Persian Xiaozhao: My First “Tea” Experience (Part IV)
Blogger Persian Xiaozhao wrote the following post after she was “invited to tea” by state security agents in Shanghai on Feb. 5, 2009 and questioned about her signing of Charter 08 and her interview with the Washington Post.
“It’s naive of you to do that. What can you change by signing a document? It’s no use. It could only bring you trouble. I think you are not mature enough in politics, ” Leather Jacket said.
“Immature in politics,” I have read this expression in novels since childhood. I didn’t imagine that it could applied to me some day. Yes, I am indeed immature if judged by the standards of the party and the government. And I will never become mature. In the kind of political environment that exists in China, one has basically lost his humanity and become a cold-blooded machine if he is “mature in politics.”
“Politics,” I said. “We Chinese people view politics as something dirty. We think that politics is about dark schemes and tricks, and it’s full of deception and manipulation. It seems terrible whenever something is related to politics. Actually it is not so. As Sun Yat-Sen said, “Zheng means public affairs, and Zhi means management. Zheng and Zhi (Chinese for politics) put together means the management of public affairs. Since it’s about public issues, politics should be open and transparent. Everyone should be allowed to discuss and participate in it.”
I have not even decided to participate. I just like to “talk” about it. Even this is risky. That is why I signed my name to the Charter.
“I hope I could get the rights that are guaranteed by the Constitution. Think about it, I am XX years old now, and I have not even seen a ballot!”
“How come you haven’t seen a ballot?” Leather Jacket was puzzled. “There are ballots in many places!”
“Where can I go to cast my ballot? Go back to Chongqing? I don’t live in the city anymore. It has nothing to do with me. Can I vote in Shanghai? No, because I am not registered as a resident of Shanghai.” I curled my lips. “What’s more, are those so-called people’s representatives really elected by the people? Do they truly represent the interest of the people? Those ‘elections’ are just going through the motions.”
Leather Jacket grinned, but did not rebut me.
I thought of a friend of mine, who used to be a registered resident of Shanghai and has now emigrated overseas. He said he had never cast a vote. “I would always tear the ballot apart whenever the Neighborhood Committee handed it to me, ” he said. Why did he tear apart his ballot? Because he believed that the piece of paper was not a real ballot. Without a fair election procedure, it is impossible to expect a fair result. Since public opinion has been disgraced, he would rather choose not to vote. His later emigration was his ultimate act of withdrawing.
“What I want is a ballot, a real one,” I continued. “This nation belongs to all our citizens. We have the right to discuss its future. We have the right to express our opinions, and to agree or disagree with others. The government exists to serve the public. Its power should come from the people.”
“I agree with what you say. I support democracy as well. But we should be patient, and make progress step by step. What you described is an ideal situation. But China’s reality is not like that. Since you live in this reality, you need to observe the rules of the game. If you don’t, you will suffer,” the Leather Jacket said.
I was not convinced. “I know that. I am confined in your palms,” I said. I drew a circle in the air with my finger. “China is like a huge cage. It shuts us inside.”
I take no interest in the “reality” perceived by you. I don’t like reality where the power is not checked, the public is caged, and citizens live in fear. I won’t endorse such “reality.” I only endorse freedom, human rights, democracy, and freedom from fear for the generations to come.
I didn’t violate the rules of your game. I adhere to two major principles in whatever I do. First, I obey national laws; second, I observe social ethics. When I expressed my support for certain ideas by signing Charter 08, I was acting out my rights.
The Leather Jacket patiently talked to me, “Yes. You have the right to do that. but the Charter 08 issue is quite severe. It is not just a matter of different opinions, as you imagined. The government has judged that it was a serious political incident that’s ‘anti-party and anti-socialism'”.
I have heard rumors about the “official judgment” of the incident at least a month ago. The wording appears to be severe, but I don’t give a damn. I don’t feel terrified by it at all. I just regard it as ridiculous. Which era are we in right now? How come we still need a few people to judge the nature of an incident behind closed doors in order to solve a problem? Don’t tell me that I am not living in the year of 2009 AD, but in the year of 221 BC, when the Qin Emperor established his dictatorship? Time is like an arrow, it only flies forward. And the times have changed.
I think there is a straightforward way to deal with the issue. If Charter 08 poses legal questions, let the court judge it then. (Of course it should be an open trial according to proper procedures, instead of closed-door hearings as in Yang Jia’s case.); if it is an issue concerning morals, then let public opinion judge it.
