Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
by Michael Kociuba
Born in China in 1926, Liu Binyan entered the fast-paced world of politics in the 1940s as a member of the Communist party, whose inhumane practices he has exposed as a journalist. Liu was purged in 1957 during the Anti-Rightist Campaign. That road block only daunted him because after being rehabilitated, Liu became the top investigative reporter for the People's Daily. That job lasted until 1987 when he was purged again. If bad luck came as a rain cloud, then it would be raining over Liu day and night. In 1988 Liu and his spouse became exiles in the United States, where he remains to this day, giving lectures at universities and telling many about the current events facing China.
To some, Liu may be the one who dreams the impossible dream -- a China free of the tight shackles of communism, a giant awake, realizing the country's potential. This dream inspires me to envision a scenario in which Liu came to York university for a discussion of his country's future. I was invited to listen in on the discussions on behalf of Road to East Asia. Highlights:
Nicholas Kociuba, political science major: Mr. Liu, if China becomes free of the Communist Party, what do you plan to do?
Liu: Good question. The first thing I plan to do is return to China with my spouse. Next I want to go kite flying with my grandchildren in Tiananmen Square.
Professor Eric Goodman of Russian Studies: After reading your memoir A Higher Kind of Loyalty, I got the impression that the Chinese people are going to fight in order to be free.
Liu:Well, there are many ways of fighting for freedom. One is through protest. If every Chinese person protests against the Communist Party, there will be no other way than setting China free.
Goodman: That's a good answer. You have very high hopes. Is blood too high a price to pay for freedom?
Liu: It is a valid question. Living in Canada, you do not understand freedom. For most of Canada's history it has been free. To understand where I am coming from, you would have to have lived through the many movements that occurred in Communist China.
After being oppressed for so long, wouldn't you crack? One day I believe that the Chinese people will be fed up and answer back. If it has to shed blood, then it shows that China will have to value this freedom more than others.
Bella Lee, a Chinese-Canadian student: Was the Tiananmen Square incident an example of how the people are beginning to rebel against communism in China?
Liu: Yes, I believe the Tiananmen incident has shown that the Chinese people want to rid themselves of communism. Many Chinese students lost their lives in this national tragedy.
Lee: With all that in mind, do you think the students died n vain? What did the Tiananmen tragedy actually accomplish for China?
Liu: Two bold questions. Let me try to give you a bold answer. I have always found it very painful when a person loses his or her life for a cause. Those students' deaths acted as a wake-up call for China. The deaths showed that China's younger generation has spoken and should never again be pushed aside. To answer our second question I think this has shown the world how inhumane the Communist Party can get.
Kociuba: How did you contend with the difficulties when you were first purged and sent off to the labor camp?
Liu: First of all I remained positive. When I was there all I thought of was my family, and this gave me the greatest strength. Also the image of flying a kite with my son -- memories of a happy family life -- gave me strength.
Robert Wu, graduate student from Hong Kong: Are you in contact with any other exiles like yourself, or with any of the Misty poets?
Liu: That's really interesting you should ask, because before I got here I received an invitation to go to France, where some of the dissident writers are in exile. Gao Xingjian, author of the play Bus Stop was made Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la France in 1992. Prior to his death in 1994, I talked a lot to Gu Cheng. If you have an interest in Chinese poetry, I recommend reading Gu's poem "For My Revered Master Hans Anderson." This poem expresses his fondest hope for China's future. Also I have forgotten to mention that I might go to Sweden to visit Gu's translator, Professor Malmqvist, of the Swedish Academy in Stockholm, where the literary magazine Jiantian (Today) was relaunched in 1990. Early next year, I plan to visit Bei Dao, a founding editor of Jiantian, and now a scholar in exile at the University of Michigan.
Lee: You have remained so optimistic all this time. How and why?
Liu: Sometimes there is no choice, and besides with the thought of a free China, it can make anyone positive.
Rick Sato from Vancouver: Do you fear if China becomes a capitalist country, the family unit will disintegrate as it does in North America?
Liu:China has always cherished family values. The only change would be a free China, which many can enjoy.
Goodman: Do you fear that China will have the same breakdown as Russia is having at this moment?
Liu: I do not think what is happening to Russia will happen to China. I think Russia's downfall is due to the Russians as a whole not being ready for freedom. The result is disastrous, and Russia is now suffering. When China becomes free, it will be on our own terms.
Hubert Kim, an ethnic Korean: That is a pretty positive statement. Why do you think China will pull off this conversion into a capitalist economy successfully?
Liu: China's strength will increase when the sovereignty reverts to the mainland. The other possible addition would be Taiwan. If all of this occurs, China will be a very strong economic force in Asia, and even in the entire world.
Kim: That's nice and all, but what makes you so sure that Taiwan will want to be part of China this time around?
Liu: The government will change when China is free. With a new government, there are many possibilities that will open up many doors. Taiwan will see this, and will want to work with a new China.
Wu: How do you see education in China changing?
Liu: I hope the educators will shift their focus from politics to the humanities. I also think they should prepare students for the demands of a free China in competition with the Western nations.
Wu: What are the other factors that have or may have influenced China?
Liu: The Koreans. I hope the way they protest with passion has influenced China's younger generation.
Lee: You have been in the U.S. for more than half a decade, and in your memoir you made references to the freedom we have here. Are you afraid that China's large population will get out of control and have lots of crime and corruption?
Liu: No. I understand that freedom brings on great responsibility. I am positive that the people will see a greater future in working together and pull together.
Goodman: Any closing statements?
Liu: Yes. You are all lucky to live in this great country filled with potential. It's okay to be a dreamer, but as long as you do something about it. If you have a dream, defend it to the end.
Liu Binyan. A Higher Kind of Loyalty. Translated by Zhu Hong. New York: Patheon Books, 1990
Illustration: Courtesy of Billy Lo, Eastern Image Canada