February 7, 2010
Nelson Mandela’s Captive Audience: A Smile to Remember
I was overwhelmed by complicated feelings. We had not known much about Mr. Mandela’s story, but the message of his release was instantly clear to me: in the pursuit of freedom, there are times when we must pay the price of losing our freedom. In faraway
While I was happy for Mr. Mandela and all South Africans, I could not help feeling sad for the Chinese people. And yet the news gave me more confidence for the future. One tenacious person had prevailed over a system, and I thought, “If Nelson Mandela could persist for 27 years, then why can’t I?”
What struck me most about the newspaper photo of Mr. Mandela leaving prison was the smile on his face. On the day I was released from jail, in 1993, I also walked out with a smile — and held up my right arm and made a V-for-victory sign to my family waiting outside. I was walking in Mr. Mandela’s footsteps.
Wang Dan, a student leader at Peking University who helped organize the Tiananmen protest, was returned to prison from 1995 to 1998 and now teaches history at
February 7, 2010
Nelson Mandela’s Captive Audience: My Hero, Page by Page
Released in 1993, I was sent to prison again in 1994. It was during my second sentence that I managed to read a magazine article describing Mr. Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom.” Single pages of this article were smuggled into the prison over a period of weeks, and I pieced them together from tightly folded scraps. But the story was worth the trouble: Mr. Mandela’s refusal to give up his principles, during more than 27 years in jail, was an inspiration to me and all the other political activists in Insein. “Nelson Mandela is the black power from South Africa, he can overcome 27 years of darkness,” went the refrain of a song that one of my fellow prisoners composed, a song we used to sing to keep up our spirits.
Mr. Mandela wrote that time drags in prison only if you are idle; if you organize, study and work, prison life can be very busy. But his situation seemed in some ways better than mine. He could study openly, whereas my friends and I could do so only clandestinely. We pleaded with the guards to allow it, but they told us we had to renounce political resistance first.
The Burmese authorities repeatedly pressured me to cooperate with them. But I held firm. In 1999, one year after my second prison term was finished, I escaped to
For the Burmese people, the long walk toward a free society is not finished, but we are walking in the right direction, and we will arrive one day.
Ko Bo Kyi spent nearly eight years in prison in
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs