Fri, Dec 30, 2011 - Page 8 News List

The power of the powerless grows

By Ma Jian 馬建

In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s situation is much the same. Following the sham elections early this month, massive protests erupted in Moscow and St Petersburg. And those marching were not the usual impoverished rabble-rousers, but Russia’s new middle classes. Like the villagers of Wukan, they have simply had enough of official dishonesty.

North Koreans have suffered coercion for a long time, and although they are brainwashed to be docile and loyal to the Kim dynasty, you just cannot imagine how they will remain at the beck and call of Kim Jong-un, who has no credentials, military or otherwise, to rule. Given its increasingly isolated international position in Asia, if North Korea’s internal conflicts become acute, China may find it difficult to behave toward Kim Jong-un with anything but cold and anxiety-ridden indifference.

And recall that it was indifference to the non-reforming East European communist regimes on the part of former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and the Soviet Union that ultimately sealed their fate and delivered Havel from a prison cell to Prague Castle. Havel, of course, was a beneficiary of such indifference, but he never practiced it, remaining a fighter for truth and freedom throughout his life.

For Chinese concerned about how to live in truth, Havel remains our exemplar. The Charter 77 movement that he founded provided the template for men like the imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), who helped to found Charter 08, which proclaimed that Chinese, too, could live in dignity and freedom.

Kim Jong-il’s demise reminds us that all people are equal before death. Havel’s passing reminds us that the value of life will eventually gain respect.

Ma Jian’s most recent novel is Beijing Coma.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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