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Bill of Indictment Against Human Rights Lawyer Xie Yang

January 11, 2017

 

709 谢阳

Hunan Province Changsha Municipal People’s Procuratorate

Bill of Indictment

CS Proc Crim Indict [2016] No. 85

 

Defendant Xie Yang (谢阳), male, [redacted], Han ethnicity, master’s degree education, was a practicing lawyer at Hunan Gangwei Law Firm, [redacted]. On July 12, 2015, he was put under residential surveillance by the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau on suspicion of the crimes of subversion of state power and disrupting court order. On January 8, 2016 this procuratorate approved his arrest on suspicion of the crime of subversion of state power. The arrest was executed the following day by the Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau.

The Changsha Municipal Public Security Bureau has concluded its investigation of this case and, on August 8, 2016, referred the case to this procuratorate for prosecutorial review of defendant Xie Yang’s culpability for the crimes of subversion of state power and disrupting court order. After receiving this case, the procuratorate on August 10, 2016, notified the defendant of his right to retain defense counsel, questioned the defendant in accordance with the law, heard the defense lawyer’s opinions, and reviewed the complete set of documents in this case. Due to some unclear facts and insufficient proof, on August 17, 2016 and October 17, 2016, this procuratorate twice returned the case to the public security organ for additional investigation. After the public security organ completed additional investigation on September 17, 2016, and November 17, 2016, the case was again transferred to this procuratorate for review and prosecution.

It is found upon review by law that:

I. Crime of Subversion of State Power

Defendant Xie Yang had long been influenced by the infiltration of anti-China forces and gradually formed his idea of overthrowing the current political system. Since 2012, Xie Yang has published many speeches attacking and defaming the government, judicial organs, and the state justice system, and openly incited others to subvert state power. He has also traveled abroad many times to receive training by overseas organizations. Through WeChat, Telegram, and other online methods—and in the name of “defending rights”—he colluded with Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), who was sentenced for the crime of subversion of state power, and other people inside and outside China who intended to overthrow our government to interfere and stir up incidents and events that happened in China in recent years. He attacked and slandered our country’s current political system, incited others to overthrow our government and the socialist system by willfully distorting facts, incited others to unlawfully assemble in public to make provocations, and instigated people who did not know the facts to resent the government by making use of public opinion, severely harming national security and exacerbating social problems. Specific facts are as follows:

  1. Since 2012, defendant Xie Yang registered on Sina two microblog IDs:  “Xie Yang lawyer 911” and “Lawyer Xie Yang 911.” Through both he posted a large amount of writing attacking our government and current political system, advocating “overthrowing the regime is a basic human right,” and inciting others to overthrow our government. Upon investigation, it was found that more than ten thousand posts were posted on the above two microblog sites, with more than ten thousand followers. All the microblog posts were reposts of negative news about the government, judicial organs and the judicial and political systems of our country or negative comments on positive news and reports. About 180 or so posts directly attacked our government and incited the subversion of state power. These were read or clicked on around 300,000 times, and some of the microblog posts were heavily commented on and reposted.
  1. In April 2015, defendant Xie Yang represented Xie Fengxia (谢丰夏) (aka: Xie Wenfei 谢文飞) in his case on suspicion of the crime of subversion of state power. During the review and prosecution period of this case, Xie Yang visited Xie Fengxia as his defense attorney at the Guangzhou Detention Center. He then drafted an article titled “Attorney Xie Yang’s Meeting with Xie Wenfei” and posted it online, openly advocating “inciting to overthrow state power is not a crime and calling on everyone to work hard to end authoritarian rule.” This article was reposted by some personal microblogs and overseas anti-China websites, creating adverse political effects.
  1. In May 2015, a police attacker was shot and killed by a police officer in the waiting room of the Qing’an County Railway Station in Heilongjiang Province. After this incident, Xie Yang, together with attorney Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), who was dealt with in another case on suspicion of the crime of inciting subversion of the state power, Liu Shuqing (刘书庆) and others, traveled to Harbin and Qing’an County of Heilongjiang Province to exploit this incident by gathering crowds to provoke trouble offline and encouraging confrontation online. At the same time, they gathered unlawfully and held signs and banners at the Heilongjiang Province Public Security Department, Heilongjiang Railway Administrative Bureau, the Qing’an County Railway Station square, and the Qing’an County government, proclaiming: “Heaven and the people are angry at the killing of a citizen,” and “Make Qing’an police accountable, exercise constitutional rights.” He later published online the above-mentioned photos showing signs of the appeal and making fact-distorting speeches and statements to incite people who did not know the facts to oppose government organs.
  1. On May 18, 2015, during his defense in a case involving an economic dispute in Nanning Municipality, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Xie Yang suffered a minor injury in his lower leg during a violent fight between people of both parties. The Nanning City Public Security Bureau promptly dispatched officers to deal with the situation. Xie Yang later posted on his microblog a speech on his being beaten to maliciously slander the Nanning Public Security Bureau, claiming that “Nanning police organized criminals to interfere with the economic dispute,” and “Nanning police were the assailant,” and hinting that he was being persecuted for his defense work in the Qing’an incident, and inciting people who did not know the facts to oppose the government by defaming the government. After the said article was posted on his microblog, it was reposted and commented on by many media and internet forums, creating an adverse effect.

The above criminal facts are supported by the following evidence:

1. Material evidence such as photos of cellphone and computer(s); 2. Written evidence such as records of entry and exit, deleted microblog printouts provided by Beijing Weimeng Chuangke Net Technology Co., Ltd., explanation of case situation, household registration material; 3. Testimony by witnesses Wang Xun (王勋), Xie Fengxia (谢丰夏), and others; 4. Statement and argument by defendant Xie Yang; and 5. Electronic data.

