Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Caging a Monster: In My Country (Today's China) by Murong Xuecun
A moving and honest plea by a Chinese citizen:
I am a Chinese writer. Allow me to say a few words about my country. Everyone knows that in the past thirty years China has built countless skyscrapers, commissioned countless airports, and paved countless freeways. My country’s GDP is the world’s second largest and her products are sold in every corner of the planet. My compatriots can be seen on tour in London, New York and Tokyo wearing expensive clothes, chattering raucously. My compatriots also fill up casinos and line up to buy LV bags. People exclaim in amazement: China is rising, the Chinese are rich! But behind this facade of power and prosperity there are details of which many people are unaware, and it is precisely these details that make my country a very strange place.
Living in China is like watching a play in a giant theatre. The plots are absurd and the scenarios are unbelievable—so absurd, so unbelievable that they are beyond any writer’s imagination.
My country manufactures powdered milk containing melamine, feeds fish and shrimp contraceptive medications to enhance their growth, uses industrial alcohol in fake wine, preserves beancurd with human excrement, and produces “gutter oil,” the product of a notorious practice in which waste oil from gutters outside restaurants is recycled for human consumption.
In my country, the legal system works like this: countless laws are enacted, and then countless procedures are created, followed by countless enforcement regulations and detailed judicial interpretations, but ultimately it is up to the political leaders to decide who wins and who loses a case. In my country, many cases cannot be pursued in the courts. Even if legal action is taken, courts can refuse to hear a case. Even if the case is heard in court, the judgement is made well before the hearing starts.
In my country, many innocent people disappear, and some people lose their freedom without ever being sentenced by a court. Some people attempt to have their grievances addressed at a higher level by following procedures prescribed in law. These people are branded “petitioners.” In my country, the word petitioner conveys the sense of a nuisance, a mentally ill person, a terrorist. To deal with these petitioners, the government mobilises a huge amount of resources to herd them home, jail them, and in a particularly creative measure, incarcerate them in insane asylums...
In my country, there are many peculiar ways to die in detention and officials are more creative than a novelist like me in coming up with explanations: died playing hide-and-seek; died while dreaming; died of psychosis; died sipping water. But in all cases the bodies of those who die in custody are covered in bruises and wounds
In my country, every city has demolition crews equipped with bulldozers and truncheons. The bulldozers are for levelling people’s homes and the truncheons are for bludgeoning stubborn homeowners. To protect their homes, some homeowners beg on their knees, others cry, and some threaten to kill themselves or even actually self immolate. But nothing can stand in the way of the demolition crews and no official is ever brought to account when demolitions result in deaths.
In my country, elections are a charade—the government decides the results in advance. Their candidates are always elected. Very often people are asked to elect two out of two candidates...
Over two thousand years ago, Confucius said one should only serve the state if it is righteous, otherwise one should eschew serving the state. However, to become citizens of a modern society, I say we should criticize the government if it does not do the right thing, and we should also keep an eye on the government even if it is already doing the right thing. This is my belief and this is what will I do for the rest of my life.
Finally, I hope you believe me that I am not a class enemy, nor an over-thrower of governments. All I want is to cage the monster. Yes, I am criticizing my country, but that doesn’t mean I hate my country. Rather, I love my country. I love her splendid mountains and rivers and her great civilization. I appreciate the suffering she has experienced. In fact, I love my country even more because of the suffering she has been through. Yes, I am criticizing her rotten system, but I do not want to see bloodshed while my country is improving herself. I hope the system will improve gracefully. I hope in the near future, in my country, flowers of freedom will blossom and children will smile without fear. I hope in the near future, my country, an ancient civilization, a land of suffering, will become a nation of prosperity, peace and freedom, for all.