France publishes jailed China dissident's first anthology

16th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Chinese Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo thought before he was jailed for 11 years for "inciting subversion" that he had no enemies.

Indeed, in the first ever anthology of his works, published in French, the 56-year-old academic does not call for the overthrow of China's Communist Party.

So it is initially difficult to fathom how such a hefty sentence could be handed to the dissident whose essays were previously only published individually and on the Internet and whose key values are non-violence and truth insistence.

But reading his works, it soon becomes obvious how Liu exasperated China's omnipotent ruling Communist Party.

"The Philosophy of the Pig" -- the title of the anthology of 15 articles Liu wrote over the last 10 years -- describes the pact entered into during the 1990s by the party and the Chinese elite.

Liu accuses China's burgeoning wealthy classes of having sold out in exchange for their silence in the face of the regime's systematic human rights abuses.

No one is spared by Liu's pen: corrupt officials, shady businessmen and sold-out artists and intellectuals, such as director Zhang Yimou whose films were initially banned in China and lauded abroad but who ended up directing the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

China's elite "went into the pigsty spontaneously" and the new middle class of around 100 million people quickly followed. Second homes, cars, tourism, China's new property owners have no reason to be jealous of their Western counterparts.

"All of this is certainly a balm to the wounds to the soul inflicted by the June 4, 1989 massacre (at Tiananmen Square) but also allows one to remain blind to the yawning gap between the upper crust and the outcasts" as well as the arrests, arbitrary detentions and the repression of demonstrations.

The Communist Party has retained from the Maoist era methods that are particularly effective "to rig history and impose amnesia," Liu writes.

A "national memory vacuum" exists of which Liu himself is victim as most of his countrymen still don't know the name of the only Chinese to have won a Nobel prize.

Hope for change today lies with civil society whose emergence has been made possible by the end of totalitarianism and the development of free market economics and the accompanying explosion of communication technologies.

A particularly glaring injustice or instance of police brutality can unleash criticism from tens of millions of bloggers.

If the Communist Party persists in blocking any kind of political reform, Liu warns, "we will see the unleashing of 100 rivers flowing to the sea, a violent crisis that China must face up to and in which everyone will lose, including the party."

The vigour with which China's leaders have crushed recent demonstrations inspired by the Internet and the Arab popular revolts shows that the regime is not taking the threat lightly.

"The Philosophy of the Pig and other essays" ('La Philosophie du Porc et autres essais') by Liu Xiaobo is edited by Jean-Philippe Beja and published by Bleu de Chine/Gallimard.

© 2011 AFP

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