Monday, November 29, 2010

Who Are and Who Are Not Attending the Nobel Ceremony

It is quite clear that Liu Xiaobo will not be able to make it to the ceremony of Nobel Peace Prize, neither could his wife Liu Xia. It is likely that, for the first time in the history of this award, an empty chair will represent the honoree.

In the diplomatic scene, the Chinese government was successful to persuade or pressure only 5 other countries to boycott the ceremony: Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco, and Irag. On the other hand, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be there to represent America, a very high-profile gesture.

Lynn Chang, a famous Chinese American violinist, will be performing at the ceremony. Also invited to perform was a children's choir from China, but they eventually declined for fear of repercussions. A children's choir from Norway will sing in their stead.

Former student Wang Dan expressed his regret for not being able to make the trip on his Facebook page today. He cited difficulty in schedule at the time of finals for the course he is teaching in Taiwan.

Another dissident who won't be there is Dai Qing, who previously had made a public announcement to attend the ceremony in support of Liu Xiaobo. She had the trip planed but then cancelled it after she learned that Wan Yanhai (万延海), another invitee on Liu Xia's list, will be able to make the trip. Dai Qing is now on her way back to China.

Wan Yanhai is an AIDS activist in China who has recently moved to US.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zheng Cunzhu Back in Los Angeles

Former student leader Zheng Cunzhu who attempted to return to China with a valid Chinese passport is now back at Los Angeles. He was detained at the airport at Guangzhou for two days and never allowed to enter the custom there. Then he was put on a flight back to America.

Zheng Cunzhu said he was questioned and restricted to a single room during his two-day detention, but was not otherwise mistreated.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Former Student Leader Incommunicado Upon Returning to China

Zheng Cunzhu (郑存柱), a student leader during the 1989 movement, boarded a flight from Los Angles to Guangzhou, China, two days ago. He has not been heard since.

According to people who knew him, Zheng Cunzhu was a leader of the 1989 student movement while he was at Hefei, the capital of Anhui province. He later became a successful entrepreneur and arrived at United States on his own. He has been very actively involved in several pro-democracy organizations in the Los Angeles area.

His passport was going to expire and he knew that there is no chance for him to get a renewal from the Chinese embassy. Facing the possibility of becoming an exile without a country, he decided to return to China on the last day when his passport was still valid. He also wishes to call attention to the case of another dissident who was arrested on this day two years ago. At the time, Zheng Cunzhu had made a promise that he would want to accompany his friend in jail.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wang Dan Encounters Bizarre Attack at Taiwan

While teaching at a university in Taiwan, 1989 student leader Wang Dan encountered a bizarre attack yesterday. Taipei Times described the scene that was confirmed by Wang Dan's own posting on his Facebook page:
Wang Dan (王丹), a prominent Tiananmen Square student leader who is currently a visiting associate professor in Taiwan, was nearly stabbed by a woman with a fruit knife while giving a lecture.

At about noon on Thursday, a woman believed to be in her early 30s barged into his classroom at National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu. She took out a knife and reportedly attempted to stab Wang, who was delivering a lecture on the history of the People’s Republic of China to a small group of students.

Struggling with the woman, Wang succeeded in seizing the knife before she could injure him.

“Her storming into the room left me no time to feel scared. I could only catch her and snatch the knife from her hand. It was an instinctive reaction,” Wang said.

Recalling the incident yesterday, Wang, who has experienced a number of politically volatile situations, said this was the first time he faced what looked like an attempt on his life.

Wang said he did not know the woman, he said has harassed him for three years.

About two years ago, Wang contacted police after the woman sent him threatening letters, but the authorities did not indict her, as she appeared to be a psychiatric patient, he said.

Wang said he did not seek police assistance even after the woman started showing up in his classroom or when he was attending public events accusing him of sending people to beat her.

Despite feeling deeply disturbed by the long series of incidents, Wang said he never expected the situation would degenerate into an attack on his person.

Although he is unable to file a lawsuit against the woman because she is mentally ill, Wang said he was considering canceling some public appearances.

The woman is now receiving psychiatric treatment, Wang said, adding that he might request police protection as she could attack him again if released.

Wang’s position at Tsing Hua is his second in Taiwan after he obtained his doctorate in history from Harvard University in 2008.

From September last year to February, Wang was a visiting associate professor teaching “the comparative study of state violence in the 1950s between Taiwan and China” at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dai Qing Announces Intention to Attend Nobel Ceremony

The question of who would be able to show up and accept the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo is still up in the air weeks before the scheduled ceremony. It is almost certain that Liu Xiaobo himself, who is currently in jail, or his wife Liu Xia would not be able to make the trip. So much so that Liu Xia had issued an open invitation to their friends. Most on that list are currently under government surveillance and lost their freedom in China. Except perhaps for one.

That one is Dai Qing, a famous journalist and writer who had actively participated in the 1989 student movement (albeit in a somewhat controversial fashion). Dai Qing is also a fellow of the environmental organization Probe International and is on a cross-Canada speaking tour on its behalf. Therefore, she is not under the direct control of the Chinese government.

In an essay titled Liu Xia's Grand List, Dai Qing reflected on her feelings of the award and current state of human rights in China and went on to offer herself as the last resort of attending the ceremony:
Now Liu Xia’s Grand List is flying through cyberspace. Although the seats in the award ceremony hall are limited, people still hope that if Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia are ultimately not allowed to go, the Chinese authorities will allow their comrades to go.

I was honored to be included in Liu Xia’s Long List of “Xiaobo’s fellow friends.” In all fairness, I cannot compare with anyone else on the list in terms of my contribution or hardship in China’s struggle for modernization. I also cannot compare with the others in my personal relationship with Xiaobo: our face-to-face contact could be counted in only dozens of hours, not to mention that I have also written articles critical of him.

Like many Chinese citizens, it is painful and sad for me to see China’s foreign relations leading to so many conflicts. Compared with our current territorial and resource challenges and other pressing concerns, Xiaobo’s matter would seem to have an easy resolution: Release Xiaobo. Tell the world that in China, any citizen is free to propose ideas on national affairs to the government. If Liu Yunshan (China’s propaganda chief) believes this would cause the collapse of heaven and earth, then the authorities could just release Liu Xia, whose life for the past many years has been devoted to her poetry and photography.

If none of this takes place, there is still more than a month before the awards ceremony. The closest friends and comrades of the Laureate, who have been with him through all of the hardship, should be allowed to go to Oslo. But if the authorities ignore all these calls and no one on Liu Xia’s list is permitted to go abroad through the proper procedures, it happens that I am in Canada now for an academic conference.

To comfort Xiaobo in prison and Liu Xia under house arrest, and for all who are on Liu Xia’s list – those who are either under police surveillance or in custody or warned to behave during a forced “tea conversation with the police,” or worse, those “wearing a wig” (a term to describe those hooded and taken away by the security police) – then I shall tell the world that it is not true that no Chinese citizen who fights against authoritarianism will be able to attend the grand ceremony in Oslo. If necessary, I will go there to fulfill my duty to my friend.