Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
by Daniel Jacobs
To the dismay of the Chinese Communist Party, from which Liu has been twice expelled, Liu is a dreamer. In a country where the skies are filled not with kites, but military helicopters, having such a bold dream is beyond the norm and is unacceptable. It is with great irony that it is not Liu, but the Communist Party elite who are the true social anomaly. It is "they who are corrupt, and it is they who have put the Chinese people through "forty years of fear and despair." Perhaps one day, the Chinese people will understand this and stop being herded like sheep. But while the Chinese people are in China, Liu is living in Princeton, New Jersey. Before the Chinese people can share the dreams of Liu Binyan, they must first wake themselves from a terrible nightmare.
To this day, Liu has maintained that an end to the Chinese nightmare is in sight and has shared his political views with Chinese American students and others largely in the U.S. Recently the aging journalist accepted an invitation by Road to East Asia and the Canadian Chinese community to give a two-hour lecture at York University, with profits going to fund Chinese émigré students. In this dream sequence, Liu's speech was followed by an exclusive question-and-answer session for students and professors. Highlights:
Catherine Liu, 20, a Chinese Canadian Fine Arts Student: Mr. Liu, you are quoted as saying that the anger of the Chinese people will "bog down the government in political and economic crisis until it is swallowed up in its own mire." Do you have sufficient reason to believe that such "anger" is still being voiced in China today?
Liu: Well, you must remember, you are quoting something that I said six years ago. I will say that there does not exist a collective, or organized group that has open disputes with the Chinese Communist Party. But the flame of democracy will always burn in the hearts of the few, if not the many. Last summer Reuters reported that Chen Zuming, a leader of the student demonstrations in 1989, issued an open letter, demanding the release of Chinese political prisoners. He also called for the rehabilitation of deposed reformer Zhao Ziyang. Furthermore, Chen Zuming staged a one-day hunger strike upon his release. Would you believe that 50 people signed Chen's petition? They did so anonymously, of course. There is life still in the Chinese people. I think it is important not to underestimate your own people. They will never allow themselves to be herded as sheep.
Dr. Shannon Bell, Professor of Political Science at York: Do you see China's military as posing a great external threat?
Liu: China's military is no doubt growing. Yes, I do see it as a concern. Not a great threat. I believe that China's military and government pose more of a threat internally than they do toward any other nation. However, we have already known that China has nuclear capability. So this is of some concern. You will notice that the Communist Party seems to place a great emphasis on external strife, but it is only a distraction from the problems that exist inside of China. I said in the first chapter of A Higher Kind of Loyalty that "fighting among the Chinese [is] in some ways far more serious than against foreigners." So we must create harmony in China. That is a necessity. And it is destined to happen.
Kenneth Chu, 21, Engineering student at University of Toronto, moved from Hong Kong at age nine: Knowing what you know of the Chinese Communist party, do you actually believe that China will allow Hong Kong to retain its democratic and capitalistic system for fifty years? I think that after 1997, there will be a quick transition to authoritarian rule. How can you trust a government that murdered at least one thousand students during the Tiananmen incident?
Liu: You speak with more passion than I! But you must have some semblance of trust. You must not assume that the People's Liberation Army would just take over Hong Kong. Such an irrational move would upset the balance of world trade; and foreign countries, like the United States, would sanction China. It would be a poor decision for China. It is my feeling that once Hong Kong becomes a part of China, the democratization of China will be inevitable. You cannot simply take a capitalist democracy and merge it with a one-party Communist system without expecting change. I spoke in my memoir about the "end of [the] Chinese people's adolescence and their initiation into maturity." I believe Hong Kong may bring such a maturity. For, there are fresh minds at the universities in Hong Kong. I do not believe they will be easily persuaded by what the Communist party has to say. Thus, to answer your question, Hong Kong will not suffer, but China may prosper.
Kinh Nguyen, 20, Korean-born Anthropology student at York, moved to Canada when he was 10 months old: Why is it that North Korea has never produced anything close to the Tiananmen Square incident of 1989?
Liu: Citizens of North Korea have never had the opportunity to rise up. The people of China, who have undergone the Cultural Revolution, have become skeptical of the Communist Party. After the death of Kim IL Sung, North Korea's former leader, a few years ago, the country has been already on the road to de stabilization. Eventually you will see reform in North Korea. Then violent uprisings and demonstrations will follow. It is my opinion that North Korea and South Korea are like China and Hong Kong; they cannot stay apart for ever.
Daniel Jacobs, 21, majoring in English at York: Do you foresee a day when children will be free to run through the streets of Beijing and fly kites in Tiananmen Square?
Liu: Yes, I do. Helicopters will become obsolete, but kites do not. I am an old man, but one day I will return to China with my grandchildren, or my great-grand children to fly kites at Tiananmen Square. "I finally see the light breaking out of the darkness," I wrote in my memoir six years ago. The ink has faded, but I can tell you that the light has never dimmed.
Liu Binyan. A Higher Kind of Loyalty. Translated by Zhu Hong. New York: Patheon Books, 1990
Reuters. "Dissent Marks Tiananmen Anniversary." The Globe and Mail, 6 August, 1995, p. A6.
Southerland, Daniel. "Infighting threatens Tiananmen Legacy." The Washington Post ,
Copyright © 1995 by the author. Information from this article should be attributed to the author.