22 January 2010

"Looking Back at Those Years" (3): Yang Zili's Memory Tweets

Here's the third installment of tweeted recollections by Yang Zili, founding member of the New Youth Study Society. The first two segments are here and here. I've included two extra tweets at the end that I thought were particularly worth sharing.

Looking Back at Those Years

The first year I was in the State Security Bureau Detention Center, I ate really well because I was a Hui Muslim. The second year, I ate really poorly, also because I was a Hui Muslim and got no preferential treatment. When the third year began and there was still no end in sight for my case, I complained to the warden about the terrible food. The warden really responded and the food returned to normal. You have to fight for your rights.

My interrogator asked me, “Why did you write this article?” “That's the way I thought,” I answered. “Don't I have freedom of thought and freedom of speech?” He answered: “As long as its in your mind, you have freedom of thought. As soon as you speak, it becomes action!” Looking at it this way, since the constitution says nothing about “freedom to breathe,” every breath I take must be illegal.

After our first-instance trial opened in November 2001 we waited 1-1/2 years, then in came a woman from the court and her male assistant. “You've gained weight,” the woman said, laughing. “Have we met?” I asked, taken aback. “I'm the presiding judge in your trial,” she answered. All throughout, Judge [Bai Jun] was kind and considerate to us. Only after the sentence was handed down did I realize that even the most humane people in the criminal justice system were still machines.

In the same cell was a judge named Qiao. According to him, judges could decide cases with a maximum three-year sentence themselves. Cases with a maximum five-year sentence could be decided by the three-person panel of judges, but actually it was the presiding judge who decided with the other two only accompanying. Cases that might bring ten years or more, cases that had some social impact, or political cases all needed to be decided by the adjudication committee. On the adjudication committee, the judges only offered legal advice. Instructions from above were most important, and others' opinions were for reference. Basically, the court president had the final say.

My interrogator yelled, “Tell me! Didn't you shout”—his voice suddenly lowering—“ʻDown with the Communist Partyʼ?” Hearing this humorously abrupt change in his tone of voice, I realized it was because he was afraid that a recording of these five words might someday be used against him.

While in the detention center, I had a fellow inmate named Jiang who challenged me every time I said something against the “Three Represents.” I was surprised when, as he was leaving, he said to me in a low voice, “They should be overthrown!” All Jiang's hard work wasn't for naught: his sentence was reduced from 13 years to 10 years on appeal, which I'm told was something never before seen in cases handled by the State Security Bureau. Later, Jiang even got a sentence reduction and actually only served less than seven years—more than a year less than me. Some people can really adapt to their surroundings!

Jin Xing, the judge in our appeal trial, was worried that we'd hold a grudge against him, so he explained, “What I've said doesn't represent my personal views; it's the court's opinion.” Of course, we knew well that the decision to convict us came from above, but Jin Xing gave no advance notice [of the decision], didn't allow our relatives to attend the trial, didn't let me borrow a pen to take notes, didn't let our lawyers state our defense, and didn't allow witnesses to appear in court—were all these violations of the criminal procedure law on the instruction of the court president, Qin Zheng'an?

Bonus 1:
A person of conviction with less than five years to spend in prison can basically remain steadfast. With between six and ten years to serve, most people can't hang on. Anyone serving more than ten years who can remain committed is a saint. The understanding and support of family and the outside world are crucial factors governing how long [a prisoner] remains steadfast.

Bonus 2:
How long a person has to serve is not unimportant: Jiang Qisheng served four years, which for him was like the Monkey King entering the alchemy furnace. Liu Jingsheng served 12 years, of which eight years was spent struggling [against the verdict] and four years spent taking a softer approach. To this day, he feels those eight years weren't worth it. Hu Shigen served 16-1/2 years, the first twelve of which he remained faithful and unyielding; afterwards, he could only bow his head. For myself, I had high morale during the first six years, but during the last two years days passed like years. If I'd been sentenced to fifteen years, I'd probably confess guilt after the seventh year.

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