CHINA: In Chains, And Writing Out

  • by Emily-Anne Owen (beijing)
  • Inter Press Service

‘No Enemies, No Hatred: Selected Essays and Poems’ (Harvard University Press), edited by Perry Link, Tienchi Martin-Liao and Liu Xia, features poems and essays penned by Liu spanning a time period of two decades. The 345-page volume also includes documents citing the claimed 'evidence' that the Beijing courts used to imprison the activist.

Liu, 56, is the first Chinese citizen living in China to win the Nobel Prize, and is a national embarrassment for the Chinese authorities, who view his peaceful campaign for democracy as dangerous criminal activity.

In 2009, Liu was handed a handed an 11-year-prison sentence for 'incitement to subvert state power.' He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but was barred from attending the event.

In 1989 the veteran activist was imprisoned for over 18 months for his part in the Tiananmen Square protests. In 1995 he spent a further seven months in jail, and in 1996 was sent to a labour camp for three years for 're-education'.

‘No Enemies, No Hatred’ comes as China steps up its repression of dissidents and activists across the country. China’s approaching leadership transition, combined with the upcoming first anniversaries of the so-called Jasmine Revolution and Arab Spring, have led to severe crackdowns.

The book serves as a potent reminder of the harsh punishments dealt out to those who oppose the government.

But while ‘No Enemies, No Hatred’ has garnered critical acclaim abroad, publishing a book about the Nobel Prize Laureate has serious consequences in China itself.

This month, a prominent Chinese writer and dissident who is currently writing Liu’s biography, fled to the United States.

Yu Jie, a close friend of Liu’s and an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, claimed in a protracted statement to have suffered repeated harassment, house arrest, and torture at the hands of the authoritarian government.

Yu, author of a blistering attack on China’s premier Wen Jiabao titled ‘China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao’, left China on Jan. 11 with his family after over a year of government intimidation.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C, Yu said that he was placed under house arrest in October 2010 following the announcement that Liu had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The writer also claims to have been detained for four days in December 2010 during which time he was nearly 'tortured to death'.

According to the 38-year-old Christian, an officer told him: 'Right now, foreigners are awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, humiliating our party and government. We’ll pound you to death to avenge this. As far as we…can tell, there are no more than 200 intellectuals in the country who oppose the Communist party and are influential. If the central authorities think that their rule is facing a crisis, they can capture them all in one night and bury them alive.'

Yu claims to have been abducted and beaten severely by plainclothes officers the day before the Nobel Prize ceremony. The officers allegedly stripped, slapped and kicked Yu before threatening to break his fingers, leaving the writer hospitalised.

'(Plainclothes officials) began beating me in the head and the face without explanation. They stripped off all my clothes and pushed me, naked, to the ground, and kicked me maniacally. They also had a camera and were taking pictures as I was being beaten, saying with glee that they would post the naked photos online,' he said in the statement.

'They forced me to spread out my hands and bent my fingers backwards one by one. They said, ‘You’ve written many articles attacking the Communist Party with these hands, so we want to break your fingers one by one’.'

China has attempted to delete all mention of Liu Xiaobo’s works from the public eye while concurrently printing state-backed slurs on his reputation in state media.

Government censorship has left Liu’s supporters and contemporary human rights campaigners who speak out against abuses by the Party marginalised - and with little choice but to flee, quieten up, or face lengthy jail terms.

Last July, Liao Yiwu, author of the Tiananmen Square poem ‘Massacre’, fled overland via Vietnam to self- exile in Germany. Since December, three seasoned dissidents have been sentenced to unusually harsh prison sentences, with a fourth, the poet Zhu Yufu, charged with subversion late this month.

'In China today, outspoken writers and artists who challenge the status quo of authoritarian one-party rule are increasingly being forced into a stark choice - prison, exile or intimidated silence,' says Phelim Kine, a senior Asia researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

'Yu Jie’s difficult decision - like that of fellow writer Liao Yiwu - to go into self-exile highlights how the deepening hostility of the Chinese government to writers who won’t self-censor their works in line with the official narrative.'

Perry Link, professor of comparative literature at the University of California and an editor and translator of ‘No Enemies, No Hatred’, describes the choice to self-exile as 'complex'.

Link tells IPS: 'It is a very complex decision of course, to decide to go into self exile. I am sure for (Yu’s) family - his child, his wife - it feels more secure outside of China.

'The main cost of putting oneself outside in China is cutting off influence in China. There are a whole list of activists who have fled abroad and who can now write more freely but have less influence within China - I am sure Yu Jie realised that when he made the calculation.'

But, Link adds, 'one reason Liu Xiaobo is admired in his circles is that he won’t leave. He wants to stay. He has made a different decision.'

© Inter Press Service (2012) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service