Remembering Liu Xiaobo, Chinese Crusader for Freedom

July 17 2017

The Chinese poet, literary critic, political thinker, and fearless dissident Liu Xiaobo—who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010—died last week while still under custody. He was imprisoned in 2008 for expressing opinions the Communist regime considered dangerous, and he had been arrested multiple times in the preceding two decades. In a 2012 essay, Simon Leys described his ideas and career:

After Mao’s death, universities were at long last allowed to reopen; in 1977 Liu joined the first group of students admitted again into higher education; . . . eleven years later, after obtaining his doctorate, he was appointed to a teaching post [at Beijing Normal University]. His original mind, vast intellectual curiosity, and gifts for expression ensured a brilliant academic career; quite early, he reached a large audience extending far beyond the classroom, and acquired the reputation of an enfant terrible in the Chinese cultural world. . . . Liu’s reputation as an original critic of ideas [eventually] brought him invitations abroad. . . .

While Liu was in New York [in 1989, teaching political science at Barnard College], the student [dissident] movement in Beijing continued to develop. . . . Liu sensed that a crisis would soon be reached, and he made a grave and generous decision: he gave up the safety and comfort of his New York academic appointment and rushed back to Beijing [to join the protestors at Tiananmen Square]. He did not leave the square during the last dramatic days of the students’ demonstration; . . . after martial law was imposed, he negotiated with the army in the hope of obtaining a peaceful evacuation of the square. . . .

At the [2010] Oslo ceremony, an empty chair was substituted for the absent laureate. Within hours, the words “empty chair” were banned from the Internet in China—wherever they occurred, the entire machinery of censorship was automatically set in motion.

Foreign experts in various intelligence organizations are trying to assess the growing strength of China, politically, economically, and militarily. The Chinese leaders are most likely to have a clear view of their own [considerable] power. If so, why are they so scared of a frail and powerless poet and essayist, locked away in jail, cut off from all human contacts? Why did the mere sight of his empty chair at the other end of the Eurasian continent plunge them into such a panic?

Read more at New York Review of Books

More about: China, Human Rights, Nobel Prize, Politics & Current Affairs, Totalitarianism

The Temple Mount Terrorist Attack Exposes the Real Reasons behind Palestinian “Rage”

July 20 2017

After the terrorist attack at the Temple Mount last week, Israeli police found a large cache of weapons hidden in the al-Aqsa complex. Eli Lake comments on Palestinian reactions, and what they suggest about the persistent canard that “al-Aqsa is in danger” from alleged Jewish infiltration:

The real threat to the mosque on Friday did not come from Jewish settlers, [as Palestinian propaganda would have it], but from the Israeli Arabs [who did the shooting]. So it’s important to examine the response from Palestinian leaders. Let’s start with Abbas. He was forceful in his condemnation of the act, noting that there is no room for violence in such a holy place. . . . But by Monday the old patterns emerged. [His] Fatah party called this week for a “day of rage.” Was this to protest the gunmen who entered the “noble sanctuary,” or those mourning their deaths? No. This protest is aimed at Israel for erecting metal detectors at the entrance of the Temple Mount compound after the shootings.

The most telling response, however, came from Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group that rules Gaza. A spokesman for the group, Sami Abu Zuhi, said on Friday the attack “was a natural response to Israeli terrorism and their defilement of the al-Aqsa mosque.” . . . [But] how can any thinking person take the professed pieties of Hamas leaders seriously if they rail against “defilement” of the site yet praise gunmen who fled to it in a shooting spree?

As Martin Kramer, a historian at Shalem College in Jerusalem, told me this week, the attack at the Temple Mount broke a taboo. “The usual Islamist claim is that the danger to the mosque and the shrine is from Jews,” he said. “Here there was an actual conspiracy to smuggle weapons into this holy place and Hamas does not condemn it, they praise it. Who poses the greater danger to al-Aqsa?”

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Temple Mount, Terrorism