Wednesday, 11 July 2012
Diosa de la Democracia en la Avenida Reforma en la ciudad de México / Goddess of Democracy on Reforma Avenue in Mexico City
En apoyo al movimiento de protesta estudiantil mexicano "YoSoy132" 4Gentlemen ha puesto una versión del proyecto de arte público de realidad aumentada "Goddess of Democracy" en la Avenida Reforma cerca de donde los estudiantes han estado organizando en un intento de bloquear la calle en protesta por la corrupción política.
In support of the Mexican student protest movement "YoSoy132," 4Gentlemen has placed a version of the augmented reality public art project "Goddess of Democracy" on Reforma Avenue near where the students have been organizing in an attempt to block the street in protest of political corruption.
Ver el proyecto ahora en Monumento un Cuauhtémocmáis en el Paseo de La Reforma en tu Android o iPhone a ahora. Escriba http://m.layar.com/open/tsquare en los teléfonos de su explorador web o escanear este código QR. Necesitará descargar el navegador de realidad aumentada Layar libre, http://layar.com.
View the project now at Monumento a Cuauhtémocmáis on Paseo de La Reforma on your Android or iPhone now. Enter http://m.layar.com/open/tsquare on your phones web browser or scan this QR code. You will need to download the free Layar augmented reality browser, http://layar.com.
Monday, 25 June 2012
Translated by Little Bluegill
Original text here.
That Year, I was twelve years old and in the fifth grade. The happiest part of my day: I would come home from school, turn on our battered black-and-white TV and listen to my older brother, who was a student at the local teacher’s college, passionately detail the day’s happenings in Beijing. Scenes of waving flags, young faces and screeching ambulances flashed across the screen, brimming with energy and a feeling of meaning and weight.
That Year, the summer was especially hot.
After school, my friends and I walked through the pockmarked roads of our village. We no longer goofed around like before. By that time, a few of us buddies had started to talk about the big affairs of the country. “Let’s write a letter to Zhao Ziyang,” I suggested. My friends replied, “You write it. Your essays are very well written.” But I had no idea what I should write. I just had this vague notion that we should do something.
My father came home from our county seat. He said that someone had tried to hand him a flyer as he was riding his bike down the street. He didn’t take it. It was not long before he had peddled away.
Father was the principal of the village elementary school. In the past, he had never been admitted to the Party because of his poor family background. He cried loudly about this in the past. He was afraid.
Later, the youthful energy on TV became a bloody scream.
July was torrid. My older brother, who had graduated by then, hadn’t come home. Father became worried and went to the school to look for him.
As Father stepped off the bus, the head of my brother’s department was there waiting for him. The department head’s first words when they met were, “Your son was sent to be re-educated.” When he heard this, Father collapsed on the ground, foaming at the mouth.
Holding my father in his arms, the department said over and over, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
When Father came home, he told the family that my brother was a student leader and had taken students to protest in the streets. Five students from his college were sent to be re-educated, and my brother was one of them. He would probably not receive his diploma and wouldn’t get a work assignment.
I had a vague sense of pride for my brother, but the despair in Father’s voice troubled me.
A month later, my brother came home. He wasn’t the cheerful person he once was. Rather, he was silent. Everyday he would wander around the village fields, brooding with a furrowed brow. No one knew what he was thinking about.
Father forced my brother to go to the County Board of Education every day to inquire about work assignments. My brother was the first person from our village to attend college, and Father had endured many hardships. Father wanted my brother to leave the village and get a job.
My brother often quarreled with Father. Later on, my brother was finally assigned a job and went to town to be a middle school teacher. Eventually he tested into graduate school, got his doctorate and became an assistant professor at a prestigious university.
Some time later, as my brother and I were reminiscing about the past, he told me that during the protests, they were passing a military district. Many of the students wanted to rush in, but as student leader my brother did everything in his power to stop them.
Perhaps it is because of this that he was eventually assigned a job.
By chance, I once ran into the head of my brother’s department. He told me, “Your father is a good person. Your brother and the others are hot-blooded youth.”
That summer, something took root in the heart of a twelve-year-old boy.
The memories of that year influenced the rest of my life.
One day in 1995 when I was at university, I ran into an old classmate and started talking about Tiananmen. He mentioned he had a whole batch of photos from that time, all taken by his brother. I was excited and asked him to bring them for me to see. I saw the Goddess of Democracy standing gloriously aloft the square, and a sea of people wearing white bandanas. “These pictures are treasures. You must take good care of them,” I implored my classmate. He didn’t seem to feel the same way. “If you like them, take them.” I hurriedly stored them away, as if I had discovered rare jewels.
After graduation, I was assigned to be an elementary school teacher back home. Once, as my colleagues and I were chatting about the events of That Year, a female colleague noticed how impassioned I was on the subject. She snorted, “You’re so excited. You know, in ’89 I was a senior in high school. None of us could take the college entrance exams because of the student protests. I went back home to work on the farm. Now I’m just a private tutor.”
I was speechless. It was only then I realized the events of that year had altered her entire life.
It was also at that time I began spending entire nights listening to the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. I heard many more Tiananmen stories. I also began reading books like He Qinglian’s The Trap of Modernization and the Liu Junning’s edited volume Public Forum. I became a liberal.
In 1998 my younger brother opened a bookstore. He sold pirated books from Hong Kong and Taiwan that he bought at a market in Wuhan, including titles like The Real June Fourth, Tiananmen and the memoirs of people like Wang Dan and Feng Congde. Those books sold like crazy. Most of the people buying them were retired workers from state-owned enterprises. They never haggled. My younger brother was quite brazen about it too, strutting about as he put those books on the shelves. Eventually, a teacher reported our store in a letter to the Hubei Daily, saying we were selling vast numbers of reactionary books.
People from the cultural center stormed in holding copies of the Hubei Daily and confiscated all of these books.
Since we couldn’t sell them in the open, we started selling them discreetly. In the winter, my younger brother and I hid copies of the illegal books in our thick cotton coats. Whenever an old worker would come asking about them, we would slide the books out of our coats make a sales pitch. We sold many books this way, and my younger brother was very pleased with the money he was earning.
It wasn’t long before my brother came back from a trip to Wuhan looking very dejected. The book market had been shut down for selling pornography. We had no way to bring in new copies.
Our store never sold those books again.
Around the dinner table one day, we were discussing June Fourth when my brother-in-law, who worked as a local government official, said, “You read those reactionary books every day, crying out for justice, but do you ever think about what it would be like if the crackdown never happened? What about this decade of economic growth and the life our family enjoys today? Stability trumps all!”
I left the table, furious.
On June 4, 1999, I fasted and wrote an essay titled “Thoughts on the Tenth Anniversary of June Fourth.” This marked my passage into spiritual maturity.
In 2000 I moved to Hangzhou. Living in a dormitory at Zhejiang University, I took the graduate school exams. On the school web forum, students were downloading a documentary titled Tiananmen, which had gone viral.
In Hangzhou I met Fu Guoyong. In his simple apartment, I listened to him recall his story. That Year, he joined the student movement. He gave a public speech on Tiananmen Square. He met his wife. Then he was arrested, put on a train, shackled from hand to foot, thrown in jail. His mother went gray overnight. His wife, who was a top student at Beijing Normal University, never gained recognition at school because of her anti-revolutionary family. He showed me pictures of his wife and child visiting him in jail, the three of them with pure, resplendent smiles on their faces.
It was the most beautiful photo I had ever seen.
One day in 2002, a friend arranged for me to visit the student leader Wang Youcai. Wang was sent to jail for organizing the Democratic Party of China. His wife, Hu Jiangxia, was at home. Making wide detours to avoid being followed, my friend and I wound our way to Wang Youcai’s house in Hangzhou’s Emerald Garden neighborhood. At last we met Hu Jiangxia and had a lively conversation. Not long afterwards, I heard Wang and Hu filed for divorce. Some time after that, Wang was sent to the United States through negotiations between the Chinese and American governments. Eventually, Hu Jiangxia also made her way to the U.S.. I heard that they remarried.
