Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crackdown in Sichuan

A wave of recent crackdowns in the Sichuan Province has caught the attention of New York Times, which reported the formal arrests of Ran Yunfei, Ding Mao, and Chen Wei. All three of them are charged with the crime of "inciting subversion."

The formal charge came at the heels of the sentencing of Liu Xianbing to 10-year in prison for "subversion."

Two of the newly charged have direct links to the 1989 student movement. Ding Mao (丁茅) was a leader of the independent student organization at his Lanzhou University (兰州大学) at the time. Chen Wei (陈卫) was the same at his Beijing Institute of Technology (北京理工大学). The third one, Ran Yunfei, is a well-known author and blogger who has been detained about a month earlier.

Over at ChinaGeeks, Charlie Custer keeps "an incomplete list" of people who have been arrested, detained, or missing since the latest crackdown started a month or so ago when the so-called "Jasmine Revolution" stirred up.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

People of 1989: Haizi (海子)

The spring of 1989 was an interesting time. The year was abundant of upcoming significant anniversaries, or eager anticipations for them. Professor Fang Lizhi had started that year by issuing an open letter to Deng Xiaoping appealing for an amnesty of all political prisoners. The intellectual circle in the capital was abuzz with several supporting letters. Those were early signs of a gathering storm.

On March 26 that year, however, a lonely, skinny man quietly laid down his body across a railroad track in a remote mountain area outside of Beijing. When his body was later discovered, there were four books with him, a copy of the Bible and three literature books. He left a simple note, "I am a teacher in the University of Political Science and Law. My name is Cha Haisheng (查海生). My death has nothing to do with any other person."

The man named Cha Haisheng was much better known by his pen-name Haizi ("Song of the Sea").

In 1979, Haizi became a student in the Department of Law of Peking University at the mere age of 15. He graduated four years later and was assigned a teaching job at UPSL. Like any other college students of his generation, his career path was smooth and uneventful.

But Haizi had a passion for poetry. He caught the bug in the exciting years of early 1980s. Unlike most of the poems at the time, whose political undertones were obvious, his were a longing to a simpler, rural life. One of his poems stated,
From tomorrow, be a man of happiness,
Tend horses, split woods, and travel the world,
From tomorrow, pay attention to grain and vegetables,
I have a house, facing the great sea,
With spring warmth and blossoming flowers.

Yet his longing did not match the time of radical changes and reform. His disappointment of the materialistic reality and a future of commercialism eventually drove him into desperation. He was only 25 when he ended his own life.

Merely weeks after his unfortunate death, Hu Yaobang passed away and the largest student demonstration took place. Many of Haizi's friends and fellow poets participated in the movement. When they were immersed in the idealist and romantic scenes of a popular revolution, they felt sorry for Haizi's poor sense of timing. If only he had waited for a month... ...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Former 1989 Student Sentenced to 10 Years

There is little public record on what exactly Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌) did in 1989. But whatever he, then a junior in People's University, did was enough for him to be arrested in the aftermath and sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in 1992. That was the first time he saw prison.

After serving that term, he joined forces with fellow student leader Wang Dan, who was also released from his own prison term at the time, and attempted to continue their pro-democracy efforts in China. In 1996, Wang Dan was arrested again and sent into exile shortly after receiving an 11-year sentence. Liu Xianbin stayed put. In 1998, he participated in the organization of an opposition party in China and was once again sentenced to a 13-year prison term.

By now he has been spending a significant chunk of his adult life in jail. But he wasn't done yet. Shortly after his most recent release, he plunged into the then-fledging "Chart of 08" signature drive. On July 5, 2010, he was arrested for the third time.

Today, Liu Xianbin was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "subversion". His last public words were his desperate shouts in the courtroom: "I am innocent! I protest!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Arbor Day" at Tiananmen Square

As the symbolic center of the nation, Tiananmen Square is a vast area largely made up in concrete: floor, buildings and monuments. During the annual National Day cerebration, however, huge amount of potted flowers are transported into the Square and arranged in elaborate festive decorations. They last merely a week or so.

