Saturday, October 09, 2010

News: The Congenial Dissident

The Nobel Peace Prize is like the crazy old uncle of the Nobel Prizes. Since it's not awarded in retrospect, there are a long list of laureates who make Otto von Bismarck look like Mahatma Gandhi. Still, like a broken clock that is right twice a day, the Prize is sometimes given to a person who actually deserves it:

Liu Xiaobo is currently being incarcerated for "inciting subversion of state power" (do Chinese officials know how Orwellian that kind of charge sounds to the rest of humanity?). Here's an interesting excerpt from his final statement in court:

In 1996, I spent time at the old Beikan (located at Banbuqiao). Compared to the old Beikan of more than a decade ago, the present Beikan is a huge improvement, both in terms of the “hardware”— the facilities—and the “software”—the management . . . This style of management allows detainees to experience a sense of dignity and warmth, and stirs their consciousness in maintaining prison order and opposing the bullies among inmates. Not only has it provided a humane living environment for detainees, it has also greatly improved the environment for their litigation to take place and their state of mind. I’ve had close contact with correctional officer Liu Zheng, who has been in charge of me in my cell, and his respect and care for detainees could be seen in every detail of his work, permeating his every word and deed, and giving one a warm feeling. It was perhaps my good fortune to have gotten to know this sincere, honest, conscientious, and kind correctional officer during my time at Beikan.

This is the kind of person the government fears - not exactly the avatar of hatred and rage you expected, right? In America, Liu would be just another kindly old hippie college professor, publishing books and fighting the Man and the Power. In China, he's a dangerous terrorist who gets jailed for eleven years. Hopefully, the contrast between the state's depiction and the actual person will be farcical enough that even the Chinese public gets the idea that something is screwy in St. Louie.


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