Hsin-Yin Lee, a former associate producer at Worldfocus, is a news editor at the “China Times” in Taipei.
In China, the dispute over U.K. citizen Akmal Shaikh’s execution is becoming off the point quickly. The issue now is neither about judicatory independence nor human rights but rather, “on whose side is history?”
The Chinese Embassy said in a statement that the “strong resentment” felt by the Chinese public against drug traffickers was the product of “the bitter memory of history.” What Chinese authorities are referring to here is the two Opium Wars fought between China and Great Britain and its allies in the middle of the 19th century.
To me, what the Chinese authorities said is quite fair — the Chinese public doesn’t forget, and doesn’t forgive.
Every Chinese knows that during the dark time of their history — when the society was backward and the government struggled for modernization — it was Britain and other Western powers that relentlessly dumped bad materials and bad ideas on the country.
In an online survey held by the Chinese media more than 97% of the 15,000 participants voted “yes” when asked if they supported the execution of Shaikh. In fact, most Chinese people used the same emoticon to express their feelings.
Angry and cynical remarks are everywhere: “There is only one answer–yes–if you are Chinese,” “I am not sure if that Briton is out of his mind, but I am sure the British prime minister is out of his mind to ask for pardon,” “We are not going to lose the modern Opium War,” and “We should have executed the Brit in Humen Town!” [Humen is the place where Chinese authority supervised the destruction of seized opium on the brink of Opium War.]
In fact, when any controversy touches on China’s national pride these days, it’s often “end of discussion.” As a Chinese, I must say that the idea of “sweet revenge” did occur to me. The thought, however, is not only irresponsible but also dangerous.
What troubles me is that I have seen more and more of a nationalist-oriented agenda being used–from China’s stand on emission-cutting to a recent Sino-U.S. dispute over anti-dumping tariffs. History should be used as a mirror that allows us to look back as we march forward, not one that reflects only hatred and bias.
If the Chinese people refuse to think hard about important issues but instead go for convenient solutions, then what they really are doing is to commit the same error they did during the Opium War — deluding themselves.
– Hsin-Yin Lee