I was reading yet another article about the case of the Chinese dissident Chen Guang Cheng (陈光诚) in Le Monde today which mentioned that his case may be head lines in the world, but not so in China itself (it almost sounds like a definition of what ‘a dissident’ actually is). Chinese media if mentioning the case at all are referring to him as “a marionette of the USA.”
The article brought some emblematic pictures to my mind and so I did an image search on Google on marionettes and ‘puppets on a string’ and the last one brought me the image that opens this small note. Paper puppets that when they act become puppets on a string. It is a typical ready-made image to be sold to web sites for may different uses. So I will put the allegory of the picture to my own use here….
With the Chinese dissident case in the head lines of the “free world” we seem to be back all the way in the Cold War and its definition and use of ‘dissidents’ who would raise issues felt as a danger to the existing rule in their own countries. There are always many more dissents around in far away countries than we will ever hear about, protesting paper puppets hidden from our view. The ones that manage to come on stage are the ones that will get strings attached to them, if they want it or not. The hand of the puppet player may change during the performance.
Smart and lucky dissidents would manage at one moment or another to get their message across their state borders and raise enough attention elsewhere to create – at some moment in time – an opportunity to be shuffled into what is supposed to be a heroic exile.
The same kind of dissident criticism at home can also be applied to similar circumstances in any of the dissident hosting countries, but as courtesy and realism makes an exiled dissident cautious, exiled dissidents tend to be silent about their host. This is the sad fate of who – in order to safe his own life – is forced to become a hero-dissident, who will nevertheless have a hard time to defend her/himself against accusations of being just a marionette of a foreign power. The possible hosting country of Chen Guang Chen – the United States of America – does have a long long history of schizophrenic political morality and changing interpretations of the the word ‘freedom’. It is unavoidable that the shadow side of a rescuing power will reflect on a rescued dissident.
The manipulating hand of state power with the people as multiplied paper puppet marionettes in the picture is reflecting in the floor space and so the position of the expelled dissident elsewhere becomes a mere mirror image.
Chen Guang Chen – when he manages to get out safely – is said to get the opportunity to study law in the United States. He is not the first and certainly not the last getting such a chance. Imagine when all the world dissidents would gather in the United States and study, discuss and further their insight by exchanging experiences. Then, the mere quantity of dissidence could create a new quality and such a combined insight in world political matters could reflect back onto the United States itself. The marionettes would come alive and become players without strings.