The letter below to Reporters Without Borders (RSF, Reporters Sans Frontiers) was sent in response to their online biography of literary critic Liu Xiaobo written by translator Jean-Phillipe Beja. I penned a rebuttal to Beja’s glowing portrait of the Nobel Peace Prize winner immediately after discovering that many of Liu’s writings were being quietly removed from the Internet, in what seems a concerted campaign to erase his pro-war and anti-democratic statements from the public record. RSF, which claims to support press freedom, has said nothing about such outrageous acts of censorship, which are being perpetrated just prior to the Nobel award ceremony in December.
Some background is provided here for people who are not familiar with the Nobel Peace Prize scandal and the RSF role in the boycott campaign against the 2008 Beijing Olympics, or about the controversial precedent of another literary critic, Paul De Man, whose brilliant career fell into disrepute in the late 1980s when his youthful wartime writings were rediscovered.
Four years prior to the Beijing Olympics, RSF launched a boycott campaign near the end of the Athens Olympics. In August 2004, the Paris-based “press freedom” group announced a symbolic “gold medal” to Beijing for its human rights violations.
In December 2004, RSF awarded its Fondation de France award of 2,500 euros to a “defender of press freedom” Liu Xiaobo. The prize money had secretly come from sources connected with Western intelligence agencies.
After claiming to be independently financed by private donations, RSF Secretary-General Robert Menard admitted in 2005 following exposure by investigative journalists that his organization was funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (a US Congress fund with links to the CIA), the Free Cuba Center (financed by USAID, a front for the CIA) and the Soros Foundation (involved in the anti-socialist color revolutions in Eastern Europe).
Later, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, Liu Xiaobo wrote a chapter of the book.China’s Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenge, sponsored by Human Rights Watch, another organization funded by U.S. government sources.
In 2007, an alliance was forged between Chinese dissidents, Tibetan exiles and Uyghur separatists to oppose the Games. Liu’s group Independent PEN, also funded by NED, had become in effect the Beijing public relations front for the anti-Olympics coalition.
In March14, 2008, Tibetan rioters brutally murdered innocent civilians in Lhasa, and one week later, Liu and other Beijing dissidents issued an uncritical statement attacking the Chinese government’s Tibet policy without condemning the terrorist tactics of the rioters. In short, Liu was now a spokesman for terrorism against the public. His silence on violence against civilians in China stood in stark contrast with his support of George Bush’s war on terror.
On March 24, at the torch lighting in Olympia, Greece, three RSF members unfurled a banner while the Beijing representative gave his speech. The protest image was of the Olympic rings depicted as handcuffs.
Four years in the planning, the Olympic boycott movement was now underway with the blessing of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. At the same time, not by coincidence, Liu Xiaobo drafted Charter O8 to rally Chinese intellectuals against the government. If he had succeeded in gaining the needed signatures, Charter O8 would have been the manifesto legitimizing the Olympic boycott, which in turn would have resulted in a new Cold War. He failed, and so did the boycott movement.
His wife Liu Xia, according to court records, collected covert Western funding channeled through RSF and International PEN from her account at the Muxidi branch of Bank of China, Liu was a paid agent of foreign powers, an offense for which he was later convicted in December 2009.
Liu’s services for a foreign power have parallels to the early career of the Belgian literary critic Paul De Man, who wrote anti-Jewish articles for a collaborationist newspaper during the Nazi occupation in the 1940s. After the end of World War II, De Man immigrated to the US and taught at Yale University, where he hid his Nazi past beyond his death 35 years later. The posthumous exposure of De Man’s treason against the Belgian nation and his long silence shocked the literary world.
De Man’s deceit showed that every writer must be judged by the totality of one’s lifetime work, or oeuvre, and not just on the basis of their literary claims or political posturing.
After downplaying his youthful anti-democratic writings, Liu Xiaobo cannot be called a hero. He is a coward and a cheat, regardless of whether he sits in prison or is freed to spend his ill-gotten wealth. In suppressing the facts behind their idol, his foreign translators including Beja and Perry Link are equally guilty as liars perpetrating a fraud and violating their professional ethics.
The pen is deadlier than the sword, and thus we writers must live and die by our own words – and not hide behind the shield of silence.
to: Reporters without Borders
forward to: M. Jean-Phillipe Beja
M. Beja: Your apologetics for Liu Xiabo’s pre-Tiananmen literary writings, which are anti-democratic, elitist and an assault on China’s long cultural tradition, is similar to how some devotees of literary critic Paul De Man tried to disassociate his writings for the Nazi press as merely a forgettable youthful “mistake”.
You, sir, are engaging in a cover-up of an ethically comprised intellectual who self-admittedly took large sums from foreign sponsors, which now is discovered to be the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a fund from the US Congress channeled through the CIA.
You are apologizing for state-sponsored dissent and propaganda from Liu Xiaobo, whose more recent writings include adulation of Mssrs. George Bush and Tony Blair for their invasion of Iraq, praise for the war on terror (is this war not violent?), his vile attack on Nobel Peace laureate Kim Dae-jung, his uncritical support for Tibetan rioters who brutally murdered innocent civilians in March 2008, and his ceaseless criticism of the Confucian philosophical tradition
Liu Xiaobo is on the level of a De Man, though not one-tenth as talented as a writer or critic. That, sir, is your problem as a propagandist. Another issue must also be addressed. De Man should have served a prison sentence for his attacks against Jews, which helped to create the climate for the Holocaust. Writers should not be immune from the real-world consequences of their writings.
Paul De Man’s criticism hinges on the notion of “forgetting” as a violent erasure. That is a confession. And you, sir, are also engaged in the violence of erasure, an act of sanitization wiping away the evidence of the deeply anti-social and anti-humanitarian convictions of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of The Japan Times Weekly in Tokyo