Friday, August 26, 2011

Books by Political Prisoners in Asia

These are a selection of books on or by political prisoners in Asia:

Bilanggo: Life as a Political Prisoner in the Philippines 1952-1962 by William J.  Pomeroy.  Bilanggo is the diary of a decade behind bars. William Pomeroy and his wife Celia Mariano, like hundreds of other communists and militants, were sent to prison in the early 1950s for participating in the Huk guerrilla struggle for national liberation. Pomeroy's personal narrative of the armed struggle, The Forest, has become a classic. Bilanggo is its sequel, written with the same immediacy and power. It describes how the political prisoners endured stretches of solitary confinement, were denied basic amenities, and witnessed horrific outbursts of violence between warring prison gangs. But above all, it depicts how they refused to be broken, or to give up their vision and ideals.

Passion, Betrayal, and Revolution in Colonial Saigon: The Memoirs of Bao Luong by Ho Tai Hue-Tam. This is the incredible story of Bao Luong, Vietnam's first female political prisoner. In 1927, when she was just 18, Bao Luong left her village home to join Ho Chi Minh's Revolutionary Youth League and fight both for national independence and for women's equality. A year later, she became embroiled in the Barbier Street murder, a crime in which unruly passion was mixed with revolutionary ardour. Weaving together Bao Luong's own memoir with excerpts from newspaper articles, family gossip, and official documents, this book by Bao Luong's niece takes us from rural life in the Mekong Delta to the bustle of colonial Saigon. It provides a rare snapshot of Vietnam in the first decades of the twentieth century and a compelling account of one woman's struggle to make a place for herself in a world fraught with intense political intrigue.

Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner by Teo Soh Lung. Singapore lawyer Teo Soh Lung has written this careful account of her experiences and feelings when detained in Whitley Detention Centre 21 from May 1987 to 6 September 1987, and from April 1988 to 1 June 1990. Accused of involvement in the alleged "Marxist Conspiracy", Soh Lung discusses many legal aspects of the case, including Singapore's banning of London QC Anthony Lester and her various Appeal attempts. She tells of the regime and her physical and emotional suffering, as well as the strategies and beliefs which enabled her to retain her integrity and balance in circumstances intended to subdue her. Relevant official documents are appended.

In a Jakarta Prison: Life Stories of Women Inmates by Sujinah. This book tells, in a prose-journalism style, the stories of women in prison: what crimes they committed and the reasons behind their crimes. As told by Sujinah, herself a political prisoner, these stories offer insight frank insights into the position of women in Indonesia.

Dragon Fighter: One Woman's Epic Struggle for Peace with China by Rebiya Kadeer and Alexandra Cavelius. Rebiyah Kadeer (b. 1946) was born to an Uyghur family in China's borderlands with Kazakhstan. She traces her career as refugee, self-made millionaire and celebrated official of China's National Peoples Congress. Following her efforts to promote the human and political rights of Uyghur people, attendance at the 1995 Beijing United Nations World Conference on Women, and unrest in her home area, she was arrested in 1999. She tells of her gross ill treatment and the sufferings of other prisoners, and finally, after international outcry, her 2005 release "to take medical treatment" in the US. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and apparently, been subject to harassment and assassination attempts. Rebiya has received awards from Human Rights Watch and Norway's Rafto Foundation. This book tells of China's apparent orchestrated efforts to obliterate Uyghur identity.

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