II. Disrupting Court Order

From 2014 — March 2015, villagers from Shuangtang Group, Lianhu Village, Yuhua District, Changsha, Hunan, filed an administrative suit with the Changsha Municipality Yuhua District People’s Court regarding their eminent domain home demolition matter. Defendant Xie Yang was hired as attorney to represent 17 of these villagers in the case. He told the villagers that even if they didn’t win the case, they could use the delay of the trial to pressure the Yuhua District government to increase their compensation. To achieve this objective, defendant Xie Yang deputized non-lawyers Wang Quanping (王全平), Fan Biaowen (范标文) and others to handle this case, and they asked the villagers to trust and support every action they did in the courtroom, and do everything they could to convene their relatives and friends to come to the court hearing. After that they used the Internet and telephone to gather many unrelated people to come to the court hearing to “surround and watch” (围观). On the morning of March 9, 2015, Changsha Municipality Yuhua District People’s Court began to hear the case, the court decided that because Wang Quanping, Fan Biaowen and others didn’t have the qualifications to represent the appellants as their legal agents, so it demanded that Wang and Fan leave the trial. Defendant Xie Yang slapped the table and abused and insulted the judge and used other methods to incite the litigants and trial observers to oppose the court’s decision. A mob gathered and made a lot of noise and charged the court. The defendant Xie Yang and others obstructed the bailiffs’ maintaining court order, seriously disrupting court order and causing the hearing to be delayed two hours.

Evidence substantiating the above crimes is as follows:

1. Cell phone and other material evidence photographs; 2. Notice to appear in court, observer register; court hearing transcript and other documented evidence; 3. Testimonies by witnesses Xiang Bin (向斌), Zhang Libing (张莉斌), Zhou Jie (周杰), etc.; 4. Defendant Xie Yang’s deposition and defense; 5. Video and audio material from court hearing; 6. Digital data.

This procuratorate maintains that defendant Xie Yang incited others to subvert state power and overthrow the socialist system, thus committing major criminal acts. He also assembled mobs to create chaos and attacked a court, seriously disrupting court order. These actions constitute a violation of Articles 105(2) and 309(9) of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China. The facts being clear and the evidence reliable and sufficient, defendant Xie Yang should be held criminally responsible for the crimes of subverting state power and disrupting court order. Therefore, in accordance with Article 72 of the Criminal Procedure Law of the People’s Republic of China, this procuratorate hereby submits its indictment and requests that punishment be imposed in accordance with the law.

 

To: Hunan Province Changsha Municipal Intermediate People’s Court

Prosecutor: Fang Hui (方惠)

Acting Prosecutor: Li Zhiming (李治明)

December 16, 2016

 

Notes and Attachments:

  1. Defendant Xie Yang is currently detained in Changsha Number Two Detention Center.
  2. Case file (14 volumes, 24 CD-ROM disks).
  3. Witness List

 

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Prosecutor Fang Hui

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Prosecutor Li Zhiming

 

 


Related:

Wife and Relatives Issue Statement Over Torture of Rights Lawyer Xie Yang in Changsha, August, 2016. 

Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, July, 2015.

 

The Fate of Press Freedom in China’s Era of ‘Reform and Opening up’:  An Interview With Chang Ping

December 15, 2016

Yaxue Cao spoke with Chang Ping in Toronto on December 2, 2016.

 

chang-ping-1

 

YC: You used to be the director of the news department of the famed Southern Weekly and a columnist there, and you belong to a community of journalists who distinguished themselves in the 25 years of “market-oriented” media that coincided with the period of soaring economic development from early 1990s until recently. I’ve been wanting to hear your story, because I sensed that your trajectory as a journalist has also been the trajectory of China’s “market-oriented media.” So I’m very happy to see you. First of all, congratulations on receiving the CJFE International Press Freedom Award. They made a great choice.

Chang Ping: Thank you.

YC: I knew you were a 1989er, but I only learned yesterday, from watching the CJFE video, that you were detained for a month after the June 4th Massacre. Tell us a bit about your experience in 1989. Where were you?

Chang Ping: I was a sophomore at Sichuan University, majoring in Chinese Literature. In Chengdu, as in Beijing, college students took to the streets to protest, staged hunger strikes in the public square downtown, and held dialogues with the provincial government. I was involved in organizing some of these activities. After the crackdown, I was detained for a month and severely disciplined.

YC: How did you become a journalist?

Chang Ping: I wanted to be a novelist, and never thought much about journalism. I didn’t have a job after the June 4th protest, nor did I care for a career in the system. I stumbled on my first media job by accident: in Chengdu, a boss and I, just two of us, started a business intelligence magazine. That was 1991, the year before Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour. With scissors and glue, I cut out what I thought was useful business information and arranged it in categories such as policy, law, overseas information, etc. Back then it was still hot metal typesetting, and I had to go to the factory to set the characters with workers. In Chengdu region, small and medium businesses really needed that kind of information. Very soon we had a lot of subscribers. I had first-hand knowledge that, before Deng’s Southern Tour, the commercial impetus at the bottom half of society was already bubbling up. So for me, it wasn’t a surprise at all when, in 1992, the economy kickstarted after Deng’s tour. I also edited a book with the title “The Swelling Commercial Tides.”   

After a while I quit the magazine and wrote short stories that were published in a journal called Young Writers. Some were recommended to the then-famous literary magazine Harvest. An editor asked me to revise my story, but I was so proud back then that I told him I wouldn’t change a word. At the same time I also compiled historical storybooks for young readers.

