By Fan Chenggang, published September 17, 2013
On August 30, I interviewed Wang Gongquan (王功权) in a café. He told me that two days ago a policeman had warned him not to be too direct and too radical. The policeman talked to him for about an hour at a small table in a park. His friends worried about him and warned him. Wang Gongquan said he didn’t feel frightened. He said that our society has come a long way to open up, and if he gets arrested under the current circumstances, then it is the price one pays.
Because I am an investor and my investment career has coincided with the development of the Internet, I have always tried new online applications as they appeared. I was among the first to blog. When Weibo came along, I quickly realized it would become a tool for public opinion. In the past, information dissemination was dominated by the state. With Weibo though, it has become a matter of public participation.
During the Qian Yunhui (钱云会) incident in 2010, I called for a citizens’ observation team. Because of the lack of information from government sources, the public was suspicious of the government’s handling of the incident no matter what it did, and as a result, the event continued to escalate. I proposed the idea of having a citizens’ observation team on Weibo to get involved as a reasonable third party, and it would help get to the truth and find a solution. I talked to Xu Zhiyong about it over the phone. I suggested that they travel there immediately, and I believed it was the right thing to do.
Even in 2011 when everyone else was chattering about my eloping, I was still talking about political and social topics, about democracy and freedom. I feel it is my individual right to do so, and I can be held accountable only to the law. As long as I don’t break the law, it is my right to express myself as an individual.
My Weibo was blocked on September 11, 2012, coinciding with the 911 anniversary. I had reposted an article authored by Xiao Shu (笑蜀) about organized rights defending, and my account was obliterated because of it. I registered four more accounts, and was deleted four more times. Then I gave up.
Friends at Tencent Weibo said to me, “Your Tencent Weibo is still working.” I saw that I still had 180,000 followers there, and I thought I might as well have some fun. So I continued to speak out.
Some close friends warned me not to be so outspoken. They said, “Gongquan, you are in grave danger now and you can be arrested at any time.” Well, if they are going to arrest me, let it be. I don’t think what I have done is wrong, nor have I broken any laws. As such, if they are still going to get me, then it is the price one has to pay. In China, I have no choice. I cannot stop going out just because there are thugs out there.
The day before yesterday (August 28), the head of a police station talked to me. He asked me not to be so “radical.” He said I had big influence and he hoped that I would curb myself from being too direct and too radical.
They had wanted to talk with me in an apartment. I said, “No, I’m not going, because you could be placing two women there to trap me.” I said “let’s talk in the park, in a public place.” He asked me if I minded him wearing the police uniform, I said it didn’t matter to me. So we talked for about an hour sitting at a small table in the park.
They have also audited my taxes. They said it was a random audit. Either way, I don’t care. What we manage is an international fund, and we cannot possibly have a tax problem.
I don’t feel I’m in danger, nor do I feel too much fear. The relevant authorities may take other courses, but looking back, I have never bribed anyone, nor violated the law, for all these years of being a businessman. If I have committed any wrongdoing, I will assume legal responsibility for it, whatever that may be.
This is what I have always been. Everyone thinks I only became interested in current affairs when Weibo came along. In fact, I was imprisoned at the end of the 1980s for my involvement in current affairs. I understand that, in China, you risk being arrested when you want to do something.
For a long time after I was released from the prison, when June approached every year, my telephone would be monitored. It went on like that for a long time and I became accustomed to it. Certain government organs exist to do this. If they want to know what I am doing, they’ll know it. I don’t have any secrets; what I do can be made public. Everyone feels I face dangers. I don’t know where the dangers are. When I talk, I always assume I’m under surveillance.
When friends were arrested, I spoke put. I spoke out every time Xu Zhiyong’s freedom was restricted. I have done this for all these years, and the government knows it. I don’t feel I am facing particular danger, perhaps because this has been my habit for years.
I am not panicking now, because I have never stopped speaking out in the media. I talk about what I must talk about. Fabrication of course should be curbed, but [the government] has no reason to use such methods to shut people up and to create online terror.
I will not speculate about the government’s motivation in persecuting the Big Vs, but given that our society has come a long way to open up, we should stay on this good course. Problems can be solved, but [the government] cannot smother them and treat them like great threats.
Let the law, not the government, govern the people. Administrative measures are often infringing on the law. The government has gone too far to suppress Internet expression, because some problematic officials are afraid of the Internet.
The government has been accustomed to having control over expression. When Weibo appeared and the government found that it couldn’t control it, it became aggravated. It has taken steps that, in my opinion, are very inappropriate. Chinese society has been learning how to open up bit by bit. The government should not strike, gratuitously, against the openness brought about by the technological revolution. Openness is its nature. Wrongdoing should be addressed through legal procedures. To use administrative measures instead is to use public power to inhibit people’s freedom.
My principles are these: If I break the law, I submit myself to the penalty of the law. But as long as I have not been deprived of my rights, I will speak out.
This was posted on Sina Weibo on September 14 but was quickly censored. According to the account information, @青陌C is Fan Chenggang (范承刚), a journalist with the Southern Weekend.
Activist Chinese Billionaire Is Arrested, the New York Times’ coverage of Mr. Wang’s detention with information about Wang as a businessman and as an activist.
Chinese Police Detain Well-known Entrepreneur as Part of Crackdown on Political Activism, Washington Post’s in-depth profile by its Beijing Bureau Chief Simon Denyer.
(Translation by ChinaChange.org)