Freedom of speech 'like X-rated films'

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CHINA: Freedom of speech 'like X-rated films'

Taiwanese author Li Ao addressed an appeal for free speech at Peking University

South China Morning Post
Thursday, September 22, 2005

By Irene Wang

Outspoken Taiwanese legislator, author and talk-show host Li Ao delivered an appeal for free speech at Peking University yesterday and called on students to embrace the Chinese Communist Party.

Quoting Mao Zedong and former premier Zhou Enlai , he said different voices should be heard. He compared freedom of speech to the legalisation of pornography, saying the number of sex crimes had dropped in northern Europe when pornographic movies were legalised.

"Freedom of speech is just like X-rated videos. If you let people speak, talk and criticise, and let them touch the tiger's behind, it will be OK," Mr Li said.

In the speech - one of three Mr Li is scheduled to give during his 12-day trip to the mainland - the liberal historian and television commentator also praised independence of spirit, a trait widely regarded as the traditional Peking University ethos.

He paid tribute to former university presidents Ma Yinchu, who opposed Mao on the issue of population control, and Cai Yuanpei , who refused to accept Education Ministry directives early last century.

But Mr Li criticised today's Peking University as being submissive to authorities and too weak, challenging the institution's leaders sitting beside him to live up to the legacy of the past.

He also told his audience that they should turn the Communist Party to their service by co-operating with it in a "sober, rational and happy" manner.

"We should hold it, embrace it, and let it serve us because its slogan is to serve the people," he said.

Mr Li said it was not feasible for students to criticise the party in the same way that he had opposed Taiwan's Kuomintang.

In response to a student's question about university party secretary Min Weifang's insistence that teachers voicing "anti-revolutionary" remarks should not be allowed to give classes, Mr Li said nothing should be forbidden.

"There is nothing to be afraid of or that should not be talked about at universities," he said, as Mr Min sat beside him on the stage. "It is like the search for a cancer treatment at a medical school. It is important to find solutions."

He teased former Communist Party publicity department chief Ding Guangen for always having a stern face and joked about Taiwanese politicians, including former KMT chairman Lien Chan and his successor, Taipei mayor Ma Ying-jeou.

The address drew constant applause and laughter from students.

Wu Hao, an international relations major, said the speech had "resonated with the old Peking University spirit".

Mr Li also took time out to respond personally to a letter from 15-year-old university hospital cancer patient Wu Ziyou, by visiting him at his bedside. The teen said he liked Mr Li because "he is an interesting person", and "our conversation should be one between strong men and between high mountains".



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