After 1992, the government began to push for market reforms. Some government-owned publications were outsourced. I leased a paper called Market Herald (《市场导报》), I was the deputy editor-in-chief, but the de facto editor-in-chief. But I loved reporting on everyday life, so I went out and wrote about, for example, Chengdu’s river channel improvement project, the living conditions of the blind, etc. The paper wasn’t making any money, so after two months it couldn’t go on. Right around that time, Chengdu Commercial Daily (《成都商报》)  was founded by He Huazhang (何华章), and I joined as part of the earliest team, in charge of social reporting. Later I also edited the front page, and was one of the editorial managers.

Chengdu Commercial Daily pursued a vernacular style. Our reports, even some headlines, were written in everyday Sichuan dialect. When reporting the annual Two Sessions in Beijing, all newspapers had the same headlines as the People’s Daily, something like “The National People’s Congress Solemnly Opens in Beijing,” while our headline was simply, “NPC Held Meeting.” We were criticized for being not serious.

YC: Indeed, revolt often begins from aesthetics and taste.

Chang Ping: Chengdu Commercial Daily was an immediate success and made a lot of money. A year later, the municipal Party propaganda department took it into their hands as their own cultural achievement. Later, the paper formed a media group by consolidating with the Chengdu Evening News, which had been the leading paper of the city, a radio station, a TV station, and literary magazines, and was listed on China’s stock exchanges.

As Chengdu Commercial Daily became more and more mainstream, meaning more and more like the Party’s mouthpieces, my difference with other editors widened. I remember in early 1998 when the rock singer Cui Jian (崔健) issued “The Power of the Powerless,” I sent a reporter in Beijing to interview Cui and he talked about the difficulty of revolt. The propaganda department was very unhappy about it and chided me harshly. My commentaries were also criticized for “promoting a capitalist view of the press.”     

Another event was the death of Deng Xiaoping in 1997. We had never experienced anything like that and didn’t know how to report it. But all Chinese held the wisdom that you can’t mess around with this, and you must do whatever People’s Daily does. You have to use the standard script issued by Xinhua News — but how do we design the page? We studied how papers reported Mao Zedong’s death, what font and what size of font were used for headlines. As the Party’s mouthpiece in Sichuan, the Sichuan Daily had no pressure; they simply waited for the phototypesetting of People’s Daily that was sent to all over the country — at that point it was phototypesetting printing. Our pressure came from the market. We wanted to publish early. So the editor-in-chief came up with an idea. He went to the printing factory and cheated out the phototypesetting of the People’s Daily. The next day, Chengdu Commercial Daily was the first paper in the city with the news. We were so happy about our cleverness!

About a week later, I saw a weekend paper from Guangzhou. On the left it was a large photo of Deng Xiaoping, on the right the headline was simply “Mr. Deng Passed Away.” The text below was also Xinhua’s standard announcement, the same as everyone else. I was rather shocked: what we thought was creative and smart was really nothing; we were just toadying.

I didn’t want to stay in Chengdu anymore. I met with Shen Hao (沈灏), the news director of Southern Weekly (《南方周末》), who was in Chengdu on business. He wanted me to join the rising Southern Weekly. So I did.

YC: Shen Hao was sentenced to four years in prison last year and paraded on CCTV giving “self-confessions.”  

Chang Ping: He Huazhang has also been also detained. He was working at Sichuan People’s Publishing House in 1989. His career stalled because he joined the protests. He left the state system to found Chengdu Commercial Daily. The success of the paper catapulted him to hero status in China’s market reforms. He returned to government and became head of the municipal Party propaganda department and deputy mayor. He was taken into custody by the CCDI, the Party’s disciplinary committee, following the fall of Zhou Yongkang (周永康). He’s been in detention for a year or two already without trial. Many Party officials are in the same situation: no legal procedures are applied to them, and there’s no news reporting on them.

YC: Southern Weekly attracted a lot of young and idealistic reporters.

Chang Ping: At Southern Weekly, I reported on local government corruption, and environmental degradation. In 1998, there were floods across China. Jiang Zemin (江泽民) and Zhu Rongji (朱镕基) stood in the Yangtze River and reporting abounded. Southern Weekly made a plan to investigate the cause of the flood along the Yangtze River, beginning from the Tibetan plateau. Most of our series were observations: deforestation and soil erosion. I wrote similar things too, but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to look for stories. In Barkam (马尔康), northern Sichuan, I found a tree feller who had been honored for years as a model feller. He told me, “Now I feel the flood has something to do with me.” I wrote a report titled “The Last Model Feller,” because my sense was that there would be no more model fellers anymore, and it was a big success.    

But soon Southern Weekly was “rectified.” Shen Hao was removed, and columnist Yan Lieshan (鄢烈山) and editor Cao Xihong (曹西弘) were censored.

YC: Why the rectification?

Chang Ping: Shen Hao organized a lot of reporting on the dark side of society — for example, publishing illustration of the varieties of torture police used to extract confessions. Yan Lieshan was an essayist well known for incisive criticism. Cao Xihong was the first to investigate the dark secrets of the railway and communication industries that the state monopolized.

After the rectification, I was appointed first the deputy director, and then the director, of the news department. I was responsible for news planning, page layout, and the deployment of reporters and editors. I also edited the front page, the Reporter’s Observations page, and the investigations page. Almost every weekend, I’d go out for stories, and I reported on judicial corruption, pollution, women’s rights, gay rights, and more.  

At the time we tried to record changes in Chinese society using methods from anthropology and sociology. For example, we chose a village, a township, and a street in the heartland, the West, and the coast respectively — our plan was to revisit the same place at the end of every year for ten years to record its changes. I was forced to leave Southern Weekly three years later, but the editors and reporters continued and completed the plan. Ten years later, they published a book titled Here and There: A Report on the Transformation of Grassroots China (《这儿与那儿:中国转型期基层调查》).

