Readers of this column are familiar with a theme: It’s bad enough that the Chinese Communists and the Cuban Communists are always trying to boss people at home (and succeeding). But they also do the same abroad, in myriad ways.
An interesting story is unfolding in Corvallis, Ore. Chronicling it has been Bennett Hall of the city’s Gazette-Times. For his article of September 8, go here.
In a nutshell: A Taiwanese-American businessman, David Lin, commissioned a mural. He had it painted on a building he owns, by Chao Tsung-song. The mural depicts CCP brutality in Tibet and portrays Taiwan as an island of freedom. It also advocates independence for both Tibet and Taiwan.
Somehow — inevitably? — the Chinese consulate in San Francisco heard about the mural, and fired off a letter to Corvallis’s mayor, Julie Manning: They said that Tibet and Taiwan were irrevocable parts of China, and asked that the mural be removed. They also suggested that mayoral cooperation would be good for business ties between China and Oregon. You know how it goes.
Mayor Manning sent back a letter explaining about the U.S. Constitution, in particular the First Amendment. (Wow!)
Not content with that, Chinese consular officials flew to Corvallis, to make their demands in person. They met with the mayor and the city manager, Jim Patterson. The Americans once more explained about the Constitution. But they also said they would relay China’s concern to the businessman, Mr. Lin.
For his part, Lin told the Gazette-Times, “I am under a lot of pressure to take down the mural.” He also said something sad about the artist. I’ll quote the paper: “Even Chao, the artist who created the painting, had a change of heart when criticism of the mural began to mount, Lin said.” This is perfectly normal: It can be brutal, standing up to a police state, even when you don’t live in it.
On September 13, the Gazette-Times published another story by Hall, this one detailing what Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, has done. He has been very good. So have other Oregon politicians.
And I’d like to tell you what Arthur Waldron said to me, when I shared the September 8 story with him. (Waldron is that invaluable Sinologist from the University of Pennsylvania.) “As someone said, if we had 1 percent of the nerve over there [i.e., in China] that they have over here, things would be very different.”
True, true, true. (We barely care that the 2010 Nobel peace laureate is kept in prison.) (Shouldn’t the 2009 peace laureate say more about this?)
Nobody, absolutely nobody, wants to know about Chinese organ harvesting. We just want to cover our ears, avert our eyes, and make money (or borrow money). Ethan Gutmann is the No. 1 authority on this, as far as I know. If you read him, you can learn a lot, though you may be sorry you have.
Into my inbox last week landed this article (not by Gutmann): “U.S. Congress Hears Testimony on Thousands of Falun Gong Killings for Organs.” An awful subject, among the worst — but I am heartened that our Congress is hearing testimony.
Possibly, history will regard Ethan Gutmann as it does those journalists who blew the whistle early on the Soviets, and those who blew the whistle early on the Nazis. “Oh, we should have known!” the world will say. Well, the “world” could have, if it had wanted to . . .
Hang on, does “history” honor the truth-tellers about the Soviet Union even now? I shudder to consider the question. Moving on . . .
But not yet: E. J. Hobsbawm is probably the most respected historian in the English-speaking world. He is also an unrepentant apologist for the Soviet Union, even for the Stalin era. Nice, huh?
What might happen to these scholars? Well, they could be banned from China, which might cripple their careers. They could be regarded as somewhat leprous by colleagues at home. Many things.
Among the “scholars with spine” are the aforementioned Waldron, Andrew Nathan, Jonathan Mirsky, and Perry Link. Mirsky said to me, “If you knew all that Link had done, you would be amazed.”
Yes, an amazing man, Link is. I know a little — not everything. The day after the Tiananmen massacre (I believe), Link escorted Fang Lizhi and his wife, Li Shuxian, to the U.S. embassy. Fang, you may recall, was a famous dissident and scientist. In the Tiananmen period, he was No. 1 on the regime’s Most Wanted list.
Some years later, Link and Andrew Nathan edited The Tiananmen Papers, which revealed what the regime was thinking and doing during this period. Nathan, like Link, has been banned from China — denied a visa.