04/29/2008, 00.00
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The writer Bo Yang dies, disliked by nationalists and communists

The New York Times called him "China's Voltaire". He criticised martial law in Taiwan, but also the lack of democracy and imperialism of Beijing. His essays on Chinese culture comment ironically on the defects of the Chinese people: their egoism, their willingness to be dominated, their insensitivity to human rights.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - The writer Bo Yang, known for his criticisms of Chinese nationalists and communists, died this morning at Cardinal Tien Hospital in Hsintien (Taipei).  He was 88 years old, and had been hospitalised for pneumonia since last February.

His original name was Guo Libang, which he later changed to Guo Yidong, possibly in order to distance himself from his family.  He was born in Kaifeng (Henan) in 1920.  In 1949, when Mao Zedong came to power, he fled from Taiwan.  In 1960, using the pseudonym Bo Yang, he began to write essays and articles aimed against the dictatorship instituted by Chiang Kai-shek, which was passed on to his son Chiang Chin-kuo.  In 1968, he was imprisoned for eight years and branded a "communist spy": he had produced free translations of the cartoon Popeye to criticise the lack of presidential elections on the island.

In 1987, after a period of martial law ended in Taiwan, he was able to return to China and visit the places of his childhood.  His brilliant and caustic frankness made him the object of criticism on the part of the communist government of Beijing.

For a few years, China banned one of his most biting books, "The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of the Chinese Culture", and a number of his essays, accusing him of offending the Chinese people.

In many of his works, Bo Yang criticised the proud attitude of the Chinese people toward their culture with "5000 years of history", demonstrating its defects.  With irony and bitterness, he emphasised that the Chinese are egoists, incapable of compassion, indifferent to human rights, yielding easily to the power and abuse of their leaders.

Bo Yang was also a human rights activist.  In 1995, he founded the Human Rights Education Foundation in Taiwan.  He frequently compared the communist government of Beijing to an imperial caste.  The New York Times called him "China's Voltaire".

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