Interview With A Dissident
Tucked away on a mountainside high above Xiamaling, a country village northwest of
At 66, Dai, remains an outspoken critic of the government herself, one who has also seen the inside of a jail cell for challenging China’s environmental policies and human rights record. Today, however, her most stinging criticism is directed at China’s Three Gorges Dam Project. She began reporting on the dam’s potential for environmental damage, the thousands of archaeological sites that would be swallowed up, and the millions of Chinese who would be displaced by the dam’s construction, in 1979, decades before the mammoth project caught the attention of the Western Press.
With short-cropped hair and an unremitting smile, Dai has alarge presence for such a demure woman, speaking out on subjects one can often only tiptoe around in
Dai got an early start in her opposition to the Three Gorges Dam. In 1982, she left her career as a People’s Liberation Army engineer at top secret intercontinental missile laboratory to write for the Guangming Daily. There, she earned a reputation as a straight talker by being among the first to report on researchers who opposed the damming of the Yangtze River. Her book “Yangtze! Yangtze!” released as the pro-democracy movement was picking up steam in the late 1980s, is widely credited with persuading the Chinese government to postpone construction until 1994 to address structural and environmental issues. But as the 348-mile long reservoir created by the dam begins to top out, and the last generators are due to go online in 2009, Dai is the first to argue that the human and environmental toll caused by the project is still too high.
When government officials renewed their push to get approval for the mammoth construction project from the National People's Congress in the late 1980's, Dai says they estimated the number of individuals who would be forced to resettle at less than a million. “Only a few months ago," she adds, "the government announced that the number of forced resettlement is now four million.” In her lectures, Dai has warned that that the spillover from inadequate housing for the displaced could lead to increased emigration to
For generations, Chinese leaders have dreamed for taming the
During a visit to
Despite the serious tone of the conversation, Dai peppers her stories with laughter, even when discussing her own imprisonment. In the summer of 1989, Dai found herself caught up in the
“I arrived in
She declined offers of asylum from the
Not far from the four trees Dai planted in honor of the Young Thinkers, another cluster of trees rises out of the steep, mist-shrouded mountains. “I started to take care of the buds and the seedlings,” Dai says.“Five years passed and it’s a small forest. This is for the unnamed young people killed in