In Hangzhou, there was a boss of a large company who asked to borrow my copy of Wang Dan’s prison memoirs. He kept it for a long time. Only later did I realize that in That Year he had been the chairmen of Zhejiang University’s autonomous student council. The summer of That Year, one of his toes was broken off. He changed course and went on to become a successful businessman.
In 2003 my friend and I began hosting an academic salon at Sanlian Bookstore in Hangzhou. According to Fu Guoyong, this was the first time since the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement that an open, grassroots activity was publically hosted in Hangzhou. We invited Fu Guoyong to give a lecture. That was the first time he spoke at a public gathering since leaving prison.
In 2005, I started graduate school in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. During class one day, the teacher suddenly began speaking to us dozen or so students about June Fourth. He said some of the events of That Year were perfectly pure, others extremely foul. Our teacher was a graduate student in Beijing at the time of the crackdown. He personally experienced all that happened that summer. I was shocked to hear this. He wasn’t merely a professor. He was the principal of the school—a bona fide official. This was the first time I heard someone from inside the system speak openly about June Fourth in a classroom.
After class, I excitedly shared my own June Fourth story with several classmates. A few female students born in the 80s listened to me wide-eyed, as if they were listening to fantastical stories from some strange, far-off land. “Is it true, what he’s saying?” they asked the class monitor, who had been standing nearby listening. He nodded his head. “It’s true. It’s all true. I was there at Tiananmen at the time. I even slept there a few nights.” Our class monitor was born in 1968. He had taken part in June Fourth.
Still, those young classmates couldn’t believe it. “How come we never knew anything about this before?” they asked with a sigh.
My roommate Old Yang was a graduate student in the Fine Arts Department. He was born in the 70s, a party member and a university lecturer. One night, as we lay awake talking, he told me about a student from his village who went to Tsinghua University. During June Fourth he disappeared. Twenty years had passed, and no one knew anything about what had happened to him. If he was alive, no one had seen his face; if he was dead, no one had viewed the body. He was the only student from that village to ever attend a prestigious university. “I hate the Communist Party,” Old Yang spat.
That Year, a professor from my department supported the student protesters in Yunnan. He shared with me what happened when he lead the students. They scaled the university walls and took to the streets, shouting protest slogans. After the June Fourth Massacre, the professor organized Yunnan Province’s first protest march. As autumn came, his actions caught up with him. He was suspended from teaching and put under investigation. With documents piled before him, his investigators demanded he admit his crimes. His students protected him, saying they marched of their own volition, without any encouragement from their teacher. He kept his job, but he began to fall in love with one female student after another. He divorced several times, becoming dissolute. Although he should have been made department head long ago, he was never promoted. Once, at a banquet, he berated the Party in front of all the university leaders. “The Chinese Communist Party should have collapsed back in 1989! They should have died out a long time ago, damn it!”
The room fell silent.
The other professors say he turned into a different person after June Fourth, cursing the Communist Party and womanizing his students.
My graduate adviser was an old professor and a member of the Democratic Party. After June Fourth, the Yunnan Provincial Party Committee organized a forum with democracy advocates. “I’ve never understood how June Fourth was handled,” he said in a speech there. “Why did the government have to do what it did?” Twenty years on, he still couldn’t make sense of it.
In 2009, I graduated and stuck around campus to take the university’s employment test. I received the top score. The Yunnan Security Agency opened a political investigation on me because I had previously published a few articles on foreign websites. That was the first time I ever dealt with security officials, and it filled me with dread.
A deputy director from the security agency asked me, “What are your thoughts on June Fourth?” I paused, then said, “June Fourth doesn’t concern my generation. It’s very complicated.” He stared at me for a long time, then retorted, “You mean you don’t think the decisive action taken by the Party in that year was the reason for our prosperity and success today?”
I remembered the argument with my brother-in-law. They had the same logic—the same inhumane logic. I stayed silent. I didn’t dare refute him, afraid of losing my chance at a teaching position.
Regardless, I failed to pass my political investigation. The university Party committee rejected my application on the grounds that I “did not fervently love my country and socialism.”
To this day, I still feel guilty for the cowardice I showed when confronted by the stability maintenance system. June Fourth is not just a matter for the generation that came to age in 1989. It’s a matter that relates to every person on Chinese soil. It is blood spilled by tyranny. It is an open wound on the body of this nation that will never close. Whatever you think of June Fourth, you cannot have a muddled opinion on it, you cannot make haphazard excuses for it. You must say no to atrocity, you must say no to the truth written in blood and the lies written in ink. One’s opinion of June Fourth is the most basic measure of the morality of every Chinese person, the touchstone that torments every Chinese person’s conscience and humanity. Any action or expression that crosses that bottom line is an injustice that violates one’s very conscience.
After my expulsion from the university in 2009, I made my way to Beijing. Since then, I have met many teachers and friends, and I heard even more stories of Tiananmen.
When I first arrived in Beijing, I became a reporter for a Party-affiliated magazine. One day, an older female colleague recounted a story from her university years. It was the early 90s and a soldier had an eye for her, was courting her, but she had no feelings for him. One day, as they were walking together, the soldier asked her, “Do you college students still hate us soldiers?” She didn’t respond. The soldier continued, “I didn’t fire my gun.”
Another female colleague of mine, born in the 80s, held an advanced degree from Wuhan University. Her boyfriend was an army officer. One day she heard some of us chatting about June Fourth and was shocked. When she got home that night she asked her boyfriend about it. He told her that the guns were not loaded that day. She called me late that night and yelled, “Did people really die or not? Who should I believe?” I answered her question with a question of my own. “If there were no bullets in their guns, how did all those students and ordinary citizens die?” After arguing for half an hour she still didn’t know if she should trust her boyfriend or me.
She broke up with her boyfriend. I don’t know the reason why.
In a restaurant in Beijing’s Haidian District, professor Yu Shuo, who had arrived in Beijing from Hong Kong, shared with me her own June Fourth story. At that time she was a young lecturer in Renmin University’s sociology department. She and Liu Xiaobo came from the same hometown and were friends. That whole summer, she carried a camera and tape recorder around Tiananmen Square, interviewing students, intellectuals and city residents. She wanted a record of everything. On the night of June 3, she was preparing to evacuate the square with the last wave of students. Liu Xiaobo had told her his bag was left at a corner of the Monument to the People’s Heros, with his money and his passport that he would need to travel to the U.S. still inside. While the students were retreating, Yu Shuo ran over to the monument to retrieve the bag, but a student patrol grabbed her and threw her to the ground, yelling, “Do you want to die?” After she returned back to campus, she showed her photos to a leader from her department. One of the photos showed the body of a student who had been beaten to death near the gate of China University of Political Science, his brains spilling onto the ground. The department leader began to wail. He grabbed a pile of blank letterhead and stamped them all with his official seal. He gave them to Yu Shuo, saying, “Child, run away, quickly. This is all I can do to help you.” Yu told me she’d always remember that department leader, who risked a great deal to help her. It’s ordinary people like him whose souls shine.
With these letters in hand, she scrambled her way to Guangdong and then Shekou, preparing to look for Yuan Geng. She hid on and island for half a month, then went to Hong Kong as the first person rescued through Operation Yellowbird. She later moved to France, where she married a French citizen. She earned a Ph.D. in anthropology and became a professor. Today, she works to facilitate academic exchange between China and Europe.
