Operation Yellowbird succeeded too well in the case of Wu’er Kaixi, who was refused entry to China for the fourth time since his escape after the 1989 Tiananmen protests. The state-run media spared no time in putting the dissident through the ringer. The Global Times — a state-run Chinese tabloid under the flagship of People’s Daily — commented early on Wednesday: “Overseas activists will continue bashing the Chinese government, simply because it’s the only thing they can live on. These people have left the impression that they yearn for trouble inside China.” The editorial went on to lump Wu’er Kaixi in with all of the other dissidents inside and outside China, saying, “When they bring no more destructive effect to China, a new opportunity for them may appear.”
Beijing and the state press suggest that all foreign dissidents are driven by money or fame. This particular piece even seemed to imply that China’s now-successful capitalist system is drawing these dissidents back to the motherland: “When older generations of activists left China, it was the time when the gap in living standards in the West and China was huge. Many people sought to acquire a US identity through ‘political asylum.’ It was difficult to imagine then that in two decades, China has created an economic miracle.”
The excuse that dissidents complain for money — or, for that matter, as part of a vast Western conspiracy — is not new. It is the panacea for all complaining dissidents, from Chen Guangcheng to Liu Xiaobo. The Global Times once gloated over Fang Lizhi’s corpse; later Shan Renping — which we now know is the pen name for Hu Xijin — even, in his capacity as a the editor of a state-run propaganda newspaper, criticized Fang’s work as an astrophysicist. In short, the Beijing state-run press has little patience or sympathy for dissidents — unless they’re Edward Snowden, of course.
China issued an arrest warrant for Wu’er after the 1989 protests, but the man just can’t get the government to arrest him — not for 24 years. He has tried to turn himself in previously in Macau, Japan, and the United States. Hong Kong was instrumental in getting other student leaders out from under Beijing’s foot after the protests in Tiananmen, helping shelter over 400 of them. But when it comes to accepting dissidents and the 1989 student leaders, Hong Kong can be a bit tricky. Wu’er said in his personal blog: “If the Hong Kong government denies my request … I take this to mean that the Hong Kong government does not accept the People’s Republic of China’s official verdict on the Tiananmen student movement. If that is so, I appreciate it, and I then request the Hong Kong government stop denying Chinese dissidents the right to enter Hong Kong.”
However, the question remains: why not just arrest him? Despite the bad PR for the PRC, the Global Times editorial states, “Crossing the border to return to stir China’s social order is one of their plans under discussion.” By “their” the editorial refers to pro-democracy advocates which are involved in the totally real and not at all made-up worldwide conspiracy to bring down China. Unluckily for the pro-democracy advocates, “The Western world has shown less support for them than for the Chinese separatists,” according to the editorial. With this ridiculous level of conspiracy theory rhetoric, there is little hope for Wu’er or any of the other dissidents and exiles waiting for China to listen.