- By Isaac Stone FishIsaac Stone Fish is FP's Asia editor. A Mandarin speaker, he lived in China for seven years before moving to Washington, D.C. His articles have also appeared in the New York Times, the Economist, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, and he has appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, the BBC, NPR, Al Jazeera, and PRI, among others.
At a conference at Duke University this weekend, I met Han Dongfang, a Hong Kong-based dissident imprisoned after the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Han, who runs the labor rights organization China Labour Bulletin, hasn’t been back in mainland China since 1993. The conversation soon turned to the fate of Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chongqing Communist Party boss, and Han floated an interesting idea about how Chinese authorities should handle the former official.
Beijing, Han said, should "just put him on a plane and send him away," thereby getting rid of the problem and punishing Bo by removing him from China. (The last credible report I read on the case came in late February from Reuters, which stated that Bo has not been cooperating with a government investigation and that he has staged hunger strikes. I’ve heard guesses that his trial will be in May, but the timing is still unknown.)
I think it’s extremely unlikely that Beijing would exile Bo; his value as an intelligence source is huge, for one thing. If he’s set free of whatever form of imprisonment he’s under in the next five to 10 years, I’d guess his life would turn out to be similar to that of Zhao Ziyang, the former premier who lived under house arrest from 1989 until his death in 2004.
Still, it’s a poignant view from Han, who’s been forced to remain on China’s periphery for the last two decades. "As soon as dissidents leave China they lose their influence," Han said. "It’s like cutting off your legs and putting you in a wheelchair."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |