27 January 2010

"Looking Back at Those Years" (5): Yang Zili's Memory Tweets

This is the final installment (for a while, at least) of my translations of tweets by Yang Zili, one of the founding members of the New Youth Study Society, recalling his detention, trial, and days in prison. As long as he keeps writing, I'll keep translating, but for a while I'm going to turn my attention to other things.

Looking Back at Those Years (23–29)

According to the theory of class dictatorship, prisoners are all targets of the dictatorship. Only by owning up to one's crimes can one be rewarded with sentence reduction or parole. Even humanitarian treatment such as phone calls to family members is premised on confessing guilt. Of course those who are truly treated unjustly will file a petition [to have their case reconsidered], with the result being they have to spend N more years in prison for nothing. The more innocent you are, the more cruel they treat you, while real murderers and robbers get their sentences reduced with an easy conscience.

Once a month we cleaned the detention center, and everyone's personal belongings were washed and sorted. Afterwards, they made all the inmates strip naked, even giving our rectums a look. If you'd pissed off a guard, he would take this opportunity to humiliate you. If he had a decent impression of you, he would just check quickly. Each time, Old Hua would joke: “Here comes the proctologist!”

Tobacco and alcohol were forbidden in prison, but inmates could always get cigarettes if they wanted them. Alcohol was controlled more strictly, but it could still be had. An inmate only had to find a guard with whom he had a good relationship to sell it to him at a high price. I even saw inmates watching pornographic movies on a Playstation Portable.

An inmate heard I was sentenced unjustly and said, “So, you were offering opinions to help the Party govern better?” I told him no. “Then no one treated you unjustly,” he said. “You were trying to overthrow the Communist Party.” I said, “I denounced them on behalf of rural people because I didn't want rural people to have to endure any more injustice.” He wasn't convinced. I explained: “Am I having this conversation with you because I'm trying to serve you? No. Is it because I'm trying to harm you? Also no. It's easy to understand, so long as you don't get bogged down in the 'Party nucleus.'”

During the prosecutor's questioning at my appeal trial, I said in my defense that we hadn't done anything to oppose the government. She said that what we said and wrote wasn't in line with the Central Committee. Who knew that being out of line was a crime? No wonder Chinese people have no way to innovate!

Something I overheard while in prison: An inmate read in the newspaper that an accomplice of his had been arrested, so he immediately turned himself in, saying that the two of them had once killed a man. He turned himself in out of fear that what the other guy would say might put his life at risk. But the police told him, “The killer in that case has already been executed, so you have nothing to worry about!”

BH, a friend of mine in prison, told me that he'd originally been sentenced to death but that his sentence had been suspended for two years during the final review of the case. One day, he was taken for a physical examination at the hospital, where he heard the doctor say: "This guy's a Hui Muslim, so you have to bury him when he's dead. Examining him would be a complete waste of time!" [Translator's note: The implication here is that the physical examination was to determine the suitability of his organs for transplantation after execution.]

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