Chinese Dissident Goes Into Exile

Dissident Chinese writer Liao Yiwu has gone into exile. Liao is the compiler of The Corpse Walker, an astonishing collection of interviews with 27 Chinese at the fringes of society in the People’s Republic. As previously reported in the Dailies, Liao was prevented from attending the recent Sydney Writers' Festival by Chinese authorities, and anyone who has read The Corpse Walker would understand why. It’s a searing and indispensable indictment of Chinese history since the 1950s. (Here’s an excerpt and here’s a review.)

Liao Yiwu, photographed in Cologne last year, via Wikipedia

Liao Yiwu, photographed in Cologne last year, via Wikipedia

Liao’s dissident spirit was forged during his childhood. He almost died of starvation as an infant during the Great Leap Forward, a series of economic reforms that crippled the Chinese economy and unnecessarily triggered famines that claimed the lives of millions. During the Cultural Revolution, his father was branded a counter-revolutionary and had to divorce his wife to protect the children. Liao came to prominence as a writer after he wrote a poem, called ‘Massacre’, following the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. It landed him in prison for four years, during which time he earned the name of the ‘Big Idiot’ because of his willingness to defy authorities. During his period in incarceration, his wife left him. Following his release, Liao has struggled to continue his work as a writer and as a player of the Chinese flute. The interviews he conducts with the victims of Chinese government policy have regularly landed him and his associates in trouble with authorities. On one occasion, after interviewing two members of the outlawed Falun Gong, he received a knock on the door from two members of the police. Instead of answering the door, Liao jumped out of a third-storey window and lived on the run for three months, never to return to his apartment.

While suppressed in China, The Corpse Walker has sold strongly in foreign markets, particularly in Germany - hence Liao’s decision to move there. There’s a cloack-and-dagger aspect to the Associated Press report of his journey into exile: he changed planes in Hanoi and Warsaw before arriving in Berlin.

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