Chinese Pathetique: Get a Room With Me, Leave the Kids Alone!
Grave, Adagio cantabile, Rondo: Rape, Outrage, and the President’s Dance.
“Principal, get a room with me, leave the school kids alone” has become a popular phrase in China over the past few weeks. The trend had its beginnings on May 8th when the principal of the Wanning No. 2 Primary School in Hainan spent a night in a hotel with a government officer and six schoolgirls who were between 11 and 14 years old. The two men were accused of raping the girls, yet the police and authorities tried to cover the situation up as best they could. The official medical investigation showed that the girls’ hymen had not been ruptured, although the parents claimed the opposite, insisting that their daughters had been bleeding days after the incident.
- 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.
Finally, the authority could not stand the pressure and the People’s Procuratorate of Hainan Province prosecuted the suspicious principal and officer for rape. Within 20 days, many other cases of child molestation at the hands of teachers were exposed. Now people are outraged.
Mrs. Ye Haiyan, a women and children’s rights advocate, was the first to protest. Ye and her supporters traveled for hours by train and ferry to reach the Wanning No. 2 Primary School. For the next three hours they stood in front of the school, under the sweltering sun, and held placards with the words “Principal, get a room with me, leave the school kids alone” written on them. That day the demonstration seemed to provoke no response from the school’s authority.
Their revenge came soon, however. After Ye returned home to Guangxi Province, where she lives with her daughter, nine men and two women broke into the house and attacked her. Ye grabbed a kitchen knife and hurt three of the invaders in self-defense, but because of the violence she was taken away and detained by the police.
Ye’s arrest has since triggered a wave of mocking protests. Images of men, women, cartoon figures, and even pets posing with placards bearing the same, increasingly popular sentence, have appeared online. All invite the principal to have sex with them instead of the kids. Two Japanese actresses working in Beijing made the same request. Their actions spurred heated discussion: “Do we need Japanese women to safeguard the virginity of our children?” The Global Times. criticized the behavior of the Japanese actresses as “offending the business ethic,” but this time, even the Chinese citizens were on the Japanese actresses’ side and have been chastising the official media, saying, “It’s the dirty guys and the authority, not the young Japanese actresses, who lack morality and ethics.”
Among the prominent protesters are Ai Weiwei and scholar and filmmaker Professor Ai Xiaoming. While Ai Weiwei inked the protest’s sentence onto his exposed belly, Mrs. Ai Xiaoming posted a half-naked photo of herself holding a huge pair of scissors on her website. On her breast is scrawled “Get a room with me, let Ye Haiyan go.” On her Weibo page she wrote: “For Ye Haiyan, I take the fight. This is my body, which has given birth and nourished. These are my breasts, the evidence of a mother. Come to me and let the school kids and Ye Haiyan go.”
This is indeed a heroic act. Professor Ai Xiaoming, an internationally renowned filmmaker and human rights defender, laid down her pride and, with only the naked truth, showed her rage. In the picture, her eyes are piercing and penetrating, proud but sad. No words are needed. It’s a powerful appeal for justice and a strong challenge to power. No wonder her good friend, the famous playwright Sha Yexin, said: “I am in dismay. I saw Professor Ai Xiaoming expose her upper body. She is already the age of a grandmother, yet she needs to cry out for us. I wail for our rotten society without its bottom line, I weep because there is a volcano everywhere, I wail for the abnormal silence, I weep that there is no man in China. Power to the people, implement the constitution, don’t force people to grab a weapon.”
Now what, you may ask, was President Xi Jinping doing in response?
He was busy flying around the world, meeting with leaders from Russia, Africa, and Latin America, before “privately” meeting with President Obama. Essentially he was dancing with many partners before finally going to the one he really wants—the U.S. Isn’t his foreign policy intention clear? The disguised, arrogant attitude of a “superpower” indicates both longing for a good relationship with and a fear of America. Granted, Xi wears many veils and not everyone can see through them all. But in this, and his actions since taking office, the Los Angeles Times has labeled Xi more of a Maoist then a reformer.
Reformer or not, Xi is a cunning strategist who plays games in world politics, as well as with the Chinese people. On one hand, hiding behind the veil of integrity, he proclaims his determination to fight against corruption. On the other hand he tightens the grip of censorship. Yet his strategy is like playing with fire; one day he will singe his fingers and burn his own house down. Why not stop playing games and lend ears to the people, hear their wails, complaints, and roars? Remember the first virtue of a politician: Do not talk or act, but listen.