Perry Link is Chancellorial Chair for Teaching Across Disciplines at the University of California at Riverside. He translated China’s Charter 08 manifesto, published in these pages, and recently co-edited No Enemies, No Hatred, a collection of essays and poems by Liu Xiaobo. His latest book isAn Anatomy of Chinese: Rhythm, Metaphor, Politics.
In the Shadow of the Rising Dragon: Stories of Repression in the New China edited by Xu Youyu and Hua Ze, translated from the Chinese by Stacy Mosher
Zaoyu jingcha: Zhongguo weiquan diyixian qinli gushi [Encounters with the Chinese Police: Stories of Personal Experience at the First Line of Defense of Chinese Rights] edited by Xu Youyu and Hua Ze
For a Song and a Hundred Songs: A Poet’s Journey Through a Chinese Prison by Liao Yiwu, translated from the Chinese by Wenguang Huang
This Generation: Dispatches from China’s Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver) by Han Han, edited and translated from the Chinese by Allan H. Barr
Ai Weiwei’s Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006–2009 by Ai Weiwei, edited and translated from the Chinese by Lee Ambrozy
Red Sorghum by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt
The Garlic Ballads by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt
Big Breasts and Wide Hips by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt
Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan, translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt
Ruyan@sars.come (So it firstname.lastname@example.org) by Hu Fayun
Mubei (Tombstone) by Yang Jisheng
Zhao Ziyang: Ruanjinzhong de tanhua (Captive Conversations) by Zong Fengming
Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang,translated from the Chinese by Karen S. Kingsbury and Eileen Chang
Loud Sparrows: Contemporary Chinese Short-Shorts edited by Aili Mu, Julie Chiu, and Howard Goldblatt
The Banquet Bug by Geling Yan
Love and Revolution: A Novel about Song Qingling and Sun Yat-sen by Ping Lu, translated from the Chinese by Nancy Du
Zhongguo zhengfu ruhe kongzhi meiti (How the Chinese Government Controls the Media) a report by He Qinglian
Zhongguo de xianjing [China’s Pitfall] by He Qinglian
Science and Dissent in Post-Mao China: The Politics of Knowledge by H. Lyman Miller
‘Don’t Force Us to Lie’: The Struggle of Chinese Journalists in the Reform Era by Allison Liu Jernow
The Rise of China: How Economic Reform is Creating a New Superpower by William H. Overholt
Lishi de yibufen (A Part of History) by Zheng Yi
Hongse Jinianbei (Red Memorial) by Zheng Yi
For China’s Internet police, message control has grown to include many layers of meaning. Local authorities have a toolbox of phrases—fairly standard nationwide—that they use to offer guidance to website editors about dealing with sensitive topics. The harshest response is “completely and immediately delete.” For topics that cannot be avoided because they are already being widely discussed, there are such options as “mention without hyping,” “publish but only under small headlines,” “put only on back pages,” “close the comment boxes,” and “downplay as time passes.”
Arguably no one did more to promote human rights in China than Fang Lizhi, the astrophysicist, activist, and dissident, who died a year ago this week. We were friends for many years; here are eight of my favorite memories of him.
There is a problem with the arguments made by Mo Yan’s defenders, and that is what the Chinese call xifangzhongxinzhuyi. This phrase does not translate easily, so please pardon my awkward rendering as “West-centrism.”
Over the past few days, angry crowds in more than thirty Chinese cities have trashed Japanese stores, overturned Japanese cars, shouted “Down with Japan,” and carried banners that demand Chinese sovereignty over the uninhabited Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Japan also claims ownership of these islands, which it calls the Senkakyus. Many have ascribed the vehemence of the protests to deep-rooted anti-Japanese sentiment linked to injustices committed by Japan eighty years ago. But the protests appear to have more to do with the interests of China’s current rulers, at a moment when the top leadership in Beijing is in turmoil.
The word “embarrassment” has been used around the world in press reports about the murder charges against Bogu Kailai, the wife of disgraced Chinese official Bo Xilai. But I doubt that anything as mild as embarrassment is what fills the minds of Party leaders in Beijing. Much more is at stake. What did Bo Xilai’s police chief Wang Lijun tell the Americans, and what agreement did the Americans make with Chinese authorities when they released Wang to their custody? Normally the Communist Party completely suppresses news of murders and other “embarrassments.” The fact that it decided to make a public announcement in this case must be, at least in part, because the Americans hold information that they could, if they wanted, divulge.
I do not know what US officials are saying to Chinese rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who escaped house arrest and is believed to be in US custody in Beijing. But I can report first hand what they said in a strikingly similar case twenty-three years ago, when the physicists and human rights advocates Fang Lizhi and Li Shuxian took refuge at the US embassy following the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Fang Lizhi’s path through life observed a pattern that is common to China’s dissidents: a person begins with socialist ideals, feels bitter when the rulers betray the ideals, resorts to outspoken criticism, and ends in prison or exile. Liu Binyan, Wang Ruowang, Su Xiaokang, Hu Ping, Zheng Yi, Liu Xiaobo, and many others have followed this pattern. Most have been literary figures—writers, editors, or professors of Chinese—who base their dissent in the study of Chinese society and culture. Fang was a natural scientist, and this made him different in important ways.
The first time I tried to go to China was in 1967, the year after I graduated from college. My father was a radical leftist professor who admired Mao Zedong. And that influence, along with the Vietnam War protests—a movement in which I was not only a participant but an activist—led me to look at socialist China with very high hopes.