In more recent years, areas of grass lawns were planted on each side of the Square to show more greenness. Yet the lawns tend to get in the way of the floral decoration and have to be moved and replaced every year.

Until now.

A landscaping renovation is now in progress to make the lawns permanent with bush gardens of evergreens. The height of the trees will be kept under 1 meter tall. Officials explain that future National Day decorations will be done with smaller scales and not interfere with the new gardens.

The renovation will be completed within a month, in time for the May 1 International Labor Day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yan Jiaqi Enjoys his Retired Life

Mirror Monthly just provided a new glimpse of the life of Yan Jiaqi and his wife. The couple has recently retired to a small town in mid-Florida. Yan Jiaqi was described as calm and at ease. He has also kept on his thinking and writing.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tiananmen in Augmented Reality

The "4Gentlemen" at Exile Diary have created augmented reality apps for smartphones with scenes of the 1989 student movement.

According to their description:
Deploying Augmented Reality application, Layar for Android and iPhone, we have created virtual 'Statue of Democracy' and 'Tank Man,' and installed those monumental icons on the physical sites where the real incidents took place. Any visitor, domestic or from abroad, can find those virtual monuments on Tiananmen Square and nearby East Chang'an Street with an iPhone or Android mobile device, as well as taking picture with them.

The images above indicate the real incidents, making process of Statue of Democracy & Tank Man (F1 & F3), the Augmented Reality on mobile devices (F2 & F4), and the exact locations of the AR work on Google map (F5).

Audience Experience:
Once the audience downloads the Layar Augmented Reality Browser to their Android or iPhone, he or she could stand in Tiananmen Square and point their device's camera towards the northern side of the plaza where the Goddess of Democracy was originally erected. The application uses geolocation software to superimpose a computer generated 3D graphic of the Goddess of Democracy at the precise GPS coordinates of the original, enabling them to see the augmentation integrated into the physical location as if it existed in the real world. Similarly, the Tank Man augmentation would be placed on Chang'an Avenue northeast of Tiananmen Square in the exact location of the original event. Both augmentations will appear in the original scale and orientation.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Beijing Daily Warns Against Middle East-Style "Unrest"

In a front-page article titled "Conscientiously Safeguard Social Harmony and Stability," the Beijing Daily became the first official media in China to formally address the possibility of a "Jasmine Revolution" there.

The Associated Press paraphrases the article in its report:
Such movements [in Middle East] has brought nothing but chaos and misery to their countries' citizens and are engineered by a small number of people using the Internet to organize illegal meetings, the Beijing Daily, published by the city's party committee, said in a front-page editorial.

"The vast majority of the people are strongly dissatisfied (with the protests), so the performance by the minority becomes a self-delusional ruckus," the newspaper said.


In its editorial, the Beijing Daily attempted to draw a sharp distinction between China and the Middle Eastern countries roiled by unrest, where disdain for long-serving autocratic rulers has frequently been fueled by high unemployment and economic woes.
In a similar news report by AFP, however, the word "turmoil" is used in its translation:
"This turmoil has brought a massive calamity to the people of these countryies," the Beijing Daily said in a commentary.
"Turmoil," or 动乱 in Chinese, became a very sensitive phrase during the 1989 student movement and was a critical point of contention between the student protesters and the government then. It has been rarely used since then.

The Beijing Daily commentary used a different phrase, 动荡, which means "unrest" or "big shake-up," for which the Associated Press has the more accurate translation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tiananmen Mothers Once Again Appeal for Justice

Every single year around this time, the group Tiananmen Mothers issue an open letter of appeal to the upcoming convention of the National People's Congress. This year's version was released on 2/28. It once again calls for a formal investigation to the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, compensation to the victims, and justice to those legally responsible.

This year's letter also refers to the ongoing events in the middle east, in particular Gaddafi's reference to the event itself. The letter states that any delay in a resolution to the 1989 tragedy would be a crime to the future generations.

There are 128 signatures in this version of the letter. As a tradition, they also included an additional 22 names who had signed the letter in the past but had already passed away.