after the pandemic, I will not return to China, and some of you should consider avoiding it too

Gary Leff at 10. March 2021.

When the restrictions on the circulation of the coronavirus are finally lifted, we will gradually start to travel again. But a place I used to love is probably not on my list anymore: China.

A few years ago, a national journalist told me he would not communicate in China. An Air China first class award seat was available for the trip he was planning, but he didn’t take it. I think it makes sense for a journalist, especially one who has covered pro-democracy protests around the world. And the others?

In the fall, China signaled that it might detain Americans in retaliation for U.S. actions against Chinese scientists.

From there it only got worse.

More than a dozen scientists interviewed by CNN, members of non-governmental organizations and media professionals who regularly traveled to China in the pre-pandemic period said they were reluctant to do so after pandemic restrictions were lifted because they feared for their personal safety. Some members of the international business community have stated that they will significantly change their behavior outside of China to avoid the wrath of the authorities in the country where they must do business.

… The real question is not just: What things did I do that may have contributed to my incarceration? It’s also a question: What is my nationality? What did the politicians in my country say? – Said Ni.

The risk is low for the average person, but this is a new area of uncertainty. And I wrote in support of democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwanese independence. Even if I am not arrested or accused of anything, China imposes travel bans and prohibits foreigners from leaving.

According to Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), American citizens are too often held as de facto hostages in trade disputes or to force family members back to China. The issue may even gain momentum as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks a third term in late 2022 at the 20th Party Congress.

Maybe you can share things from Falun Gong time on social media? This can be a risk in itself.

Thirty years ago, the tank took on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in what seemed to be a historic moment for this nation. We have seen significant economic liberalization, but individual freedom has remained limited.

During my formative years, David Hasselhoff sang In Search of Freedom at the Berlin Wall (1989) and the Scorpions sang Winds of Change (1991) as the Soviet Union was preparing to fall.

It was an optimistic time, full of hope for a future where people all over the world could control their own destiny as they saw fit, and a time when it seemed that the United States could learn from it.

Frank Fukuyama wrote about the end of history first in the form of an article (1989) and then a book (1992), claiming that we have reached a point of victory for humanity where liberal democracy has won for good.

It’s always difficult to judge that at the time – regimes appear stable until they are, a phenomenon Timur Kuran explains in his book Private Truth, Public Lies. People seem to support the regime because they are afraid to reveal their true beliefs, but when the tide turns and it becomes safe to express opposition as a group, even the true supporters pretend to be constantly against the regime to gain an advantage in a changing world, and it suddenly falls.

However, the current impression is that China is stable, that economic growth has not led to liberalisation but has been accompanied by increasing repression, and that arbitrary arrests pose a risk to foreign visitors.

I have been lucky enough to visit China over the years, see the main tourist attractions and eat delicious food. There have been a few inconveniences along the way, but it’s easy to get around the great Chinese firewall, and over the past few years I’ve assumed that every electronic device I bring in is compromised. On the other hand, no one is necessarily interested in spying on me (security through obscurity).

Now I don’t think I’ll be staying much longer.

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