YC: I’ll find that and take a look.

Chang Ping: I’ve always wanted to be an independent voice. At that time the majority of the journalists and commentators with dissenting views went about it by latching their own ideas onto those already in the air. For instance they’d take the “Three Represents” (三个代表) and try to explain the positive aspect of the theory, and then add in their own understanding: “Only by moving towards democracy, rule of law, and liberty will the will of the people be truly represented.” But I look at things differently. I am extremely sensitive to language. Words are not just a means of expression, they are the expression in and of itself. So if you even use “Three Represents” or similar slogans, you’re doing propaganda for it, no matter how much you try to smuggle in your own stuff. Also with Falun Gong — we were required to write about it as a political task, but we stubbornly resisted. We basically didn’t do any reports, whether good or bad. I got accused by some people of “rejecting the mainstream.”

In the spring of 2001 there was the case of Zhang Jun (张君), who for a while was a notorious triad boss. He robbed banks, killed cops, and had a record throughout Hubei, Hunan, and Chongqing, and of course had numerous mistresses. It had all the ingredients of a Hollywood movie. He was caught by Chongqing Public Security Bureau led by Wen Qiang (文强). In a photo, Wen had him on the ground, one foot on his face, and announced: “Zhang Jun is under my foot.” Wen Qiang, of course, was later executed by Bo Xilai (薄熙来) for protecting the mafia.

YC: And then Bo Xilai was himself jailed by Xi Jinping. In the Communist Party’s autocratic politics, anyone in the system can just be peeled off like a layer of cabbage — no one’s safe. Who’s to say that, in a few year’s time, Xi Jinping won’t be the one in jail?

Chang Ping: The capture of Zhang Jun was a big grand achievement for Chongqing public security — a chance for them to really bignote and back-slap themselves. They organized a lot of interviews, and a CCTV crew also went to interview Zhang Jun face-to-face in the detention center. I was mulling over how we should cover the case at Southern Weekly. Media around the country were running the story front page every day, and we were a weekly publication, so we were already a bit behind. I sent journalists to write a piece about how Zhang Jun grew up. It was titled: “Exploring the Zhang Jun Case: The Rise of a Brutal Syndicate” (《张君案检讨 – 一个极端暴力集团的成长》). It traced the story of how a simple village kid who left home to become a migrant worker in the end became the head of a triad group. It also scrutinized the operations of China’s criminal justice organs. As Zhang Jun himself put it, every time he entered prison, he came out worse. The article sent shockwaves through Hunan and Chongqing. Party bosses there wrote a letter to the Central Propaganda Department, saying Southern Weekly could even turn such a monumental achievement of law enforcement into a smear against socialism, against rural policies, and against the public security agencies.

In the autumn of 2001 Southern Weekly was “rectified” once again, after four articles we published were specifically called out and criticized. Editors and journalists were moved on and sacked. One of the four was the Zhang Jun investigation, and of the other three, one was about a cemetery for Red Guards who died in the Cultural Revolution, called “A Chongqing Cemetery Buries the Cultural Revolution’s Young Warriors” (《青春墓地埋葬重庆文革武斗》). Another was about a massive explosion in the city of Shijiazhuang, where the censors thought we’d just reported too many details. The last was a commentary about the situation in the Middle East, which made the key point that dictatorship is the source of turmoil in that region.

After those four articles were specifically named as problematic, I was removed, the editor-in-chief Jiang Yiping (江艺平) was transferred, and the deputy editor-in-chief was also transferred out. That was also the biggest turning point for Southern Weekly. I was transferred to be the deputy general manager of the circulation department — so I hadn’t actually been fired. They gave me a job title and salary, but no work.

YC: So it was just about two years after the previous “rectification.”

Chang Ping: Right. It was a time when independent voices won an unprecedented level of prestige for Southern Weekly, and it brought so much space for the imagination in freedom of speech and political reform in China. The paper also became a model that journalists and editors around China aspired to emulate. Many pro-reform scholars and lawyers were also very supportive. But it was all along also a target of repression.

YC: How many pages was the newspaper then?

Chang Ping: At the beginning it was 8, then we doubled, and then went to 24 pages. Sometimes we also added pages, and there were also experimental pages. On the professional side, Southern Weekly was really at the vanguard for trying new things, and it brought together so many people in the industry who had ideals, in particular many brilliant writers in the field. Our reports were very carefully done, and the writing was always well-crafted. Layout was exceptional, too — when I became the director of news, I put a lot of energy into photography and page design.

I left soon after I lost my editorial position. CCTV had just begun a new channel, 12, and I was invited to be the editor of a talk show. I did that for two months, so I gained some understanding of CCTV. But I simply couldn’t stand the culture there. I had to get out. In 2002, with friends from Chengdu and Guangzhou, we founded The Bund (《外滩画报》) in Shanghai. Shanghai is a city with extremely strict ideological controls — there’s a certain lifelessness about it. We hoped to inject some vitality into the place, but from the beginning we were put under strict monitoring and control. We hardly had space to operate. In 2003 I accepted an offer from the University of California, Berkeley, for a one year visiting scholarship. After I returned I went back to The Bund as deputy chief editor. In 2005 the propaganda department was unhappy with the job our official supervisor, the Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House (上海文艺出版社), was doing keeping us in line, and they forced them to sell us to the Wenhui Xinmin United Press Group (文新集团). They didn’t want to buy, and we didn’t want to sell, but the deal went through regardless.

YC: It sounds similar to what happened recently with Yanhuang Chunqiu.