In an NYRblog post on February 17, I discussed Chinese government efforts to block news of the democracy uprisings spreading across the Middle East and speculated how China’s rulers might view those uprisings. I have now received news that resolves much of that speculation and that may also help explain the unusual show of force by Chinese security officials this weekend in response to a call for street protests to support a “Jasmine Revolution” in several Chinese cities.
Chinese authorities have done what they can to block news of Egyptian people-power from spreading to China. Reports about Egypt in China’s state-run media have been brief and vacuous. On February 6, at the height of the protests, the People’s Daily informed readers that “the Egyptian government is continuing to carry out its various measures to support restoration of social order.” But on the Chinese Internet, which despite vigorous policing is hard to stifle, Mubarak has received a drubbing.
On December 10, I attended the award ceremony in Oslo, Norway, for the Nobel Peace Prize, which the government of China had a few days earlier declared to be a “farce.” The recipient was a friend of mine, the Chinese scholar and essayist Liu Xiaobo, whom Oslo was now referring to as a Laureate and Beijing as a “criminal” serving an eleven-year sentence for “incitement to subvert state power.”
It would be hard to overstate how much the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo on October 8 has meant to China’s community of dissidents, bloggers, and activists. Not only has it lifted their spirits tremendously; many also view it as a possible turning point in the long struggle to bring democracy and human rights to their country. Their ebullience seems unaffected by the hostile reaction of the Chinese government, which has called the Nobel Committee’s decision “obscene” and an “insult to China.” Chinese authorities have spread the message in China’s state-run media that Liu Xiaobo is a criminal serving time in prison, but without quoting even a small sample of the words or ideas that have caused him to be there; and they have escalated their harassment of Liu’s friends and colleagues.
While people in the US and elsewhere have been reacting to the release by WikiLeaks of classified US documents on the Afghan War, Chinese bloggers have been discussing the event in parallel with another in their own country. On July 21 in Beijing, four days before WikiLeaks published its documents, Chinese President Hu Jintao convened a high-level meeting to discuss ways to prevent leaks from the archives of the Communist Party of China.
Following is an English translation of an Internet dialogue between the Dalai Lama and Chinese citizens that took place on May 21. The exchange was organized by Wang Lixiong, a Chinese intellectual known for his writing on Tibet.
On February 12, Chinese human rights campaigner Feng Zhenghu was allowed to return to Shanghai after a 92-day stay in diplomatic limbo at the Tokyo Narita airport. Having left China last April to visit family in Japan, Feng, who is a Chinese citizen, was repeatedly denied reentry by Chinese immigration officials; when he was sent back to Tokyo last November, he remained in the Tokyo airport in protest, waiting for the Chinese government to change its mind. The international press has portrayed Feng as a solitary figure, pursuing an admirable if somewhat flamboyant quest for his personal rights. But the point of Feng’s protest goes much, much deeper than the fate of one man, and Feng hopes that the world will understand why.
On December 29, four days after being sentenced to eleven years in prison for “subversion of state power,” the Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo filed an appeal to a higher court. For many familiar with the Chinese regime, the decision seemed quixotic: it is extremely unlikely that a higher court will overturn the sentence, which aims at Liu’s support for Charter 08 and his writings on human rights, democracy, and rule of law in China. Yet Liu’s response to his sentence—and that of a number of Chinese intellectuals over the past few weeks—suggests that the Charter 08 movement continues to survive, despite extraordinary efforts by the Chinese government to repress it.
One year ago, the Chinese literary critic and political commentator Liu Xiaobo was taken away from his home in Beijing by the Chinese police, who held him without charge for six months, then placed him under formal arrest for six more months, on the ominous charge of “inciting subversion of state power.” Now, his case has been sent from the police to the state prosecutor’s office, and from there to a court, where his trial is expected to begin on Wednesday. The Chinese government has done what it can to keep the case out of sight, both at home and abroad. But thanks to the Internet, there are ways to be in touch with Liu’s friends and colleagues. In the past few days I have been talking with several of them.
As the UN’s Climate Change Conference opens in Copenhagen this week, much attention will focus on China and the United States, who are, by a wide margin, the world’s two leading emitters of greenhouse gases. The success of the conference will depend in part on whether both countries can live up to recent pledges by their leaders to curb emissions. Just as important for China, however, is the need to address repression—until now ignored by the Obama administration—of citizen activists trying to call attention to the country’s environmental problems.
As the echoes of China’s spectacular military parade on October 1 were subsiding, officials in the Obama administration, in quieter settings in Washington, D.C., were telling representatives of the Dalai Lama that the president was not going to meet with him. This would mark the first time since 1991 that the Dalai Lama was invited to Washington—he was here to receive a human rights award from the US Congress—without at least some visit, however short and informal, with the president. It also goes against Obama’s own pledge to the Tibetan leader during his 2008 campaign to “continue to support you and the rights of the Tibetans.”
The most striking feature of China’s October 1 celebration of sixty years of Communist rule was the spectacular and tightly choreographed military parade in the center of Beijing. The display of crass militarism—paralleled only by parades in Pyongyang or, a few years ago, Moscow—cannot have done much for China’s image around the world, but China’s rulers may not have cared about that or even been aware of it. They no doubt had a domestic audience in mind. Their aim was to stir nationalism and cast themselves as its champion, or—in the case of Tibetans, Uighurs, or protesters of various kinds—to make it very clear who owns the guns.