By Ge Xun, translated by Yaxue Cao
This is the continuation of Ge Xun’s account of his ordeal in Beijing that happened just one week ago. – Part One
They asked what prompted me to “come back (to activism)” in 2009. I told them because the human rights situation in China was deteriorating badly, and I wanted to do something to be useful.
They asked me what other organization(s) I had joined apart from IFCSS. Any organization having to do with Tibetans overseas?
I realized they were asking about the Bay Area Chinese and Tibetan Friendship (BACTF). I joined in 2010. It’s a young organization for mutual understanding and friendship between Chinese and Tibetans in the bay area. I was elected Secretary.
“Why did you join this? Who is the Chairman? What does it do?”
I joined to learn about Tibetan culture and I cared about the human rights situation in Tibet too. And you could find everything you wanted to know in BACTF’s press releases.
As for activities, I attended the annual Tibet Day for two consecutive years. Their sand paintings (沙画) were fascinating. I also bought picture albums of the Dalai Lama. I believe in peaceful, respectful co-existence of different ethnic groups. Activities at BACTF were infrequent to begin with; I later reduced my involvement to focus on individual human rights cases in China.
It was getting late. I didn’t know exactly what hour it was without a watch. But I knew it must be sometime around midnight.
“It’s pretty late. You can make a call to your family,” said Wang Jie, handing me my cell phone. “You can only speak one sentence: simply say we need to know something from you and you are fine.”
So I called my brother. He was obviously very concerned. “Call me back in 20-30 minutes!” he said. They took the cell phone right away. Later my brother told me that he was in the middle of calling the US embassy when I called and he was disrupted. 20 or 30 minutes later, Wang asked me to call my brother again to tell him that I was not going back for the night, and I would see him tomorrow morning.
The interrogation continued. Back to the Free Chen Guangcheng website they had already asked about.
Interrogator: “What is it all about? You are the initiator, correct? Who are the members? How much money have you spent on it? Who gave you the money?”
Me: “I set it up to collect everything about Chen Guangcheng in Chinese or other languages. The purpose is to get more people to know about him, raise awareness of the plight of him and his family, and call for his freedom. It needs no money, nor did anyone give me money. It’s built on a free blogging platform. Members are netizens whom I don’t personally know.”
Interrogator: “Where did you find them? Who are they? How do you contact them? How do you direct them?”
Me: “I invited all the editors from Twitter. We’re all volunteers. Whoever sees something, as long as it concerns Chen Guangcheng, re-publishes it on our site. We don’t originate content. I am not a leader, and there is no need for us to contact each other.”
Interrogator: “That’s not possible! How can a website belong to no organization, no leader, not spending money? Impossible!”
“Believe it or not, nobody leads,” I said, thinking, Where do these people come from? Do you have to have a leader to call for freedom?
Interrogator: “All right, who are these participants? How do you find them?”
“I read tweets,” I said. “If someone is also concerned about Guangcheng, I send a tweet asking for his or her email, and then I send an invitation. That’s all.”
Interrogator: “Since you said you found them on Twitter, tell us your Twitter account and password.”
“No,” I said. “That’s my private information, I can’t tell you.”
“You must tell us.”
“No way. These days even parents won’t read their children’s journal. I am a grown man,” I said. I wasn’t worrying about the tweets—they are public anyway. What I worried most was that they would use my account to send phishing links. Then there were the Direct Messages.
“You give us whatever we ask. We get what we must get,” said the interrogator, motioning me. “Stand up, move to that side, and think about it.”
I didn’t stand up. Nor did I answer.
“Do we have to solve this by force?” said they.
“I don’t believe in violence,” I said. “I will not fight back, but I protest against what you do.”
