If the government treats the people as its enemy…
The Chinese Communist Party has not yet blocked this website.
Last week accessing the Internet and the rest of the telecommunication network in China was even more difficult than normal. Phone and email conversations were not as smooth as they usually are and interruptions were frequent. Typically most western media websites are inaccessible without the use of a proxy server, but these days even proxy servers are no help. Of course, The New York Times and Bloomberg.com are blocked for obvious reasons; both media giants offended the Chinese authority when they released articles exposing the enormous wealth of Premier Wen Jiabao’s clan.
- During the Cultural Revolution, people were sentenced to death or outright murdered because of one wrong sentence. In China today writers do not lose their lives over their poems or articles; however, they are jailed for years. My friend Liu Xiaobo for example will stay in prison till 2020; even winning the Nobel Peace Prize could not help him. In prison those lucky enough not to be sentenced to hard labor play “blind chess” to kill time AND TO TRAIN THE BRAIN NOT TO RUST. Freedom of expression is still a luxury in China. The firewall is everywhere, yet words can fly above it and so can our thoughts. My column, like the blind chess played by prisoners, is an exercise to keep our brains from rusting and the situation in China from indifference.
- Tienchi Martin-Liao is the president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center. Previously she worked at the Institute for Asian Affairs in Hamburg, Germany, and lectured at the Ruhr-University Bochum from 1985 to 1991. She became head of the Richard-Wilhelm Research Center for Translation in 1991 until she took a job in 2001 as director of the Laogai Research Foundation (LRF) to work on human rights issues. She was at LRF until 2009. Martin-Liao has served as deputy director of the affiliated China Information Center and was responsible for updating the Laogai Handbook and working on the Black Series, autobiographies of Chinese political prisoners and other human rights books. She was elected president of the Independent Chinese PEN Center in October 2009 and has daily contact with online journalists in China.
However, blocked information is only a part of the recent inconveniences. Some of my friends in Beijing are trapped in their homes and are not allowed to leave without first asking the police for permission. If they’re fortunate, an officer will accompany them in their vehicle and bring them where they want to go, even if the dissidents are just going grocery shopping.
Indeed security was heightened all over the country from November 8 to 14 for the CCP’s 18th Party Congress, even though some of the suspected “trouble makers,” such as Hu Jia or Liu Xiaoyuan, were evacuated beforehand. During this time 1.4 million volunteer security personnel (also called self-defense-troops) and 2.8 million armed security police were dispatched to protect the stability of the capital city, and the safety of the 2,300 representatives participating in the Congress. The government treats the people like their most dangerous enemy: On the “free” market, kitchen knives and scissors, as well as remote controlled airplane toys, were forbidden merchandise. In Hubei province 60 thousand police had to cancel their well-deserved holiday in order to be in a state of readiness and maintain security so that the Congress could be held in peace in Beijing. The atmosphere in some provinces was as tense as if the country was under martial law.
The nervousness could also be felt a thousand miles away from Beijing. Even in the southern city of Fuzhou one of my friends was surprised by a special gift from the CCP. A team of construction workers arrived days before the 18th Party Congress to install four 360-degree rotating HD cameras around her house. These cameras reinforce the existing surveillance network, as there is already a 24 hour-monitoring system in place behind her neighbor’s curtains. Fan Yanqiong, the dainty female writer who is the subject of the cameras, is an “enemy of the state” because she likes to make noise about social and political injustice. She once exposed the injustice behind the case of Yan Xiaoling, a girl who was raped and murdered. Because of that, Fan went to jail for a year and her health was ruined. She lost all her hair and has been confined to wheelchair since her release. Her husband left her because he could not bear the burden of being married to an “enemy of the state,” and even Fan’s 25-year-old daughter, who was raised by the single mother, is on the brink of breaking off contact with her. Fan’s daughter could barely find a job because of her infamous mother and she eventually lost her beloved boyfriend when he found out about Fan’s political activities.
Tragedies occur all too often in this huge empire that dares to name itself a People’s Republic. No laws protect human rights and individuals pay a high price if they try to protect their rights themselves. Will this situation change after the 18th Party Congress? Definitely not. Mrs. Fan and all of the other “enemies of the state” know that without systemic changes, without the end of the one-party dictatorship, there will be no real reform or change in China.