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I Travel the Earth in Sound — Marking the 10th Year of Being Barred From Leaving China

Ai Xiaoming, March 26, 2019

Sadness for prisoners. Painting by Ai Xiaoming, on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, 2017.

This is the tenth year since I was barred from leaving the country. I still remember the last time I came back to Shenzhen, from Hong Kong, on March 17, 2009. After that I have never been out of Luohu Border Control.

The first time I was barred from leaving the country was in 2005, because I had made the documentary “Taishi Village” (《太石村》). Perhaps it was because the police putting the restrictions on me hadn’t gotten in touch with the customs yet, or because my passport hadn’t expired (the digitalization of personal data wasn’t as strict back then), so between 2005 and early 2009, I left the country several times for meetings or screening tours to universities abroad.

Over the course of the decade, I made many requests to the police to lift the ban, but all were turned down. They had many excuses, common ones being that the decision had been made by someone at a higher-ranking branch (like the Ministry of Public Security, or they joke that the order was in place for my protection. Whatever the case, no matter how I have tried to argue or defend myself, it hasn’t changed a thing.

Once, in my despair, I told those policemen: “Maybe when the day comes that you let me out, I won’t want to leave.” I was extremely sad when I said those words, for if what I said came true, it would mean that I had lost much more than my mere freedom of travel, but my longing to see the outside world, my thirst for academic and artistic exchange, and my love of freedom. Of course, the guobao (国保, Domestic Security Division) officer may not have understood what I meant. But on the other hand I also know that many have undergone suffering far worse than mine. Many have made far greater sacrifices: Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), Gao Zhisheng (高智晟). The price I paid is miniscule by comparison. So I don’t let it disturb me.

Each line of the last stanza is the title of a symphony.

It’s been a very long time since I last saw Suli (素利), and I only got in touch with her on WeChat last month. She was missing for a few years. I took wedding photos of her and Qin Yongmin’s (秦永敏, a political prisoner serving a 13-year sentence) and have always stayed in the loop about her situation. After she read this poem, she left me a message saying that it brought her to tears. This morning she sent me a recording of her reciting my poem. I was very touched and felt a sense of solace. I just hope that we can take care of each other by writing and reading poems.

I think, if one day I regain my freedom of travel, I will definitely read out this poem at some gathering. This is one of the reasons why I thought to have this translated into English.

At least ten years ago….

I Travel the Earth in Sound

My passport is an oracle script
The visas are the rubbings on an ancient stele
The custom is a prison chamber
Crossing the border means smuggling yourself to freedom

Gold and silver treasures hide in my heart, fine and soft
The fine is longing, the soft is affection
At border control we are stark naked
Under the gaze of ultrasound or MRI scanning

You ordered me to open up all of my luggage
You say: computer, folders and documents
I say: those are personal photos
Why would I bring the things that you are looking for?
The winter of ten years ago is already dead
The memories of ten years past — sometimes they recur in a flash
Policewomen at my sides, two cold faces as I use the toilet
Turn on hard drive. Do not close the bathroom door.
Police officers’ silence, long and inscrutable
A verdict without trial
Unwritten prohibition

Across the stretch of ten years, the Custom faded into the distance
No hate, and also no love
It is like a world that sometimes feels so far away
Nothing to do with me, like we are at opposite extremes
Don’t tell me anything about travel
A humble puppet dressed in kimono
An ugly doll from the Indian tribes
The delirious cat has grown
I took a Berlin Bear to Tiger Temple


A passport is a sleeping beauty dying to see her prince
Sometimes I feel a desire to bury her, three feet below
In a grave more dear than her abode when alive
A live burial for a nonexistent kiss
Only a name and a nation
Like the Thirteen Tombs, not knowing what they are
One day, I told the police
The truth is, I don’t want to travel anymore
Pass a life sentence on my passport
However you like: firing squad or lethal injection
For someone who doesn’t have the desire anyway
Whatever the punishment is, it won’t matter
Of course, I didn’t tell him
All the places I want to go
Just hearing a name is a night full of starlight
In Honduras, is there the raging flow of waterfalls?
Like a massive symphony every morning, what a deep romance
In Mexico, there is Frieda, her flowers of the desert
Albania, where the mountain hawk soars high and away
Fighter planes frozen in the secrecy of their cavern airbase
Slovenia, a five-word poem
How splendid, a perfect euphony
Liechtenstein and Morocco
As dashing as secret agents
With the thrill and mystery of Hollywood
The Vatican, Britain, Ireland …
I remember the rain on the street corners coming back from Scotland
I remember the wide embrace of Mike and Sue
And that Australia-accented “bloody something”
Greece, Poland, Iceland, Finland
Every name a work of art
Greece, a sweet-scented candle, or the ruins of ancient shrines?
Does Poland have orchids rocking on rippling waves?