While visiting his home in the Beijing suburb of Songzhuang, Yu Jianrong shared his own story with me. During June Fourth, Yu was in his hometown of Hengyang in Hunan Province, where he worked as a secretary for the municipal government. Yu had a classmate, the child of high-ranking cadres, who was a flag bearer on Tiananmen Square. After June Fourth his classmate fled home and Yu found him a place to stay. Finally, security officials found Yu. His classmate was left unscathed, but they investigated Yu. The investigation scared Yu enough for him to quit his job and become a businessman. He went on to earn over two million yuan, after which he moved to Taiwan and became an academic, earning his doctorate. He eventually became a well-known scholar. June Fourth changed his entire life.
Late one night in a Beijing bar, the artist Gao Huijun shared his June Fourth story with me. He was a college student at the time. On the night of June 3, Gao and his classmates were on Changan Avenue, bullets screeching past their ears. Suddenly, a stray bullet bounced off the ground and struck one of his classmates in the chest. He died at the scene. He collapsed to the ground, then crawled for a few hundred meters before falling still. Old Gao spoke breathlessly, as if it were transpiring before him. A crystal teardrop flickered from behind his thick eyeglasses.
Once during a banquet at a restaurant near West Fourth Ring Road in Beijing, my good friend Wen Kejian introduced me to a middle-aged man sitting at the table. “That’s Ma Shaofang,” Wen said. Stunned, I asked, “You’re Ma Shaofang from the June Fourth wanted list?” Ma, nodding his head, replied, “I never thought, after twenty years, there would still be young people like you who remember me.” I immediately took up my glass and toasted him, saying, “There are certain people and certain things that are unforgettable.”
Ma Shaofang was the first student leader I had ever met. After his release from prison, Ma became a businessman. He is staunchly determined never to leave China.
In Tianjin’s TEDA Arts Center, I once conversed with the renowned collector Ma Huidong over drinks. As the wine warmed us up, Mr. Ma told me that after he graduated from China University of Political Science in the late 80s, he entered a re-education center. After he’d been washed clean, he escaped from the center and began doing business. Twenty years after June Fourth, he’s still never been back to Tiananmen Square. Whenever he’s about to pass it in his car, he takes a detour. “After the gunfire of June Fourth, reform died,” Mr. Ma said.
The famous philosopher Li Ming is my good friend, despite our age difference. In the 80s, before his hair had turned gray, he was already known for his work on the editorial board of the Walking Towards the Future series. He told me he was the research director of Youth Political College during June Fourth. After the crackdown, he was fired from his job, then arrested. In all these years, he never received a single penny from the Communist Party. His pay suspended, Li Ming scraped by with translation and writing.
At the artists village in Songzhuang, I once shared drinks and conversation with the renowned poet Mang Ke. He told me how he returned to Beijing from abroad in early 1989 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Today magazine. Along with Bei Dao and others like him, he added his name to an open letter calling for the release of Wei Jingsheng. After June Fourth, Mang Ke was detained at his home. A black bag was placed over his head and he was taken to a place he didn’t know. After two days, he was released. The people who took him said he was detained for his own safety. Afterwards, Mang Ke relied on painting to make a living.
Once at a teahouse, I spoke with a middle-aged businessman who had served twenty years in the army. When the topic of June Fourth came up, he couldn’t stop talking. At that time, he worked in the basement of the Tiananmen Square command center. He was in charge of intelligence collection. Hundreds of informants were sent out from the center every day. Every avenue and alley of Beijing was closely monitored. He said during that time, Mayor Chen Xitong would visit the command center almost daily.
Mr. Yu, a publisher in Beijing, is a friend from my hometown. He also told his June Fourth story to me. That Year, he was teaching middle school in a remote village in Hubei Province. He was extremely depressed. During his time there, he wrote an essay titled “Where China Is Going?” He made ten mimeographed copies and gave them to his classmates and friends. As a result, he was reported to the authorities and arrested. He spent a year in a detention center before being released without ever having stood trial. “China’s detention centers are the cruelest places on earth,” he told me. “I crawled out of there.” After he left, he learned his grandmother, whom he loved dearly, passed away the very day he was detained. Some time later, his wife divorced him. He began to wander aimlessly.
The author Li Jianmang lives in Europe. I once met him during one of his trips back to Beijing. During June Fourth, a classmate of his, He Zhijing, who also happened to be the cousin of Beijing Film Academy professor He Jian, went missing. Later at the hospital, Li was saw He Zhijing’s body. He had been beaten to death. Li Jianmang said before all this his father wrote him a letter. “Don’t be a hero. When you hear the guns, hit the ground,” his father wrote. “My son, you do not know their ruthlessness.”
After the advent of Weibo I made many new friends online, some famous and some not. One of them is a Beijing girl named Keke who maintains a government website. She told me that during June Fourth she was in second grade. Keke’s birthday happens to fall on June 3. That Year on June 3, her family celebrated her birthday at her grandmother’s house. Afterward she walked from Hujialou to Gongzhufen. On the road, she saw buses on fire, roadblocks, twisted bicycle frames and pedestrians navigating their way through the carnage. It was a terrifying, unforgettable scene. Memories of June Fourth have lingered in her mind ever since. After getting on Weibo, she frequently posted images and documents from June Fourth. Her account was quickly shut down. She is reincarnated all the time.
My friend Hai Tao is a writer from the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou. He recalled to me that after June Fourth, the older men and women of town were sent to downtown Beijing everyday to dance and sing patriotic songs. When they became tired they wanted to buy popsicles, but the streets peddlers wouldn’t let them buy any. “You have no conscience,” the peddlers would say.
* * *There are still many stories of Tiananmen to tell.
That year, the author Ye Fu worked as a police officer in Hainan. Facing the massacre, he cast away his uniform, submitted his resignation letter and bid farewell to the system forever. Then he was reported to the authorities in Wuhan and imprisoned. Then his mother drowned herself in the Yangtze River. Then he wrote his famous work, My Mother on the Yangtze…
That year, my friend Du Daobin left his hometown for the provincial capital of Wuhan to participate in the protests. Then he published some critical political commentary online. Then he was arrested. Then he became a famous dissident…
That year, many parents couldn’t find their children, many families lost their loved ones. That year, many talented people left the country, many people died away from home, never to return. That year, China became a broken world, a world of life and death, a watershed. That year, China’s twentieth century came to an end.
One afternoon in Spring 2010, I passed through the heart of Beijing on the subway, traveling from the eastern suburbs to the western neighborhood of Muxidi. Sitting on the side of the road in Muxidi, I thought about all the blood and tears shed some twenty years ago right there. I thought about the Tiananmen Mothers. I thought about the countrymen we lost forever. For a very, very long time, with a heavy heart, choking back tears, silently, I sat there until dusk. That afternoon, I quietly wrote this poem:
At Muxidi, Thinking of Someone
—for the Mother Ding Zilin
Today, I am at Muxidi
Thinking of someone
I don’t know him
But I will remember him forever
At this moment, I miss him
Like I would miss a long lost brother
That was twenty-one years ago
Right here, at Muxidi
An unforgettable place
That merciless summer
A single bullet
Passed through his body
His sixteen-year-old body
He let out his final scream
And then bid farewell to this world
This evil, gory and lie-filled world
This sixteen-year-old youth
This eternal youth
He’ll never grow up
But we, in this world without him
Grow older by the day
Until the present
All these years
Seem like a century
No, many centuries
We watch ourselves grow old
But are powerless
We tell ourselves, we are alive
We need to live
And we tell ourselves we need to make peace with this world
But we know
We are not fated to make peace with this world
For no other reason
Only because of this young man
He will never grow up
So we must grow old
To grow old, is really to die
Today, at Muxidi
I am thinking of someone
I miss him
Like I would miss a long lost brother
A brother lost twenty-one years ago
I miss him
This eternal youth
I want to cry, but I cannot
I know we have no more tears
Even worse than having no tears
We don’t even have any blood
Our souls were hollowed long ago
In the gunfire, among the bullets
In twisted, hidden history
All we can still do
Is come here
Thinking of this youth
Like missing a long lost brother
A brother lost for 21 years
He never left
But we’ll never have him back
Time is like a murderer. Twenty-three years have flashed by. Countless countrymen have forgotten, countless others have remembered. I am from the post-June Fourth generation. On this twenty-third anniversary, I earnestly write this record, like putting my heart on an altar of blood. I do this for nothing more than the justice we are yet to receive. I believe blood was not spilt in vain. Judgment will surely come.
