to events that transpired on June 4, attempted to whitewash a very problematic moment in recent Chinese history. It is small surprise then that Mr Ma has suffered a fierce backlash from many quarters, including exiled dissidents such as myself.

I do believe, however, that clumsy comments such as those by Mr Ma need to be considered, not only at face value, but also in terms of the implications for all of us who have any kind of relationship with China.

The truth is that China is no longer the same country that galvanized the world with scenes of tens of thousands of students and workers taking to the streets to demand change. For a huge number of Chinese today, particularly the elite who have access to the university system, that change has already taken place. Despite the manifold problems – a precipitous wealth-divide, rural unrest and intolerance of political dissent, to name just a few – China today is far  wealthier and more cosmopolitan than the country I was forced to leave in 1989. It is governed by a new generation of leaders – technocrats who speak in terms of words like “governance” – and the old-generation Iron-Curtain generals are gone.

In short, with the rise of China as a global economic force, and the 2008 Beijing Olympics just around corner, it comes as no surprise that businesspeople and politicians of all stripes should be considering how to put the political bottlenecks of the past behind them. Sooner or later, after all, the past has to take its place in history so that we can all collaborate in making a better a future. It goes without saying that this is something that occupies the minds of dissidents such as myself who cannot return to their homeland.

I am sure that Mr Ma too is one of those people. Like us, he would like to be able to move on. Unfortunately, his remarks were so outrageous that mostly all they served to do was to open old wounds rather than stimulate debate about what the preconditions for reconciliation might be. Even, I am sure, most dissidents would welcome reconciliation – indeed it is a necessary development. But until this day, 18 years on, reconciliation has not taken place, and for the most part the world deals with June 4 by pretending it did not happen. Mr Ma’s comments were a reminder that, whatever we call it, it did happen, and that ghosts of June 4 can still arouse powerful emotions. Amid widespread public calls of “shameless” in Hong Kong, the Apple Daily ran a front-page headline calling Mr Ma “a  scoundrel”, while the Tiananmen Mother’s Group accused Mr Ma of “helping evil people do evil”.

For me, these reactions underscore the fact that, no matter how vital China has become to world economy and how much it has changed with the times, the Tiananmen knot cannot be unraveled either by ignoring it or by denying it happened. The truth has to be confronted before reconciliation can take place. The question of whether it is time to forgive and move on is on many people’s minds, including my own. But forgiveness, like reconciliation, has as its precondition the truth.

To this day, the Chinese government calls the Tiananmen student movement, a “counterrevolutionary riot”, all the while denying the scale of bloodshed. This is a convenient line that I’m sure many would like to go along with, but as a falsehood it leaves no room for dialog. It is a position that asks us to forgive by forgetting.

Forgiveness will come with reconciliation, but for that to happen the Chinese government, and its defenders such as Mr Ma, will have to extend the same goodwill to the victims of June 4, and to those bereaved, imprisoned and exiled, that they are willing to extend to China. That means confronting the truth. Reconciliation under any other terms is nothing more than appeasement.

As I have said before, I think often about reconciliation. Like many of us in exile, I would like to be part of the new China. Unfortunately, the day for that to happen has not arrived. The conditions are not right. And until Beijing and its champions are willing to engage in open dialog about the events of 1989 that day will not arrive.


——Published 2007.06.04, Asia Wall Street Journal



Categories: English Writings

China Should Extend a Hand

2005年6月3日 尚無評論


As a former student leader who has been exiled for 16
years since the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989, I see cause for cautious optimism in the
recent developments in cross-Strait relations. Taiwan is now my home, and the hostility
with which Beijing so often treats this young democracy never ceases to remind
me of the hostility that I and so many others–too many of them now dead–faced
in 1989.