Consoling those children floating up in the wisps of blue smoke
Austria, my sister has an apple orchard in the countryside
Kafka’s home on a silent street
Yahong sent me a postcard
Portugal, Denmark, Amsterdam
Czech, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland
The white on blue of the Alps
I remember the cellar where the rebel leader was detained
I took the photo for Heping, inside of the castle
A hero rides a mighty steed
Riding gloriously to his homeland
In the splendid summer days by the lakeside in Geneva
We hear the future instructors at Harvard sing Tsai Chin’s songs


One day I will become a sack of ash
Be careful, I might scatter it around Luohu
At every point of entry and in every escalator
Beneath the wheels of everyone’s luggage
Every strand taking me beyond the border
I will be in the air, I will be on the conveyor belts
Softly rising with the steam from your teacups
I will linger in the chimneys visited by Santa Claus
In the wings of great angels
In the cruise ships sailing the oceans wide
In the melody of the Kol Nidrei
I will wander the vast world in which your sword of power buried in the sand
Going to every city, each one raising a flag to a soul set free
But I am still alive
And my passport pleads not guilty
We guard each other in the time before the expiry date
We can start our journey with the ashes
And we can also in this moment
Travel the earth in symphonies

A Night on the Bare Mountain
Don Quixote
Capriccio Espagnol
Also Sprach Zarathustra
In the Steppes of Central Asia
Songs of a Wayfarer
My Fatherland
From the New World
March 16, 2019

Ai Xiaoming received these gifts from her friends when they traveled
back from the other countries. A friend got two dolls of Berlin bear to
her at Berlin International Film Festival. “Tiger Temple” is a fellow
Chinese documentary maker, now the coordinator for the Chinese
Independent Film Forum in Xi’an. Ai gave him one of the dolls of
Berlin bear as a gift of encouragement.

Poland in Chinese translation consists of the characters 波兰, “wave”
and “orchids.”

Tsai Chin is a pop and folk singer from Taiwan. At the Chinese
diasporas’ new year parties in the United States, those who cannot
return to China sing this song, thinking of their hometowns.

Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明) is a retired professor at Sun Yat-sen University. She works on independent documentary films and is a feminist researcher. 

Translated from Chinese by Leo T. 

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Over 200 People Support Guo Feixiong in a Hunger Strike Relay

By Yaqiu Wang, May 23, 2016


On April 26 when Yang Maoping (杨茂平), the sister of renowned Chinese rights activist Guo Feixiong
(郭飞雄), visited her brother in Yangchun Prison (阳春监狱), Guangdong Province, she found that his health had seriously deteriorated: he had blood in the stool, he mouth and throat were bleeding, and he couldn’t walk properly. She demanded that the prison authorities give him a medical examination, but was rejected. Guo’s compromised health condition is the result of the immense abuses and inhumane treatment he has suffered since his arrest in August 2013, including being denied yard time for consecutive 800+ days in a fetid detention center.

Guo Feixiong is a pioneer of the rights defense movement in China. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment in 2007, and in November 2015 again given a six year prison sentence. In both cases his treatment was naked political persecution aimed at forcing him to desist from his activism.

On April 27, writer Tan Zuoren (谭作人), who served a five-year prison sentence for his study into the engineering quality of the school buildings that collapsed, crushing students during the Wenchuan, Sichuan earthquake in 2008, posted a message online that he was going to engage in a hunger strike for one day in support of Guo Feixiong. He wrote: “A decade ago, to offer support for Guo Feixiong hunger striking in prison, our book study group in Chengdu all signed up for a hunger strike relay, one person fasting for each day. On the spot we gained over 30 participants who signed their names, joined the relay, and went on hunger strike in support of Feixiong. Today, in order to again rescue Feixiong, I am voluntarily hunger striking again for 24 hours.”

On April 29, 12 writers, activists, and dissidents initiated an “Urgent Call for the Medical Examination of Guo Feixiong,” a document to which over 1,000 people have so far affixed their signatures. In the current high-pressure political environment, seeing this kind of large-scale support for an imprisoned human rights activist in rare indeed. As expected, many of those who signed their names to the letter, or who fasted, were called in or threatened by police, but none of this dulled the momentum of support for Guo Feixiong’s case.

On May 2, a number of activists—including writers Tan Zuoren and Li Xuewen (黎学文), human rights lawyer Sui Muqing (隋牧青), and activist Ou Biaofeng (欧彪峰)—published online the document “A Proposal for Supporting Guo Feixiong Though a Hunger Strike Relay.” The Proposal stated that its purpose was “to urge the authorities to handle Guo Feixiong’s case according to the law and offer timely, effective, and reasonable medical help, to ensure that he has the most basic right to life and health.” The initiators of this hunger strike relay called for people to participate. It requested that every participant in the relay fast for 24 hours, during which time they could only drink water, and were forbidden to consume any other type of beverage or food. The initiators encouraged participants to make a public statement that they were doing the fast in support of Guo Feixiong. The activist Wu Yuhua, based in Thailand, is coordinating the record keeping.

On May 13, Guo’s older sister said that under pressure from the outside world, the Yangchun Prison on May 9 took Guo to the prison hospital for a health examination. However, in her open letter to Party leader Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on May 19, Guo’s wife Zhang Qing (张青) revealed that the prison authorities gave Guo Feixiong a rectal examination by force without his sister being present, recorded the process on video, and threatened him with posting it online. Later, they shaved his head, and commanded him that every time he saw a prison guard, he had to squat down with hands clasped behind his head “like an insect.” Protesting the inhumane treatment, Guo announced on May 9 that he would be embarking on a hunger strike of indefinite duration.

A tally of the hunger strike relay participants.

A tally of the hunger strike relay participants (click to enlarge).

On May 14, Wang Juntao (王军涛), the New York-based chairman of the National Committee of the Democratic Party of China, announced that members of his organization would begin a hunger strike relay outside of the United Nations Headquarters, and that each participant would fast for 24 hours as long as Guo Feixiong is continuing his hunger strike.

From May 4 to 22,  at least 216 people inside and outside China have taken part in the hunger strikes relay.