I did not answer the question from Leather Jacket. I continued to think in my mind: What do you plan to do after you have made a judgment on this incident? Do you plan to arrest the several thousand people and put them behind the bars for a few years? Do what you want. I am subject to your power. I could only pity myself, and those Chinese people like, who have no means to protect ourselves even if we call us “citizens.” We have to resign ourselves and bear whatever comes.
Leather Jacket continued to say, “Do you know about the four basic principles? Adhere… ”
I nodded without expression, “Yes.” It is ridiculous to put such things into the Constitution.
“No matter what, you have to acknowledge the reality. To adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party and to continue socialism is still the mainstream ideology of our nation… ” Leather Jacket said.
I corrected him, “It is the official ideology.”
An ideology is mainstream only when it is supported by a majority of people in the nation. Democracy is actually the mainstream idea in China at present, as far as I see it.
He continued to say, “Alright, it is the official mainstream ideology. Now this Charter 08 aims to overthrow the leadership of the Party and overthrow the socialist system… ”
“I don’t see who it aims to overthrow.”
“You haven’t noticed that, ” he was suprised. “Charter 08 proposed a multi-party system. That means to overthrow the leadership of the Party. It advocates division of power. That means to overthrow the socialist system!”
I sighed deeply. “I am not interested in this -ism or that -ism. I don’t want to argue with you. Perhaps I was indoctrinated with too many -isms in my childhood and I became allergic to them. It gives me a headache whenever I hear the word Zhuyi (-ism).”
As far as I see it, there are only two types of government in the world: democracy and dictatorship. Obviously I prefer democracy. I have no interest in talking about the other.
Because I interrupted him often, Leather Jacket was irritated, “Please let me finish.”
“Okay, please continue, ” I said.
He went on for a long while with official cliches. I didn’t remember a single sentence. As he paused, I didn’t know whether he had finished or it was my turn to speak, thus I encouraged him to talk more, “Please continue. It doesn’t matter. I am listening.”
After he was finished with his arguments, and saw that I obviously lacked interest and didn’t even try to retort, he said, “The four basic principles are in the Constitution of China. Charter 08 aims to replace the Constitution, to overthrow the leadership of the Party, and to overthrow the socialist system. That is unconstitutional!”
“Only practices of government departments could be regarded as unconstitutional. The concept could not be applied to individual citizens. Xu Youyu talked about this in one of his articles,” I said. (Note: Perhaps I got it wrong. I read an article discussing “unconstitutional entities”. I forgot whether it’s written by Xu or not. )
“Also, ” I added, “Charter 08 is not a document that has legal significance. It is just an advocacy paper what proposes some ideas. It does not aim to replace the Constitution. The revision of the Constitution needs to follow certain procedures. It could be changed only after more than two thirds of National People’s Representatives vote for the change.”
If someone takes Charter 08 so seriously that he regards it as an actual Constitution, he must be mental retarded. To such a person I could do nothing but express my sympathy.
Leather Jacket asked me, “do you know who drafted Charter 08?”
“I don’t know. Even you don’t know it. How could I? Isn’t that why you have arrested Xiaobo? And haven’t you said that he drafted it?” I said.
“Who told you we don’t know about it? We knew it from early on. Liu Xiaobo drafted it!” he said.
That was not my business. Anyhow, I didn’t draft it.
“Do you know what kind of person Liu Xiaobo is?” Leather Jacket asked.
“I don’t know him. I had never heard about him before. But I read many of his articles in recent years, so I know something about him.”
“During the June 4th Incident, Liu Xiaobo … ” Leather Jacket gave me an “official introduction” of Xiaobo. I couldn’t remember his original wording. But his main idea was that Xiaobo was one of the masterminds behind the incident, he has connections with overseas forces all these years, he has such a complicated background that people like me don’t know him well at all. “You were all manipulated by them…”
I mumbled, “Nobody manipulated me. I decided to sign the Charter myself. No one forced me.” And I asked him curiously. “I heard from what people said on the Internet that Liu Xiaobo is the No.1 sensitive person in China. Is it true?”
“People like him are definitely sensitive. As to whether he is No. 1 or not, I can’t say for sure.”
Obviously the government doesn’t like Xiaobo. But he is a hero in the minds of the general public. I admire such a man who is courageous, knowledgeable and responsible.
They continued to ask, “have you accepted interviews with the media?”