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Ma Jian quotes
In February of this year I returned to China to research my next book. The authorities know about the novels of mine that have been published in the west, including the latest one, Beijing Coma, about a student shot in Tiananmen Square, but so far have allowed me to return.
To become self-aware, people must be allowed to hear a plurality of opinions and then make up their own minds. They must be allowed to say, write and publish whatever they want. Freedom of expression is the most basic, but fundamental, right. Without it, human beings are reduced to automatons.
I meant that the Chinese people are not aware of their own entrapment. They believe they live in a free society, but don't realize how much they are being monitored and controlled, how much the information they receive is restricted and warped, until they step out of line, that is, and feel the heavy hand of the state fall on them.
In 1989, I was on Tiananmen Square with the students, living in their makeshift tents and joining their jubilant singing of the Internationale. In the two decades since, each time that I have gone back, visions from those days seem to return with increasing persistence.
My hope is that the Chinese government will come to realise that it is futile to repress free speech, and that contrary to what they believe a regime's strength rests not its suppression of a plurality of opinions and ideas, but in its capacity and willingness to encourage them.