Yang Hengjun Free? (And Who Is He?)

Word is spreading on Twitter that Yang Hengjun has been released following his apparent detention on Sunday. His situation, however, remains unclear.

When asked about his detention, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jiang Yu claimed “I have not heard of that person”. In response, China Media Project offered an introduction:

A former diplomat, [Yang] saw democracy at work in the Western world, and he [eventually] became a lively and acute advocate of universal values. He is also a writer of spy fiction. He use of a vivid and popular style of writing earned him admirers among a wide range of readers, including Party officials and rural workers. A group of migrant workers even established their own Yang Hengjun reading group.

When Yang Hengjun started writing his blog, people felt there was something mysterious about him. A man in his forties, and no one has any idea where he comes from, and here he is writing a blog about military affairs, national security and politics. Moreover, it was said he had written international spy fiction. For a time, opinions were widely divided. Some said that he’s one of our own, after all. Others speculated that he must be a spy.

There’s no question that Yang Hengjun is a strange one. “That’s right, I used to work inside the [Chinese] system. I was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twenty years, and I also worked in politics and law and other systems. Professional ethics demand I keep quiet about exactly what I did at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But what does writing a blog have to do with what I did in the past? I have a friends who are policeman, national security guys and foreign ministry people about the ministerial level, and they write blogs too. They too write their suggestions as citizens, and their ideas are much like mine. It’s just that no-one reads them.”

The post at CMP also includes a reading list of ten translations of Yang’s work. ChinaGeeks, meanwhile, has posted a translation of journalist Zhang Wen’s reaction to Yang’s detention:

On March 28, when I saw this news on the net, I was shocked; I truly couldn’t believe my eyes. On the 26th, I had met up with him and had a chat. In the past, I recommended his book “Jiaguo Tianxia”, and he had agreed to give me a signed copy and present it to me when he got to Beijing this trip.

During the meal [on the 26th], Dr. Xu Zhiyong, mentioned lawyer Teng Biao had been taken away [by police], and everyone felt very sad. Only brother [Yang] Hengjun was still smiling and trying to console us. Who could have known that just the next day, it would be his turn to “have an accident.”

Thinking about that now, it’s really hard to focus. After the lunch ended, we all went our separate ways. I went to Houhai to meet up with some family and have a little fun. In the warm afternoon sun and spring breeze, I flipped idly through “Jiaguo Tianxia,” and I was moved again by the warm, loving, sincere, and powerful words.

The site also carries a translation of a recent blog post by Ran Yunfei, entitled “Domestic Microblogs Exist to Die in Battle”. Ran’s wife received notice that he had been formally charged with subversion on Monday.

The internet is a big gift from God to the human race, especially to China, but it’s a shame that when confronted with this rich and multi-faceted gift, many people are at a loss as to what to do. Because Chinese people have never received such a good gift, it has made some people lose all curiosity for digging out the gift, [as well as] all exploratory spirit, and all creativity. That is to say, after being enslaved for a long time, they have even lost all desire, confidence, toughness and strength to cast off their rotten shackles. This is the Chinese people’s grief. When facing the constant progression of the internet, some people’s eyes are seeing just as ignorantly and as powerlessly as before. There’s no harm in cautiously believing that the transformative effect that the internet has brought to Chinese society has only just begun, and the curtain has only just opened on the interaction between Twitter and domestic blogs. The best scene is yet to come.

March 29, 2011 10:12 PM
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