Tue, Jul 18, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Xi Jinping has made a martyr of Liu Xiaobo

By James Wang 王景弘

The situation in which former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) found himself in his final years as the leader of the Republic of China is, in some ways, similar to the situation that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is currently in.

The similarities include a period of economic growth, a public gradually becoming more informed and cognizant of what is happening in the nation, and the emergence of martyrs willing to sacrifice themselves for freedom and democracy.

Chiang did not ignore these phenomena. He looked into himself and lifted martial law, which is what the public wanted.

There is no martial law in China, but people are having their rights taken away and being subjected to state control. In that, the situation in China is worse than it was in Taiwan under martial law.

Where Xi goes from here will shape China’s destiny.

Taiwan’s trio of martyrs were born with the deaths of three men, which shook the foundations of the martial law system.

They are democracy movement pioneer Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who set himself on fire defending his right to publish; journalist and writer Henry Liu (劉宜良) — also known by his pen name Chiang Nan (江南) — allegedly murdered on the orders of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for his unflattering biography of Chiang; and Carnegie Mellon University associate professor Chen Wen-chen (陳文成), allegedly murdered by members of the Taiwan Garrison during a visit to Taipei over his pro-democracy activities.

The three martyrdoms generated enormous pressure in Taiwan and overseas on Chiang, and members of the nation’s elite, who had received a liberal education in the US, called en masse for him to embark upon the road to democracy, forcing him to lift martial law.

Although his decision was met with dismay by a minority of people with vested interests, it was welcomed by the majority of Taiwanese.

There has been more than one Chinese martyr who died in the fight for democracy and human rights. Former Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) was aware of the danger of creating martyrs out of the students who blocked the tanks in Tiananmen Square with their bodies, and the images of that tragic event are still very emotive.

However, Xi does not seem to realize that keeping cancer-stricken Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) incarcerated until his death essentially created an internationally renowned martyr for democracy, as well as revealing to the world China’s barbaric system of perpetual martial law.

Liu represents a new image of the martyr, from the empty chair with which he was honored in Oslo when he won the Nobel Peace Prize to his thin, yet determined smile and his indefatigable spirit even in the face of death.

This image tests Xi, himself a victim of the Cultural Revolution, and the thousands of intellectuals who went overseas to receive a Western education after the Tiananmen Massacre.

If Xi does not think it appropriate to deliver his people from their chains, then he is not fit to talk of a “Chinese dream” or to be the leader of a modern nation.

If the Western-educated Chinese intellectuals cannot see the need to reflect on what is happening in their nation and do not challenge the rule of the autocratic Chinese Communist Party, then they are selfish, corrupt, devoid of a conscience and entirely lacking in ideals.

China now has its own democracy martyr. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese will realize this, or whether Xi will realize, as Chiang did, the need to respond to the events and lift the system that is martial law in everything but name.

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