November 2010

Liu Xiaobo’s receiving of the Nobel Peace Prize ruffled feathers in Beijing. Liu’s biggest crimes in the eyes of the Beijing government is that he champions the superiority of western culture, particularly political systems. If Liu didn’t bang
on so much about that, it is probable that China would not imprison him. As it is, Liu’s comment of many decades ago about China needing to be colonised for three hundred years to achieve freedom, and his total contempt for the Chinese Communist Party makes Liu’s actions unforgivable in the eyes of Beijing.
   It is true that Liu does not enjoy unqualified support among Chinese intellectuals. These are people who are pragmatic enough to know that China will not, ever, change to the extent that those who wish to transplant western liberalism and democracy would wish. The debate about Liu often degenerates into internecine parties bounding slogans off each other. Having said this, it is notable that even some pro- Beijing commentators think that locking up Liu Xiabo is a stupid action.
   The fact remains we have a state that by attempting to show its strength by uncompromising stifling of dissidents, instead shows the extent of a vast fragility and insecurity, an extensive and so-called powerful government that is afraid of any dissenting voices. Unfortunately for China, the most cursory summary of its stance on due legal process, civil liberties, democracy, and its perpetration of summary arrests, detention without trial, capital punishment, ruthless suppression of political dissent, exactly matches the prerequisites of fascist ideology. In fascist regimes, rigid control of the media and authoritarian laws are justified by ‘national security considerations,’ so the most innocent knowledge of non-sensitive security documents or even speaking to western officials may earn a Chinese official a spying charge. The Communists define ‘state secrets’ to mean anything they want to mean. This is reminiscent of a dialogue between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass: ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.’
   Other justifications China uses for its attempts to confine freedom of expression is its strivings for a ‘harmonious society.’ This yearning for ‘harmony’ is an ill-disguised pretext for heavy handed bullying by favourites of the states and the preserving of various self interests, as we can see in land-grabs, rampant corruption, cronyism, nepotism in tandem with unconcealed hostility for intellectuals, writers, academics and artists.
   Anyway, Liu’s Nobel Prize was a cue for Beijing hacks to come out of the woodwork and make speeches about preserving stability, interference in China’s internal affairs, foreign meddlers awarding meaningless prizes to convicted criminals and so on. One addition to the propaganda flying around the media was a speech given by the Exco chief Leung Chun-yin. In the address at a university during which Leung mentioned Deng Xiaoping eight times, Leung said ‘Mr Deng Xiaoping was a great man. He lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty. He contributed directly and indirectly to the peace and prosperity of the people of China.’
   Leung was one of the hopefuls for the race for Chief Executive. Qualifying for this race involved considerable amounts of toadying and shoe shining of the mandarins north of the border. This was Leung’s contribution, and it would be hard to imagine a more abject, obsequious example of grovelling and currying favour. At least he didn’t suggest that the Nobel Peace Prize should have gone to Mao Zedong.