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

Asian Geographic - - Care -

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.”

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