Li Tiantian is a lawyer in Shanghai, who disappeared after being arrested over a month ago. She wrote this on her blog about a previous run-in with Domestic Security Department agents on February 15, 2011, in which she was questioned over her writings in a practice that netizens call “drinking tea.” [Translated by Samuel Wade]
Today I got picked up by the National Treasures (Domestic Security Department) again to go and talk to them for a while, because I’d written something online celebrating the victory of the Egyptian people. “Does this have a double meaning?” they’d thought. “What does these other people’s victory have to do with you?” They dragged me to the law firm’s meeting room to talk; I said I didn’t know who they were, and called the police. The police took me to the local station, and soon afterwards the DSD arrived to make me talk to them. I’d forgotten that the police station was part of their world, and that the police would cooperate with them.
The police said that if I wrote that sort of thing again they’d go after my family, and my boyfriend might lose his job. “If you don’t let us get on with our work in peace,” they said, “we won’t let you get on with anything. No, don’t argue; this is the Communist Party’s China.” It was really awful.
At the law firm’s offices, when they’d taken me, they wanted to grab my phone so I couldn’t call the police; I told the police that I’d been robbed. The DSD hadn’t actually acted like thugs, but once the police had taken me to the station with the DSD hurrying after, I was like a chick caught in an eagle’s talons. I hadn’t planned this. Ah, so stupid of me to leave the law firm; it was too dangerous at the police station, and they were in their element. I won’t be so foolish again.
I was scared when I talked to the DSD, who were ruthless. To attack me, they told me I was ugly, that what I’d written was worthless; I replied that only very insecure men liked beautiful women, and that their wives must be gorgeous. I asked them if it was attractive of them to grab pretty girls like this all the time; whether it was attractive that Chinese people had to live in fear. I said that the essence of people like me is much greater than their own, and that we could be called the conscience of China, the backbone of China … did they have conscience, or backbone? Their time is running out. I felt really sorry for them, I said; How about if I don’t write anything but just repost others’ articles? At this, I stopped, and the police, greatly moved with joy, were anxious to embrace me to show their gratitude for this revelation. Ah, they’re so barbaric, I do feel a little sorry for them. They said they really didn’t want to see me, that every time they bashfully came to find me, they felt wretched, because I scolded them so severely each time. I think the DSD fear the foreign media’s influence. They’re performers, I think, playing a part they don’t understand.
At the law firm, with several lawyers present, they roughed me up a bit. The head of the firm was there, too. I said, “look! The police dare to act unlawfully, even at a law firm!” The head of the police said, without looking at me, “I’m sorry. We’re all civilians. We can’t protect you.” I said I understood. After what I’d been through today, I felt I understood society more clearly. I’d been picked on, oppressed, half beaten. But it was as if I still hadn’t seen my real enemy in the flesh. The police seemed as if they were as unfortunate in this as I was; just making a living.
When the police beat me, my colleagues—Shanghainese who want for nothing—were all there, and nobody said a word. Actually, I’m pleasantly surprised that none of them taunted me. They’re not bad, those lovely colleagues and boss of mine.
Today I see clearly that we’re living on our knees. You want to stand up? To speak freely? The state apparatus will immediately put you in your place. Are we alive? No, we’re at least half dead. We’re all zombies; living like lower animals, unable to think or speak. We can only live a subhuman life, like imbeciles. It doesn’t matter how you dress it up: it’s no use, we’re all zombies, just the same.