Thursday, April 30, 2009

Jackie Chan, Gao Zhisheng, and the true meaning of bravery

Most people wouldn't put "cowardice" and Jackie Chan in the same sentence. Chan's physical bravery - he does his own movie stunts, to the point where no one will even insure him - is fairly well-known. However, there is more to bravery than risking injury on a movie set. When it came to the most important stage he has ever held, Jackie Chan's bravery left him, in a way Gao Zhisheng's bravery did not.

On Hainan Island, Chan was asked about the Communist censors who banned his latest film. As Communist Premier Wen Jiabao sat in the audience, Chan veered into an anti-freedom rant (Telegraph, UK):

"I'm not sure if it is good to have freedom or not," he said. "I'm really confused now. If you are too free, you are like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic."

He added: "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we are not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."

Theories abound on Chan's pro-CCP line: buttering up to the CCP to get his next film OKed (The Useless Tree), an elitist's unvarnished view of poor Chinese (John Pomfret), etc. Whatever the cause, it was pretty clear that Chan knew what side of the bread was buttered. He placed his financial interests above truth, freedom, and his fellow Chinese. It was painful to see.

Meanwhile, miles away, in an undisclosed prison, Gao Zhisheng continued (and continues) to suffer at the hands of the Communist police.

Like Chan, Gao was at the top of his profession in the eyes of the CCP - in Gao's case, the legal profession. Like Chan, Gao was faced with a choice: continue following the party line or accept the truth about the regime and fight for justice. Unlike Chan, Gao took the latter course.

Gao started to wonder why the regime was so cruel to Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who refused to put the Party between themselves and their God. Worse (for the regime), he started to wonder publicly why this happened. In time, he became one of the leading defenders (legally, politically, and vocally) for the victims of Communist persecution.

As one would expect, it didn't take long for him to join them.

Gao's family managed to escape earlier this year (National Review); when the CCP discovered this, Gao disappeared. To this day, no one knows where he is, how badly he has been hurt, or even if he is still alive.

We do know this, however: Gao Zhiseng is a true hero. He risked his practice, his reputation, his career, his livelihood, and even his life to help the persecuted and speak truth to power.

Jackie Chan, by contrast, played to the crowd, basked in the applause, and risked nothing. As John Pomfret notes in particular, Chan was merely parroting the line the CCP-dependent "elite" have been using for some time:

My reaction, however, is this: Chan is just saying what a lot of other rich Chinese feel. In the 20 years since Tiananmen, Chinese society has changed enormously. One of the most astounding ways has been in the return of a class society and in the disdain with which China's rich view China's poor. When Chan was saying Chinese need to be "controlled," to be sure, he was speaking about the poor. He didn't have to say it, But that's what the audience at Boao heard and that's why they cheered him on. Anyone who has conversations of depth with members of China's elite has heard this argument before. "The quality of the average Chinese is too low," the line goes. (Zhongguoren de suzhi tai di le.) "So of course we can't have full freedom."

Of course, the elite have become increasingly free. But they also increasingly rely on the instruments of state to maintain those freedoms and to maintain their advantages over China's hoi polloi.

Gao Zhisheng once belonged to the same elite, but he saw through the veneer. That's what makes him so dangerous to the regime, and so heroic to the rest of us. Gao Zhisheng refused to be bought by the Chinese Communist Party.

Becuase of this, future generations will remember Gao Zhisheng long after Jackie Chan retires, his film company goes under, and his films gather dust on Blockbuster shelves. Jackie Chan acts bravely on the silver screen; Gao Zhisheng embodies genuine bravery in real life. Once again, this week revealed that Gao Zhisheng is the true hero; Chan just plays one on TV.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post D.J! I hope that Jackie gets to read it, yet even more that Gao gets to read it.

Sandy said...

Thank you D.J. McGuire. I agree wholeheartedly. Alexander (Sandy) in Canberra, Australia.

Anonymous said...

Fully agree with most of the points made in this article. Can only hope Gao hasn't actually died at the hands of the bloody CCP. Sigh...

Now let's wait for some rabid pro-CCP or pro-China poster who constantly froths at the mouth to come here and post ten thousand comments in half-baked English to defend his 'great' motherland.