June 4, 2012, on the banks of the Xiang River, Hunan
Thursday, 19 April 2012
arOCCUPY May Day is a non-violent action meant to send a message to the 1%. Augmented art works from around the world will take over the financial district on May 1st. The global community will be heard in the heart land of the 1%. arOCCUPY May Day is being organized by Mark Skwarek (US) and Warren Armstrong (AU) from ManifestAR and Augmented Reality Activists.
Sunday, 1 April 2012
Saturday, 3 March 2012
Public Art in the Virtual Sphere
I AM CRIME: ART ON THE EDGE OF LAW
|E. Clair Acuda Bandersnatch||Stewart Long|
|Miguel Arzabe||Mark McCloud|
|Ray Beldner||Ann Messner|
|Francis Baker||Julio Cesar Morales|
|Oscar Brett||Jeremy Novy|
|Lisa K. Blatt||Nite Owl|
|Mike Bonanno||Guy Overfelt|
|Susie Cagle||Neil Rivas (Clavo)|
|Critical Art Ensemble/Steve Kurtz||Favianna Rodriguez|
|Marque Cornblatt||Victoria Scott|
|Dreamers Adrift||Julio Salgado|
|Corbett Griffith||Eric Stewart|
|John Craig Freeman||Luther Thie|
|Molly Hankwitz||Zefrey Throwell|
|Jessica Hess||Hans Winkler|
|Jesus Iñiguez||The Yes Men|
|Lily & Honglei||Michael Zheng|
Thursday, 2 February 2012
Against a backdrop of rapid socio-economic change and modernization, China continues to be an authoritarian one-party state that imposes sharp curbs on freedom of expression, association, and religion; openly rejects judicial independence and press freedom; and arbitrarily restricts and suppresses human rights defenders and organizations, often through extra-judicial measures. The government also censors the internet; maintains highly repressive policies in ethnic minority areas such as Tibet, Xinjiang, and Inner Mongolia; systematically condones—with rare exceptions—abuses of power in the name of “social stability”; and rejects domestic and international scrutiny of its human rights record as attempts to destabilize and impose “Western values” on the country. The security apparatus—hostile to liberalization and legal reform—seems to have steadily increased its power since the 2008 Beijing Olympics. China’s “social stability maintenance” expenses are now larger than its defense budget. At the same time Chinese citizens are increasingly rights-conscious and challenging the authorities over livelihood issues, land seizures, forced evictions, abuses of power by corrupt cadres, discrimination, and economic inequalities. Official and scholarly statistics estimate that 250-500 protests occur per day; participants number from ten to tens of thousands. Internet users and reformoriented media are aggressively pushing the boundaries of censorship, despite the risks of doing so, by advocating for the rule of law and transparency, exposing official wrong-doing, and calling for reforms.
Despite their precarious legal status and surveillance by the authorities, civil
society groups continue to try to expand their work, and increasingly engage
with international NGOs. A small but dedicated network of activists continues
to exposes abuses as part of the weiquan (“rights defense”)movement, despite
systematic repression ranging from police monitoring to detention, arrest, enforced disappearance, and torture.
Human Rights Defenders
In February 2011, unnerved by the pro-democracy Arab Spring movements and a scheduled Chinese leadership transition in October 2012, the government launched the largest crackdown on human rights lawyers, activists, and critics in a decade. The authorities also strengthened internet and press censorship, put the activities of many dissidents and critics under surveillance, restricted their activities, and took the unprecedented step of rounding up over 30 of the most outspoken critics and “disappearing” them for weeks.
The April 3 arrest of contemporary artist and outspoken government critic Ai Weiwei, who was detained in an undisclosed location without access to a lawyer, prompted an international outcry and contributed to his release on bail on June 22. Tax authorities notified him on November 1 that he had to pay US$2.4 million in tax arrears and fines for the company registered in his wife’s name. Most of the other activists were also ultimately released, but forced to adopt a much less vocal stance for fear of further reprisals. Several lawyers detained in 2011, including Liu Shihui, described being interrogated, tortured, threatened, and released only upon signing “confessions” and pledges not to use Twitter, or talk to media, human rights groups, or foreign diplomats about their detention.
The government continues to impose indefinite house arrest on its critics. Liu Xia, the wife of imprisoned Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo, has been missing since December 2010 and is believed to be under house arrest to prevent her from campaigning on her husband’s behalf. In February 2011 she said in a brief online exchange that she and her family were like “hostages” and that she felt “miserable.” She is allowed to visit Liu Xiaobo once a month, subject to agreement from the prison authorities.
Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist who was released from prison in
September 2010, remained under house arrest in 2011. Security personnel
assaulted Chen and his wife in February after he released footage documenting
his family’s house arrest. Noted activist Hu Jia, who was released after completing
a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in June, is also under house arrest
in Beijing, the capital, with his activist wife Zeng Jinyan and their daughter.
Grave concerns exist about the fate of lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was “disappeared” by the authorities in September 2009 and briefly surfaced in March 2010 detailing severe and continuous torture against him, before going missing again that April.
On June 12, 2011, despite the steady deterioration in China’s human rights environment, the Chinese government declared it had fulfilled “all tasks and targets” of its National Human Rights Action Plans (2009-2010).
While legal awareness among citizens continues to grow, the government’s overt hostility towards genuine judicial independence undercuts legal reform and defeats efforts to limit the Chinese Communist Party’s authority over all judicial institutions and mechanisms.
The police dominate the criminal justice system, which relies disproportionately on defendants’ confessions. Weak courts and tight limits on the rights of the defense mean that forced confessions under torture remain prevalent and miscarriages of justice frequent. In August 2011, in an effort to reduce such cases and improve the administration of justice, the government published new rules to eliminate unlawfully obtained evidence and strengthened the procedural rights of the defense in its draft revisions to the Criminal Procedure Law. It is likely it will be adopted in March 2012.
However, the draft revisions also introduced an alarming provision that would effectively legalize enforced disappearances by allowing police to secretly detain suspects for up to six months at a location of their choice in “state security, terrorism and major corruption cases.” The measure would put suspects at great risk of torture while giving the government justification for the “disappearance” of dissidents and activists in the future. Adoption of this measure—which is hotly criticized in Chinese media by human rights lawyers, activists, and part of the legal community—would significantly deviate from China’s previous stance of gradual convergence with international norms on administering justice, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which China signed in 1997 but has yet to ratify.
China continued in 2011 to lead the world in executions. The exact number remains a state secret but is estimated to range from 5,000 to 8,000 a year.
Freedom of Expression
The government continued in 2011 to violate domestic and international legal guarantees of freedom of press and expression by restricting bloggers, journalists, and an estimated more than 500 million internet users. The government requires internet search firms and state media to censor issues deemed officially “sensitive,” and blocks access to foreign websites including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, the rise of Chinese online social networks—in particularly Sina’s Weibo, which has 200 million users—has created a new platform for citizens to express opinions and to challenge official limitations on freedom of speech despite intense scrutiny by China’s censors.
On January 30 official concern about Egyptian anti-government protests prompted a ban on internet searches for “Egypt.” On February 20 internet rumors about a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” resulted in a ban on web searches for “jasmine.” In August a cascade of internet criticism of the government’s response to the July 23 Wenzhou train crash prompted the government to warn of new penalties, including suspension of microblog access, against bloggers who transmit “false or misleading information.”
