Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ding Zilin Recalls 74 Days of House Arrest

As dissident Liu Xiaobo was being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, other dissidents in China faced lengthy period of isolation and house arrest at the hand of the government. Many of them lost contact with outside world for weeks, if not months, of time. Ding Zilin, founder of "Tiananmen Mothers", and her husband Jiang Peikun are no exception. They were forced into house arrest for 74 days between October 8, when the news of Nobel prize first broke, and December 20.

They recently published a detailed account of their experience.

On October 8, the couple were in Wuxi, a southern city, when they waited for the news on their computer. Immediately after the announcement, they received a phone call from a foreign media for comment. Ding Zilin managed only a couple of sentences before the phone went dead. Soon, their internet connection was also cut. But they were still able to contact a few friends with cell phone and drafted a statement in the name of "Tiananmen Mothers". They managed to send out the statement by email from the apartment of a relative's.

Yet no sooner as the email was transmitted four strangers, self-identified as local officers for national security, rushed into the apartment to confiscate the computer and USB drives. In the ensuring struggle, Ding Zilin fainted and fell. She had to be hospitalized.

For weeks, the couple were confined at Wuxi, with their request of returning to Beijing denied and without any computer, phone or cell phone. Their relatives were forced to sign an agreement not to provide any assistance for them. Ding Zilin suffered from memory loss. The doctor who examined her said she had had a concussion.

In November, they learned that some of their friends had received email from their account, which appeared to be forged by their handlers.

After much protesting and bargaining, they were finally allowed to return Beijing on December 14. But at the last minute, they were forbidden to return home and had to continue their house arrest in a secret location in the suburb. Not until December 20, the day before their respective birthdays on 20 and 21, when they were finally allowed to return home and see their surviving son.

The details of their ordeal, written by the couple in Chinese, can be read here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Liu Binyan Buried in Beijing, Finally

Five years after his death in America, the famous journalist and dissident Liu Binyan finally found his resting place in a cemetery in a Beijing suburb.

His tombstone bears his name and birth/death years. However, the words he wished to be presented, "this Chinese laying here, he had done what he should do and said what he should say", is absent. Apparently that was not allowed by the authority.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

People of 1989: Wang Ruowang

The outspoken author Wang Ruowang belonged to the older generation who had joined the Communist revolution in China in the very earlier days. In fact, he got himself in jail for that when he was barely a teenager, sentenced to 10 years under the Nationalist regime in 1934. Fortunately he was released only 3 years later. He immediately made a trip to Yan'an, the then heartland of the communists, and joined the Chinese Communist Party. He was only 19 years old then.

Yan'an did not turn out to be the holy place he had dreamed about. He got himself in trouble quickly there due to his outspokenness and saw one of his friends killed during an ideological purge.

In the 1950s, he was labeled as a "rightist" for some of the articles he published. He was expelled from the Party and sent to countryside to reform through labor. That did not work on him however, for he got into trouble again in 1968 by speaking negatively about the top leadership. This time he was sent to jail for 4 years. It's his second time in prison, but first one under the communist rule.

Like most of his compatriots, Wang Ruowang was rehabilitated in the late 1970s with Deng Xiaoping's reform. He was re-admitted into the Party and assigned to be a deputy editor of a literary magazine in Shanghai. And he started writing again.

Wang Ruowang published a series of novels and articles in the liberating 1980s. But it was an article he published in 1986 that got the most attention, as it was titled One-Party Dictatorship Can Only Lead to Tyranny.

So in January of 1987, Wang Ruowang was named one of the symbols of "Bourgeois Liberalization" movement, along with Fang Lizhi and Liu Binyan. [However, there are credible indications that he was named because of a mistake by Deng Xiaoping.] He was once again expelled from the Party. He was also forbidden to travel abroad.

In early 1989, Wang Ruowang marched in the street of Shanghai in April to protest the purge of newspaper World Economic Herald, an early crackdown engineered by then mayor Jiang Zemin. He marched again in May to support the student hunger strike in Beijing.

After the Tiananmen Massacre, Wang Ruowang was once again put in jail for his earlier actions--the third time he saw prison. He was already 71 years old.

He was finally allowed to travel abroad in 1992 and settled in America. He traveled extensively in North America in an attempt to consolidate the hopelessly fragmented oversea dissident movement. His effort failed miserably.

