Testimony of Torture: Liao Yiwu Exposes Prison Brutality

Berlin-based writer Liao Yiwu talks to Der Spiegel about “Für ein Lied und hundert Lieder” (“For a Song and a Hundred Songs”), a memoir of his four years in prison. As well as the grisly conditions of his imprisonment, the article describes Liao’s reaction to recent comments by “grandfather of the German nation”, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, on his admiration for post-Maoist China.

“Admiration” for China? “The right to find their salvation in their own way?” Liao Yiwu was astonished when told about the former chancellor’s statements. He asked whether Schmidt really uttered those precise words, then shook his head.

On Thursday of last week, Liao had just arrived in Munich after a book tour in the United States, in order to accept the Geschwister Scholl literary prize for his prison memoir on Nov. 14. He found his way, exhausted and shivering in the cold, to a restaurant in Munich’s English Garden for this interview, but when he heard Schmidt’s words quoted, he was suddenly wide awake.

Anyone who talks that way is afraid of jeopardizing trade with China, he said, but such people bring “bad thoughts into the world.” If trade is more important than human rights and dignity, “then the end of the world has arrived.” And no one should deceive themselves about the Communist Party, he said. “It has a golden body and two faces. It shows the Chinese people its fierce face, and the West its pleasant one ….”

At the restaurant in Munich, Liao orders a fish stew, but leaves half of it uneaten. “It’s the potatoes,” says the friend sitting next to him. “There were always potatoes in prison. Now he can’t force them down.”

Read more about Liao Yiwu, his writings and his move to Germany, via CDT.