SOURCE: The New Yorker
The “History of the Chinese Communist Party, Volume 1,” the first entry in the Party’s official autobiography, appeared in 2002. Its authors had the luxury of hewing to a narrative of birth, growth, and triumph, covering the years between 1921 and the revolution, in 1949. After that, history gets dicier.
Volume 2, on the period from 1949 to 1978, had to tiptoe through a chronological minefield of purges, famine, policy disasters, and other awkward artifacts of history that many living officials would prefer to leave unexamined. The volume, a thousand and seventy-four pages long, was edited for sixteen years. It needed four major rewrites. It was vetted and scrubbed by sixty-four different government and Party agencies, and then received line edits from the most powerful families mentioned in its pages.
By the time it was released, in 2011, only one of the original three editors, Shi Zhongquan, had lived long enough to see it in print. “Writing history is not easy,” he saidto the journalist Andrew Higgins. For all of the editors’ labors, the reception from independent scholars was not flattering; the official history explained that, once Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward drove the nation into famine, he “worked hard to correct” the mistakes, a judgment that a Dutch scholar called a “barefaced lie.”
Source: The New York Review of Books
By Ian Johnson
Hu Jia is one of China’s best-known political activists. He participated in the 1989 Tiananmen protests as a fifteen-year-old, studied economics, and then worked for environmental and public health non-governmental organizations. A practicing Buddhist, Hu spent three and a half years in prison between 2008 and 2011 for “inciting subversion of state power” and currently is under house arrest for having launched a commemoration of the June Fourth massacre in January. But on his way back from a rare unsupervised hospital visit, I met up with him for a talk about his work and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the protest movement in Tiananmen Square and around the country.
U.S. lawmakers are pressing for a street outside China’s Washington embassy to be renamed in honor of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, who is currently serving an eleven-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power.
From Michael Laris at The Washington Post:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf (R) and a bipartisan group of congressional colleagues want the stretch of street in front of the embassy renamed for imprisoned pro-democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, who won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
“This modest effort would undoubtedly give hope to the Chinese people … and would remind their oppressors that they are in fact on the wrong side of history,” they wrote in a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray and members of the city council.
[…] “Obviously, a letter signed by a number of members of the House is something we want to take seriously,” said council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D).
But Mendelson refrained from endorsing the idea, citing both practical issues and possible concerns about setting precedent. Mendelson has helped sink a series of requests from Gray to name city streets for people who died tragically in recent years, including a murder victim.
District law, Mendelson said, requires a person to be dead for two years before a street can be named after them, though he said the council has the power to make exceptions. [Source]
China has already expressed its lack of enthusiasm, Reuters’ Michael Martina reports:
“A few members of the U.S. Congress doing this, first, is to look down upon and disrespect Chinese law. Secondly, this is very provocative and ignorant behavior,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
“What kind of person is Liu Xiaobo? He is someone who violated Chinese law and he has been sentenced according to law by China’s judicial bodies,” Qin told reporters at a regular press briefing. [Source]
District laws notwithstanding, there is already precedent for the scheme. In 1984, the address of the Soviet embassy in Washington was changed from 1125 16th Street to No. 1 Andrei Sakharov Plaza, after the Russian physicist and rights activist who died in 1989. “Every piece of mail the Soviets get will remind them that we want to know what has happened to the Sakharovs,” the senator behind the change, Alfonse D’Amato, said. Last year, New York-based group Advancing Human Rights started campaigning for a new wave of name changes, including “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.” Writing at The Wall Street Journal with Garry Kasparov in November, the organization’s executive director David Keyes suggested that the rechristening of Sakharov Plaza had had a real impact:
This simple but inspired congressional measure helped put human rights at the center of the U.S.-Soviet relationship. Following the symbolic move, in late 1986, the Soviets allowed Sakharov and his wife to return to Moscow from years of exile. As voices of dissent grew stronger, Soviet tyranny grew weaker. Today, the Soviet Union is gone, but autocracy in Russia is not. And neither is the need to remind the world of the brave dissidents who risk everything for freedom.
[… A]s we saw with the collapse of the Soviet Union, regimes that jail and murder dissidents are destined to fall when we have the courage to hold up a mirror to their brutality. [Source]
The state-run Global Times, though, was dismissive this week of gestures by the “rascally varmints in the US Congress,” after the passage of a bill condemning China’s human rights record.
[…] Basically speaking, China has taken no notice toward all these noises from the US Congress.
In actuality, the more malevolently the US Congress reproaches China and the more unscrupulous demands it makes, the more averse the Chinese mainstream society will feel. The members of the US Congress have helped shape Chinese people’s understanding of the US to a certain degree.
[…] They attempt to ravage China’s social order by conveying to certain forces in China that they will support their activities.
Now the US Congress has become a garbage heap filled with various anti-China sentiments. It is necessary for the representatives to reflect on themselves and become fully aware of the bitter consequences of their actions. [Source]
Whether or not renaming the street after Liu would alienate the Chinese public, it could have other unintended consequences. Liu will become eligible for parole this year, having served half his sentence. Reuters reported recently that the main objection to his early release is fear that he would become a tool in the hands of “hostile forces.” Using his name to embarrass China’s embassy would do little to dispel such concerns, though it isuncertain in any case whether Liu would accept release on the terms offered.
VIDEO: Tiananmen at 25: Enduring Influence on U.S.-China Relations and China’s Political Development Congressional Hearing
In 1989 citizens from all walks of life participated in demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square and throughout China calling for political reform, respect for universal freedoms of speech, assembly, and association, and an end to government corruption. The government's violent suppression of the protests in June of that year had far-reaching ramifications for both the development of human rights and rule of law in China and U.S.-China relations. In the years since, Chinese authorities have censored public discussion of Tiananmen and prevented a public accounting of what happened. At the same time, Chinese citizens continue to advocate for human rights, democracy, and an end to corruption. Witnesses at this CECC hearing will revisit the events of 1989 and discuss how the Tiananmen crackdown influenced both China’s societal and political development and U.S.-China relations over the last 25 years.
Outgoing US Ambassador to China Gary Locke has urged Beijing to improve its human rights record and work with Japan to ease tensions in the East China Sea.
Is the U.S. Academy abetting China's dismal human rights record by failing to challenge their counterparts?
"Many [academic administrators and trustees] have gone out of their way to avoid such questions, preferring a kind of academic realpolitik approach: China is a world power and a force to be reckoned with, and therefore we must “do business” with them. These new partnerships are lucrative for colleges and universities, especially those who are strapped for cash; therefore ethical considerations are subordinate to economic ones."
Tiananmen Massacre Presentation