Now the Violent Man, swearing and cursing, walked toward me on the small sofa. Wang Jie began to pull my coat. The Violent Man struck me with his fist. I raised my left arm and his fist fell there. Quickly I held my head with both hands. One fist after another, the Violent Man struck me, all on my head. He hit many times, three of them I failed to fend off, one of them hitting the back of my head. I almost blacked out. My glasses had long fallen off. Another fist hit my forehead, then another on my left temple. I fell on the floor, my left face numb, panting for air. The Violent Man and the short man name Gao began to kick me. Still I was conscious. I wanted to see how they beat me. Gao pulled my winter jacket hard, trying to cover my head with it. Suddenly I remembered the “black head cover” I had read in a number of accounts of brutality in the hands of the state police! I grabbed my jacket with all my might and threw it toward a gap on the right side of the small sofa.
A foot struck hard on the back of my right leg, giving me painful cramps. I panted lying on the floor. The room seemed to be turning and the florescent lights flashing. Pah! Pah! Pah! A figure swung in front of me. A few more kicks fell on me. Not so heavy. I thought about my bouquet, turning to see it. It was still good laying on the TV stand. I thought, After it’s all over here, I can try again to visit Teacher Ding. As my thoughts wandered, I began to utter, “I’ve got to go… I’ve got to go…”
It was like that for a long time.
“Tell us your Twitter password.”
I didn’t answer. They pressed me again. Still I didn’t answer.
Then Wang Jie said, “Okay, how about we give you a laptop, you put it in for us, and we take a look?”
“Will you let me go after that?”
So they fetched a laptop for me. My right leg was still cramping, my right hand shaking. I typed in my password. They all pored over it, reading my direct messages.
“What’s your email password?”
I told them they couldn’t get into my email—it requires two-step verification and I myself couldn’t even access it from here.
“Nonsense! We’ll get in. Just like Twitter, type the password in for us.”
When the verification number was asked, I told them my number. But they don’t seem to have broken in.
Around this time, Gao got my camera and started fiddling with it. He asked me about each picture in it, I told him as I said earlier. He asked me to write down how I got to know two people in it, especially Fang Zheng (方政). I briefly described each. They didn’t bring my recording pen to me at all for questions.
(Yaxue’s note: Fang Zheng was a college senior running away from Tian’anmen Square in the night of June 4th, 1989, and a tank chasing after the students ran over his legs in Liu Bu Kou (六部口, Six-Ministry Crossroad), west of the Square on Chang An Avenue. For 20 years after 1989, he struggled for a livelihood and a place to settle in China, and was visited upon every now and then by state police to make sure he wasn’t “making trouble.” A few years ago, he immigrated to the US, living in the Bay Area. Ge Xun helped him to settle and learn how to drive.)
After a while, Wang Jie came back in. “You have to write a guarantee about your activities in China. I dictate, you write”:
- Abide by China’s laws;
- Will not meet sensitive people;
- Will not go to sensitive places;
- Will not accept media interviews;
- Will not talk about sensitive issues in public.
Except he couldn’t define what constitutes “sensitive” in each case. “It all depends,” he said. These were the rules for when I was inside China. For overseas, there was only one:
- Will not do anything that’s damaging to China’s image.
I had tried to argue about a few things. I offered to write a separate guarantee that I would not participate in violence against Chinese government. Gao said, “Non-violence against Chinese government is unacceptable as well. Just write what we tell you.”
I wrote, signed, and pressed my finger print again. I asked to have a copy of my “guarantee.” Gao promised in the presence of the others. But when I asked for my photocopy in the morning, they said, “Who said we would give you a photocopy?”
At three or four in the morning, Wang Jie went out and, after a short while, came back with a document. All four men were in the room. It was a “Confidentiality Notification”, rather long, with the letter head of “北京国家安全局” (National Security Bureau Beijing). Inside it said something like: According to such and such articles of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Guarding State Secrets, the interrogation was a national secret.
I wanted to laugh: Gosh, I’ve became a national secret of China.
“From when we met to when we separate,” said Wang Jie. “The entire process is a national secret. You are not allowed to tell it to anyone, not even your own family. Or you will be revealing a national secret, and will be punished severely.”
I wanted to read it through carefully. But he kept talking, I couldn’t focus, so I began to read aloud. The punishment for violation amounts to a 15-day detention and a fine of a few ten thousand yuan. I was relieved: Not a big deal, I can handle that. In the form they didn’t fill in why I was interrogated. So I asked them to. They put down “IFCSS”, “Donation to Tian’anmen mother”, “Free CGC website.” I signed and again pressed my finger print on it.
