Superstar blogger and race car driver Han Han has written three essays on the topics of freedom, democracy and revolution, which have stirred up debate in Chinese cyberspace. The New York Times blog explains:
While urging the Chinese government to stop its censorship and allow for greater freedom of expression, he writes in his essay about freedom that he wishes “the ruling party can march boldly ahead and become immortal in the history annals that they write themselves.”
Revolution is not the answer, he writes: “Perfect democracy will not appear in China. We can only go after one small thing at a time. There is no point in frustrating oneself by dreaming about democracy and freedom in our study rooms. Reform is the best answer.”
“The authorities were very encouraged by Han Han’s move,” Zhao Jing, a liberal Chinese blogger who goes by the name of Michael Anti, said in a telephone interview. “It’s like a loyalty announcement.”
Artist and activist Ai Weiwei was among those who were critical of Han’s position. Global Voices translated his weibo post:
I haven’t seen any debate, but speaking strictly of his essays, the tone is too orthodox and his stance is too close to that of authorities. His writing lacks honest discourse and is too acquiescent, almost predicated on flattery. It’s biased and degraded, like he’s surrendered voluntarily…it’d be a good piece for Global Times to run.
Indeed, Global Voices also translates a post by Global Times’ editor Hu Xijin in which he expresses support for Han’s ideas:
Han Han has written several posts, with lines like “I do not believe that a Velvet Revolution can take place in China,” and that he thinks “the ultimate winner in a revolution must be a vicious, ruthless person,” which is why he supports “stronger reforms” for China. He also says that the Chinese Communist Party has 80 million members, and 300 million people belong to families in which someone has Party membership: “The Party is no longer just a political party or a class,” “When the party organization reaches a certain size, it becomes the people itself, and people form the system.” This is some real truth you rarely hear in China today!
ESWN has translated all three of Han Han’s essays in full. From the essay On Freedom:
First of all, as a member of the culturati, I ask to be able to write more freely in the new year. I have not said this as XX freedom or YY freedom, because those two terms may make you subconsciously afraid and wary. Even though those freedoms are guaranteed under the constitution, they have not been implemented. At the same time, I ask on behalf of my colleagues — media workers also need some freedom of press. The press has been strictly controlled. Also there are my friends in the film industry. You cannot understand their pain and sorrow. Everybody is conducting cultural activities like as if they are stepping through a minefield. If they step on a mine, they are blown to pieces; if they want to avoid the mines, they have to tread slowly and indirectly.
These freedoms are the trends of the times. You have previously made promises for them. I know that you must have studied the case of Soviet Russia. You believe that the breakdown of Soviet Russia was largely due to Gorbachev opening up the press as well as following the constitution to return the highest powers from the Party to the people’s delegates. Therefore, you become especially cautious about the press and constitutional politics.
But the times have changed. Modern information communication has rendered censorship useless. The restriction on cultural activities makes it impossible for China to influence literature and cinema on a global basis or for us culturati to raise our heads up proud. At the same time, China does not have any media with global influence. Many things just cannot be bought with money. Cultural prosperity is actually the least costly to attain. The lesser the restrictions, the great the prosperity. But if you insist that there are no restrictions on cultural activities in China, you are being disingenuous. In the new year, I earnestly ask the authorities to be let culture, publishing, press and cinema be freer.
If this can be done, then I personally make these promises in the freer cultural environment: I will not try to settle old scores; I will look ahead; I will not discuss the sensitive issues in history; I will not discuss or criticize the senior-level groups or their families and their relevant interests; I will only criticize and comment on current social issues. It would be better for all if the culturati and the authorities can both take a step back and observe a pre-determined bottom line in order to create more space.