Support for Zhang Yihe; A Warning to Wu Shulin and the likes – Sha Yexin

Zhang Yihe(Á´†ÊÄ°Âíå), the author of three books, is the daughter of “China’s number one rightist” Zhang Bojun(Á´†‰ºØÈíß), who is, among various titles, China’s first Minister of Transportation, former President of The Chinese Peasants’ and Workers’ Democratic Party (‰∏≠ÂõΩÂÜúÂ∑•Ê∞ë‰∏ªÂÖö), and former Chairman of the Guangming Daily (ÂÖâÊòéÊó•Êä•).

Zhang Yihe spent ten years in prison during the Cultural Revolution. She was freed in 1978 and returned to her job at the Theatrical Art Academy of China (中国艺术研究院). In 2001, Zhang started writing.

Zhang was awarded the Award for Independent Writing by The International PEN Independent Writers Association in 2004.

Zhang Yihe’s three books, The Past Is Not Like Smoke (Âæĉ∫ãÂπ∂‰∏ç¶ÇÁÉü) (Hong Kong edition named The Last Noble ÊúÄÂêéÁöÑË¥µÊóè), A Gust of Wind Carries Away the Melodies of the Ages (‰∏ÄÈòµÈ£é , Áïô‰∏ã‰∫ÜÂçÉÂè§ÁªùÂî±), and Past Stories of Some Peking Opera Stars (‰º∂‰∫∫Âæĉ∫ã), are all banned in mainland China, but are available in Hong Kong.

Zhang issued a public statement after her third book was banned by Wu Shulin, Deputy Director of the State Press and Publication Administration. Many people expressed their anger. Among them are Sha Yexin (沙叶新) and Chen Xiaoya (陈小雅), two Chinese intellectuals.

From Pu Zhiqiang’s Blog, translated by CDT:

After knowing that Wu Shulin, Deputy Director of the State Press and Publication Administration, banned eight books on Jan. 11, and after reading a statement written on Jan. 19 by Zhang Yihe, one of the authors of the 8 books, I hereby solemnly declare that I oppose Wu’s ban, and I support Zhang’s statement.

Let me warn Wu Shulin: do you know about Qin Shi Huangdi’s crime of burning books and burying Confucian scholars alive (ÁÑö‰π¶ÂùëÂÑí)? Are you familiar with the literary inquisition and imprisonment (ÊñáÂ≠óÁã±) in the Qing dynasty? Do you know about the book censorship by the KMT? Or Hitler’s cultural despotism? Do you know history’s judgment on suppressing free speech and persecuting intellectuals? Do you know how many domestic and overseas readers Zhang Yihe has? As the deputy director of the State Press and Publication Administration, does your ban merely apply to Zhang Yihe? No, you are making millions of readers at home and abroad into your enemies. Is your ban merely a suppression of the eight books? No, it is a warning to all journalists and editors supervised by your administration. Do you know the fierce anger in the media, publication, writing and intellectual communities in the wake of your ban? You trampled on the constitutional right to freedom of the press, and you deprived eight authors of the right to write. You betrayed comrade Wen Jiabao’s recent remarks on literature and art, and you betrayed comrade Hu Jintao’s proposal for a harmonious society. You are more of a hindrance to the Communist Party, absolutely counter-effective. Do you know what kind of role you are playing? Aren’t you scared?

In fact, the banned authors won’t feel intimidated. It is you who should feel so. Because history has proven that authors who were once spiritually slaughtered are innocent, and history will again prove that the authors banned by you are innocent as well. But how will history judge you? Listen carefully: history will only prove that you are the executioner, a slaughterer of spirits. This is what really scary.

All executioners in the world are reluctant to carry out executions, and when they do so, they have to veil themselves with a piece of black cloth. But this time, when you carried out the spiritual execution, you didn’t wear a mask. You publicly disclosed who you are. All executioners are unwilling to disclose their names, but from Jan. 11, 2007, the world knows your name: Wu Shulin!

So I sincerely admonish Wu Shulin and the likes: drop your knives, and lift the ban. Do more harmonious benevolence, do no malevolence of slaughter. Then history might judge you differently.

I am just an ordinary scholar, never interested in demonstrations and not used to protests. I can only write my articles. So over ten years, in the face of all kinds of crimes in the ideological and cultural fields, I merely paid my sympathy to the victims in silence, and implicitly expressed my anger in tolerance. But this time, I want to roar, I want to openly protest, otherwise I will feel ashamed.

There is a famous phrase by Martin Niemoller that was engraved on the Boston Jewish Holocaust Memorial:

“They came first for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,

and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

Niemoller had earlier made anti-Semitic sermons, and he “didn’t speak up” in the face of Hitler’s repeated crimes. In the end, he was put into Hitler’s concentration camp.

So I want to speak up. Not only for Zhang Yihe, but also for the other seven authors, as well as for myself.

Ms. Zhang Yihe’s three books were banned one after another. She didn’t speak up when her first book was banned, nor did she at the second ban. When her third book was banned, she struck the table and rose to her feet, and finally had to say something!

I hope everybody will speak up. This is our right and our dignity. Otherwise, the next one being locked in concentration camps might be you.

Jan. 20, 1907 Shangzuo Opera House, Shanghai

Also from Pu Zhiqiang’s blog, here is the condemnation from Chen Xiaoya, partially translated by CDT:

The banning of books, a violation of the Constitution and an infringement on citizens’ rights, is very ordinary and common in mainland China. Wu’s own tone disclosed that a proper seriousness on the banning of books has been lost.

I still remember that when the Chinese Academy of Social Science fired me, the academy’s party committee set up an “offensive and defensive alliance”: no one was allowed to reveal that firing me is one certain person’s decision, nor were they allowed to disclose why they fired me. What they could say is that it was the decision of a “senior comrade.” At that time, I had no one to be angry with.

So when Premier Wen Jiabao talked with a few authors about “speaking the truth,” I said that his remarks mean well, but hit the wrong target. He should have a “heart-to-heart talk” with the Minister of Propaganda. Furthermore, to be honest, it is not a matter of the Ministry of Propaganda. Premier Wen should have a talk with the members of the Politburo, and with this Party.

Till now, this ruling party still relies on a primitive rule, sealing people’s mouths with iron wires, to govern this country. Is this the matter of just a couple of people? At the time of a conflict of interest, is it “might (º∫ÊùÉ)” that counts? Or is it the “axiom (ÂÖ¨ÁêÜ)”?


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