When Fang Lizhi was denied entry by Chinese security police to President George Bush’s Beijing banquet in 1989, he became an international symbol of protest against the human rights abuses of the Chinese government. When he sought refuge in the American embassy a few months later, Fang’s renown grew. As this collection of thirty-two letters, essays, speeches, and interviews from 1979 through 1990 demonstrates, Fang had a long history of conflict with the Chinese government.
BRINGING DOWN THE GREAT WALL is divided into four sections, each with an introduction by a Western scholar placing the material in context. The sections focus on intellectual freedom in science, Fang’s reflections on life abroad, Chinese economic and political reform, and Fang as a dissident. Within each section, Fang’s writings, with few exceptions, are arranged chronologically.
Three themes stand out in Fang’s writings. One is the connection between scientific freedom and political freedom. Fang demonstrates how the freedom to think and believe transcends categories of thought; the links between Big Bang cosmology and Marxist philosophy may surprise American readers. The second theme is intellectual life in the West, which Fang has idealized. Finally, Fang shows that the Chinese people have little knowledge or understanding of their own recent history.
Fang writes with wit and clarity. However, because the individual selections were originally written as independent pieces, there is a certain amount of repetition among the selections.