Has the Cultural Revolution arrived in the West?

26 August 2019

Canadian-Chinese human rights advocate Anastasia Lin in conversation with Prof Simon Haines

Sydney, Monday 26 August 2019:  Is it worth living in a world where we are afraid to say what we think, even to our friends? So asked Canadian-Chinese actress and human rights advocate Anastasia Lin in April in The Wall Street Journal, lamenting an emerging ‘call-out culture’ in western democracies that is putting freedom of speech at risk.

Ms Lin understands risks to freedom and freedom of speech more than most.  Having emigrated to Canada from China when she was 13, she eventually began speaking out against human rights abuses, including during her reign as Miss World Canada. As a result, her father who still resides in China, was allegedly threatened by security agents, and Anastasia was barred entry to China to compete in the 2015 Miss World competition.

Now Anastasia advocates for countries the world over to do more than simply pay lip service to protecting basic freedoms. She is a strong supporter of western civilisation study at schools and universities to ensure people in the West understand their rights and freedoms, and when they might be at risk.

“The emerging call-out culture in the US, Canada and elsewhere in the West bears more than a few similarities to China’s Cultural Revolution, in which writers, artists, doctors, scholars and other professionals were publicly denounced and forced by mobs to engage in ritual self-criticism,” she wrote in The Wall Street Journal. “The goal is not to persuade or debate; it is to humiliate the target and intimidate everyone else. The ultimate objective is to destroy independent thought.”

Anastasia Lin is the Centre for Independent Studies scholar-in-residence in 2019. She is the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s ambassador for China policy and a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation CEO Professor Simon Haines will hold a special discussion with Anastasia on the West, education and our basic freedoms tomorrow night as the seventh Ramsay Lecture event for 2019.

Professor Haines has had a distinguished academic career including close to a decade in Hong Kong where he was Chair Professor of English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as well as Director of its Research Centre for Human Values.

He recently opined in The Australian Financial Review that our notions of tragedy and truth, state and citizen, beauty and good, nature and art all have long and distinctive pedigrees, and are deeply constitutive of modern attitudes. Perhaps this is most true in the case of our liberal-democratic freedoms: of speech, assembly, religion, the press, he wrote.

“Daily the local and international news reminds us that these freedoms are under perpetual challenge. In Australia, voices across the political spectrum, from Alan Jones to Richard Flanagan, have spoken out in defence of a free press.

In Hong Kong, millions of people, included among them many students, have assembled in the streets in defence of the rule of law. Good for them. Use it or lose it: freedom is the birthright each generation inherits, but also holds in trust for those to come. Our sense of responsibility for the trust is strengthened if we also know it as an inheritance. But it’s a complex inheritance, and we are inconsistent in our attitudes to it.”    

 Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098

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