Wang Jie went out with the document, and when he came back, he told me I was to leave China that day. Then he said crap about how his boss cared about me. I would not be seeing Teacher Ding. I would not be visiting friends of my mother. And I had no choice. I protested.
Now we were going to get some sleep. Gao was soon snoring in the inner room. I laid down for a while, couldn’t sleep, and got up to have a smoke in the outer room. The Violent Man, dozing off 0n the sofa, woke up. I asked him a few questions, then he started unloading about stuff like nationalism and American conspiracy. That was too much for me. Finally I just said, human rights have no borders, and even Burma is changing.
The day broke. Traffic was picking up outside the window. Wang Jie came and we all went downstairs in the courtyard, the same sedan was waiting. Honda Accord, P-CA106. We were to go get my luggage.
At home, my brother helped me get ready, gave me some crackers to eat (I hadn’t eaten anything since they took me). On our way to the airport, before we got on the third beltway (三环), they asked for my laptop. They pulled over to get it from the trunk. It was a Chromebook without a hard drive. Everything was online. They fiddled with it for a while and said they had never seen it before. All along, we drove past other cars with screaming sirens.
At the airport, they pulled up at the curb. “We still have to check your laptop,” they said. I grabbed it and said, “No!” They tried to pull me into the car. I resisted. The Violent Man kicked hard on my right thigh. I fell on the ground, clutching my laptop. They kept kicking me, taking the laptop, and pushed me into the car. A few armed police came over, and they flashed their cards to them. “Do you want your things or not?” They threatened me. “Do you want to stay a few more days with us?”
“I protest!” was all I could say.
Wang Jie and the Violent Man took my luggage and left, leaving me with my bouquet and Gao and the fat driver in the car. After a while, Gao received orders and took me to the terminal building. I was in pain and had to walk slowly. Gao suggested we eat something. We stopped at a café, and I ordered a coffee and a sandwich. I didn’t have any money, so he paid for it.
While sitting, I said I had wanted to visit Chen Guangcheng in Shandong. Gao said, no way, you wouldn’t be able to leave Beijing. Then we met Wang Jie at the airline desk. At the security check, he finally gave back all my belongings with all my pictures and recordings deleted. He also gave me a scrap of paper with an email address on it. “Email us first next time you visit,” he said.
Here is the email: email@example.com, and I’ll help them publish it here.
I went in. It was 11:30am, February 2, my 21-hour nightmare ended. The flight was at 1:40pm. I asked someone to take a picture of me with my bouquet in front of E26.
Before taking off, I tweeted: “On board UA888 to SF, waiting to take off, 2 days before schedule. Had a terrible experience.”
wow, just wow…
i work here as a teacher for a school and sometimes it sickens me that I take money from this government. Am I doing the right thing?
Are you helping to mold the next generation?
Are you teaching them good values?
Are you being a living example of those values?
If so, why fret?
Nobody can stop all the evil. Do what you can where you are.
@James and I will agree for once. Knowing the evils that oil does, have you sworn off all activities related to its production?
I don’t see the analogy here. At this point in our technology oil is a necessary and essential ingredient to improving people’s daily lives. It has significant negative aspects as well but at this point, there are few viable alternatives. We, of course, should strive to develop clean energy. How does this 54late to a political regime that abuses its own citizens as well as in this case, a foreign citizen exercising rights actually guaranteed in the PRC’s own constitution?
If your message is do the right thing, change what you can, that engagement is better than exit, then ok. I understand. If the message is accept the evil as is because you need a paycheck, well I disagree.
Not a perfect analogy, no. The message is simply that being unwittingly implicated in things is not the same as being complicit. Teaching school children doesn’t amount to complicity, unless, of course, living and breathing is tantamount to complicity, or if you are teaching them that random detention and beatings are justified. On that note, one wonders what Canadian and U.S. school teachers have been teaching about the rendition of Maher Arar.