Chang Ping: Right. The Bund is still around, though it’s now turned into a fashion magazine. In 2005 I returned to Guangzhou and rejoined the Southern Group, running Southern Metropolis Weekly (《南都周刊》) as the deputy chief editor in charge of daily operations.

Southern Metropolis Weekly is a magazine of urbanized China — it focuses on civil society, the environment, women’s rights, and issues related to rights movements, ideas, culture, and so on. It’s relatively moderate in tone compared to Southern Weekly, but it’s still been hit with a lot of criticism by the authorities.

In the midst of all this, I also started writing a syndicated column, commenting on current affairs and culture. In April 2008 I published a commentary in the Chinese version of Financial Times titled: “Tibet: Nationalist Sentiment and the Truth” (《“西藏:真相与民族主义情绪”》). This was after the March 14 unrest in Tibet, where official media failed to carry any substantial reports, while social media and a number of websites let loose with a barrage of criticism against CNN, BBC, and other foreign media, accusing them of false reporting. In the piece, I wrote that if their concerns were really about news values, they shouldn’t be exclusively focused on exposing the misreporting of the Western press, but should also be calling into question the information found in the Chinese media, and the strict controls over the press in China. The latter deals far greater damage to the media environment than the former, the column argued. I also suggested that the narrow-minded Han nationalism common in China should be carefully examined. That article stirred up a tempest, and websites like China Online, KDnet, Utopia, and a few other Han nationalist sites pinned it on top of the page, and went into overdrive hyping it up. Just a single one of these forum posts got several hundred thousand hits, with tens of thousands of comments, most of them attacking me. Some people even threatened that they’d harm me and my family.

At the time too there was a Duke University student, Grace Wang (王千源), who during a campus demonstration was accused of supporting Tibetan independence. She was attacked by Chinese students at Duke, and her parents in China were attacked too. Her parents had to move into a hotel for their own safety, after attackers left feces at their door.

Beijing Evening News (《北京晚报》) took the rare step of publishing an article directly attacking me, called “Chang Ping Is a Rumormonger” (《造谣自由的南都长平》). The author, Mei Ninghua (梅宁华), writing under the pseudonym “Pen Spear” (文锋) was the president of Beijing Daily [the official mouthpiece of the Beijing municipal propaganda department]. His article caused an uproar. This dispute was the opening volley in a five year-long running debate about universal values, which Xi Jinping shut down in 2013.

Because of this I was again removed from my post, and prohibited from doing any work in the newsroom. They transferred me to the Southern Media Group’s research institute. But I kept writing columns for Southern Weekly and Southern Metropolis Daily (《南方都市报》). After six months those columns were also brought to a halt. They told me that if I agreed to stop writing, I might be able to keep my job. I refused, and kept publishing current affairs commentary in other outlets. At the end of 2010 the propaganda department demanded that the Southern Media Group completely cut off all association with me.

Newspapers, websites, and publishing houses around the country were from that point on prohibited from publishing or printing my articles or books, and websites were ordered to delete my previously-published articles and author information. At that point I had a large number of readers, and a lot of websites syndicated my blog, even real estate websites carried my column. It wasn’t me updating them. I saw myself disappearing from the internet before my own eyes — they weren’t only not publishing me, but erasing my existence. For a while, it was hard to even find my name online.

YC: It’s terrifying when you think about it. As long as they want to do it, they can make someone disappear. They can also make history, or reality, disappear. Even a journalist such as yourself can turn into such a nightmare for them, so much so that they want to expunge you completely.

When the wave of arrests in spring 2011 took place during the so-called Jasmine Revolution, what were you doing?

Chang Ping: I was a visiting scholar at Hong Kong Baptist University, and like a lot of mainlanders who came to Hong Kong to study, I went home on the weekends. Someone said to me at one point: You shouldn’t go back. Apart from writing my columns, I don’t do anything else — so should I follow this instruction and not go home? I didn’t want to be intimidated. It just so happened that right at that time I received an invitation to go to France for a forum. A number of others, including Yu Hua (余华), Zhan Jiang (展江), and Yu Jianrong (于建嵘), also participated. When I was in Paris, police in China came to my home to arrest me.

When I went back I remained in Hong Kong and helped found iSun Affairs (《阳光时务》.)

YC: iSun Affairs was a publication with serious ambition, and it brought together so many talented people, including yourself and Cheng Yizhong (程益中), who also worked for years in the Southern newspapers. iSun’s reporting on Wukan (乌坎), in particular, left a deep impression on me. You were chief editor at the time, but a lot of people may not realize that you were in Germany and had turned your schedule upside-down to work remotely. What happened there?

Chang Ping: I never expected it, but the Hong Kong government dragged out the approval of my work visa for two years (and in the end, rather than say that they  had “rejected” it, they simply said that they “were no longer processing it.”) They came up with all sorts of reasons for investigating me, including an absurd attempt to establish whether or not I had taught illegally when I was a visiting scholar at Hong Kong Baptist University. As soon as they did this, it was clear that I couldn’t return to mainland China. With a PRC passport I could stay in Hong Kong for seven days at a time, so every weekend I flew to neighboring countries for “vacation,” including Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia. After two months of that, Hong Kong immigration personnel told me that I couldn’t stay in Hong Kong like that — I would have to return to China or else the next time I arrived, there’d be trouble. So I never went back. After I received an invitation from the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I went from Cambodia to Germany.

Thanks to the support of my Hong Kong colleagues, I was able to stay on as the chief editor of iSun Affairs, working from Germany, for the next two years. But it also was extremely difficult, and the magazine was banned in China. In the end, we parted ways. I stayed in Germany and continued writing commentary for publications in Germany, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, and continued to address the Chinese authorities’ repression.

