Posts Tagged ‘Ma Jian’

Remember Tiananmen Square

June 4, 2011

Twenty-two years ago today, under the cover of darkness, China’s government unleashed its military against peaceful protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square asking for little more than a fairer deal from their unelected rulers. Hundreds, probably thousands of people were slaughtered on the streets of China’s capital city.

Last year, I interviewed Chinese writer in exile Ma Jian, author of Beijing Coma, a novel about the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath that Ma says still reverberates today across China.

Beijing says the matter of the June 4, 1989 “incident” is closed. Tens of thousands of people will gather tonight in Hong Kong to remind Beijing that the incident remains very much alive in the minds of people everywhere who enjoy freedoms the people of China are still denied. The demand for fair and representative government remains, not just in China under the regime’s boot heels, but playing out right now across the Middle East.

The events of June 4, 1989 must serve as a reminder that change from dictatorship to freedom is not inevitable. In much of the Middle East, most notably Libya, Syria and Yemen, unwanted rulers are following China’s playbook to deal with their restive populations. People across the world should seize this day to remind those rulers clinging to power that it is time to go and that violent repression will have consequences.

To paraphrase a great revolutionary, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, not the other way around. Good people everywhere should demand that revolutionary idea take hold across the globe. Wherever you are, stand with the people of Hong Kong tonight.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

School for bombers grad fights terrorism

October 19, 2010

At the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival earlier this month, I met one of Indonesia’s leading anti-terrorism campaigners. Noor Huda Ismail graduated from Pondok Pesantren Ngruki, the Islamic boarding school co-founded by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the alleged spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiyaah terrorist group responsible for the Bali bombings. Ngruki graduates led the 2002 Bali bombings, and Ba’asyir also served time related to the attack, accused of failing to notify authorities about the impending assault.

Ismail’s mentor when he entered Ngruki as a 12 year old, Utomo Pamungkas, received a life sentence on terrorism charges. In Temanku, Teroris? (My Friend, the Terrorist?), the former Washington Post Southeast Asia correspondent writes about how their paths diverged as students and beyond. As reported in Asia Times, Ismail’s observations led him to start a foundation to help convicted terrorists reject political violence through, among others things, currency trading and shrimp farming.

Meeting such fascinating individuals, from Ismail to China’s Ma Jian and hearing what they have to say about their lives and works in an intimate, idyllic setting make the Ubud Festival one of the world’s best literary events.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Author Ma Jian links Nobel Peace Prize, Bali

October 11, 2010

This year’s seventh annual Ubud Writers & Readers Festival featured Chinese writer in exile Ma Jian, who I interviewed for Asia Times. The author of Beijing Coma, Ma has chosen to write books about China from outside, going back only for visits that he reports include frequent questioning by police.

Coincidentally, while Ma was in Bali, fellow democracy advocate Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to change the system from inside China. It’s fruitless to debate whether Ma or Liu is working most effectively to win freedom for the People’s Republic of China. It’s much more important to remember, and beyond debate, that Beijing’s rulers and their Communist Party are responsible for suppressing freedom and democracy in China.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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