Ambiguous “inciting subversion” and “revealing state secrets” laws contributed to the imprisonment of at least 34 Chinese journalists. Those jailed include Qi Chonghuai, originally sentenced to a four-year prison term in August 2008 for “extortion and blackmail” after exposing government corruption in his home province of Shandong. His prison sentence was extended in June for eight years when the same court found him guilty of fresh charges of extortion and “embezzlement.”
Censorship restrictions continue to pose a threat to journalists whose reporting oversteps official guidelines. In May Southern Metropolis Daily editor Song Zhibiao was demoted as a reprisal for criticism of the government’s 2008 Sichuan earthquake recovery efforts. In June the government threatened to blacklist journalists guilty of “distorted” reporting of food safety scandals. In July the China Economic Times disbanded its investigative unit, an apparent response to official pressure against its outspoken reporting on official malfeasance. Physical violence against journalists who report on “sensitive” topics remained a problem in 2011. On June 1, plainclothes Beijing police assaulted and injured two Beijing Times reporters who refused to delete photos they had taken at the scene of a stabbing. The two officers were subsequently suspended. On September 19 Li Xiang, a reporter with Henan province’s Luoyang Television, was stabbed to death in what has been widely speculated was retaliation for his exposé of a local food safety scandal. Police have arrested two suspects and insist that Li’s murder was due to a robbery.
Police deliberately targeted foreign correspondents with physical violence at the site of a rumored anti-government protest in Beijing on February 27. A video journalist at the scene required medical treatment for severe bruising and possible internal injuries after men who appeared to be plain clothes security officers repeatedly punched and kicked him in the face. Uniformed police manhandled, detained, and delayed more than a dozen other foreign media at the scene.
Government and security bureaus prevented the biennial Beijing Queer Film Festival from screening in Beijing’s Xicheng District. Parts of the festival were held surreptitiously in community venues.
Freedom of Religion
The Chinese government limits religious practices to officially-approved temples, monasteries, churches, and mosques despite a constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. Religious institutions must submit data—including financial records, activities, and employee details—for periodic official audits. The government also reviews seminary applications and religious publications, and approves all religious personnel appointments. Protestant “house churches” and other unregistered spiritual organizations are considered illegal and their members subject to prosecution and fines. The Falun Gong and some other groups are deemed “evil cults” and members risk intimidation, harassment, and arrest.
In April the government pressured the landlord of the Beijing Shouwang Church, a “house church” with 1,000 congregants, to evict the church from its location in a Beijing restaurant. Over the course of at least five Sundays in April and May, the Shouwang congregation held its services in outdoor locations, attracting police attention and resulting in the temporary detention of more than 100 of its members.
The government continues to heavily restrict religious activities in the name of security in ethnic minority areas. See sections below on Tibet and Xinjiang.
On August 2 the government announced the closure of 583 battery-recycling factories linked to widespread lead poisoning. However, it has failed to substantively recognize and address abuses including denial of treatment for child lead poisoning victims and harassment of parents seeking legal redress that Human Rights Watch uncovered in a June 2011 report of lead poisoning in Henan, Yunnan, Shaanxi, and Hunan.
People with HIV/AIDS continued to face discrimination. In September an HIVpositive female burn victim was denied treatment at three hospitals in Guangdong province due to stigma about her status. On September 8 an HIVpositive school teacher launched a wrongful dismissal suit against the Guizhou provincial government after it refused to hire him on April 3 due to his HIV status.
The Chinese government is inadequately protecting the rights of people with disabilities, despite its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and its forthcoming review by the treaty’s monitoring body.
In September a group of part-time teachers with disabilities requested that China’s Ministry of Education lift restrictions imposed by 20 cities and provinces on full-time employment of teachers with physical disabilities. On September 7, Henan officials freed 30 people with mental disabilities who had been abducted and trafficked into slave labor conditions in illegal brick kiln factories in the province. The discovery cast doubt on official efforts to end such abuses in the wake of a similar scandal in Shaanxi in 2007.
On August 10 the Chinese government invited public comment on its longawaited draft mental health law. Domestic legal experts warn the draft contains potentially serious risks to the rights of persons with mental disabilities, including involuntary institutionalization, forced treatment and deprivation of legal capacity.
Migrant and Labor Rights
Lack of meaningful union representation remained an obstacle to systemic improvement in workers’ wages and conditions in 2011.The government prohibits independent labor unions, so the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) is the sole legal representative of China’s workers. A persistent labor shortage linked to changing demographics—official statistics indicate that nationwide job vacancies outpaced available workers by five percent in the first three months of 2011—has led to occasional reports of rising wages and improved benefits for some workers.
In January a government survey of migrant workers indicated that the hukou (household registration) system continued to impose systemic discrimination on migrants. Survey respondents blamed the hukou system, which the government has repeatedly promised to abolish, for unfairly limiting their access to housing, medical services, and education. In August 2011 the Beijing city government ordered the closure of 24 illegal private schools that catered to migrant children. Most found alternate schools, although an estimated 10 to 20 percent had to be separated from their parents and sent to their hukou-linked rural hometowns due to their parents’ inability to secure suitable and affordable schooling in Beijing.
Women’s reproductive rights remain severely curtailed in 2011 under China’s family planning regulations. Administrative sanctions, fines, and forced abortions continue to be imposed, if somewhat erratically, on rural women, including when they become migrant laborers in urban or manufacturing areas, and are increasingly extended to ethnic minority areas such as Tibet and Xinjiang. These policies contribute to an increasing gender-imbalance (118.08 males for every 100 females according to the 2010 census), which in turn fuels trafficking and prostitution.
Sex workers, numbering four to ten million, remain a particularly vulnerable segment of the population due to the government’s harsh policies and regular mobilization campaigns to crack down on prostitution.
Although the government acknowledges that domestic violence, employment discrimination, and discriminatory social attitudes remain acute and widespread problems, it continues to stunt the development of independent women’s rights groups and discourages public interest litigation. A new interpretation of the country’s Marriage Law by the Supreme People’s Court in August 2011 might further exacerbate the gender wealth gap by stating that after divorce, marital property belongs solely to the person who took out a mortgage and registered as the homeowner, which in most cases is the husband.
Illegal Adoptions and Child Trafficking
On August 16 the Chinese government announced it would tighten rules to prevent illegal adoptions and child trafficking. Revised Registration Measures for the Adoption of Children by Chinese Citizens were expected to be introduced by the end of 2011 and would restrict the source of adoptions to orphanages, rather than hospitals or other institutions. The planned rule change follows revelations in May 2011 that members of a government family planning unit in Hunan had kidnapped and trafficked at least 15 babies to couples in the United States and Holland for US$3,000 each between 2002 and 2005. A subsequent police investigation determined there had been no illegal trafficking, despite testimony from parents who insist their children were abducted and subsequently trafficked overseas.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
In 1997 the government decriminalized homosexual conduct and in 2001 ceased to classify homosexuality as a mental illness. However, police continue to occasionally raid popular gay venues in what activists describe as deliberate harassment. Same-sex relationships are not legally recognized, adoption rights are denied to people in same-sex relationships, and there are no anti-discrimination laws based on sexual orientation. On April 4, 2011, Shanghai police raided Q Bar, a popular gay venue, alleging it was staging “pornographic shows.” Police detained more than 60 people, including customers and bar staff, and released them later that day. High-profile public support for overcoming social and official prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is increasingly common. On July 5 a China Central Television talk show host criticized homophobic online comments posted by a famous Chinese actress and urged respect for the LGBT community.