YC: So in that case you haven’t been able to return to China since 2011. iSun Affairs had to shut down after a little over a year; one of the main investors, Chen Ping (陈平), was violently attacked in Hong Kong, Cheng Yizhong relocated to the United States, and you went to Germany. Later you wrote a column for Deutsche Welle and South China Morning Post, and got into an intense debate with another Deutsche Welle columnist, Frank Sieren, about the June 4 massacre. After SCMP was sold to Jack Ma, they immediately shut down your column. Earlier this year when the letters urging Xi Jinping to resign came out, your family in China was harassed.

Of course, the storied Southern Weekly is no more after the “Southern Weekly Incident” in January 2013. A great experiment has ended. 

In 1999 “Southern Weekly” published a very famous New Year’s dedication, titled “There is a power that moves us to tears,” which said in part: “May the powerless be empowered, and may the dispirited continue forward.” This line inspired a generation of aspiring media figures. Now in 2016, press freedom in China has not only failed to progress, but has regressed dramatically. Please share some final thoughts for our interview today.

Chang Ping: Many years ago we were very optimistic. At that time I believed that every step made in the news field would promote progress in Chinese society, and that every word we wrote contained power — even if it could only be measured in milligrams. Looking back now, I often feel quite dejected. China is going backwards in so many areas. But I have never doubted the value of fighting for freedom of expression. Even if there’s no tomorrow, we still need justice today. It’s just as I put it in my acceptance speech for this award in Toronto: freedom of expression is not merely necessary for all other freedoms, but speech itself is freedom.

I made the following line the signature for my blog and social media accounts for many years: “If criticism is not free, praise is meaningless.” A friend and I translated it from  the French: “Sans la liberté de blamer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur.” It became popular and widely quoted in China, and made many people come to see how meaningless the Chinese government’s self-flattery is once it has gone around crushing all dissenting views. It makes us also see the value of critique, which was the goal of my being in the news and commentary field for so long. Now, I could disappear, but these ideas are already deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people.

 

 

Chang Ping (长平) lives in Germany. Follow him on Twitter @chang_ping

Yaxue Cao (曹雅学) edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @YaxueCao

 

 


Related:

China’s ‘Freedom’ Cage, by Chang Ping, 2015.

‘Speech Is Freedom Itself’ – Chang Ping’s Acceptance Speech for the CJFE 2016 International Press Freedom Award, December 1, 2016

The Virus of Censorship, by Cheng Yizhong, 2012.

 

 

 

‘Speech Is Freedom Itself’ – Chang Ping’s Acceptance Speech for the CJFE 2016 International Press Freedom Award

Chang Ping, December 1, 2016

From the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression website: “Chang Ping is one of China’s best-known journalists who reports on political issues. He writes about sensitive topics including democracy, media censorship, the failures of government policy and Tibet. He is the winner of the International Press Freedom Award. This award recognizes the outstanding courage of journalists who work at great personal risk and against enormous odds so that the news media remain free. Establishing himself in the 1990s, he first reported from Guangzhou. As censorship has tightened in China, Chang’s pleas for transparency and accountability have put him under a political spotlight. In 2011, while working as the editor-in-chief at the now-suspended weekly magazine iSun Affairs in Hong Kong, [Chang Ping] was denied a work permit and forced to live in exile in Germany with his family. He remains there today and his columns and books are banned in the country.” — The Editors

 

Chang Ping 致辞.JPG

Chang Ping accepting the award in Toronto on December 1. Photo: China Change

 

Thank you, thank you, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression — and thank you everyone!

I am honored and certainly very happy to be here — but at the same time, I can’t really say that I am. When a Chinese citizen receives an award outside China, I don’t know whether he or she should be happy or worried. It could bring punishment to the recipient and his or her family. In China, a foreign award is often described as sugar-coated poison which should be firmly rejected, because the foreigners always have an agenda, usually a plot to overthrow the Chinese government.

What’s maddening is that it’s been so long and the foreigners still haven’t succeeded in implementing this plot.  

Freedom, peace, human rights, democracy, constitutionalism, independence, civil society… these are frightening words that have sent some of China’s most courageous men and women to jail: Wang Bingzhang (王炳章), Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波), Ilham Tohti, Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌), Yao Wentian (姚文田), Dolma Kyab, Gulmira Imin,  Kunchok Tsephel, Gheyret Niyaz, Hada (哈达), Liao Yiwu (廖亦武), Shi Tao (师涛), Hu Jia (胡佳), Xu Zhiyong (许志永), Tan Zuoren (谭作人), Chen Xi (陈西), Chen Wei (陈卫), Guo Feixiong (郭飞雄), Liu Yuandong (刘远东), Wang Mo (王默), Liu Ping (刘萍), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Hu Shigen (胡石根), Tang Jingling (唐荆陵), Wu Gan (吴淦), Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Li Heping (李和平)…

…and sent some of the most ardent advocates of these values to their deaths: Wang Shiwei (王实味), Chu Anping (储安平), Lin Zhao (林昭), Yu Luoke (遇罗克), Zhang Zhixin (张志新), Li Wangyang (李旺阳), Cao Shunli (曹顺利)…

Tonight, we gather to celebrate freedom of speech. So why did I read the names of so many of China’s political prisoners? That is because most of China’s political prisoners are made criminals for their speech. They might have been convicted of various trumped up crimes, but all they have done is nothing more than express dissent.

China’s political space is very narrow, and getting narrower. Citizens have almost no way of engaging in opposition activities other than speech. Meanwhile, speech is the beginning of everything. Dictators often realize the power of speech more than anyone else.

That’s why they brutally suppress every independent voice in China. That’s why they hate the demonstrations in Hong Kong. That’s why they are buying up news media in Taiwan. That’s why they are pushing their propaganda on the world, especially in Western democracies.  

