Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who is Chinese defector / dissident / blogger / spy novelist Yang Hengjun?

Before anyone throw their weight behind dissidents who dared to stand up against the mighty Chinese government, ask if you really know who is this latest enigma who disappeared and reappeared : Yang Hengjun 杨恒均.

After the big uproar over secret police detaining Yang, he has emerged and appeared to have taken ill and was hospitalised. His mobile ran out of power.  Many speculations have been thrown up, the most popular being the all powerful Chinese government bowing down and seeking compromise? More like journalists who built up a storm in the teacup trying to save face. Firstly, it is unlikely that the Chinese authorities would arrest and release a criminal so quickly. Don't they always plan and plot against the enemies? One possibility is some upstart in the police had overreacted and acted on the own accord. Yang's activities are indeed dubious and cause some concern. It is not suprising that it should come under scrutiny.

Yang Hengjun is no innocent retiree contented with writing spy novels. He has an axe to grind. He even has a website which churns out dozens of articles a week which are strident and harsh towards the Chinese government. In an interview conducted by danwei in 2008, Hengjun acknowledged that the Chinese authorities are less stringent and have not been as rigorous in censoring his blog articles.

Before becoming an Australian, Yang Hengjun worked for China's foreign affairs department.  He "retired"  from the Chinese Foreign Ministry and became a successful businessman.   Yang is by all counts a part of the Chinese elite, having received his education in Fudan university and later worked as a senior government official, coveted position hankered by millions of educated Chinese. Yang had also earned two higher degrees from Wales and University of Technology Sydney.

Should we believe the words of people in the likes of Yang wholesale without questioning any more than we distrust and condemn the CCP so willingingly? We know some former Chinese officials who live among us who have conducted businesses on the sideline and accumulated wealth.  The likely path was to empty their assets from China, a common figure of speech for planning an escape after one has dug enough gold and want to avoid being caught. Yet many of us in western countries and the free world admire these ex-Chinese officials who denounce their former governments even though they have much unexplained intrigues attached to their biodata. Those who are always inclined to point to the massive corruption of the Chinese bureaucracy and CCP are willing to forget Yang and the others' past. To give them the benefit of doubt, maybe Yang and others have reformed. But the bottomline is that these dissidents capitalising on their advantage of possessing a foreign passport have no right to claim moral high ground.
The backdrop of liberal democratic 'jasmine' revolutions in the Middle East would have caused many long reigning governments and regimes to take precautions. The jitters have rippled to the ordinary folks as well. Upheavals, no matter how one justifies it, would be disruptive in the short run.  It is certainly difficult to rationalise one happening in China now. More unacceptable is when these are supported by external parties.

Yang is utterly irresponsible when he called on Chinese citizens to go to Tiananmen if they wanted to show patriotism. Must change necessarily accompany bloodshed? The TAM incident was a grave mistake on the part of the intransigent students and the government crackdow. It is not unique in the history of developing country and developed nations in the past. Like some so-called victims Tiananmen many of us may know personally, stories were often exaggerated or even concocted to gain a passport to a better life overseas.  The true heroes stayed behind - some unfortunately sacrificed their lives, some were detained and many more are living a peaceful lives now. There are many channels Chinese citizens could express their views on social issues and complaints are taken seriously and do see the day of light.

When the populace and netizens rally behind the Chinese government, it is not considered democracy. It must be brainwashing based on the assumption that Chinese people have no minds or voices or their own at all.  Freedom of speech does not work both ways. Pro-western idealists, activists and liberal commentators who criticise the CCP and Chinese patriotism are beyond reproach.

Thousands of years ago when Chinese historians first documented significant events, there have been numerous cases of insiders who either failed in their duty as gatekeepers or collaborated with foreigners to invade China. Some are deemed traitors who worked solely for their personal interests and gains while others' motivations and goals are less clearly defined or determinable when they claimed to save the populace from tyrants. The Chinese civilisation has lasted many centuries, longer than the glorious Romans and Greek could claim credit for. Surely, they must have got many things right.

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