Alongside all this, netizens from around China have been photographing themselves holding placards in support of Guo Feixiong, then uploading the images to the internet. Many others have sent postcards and monetary donations to Guo. “Have you sent a postcard today?” Activist Wang Lihong (王荔蕻) posts to Twitter every day. “Use postcards and donations showing your love to break down their doors!” Recently she and a group of others drove to the Yangchun Prison, but they were intercepted as soon as they got close.

Following is a selection of the statements by those who have taken part in the hunger strike relay so far:

Guo Feixiong’s wife, Zhang Qing, wrote: “I understand his resistance. What has happened to him is intolerable. I’ve determined to do everything in my power to see that Feixiong walks out of jail alive.”

Sun Yat-sen University professor Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明):  “After Guo Feixiong gets out of prison [in 2011], he can come to my house, and I gave him the photographs taken by his young son when visiting in prison. I recommend that he leaves China and sees his wife and their two lovely children. He said, ‘Once I leave, I won’t be able to come back anymore.’ He’s willing to lay down his life so that China sees freedom and democracy. This is his choice. Guo Feixiong continues to use his own sacrifices to show that our generation loves freedom, and that every inch of freedom requires a pint of blood.”

Professor Ai continued: “I know that hunger striking for 24 hours isn’t an extraordinary achievement. You certainly won’t die from it. And furthermore, no system that is as inhumane as this one will be moved by the sacrifice. But at the same time, we all need to express our individual political stance, to show what we think is right and wrong; resistance needs transparency and openness. … You don’t want to die like Wei Zexi (魏则西) or Xu Chunhe (徐纯合), but what have you done about protecting your own rights and freedoms? You can emigrate whether or not you’ve become wealthy, but the freedom you enjoy over there isn’t  your own glory—it’s the fruit of the struggle of others. I’m not going to leave. I’m going to stand right here on this piece of land and, with my brothers and countrymen, win over our own rights and freedom. I’m going to raise a flag for freedom right here in China!”

The poet Wang Zang (王藏) wrote:  “As soon as I learned about the savage treatment of Mr. Guo Feixiong in custody I wanted to join in the hunger strike relay protest. But I hesitated, concerned about threats I would receive and the distress it would cause my wife and child. In the end, I decided that I still need to make my stance public. My wife was supportive: If we say nothing about even this, then we’re living a subhuman life.”

Rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), a close friend and colleague of Guo Feixiong, also added his voice. The two of them have long worked together, first in the Taishi Village incident (太石村罢免村官, in which villagers sought to get rid of corrupt local officials) and a range of other public incidents, and both have, for their activism, been subject to shocking levels of brutal torture. Gao wrote: “Our concern for Guo Feixiong’s health is not a frivolous matter. This involves the man’s life. Everyone who is connected with Guo has ample reason to take this extremely seriously, and in so doing demonstrate one’s own connection to humanity.”

Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), the rights lawyer, wrote: “Even though I know what Guo is going through, I worry that I’ll become numb or even forget, so I want to, through fasting for a day, ensure that I imprint this suffering in myself at every moment: and this goes for all others, too, including Yu Shiwen, and the rights lawyers and activists arrested on July 9, 2015, including Li Heping, Wang Yu, Hu Shigen, Liu Xing, and all others who like them are fighting for the freedom and dignity of myself, my family, and all of the Chinese people. I know that all of them have to take care of both their aging parents and young children, and they have worries and misgivings, fear and struggles, sometimes willing and sometimes not, they take it upon themselves, and they bear this for others. I hope that all people in the world with conscience an open hearts will learn that there is a group of people like this in China’s jails right now. We all call out and mobilize for Guo Feixiong, Yu Shiwen, and all others persecuted in the July 9 crackdown. When they’re free, we’ll have moved one step closer to freedom. Let’s struggle together.”

Rights activist Wang Lihong wrote: “Comparatively speaking, whose life is the more valuable? Whose occupies the brighter place — even if all this sacrifice is not known about, or even jeered at? We are using this seemingly minor act to express our hearts toward Guo Feixiong, and to send our goodwill to those activists and prisoners of conscience who have, are, or will be jailed so that society can progress. We’re resisting the evil that persecutes them! Please believe that this has power! Our voices will be heard, our perseverance will be witnessed, and the freedom that we are striving for will eventually come closer and closer.”

Tang Jingling (唐荆陵, currently in jail) wrote: “May 16 this year marks our second year of imprisonment (for myself, Yuan Xinting [袁新亭], and Wang Qingying [王清营]), and also the 50th anniversary since the Chinese Communist Party launched the Cultural Revolution, dragging the entire population into calamity. Hunger striking on this day has a special meaning: refusing to forget the suffering of our people! Let us join hands and remake China!”

Lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚) asked: “Will Guo Feixiong’s case end in tragedy, like what happened with Cao Shunli (曹顺利)? Back then, lawyer Wang Yu also worried for Cao Shunli’s life, and I didn’t believe it would get to that point—but Cao still died a tragic death. The reason everyone is so anxious about Guo Feixiong is because the authorities  have no moral bottom line.”

Chu Guoren (楚国人), a netizen, wrote: “I’m scared to write this statement — but when I think of all the rank unfairness and innumerable injustices happening all around, the vulnerable people who are suffering without help or attention, I can’t remain indifferent. This is another reason I want to hunger strike in protest for Guo Feixiong. Each Chinese person, please don’t be afraid: let’s support Guo Feixiong for ourselves, and for all of the ordinary people like us.”

