First off, a merry merry Christmas to all.
I am typing from my quaint hotel in one of Beijing’s amazing hutongs, my home for the next couple of days. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been grappling with the Beijing dialect, lost and regained feeling in my toes, zoomed around the Forbidden City with two equally frostbitten family members, gracefully sipped tea at the Lao She Teahouse and celebrated Christmas dinner with a divine Peking duck. Not too shabby.
The sharp, crisp air is a far cry from the damp smog that lingers about Shanghai, and the two cities could not feel more different. To those already familiar with China, this is no surprise; but to a newbie like me, the taking-in process is still very much in its exciting stages. Beijing has an almost eerie, mysterious feel to it; Tiananmen Square has an aura similarly strange to that of Moscow’s Red Square. Driving past hutongs and traditional buildings, I was awestruck by the culture oozing from every corner of this city. I found it to be in total contrast to the constraining pressure of Shanghai’s consumerism under which culture often feels buried.
But any excitement I had about exploring more of this amazing part of the world dampened once I learnt that Liu Xiaobo had today been sentenced to eleven years in prison. As I have written before, I uphold Liu for his voice and continued strength. Yet, irrespective of the futility of foreign pressures in calling for his release, it is a sad day for civil society in China.
I could go on at length, but I won’t. Instead, my thoughts and conclusions are perhaps best summarised in the words of Ai Weiwei:
This does not mean a meteor has fallen. This is the discovery of a star.
For a touching commentary on the topic, check out C. Custer’s post from ChinaGeeks.