This pointer is a singularly appropriate place to homage to the memory of Fang Lizhi(February 12, 1936- April 6, 2012), a Chinese astrophysicist, whose dissident movement was one of the contributors to the Tiananmen square protests of 1989. After the massacre of June 4, Prof. Fang and his family took refuge in the U.S. consulate for nearly 13 months, after which they were allowed to leave for the U.S, ostensibly for medical treatment. Thereafter, he worked as a professor of physics at the University of Arizona, and lived there till his death on April 6, 2012 at the age of 76, remaining active in the human rights movement. One of Prof. Fang's early brushes with authority arose due to an unlikely sounding article entitled “A Solution of the Cosmological Equations in Scalar-Tensor Theory, with Mass and Blackbody Radiation.” This article introduced the Big Bang theory to Chinese physics circles, and was regarded as being heretical as it contradicted Engel's notions of the universe being infinite with respect to space and time.
A more obvious challenge to authority was contained in his speech, made 26 years ago to students at Tongzhi University in Shanghai, where he said, “Human rights are fundamental privileges that people have from birth, such as the right to think and be educated, the right to marry, and so on. But we Chinese consider those rights dangerous. If we are the democratic country we say we are, these rights should be stronger here than elsewhere. But at present they are nothing more than an abstract idea.”
We in India have always fancied we were better off in this respect. We hope we are right, and will be proved right by the response of the Indian people and the state to cases like Dr. Ray's.
This blog post is by Neelima Gupte and Sumathi Rao.