Zhu Xinxin (朱欣欣) from Shijiazhuang wrote: “Violating the human rights of one person is violating the human rights of oneself. Those who persecute others and trample on their human rights are, at the same time, tightening the noose around their own necks.”


Yaqiu Wang researches and writes about human rights in China. Follower her on Twitter @Yaqiu.


Related articles about Guo Feixiong

Activist Guo Feixiong Held 743 Days Without Yard Time

Meet Guo Feixiong  

Guo Feixiong, a Civil Rights Hero

Lawyers Describe Trial of Guo Feixiong and Sun Desheng


中文 声援郭飞雄接力绝食抗议已20天,200多人参加



The Wrath of Vaginas: Face to Face with Masanjia Woman’s Labor Camp

Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明)

Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明)

By Ai Xiaoming, translated by Yaxue Cao

Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明) is a professor of Chinese modern literature at Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. In recent years she’s best known for her participation in social movements and documentary making. Her work includes Three Days in Wukan (乌坎三日), The Central Plains (中原纪事, about the struggle of HIV contamination victims in Henan province, with English subtitles), Why Flowers Are So Red (花儿为什么这样红, about citizens’ investigation of student deaths during the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008). Sometimes Professor Ai Xiaoming is referred to as the Ai in the south, as opposed to the Ai in the north (Ai Weiwei). The original was published in the author’s blog as well as the latest issue of iSunAffairs  (No. 50).

Independent documentary maker Du Bin (杜斌) has just released video interviews of Masanjia victims. Until May 1, 2013, you can watch it online (with English subtitles) by purchasing a 30-yuan (or $5) ticket, through PayPal to (more details here)

While we haven’t heard anything more about the investigation into torture in Mashanjia that Liaoning provincial government has pledged, we do know that it has already interrogated all the formers inmates who talked to the journalists and threatened them. Which prompts us to wonder: Is the investigation actually about who has exposed the secrets of Masanjia?

Diary written on waterproof fabric stolen from work and smuggled out of camp in vagina.

Diary written on waterproof fabric stolen from work and smuggled out of the camp in vagina.

“The wind is roaring, horses are howling, and the Yellow River is in wrath.”º This time the lyrics will have to be changed to “the vaginas are in wrath.” If you have read the recently published investigative report (link in Chinese, NYT’s writeup) on Masanjia Woman’s Re-education-through-labor Camp (马三家女子劳教所), and you are a Chinese with humanity living in you, I believe you would have heard the howling of vagina.

It is an organ meant to enjoy the pleasure of copulation, to impregnate and give birth, but this time one woman’s vagina brought us the most savage humiliation and torture, and they were performed in the name of state power.

This roll of letters hidden in the victim’s vagina, and before it a woman’s diary smuggled out in the same manner, laid bare the unthinkable barbarism of China’s reeducation through labor and the unspeakable cruelty inflicted on its victims.

Shortly before the publication of this report, the UN Committee on the Status of Women had just held its 57th meeting, and women’s organizations across the world condemned violence against women. Of all forms of violence, the cruelest, and also the most powerful, is violence against women sponsored by the state and protected by the system, such as wartime rape. But such forms of violence have occurred in Masanjia Woman’s RTL Camp and have been carried out in the name of reforming inmates.

China is an important member of the United Nation and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. Placed next to Chinese law and promises the Chinese government has made domestically and internationally concerning women’s rights, what happened in Masanjia challenges not only the bottom line of human nature among the Chinese, but human civilization rebuilt post-Auschwitz.

Since the LENS report, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported that “Highly concerned [about the report], Liaoning province is quickly forming an investigative team consisted of people from the provincial Judiciary Department, provincial Bureau of Reeducation-through-labor and local prosecution, while inviting related media outlets and a number of people’s representatives and members of the Committee of the People’s Political Consultative Conference to participate. The findings, as well as the decisions will the published truthfully.”

But meanwhile, on the website of LENS magazine, the report has become a 404 error. Why delete the item? If the report itself is not allowed, how can we believe we are going to be given “truthful findings?”

Speaking of Liaoning provincial government “quickly forming” an investigative team, for many victims, “quickly” is not quick enough, perhaps too late already. How many people are still undergoing the torture of the “dead person’s bed¹” and “big hanging²?” How many are still trembling from their nightmares? Those who have died of these ordeals will never live to see it anymore.

A brief search will find that Masanjia has been notorious for a long time. Over the years there have been exposés and complaints about Masanjia, and an extended revelation was posted in June, 2010, on 民生观察 website (Civil Rights & Livelihood Watch, here, here, here and here). The editor noted in his introduction that “Written by the victims themselves, the following account exposes the inside stories and ‘evil crimes’ committed there. These include gratuitous beating of inmates, hanging by pulling the limbs, being tied to the ‘dead person’s bed,’ vagina poking, and other forms of torture;  forcing inmates to make uniforms for the armed police force; purchasing inmates from other facilities to receive more state funding; receiving bribes from inmates’ families, and more.”

The account was posted in four installations, and the part about the cruelty with which the lieutenant of the camp, Wang Yanping (王艳萍), and others beat inmates is more detailed than the LENS report, complete with cell phone numbers of the victims.

