Wed, Dec 07, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Chinese dissident Liu Binyan dies in exile


Liu Binyan (劉賓雁), the forceful dissident writer who repeatedly exposed official corruption and openly challenged the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to reform itself before and after he was exiled from China to the US in the late 1980s, died on Monday in East Windsor, New Jersey. He was 80.

The cause of death was believed to be complications related to colon cancer, his wife, Zhu Hong, said.

A crusading investigative journalist and devoted socialist, Liu became a popular figure in China in the 1980s for his literary exposes in the official party newspaper, People's Daily, on greed, corruption, and rampant abuse of power within the CCP system.

But he was eventually expelled from the party in 1987, along with two other leading dissident intellectuals, Fang Lizhi (方勵之), the astrophysicist, and Wang Ruowang, the poet. A year later, he visited the US to teach and write. He was never allowed to return home.

The expulsions came shortly after the government had clamped down on pro-democracy student demonstrators in January 1987, and then dismissed the nation's reform-minded CCP secretary-general Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦).

The three intellectuals were denounced by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) in 1987 as threats to the party. But their pleas for greater democracy at a time when China was just beginning to open up its political and economic systems were believed to have helped inspire a second wave of student demonstrations in 1989, which were touched off by Hu's death.

Few intellectuals in modern China were so daring or so persistent as Liu in publicly attacking and exposing corruption in the party. What was perhaps most remarkable about his career was that he did it as something of an insider, as a party member and a writer for official party publications in a country that has a history of very little public dissent.

But for that he paid a heavy price. He was expelled from the party twice, denounced as a "rightist" in the 1950s, sent to forced-labor camps, pardoned, rehabilitated, then denounced, re-expelled from the party, and eventually exiled.

He had a knack for saying what was on his mind, and for stubbornly insisting that the party was heading in the wrong direction, betraying the people and Marxist principles.

"He was one of the first people to challenge the party," says Merle Goldman, a professor of Chinese history at Boston University.

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