The Hong Kong based magazine Asia Weekly (亚洲周刊) recently named blogger, author and race car driver Han Han as “The Person of the Year 2009“. CDT has translated their interview with him; Part 1 is here. Part 2 is below:
Q: Tell me about your reading experience. What did you read in your childhood?
Han: The books I read are very strange and mixed, like “100,000 Questions”, Qian Zhongshu, Hu Shi, Liang Shiqiu, Lin Yutang, writers in the era of the Republic of China. That was when I was in high school. Actually I didn’t understand their work and the meanings between the lines. But I could see their writing were very good, which is what nowadays those so-called writers don’t possess. Over the past seven or eight years, I haven’t read many books but all kinds of magazines. And I only read those magazines I can get access to. I don’t climb over the Great Firewall.
Q: Do you read some books of theory, like philosophy, politics, and sociology?
Han: I completely can’t finish reading these books; no matter how reasonably and how profoundly they write. … I’m a race car driver. I don’t know how the engine works; yet I can use it well. And that’s enough. … I’ve also tried reading some works of our political leaders. Sometimes during my reading, I found some sentences and thought: Eh, this one is pathetic. It should be replaced [with another wording] to make better propaganda.
Q: Do you communicate a lot with your parents? Do you think they know you well?
Han: They know me very well. My father had a big influence on my character. My father works at a government propaganda department, and he was also the editor of the front page at a Party newspaper. He wouldn’t make under-the-counter deals, and he wouldn’t join the Party. He thinks it’s nothing meaningful to join the Party (laugh). But he works at a propaganda department, so it seems like he’s an undercover.
Q: Does your father read your blogs? Do they [your family] agree your viewpoints?
Han: He does. I gave the password of my blog to my father and he would often log on to correct erroneous characters on my blog. They don’t have conflicts with my viewpoints, and they just occasionally think I should be a bit milder. My neighbor in my hometown is the head of the village. He often doesn’t agree with my viewpoints.
Q: The head of your village also reads your blog?
Han: He himself doesn’t read it, but he would disagree when he heard other people mentioning it. But I think it’s ok, whether he agrees or not. When it can’t reach any conclusion at the end of the argument, people should go to their bed to sleep and let time tell the truth. Even if time doesn’t tell the truth, this is merely a discussion. I hope it doesn’t end up with those with power persecuting the other side. I think that would be the worst thing. Even if you don’t agree, you mobilize all the media power and all the 50 Cents Party to say this is wrong, which I consider completely fine, as long as you don’t libel or hurt people, don’t try to annihilate the voice and even the body.
Q: You don’t mind the 50 Cents Party?
Han: Some think the authority is very shameless, for how come they have so many Internet commentators and 50 Cents Party. On the contrary, I never think this is shameless, I consider it acceptable. It’s like you invite your friends to support you. What’s different is the government pays them, which is also understandable. But I hope it doesn’t end up that you can’t win by persuasion, then send out the State Council Information Office and Central Propaganda Department to do the job [censorship], which would be ugly. In the end there’s only one opinion in the whole country, with the echo of grumbling and tragedy drifting in the air, which is really unnecessary. They could definitely have achieved better. Many of the government departments still handle cases in old ways, which is the same as 20 or 30 years ago. They’re too bad at public relations.
Q: The heroes of your novels are always young men from small towns. Villages in many places are down falling. How about your hometown?
Han: As cities in China are actually unsophisticated, while small towns have more character, so it’s more suitable to use as the backdrop of a novel. My home village is also falling down. To gain more profit, the local government has to sell the land. Yet the factories that bought the land are chemical factories, which have caused a lot of pollution. Besides, those factories are not in a very good financial situation, and a large number of them are incomplete projects, which don’t bring much tax revenue. So the government has to sell more land. Recently the government has been considering selling the land in my home. As for myself, I won’t accept any condition by the government to move for such industries with nothing beneficial to the community. If they forcibly demolish my hometown, I would resist with force to the very end. Journalists from domestic and oversea media outlets are welcome to watch the process, also my readers. I’ll provide box lunches.
Q: The government has sent someone to talk to you? Would they take your influence on the opinion into account?
Han: They had this plan four or five years ago. They said if they couldn’t persuade me, they would persuade my parents; if they couldn’t persuade my parents, they would persuade my parents’ superiors. So after I had a certain amount of income, I asked both my parents to retire ahead of time. Several days ago some official came to check the land again. I’ve also written to the mayor of the town. Speaking of influence, actually I found two totally different discourse systems on many events. You journalists or those working in the public opinion field might think someone influential. However, the systems are completely disconnected. Once I went to other districts in Shanghai, and met some government officials who are arty-crafty. They would hold your hands saying, “Oh I heard you’re a writer. Do write some articles to help promote our local economic development.” So I joked to them, “Sure. I’ll write how magnificent your government building is.” They said that would be great. … See? It’s completely disconnected. Government officials are disjointed with the society. … My friend’s father is a low-level government official. He has learned how to use the Internet, as he wanted to learn the “public opinion” on the Internet. But not until half a year after he started using the Internet did he know that there was actually other websites other than their official website. …So on many events, you feel that the pressure of public opinion might already be quite strong, yet the government has no response at all. For some events, you think it’s not a big deal, yet the government would treat it extremely seriously. The authorities are like Zhang Yimou’s team: He really wants to keep up with the times, wants to know what young people are thinking, and what’s up on the Internet. But he’s too outdated.
Q: Have you offended someone because of your remarks? Have you been under pressure or suffered for this?
Han: As matter of fact, there’s never been any propaganda department that came to talk to me directly asking to revise any of my articles. I’ve had three or four articles deleted. And the website had discussed with me whether I could not write about something, and I said feel free to delete it if you want.
Q: Do you think your blog would possibly be blocked? Why? If your blog were blocked, what would you do?
Han: I would take a picture of my blog and myself together, as a souvenir
Q: Which quality do you think does this time period lacks the most?
Han: All the merits advocated on the students’ textbooks, and what we Chinese pretend to possess, are actually what this time lacks.
Q: When you’re old enough to look back at your life and draw a conclusion, what kind of comment do you want to give?
Han: This student has excellent moral and academic achievement, is kind-hearted and honest, independent and enterprising, generous in giving help, a man of versatile interests, and has taken good care of his friends, especially female friends. As a human being, this student is qualified.