It is courageous that LENS reporter Yuan Ling (袁凌) and intern Xu Xiatong (徐宵桐), with the support of the magazine’s chief editor, have completed this ice-breaking report to become the first domestic media outlet to expose the evils of Masanjia camp. By doing so, it puts a huge task in front of China’s new leaders as well as the public: When did such violence against inmates start?  How has the system of torture been developed? How were the torture facilities built, when were the tools of torture first being used? Why have the deaths and disabilities resulted from torture never been investigated and those who perpetrated it never been held accountable

by Crazy Crab, @hexiefarm

by Crazy Crab, @hexiefarm

Violence in Masanjia camp is by no means isolated, nor is it the first of its kind. In 2005, the renowned lawyer Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) wrote an open letter to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao demanding an end to the savagery against Falungong practitioners.  As I remember, he reported that almost every victim was attacked in their reproduction organs……What his letter revealed was terrifying, and what happened to Gao Zhisheng following the letter was even more horrific. Under threat of violence, the public, including myself, has kept silent.

Katyn Forest  is not in China, nor are Auschwitz’s furnaces and guns. But China has An Yuan Ding (安元鼑³, link in Chinese) and there are Masanjias here and there.  Following Falungong practitioners, more ordinary citizens whose rights and interest were violated and who appealed for justice have been sent, in an unbroken stream, to these “Masanjias” across China. This has been done because the number of petition cases is a blemish to local government’s performance, and stability must be maintained. Ten years ago, I took part in the appeal to abolish the custody and repatriation policy (收容遣送制度) after the death of Sun Zhigang (孙志刚)  in police custody⁴.  That year the State Council ended that policy. But in the following ten years, black jails have been “created” across China to detain petitioners, not to mention the practice of dispatching people straight to mental hospitals or to RTL camps.

What would silence mean in the face of human rights disasters on such scales and frequent environmental disasters? Isn’t it clear enough?

The women who came out of Masanjia alive broke their silence, and their memories of the camp are confronting our conscience: If none of us speaks out, are we any different from those who ravaged these fellow sisters’ breasts and vaginas with electric batons? The answer is no.

Of a woman’s body, nowhere is more vulnerable than vagina. It has no fists, feet or teeth to fight invasion; it has been made into booty; it has endured assault and died shedding blood. But it is strong too and it gives life. This time, it smuggled memories. These memories, once born, will live just as a life. But this time, how long will it live?  

Once again I have thought about Katyn and Auschwitz. 

In 1940, the Soviet Union shot 4,000 Polish officers to death in Katyn Forest near Smolenskaya. Nazi Germany condemned the killing when it unearthed the bodies in 1943. But in 1944 when USSR army recaptured Katyn area, it pinned the crime to the Germans, and the whole world accepted it as the truth until post-1989 when this secret was exposed.

A few days ago I wrote an article about the work of Lin Zhao⁵ (林昭), but I didn’t mention the incident. One day last winter I was at the gate of Tilanqiao Prison, Shanghai (上海提篮桥监狱), where Lin Zhao had been jailed in the 1960s, but wasn’t allowed to go in. Reports said that Lin Zhao’s files had long been removed from there and there was no way one could access them.  Across the street from the prison was the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Musuem where many old photos and items were on display to tell the story of Holocaust. In a hall on the second floor, a TV screen kept playing scenes of the concentration camps. Oblivion and memory, face to face, stare at each other on the same street.

I don’t know when we will see museums for victims of Tilanqiao and Masanjia, but I look forward to a truthful report on Masanjia that the Liaoning provincial government promised. But before such a report is produced, the public should provide more evidence to support this extraordinary investigation. It concerns in what direction history will go, it concerns the future of each one of us, and it concerns women’s rights and the “respect and protection of human rights by the state” that the Chinese Constitution proclaims. If a jailed woman could use her vagina to store memory, how much more can we the others do who are not locked up?

If from now on females inmates, upon release, will be subjected to vagina inspection in the future to make sure nothing is hidden there, then allow me to conclude that, if the females of a people are ravaged and mangled, whose mouths cannot speak and whose vaginas are monitored, can this people still be propagated? And more, why propagate it?

So far the LENS report is still being reposted on the web, and I hope all the policemen who have worked in Masanjia, past and present, will come to read it and ask themselves:  What have I done? Why? What responsibilities have I to assume? You may say, “I was just carrying out an order to meet our stability maintenance requirement, and we cannot manage those recalcitrant women without using torture.” If so, can you sense the victims’ feelings from the report? Would some of you finally stop your disguise and reveal your true impulses, just as some of the Nazi war criminals did during the Nuremberg trial? “The terrible evil of dictatorship becomes clearer when it is coming to an end. We now can see what it means to obey unconditionally. ……This social system in which we mechanically carry out orders without questioning is ultimately proved to be wrong.” Some in your midst once stood up to stop the violence or help the victims lessen their pain. One victim said that, when a brutal guard dragged her on the ground, another raised her feet so that her breasts and abdomen wouldn’t be rubbed against the rough surface. We hope that these rare glimpses of humanity will also come through during the investigation.

I hope all of the officials and people’s representatives of the investigation team remember who they are and what they are supposed to do. Here I wish to remind you Justice Jackson’s opening statement in the Nuremberg trial: “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

April 10, 2013

º “The wind is roaring, horses are howling, and the Yellow River is in wrath” is a line from the Yellow River Cantata, a popular patriotic song during the Chinese war of resistance against Japanese aggression. The Yellow River is a symbol of mother in Chinese.

¹“Dead person’s bed” is used to force feed an inmate on hunger strike. It is an iron bed with leather surface that has multiple cuffs and straps to tie down a naked inmate and to force feed her.

