On the 19th Anniversary of Tiananmen, Ma Jian Speaks Out Against the Silence of Chinese Writers

In The Times, writer Ma Jian takes on Chinese writers who took on visible and outspoken roles in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 but now are living in comfort as part of the system they once decried:

The idealistic writers who marched through the streets in 1989 are now luminaries of the literary establishment. The Chinese Writers’ Association has provided them with villas in the countryside equipped with saunas and gyms, and almost limitless expense accounts. When they go to give public lectures, police cars with blaring sirens clear the roads for their chauffeur-driven limousines.

Although officially they are government cadres, they refuse to admit their complicity with the repressive political system. One famous writer compares politics to a fly. “If its noisy buzz disturbs me, I can just shut the window and concentrate on my art.” When he travels to the West on book tours, he portrays himself as a dissident writer. He doesn’t realise that what he shut out was no mere fly. It was an entire landscape of morality.

A few of the braver writers still dare to tackle sensitive topics, such as official corruption, the plight of Chinese peasants and the growing gap between rich and poor. But while shedding tears of sympathy, they are quick to add that the Government is making great strides in solving the problems. They don’t want to lose their free medical care.

Read about Ma Jian’s new novel, which takes place around the events of 1989, via CDT.

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