12 February 2010

No Dissidents in China?

Yesterday, during the twice-weekly press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spokesman Ma Zhaoxu* responded to a reporter's question about "dissident" Liu Xiaobo (whose 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion" was just upheld) thusly:

"There are no dissidents in China . . . In China, you can judge yourself whether such a group exists. But I believe this term is questionable in China."

(For more, see China Digital Times.)

In response, the well-known artist and prolific blogger Ai Weiwei posted this deconstruction of the "multi-layered" meaning of Ma's statement, the core of which I translate below:

1. Dissidents are criminals.
2. Only criminals have dissident ideas.
3. The distinction between criminals and non-criminals is whether they have dissident views.
4. If you think China has dissidents, you're a criminal.
5. The reason China has no dissidents is because they have already become criminals.
6. Does anyone have a dissenting view about what I've said?

* Prior to this, Ma had perhaps been best known for his recent cavalier statement about missing lawyer Gao Zhisheng: "He is where he should be."

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