Thursday 13 July 2017

Liu Xiaobo: A man with no enemies

Liu Xiaobo was a man with no enemies. The 'crime' he was jailed for was co-writing and circulating a charter asking for the things that most people in developed countries regard as the bare minimums of a civilised society: a free press, free elections, an independent judiciary. Yet today he is dead, having died of an illness that he might have had every chance of avoiding or overcoming had he not been jailed by a brutal regime that feared what he had to say.

In coming days you will hear some of the usual people saying some of the usual things that apologists for the Chinese Communist Party say about its critics - that Liu Xiaobo was a foreign agent, that had he not associated with "evil foreign forces" he would be free today. This is nonsense. Others who have had no contact at all with foreign human rights organisations have been jailed by the CCP authorities for the same 'crime' of 'subversion', where their 'crime' consisted only of speaking their minds in a public forum.  Guo Quan, a former Nanjing University professor of history, who also campaigned for democracy, was jailed for the same 'crime' of 'subversion' for 10 years, with no-one ever accusing him of foreign links.

Those with suspicious minds might suspect that foul play, or at least malicious neglect, were factors in Liu's death. This suspicion can only be heightened by the unconfirmed report that Bo Xilai has also recently been released for treatment for the same disease (liver cancer) that killed Liu. Without evidence such speculation is pointless conspiracy-theory-making. The independent post-mortem that might clear-up such speculation will never happen, even if Liu's family want it to be done which is uncertain.

Still, I find it hard not to feel angry about this. I am not the man who said this:
 "Hatred can rot away at a person's intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society's tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation's progress toward freedom and democracy. That is why I hope to be able to transcend my personal experiences as I look upon our nation's development and social change, to counter the regime's hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love."

Liu Xiaobo must never be forgotten, his wife Liu Xia should be freed from the restrictions she was placed under now. Keeping these things in mind is the best way of honouring Liu Xiaobo's memory.

Friday 7 July 2017

Hong Kong & Shenzhen Again

I spent last week on a whistle-stop business visit to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, my first real visit to the mainland since 2014 and to Hong Kong since 2015.

Brief notes:
  • Not a single person I spoke to in Hong Kong expressed any excitement or interest in the celebration ceremonies for the 20th anniversary of the hand-over of Hong Kong to the PRC. At most they expressed weariness about the likely shut-down of the city centre and expected a repeat of the inconvenience they suffered during the visit of Zhang Dejiang last year, which included being locked in their office buildings for hours either side of his passing through.
  • As much as I deprecate people moaning about "gentrification", the wave of change sweeping through Kowloon has undeniably removed something special from the area, though Mong Kok is still itself.
  • The banners displayed everywhere I went on the mainland touting "socialism" and (amongst Xi Jinping's 12 virtues) "democracy" were, for me, stunning. Having lived in the China of Hu Jintao, where communism was wisely down-played, and "Western" democracy was something to be denounced (whilst at the same time subtly claiming, typically with some hand-waving about Confucianism, that China under the CCP is a democracy), it was a shock to see both communism and democracy being touted in official propaganda. I can't help but think that this is only likely to drive people against the CCP regime by rubbing the fact that neither democracy nor socialism currently exist in mainland China in their faces, but then what do I know?
Obviously it was a short visit, but I think the last point here is probably the most significant. The CCP under Xi Jinping is abandoning the subtle style of previous years and instead heightening the contradictions of their rule.

[Picture: the "24-characters of core values of socialism", including (roughly translated) prosperity, democracy, civilisation, harmony, freedom, peace, equality, justice, rule of law, patriotism, dedication, honesty, and fraternity]