James is right. Don’t fret. Do something instead, even just a few small things. Explain a few ideas, for example; change a few minds, for another example 🙂
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The photo of the poor man standing there with his beautiful flowers makes me feel like crying.
After this story, my only question is whether Ge Xun plans on going back to China again? At least anytime in the near future. Surely his publication of his story will make things even more difficult. I do, however, hope that as many people as possible read this account.
Thanks again, Yaxue, for your translation.
Fear is what they want to achieve. So fear we must learn to overcome.
If they do this to a foreign citizen, imagine what they would do to China’s own citizens. I shudder to think about it.
We have an obligation to help, to be of use, any way we can. That’s the long and short of it, as far as I am concerned.
I appreciate Yaxue’s translation, my English is not good enough. If I didn’t tell my real story in public, I should have no problem to enter China, now, I’m not sure, worth trying later.
你好！我住在苏格兰。I hope you have recovered from the beating in Beijing. Best wishes for the future. Many people are thinking of you.
Well done telling your story, George. Best of luck going home in the future.
Thanks, Meryl Mackay aka 马美丽 and Lorin Yochim for comforting words, I don’t see reply click under both of your comments, thus reply here. My experience in Beijing is neither unique, nor extremely brutal, fairly short, since I’m a US citizen. I personally know at least a dozen of Chinese Human Rights activists had more severe punishments, only because they demand peaceful change in China toward a more civilized country.
It is that fear that also controls many who do not live in China but may have friends/family there. Sort of like the GFW, you know it’s there and it may block you but because you don’t know its boundaries and rules, you censor yourself to ensure nothing can happen to you.
To one day live without that fear is a goal worth attaining, though I fear it will not be achieved without great sacrifice – and for that I weep.
Good narrative and translation. Revealing of how the Chinese Communist Party regime’s State Security, i.e. KGB, works and tries to cover its filthy tracks of violent intimidation.
Well said, intimidation can only go so far, it made me more determined to spend more time to volunteer against the combo of “Chinese KGB+Mafia” (Yaxue calls it #ChinaThugocracy), might be a good thing, uh?:)
[…] Ge Xun: 21 hours in Beijing – Part 2 | Seeing Red in China – Interrogator: “Since you said you found them on Twitter, tell us your Twitter account and password.” […]
How about teaching: Arar pursued his case in Canadian court and settled for a monetary sum and government apology and his case against the US in court is being prepared by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Unlike Ge Xun who would be violating “state secrets” by pursuing any action against the government.
I guess they could teach that, but I don’t know to what extent it is happening. Having said this, one would be hard pressed to explain why it is that the only actions in these cases have been civil, and the civil cases are necessary to bring about some kind of resolution. It will be interesting, though, to see what, if anything, happens in the U.S. To date, any action has been thwarted. It’s true that these avenues of redress are important differences between (functioning) democratic and totalitarian states. Still, any teacher who would allow a discussion to centre on raw comparisons in order to declare who is relatively holy would score an epic fail. Also, neither the guilty in this case nor that of Arar ought to be exonerated by the accident of their birth into a democratic society.
Bad final sentence. How about…the guilty in neither case ought to be able to hide behind the power of the state.
Maher Arar got 10.5 million dollars from Canadian government (he got legal help from Human Rights organisation) and now he is an voice for Muslim Brotherhood in Canada talking about “Canadian islamophobia.”
I think these teachers you are talking about should discuss and compare the behaviour of the two governments.
And nothing from the U.S. government, save for a continued spot on their no-fly list. It’s true that there are compensatory mechanisms in Canada, but I’m not sure throwing a pile of government $ at someone should be seen as a desirable outcome. I believe the relevant point here is impunity, though, not a comparison of governments. Who did it? Who is ultimately responsible? Is there any chance that guilty parties will be held responsible? Has anything changed that would prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future? Apparently not, as Obama has approved of extra-judicial killings of U.S. citizens overseas. In the past, only non-citizens could be treated in this way. Not very encouraging.
By the way, why is “Canadian islamophobia” in scare quotes?