The situation in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and the neighboring Tibetan autonomous areas of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan province, remained tense in 2011 following the massive crackdown on popular protests that swept the plateau in 2008. Chinese security forces maintain a heavy presence and the authorities continue to tightly restrict access and travel to Tibetan areas, particularly for journalists and foreign visitors. Tibetans suspected of being critical of political, religious, cultural, or economic state policies are targeted on charges of “separatism.”
The government continues to build a “new socialist countryside” by relocating and rehousing up to 80 percent of the TAR population, including all pastoralists and nomads.
The Chinese government has given no indication it would accommodate the aspirations of Tibetan people for greater autonomy, even within the narrow confines of the country’s autonomy law on ethnic minorities’ areas. It has rejected holding negotiations with the new elected leader of the Tibetan community in exile, Lobsang Sangay, and warned that it would designate the next Dalai Lama itself.
In August Sichuan authorities imposed heavy prison sentences on three ethnic Tibetan monks from the Kirti monastery for assisting another monk who selfimmolated in protest in March. Ten more Tibetan monks and one nun had selfimmolated through mid-November, all expressing their desperation over the lack of religious freedom.
The Urumqi riots of July 2009—the most deadly episode of ethnic unrest in recent Chinese history—continued to cast a shadow over developments in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The government has not accounted for hundreds of persons detained after the riots, nor investigated the serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees that have surfaced in testimonies of refugees and relatives living outside China. The few publicized trials of suspected rioters were marred by restrictions on legal representation, overt politicization of the judiciary, and failure to publish notification of the trials and to hold genuinely open trials as mandated by law.
Several violent incidents occurred in the region in 2011, though culpability remains unclear. On July 12 the government said it had killed 14 Uighur attackers who had overrun a police station in Hetian and were holding several hostages. On July 30 and 31 a series of knife and bomb attacks took place in Kashgar. In both cases the government blamed Islamist extremists. In mid- August it launched a two-month “strike hard” campaign aimed at “destroying a number of violent terrorist groups and ensuring the region’s stability.” Under the guise of counterterrorism and anti-separatism efforts, the government also maintains a pervasive system of ethnic discrimination against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, along with sharp curbs on religious and cultural expression and politically motivated arrests.
The first national Work Conference on Xinjiang, held in 2010, endorsed economic measures that may generate revenue but are likely to further marginalize ethnic minorities. By the end of 2011, 80 percent of traditional neighborhoods in the ancient Uighur city of Kashgar will have been razed. Many Uighur inhabitants have been forcibly evicted and relocated to make way for a new city likely to be dominated by the Han population.
Hong Kong immigration authorities’ refusal in 2011 to grant entry to several visitors critical of the Chinese government’s human rights record raised concerns that the territory’s autonomy was being eroded. Concerns about police powers also continue to grow following heavy restrictions imposed on students and media during the visit of a Chinese state leader in September 2011.
The status of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong was strengthened in September when a court judged that rules excluding those workers from seeking the right of abode were unconstitutional. However, the Hong Kong government suggested it would appeal to Beijing for a review, further eroding the territory’s judicial autonomy.
Key International Actors
Despite voting in favor of a Security Council resolution referring Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in February, the Chinese government continued to ignore or undermine international human rights norms and institutions. In June, amidst outcry against the visit, China hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. In 2011 it significantly increased pressure on governments in Central and Southeast Asia to forcibly return Uighur refugees, leading to the refoulement of at least 20 people, and in October prevailed upon the South African government to deny a visa to the Dalai Lama, who wished to attend the birthday celebrations of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. That same month it exercised a rare veto together with Russia at the Security Council to help defeat a resolution condemning gross human rights abuses in Syria.
Although several dozen governments attended the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies honoring activist Liu Xiaobo, relatively few engaged in effective advocacy on behalf of human rights in China during 2011. While the US emphasized human rights issues during Hu Jintao’s January state visit to Washington, that emphasis—and the attention of other governments—declined precipitously once the Arab Spring began, making it easier for the Chinese government to silence dissent. Few audibly continued their calls for the release of Liu and others. Perhaps demonstrating the influence of growing popular objections to abusive Chinese investment projects, the Burmese government made a surprise announcement in September that it would suspend the primarily Chinesebacked and highly controversial Myitsone Dam. In Zambia, Chinese-run mining firms announced a sudden wage increase following the election of the opposition Patriotic Front, which had campaigned in part on securing minimum wage guarantees.
Sunday, 29 January 2012
|Mobile phone screenshot: Goddess of Democracy, in front of SOMart gallery building, San Francisco|
|Tank Man, in front of SOMart gallery building, San Francisco|
Tiananmen SquARed is a two part augmented reality public art project and memorial, dedicated human rights and democracy world-wide. The project includes virtual replicas of the Goddess of Democracy and Tank Man from the 1989 student uprising in Tiananmen Square. Both augmentations have been placed in Beijing at the precise GPS coordinates where the original incidents took place.
The Goddess of Democracy was a 33-foot tall statue, constructed in only four days out of foam and papier-mâché over a metal armature. Students from an art institute created the statue, placing it to face toward a huge picture of the late Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong. Tanks later flattened the statue when China’s military crushed the protest.
Tank Man was an anonymous man who stood in front of a column of Chinese Type 59 tanks the morning after the Chinese military forcibly removed protestors from in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. The man achieved widespread international recognition due to the videotape and photographs taken of the incident.
Although it has been more than twenty years since Tiananman Protest took place, the authorities persistently use all means possible to erase the fact that the Chinese people pursued democracy in this democratic and anti-corruption movement. Today in China, young people are not aware of the courageous actions that Tank Man and the Goddess of Democracy represent. Nonetheless, history should not be forgotten.
Information and communication technologies have inspired people to express their thoughts freely. We as artists, taking advantages of the development of mobile phone technology and smartphone applications, have revived the history of 1989 Tiananman Protest that has tremendous implications waiting for further examinations by our contemporaries.
Once the audience downloads the Layar Augmented Reality Browser to their Android or iPhone, he or she could stand in Tiananmen Square and point their device’s camera towards the northern side of the plaza where the Goddess of Democracy was originally erected. The application uses geolocation software to superimpose a computer generated 3D graphic of the Goddess of Democracy at the precise GPS coordinates of the original, enabling them to see the augmentation integrated into the physical location as if it existed in the real world. Similarly, the Tank Man augmentation would be placed on Chang’an Avenue northeast of Tiananmen Square in the exact location of the original event. Both augmentations will appear in the original scale and orientation.
Both virtual objects have been place at SOMArts in San Francisco as part of the I Am Crime exhibition.
Saturday, 28 January 2012
January 22nd, 2012, the eve of Chinese New Year. Chinese officials in the Tibet Autonomous Region held a ceremony to unveil a portrait of four Communist leaders: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. They go on to state that they will send these portraits, as well as Communist flags, to villages, homes, and temples in the region.Crazy Crab, the artist responsible for the Hexie Farm satirical cartoons, has been aiming many of his recent pieces at the situation in Tibet. His latest addition ridicules the “Nine-Must-Haves” policy:
[...]In December 2011, authorities in Tibet introduced the “Nine Must-Haves” policy. It dictates nine items that all temples must display or carry portraits of Communist leaders, the Communist flag and a copy of the state-run People’s Daily.
Friday, 20 January 2012
Exposing CPC Tyranny and Running to the Free World: My Statement on Leaving China
In the afternoon of January 11, 2012 in the Beijing airport, my family of three boarded a plane bound for the United States. We were escorted from our home to the boarding gate by five state security officers who then demanded to take a photo with me, after which they stalked off.
The choice to leave China was a difficult one for me to make. It also took a very long time.
