The following essay was written by a Beijing journalist and has been making the rounds under the radar of Internet censors. While only very few copies of this essay can be found through Chinese search engines, copies can be found on social networking sites, closed email groups, private online forums, and the links are distributed by, yes, Twitter and other Chinese domestic micro-blogging services. Translated by CDT:
The Knife that Killed the Children and the Wheel of Tragedy
(Prepared to be Harmonized*)
From the time that Zheng Minsheng repeatedly slit the throats of those young children, a wheel of tragedy was put in motion.
Very quickly, Zheng was sentenced to death to be carried out immediately. Two days after we reporters were sent out to cover this incident, the propaganda department sternly ordered us to return. What they eventually told us was obvious from the start—we could not conduct interviews, we could not editorialize, we could only publish drafts that had been prepared by Xinhua News. At times I really feel like it’s so tragic but also so ridiculous. Even if we did conduct interviews, what would come of it? Even if we did editorialize, what would come of it? For a lot of things can there really by any harm caused by giving a full and clear accounting of what transpired? Can you establish peace on earth just by hiding things and covering them up?
Of course you can’t establish peace that way. After all the news media organizations were forced to castrate themselves, the second slaughter of young students occurred, followed closely by the third, then the fourth. If they weren’t elementary school students, then they were preschool students. All were totally unarmed and defenseless children. For these incidents that followed, our instructions were the same. After the slaughter in Taixing, while a colleague was still on the plane, the order came once again. Propaganda department, fuck your mother hard 100 times over!
In the beginning, I wondered whether the media’s reporting caused more deranged lunatics to imitate the actions of others and recreate their own cold-blooded slaughter. Later [I] discovered this was not the case; it turns out that most media organizations didn’t say anything about these incidents. Like us, they too were forced by this series of bloody murders onto the wall of shame—unable to report and unable to editorialize. We are also all unable to just express our overflowing anger by cursing them bitterly. In this regard, we are just a bunch of shameless spectators watching these murderers take the stage one after another—and during all of this spectacle forced to remain silent.
When everyone, one after another, becomes silent, the wheel of tragedy is already set in motion. The first people it crushes are those poor children and the dreams of their parents. Next is Zheng Minsheng [the first murderer], followed by the second group of children, followed by the second murderer. . . until finally, finally those crushed will be the children of the propaganda department. Of course when the children of the propaganda department are slaughtered, we will also not say anything. We will just watch silently from the side as these young lives vanish. Then we will see the propaganda department go insane, just like how the parents in Taixing lost their sanity. Or perhaps, we in this process, have already been crushed [by this wheel of tragedy].
At times, I am full of hope for this country. That is because while its 5000 years of history have been filled with twists and turns, the teachings of courtesy, justice, benevolence, and trust remain deeply inscribed in our bones. However, at other times, I am filled with despair for this country. That is because despite the fact that during our 5000 years of history we have had countless wise people use the rise and fall of dynasties to leave behind so many ancient teachings—despite this, there are still those who stubbornly repeat the mistakes of history—not letting people look, not letting people speak, not letting people think. Is this the way to establish peace on earth?
Clearly, the murder of these children was despicable. People should at least know how those responsible had become so cruel. Why were all these people males, all around forty years of age, with low levels of education, and unstable incomes? Why would they take such extreme measures to seek revenge on society? What had society ever done to them?
What was their housing like? I feel like if they had houses they probably were not very nice. They certainly could not afford to live in commercial real estate developments; they couldn’t even hope of affording those. What about medical care? They certainly could not afford to pay any medical bills. What about education? None of them received very good education. It could also be said that the time they most needed education happened to be the time when things were most chaotic.** What about work? Without an education how could they hope to find a decent job……
What is most frightening is that during the 5000 years of this nation’s history, while there has always been social stratification, there has never been a time like there is today where people unabashedly worship money, where people openly look down upon those in lower social classes, and where people do not even attempt to hide their scorn of the poor!
Ideological heavy-handedness in post-1949 China nearly destroyed the collective wisdom and culture accumulated over the course of 5000 years of history. On the surface all you see is this façade of a beautiful world with favorable winds and rains. All you hear about are things like how 115 coal miners were saved from the Wangjialing coal mine. But have I been a reporter for all these years without having learned a thing or two? After water had been seeping into the mine for eight days how could the “survivors” emerge with such rosy cheeks? How could they still have strength to applaud their rescue? Even though their hands had been darkened you could still below their wrists areas of snow-white flesh. If you tell a lie one hundred times will you really start thinking it’s true?
Right now, China does not have a “buffer layer.” Whenever there’s an acute conflict, be it a social conflict or an ethical conflict, people treat it as a matter of life or death. There is no room given for a buffer. What is this buffer? It should be one’s beliefs; it should be benevolence; even more than that, it should be heartfelt sympathy. And who should most possess this kind of sympathy? It should be our great and glorious government agencies. So then why is it that I always see the big fish eating up the small fish and the peoples’ interests wrested from their hands?
Once the wheel of tragedy is set in motion it is difficult to stop it from moving. Who knows but that the last to fall will be those who sit atop the machine carried by this wheel of tragedy.
* “Harmonized” refers to an article being deleted by web censors in order to create a “harmonious society.”
** This probably refers to the fact the formative years of the murderers coincided with major disruptions in Chinese society such as the Cultural Revolution.