Monday, June 17, 2013
Chinese Dissident Says We're Becoming Just Like Them
Chinese artist and persecuted dissident, Ai Weiwei, has an interesting take on the U.S. NSA Prism scandal in today's Guardian in which he says America is behaving like China.
I lived in the United States for 12 years. This abuse of state power goes totally against my understanding of what it means to be a civilised society, and it will be shocking for me if American citizens allow this to continue. The US has a great tradition of individualism and privacy and has long been a centre for free thinking and creativity as a result.
In our experience in China, basically there is no privacy at all – that is why China is far behind the world in important respects: even though it has become so rich, it trails behind in terms of passion, imagination and creativity.
Of course, we live under different kinds of legal conditions – in the west and in developed nations there are other laws that can balance or restrain the use of information if the government has it. That is not the case in China, and individuals are completely naked as a result. Intrusions can completely ruin a person's life, and I don't think that could happen in western nations.
But still, if we talk about abusive interference in individuals' rights, Prism does the same. It puts individuals in a very vulnerable position. Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values. There is no guarantee that China, the US or any other government will not use the information falsely or wrongly.
...we have never exposed ourselves in this way before, and it makes us vulnerable if anyone chooses to use it against us. Any information or communication could put young people under the surveillance of the state. Very often, when oppressive states arrest people, they have that information in their hands. It can be used as a way of controlling you, to tell you: we know exactly what you're thinking or doing. It can drive people to madness.
When human beings are scared and feel everything is exposed to the government, we will censor ourselves from free thinking. That's dangerous for human development.
To limit power is to protect society. It is not only about protecting individuals' rights but making power healthier.
Civilisation is built on that trust and everyone must fight to defend it, and to protect our vulnerable aspects – our inner feelings, our families. We must not hand over our rights to other people. No state power should be given that kind of trust. Not China. Not the US.