Sat, Apr 06, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Exiled dissident laments China a ‘threat to world’

AFP, PARIS

A dissident writer dubbed the “Chinese Solzhenitsyn” yesterday said that his homeland is a “threat for the whole world.”

Liao Yiwu (廖亦武), who was jailed for writing a poem called Massacre about the Tiananmen Square protests, told reporters that it would be better for humanity if the economic superpower “splits up.”

“My dream is that China splits up into 10 or so countries, because China as it is today is a threat for the whole world,” he said as his latest book, Bullets and Opium, was published in France.

The book, which has been banned in China, recounts the stories of dozens of victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in which troops killed thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.

The massacre, which is also known as the “June Fourth Incident,” is a major taboo in China.

“Returning to China is not a big concern for me. I would like to go back to my native Sichuan [Province] — when it’s independent. Then I would be delighted to return,” said Liao, who has been living in exile in Berlin since 2011.

Liao, a poet and musician who also reported on the lives of the Chinese poor, was tortured in prison, according to human rights groups, and harassed by the police on his release.

He told reporters that he was “very pessimistic” about his country under the increasing authoritarian rule of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

“Thirty years ago we thought we might develop towards democracy. Today it is all about making money,” Liao said.

“Every one of the Western countries which criticized China after the massacre fight with each other now to do business with the executioners, even as they continue to arrest and kill people,” he added.

He poured scorn on the fact that Xi’s daughter studied at Harvard along with the children of other Chinese Communist Party leaders.

“Even the leaders’ mistresses are getting grants to study” at the US university, Liao said.

“Those who have scruples are marginalized, while those who make money without criticizing the party can do what they want,” the 60-year-old said.

However, Liao insisted that the massacre is the major turning point in recent Chinese history.

“For me, as for all Chinese people, it was a cataclysmic moment,” he said.

“You cannot mention the massacre in China, it’s taboo. My struggle is to make the truth of what happened known to as many people as I can,” he added.

The writer said that three decades on, “we still don’t know the exact number of victims.”

Human rights groups have said that between 2,600 and 3,000 people died after 200,000 soldiers were brought in to encircle the Chinese capital.

British diplomatic cables declassified in 2017 put initial estimates of the death toll at about 10,000.

“The Mothers of Tiananmen group have published 202 names, but we know there was a lot more than that,” Liao said.

As for a young man who stood in front of a tank, becoming a symbol of the peaceful protest, “we still don’t know his name or his fate,” he said.

“The name Wang Weilin (王維林) given to him by Western journalists was invented. We know nothing about him, even though he is the symbol of the millions of people who opposed the tyranny of June 4,” the writer said.

Liao’s book Testimonials about his time in prison has been compared with Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago and was praised by Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波).

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