Today, February 11, 2010, marks the twentieth anniversary of the day Nelson Mandela walked to freedom from Victor Verster prison, not too far from Cape Town.
I watched his release on TV with some new friends in a student dormitory, and later that day burned my draft papers for the South African army. Until that year, all white males had been required to do military service in the military machine that defended the apartheid state.
The next day was my first year at the University of Cape Town.
On February 11 1995, I arrived in Beijing for the first time, with 20 dollars in my pocket and a job teaching English to engineers in a factory in the Beijing Economic Technological Development Zone south of the city. Fifteen years later, I’m still in Beijing.
South Africans — black and white — are very proud of Madiba as he is affectionately nicknamed. He is almost universally loved and admired in what he called the Rainbow Nation.
Something else happened today:
A Chinese court on Thursday upheld an 11-year prison sentence for prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo for writings that called for multi-party democracy — perceived threats to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.