Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu

I recently read The Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up by Chinese dissident, activist and writer Liao Yiwu. This remarkable book was recommended to me by the great independent American journalist Phillip Robertson, who is about to embark on his fifth tour in Iraq as a reporter for the Associated Press. Phillip is one of the few journalists who has managed to report on the Iraq war since its inception with a minimum of pro-Bush administration agenda meddling, censorship or spin applied to his work. He is a dear friend and someone I trust completely for insights on both current events issues and literary recommendations.

The Corpse Walker is a collection of interviews with prisoners and social outcasts in China, all of whose stories reflect the tragic effects of Maoism in that country. Some are innocent bystanders caught up in events beyond their control, while others are vicious and petty criminals. Each one describes unthinkable atrocities, made more horrific by the matter-of-fact way in which they are recounted. The stories of starvation, persecution, corruption and abject, mindless cruelty are so horrific that they could not possibly be made up - only real life can be so truly terrible. Sexual slavery, cannibalism, wanton theft and property destruction have all been tacitly promoted by the rigid policies of the Chinese Communist party, strewing devastation throughout that country so that an entire generation of Chinese who lived through the failed social experiments of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution consider their lives completely wasted.

With all the hype surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it is easy to forget that Chinese society remains closed, its government tyrannical and its people largely oppressed. The massacre at Tianenmen Square happened less than 20 years ago, and its consequences continue to be felt even as economic prosperity sweeps through much of urban China. Read The Corpse Walker before you watch the opening ceremonies and remember how the international community has conspired to squash all protest of Chinese policies on Tibet, Falun Gong and dissent among its citizenry.

They'll probably never let me back into this country after writing this, but that's ok as I've already seen one of the most beautiful spots in the world, the Three Gorges, an area along the Yangtze River which has since been submerged and environmentally devastated by the construction of a dam there. Like too many of the Party's projects, this one was motivated more by political machinations than by its value to the area's residents, many of whom had their entire villages relocated. The reality of China today is a sobering reminder of how easy it is for oppressive regimes to buy the complicity of their populations through the promise of wealth, much as our own government has done with the economic stimulus package and other propaganda meant to distract us from failed policies. Is it any wonder our administration turns a blind eye to Chinese brutality?

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Anonymous said...

DO you know Yiwu - the world's largest China wholesale market.

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