Raising the Bar
FROM VILLAIN TO HERO (AND SOMETIMES BACK TO ANTIHERO), ASIA’S FAMOUS POLITICAL PRISONERS HAVE PACKED A LOT OF PUNCH IN TRANSFORMING THE REGION’S DIPLOMATIC LANDSCAPE
been saddled with various labels, depending on who has held the position of power at the time: freedom fighter, revolutionist, reformer, dissident, terrorist.
But the question of whether they should be vilified or lionised continues in some cases: Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s national hero for her tireless work towards democracy, has come under fire recently for her denial of the persecution of the Rohingya. Having been denied proper treatment for terminal cancer, Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo passed away on July 13, 2017. His death has caused outrage in the international community. The leading dissident is still framed as “a criminal” in the Chinese press, but for many others, he remains a hero for campaigning for Chinese democracy.
One could argue that this gives traction to the cliche that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. But, to take the stance of Jonah Goldberg in his book Thetyrannyofcliches, “It is simply absurd to contend that because people may argue over who is or is not a terrorist that it is therefore impossible to make meaningful distinctions between terrorists and freedom fighters.”