Since I published Fire and Ice (火与冰) in 1998 when I was still in university, I have been closely watched by the Central Propaganda Department and police. After receiving an M.A. from Peking University in 2000, I was unable to find a job due to governmental interference and had to make a living as a “not-free writer.” During the Jiang Zemin era [1989-2002], I had been able to publish some of my works in China—there was still a certain space for free speech in China. After Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao took power in 2004, I was totally blocked. Since that time, no media in mainland China would print a single word by me, and articles by others which mentioned my name would be deleted. Though I was physically in China, I became an “exile at heart” and a “non-existent person” in the public space.
Despite that, I still did not stop writing. As an independent intellectual, I continued to criticize the CPC's autocratic system and became good friends with Liu Xiaobo, with whom I fought side by side. I have published fifteen or so books and over a thousand articles overseas. For this, I have been repeatedly harassed—summoned, placed under house arrest, threatened—and things worsened over time. In those years, during my visits to the U.S. and Europe, my friends would try to persuade me to stay, but I would answer, “So long as my life is not in danger, I will not leave China.” As a writer, freedom of speech and the freedom to publish are most fundamental. As a Christian, freedom of religion is essential. As an ordinary person, the freedom to live without fear is indispensable.
But I lost these most basic freedoms on October 8, 2010, after they announced that my best friend Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; illegal house arrests, torture, surveillance, tracking, and being taken on “trips” became part of my everyday life. After over a year of inhumane treatment and painful struggle, I had no choice but to leave China, to make a complete break from the fascist, barbaric, and brutal regime of the Communist Party of China.
This is what I have experienced over the past year: On October 8, 2010, the day that the Nobel Peace Prize for Liu Xiaobo was announced, I was on a visit to the U.S. I had given a speech at University of Southern California that day and heard the news that night. I was immensely excited and encouraged at the time, and immediately began preparations to return to China. Some friends warned me that the government must be in a rage from the humiliation, and, as a result, the human rights situation in China would worsen rapidly, and tried to persuade me to remain in the U.S. for a while. But for a decade, Liu Xiaobo had been my brother and closest friend; when he was the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, I was vice president; and I had personally experienced almost all of the human rights activities that he participated in. After Liu Xiaobo was arrested in December 2008, I was authorized by his wife, Liu Xia, to write his biography. That was why I urgently wanted to return to China and continue with my interviews of Liu's friends and family, so that I could complete this important work as soon as possible.
On October 13, five days after the Nobel Peace Prize was announced, I returned to China. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was put under house arrest by Beijing’s state security officers. Four plainclothes policemen watched the entrance to my home 24 hours a day, even pressing a table against the main door and installing six cameras and infrared detectors at the front and back of my house. They surrounded us like a dragnet, as if facing a formidable foe.
For the first few days my wife was still able to go to work. Liu Xia had asked Liu Xiaobo’s brother and my wife to buy some clothing and food for Liu Xiaobo. Unfortunately, one day the police found a note from Liu Xia to my wife when searching Liu’s brother. After that, my wife's mobile phone was abruptly shut down and she was similarly put under house arrest round-the-clock and not allowed to go to work.
One day, my wife got sick with a fever of over 40 °C [104 °F]; though she was nearly unconscious, the police would not allow her to go to the hospital. A state security officer from the Chaoyang District Public Security Bureau named Hao Qi (郝琪) threatened viciously, “Even if you die at home, I wouldn't let you out. If you die, someone from the higher up will come and deal with it!” Extremely anxious, I turned to the Internet for help, and a kind friend saw my call for help on Twitter and called an ambulance. But the police still blocked the medics at the door. Thankfully, the doctor persisted and eventually they were allowed in to take my wife's temperature. The doctor said that her temperature was dangerously high and that she must go to the hospital for IV treatment. After several rounds of negotiations, my wife was finally taken to the hospital in the ambulance in early morning. Six police officers followed her closely, but I was not allowed to go with my wife.
The situation only continued to worsen. At the beginning of November, my phone, Internet, and mobile services were all cut off, so no one could contact us; my wife and I were at home in a state of total isolation. The everyday items that we needed, we could only write them down on a piece of paper and the state security officers would buy them for us, and then we would pay them. We did not know anything that was happening outside. We could not contact our parents or our child. This continued day after day, and we did not know when it would end and felt that it was even worse than being in prison. In prison, you have a specific prison term; you have the right to family visits; and each day you are let out for exercise. But we had basically fallen into an endless black hole, and every day felt like a year. This continued for almost two months.
December 9, the day before the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, was the darkest moment in my life. Just after 1 p.m., Wang Chunhui (王春辉), a state security officer from Chaoyang District whom I had been in contact with regularly, knocked on my door with Deputy Director Ma of the Dougezhuang substation—my local police station—and said, “Our boss wants to talk to you.” I did not suspect at all that this was a trap; I put on a coat over my house clothes and went with them.
I realized as soon as I went downstairs that something was up. Over a dozen plainclothes officers and several cars were waiting there. Immediately, two burly men charged at me, slapping the glasses from my face and covering my head with a black hood, and then forcing me into the back of a car. The car left at once, and two plainclothes officers sat on either side of me, twisting my hands, not allowing me to move.
After more than an hour, we arrived at some secret location. One of the state security officers wedged my head under his armpit and dragged me into a room. They ordered me to sit on a chair and not move—if I did, they'd beat me. I was wearing the black hood the entire time, so breathing was very difficult.
At around 10 p.m., they removed the black hood. Just as I was taking a breath, several of the plainclothes officials came at me again and began beating me in the head and the face without explanation. They stripped off all my clothes and pushed me, naked, to the ground, and kicked me maniacally. They also had a camera and were taking pictures as I was being beaten, saying with glee that they would post the naked photos online.
They forced me to kneel and slapped me over a hundred times in the face. They even forced me to slap myself. They would be satisfied only when they heard the slapping sound, and laughed madly. They also kicked me in the chest and then stood on me after I had fallen to the ground. One of my ribs hurt for a month, as if broken; even bending to get out of bed was very difficult.
They forced me to spread out my hands and bent my fingers backwards one by one. They said, “You've written many articles attacking the Communist Party with these hands, so we want to break your fingers one by one.” They also brought lit cigarette butts near my face, causing my skin to burn with pain, and they insultingly blew their cigarette smoke in my face.They verbally abused me nonstop with vulgar language, calling me a traitor to the state and to the Chinese people, and trash. They also insulted my friends and family. Then they forced me to use their words to insult myself; if I did not, they would beat and kick me harder.
The head state security officer announced, “There are three charges against you: one, you took an active part over the past ten years in all of the reactionary things that Liu Xiaobo had done; you both were tools of imperialism used to subvert China. Two, in a book you published in Hong Kong, China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao (中国影帝温家宝), you viciously attacked a leader of the Party and state; you did not listen to any of our good advice, so we can only use violence against you. Three, you’re even writing Liu Xiaobo’s biography; if you publish this book, we’re definitely going to send you to jail.”
He went on, “If the order comes from above, we can dig a pit to bury you alive in half an hour, and no one on earth would know. Right now, foreigners are awarding Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize, humiliating our Party and government. We’ll pound you to death to avenge this.” He added, “As far as we, state security, can tell, there are no more than 200 intellectuals in the country who oppose the Communist Party and are influential. If the central authorities think that their rule is facing a crisis, they can capture them all in one night and bury them alive.”
I do not know for how many hours the physical and verbal abuse continued. Then I fainted and my body would not stop twitching. They drove me to a hospital to try to rescue me. At that time, I was largely unconscious and only heard hazily that this was a hospital in Changping in the outskirts of Beijing. I heard the doctor say that I was severely injured, that they didn’t have the wherewithal to treat me, and that the police had to try at a larger hospital in the city. The police said, “Then you send him in an ambulance; we’ll pay.” The doctor said, “Our ambulance doesn’t have the equipment he needs. You need to immediately get one from the city that has emergency care equipment, otherwise he won’t be saved.”
