Hu Ping is the editor of the pro-democracy journal Beijing Spring, based in New York. But in 1975, he was 28 and living in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu, a recently returned “educated youth” who had been sent down to labor in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.While waiting to be assigned to a new workplace, he wrote an essay that would become a classic of modern Chinese liberalism. The essay, “On Freedom of Speech,” could at first be circulated only through handwritten posters on the city’s streets. In 1979 it appeared in the underground magazine Fertile Soil, and it went on to influence a generation of democracy advocates.Mr. Hu was admitted to Peking University in 1978 and in 1980 was elected as a delegate to the local people’s congress. In 1987, he began doctoral studies at Harvard, then moved to New York a year later to serve as chairman of an organization supporting China’s burgeoning democracy movement. The Chinese government canceled his passport, consigning him to exile.In his new book — “Why Did Mao Zedong Launch the Cultural Revolution?,” published in Taiwan by Asian Culture — Mr. Hu argues that contemporary Chinese concepts of democracy and freedom are not imports from the West, but a response to political oppression at home and a growing appreciation of the need for restraints on state power. In an interview, Mr. Hu discussed how the Cultural Revolution shaped his thinking, the unexpected course of President Xi Jinping’s career and why he rejects assertions that democracy is a foreign concept and therefore inappropriate for China.
Bravo Mr. Luo Siling for this story on Hu Ping.
Mr. Hu Ping, I am sorry you can not return to China at this time, but China’s loss is our gain. I was moved by several parts of this article, and fascinated by the observation that “Professor Sklar pointed out that modern Western liberalism arose from a revulsion against religious and political persecution and led to an insistence on protecting human rights and limiting political power.”
Of course you are right, that such movements as liberalism are not only western. Such movements against concentrations of power have sources in China and throughout the world. Thank you.
David Lindsay blogs at OnVietnamAndtheWorld.wordpress.com