They demand that all Chinese media must toe the Party line; they build partnership with newspapers in Australia and radio stations in the United States; they deny visas to foreign journalists; and they are forcing Facebook to build a wall and pay for it.

Mr. Trump, who also wants to build a wall, will have to learn from China’s leaders, or he’ll have no chance to be praised by Prime Minister Trudeau as a “remarkable leader.”

If you are a slow learner, don’t worry. The Chinese government will be tireless in teaching you. Lesson one: For Whom the Bell Tolls. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, clearly taught you this here in Canada in June: “You have no right to speak about our human rights. Only the Chinese people have the right to speak about this issue.” But the truth is that the Chinese people are actually never allowed to speak out.

I have been fighting for speaking out. People often ask me: Why are you willing to make such sacrifices for freedom of speech? I have never hesitated in answering: Without freedom of speech, nothing will be left in the civilized world. Speech is freedom itself. If we don’t fight for it, our freedom will be completely lost.  

My seven-year-old daughter loves museums. She once said to me, “Daddy, don’t become more handsome, or you will be locked in a museum.” What she meant to say is that, Daddy is capable of everything except speaking German as well as she does. But she doesn’t know that I’m unable even to explain to her why we can’t return to China. How do I tell her that, in many places where human beings live, people don’t even have the freedom to say what they want to say?

To my mother and my father in Sichuan, China, I wish you could be here with me to share this beautiful night. You have always been proud of me, but I can’t even tell you about this prize I’m receiving. All my loved ones in China, I have stopped contacting you, precisely because I love each one of you.

Thank you everyone!

 

 

 

 

U. S. Government Must Intervene in Zhang Haitao’s Case

China Change, November 21, 2016

 

zhang-haitao_wife-and-baby

To be closer to him – Zhang Haitao’s wife Li Aijie and their new-born baby outside the detention center in the summer.

Zhang Haitao (张海涛) is a 45-year-old Han Chinese man living in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. He is originally from Henan Province, and relocated to Xinjiang after being laid off from state employment in the 1990s. Since 2009 he’s been an active participant in rights defense activities and subsequently became a “sensitive” person who was harassed by police.

Zhang was detained on June 27, 2015, in Urumqi, indicted on December 25, 2015, and tried in January 11, 2016.

Based on 69 WeChat posts, 205 Twitter posts, and interviews by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia during the period from 2010 to 2015, a court in Urumqi found Zhang guilty of “inciting subversion of state power” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. The court also found him guilty of “secretly gathering and illegally providing intelligence to overseas entities,” and sentenced him to five years in prison. The court ruled to confiscate 120,000 yuan ($17,400) of his personal property.

The court decision, dated on January 15, 2016, repeatedly cited Voice of America and Radio Free Asia as “overseas hostile organizations.”

Zhang Haitao filed an appeal in February, 2016, but it has been delayed several times.

On November 14, lawyer Chen Jinxue (陈进学) visited Zhang and reported that he has kept in manacles since the beginning of the year, despite repeated protests from his lawyers. In the prison cell, Zhang is forced to sit in one small spot all day, and is not allowed to move around and subjected to prison bullying.

On November 15, his lawyers received a notice from the appeals court in Urumqi that the appeal will be conducted only in writing. The lawyers are asked to present their defense in writing. No ruling date is given, but it could be any day now.

Zhang Haitao’s wife called on the World Organization Against Torture to pay attention to the case, and speak out for her husband.

China Change strongly urges the U. S. government to intervene in this case: the USG must defend Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, two entities under the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors, and demand that the guilty verdict based on interviews with VOA and RFA be rescinded. The USG must also defend independent media outlets and websites in the United States that are cited by the verdict. It must defend Zhang Haitao’s right to freedom of expression, and call on China to stop the barbaric act of punishing citizens for peacefully expressing dissent.

 

Further reading:

Zhang Haitao Court Decision, Chinese Original

Zhang Haitao Court Decision, a Full Translation by China Change

Zhang Haitao’s Appeal, a Translation by China Change

 

 

A Chinese Millennial’s Crime and Punishment: The Story of Li Tingyu

Huang Simin, October 13, 2016

 

“If you want to understand your own country, then you’ve  already stepped on the path to criminality.” — Ai Weiwei

“Do you think there is dignity in living a good life in this country?” — Li Tingyu

li-tingyu-bike

 

Born and raised in Guangdong, Li Tingyu (李婷玉) was a student at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou where she majored in English but dropped out in senior year. She had been working with her boyfriend Lu Yuyu (卢昱宇) on the self-published media known as 非新闻 (“Non-News”) until the couple’s detention on June 16 this year. The two were charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and are currently detained in the Dali Detention Center, Yunnan.  

Li Tingyu and Lu Yuyu have become well-known online in recent years for their dogged work, through the Non-News blog, in searching, collating, and publishing information about mass incidents around China.

As Li Tingyu’s lawyer, I came to understand her personal background and history in the course of representing her and meeting her in custody. She gave her permission for me to set it down.

Childhood Encounter with Migrant Workers

The question “How’d you end up here?” sounds like the beginning of an interrogation. When I asked Li Tingyu, she wasn’t put off. She laughed, then told me her story.