²“Big Hanging:” Tie an inmate’s stretched arms high, pulling them to maximum length, while fixing the feet with wooden clamps. “When the guard thumped the bed with his foot, I felt like my chest was being torn into pieces.”

³An-yuan-ding (安元鼑) was a security company that operated black jails from 2008 to 2010 in Beijing.

⁴Sun Zhigang incident: In early 2003, young college graduate Sun Zhigang (孙志刚) was detained in Guangzhou, where he just found a job as a garment designer, for not possessing a temporary residential card. Three days later he died in police custody, a result of severe beating. His death roiled the country, and legal scholars appealed to the authorities to abolish the “Detention and Deportation” policy.

⁵Lin Zhao (林昭), a student in Peking University, was designated a rightist in 1957, imprisoned in Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai from 1960 to 1968, and secretly executed in April 29, 1968.

Related reading: To Remember Is to Resist, our translation of Dr. Teng Biao’s great essay on reeducation-through-labor.   

How I Discovered the HIV Epidemic and What Happened to Me Afterwards

By Wang Shuping, published: September 27, 2012


It isn’t new. It’s the story of how tens of thousands ofimpoverishedvillagers and hospital patients were infected with HIV through contaminated blood in mid 1990s in Henan province, China. Entire villages and families were wiped out and many lives wrecked. And two decades later, the pain continues and has been documented here by retired Professor of literature and documentary maker Ai Xiaoming (艾晓明) in 2006. Recently I came across the account of Dr. Wang Shuping (王淑平), the very medical professional who first discovered the epidemic, alerted health authorities, and struggled in vain to stop the epidemic that would go on to infect approximately 300,000 people, mostly the rural poor, according to Zhang Ke (张可), a Chinese AIDS researcher and activist. Dr. Wang eventually left China for the US. And, in time, some of the most vocal AIDS doctors/activists, such as Dr. Gao Yaojie (高耀洁) and Dr. Wan Yanhai (万延海), were all pushed out of China. In September 15, Professor Chen Binzhong (陈秉中), former director of China Health Education Institute, wrote his third open letter to Chinese leaders, laying out a long list of officials, including two members of the Party’s Standing Committee of the Politburo Li Changchun (李长春) and Li Keqiang (李克强), who have engaged in covering up the epidemic and persecuting whistle blowers and activists.  Dr. Wang’s account, simple and unadorned, is gripping nevertheless, not only because so much was at stake, but also because it offers a glimpse of Chinese officials in action. Even for a Chinese like myself who grew up in China and knows its impulses and vice inside out, it is still shocking, and painful, to observe the incredible smallness and barbarism of its “public servants” to whose hands the interest of the people was entrusted. If you wish, you can reach Dr. Wang by emailing her (, and the Chinese original first appeared in, an overseas advocacy website. With Dr. Wang’s permission, we offer you a translation of her account. – The Editors   


I am Wang Shuping, one of the people mentioned in Dr. Chen Binzhong’s three letters. As a doctor who witnessed the earliest stage of the hepatitis C and HIV epidemics, I would like to leave an account of how I discovered the HIV epidemic among paid blood donors in the 1990s and what happened afterwards.

In mid 1980s, I was a doctor and researcher of hepatitis, diagnosing and treating hepatitis patients but also studying the spread of hepatitis in the population. My colleagues and I published our findings in a paper titled A Study on Post-transfusion Hepatitis B in Chinese Journal of Virology (S1, 1991). At the end of 1991, I was assigned to work at the station of plasma collection by the Epidemic Prevention Center in Zhoukou Administrative District (周口地区).

After working there for a period of time, I suspected that Hepatitis C was wide-spread among donors. At the time, the station only screened donors for Hepatitis B antigen, not for Hepatitis C antigen. With my specialized training in clinical medicine and epidemics, I tested 64 serum samples collected from current donors, in collaboration with the Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. The test results confirmed my suspicion with 34% of the samples tested positive for hepatitis C antibody. At the same time I had already learned that, long before 1991, there had been hepatitis C epidemic in Gu’an, Hebei province (河北固安), and Zhenjiang, Jiangsu province (江苏镇江).

Based on my knowledge of epidemics and clinical experience, I concluded that the station of plasma collection where I worked was seriously contaminated. I began to inspect the operation procedures of the station and found that there were serious cross contaminations in blood-drawing, centrifugation and plasma separation. I warned the station leaders to protect the donors and to clean up cross-contamination. But he told me that “This will increase cost.” Prompted by my sense of responsibility as a doctor, I reported the hepatitis C epidemic among donors to the Ministry of Health in July 1992, recommending hepatitis C antibody screening at stations of plasma collection.

As a result of my reporting, Dr. Yang Dongming (杨东明) from the Ministry visited Zhoukou to learn about the contamination in our station. She said she had already visited some stations elsewhere and found many of them contaminated. In February 17, 1993, the Ministry of Health issued the standard for collecting blood from healthy persons. Among other things, it requires hepatitis C screening for all donors. This policy was effective from July 1, 1993.

Because of my whistle-blowing, I was kicked out by the station leaders. Plasma collection was for-profit, and my actions impeded the business. To solve the conflict, section chief Shen of the District Bureau of Health discussed with Party secretary Song of the Epidemic Prevention Center, assigning me temporarily to work in the Office of Medical Affairs in the Health Bureau. There, I was very fortunate to work with section chief Shen, Bureau Chief Wang and a few other colleagues to inspect 17 Stations of Plasma Collection in Zhoukou District at the end of 1993.

