FORBIDDEN: Magna Carta Exhibition in China Is Abruptly Moved From UniversityPosted: October 14, 2015
The mysterious shift in venue took place the week before China’s president, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to make a state visit to Britain, the first by a Chinese leader in a decade.
HONG KONG — Michael Forsythe reports: China’s leaders have long behaved as if nothing could daunt them. But an 800-year-old document written in Latin on sheepskin may have them running scared.
“Magna Carta is widely considered a cornerstone for constitutional government in Britain and the United States, and such a system is inimical to China’s leaders, who view ‘constitutionalism’ as a threat to Communist Party rule.”
Magna Carta — the Great Charter — is on tour this year, celebrating eight centuries since it was issued in 1215 by King John of England. It is regarded as one of the world’s most important documents because of language guaranteeing individual rights and holding the ruler subject to the law.
“They fear that such ideology and historical material will penetrate deep into the students’ hearts.”
— Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident
One of the few surviving 13th-century copies of the document was to go on display this week from Tuesday through Thursday at a museum at Renmin University of China in Beijing, the British Embassy said last week on its WeChat account. But then the exhibit was abruptly moved to the British ambassador’s residence, with few tickets available to the public and no explanation given. (The document is also set to go on display at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou and at a museum in Shanghai, the embassy said.)
It is not clear why the public showing was moved off the Renmin University campus. But Magna Carta is widely considered a cornerstone for constitutional government in Britain and the United States, and such a system is inimical to China’s leaders, who view “constitutionalism” as a threat to Communist Party rule.
In 2013, the party issued its “seven unmentionables” — taboo topics for its members. The first unmentionable is promoting Western-style constitutional democracy. The Chinese characters for “Magna Carta” are censored in web searches on Sina Weibo, the country’s Twitter-like social media site.
Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident, said he was not surprised that the exhibit was moved off the campus. He said that Renmin University had close ties to the Communist Party’s training academy and that the principles the document stood for were contrary to the party’s. More important, he said, Chinese leaders may have been concerned that the exhibit would be popular and that “many students would flock there.”
“They fear that such ideology and historical material will penetrate deep into the students’ hearts,” Mr. Hu said.
The mysterious shift in venue took place the week before China’s president, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to make a state visit to Britain, the first by a Chinese leader in a decade. The British government has labeled 2015 a “golden year” in ties between the two countries, and it is eager to attract Chinese investment. Magna Carta’s China tour has been described as part of a deepening of ties….(read more)
Source: New York Times
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