Saturday, May 5, 2012

Ex-Dissients Addresses Chen Guangcheng

Wei Jingsheng: Don’t Believe China’s Promises
Wang Dan: Mr. Chen, Welcome to America

A Chinese professor and friend told me during my first trip to China back in 1985 that China's leaders don't believe in any "higher being," so they have no one to answer to. I'm not religious, and I don't think my friend was either, but I think he was right about the potential of a religious belief to restrain power. It doesn't have to be that way - much evil has been done in the name of one god or another - but it often is. My friend was thinking of Mao Zedong, but his successors were as committed to their cause - economic modernization and national power - as Mao was his revolutionary zeal.

Wei Jingsheng raised the question of political freedom to Deng Xiaoping, and that was enough for him to be locked up for 15 years. China has changed a lot since I met the professor on that rooftop bar in Chengdu (I am not mentioning his name even though he has passed away, since family members can be targeted too), but no fundamental political has happened since then. Wei and was right in 1979, and he is right now.

Nicholas D. Kristof on Chen Guangcheng

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