Link to the original account in Chinese: http://biweekly.hrichina.org/article/1398
Should have at least fought back against the “violent man”…
And stand accused of assaulting a government official? With evidence of assault? And witnesses who will corroborate the poor beaten official’s story?
That’s just loading your opponent’s gun.
Did he enter China on a US passport or a Chinese passport? China doesn’t recognise dual citizenship so my guess is that the reason they feel that they can assault, illegally detain and question someone this way is because in their eyes hes Chinese. Of course it doesn’t change the outrageousness of what happened to the guy either way but I am curious to know.
Good point Horses. I know several people who have become British citizens but use their Chinese passport when returning to China to visit family. It saves the hassle and expense of obtaining a visitor’s visa.
very good question and answer to it would explain a lot, I guess you are maybe right that he used chinese passport and then he was assaulted as one of the billions chinese so no big deal, while if he head american passport it would be completely different matter
Let me once and for all put an end to this passport speculation: Ge Xun DID NOT travel with a Chinese passport. He’s been an American citizen for years already; only those who have recently switched citizenship would have a still-valid Chinese passport (not that it is legal).
Also, note that, during the 21 hours, Ge Xun repeatedly requested to contact the US embassy. If he was travelling with the Chinese passport, how was that request a legitimate one?
Thanks for the clarification, Yaxue. The notion that determined bullies and thugs, whatever their nationality, are concerned with the colour of your passport is overblown. See Maher Arar example above.
I agree with your statement that bullies and thugs do not care about the color of one’s passport. However, I am trying to determine how accurate the comparison is of one country that has made mistakes (and yes, I use that term loosely) and often pays (sometimes only via legally mandated) recompense and another nation that uses such tactics as a routine and permits no recourse, legal or otherwise. Attempting to suggest that the West also engages in such tactics does not excuse what has occurred and attempts to interject such an idea distracts from what should be the focus here – Ge Xun and his experience.
I’ve said it many times in many threads on this blog and others. I’m not “attempting to suggest” anything. That the states of “the West” engages in such practices is fact, not suggestion. Having said this, I’m not interested in comparison for the purposes of declaring a winner. Frankly, I don’t understand why I continually have to respond to this accusation.
What is relevant to this discussion about the Arar case and hundreds of others like his is the impunity that characterizes the actions of those, democratic and totalitarian states alike, who, on various kinds of righteous missions (e.g., war on terrorism, social stability), engage in thuggery and oppression. For those not familiar, Maher Arar is a Canadian citizen who was “renditioned” (i.e., kidnapped) in the U.S. and sent to Syria where he was tortured. Like most “illegal combatants,” he was innocent save for the colour of his skin and his country of birth. Because Canadian police/security apparatuses were directly involved in his abduction, he was able to pursue civil action and received a substantial amount of money as compensation for his suffering. To date, however, there has been absolutely no accounting for either the criminal actions of individuals up and down the chain of command or any satisfactory reform of the systems that led to this outrage. The recent outcomes RE Haditha are another case in point. To engage in a comparison of states here is to imply, perhaps, that if only China had an adequate infrastructure by which Ge Xun could pursue civil redress. There is nothing about the Arar case that suggests an example to be followed.
Having said all of this, @Chopstik, my main purpose of bringing up Arar was to say speculate how teachers (including the person above who is teaching in China) can respond to this kind of event. Like I said, if your lesson is about comparing which countries are better than others is better, epic fail.
oops. incomplete sentence above. Fill in the blank space as you see fit.
I’m a US citizen, and no longer a Chinese citizen.
And you entered China on a US passport AND a Chinese visa; therefore when you entered China, China’s government acknowledged you as nothing other than a US citizen.
Linked by shanghaiist.com:
Thanks for adding some clarification Yaxue C., I wasn’t trying to undermine his ordeal in any way or lay blame or suggest that a Chinese person has less right to be treated within the law.
However, claiming that him asking to speak to the US Embassy backs up your assertation that he entered China on a US passport is not in anyway proof that he did, nor is the claim that the length of his American citizenship renders him unable to enter China on a Chinese passport legally or not.