He passed away on December 19, 2001 in a hospital in New York City. He was 83.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chai Ling Lost Court Case Against "Gate of Heavenly Peace" Producer

A couple of years ago, former 1989 student leader Chai Ling, her husband and their company Jenzabar, filed lawsuits in a Massachusetts court against the Long Bow Group, the producer of famed documentary Gate of Heavenly Peace. In 1998, the court threw out claims for defamation, but the case involving a trademark claim dragged on.

This week, a trial judge summarily rejected the trademark claim.

This lawsuit had generated quite some interests. Chai Ling's supporters, led by his former husband Feng Congde, issued an open letter claiming to "defend the name of June 4th". That letter was co-signed by a few more 1989 leaders including Fang Zheng, Zhang Jian, Xiong Yan, Zhou Fengsuo, Cheng Zhen, Zheng Yi, etc.

On the other side, a group of intellectuals published an open letter supporting the Long Bow Group in the name of freedom of speech.

It is quite clear, however, that Chai Ling's lawsuit on the ground of trademark is nothing but a thinly wailed attempt to silence the Long Bow Group, whose use of her "Last Words" video record cast her in a controversial light. With this court ruling, it appears that she had lost this battle.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

People of 1989: Liu Binyan

The famous journalist Liu Binyan was not in Beijing during the 1989 student movement. In fact, he was out of the country in the United States on a lecturing tour. He watched the movement on television and became a prominent oversea voice.

Born in 1925, Liu Binyan spent his childhood in Northeast China under the occupation of the imperial Japanese army. He had to drop out of school after ninth grade because of poverty but he managed to acquire a lifelong passion for books on his own. Later, the young Liu Binyan joined the underground Communist Party in the 1940s.

After the communists took power, Liu Binyan worked as an editor, investigative reporter, and Party secretary of the China Youth News. It was in that position that he first ran into trouble with the authority in the mid-1950s. His budding work on exposing corruption in the "new China" led him to be branded as a "rightist". He was expelled from the Party and sent to a mountain village to be reformed through hard labor.

Liu Binyan's literate career finally took off a couple of decades later, when he was redeemed in 1978, at the cusp of Deng Xiaoping's reform. He was readmitted into the Communist Party became a special reporter for the People's Daily. Throughout the 1980s, he published a series of investigative reports that gained national fame and international attention. His exposure of corrupt officials struck a chord with the common folks and he was praised as "China's conscience." However, his work also tended to blur the line between facts and fiction, a trend deeply rooted in China's literate tradition.

His outspokenness also irked Deng Xiaoping. In January of 1987 and after a series of student protests, Liu Binyan was once again expelled from the Communist Party as a symbol of the socalled "Bourgeois Liberation" movement, along with Fang Lizhi and Wang Ruowan.

A year later, Liu Binyan was allowed to travel abroad. When he was teaching at UCLA, his host Perry Link remembers him as the only scholar from China who showed no interest in Disneyland. Instead, "for days, his favorite hangout was a used-book store run by the Salvation Army. Already self-taught in English as well as Russian, he bought piles of paperbacks for 25 cents apiece and read them until 3am, night after night, devouring everything from the musings of Malcolm X to analyses of Eastern European socialism."

In 1989, Liu Binyan watched the student movement from across the ocean. While his direct influence to the movement was limited, he became a tireless cheerleader on the American media and always ready to spill out inside information he gathered from "his friends in Beijing" and his own optimistic predictions, many of which proved questionable at best.

During the later years of his life as he battled cancer, Liu Binyan lobbied for returning to his motherland by writing letters to a series of Chinese leaders including Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and Wen Jiabao. His appeal fell into deaf ears. He finally passed away on December 5, 2005, in a hospital in New Jersey. He was 80.

Despite his dissent, Liu Binyan remained a loyalist to his ideals which included his belief in the "true" Marxism and socialism. Through one of his most famous works, he named it a "second kind of loyalty" -- being both loyal and truthful at the same time.

He had told his wife that he wished to have the following words in his tombstone: "this Chinese laying here, he had done what he should do and said what he should say."

UPDATE: Five years after his death, his ashes were finally buried in Beijing.

People of 1989