Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Dissident": A Chinese Honorific

Artist Ai Weiwei Saluting His Comrades
While the world has been looking the other way at Japan and Libya, China has been busy silencing "dissidents" or chasing them out of the country. From the South China Morning Post:
Xiao Shu, an outspoken veteran columnist for Southern Weekly, was pressured into taking a two-year sabbatical after his employer ordered him to stop writing, a former colleague said. Phone calls to Southern Weekly chief editors rang unanswered yesterday.

Xiao Shu, 48, whose real name is Chen Min , wrote in his blog: "Sadness is inevitable, but...I have no regret being independent, fair and rational [in my writing]."

In addition, Peng Xiaoyun - an opinion editor at Guangzhou-based Time Weekly, who was put on involuntary leave after running a special report on "100 Influential People to China's Progress" that included milk safety activist Zhao Lianhai - was officially notified she had been sacked, she said on Twitter yesterday.
Ran Yunfei, by R. MacKinnon @ Flickr.com

Another huge threat is Sichuan writer and blogger Ran Yunfei. This poor sod is a major subversive. He actually had the nerve to criticize the authorities for prosecuting those who blamed corrupt officials for the deaths of thousands of children in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake! Imagine that? Here's what the scoundrel wrote back in 2009:
"In striking against those who criticize the government with subversion...they think that would block people's determination to fight for freedom, but that's just underestimating people's resolve to protect their own rights."
The charge of inciting subversion was also used to jail Liu Xiaobo, winner of last year's Nobel peace prize. Pity China for being plagued with such enemies. "Dissident" has become a coveted label, something to be worn with pride.

Then there's the case of the Ai Weiwei, probably the most famous international Chinese artist. He helped design the "Bird Nest" Stadium for Beijing's 2008 Olympics, which he then disowned while calling for a boycott. More recently he exhibited 100 million hand painted porcelain Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern in London. In China, he has been harassed, beaten and prevented from working. What's a poor guy to do? Get out. Weiwei has just announced plans to set up a studio in Berlin to showcase his work.
"Most of my activities have been in Europe and I cannot really show my work in China... It's very discouraging what's happening here and if I want to continue to develop my work, I have to find a base. But I will stay in Beijing unless the situation is an absolute threat to my life."
The PBS program Frontline just ran this brief documentary, Who's Afraid of Ai Weiwei, a few nights ago:

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