Mao’s legacy

Generally, I try to distinguish between government policies and the general population of a country. I don’t think that “the Americans” invaded Iraq, and I didn’t think that “the Chinese” oppose Tibet’s autonomy and blame the Dalai Lama for the recent uprisings in Lhasa. However, today’s Los Angeles Times article made me wonder how many Chinese citizens actually DO  condone their government’s violent response. Halfway objective information about historical and recent events have routinely been suppressed by the state-run media. Why should there be fewer sheep in China than anywhere else.

A recent photo of TianAnMen Square caught my attention: there was a huge image of Mao ZeDong right above the Gate of Heavenly Peace. Hmmm… I started to imagine what it might have been like, had I grown up in Germany with gigantic pictures of Hitler hanging around. If I had been told at school that Hitler’s historical legacy was 70% good and 30% bad, maybe I would have believed it — specially if this official version cited natural disasters as cause for the deaths of millions and millions of people.

That’s exactly what’s happening in China. The Great Chinese Famine, which accompanied The Great Leap Forward, is officially referred to as the Three Years of Natural Disasters. Between 16.5 million and 40 million people died from starvation during these three years. While floods and droughts played some part, Mao’s harebrained policies were first and foremost responsible for the extent of the disaster. The Cultural Revolution, which was launched by Mao on May 16, 1966 and lasted until 1976, had some 36 million people persecuted, of whom about 3 million were killed and 1.5 million permanently injured.

Those who remember or have heard about these facts probably don’t dare any outright criticism, and many younger urbanites probably love China’s recent economic progress and their Gucci bags. Maybe it’s easier to overlook human rights violations when one has the money to buy stuff.

However, I’m not the only one who wonders about Mao’s picture. I found the following letter by Wei Jingsheng (nominated seven times for the Nobel Peace Price) here:

Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition and Wei Jingsheng Foundation’s
Letter Calling for Removing Mao ZeDong’s Picture from TianAnMen Square

Dear Friends:

As you know, the 1936 Olympic Games were hosted by the Nazi Party in
Germany. Being awarded the Olympics encouraged the Nazis, and no one
did anything to stop them from holding the games. They then went on to
kill 20 Million innocent people.

Do you know who will be hosting the 2008 Olympics?

It will be hosted by Mao Zedong’s party, the Chinese Communist Party,
the same party that killed over 80 million innocent people.

Mao Zedong’s picture today still hangs on the Gate of Eternal Peace at
Tiananmen Square.

In the name of the Olympic Games, and in order for the conscience of
humankind to know peace, we ask you to please write the IOC and demand
that the Chinese Government keep the promises it made in order to
obtain the 2008 Olympic Games.

Those promises included improving human rights conditions in China,
releasing political prisoners, and allowing free speech.

And further we ask that for 17 days in August 2008, the picture of Mao
Zedong be taken down off the Gate of Eternal Peace and replaced with
the Olympic emblem of the five rings.

Please write to Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic
Committee. He is obliged to press the Chinese Government to honor the
promises they made when applying for the 2008 games, and encourage
them to show good will by taking this photo of Mao Zedong down.

Sincerely.
Wei Jingsheng
Wei Jingsheng Foundation
Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition

IOC contact information:
Mr. Jacques Rogge
President International Olympic Committee
Chateau De Vidy
Case Postale 356
1007 Lausanne, Switzerland
Fax- +41 21 621 6216
jacques.rogge@ioc.olympic.org

Personally, I’m for boycotting the Games altogether.

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One Response to Mao’s legacy

  1. Random T. says:

    The topic is quite hot in the net right now. What do you pay the most attention to while choosing what to write ?

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