Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chinese Dissident Exposes Prison Brutality

November 17, 2011

Chinese poet Liao Yiwu recently moved to Germany, where his books are best-sellers. His self-imposed exile has allowed him to finally publish his memoir, which reveals the abuses and torture he suffered during his years in prison. The book is a shocking indictment of the Chinese justice system.

The old man seemed unflappable as he spoke. Sitting in a wheelchair, his wooden cane always close at hand and his thick, silvery gray shock of hair as neatly parted as ever, he talked about China, presenting himself as someone who knew the place well, having been there 12 or 15 times. "I admire what China has accomplished since Mao Zedong's death in 1976," he said.

But he didn't stop there. He continued on to say that, while it's true China isn't a democracy, the country has nonetheless managed to create an economic boom for itself, with the result that "hardly anyone living in China today could say they aren't doing better now than at any other point in their lives." This is "an enormous accomplishment," he added, and Chinese communism has been "successful." Then he raised his index finger, and, stabbing it in the air, said, in a reference to a famous quote by the Prussian king Frederick the Great: "They have the right to find their salvation in their own way."

This 92-year-old man wasn't just chatting by a fireplace somewhere, nor was he just anyone. The man in question was former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, celebrated as the grandfather of the nation. And Schmidt said all this as a guest on Germany's most important talk show, sitting across from Günther Jauch, the country's most respected talk-show host. At his side was the man who has set his sights on becoming the next chancellor, Peer Steinbrück. The talk-show host said nothing at all in response to Schmidt's theories, but quickly changed the subject. Steinbrück, for his part, suggested the theories were "in need of some fleshing out," then praised Western-style democratic rule of law in a roundabout way.

Schmidt got away with his statements without criticism, in front of more than 5 million viewers, and with applause from the studio audience.