Snitching for China Leads to Sorrow and Exile

The AP follows up on the saga of Li Yuzhou, who informed on four young activists known as the New Youth Study Group, resulting in their lengthy prison terms. Li is now in Thailand, facing deportation back to China:

Li’s life embodies the moral shades of gray in China, and how the same person can be both participant and victim in a society where walls have ears.

In the communist heyday of the ’60s and ’70s, colleagues, neighbors, even family members informed on each other. In today’s freer, wealthier China, informing on others is much less common. Yet in a one-party authoritarian state, police can still bring tremendous pressure on people to inform, offering to boost or wreck careers and making it hard to say “no.”

Zhang Honghai, one of the people Li helped send to jail, said he still puzzles over Li’s choices.

“I don’t know. Money? Patriotism?” said Zhang, who was freed in March after eight years in prison. “People are complicated and Li is more complicated than most.”

For more background on the case of Zhang Honghai and his three friends, and Li’s role in their imprisonment, read this article from the Washington Post in 2004.