I’ll take your word for it thought and I would like to know if you have any updates on the situation, I presume that the US authorities have been advised of his mistreatment and are persuing it?
Your language is likely appropriate. They will “have been informed.” They will “pursue through the appropriate channels.” Nothing will happen and U.S. officials will be as silent as possible until the incident, all but unheard of in the U.S., is forgotten. Not all citizens are afforded equal treatment.
US embassy in Beijing called at the beginning of the week about the matter, and Ge Xun has since sent his account in. The embassy said it would review it and reported it to the State Department. Other efforts have been, or are being, made as well to advise the US authorities of the incident.
america doesn’t care
The important thing is that the story is told and being read widely.
More and more people will recognize what a Thugocracy (thank you for reminding me of this word in your last comment) communist China is from this and many more stories. That’s what I care.
America can choose to care or not to care. It’s not for me, nor you, to say.
I agree with you, Yaxue. I think that we should all have to sign a commitment to at least attempt to not see this incidents and issues as opportunities to compare which countries are better and worse as though we were commenting on a football match. Saying that america doesn’t care is precisely the same as saying the Who’s on a dust speck don’t care. Who’s, for all of Horton’s protesting, don’t exist and can’t speak. Citizens of the U.S. and China and Canada, however, do exist and they can and do speak. If “america” is Obama or Bush, well, they likely will not speak. When they do speak, they are hideously compromised by their own criminal actions which are not and never will be addressed, democracy or not.
Linked by http://yougo.us/?p=13917
[…] The abridged English version was published in two parts at the Seeing Red in China blog on 8th and 9th of February 2012. The full Chinese version appeared almost simultaneously at the Human Rights in […]
[…] Ge’s account is no fun to read – but Seeing Red‘s translation, part two, of Ge’s story ends with a surreal circumstance which may make you laugh when reading it. But it’s no parody. […]
This will make me think twice about ever entering any Chinese hotel.
He was beaten up in something resembling a hotel. Furthermore, in China it’s common practice to use “hotels” as places of torture or political imprisonment.
I see. Well, unless you are a politically active Chinese or former Chinese, it seems you have little to worry about. Climb to the top of the Birds Nest stadium and unfurl a banner and you will receive a ticket home.
[…] http://seeingredinchina.com/2012/02/09/ge-xun-21-hours-in-beijing-part-2/ […]
Why does this surprise anyone? This guy has a history of Activism in china and ppl are suprised at the prudent responce of officials? I don’t condone what they did, but some westerners should understand that there’s an intent to destabilise a government, bad or good, officials are there to seek and stamp out. Just as western governments detain extremist preachers, chinese officials act in a similar manner, albeit in a crude style.
My thoughts about the legal aspects of this case – as I have been informed and educated by one of Ivan’s friends who has professional expertise in International Law – are in my blog post here:
As a PS to my above blog post, I observed:
“PS, according to Ge Xun’s account, he was required to sign an acknowledgment that his entire interrogation was a “state secret”.
Um, logically, what’s the point of forcing someone to sign an acknowledgment of a “state secret” if his signed acknowledgment can never be used in any public legal proceeding? In other words, by making this a “state secret”, China have disabled themselves from legally challenging Ge Xun’s account in public.
So his story is the only one that will ever be told in public, unless our “Funny Little Friends In Beijing” want to leave some comments here? At their own risk of going to prison for revealing state secrets.
Further proof that Communism makes you stupid.”
Both New York Times and Wall Street Journal covered Ge Xun’s incident on Tuesday, the 14th. Links are here:
Ge Xun has been a voice of conscience among our fellow students ever since i met him in Chicago in 1989 right after the Tiananmen massacre. His courage in this terrible ordeal shows the world how insecure how a government built on lies and brute force is.
[…] In closing for now, I dedicate the following scene of the life of Sejanus, especially the part from 1:40 to 4:00, to Ge Xun’s interrogator Wang Jie: […]
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all the pictures and information they deleted from your memory cards, you can recover them as long as you don’t overwrite them…