March 30, 2007

FEAR OF A BLACK HAND:

Agents of change see a free China: Dissidents' visits are an uncomfortable reminder of oppression (Greg Sheridan, March 31, 2007, The Australian)

[T]here are others who see a different China, who imagine a future for China beyond economic growth alone, one that does encompass democracy and human rights.

Four such Chinese visited Australia this week.

There was Wang Jingtao, labelled by Beijing as "the black hand of the black hands" for his role in organising the pro-democracy Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989 in Beijing. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail on the charge of seeking to overthrow the Government.

He was joined by Han Dongfang, founder of the China Labour Bulletin. A former railway worker, he was sentenced to four years in jail for founding a trade union and for organising workers to join the student demonstrations of 1989. His notional crime was spreading counter-revolutionary propaganda.

Also visiting was Fei Liangyong, the Cologne-based president of the Foundation for a Democratic China. And the fourth was Albert Ho, the new chairman of the Opposition Democratic Party in Hong Kong.

All share a single vision: that in their lifetimes they may see a democratic China. But lest they, too, be accused of the fatuousness of the Australian businessman, it is clear they see this is emerging not out of a straight-line continuation of trends in China today; rather, only if there is radical political change in China.

They visited in part to speak to a seminar organised by three unusually brave politicians: Victor Perton, a former Liberal member of the Victorian parliament; former Liberal senator Tsiben Tschen; and the federal Labor whip and member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby, by far the most courageous politician in any mainstream party when it comes to Chinese human rights.

Though they were received politely enough, the delegation was hardly the toast of the town. It is remarkable, really, with honourable exceptions, how few senior politicians wanted to see them.

What's that? Labour rights in China? I think I'm washing my hair. Chinese prison conditions? Not my bailiwick. The future of democracy? What if we talk about the future of trade instead.

Of course, it is entirely a good thing to trade with China and to acknowledge the remarkable progress it has made on so many fronts of human as well as commercial endeavour. But it's a pity not to listen to the voices of Chinese democracy, for they too have enlightening, mostly positive, sometimes alarming, things to say.


We are fortunate enough to live in an age when such imaginings have become realities at a remarkable pace.

MORE:
China and the 'enlightened' West: a review of The Writing on the Wall by Will Hutton (Tony Norfield, 3/31/07, Asia Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 30, 2007 10:50 AM
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