Wed, Jan 22, 2003 - Page 8 News List

A troubled exile for Wei Jingsheng

By Dong Cheng Yu 董成瑜

He was working as an electrician at Beijing Zoo when, in 1978, he posted "big character" posters calling for "the fifth moderniza-tion" on what became known as Democracy Wall. He was arrested and thrown in prison. He was released in 1993 only to be arrested again six months later. He didn't regain his freedom until he was sent to the US.

Wei became world famous during his prison years and calls for his release came from all over. When he arrived in the US in 1997, it was as if he was surrounded by a bright glow. Five years on, how-ever, he has run out of resources and has to rely on donations to continue working for the democracy movement -- and stay alive. With money problems, difficulties with fellow activists, problems with the US government and with his golden glow slowly fading, he can see himself in the mirror and realize that he has to find money to live.

Wei's weapon hasn't changed, but his enemy apparently has -- from the CCP to the US government and the capitalists. He senses that they are trying to use money to manipulate him and that he has to fight them. Wielding his sword in an unfamiliar US, and looking about him, he feels lost.

He has been talking a lot, about how the US government is manipulating the Chinese democracy movement, about the difficulties of fundraising, about how he lost all his papers in Australia before coming to Taiwan. He says that "A-Bian is the main suspect," because he does not want Wei to come to Taiwan and stump for an old friend, Shih Ming-te (施明德).

Anyone might be his enemy -- the media, politicians, democracy activists, Americans, Chinese, Taiwanese, old friends, new friends. The CCP sometimes seems the least threatening, because he is at least used to it, even though it, too, has changed almost beyond recognition.

Talking about the many times the CCP has intervened to prevent the Nobel Peace Prize Committee from awarding him the prize, he smiles and mentions a dinner that he hosted in 1993 for a friend who holds an official post. He reports that his friend jokingly told him, "You're a really bad guy, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars every year." Beijing was buying well-drilling equipment from Sweden every year in order to acquire leverage with the Swedish government.

He is glad that the CCP still sees him as an important enemy. At least it is proof that he is still around, as if he is making sure that a former lover still cares. He then talks in detail about past amorous experiences, remembering each detail clearly.

Before the program starts, Wei finally stops talking and meekly lets a make-up artist work on him.

He says people have introduced him to potential girlfriends over the last few years. "But not one of them worked out," he says. The biggest obstacle is that I am too famous. Second, I am too poor, and third, I don't have a permanent job. Sometimes I leave the country for a few months and I don't find the time to call. Then they say I don't care about them. When I tell them my main concern is the democracy movement, they're done talking. After that, someone implored me to always tell a woman that she is number one, even if it isn't true."

He starts laughing. In his early twenties, he lived together with a woman (illegal in China at the time). Now, when he's old, he doesn't even know how to get along with women.

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