Sat, 23 Mar 2019

Dissident Chinese poet Meng Lang, a founder member of the writers' group Independent Chinese PEN, has died in Hong Kong after a battle against cancer. He was 57.

Meng, a long-term and outspoken supporter of late political prisoner and 2010 Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, died in spite of a fund-raising campaign for medical treatment to target tumors that had spread to his brain.

Meng was hospitalized in Hong Kong during a trip during which he planned to launch a commemorative poetry collection for Liu Xiaobo, who died of late-stage liver cancer under police custody in July 2017.

But he was rushed to hospital in Hong Kong before the book launch with cerebral edema, the city's South China Morning Post newspaper reported at the time.

In 2014, Meng had also published a poetry collection commemorating the Chinese student-led democracy movement of 1989, which ended with a military crackdown by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on the night of June 3, and in the days that followed.

He had also managed an Archive of Chinese Underground Literature and Exile Literature after moving to the democratic island of Taiwan.

According to Taiwan poet Hung Hung, Meng always felt he was in exile after moving to Taiwan and Hong Kong to live with his Taiwan-born wife, Tu Chia-chi.

"He would say that it's hard for trees to uproot and move somewhere else, and that he was forced into exile as a Chinese," Hung Hung said. "This exile was thrust upon him, and it was particularly hard for him."

"His last poem, about a fallen leaf finally blowing back home, is very beautiful and moving," Hung said. "I think now he has passed away, the fallen leaf has finally returned home."

Duty to speak out

But Meng's poems were never entirely personal, and he regarded it as his duty to speak out about his political beliefs as an inherent part of his creativity, he added.

U.S.-based legal scholar and dissident Teng Biao agreed, saying that Meng's poetry also escaped any taint of ruling Chinese Communist Party influence.

"There was nothing of ruling party culture or red literature in his poems," Teng said. "We can deduce from this that he must have undergone a huge process of ideological and literary resistance as part of the creative process."

"It's very hard to throw off the strong and all-pervading influence of Communist Party education and communist literature without such a strong spirit of resistance," he said.

According to the literary magazine Asia Cha, Meng was born in 1961 in Shanghai and actively participated in various unofficial poetry movements in China.

He moved to the United States in 1995 and was Writer in Residence at Brown University from 1995 to 1998, according to a profile of Meng on its website, before co-founding the Independent Chinese PEN Center in 2001.

His poetry and other works have been published and translated into other languages such as English, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish, according to the profile.

'A terrible blow'

Mainland Chinese author Mo Zhixu said he was still a student at the time of the 1989 democracy movement, while Meng had been a young activist and accomplished writer, who was already editing poetry collections by that time.

"Last year, Xiaobo left us, and now this year Meng Lang is gone," Mo said. "This is a terrible blow to my spirit."

In a poem penned to "Xia," an apparent dedication to Liu Xiaobo's widow Liu Xia, Meng wrote:

"One letter is enough for me to transcend everything and talk to you. When the wind blows, I will write using my own blood, to remind me that every character is the last."

Reported by Hsia Hsiao-hwa for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

Copyright 1998-2018, RFA. Published with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

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