World affairs are complicated. The right person does not always do the right thing at the right moment. Take the matter of Fang Lizhi as an example.
The Chinese astrophysicist has been outspoken on issues such as democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. He became a hero in the eyes of the Chinese youths and thus hated by the Communist authorities. This hatred increased the dissident's fame. Now the whole world has focused attention on him, since the Chinese government issued a warrant for his arrest after he and his wife sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy.
Many people, myself included, respect Fang and condemn the Communist brutality. But this is only one aspect of this issue.
It would be to the Chinese government's benefit to rescind the arrest order. If Deng Xiaoping could ever shake hands with Fang Lizhi, that might greatly help repair Deng's image and close his rift with the Chinese public after his bloodshed sins. Of course, the Chinese Communists could never do that. The nature of the regime is totalitarianism and regimentation, intolerant to anyone or anything challenging its authority. In order to save face and defend its prestige, the regime would disregard common protocol and normal human etiquette. We could never expect any change in the regime's nature. Any attempt to change that nature and ask democracy and human rights from the Communists is like asking a tiger for its hide.
When Fang Lizhi cried out loudly in his dissident voice, he should have been aware that he was requesting the hide from a tiger. If he had made up his mind to risk his personal safety for the benefit of his countrymen, I respect him. If he was not of such a spiritual mind to begin with, then he has misled himself and his followers.
The Fangs' seeking of protection in the U.S. Embassy is definitely a mistake. This act is no good to anyone except the Fangs. It jeopardizes U.S. relations with the Chinese government. U.S. principles and international convention make the United States duty-bound to protect the Fangs' safety in the embassy. Any act of invasion into the embassy to arrest the Fangs wouldbe an infringement of U.S. sovereignty. The United States really has no room to compromise. However, from the global geopolitical point of view, as well as for U.S. world strategy and in the interest of the Chinese and American peoples, it is important to maintain official links between the two governments.
Furthermore, it is shameful that the Fangs hide themselves in the embassy while those students who believed in Fang Lizhi are spending their youth in jail or are giving their lives for practicing his gospel. In ancient Chinese history, heroes used to step out from hidden places to join their comrades who had been arrested by the tyrants that they had struggled against shoulder to shoulder. They preferred to meet death together. I cannot imagine that a modern hero would have less courage.
In the present situation, if Fang Lizhi is really a warrior as he has posed, he should voluntarily walk out of the U.S. Embassy. Before doing so, he might even add some dramatic touch by making a proclamation that he is willing to give his life to the authorities, hoping that they can give vent to the Communists' anger so that they can cease killing young people.
The Fangs' voluntary departure from the embassy could have at least three effects. It would diffuse the tension between the U.S. and Chinese governments. It would further enhance Fang Lizhi's image. Finally, and most important, if the government, flying in the face of the will of the people, does arrest the Fangs or even put them to death, that would be forceful motivation for a greater mass movement that would certainly wipe out the Communist regime once and for all. Only after the downfall of regime can democracy be seen in China. Isn't that what Fang Lizhi is hoping for?
Fang's possible sacrifice might usher in a new era for China, while his continued refuge in the U.S. Embassy can produce no positive effect.
Fang Lizhi as a wise man should know what to choose. I do not mean that Fang is destined to be a martyr, but, as an old Chinese proverb goes, he who tied the bell on the tiger is responsible to take it off.