North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Saturday, November 19, 2011

China's dissidents

Stories from China shouldn't be that hard to find, and considering the size and potential of the country in geopolitical terms, nearly any story would likely be news worth reading. Nevertheless, it is easy to overlook China in favor of what Teatree is more familiar and interested with.

China is actually quite close in size to the United States. Its population of 1.34 billion is four times that of the US

An artist dissident however captures my attention, and so here's a brief look at Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. A "facts only" review of WeiWei might go like this:

"Ai Weiwei (born 18 May 1957) is a Chinese contemporary artist, active in sculpture, installation, architecture, curating, photography, film, and social, political and cultural criticism. Ai collaborated with Swiss architects as the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. As a political activist, he has been highly and openly critical of the Chinese Government's stance on democracy and human rights. He has investigated government corruption and cover-ups, in particular the Sichuan schools corruption scandal following the collapse of so-called "tofu-skin schools" in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. In 2011, Weiwei was arrested at Beijing airport in April, then held for over two months without any official charges being filed, though finally officials alluded to their allegations of "economic crimes" (tax evasion)."

54 yr old Ai Weiwei (apparently Ai is the family name)

What makes this story begin to take off is to hear a bit of the laws Weiwei has to navigate in fighting against the charges. In order to challenge the official charge of tax evasion (which has been set at the equivalent of $2.4 million in back taxes) Weiwei apparently has to pay the tax bureau up front $1.3 million in order to even secure the right to read the formal administrative review of his case. Interesting laws in China ...

The story twists further however, as Chinese all around the country raised that money with small donations sent to him online. And Weiwei says that if he wins his case against the tax bureau, he'll repay each of those who donated.

Weiwei just a few days ago walking to his lawyer's office in Beijing to discuss the tax evasion cases

Having become somewhat of a public figure, Weiwei, surrounded by television reporters outside the tax bureau, said tax authorities told him they will “carefully handle” an administrative review in which a panel re-examines the merits of an official decision to bill him 15 million yuan.

“I’m speaking up, not for myself, but for those who have no voice,” Ai, 54, told Reuters in an interview at his home and studio in northeastern Beijing. “I hope that when society looks at me, they’ll remember that I’m not an individual case,” he said. “Many people don’t understand why they can’t be with their children, they aren’t able to see the people they want to see. Their voices will never be heard,” he said.

In an interview with CNN, Ai said he had little hope of winning a court case but he hopes to score a moral victory over the government:

Weiwei's wide ranging art

Weiwei challenges a lot of the status quo in not too subtle ways ...

Weiwei's recent nude photography work has placed him in further trouble with authorities who are now charging him with pornography.

However, from a Chinese blogger, let's hear a different perspective:

[Ai Weiwei symbolizes the “political dissident” that the Western world supports with all their might. All Chinese people who are interested in politics know who he is. Ordinary Chinese who never heard of him or cannot recall who he is mostly have no interest in his kind of games of political opposition.

The West has supported many Chinese “dissidents.” The Western press once widely called Wei Jingsheng “the father of Chinese democracy.” That “father” is now in some corner of the United States carrying out “small actions” that Western reporters don’t even bother reporting on.

Ai Weiwei​ is just the freshest name on a very long list of people who have mostly been forgotten. The West supports Ai Weiwei and the others on the list, so small circles of people who surround them form in Chinese society. People like Ai Weiwei shouldn’t think that the reason those small circles don’t extend to all of society is all because of “government repression.” True popular sentiment cannot be suppressed. Over the past 30 years, “Ai Weiweis” have periodically sprouted up only to crash to earth like a meteor. Contrary to their predictions, China has only continued its rise. Their elimination through this great progress is the true trend of society.]

Regardless of the sobering blog viewpoint above, there remains, with or without Western support or awareness, an equally true stream of resistance and independent thought among the Chinese. The 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner, for example is another Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Liu was enduring his fourth prison term, when given the award. He is the first Chinese citizen to be awarded a Nobel Prize of any kind while residing in China, and the third person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison or detention. (Germany's Carl von Ossietzky (1935) and Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi (1991). Liu is also the first person since Ossietzky to be denied the right to have a representative collect the Nobel prize for him.

Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia - equally suffering from separation during Liu Xiaobo's prison time.

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