By Xiao Shu, published: January 11, 2015
I no longer have the desire to argue about the treatment of Guo Yushan and his colleagues from a legal perspective. We know that “illegal business practices” was the charge for which Guo was formally arrested on December 6th, after remaining in extralegal detention for more than two months. Back in 2007, the authorities used the same charge to sentence activist Guo Feixiong, while in 2013 it was the charge of “disturbing public order” that landed Xu Zhiyong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing and other members of the New Citizens Movement in jail. Today, the charge of “illegal business” has been used on Guo Yushan and, as with before, it is never about the law .
The punishment of its citizens stands at the core of the regime. “Class struggle” (“阶级斗争” was of course about punishment, as was the “crackdown on peaceful regime change” (“反和平演变”). Today they have “stability maintenance” system in place and they mount “opposition to color revolutions,” but again, these are just other ways of smiting dissent. Xi Jinping’s father, Xi Zhongxun (习仲勋), was able to boast that he’d never attacked anyone in his life. Who among the leaders today could make such a claim?
Just last week, Shanghai suffered a horrible tragedy in which 35 people were trampled to death. Did they have any warning mechanism for such a tragedy?
For those who died in the recent highway collapse in Guizhou, where was the government’s early warning?
Looking back a bit further, what did the government do to prevent 300,000 infants from being poisoned by the melamine-tainted milk formula? When, during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the poorly constructed school buildings which collapsed like tofu took the lives of the thousands of young students, where was their prevention and warning?
When we string together this list of tragedies, it becomes very long indeed, and the moans of those lost souls becomes equally loud.
China might be “rising” in the world, but it is a country with no defenses against disasters, man-made or natural. China’s leaders are only interested in keeping a tight rein on the people, and they are skillful doing that with unchecked monopoly on power and resources. In case after case, they aggravate sufferings by treating families of disaster victims as potential trouble-makers and placing them under strict control. The cruelty of it is beyond the pale.
Everywhere one looks there are public hazards, with the most obvious being the absence of effective restrictions on state power.
Whereas they destroy, Guo Yushan saves. When the blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng fled from his illegal imprisonment, it was Guo Yushan who rushed to his assistance. He was there too, for months on end with his team, to help the victims of the melamine scandal.
Guo Yushan would be the happiest man in the world if he could live in peace and solitude to be the scholar that he has always wanted to be. But he happens to be someone who is unable to turn his back on the injustices and sufferings around him. He has had no choice but to become involved, and today the government’s revenge has finally been meted out.
He was aware of the consequences of his efforts. If you insist on saying that he is guilty of “illegal business activities,” then it must be remembered that his business was to save others. He believes that the rise and fall of a regime have its own logic beyond any individual’s control, but in China where there is no safeguard of basic human rights, the regime manufactures cycles of human rights disasters, and it is imperative that we help those in need in any possible way.
Coming to the aid of others can be perceived and treated a challenge to the existing political order, as the arrest of Guo Yushan shows abundantly.
Xiao Shu (笑蜀), the pen name of Chen Min, is a former columnist for the Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly and the Chinese magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, and an active participant in the New Citizens Movement. He is currently a visiting scholar at National Chengchi University in Taiwan.
Just Man Guo Yushan, by Xiao Shu, November 9, 2014.
Civil Disobedience in Sodom – A Letter to Xu Zhiyong, by Guo Yushan, August 10, 2013
Exile in My Own Country – A Letter to Domestic Security Officer Li in Beijing, by Yang Zili (Transition Institute researcher), December 13, 2014
China Arrests Activist amid a Clampdown, the New York Times, January 6, 2014.
Chinese Scholar Who Helped in an Escape Is Detained for ‘Picking Quarrels’, the New York Times, October 12, 2014.
Buffett-Style Dinner Bids Woo Chinese for Just Society, Bloomberg, August 20, 2013.
(Translation based on an edited version with the author’s permission)