We found that all 17 stations had been seriously cross-contaminated. For example, there were 20,000 donors at the time selling blood to the Epidemic Prevention Center in Taikang County (太康县), 45% of them were eliminated for being positive in hepatitis C antibody screening. There were 4 underground private blood stations that hadn’t been inspected, and their contamination status remained unknown.

The business of plasma collection had developed very fast in Zhoukou District. The number of collection stations increased from 1 to 17 between 1991 and 1993 in Taikang County alone. Most of these stations were run either by the local Epidemic Prevention Center or by the hospital, and they were for profit.

From the contamination situation I had seen in blood stations and from the scientific literature I had read, it was clear to me that there was a hepatitis C breakout in plasma collection stations in China. My own investigation found hepatitis C antibody positive rate to be as high as 84.3%. Being a doctor, I was very anxious. I talked to Huangpu Youfeng (黄浦友风), commissioner to Zhoukou District, and he immediately convened all the chiefs of the plasma collection stations and hospitals across the District. Around the same time, I had learned from the 1993 paper by Zheng Xiwen (郑锡文) that, “between 1992 and 1993, the HIV infection rate among drug users in Ruili municipality and its three counties [in Yunnan province] were 81.8%, 85.7%, 44.6% and 40.0% respectively.”

I knew that hepatitis C and HIV had the same routes of infection; if an HIV-infected drug user’s blood was mixed into the station, it would spread fast among donors just like hepatitis C virus. I didn’t want to sit in the office of the Health Bureau waiting for the arrival of an AIDS epidemic. I wanted to directly monitor it and prevent it. In 1994, I asked the Health Bureau to allow me to establish a clinical testing center. It was approved but with no government funding provided. The Bureau assigned another three people to work in the center. I raised money myself, essentially using my own savings to buy testing equipment, while the Bureau authorized us to exercise quality control on blood safety in hospitals and blood stations across the District.

In March 1995, I was sent by the Health Bureau to test a donor by the last name Guo in Taikang County. He had been tested HIV positive when he was giving blood in a blood station in Kunming, Yunnan province. Mr. Guo told me that, for the last two weeks or so since he returned from Kunming, he had sold blood in Tuocheng County (柘城), Huaiyang County (淮阳), and Taikang County. Our testing found him HIV positive. I recommended the leaders of the Office of Medical Affairs of the Department of Health, Henan province, to immediately test HIV antibody in all the blood stations across the province. But they said it would be too costly and couldn’t be done.

In order to prevent HIV spread among blood donors as early as possible, I bought test kits from three manufacturers using my own savings, and randomly collected 409 samples from current donors of these three stations. Testing each sample three times using one kit after another, I tested all the samples and found the HIV positive rate at 13%. I promptly reported this to Mr. Wei, the head of the Health Bureau. He said, “You and your colleagues did a great thing for the people; people will be grateful.” He also said he would quickly report this to the district Health Bureau and the provincial Department of Health.

Two weeks later I went to see him again. He was very impatient. When I asked him whether he had reported the HIV epidemic to higher authorities, he rejoined, “You don’t think your test results are wrong?” I said my results were correct, and I told him I was going to Beijing to make a final verification. He asked me to submit a written report, which I penned and gave to him shortly. On the third day I left for Beijing. I brought with me 55 HIV-positive samples, but at the Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, the researchers told me that each sample would be charged RMB700 yuan. By then I had used up all my savings. I left in dejection.

It just so happened that, on my way out I ran into the president of the Academy Zeng Yi (曾毅) at the gate. He asked me what I was doing there, and I told him and asked him to help me with the final verification. Warmly he asked many questions; he was very alarmed when I told him about the HIV epidemic in Henan. He ordered his researchers to test my samples immediately. He instructed them to test 16 samples and that would be enough to determine. The test results came in the next day: 13 positive and 3 suspicious. Mr. Zeng said to me, “you have done an extraordinary thing; we must report this to the Ministry of Health immediately.”

That very evening, I received a call from Director Zhao of my District Health Bureau. He asked me when I was going to return. You caused an earthquake for our District, he said over the phone. The next evening, as soon as I arrived home, one of the directors of the provincial Department of Health called, praising the good work I had done and telling me I could continue on my work. I was very happy to be recognized by that director.

The next morning the District Health Bureau notified me to attend a meeting, because leaders from the provincial Department of Health asked for a briefing on the situation. However, as I walked into the meeting room, a director of the Bureau shouted at me, “Stay out of here!”  Saddened, I went home. The next day they asked me to attend a meeting held at the guesthouse where the leaders of the provincial Department of Health were staying. A Bureau director demanded me to cross out a sentence from the report a colleague of mine wrote: “We first reported the epidemic to the director of the Health Bureau, and then we went Beijing for verification.” I declined his demand; he then crossed out that name by himself.

The leaders from the provincial Department of Health asked me, “How come you could discover AIDS while others didn’t?” I understood very well that they wanted me to keep it secret, because exposing the epidemic would botch their job evaluation as officials. Dismayed, I said, “I hope you don’t upbraid me for now. You should go visiting the 17 stations of plasma collection that are collecting blood as we speak. In these 17 stations, there are at least 500 people who are being infected by hepatitis C and HIV every day.” According to newspaper reports at the time, Henan province alone had almost 400 stations of plasma collection, and most of the blood used in hospitals came from these stations. It was impossible to know how many hospital patients had been infected with hepatitis C and HIV. A police officer got hepatitis C from transfusion he received after being wounded in a chase. He and his family were deeply upset about it.