Soon, an ambulance from the city arrived and took me to a hospital for Party elites, Beijing Hospital. The police gave me the fake name of Li Li (李力) and told the hospital, “This man is having epileptic seizures.”
I was wrestled from the brink of death after several hours of emergency treatment. Early the next morning, a doctor came to my room on his rounds and asked about my condition. Just as I struggled to say, “They beat me,” a policeman beside me quickly pulled the doctor aside. Another leaned close and hissed into my ear, “If you talk this kind of nonsense again, we’ll pull out all the tubes from your body and let you die.”
In the afternoon of December 10, they said that I was out of danger, so they checked me out of the hospital and took me to the hotel next door, where I rested for the afternoon. That night they told me that their boss wanted to see me, so they took me to another suite. The official who came to see me said his name was Yu and he was the deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau and head of the State Security Brigade. He said deceitfully, “What happened yesterday was a misunderstanding—my subordinates’ mistakes. Don’t tell anyone outside about this.” For the next few days, I stayed in a place on the outskirts of Beijing that they had arranged. There they interrogated me every day about what I had done over the past few years, what I had written. They forced me to write a statement of promises, including not meeting with foreign reporters, not accepting interviews, not contacting anyone from the foreign embassies, and not criticizing by name the nine members of the Standing Committee [of the CPC’s Politburo] in my articles.
On December 13, 2010, I was released. For the following two weeks, my wife and I were able to leave our home, though we had to inform the state security officers stationed downstairs on a 24-hour watch where we were going and when we would return home. At the end of December, I went to my hometown in Sichuan, and they escorted me to the airport. I stayed there at my former home for four months. While I was there, state security officers would come by every half month or so to interrogate me about what I was up to. Someone who said his name was Jiang and that he was a department head, another person who said his name was Zhang and that he was a section chief, and some other junior officers—they were the “team” in charge of my case.
For the following year, at any “sensitive moment,” such as a holiday, a memorial day, an opening day for a major governmental meeting, or a day when foreign dignitaries would be visiting, I would be illegally placed under house arrest in my home or asked to leave the city on a trip. This happened nearly every few days, so for nearly half the time I lost my freedom totally or partially. I was also forced to stop publishing articles overseas almost entirely, because every time I published an article, state security would come to my door at once with threats. There are three people in my family, but we were forced to live in three separate places: I was put under surveillance away from home; my wife worked in Beijing; and my son was being cared for by my parents in my hometown in Sichuan. Soon my wife lost her job because state security police put pressures on her company three times, and this was not the first time this kind of thing occurred. Most of the time, I was also unable to go to church or attend Bible study meetings and could not regularly practice my faith as a Christian. To me, this was an extremely painful thing.
During this time of great difficulty, when even the basic way of life could not continue, when the family could not live together, when I lost my freedom to write totally, when personal safety could not be guaranteed, and after persisting for 14 years as an intellectual in China speaking the truth, I was forced to make the decision to leave China.
However, in summer 2011, when I made the request to go abroad with state security authorities, they informed me that their superiors would not permit me and my wife to leave the country. We talked back and forth until finally I was told that they would consider my request after Christmas. After Christmas, I bought plane tickets to the U.S. and told the state security police that I would go no matter what, and if they detained me at the airport, I would do everything in my power to resist and tell everything. They said that they would do their best to get their superiors to remove the ban on my wife and me to leave the country.
On January 9, two days before I was to leave for the U.S., Jiang, the department head at the Beijing State Security Brigade, informed me the new deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (and head of the State Security Brigade) wanted to see me. On January 10, they took me to a suite in a hotel. The official said his name was Liu and was the successor to Yu, the official I had met previously. He told me to write a letter of guarantee, and then they would consider my request. He said, “China is growing stronger by the day, while the U.S. is getting weaker by the day, so why go there?” Would he dare question Vice President Xi Jinping about his sending his daughter to Harvard to study?
After finishing the letter of guarantee that I was forced to write, I was approved to go. This senior official cautioned me, “Do not think that you’ll be free once you get to the U.S. If you say or do something that you shouldn’t, you won’t be able to return home. You still have family here in China, and won’t you want to come back to visit them? You need to continue to be careful in what you say and do.” That a regime could go so far as to use withholding a citizen's constitutionally-conferred right to enter and leave the country as a threat only shows its hypocrisy and impotence.
And that is how, on January 11, my family boarded a plane to the U.S. under the tight monitoring of state security officers.
I am now in the United States, a free country. Here, I solemnly state that [what I said in] the interrogations and the letter of guarantee that I wrote were produced under torture and coercion, and against my will, and they are completely null and void.
I further state that I shall make public to the international community all that I have endured over this past year and that I shall file a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international agencies. I shall continue to criticize the Communist Party dictatorship in my writings. This increasingly fascist, barbaric, and brutal regime is the greatest threat to the free world and the greatest threat to all freedom-loving people. I vow to continue to oppose the tyranny of the Communist Party of China.
After arriving in the U.S., my main writing plans for the near future are: publish the Chinese edition of Liu Xiaobo’s biography two months from now and various foreign language editions afterwards. I began writing the biography in early 2009, and it is the only biography of Liu Xiaobo authorized by Liu Xia. I hope, through this biography, to comprehensively introduce Liu Xiaobo’s life, philosophy, and creativity, and give readers around the world, including those inside China, a deeper understanding of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I will use this book as an opportunity to call on people on every possible occasion to continue to pay close attention to Liu Xiaobo’s and Liu Xia's fates so that they can be freed as soon as possible.
I also plan to publish a new book, Hu Jintao: Cold-Blooded Tyrant (冷血暴君胡锦涛), within the next six months. This will be the companion book to China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao and will be a eulogy for Hu Jintao as he exits the stage of history. Hu Jintao will be a comprehensive analysis of Hu’s governance and provide analysis and commentary on the major features of the Hu era, including “harmonious society,” “the rise of a great nation,” “China model,” and “stability maintenance.” It will enable readers in China and beyond as well as the international community to see the truth behind China’s economic growth—reckless autocracy, rampant corruption, deterioration of human rights, damage to the environment, moral decline—and that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao are sinners of history whose sins cannot be forgiven.
After I left China, many friends there showed sympathy for and understanding of my decision and offered me encouragement and hope. I am deeply touched and encouraged by this. In the free world, I can access even more information, so my writing and thinking not only will not regress, rather, they will advance and improve. I believe that I will continue to write good works that will not betray the expectations of my friends.
On the other hand, I will put forth my voice on the broader international platform on behalf of the struggle for democracy and freedom in China. In particular, I shall urge the international community to pay more attention to the situation of those deprived of their liberty, e.g., Liu Xiaobo, Liu Xia, Chen Guangcheng, Gao Zhisheng, Hu Jia, and Fan Yafeng, as well as those relatively unknown, such as Liu Xianbin, Chen Wei, Chen Xi, and Yang Tianshui. I have already attained my hard-won freedom and security; to speak out for my compatriots who have neither freedom nor security is a responsibility and a mission that I cannot shirk. Be bound with those who are bound, and mourn with those who mourn—this too is God’s teaching to Christians.
I am a true patriot. There is a line in Macbeth that goes, “I think our country sinks beneath the yoke; / It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash / Is added to her wounds.” I worry and suffer about this. I will make exposing and criticizing the tyrannical rule of the CPC my life’s cause. For each day that this government that has robbed and plundered China’s riches and enslaved and crippled the Chinese people does not fall, I will not stop exposing and criticizing it. I further believe that in the near future I will return to a China that has achieved democracy and freedom. Then, our lives will be like those described in the Bible, “[Behold,] how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” And those kleptocrats and traitors who wrought tyranny, from Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao to every wicked state security officer, will be put on trial to await an even more shameful end than that of Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, and Muammar al-Gaddafi. Let us work together so that that day may come as soon as possible.