12 February 2010

No Dissidents in China?

Yesterday, during the twice-weekly press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spokesman Ma Zhaoxu* responded to a reporter's question about "dissident" Liu Xiaobo (whose 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion" was just upheld) thusly:

"There are no dissidents in China . . . In China, you can judge yourself whether such a group exists. But I believe this term is questionable in China."

(For more, see China Digital Times.)

In response, the well-known artist and prolific blogger Ai Weiwei posted this deconstruction of the "multi-layered" meaning of Ma's statement, the core of which I translate below:


1. Dissidents are criminals.
2. Only criminals have dissident ideas.
3. The distinction between criminals and non-criminals is whether they have dissident views.
4. If you think China has dissidents, you're a criminal.
5. The reason China has no dissidents is because they have already become criminals.
6. Does anyone have a dissenting view about what I've said?


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* Prior to this, Ma had perhaps been best known for his recent cavalier statement about missing lawyer Gao Zhisheng: "He is where he should be."

03 February 2010

"Looking Back at Those Years" (6): Yang Zili's Memory Tweets



Looking Back at Those Years
(30–35):

30.
The guard in charge of ideology often came to speak with me. He said we'd have problems if I said that the period under Mao, as dark as it was, was much worse than today. But if I said that there'd been much progress since Mao's time, they'd be very happy to hear this.

31.
I wasn't allowed to have visits from family members when I was in the detention center, but once Xiao Han came to see me in his capacity as a lawyer. According to him, the prison wouldn't allow me receive a copy of Fortress Besieged. When they saw The Federalist Papers, investigators asked what kind of book it was. Xiao Han told them it was about patriotism, so they let me read it.

32.
During family visits at the prison, we were separated by a glass window. If there was something important, relatives would write it down on a piece of paper and inmates would write on their hands. The most convenient approach was to bribe a guard.

33.
The head of the detention center carried out an inspection ahead of the 16th Party congress and asked me my opinion. I said it was progress. My fellow inmate Old Huo asked me,” Aren't you always criticizing [the Party]?” I answered, “If someone slaps you and then kicks you day after day, when they stop kicking you, naturally that's progress. But you're still going to object to them slapping you!”

34.
When after two years there still hadn't been a verdict in our case, a guard said to me that in his experience this was a good sign. Even if it didn't mean being set free, it could mean a light sentence. Maybe it's actually like that for ordinary prisoners, but those charged with subversion or incitement better not harbor any fantasies.

35.
My fellow inmate Old Huo said that back when Zhu Rongji centralized all of the provincial branches of the Bank of Communications, local officials complained. Zhu hinted that they could take back the credit unions in the cities. This is how private banks became nationalized. Of the more than hundred heads of Beijing credit unions, more than 90 percent have been taken into custody.