Following that, a retired leader of the Health Bureau came to my clinical testing center telling me, “You will be in trouble if you don’t close down the center.” The next day he came with a long baton and smashed the sign of the center with it. Then, he went into the rooms to smash the equipment. I tried to block him, and he hit me with his baton. Presently a lot of people crowded around us to watch. Some pulled him back. That way I got out of danger. I called the police station immediately, and when the officers came to get him, he cried and made a scene. He screamed, “Certain leaders sent me to beat her. Now that the police came, none of them is forthcoming!”

After being struck, I went to look for the new District commissioner to complain. She was not pleased with me at all. “You should be talking to your supervisors in the Bureau!” I knew that all of them were giving me the run-around; there was nowhere for me to find justice. I went home in tears.

In March 14, 1996, at the behest of senior leaders of the central government in Beijing, the chief of the Department of Public Security of Henan Province, with the cooperation of the head of the Department of Health, arrested leaders of blood stations that were currently in business. In April, all of the blood stations and stations of plasma collection across the country were closed down for “rectification.” When re-opened later, they all added HIV testing. I felt very gratified, because my work helped to protect the poor.

In July 1996, Henan held a provincial conference on AIDS prevention, and leaders of hospitals, Epidemic Prevention Centers and Health Bureaus at various levels attended the conference. Governor Zhang said in his speech that “someone reported the HIV epidemic directly to the central government, and that is not acceptable to us.” Following the plenary meeting on the first day, a group meeting of around 30 officials in charge of Medical Affairs was held on the second day. Zhang Maocai (张茂才), director of the Office of Epidemic Prevention, asked who was from Zhoukou. Two colleagues and I said we were. He asked forcefully, “I have asked your Health Bureau several times to close down that clinical testing center, has it been closed?” I was petrified. He went on, “That man in your district’s clinical testing center dared to report the HIV epidemic directly to the central government. Do you know how high the rate he reported is? 50%-60%! ” “He and that Zeng—what’s his name–Yi want to wreck the leadership of the Department of Health and the director of Epidemic Prevention.”

Representatives from Xinxiang District (新乡地区) and Nanyang District (南阳地区) countered him with their own numbers. “We also did testings, and the HIV infection rate among transfusion patients and blood donors is also as high as 50-60%, same as Zhoukou District,” they said. Director Zhang was very upset. “If this is exposed, all of the directors here will be thrown out!”

When it was my turn to speak, I told him that “I’m the ‘man’ from the clinical testing center in Zhoukou whom you just mentioned, but I am a woman.” I said I first reported it to the local Health Bureau before going for verification in Beijing. Presently several people surrounded me, coaxing and pushing me out of the meeting room. In the afternoon I went to the office of Liu Quanxi (刘全喜), one of the heads of the provincial Department of Health. I told him how Zhang Maocai accused me during the morning session. Before I finished speaking, he erupted in rage. “Out! Get out of here!” I left with tears running down my face. I was confused; I didn’t understand: How can a senior official be so rude and irrational? Why is he so afraid of the topic of AIDS?

In November, 1996, experts from the provincial Department of Health and a few leaders of the district Health Bureau, led by Zhang Maocai, came to our testing center to inspect. Zhang told us that our equipment didn’t meet the standard and we couldn’t continue our testing anymore. “I’m concerned with the health of the woman folk working here,” Zhang said, “I don’t want you to be infected.” I asked him to explain what he meant by saying, during the meeting, that our HIV testing aimed at getting the head of the provincial Department of Health and the director of Epidemic Prevention. I was angry. I said, “I don’t need your concern; if we were infected, it was just four of us and we are not afraid to die. Why don’t you care about those tens of thousands of AIDS victims?” I told him that he had perpetrated a crime for generations of Chinese! Enraged, he left my lab with his cohorts.

That evening, Mr. Zhang and the Party leaders of the district Health Bureau had a meeting and decided to close down the clinical testing center. As for me, I continued to go to countryside to work with patients. I received a few anonymous calls of threat. When the leaders at the Bureau learned that we were continuing our work at the center, they sent people and shut down our utilities. As a result, all of the blood samples from patients went bad. Next they changed our name from “Clinical Testing Center of Zhoukou District” to “Institute of the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Diseases” and merged it with the Station of Epidemic Prevention of Zhoukou District. Bureau chief Wei notified me: “You don’t have to come to work anymore. Go home to take care of your husband.” During the year after the center was closed down, I didn’t receive any pay.

Fortunately for me, with the help of President Zeng Yi, I was able to work and study for four years at his side. In Beijing, I wrote three times to Zhang Wenkang (张文康), the Minister of Health, to tell him the story of my colleagues and me. But all my letters were re-directed to the Department of Health of Henan province or to the Health Bureau of Zhoukou District. The circumstances of my colleagues and me became even worse.

President Zeng had received a lot of pressure for keeping me, and I felt like a burden to him. I still needed a job, I was still young, and I had a lot of experience in preventing and treating contagious diseases. I had discovered an important HIV protective antibody during the many serological experiments I had conducted. I wanted to have a good environment where I could make use of my knowledge and talent. But that proved to be a mere dream. After searching online for six months, I found a job in hepatitis C research.

In 2001, I came to the United States to work. I have since been working over 10 hours every day. Hard as it is, I have learned a lot of new technologies and techniques. I am still hoping that, one day, I will be able to apply my experience and skills to serve the Chinese people.