(November 24, 2010) Dai Qing, outspoken critic of the Chinese government and banned writer, gets her wish. A deserving activist from Liu Xia’s List heads to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, and she heads home.
Tomorrow, November 24th, I’ll fly back to Beijing, feeling anxious.
Readers might remember an article I wrote at the end of October called “Liu Xia’s Grand List.” Two weeks earlier, I had left Beijing for an academic speaking tour in Canada and I had another twelve days before completing the tour. Around that day I learned that Liu Xia had earlier released an open letter, while she still had the freedom to communicate with the 140 people she decided to invite to Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony.
At that time, the Chinese authorities were not stopping people who regularly went abroad – like Mo Shaoping, He Weifang, He Guanghu, and the son of Ding Dong – from traveling. However, Mo Zhixu, Cui Weiping, Guo Yushan and others were under close surveillance by the police.
Because I was out of the country, I thought that I might be the only one the authorities could not stop from traveling, so I wrote “Liu Xia’s Grand List.” Through all possible channels, I also informed the imperial government (chaoting) that I could go: “Let the closest friends and comrades of the Laureate, who have been with him through all of the hardship, go to Oslo,” I said, adding that “if the authorities ignore all these calls and no one on Liu Xia’s list is permitted to go abroad through the proper procedures, it happens that I am in Canada now for an academic conference.”
After the article was published, my heart still felt uneasy. I asked many friends to help me find out whether anybody else on the list of 140 was abroad and able to travel. The news came. Two friends of mine who helped people afflicted by AIDS in China, the respected Dr. Gao Yaojie and Wan Yanhai, founder of the “Aichixing” institute, were in the United States! I asked friends to help me contact them and I learned that Dr. Gao, who is aged, is in poor health. Wan Yanhai, on the other hand, considering the situation too complicated, said he was not prepared to go to Oslo.
Under these circumstances, it seemed that I had no choice but to go. So I changed my return flight to China, from November 12 to December 15, so that I could attend the Nobel ceremony on December 10 and then return to China after that. Some press asked me, “In this case, will the authorities allow you to go back to China?” As I recall, I could not hold back my tears, and answered, “I must go back, because my family members are in Beijing, and my 99-year-old mother is there. The worst possible case would be like that of Feng Zhenghu in Tokyo airport.”*
I was still hoping that someone on the list would appear and be willing to go to Oslo. Being in a nervous state of mind, I waited and waited until the evening of November 15. With just hours away from the deadline for applying to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, I sent in my application letter to the Nobel Committee in Oslo. The response from the Committee arrived the next morning. My application was accepted, with a formal notification that I was invited to attend the ceremony on December 10 and the concert on December 11. I was also told how to obtain the invitation at the reception hall, how to book a hotel there, and what the dress code was.
My friends who got the news started to help me plan my trip to Oslo – to donate funding for my travel and accommodation. One of my female friends who no longer lives in China even offered to donate a formal dress for the ceremony. Once again, I could not hold back my tears – I know how tough their life is and how hard they have worked here, for each and every cent.
At Tiananmen in 1949 when the new China was established, Zhang Lan, vice chairman of the central government, refused to wear a gown offered him by Zhou Enlai saying, “how can you use the people’s money to pay for a new cloak for me to wear?”
As I started to fill out the visa application form for Norway, some images appeared in my mind. I imagined the award ceremony in Oslo – the gorgeous stately hall, the well-dressed guests, seeing the Queen and listening to the concert. But Liu Xiaobo would still be in prison, Liu Xia and other members of the Independent PEN would still be in custody. If I sat among the other 30 invitees, this would only show that there was one person on Liu Xia’s list whom the authorities could not stop. Would there be any significance to this? In contrast, how many things need to be done at home: investigations of water in Beijing, examination of the fluctuations in the reservoir level at Three Gorges, civic environmental education, and so on.
I felt very, very uneasy.
Just at that time, news arrived: Wan Yanhai had decided to attend the ceremony. Just as I hoped in writing “Liu Xia’s list,” a more “deserving person” than I was able to attend the ceremony! Wan Yanhai had been invited by Liu Xia, he is from the mainland, he has been fighting the authoritarian Chinese authority, and he has done a lot to help people with AIDS.
Once again, I changed the flight and now I am packing to go home. May I make a phone call or text a message to Liu Xia as I usually do, and tell her the story above?
*Feng Zhenghu is a Shanghai-based activist. When the Chinese authorities refused to permit him to return to China from Tokyo because of his activities, he protested for months by living in the Tokyo airport.
By Dai Qing, November 23, 2010
Read Dai Qing’s letter announcing her original decision to attend the event, here.
Read Probe International’s translation of Liu Xia’s letter, here.
Read Dai Qing’s article, first published in the National Post, “The illusion of China’s rise” here.
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