The Cold Steel Behind China’s Soft Power

From the Australian:

The row that has emerged over Australian Writers Week in China underlines the danger and the value of such bold attempts to deepen the relationship beyond its mine-ship-steelmill axis… The latest fracas started with Frank Moorhouse pulling out of the writers’ tour, citing the jailing of Liu Xiaobo, China’s most famous dissident. Liu was jailed for 11 years, for inciting subversion, and he has since been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

…(Australian ambassador to China, Geoff Raby) told Naher: “We are concerned by the nature of the charges and the very harsh sentence meted out to Dr Liu, who was seeking to exercise his right of freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by Chinese law and by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which China has signed.”… He said that the sending of writers overseas “is considered to be a type of soft diplomacy by governments, the idea being that even when you go to countries where there is some degree of oppression or authoritarian interference with freedom of expression, somehow your presence there and the work you read, and informal contact, can somehow help to affirm freedom of expression.”

… It was interesting that Robert Dessaix agreed to replace Moorhouse on the tour. But he was never going to get a visa… Chinese government spokesman Qin Gang said on Thursday that “if he’s HIV positive, according to the current regulations in China he is not allowed to enter the country. The regulations are clear.”

Nobel laureate J.M. Coetzee and Booker Prize winner Tom Keneally have joined about 90 writers in seeking the impossible: a public apology from Beijing.  They wrote: “This was an act of discrimination that appears to be founded in fear or ignorance and is behaviour unworthy of any nation that desires to be seen as enlightened and civilised.”


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