Author and blogger Li Chengpeng, who has 6.4 million followers on Sina Weibo, delivered a powerful speech to students at Beijing University on freedom of speech. Translated by Liz Carter at A Big Enough Forest:
Having lost the ability to speak the truth, we will tell many lies. What’s even more frightening is that in addition to lies we have invented a new kind of speech: ghost-talk. Lies are just meant to deceive others: our village produces 20,000 jin per acre. But ghost-talk is meant to hurt, to consume: all our country’s villages must produce 20,000 jin per acre. Anyone who doesn’t comply will be killed, no matter what their rank. When speaking the truth will cost you your life, no one is willing to speak the truth. When telling a lie was rewarded with promotions and wealth, this country became the Kingdom of Lies. This process continues uninterrupted to this very day, and it hasn’t yet reached completion. For example, our railways are the fastest in the world, then accidents happen, or “the Chinese people’s restoration is 62% complete,” and then we discover more than 62% of officials are corrupt….to give you another example, if you want to speak a little truth, there will be a group of people who come out of the woodwork and say, “What makes you qualified to say that so many people died during the Great Famine? Did someone in your family die? Did you see Lin Shao tortured with your own eyes? Were you there at that very moment? If you weren’t there, stop spreading rumors.” They seem to not believe that there is a such thing as records in this world, or documentaries, or people who have testified to these events. According to their logic, Jews could not have died in gas chambers at the hands of Nazis, because you didn’t see it with your own eyes. They can’t even prove they are their parents’ children, because they didn’t see it with their own eyes.
Li has written frequently about the concept of lies and truth-telling in China, notably in relation to natural and manmade disasters such as the collapse of a bridge in Harbin:
…The greatest truth in this place is that we know they are lying, and they know that we know they are lying, and we also know that they actually know that we know that they are lying…so we don’t care about the truth anymore, we just care about the way they put on their show of “truth,” and only the complete compilation of all of these performances is enough to count as the whole truth.
Read more by and about Li Chengpeng via CDT.