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China Celebrates Dragon Boat Festival

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May 27, 2009

China Celebrates Dragon Boat Festival

By WILLIAM FOREMAN

Real meaning of Dragon Boat Festival is awkward for Communist rulers

It’s a day when an authoritarian state that often crushes dissent marks the death of one of China’s most famous dissidents, Qu Yuan.

According to legend, Qu Yuan was a patriotic minister who challenged a corrupt government, lost a power struggle, got banished from the kingdom and eventually killed himself by jumping into a river more than 2,000 years ago.

Critics of the current Chinese leadership say not much has changed about China’s political culture.

The government is still intolerant of dissent, and periodically a Qu Yuan-like figure appears only to be silenced.

That gives the Dragon Boat Festival awkward undertones.

Taiwan also celebrated the festival while quashing dissent for years during its martial law era, which ended in 1987.

In Singapore, where the government also tightly monitors society, the event is observed as a sporting competition divorced from politics.

Although the festival has long been a popular tradition in China, especially in the south, the government only made it an official holiday in 2008.

So far, there has been no public debate about the holiday’s history.

Source: WILLIAM FOREMAN (2009).? China Celebrates Dragon Boat Festival, ABC News published May 27, 2009. Viewed May 27, 2009, http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/wireStory?id=7684535

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