Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What can you do? 怎么办?

Another day and Ai Weiwei is still locked up. As the time grows my hesitation to keep living in China grows. Not that leaving China would change anything in this—truly—wonderful country. What I do simply doesn’t matter.

The Nobel Peace prize was awarded to Liu Xiabo, a literary critic, and man who saved hundreds of lives by negotiating a peaceful exit for protestors during the Tiananmen Square massacre. In a country which denies thousands were shot to death, in public, by their own soldiers, it seems I could find things to be more deeply concerned about than one, specific, detained artist.

Not that I am a big fan of his, or that I knew who he was before I read the first stories a year ago of the authorities harassing Ai Weiwei. I am bothered because he is China’s most internationally famous artist. The blatant abandonment of any pretence of operating based on law is disturbing.

On one hand the government says China is a country based on law, on the other hand the government publically detains their most famous citizen without charge and without notifying his family—which is a violation of Chinese law.

Where is the credibility?

The argument that the Chinese must be government like this—that a heavy hand is needed to hold this country together—is absolute nonsense. The government here justifies itself by claiming the hardline tactics are justified by China’s “special situation” yet claims Hong Kong and Taiwan as part of China’s territory. Hong Kong and Taiwan are both have levels of democracy. Yes, Chinese people ruling themselves through Democracy. In China.

I asked my Chinese teacher about Ai Weiwei—she didn’t know who he was. I explained he helped design the Bird’s Nest, he is a famous artist. Oh, she said, she read something about that, but didn’t really know.
“China is often like this,” she said. “What can you do?”

“What can you do?” is an excellent question, and the strong note of hopelessness her original words had are lost in translation.

What can I do? Well, I can leave. I can stop working this job where my pay is taxed, and the taxes go to funding a government that does so many things I disagree with. A government which prosecutes those who try to help the parents of children who were poisoned by tainted milk, physically attacks, harasses and arrest anyone who dare to recognize earthquake victims, and—let’s not forget—coerces women to be sterilized.
What can I do? I can move back to America. 

At least in America my tax dollars go to hurting people who live outside of my country. At least there the money America shovels into the hands questionably moral regimes does have—at base—good intentions. By neither option sounds good or moral.
What can I do?

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