That’s why I was so pleased to see the recent
reconciliation between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Nationalist
Party, symbolized by CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao’s historic handshake with
visiting Kuomintang Chairman Lien Chan on April 29. I’m not suggesting that any
dramatic changes will come directly from this meeting–the way ahead will not be
easy simply because of a single handshake. Nonetheless the fact that Mr. Hu
greeted Mr. Lien in such a friendly manner marks a significant shift from the
usual strategy of threatening military action against Taiwan, which Beijing was still pursuing
only a month earlier with the passage of the anti-secession law.


The handshake took place against a very troubled
background on both sides of the Strait. Many Taiwanese–in particular
supporters of the island’s so-called “pan-blue” opposition parties–have long
been frustrated by confrontational domestic politics and the economic setbacks Taiwan has
experienced in recent years. But distrust among the island’s political forces
had made it almost impossible, until now, for them to reach agreement on how to
reach out to the mainland.


On the Chinese side, there is even less trust and
understanding. Modern Chinese have grown up indoctrinated in the belief that a
unified China
would be an even greater China.
The orthodoxy of this faith is reinforced by the fact that they live in a
politically monochromatic system that exiles diversity of opinion and dissent.
This in turn makes it difficult for both Chinese citizens and their leaders to
understand either the KMT or the democratic Taiwanese environment in which it
vies for power.


That gulf still separates China and Taiwan. But
reconciliation has to start somewhere, and that’s is why I found some hope in
the smile that creased Mr. Hu lips when he shook hands with Mr. Lien. I know that
smile conceals a greed for power which could one day cause China to attack
and that the island will have to remain vigilant against this possibility.
Nonetheless a smile is far more likely to lead to a brighter future than a
scowl. Even though the way ahead is still difficult, and will require much hard
work and sacrifices from many people, the goodwill that was extended during Mr.
Lien’s visit makes for a good start.


It also makes me wonder whether it is possible to
start bridging another fissure in China’s modern political landscape.
In the run up to Saturday’s 16th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, I would
like to call upon Mr. Hu to stage a similar reconciliation with the student
protesters. The bloody confrontation between peaceful petitioners and the Beijing regime that took
place that day was a tragedy born of poor judgment and bad decisions by the
government. And the skirmishes that have persisted between Beijing and a generation of exiled dissidents
over the past 16 years are a result of the central government’s inability to
accept dissenting opinions. The outcome has been lives lost, wasted in
imprisonment or lived in exile far from home, while families have been torn
apart, not to mention the immense damage done to China’s image on the international
stage. For some, perhaps, memories of Tiananmen may have dimmed, but there are
still enough people who have not forgotten that, whenever China turns to
the world with a request or demand, inevitably the word “Tiananmen” comes up.


The truth is, China continues to politicize Tiananmen
by suppressing information about it and failing to face up to its
responsibility for the lives that has lost on June 4, 1989, just as it has
politicized the Falun Gong religious movement with extensive and ruthless
suppression. If China
truly wants to be accepted into the international community, sooner or later it
will have to settle these grievances by staging reconciliations with both its
political and religious opponents–and a good way to start would be with my
fellow exiles and I.


For my part, I would leap at the chance to be able to
return to my homeland, to see my family again and participate in the new China,
providing there were no conditions, such as a prison sentence, an apology for
my student activities or a demand that I not raise my voice with unwelcome


The international applause for such a step would ring far
louder for Mr. Hu than when he shook hands with Mr. Lien. And it would be far
more than applause–a friendly gesture to a generation of peaceful protesters
would show that China
is taking its first step toward greater tolerance of diversity, out of which
springs the only real hope for a great nation.


If the leaders of two parties who fought a civil war
half a century ago can shake hands, it should not be too much for China’s leaders
also to extend a welcoming hand to the students of 1989. Like all other Chinese,
we dream of a greater motherland, and I say to Mr. Hu–let us come home. That
is our undeniable right as Chinese citizens–guaranteed by China’s
constitution–and it would show the world that China is sincere in its efforts to
become a truly modern state. Let us start with a handshake, and bring smiles to
the faces of all those who have suffered in exile over 16 long years.

——Published 2005.06.04, Asia Wall Street Journal


Categories: English Writings
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