“One man can make a difference, Michael.” This line from 1982’s Knight Rider TV series has haunted me for years. It was a very individualistic message stressed within a growing society that was becoming increasingly more and more socialist –this was especially true for Europe. Knight Rider was not the only series with such a radical idea. The A-Team (1983) or MacGyver (1985) were just two of many shows championing the power of the individual. Yes, sure, Michael Knight has a talking car and the Foundation for Law and Government –Boh!–, and MacGyver was supported by the Phoenix Foundation. But the main idea was that an individual bestowed with liberty can accomplish almost anything –an idea that goes against our most basic intuitions, instilled upon us by public education.
But what if one man (or woman) could actually make a difference? And not just one man, but any man? This, I believe, is what China –along with any other government– fears the most: the unbounded power of the individual. Recently, the CCP has illegally arrested five booksellers in Hong Kong and Thailand because, although most of us never heard about them before, they were making a difference. They banned Miss World candidate Anastasia Lin from entering China because, although most of us never heard of her before, she was also making a difference. Just today Calvin Sun, a teacher from Hong Kong, received an anonymous menacing message from a phone number from China written in Simplified Chinese, which reads as follows:
“If you wish to have your business running smoothly, then better refrain from publishing your points of view, as a teacher you should concentrate on teaching your students! Just giving you a little advice.”
One week ago –we just know about it now–, Peter Beckenridge, a Swedish man working for a human rights group in China, was detained by the Chinese authorities at a Beijing airport. Both Calvin Sun and Peter Beckenridge have been marked for one unique reason: Whether we know them or not, they were all making a difference. And that’s all it takes.
That’s why China –and the Soviet Union before them– is so eager to ban scholars, journalists, or beautiful women. It is not because politicians in the Chinese government are childish –although they surely are– or have a low self-esteem –jackpot again–, but because they are afraid of one single thing they have denied to their entire nation: self-reliant, autonomous freethinkers –also known as “individuals.”
If one man can make a difference, just think about 7 million Hongkongers.