Friday, September 26, 2014

This Family Nightmare Is The Price Of Political Expression In China - ChinaFile By Zeng Jinyan

The essay that follows was written by Zeng Jinyan, whose husband, Hu Jia, has been prominently involved in activism around environmental issues, AIDS, and human rights in China over the past decade and a half and is a winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. From 2008 to 2011, he served a three and a half year prison sentence for inciting state subversion. Since his release, he has lived under varying degrees of surveillance and house arrest in his apartment in Beijing. He continues to write and is an active presence on Twitter. Zeng and Hu separated in 2012, and Zeng now lives in Hong Kong with their six-year-old daughter.
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Baobao: “Fuck!”
Me: “Where’d you learn that word?”
Baobao: “Daddy’s good friends said it!”
Me: “Which good friends?”
Baobao: “Two of Daddy’s friends who stay in the same hotel with us, the ones who sleep in the rooms on either side of ours.”
I was silent for a moment. Okay, I said finally: “Next time Daddy’s friends say that, tell them they shouldn’t say such vulgar things when kids are around.”
My daughter, who’s almost seven years old, went back to her play.
I didn’t tell her that Daddy’s “friends” are actually plainclothes cops from state security -- guobao -- sent to keep watch over her father, preventing him from taking her out to see friends. Neither did I tell her that these “friends” had been part of our lives ever since she was in the womb. It was impossible to explain to her why her mommy and daddy, who loved each other very much, are now separated. In the two years since she and I moved to Hong Kong, spending holidays with her father in various hotels in cities across mainland China has become a routine for her. Daddy’s “friends” come and go, sometimes dropping in and out, sometimes completely dominating the schedules of these holidays.
Her father has no choice; if he didn’t accept their presence, he’d have no way to watch his daughter grow. He couldn’t give her rides on his shoulders, couldn’t keep pace with her as she learns rudimentary English, couldn’t laugh at the funny stories she tells in Cantonese, and couldn’t answer her when she asks: “Why can’t Daddy get the papers he needs to come to Hong Kong?” At the end of almost every holiday, Daddy’s “friends” usually disregard the injunction not to get too familiar with her, and hug her, take her picture, give her presents. Some of these she cherishes, like the little stuffed bear she won’t let go of; others her mom has to confiscate: a pair of pink child-sized high-heeled shoes, big bowls of ice cream, huge piles of chocolates.
Cozy and content, my daughter falls asleep to the sound of her father reading her bedtime stories, slipping off into dreams of Journey to the WestThe Magic School Bus, Pippi Longstocking... Each time, she spends a dozen nights or so in a hotel. Meanwhile, I stay in contact with relatives and friends who live in the same city so that if, god forbid, anything should happen, they could immediately whisk her back to my side. At the same time, I keep tabs on how my daughter is feeling by looking at pictures and listening to voice messages sent via mobile phone. I do my best to ensure that at this tender age my daughter doesn’t sink into angry indignation or get pulled into politics, that she has the foundation of a basically happy childhood. After her father was violently attacked in July, I had to ask him not to reveal the exact itineraries or locations of their holidays together. Hu Jia has stuck by this agreement.
Political oppression is only the beginning of the dangers to which Hu Jia has been subjected. Since 2004, in addition to serving jail time, he’s been under constant surveillance by state security. He has been threatened, violently harassed, put under house arrest, abducted, and followed. At the end of May 2014, secret police showed up at the home of Hu Jia’s parents and told them that their son would soon be detained, and when his 76-year-old mother begged to see him in order to give him rice dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival, they refused, saying, “Arrangements have already been made, and it’s too late to visit him.”
We made phone call after phone call, trying to alleviate some of the anxiety he was feeling, cooped up alone in his room while under house arrest. I promised that even though we are separated I will remain legally married to him, and that in the event that he is sent to jail again I will manage all the legal proceedings, his friends will appeal for his release, and I will care for his parents and our child. We understood that he might be arrested at any time, and all we could do was stay prepared. Right now he lives an agonizing existence, which I can only compare to being roasted on a spit -- the conditions are in some ways harsher than jail. Every day he must fight for the right to leave his house. Sometimes the struggle pays off, and he’s able to walk around outside while accompanied by plainclothes police. Sometimes the restrictions enrage him, and he resists physically. But in the end, all he can do is go back to his apartment in BOBO Freedom City in Beijing, accept the absolute helplessness of his situation, and try not to exhaust himself.
But the greater direct danger comes from the public: bystanders who are powerless to help, idle onlookers who act as accomplices, or crazy people.. read more:
See also
Hong Kong students begin democracy protest - Chinese people continue struggling for democracy 
The Crises of Party Culture: by Yang Guang
The crises of Party culture become clear with a single glance. The CPC is called the ruling party, yet it operates according to secret party rules: this is an identity crisis. Its formal ceremonies and slogans are like those of an extremist church, and it has long lost its utopian doctrine that stirred the passion of the people: this is an ideological crisis. It tells beautiful lies while accepting bribes & keeping mistresses: this is a moral crisis. The totalitarian system is in the process of collapsing, yet political reform is not in the foreseeable future: this is a political crisis. It has corrupted traditional values & also rejected universal values, rendering Party members & government officials at a spiritual loss: this is a crisis of values.