21 January 2010

"Looking Back at Those Years" (1): Yang Zili's Memory Tweets

Yang Zili, one of the founding members of the New Youth Study Society (which I blogged about previously here) was released last March after serving eight years in a Beijing prison for subversion. (If you haven't read the definitive account of the New Youth Society by the Washington Post's Phil Pan, do it right away.) Another society member, Zhang Honghai, was released from a Zhejiang prison at the same time, while two other members, Jin Haike and Xu Wei, are still in prison.

Yang recently joined Twitter and has been posting a series of brief takes on his arrest, trial, and days in prison. They seem to be pretty popular, and I thought it'd be worth translating them into English. Since I'm not aware of anyone else taking it on, I thought it'd be a good project for me. Here's the first batch:

Looking Back at Those Years (1–4)

A few days before I was arrested, some plainclothes police moved in across the way. The landlord came to me in a panic and said there'd be trouble if I didn't move. I felt I was innocent and, besides, where could I run to? Not long after, I was arrested by the state security bureau. To this day, whenever I see a policeman, including a domestic security agent, I feel a true sense of intimacy!

When he was at the China University of Geosciences, [Jin] Haike was an outstanding Party member. He did everything according to the standards of a Party member, including, naturally, being concerned about national affairs. In forming the society, he even took a page from the ceremony for entering the Party and even wanted to subject everyone to “organizational discipline.” In the end, not only did no one pay attention to the discipline, this idea actually violated a great Party taboo!

[Fan] Erjun was pressured to give false testimony, saying that Haike and Xu Wei wanted to subvert the government through violence and that I was for peaceful evolution. The two of them were sentenced to 10 years, and I got eight years. After giving the false testimony, Erjun was rewarded as an outstanding Party member in Haidian [District] and was promoted to vice chairman of the student work department of his school's Party committee. When he finally discovered his conscience and insisted on appearing in court to testify about the true situation, he was drummed out of Beihang University and wound up setting up the “Utopia” website and making a living there. Clearly, fraud and deceit will lead to official promotion, but seeking truth from facts is something the Party-state cannot bear.

The prosecutor asked me, “Were you a threat?” “No,” I answered. He retorted, “By the time you were, it would be too late! If we let you grow bigger, you might try to overthrow [the government], so now it's a crime!” According to this logic of “nipping evil in the bud,” I committed a crime by getting married: I might pass on dangerous ideas to the next generation!

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