Li was born in 1991 in a small, well-off village in Foshan, Guangdong Province. She grew up in complete comfort, attended elementary school in the village, and had not the slightest understanding of the outside world. The village had a large number of “migrant workers,” however, and her best friend was from Chongqing — the daughter of a migrant worker. The girl’s mother collected trash for a living, and her father worked in a factory. They had to pay very high tuition — a few thousand yuan, which was a big chunk of household income — for the daughter to attend school in the village. The girl one day invited Li Tingyu to her place to play, and Li was shocked by the overcrowded ghetto of shanty houses. She couldn’t understand why the other villagers, of which she was a part, could do nothing but collect rent and lead a life of leisure, while migrant workers had to wear themselves down with arduous manual labor. In the end the friend from Chongqing had to go back home to continue her studies.

Later on, her readings exposed her to the issues of the Hukou system and workers’ rights, and she grasped at once what was going on — the experiences and observations of her childhood had left her with a deep impression.

A Petite Rebel

When she was in junior high school in the early 2000s, Li developed an appetite for devouring books and news stories online, mostly on politics, society, and the economy. She was fascinated by pedagogy, and after learning about the educational systems elsewhere in the world, penned an earnest letter to her headmaster demanding that he not “ruin us students with exam-oriented education.” Of course, the principal of a middle school in China is not going to follow this sort of advice. But at that age Li Tingyu was already developing independent ideas about how things were, and making her own choices. She managed to spend the minimum effort to get through the exams and still got grades near the top of her class, and used the rest of her time to read what she wanted. It was a boarding school, so Li would often burrow under the blanket with a flashlight and a book deep into the night.

By the time Li Tingyu was in high school, the atmosphere online was fairly liberal [the years leading up to the Olympics in 2008] — at least, much better than it is today — and blogs were all the rage. Li read them avidly, and gained an ever deeper understanding of Chinese society. She said that this period was a kind of awakening for her.

Li recalled her politics teacher in senior high school — he personally participated in the 1989 student movement, was punished by local authorities, and in 1991 left his hometown and came with the son to Guangzhou, finally winding up in this small town teaching high school. This teacher wasn’t like the others, forcing students to woodenly parrot political texts — instead, he often ended up speaking about his experiences in the student movement. He encouraged students to go and read up about what really happened. This teacher left a deep impression on the students. Luckily — and unexpectedly — the teacher wasn’t reported to the authorities.

Li Tingyu also recalled how her classmates would pass around Zhao Ziyang’s memoirs on QQ, a Chinese messaging app. Through all this, her understanding of China continued to evolve.

The GoAgent ‘Savior’

At some point during senior high school Li read an essay by Zhang Ming, a well-known academic and liberal intellectual, analyzing the wreck that is China’s university system. From that point on Li held a low regard for life at university. She chose English for two reasons: she was good at it and she saw English as a tool for assimilating more information. Knowing that books in Chinese were often censored in facts and interpretation, she often went straight to English. The Sun Yat-sen University library had a number of English volumes on the June 4 movement, and she read them all.

Li says that, to a large extent, the internet changed her life — especially in the third year of undergraduate studies, when she learnt how to “jump the Great Firewall” with a VPN called GoAgent. She had installed GoAgent on the computers of at least 50-60 of her friends. There were teachers at the university who asked her help to install the software. Li said that through all this she experienced an ineffable “savior”-type feeling: only through being able to access free information was it possible to understand the reality in China. Even if her fellow students only wanted to read celebrity news to begin with, as time went on, they’d start paying attention to social issues. She was once reported by a fellow student for “politically incorrect” speech, and her school counselor urged her to be a more careful about who she revealed her thoughts to.

Lu Yuyu2

Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu.

A ‘Good Life’ Without Dignity

Li recalled a conversation she once had with a friend online about the “reincarnation party” (an internet term, primarily used on Weibo, that refers to individuals who have had their accounts deleted, and who then re-establish a second, third, or fourth ‘life’ on Weibo to continue their protest). The friend was a graduate student of sociology at Peking University, doing research on the topic. The friend remarked, with an obvious sense of superiority, about how the internet at Peking University wasn’t restricted, that he can find find out whatever information he wants easily, and how he would emigrate to live a better life.” I interjected that there are plenty of people who think like this. Li recalled, still indignant, “he didn’t care about fighting against the information restrictions; instead, he bragged about his privilege of having more access than others.”

“Do you think there is dignity in living a good life in this country?” she asked him.

I fell silent. Indeed, having a true life of dignity in China comes at an enormous cost. In a society that lacks the most basic rights, the “dignity” that most people enjoy is as false and fleeting as soap bubbles. In reality, it’s the Li Tingyus of China, now in jail, who are actually living with dignity.

The Turning Point

Everyone has a turning point at some time in their lives — the episodes that drive us to do what we do now. A few years ago I was in the office of lawyer Li Heping, looking over files and documentary materials on the “Leping death penalty case,” when I violently broke into tears. In the end, I forgot I had to catch my train. From that point on things inside me changed. Li Heping, though, is now in detention for supposed “subversion of state power.”

I asked Li Tingyu whether she had a turning point. She mentioned a few episodes that did it. Once, doing homework on media studies, she stumbled across a website in India that contained an account of self-immolations in Tibet. The news stunned her. During the “Southern Weekend incident,” in which her friends from senior high school went along to support, and in the end were taken into custody. She and her friends used Weibo to get the message out about the friends’ detention. That was the first time that Li had been that close to a specific act of resistance. Later, she encountered activists, and that also brought changes to her life.

I asked why she quit university when she was in the fourth and final year. She responded, earnestly, that she’d figured it out years ago that the diploma meant little to her. I responded that I’d also been something of a rebel, but I couldn’t do something like that — especially given that it only requires sticking at it for a few more months until graduation.

She thought quietly for a moment, and said she grew up with her grandparents, and after they died she moved in with her mom and dad, but they never really communicated. “No one really looked after my life,” she said.  

I didn’t probe further. So many of our feelings are so deep inside. How much solitude and suffering must one silently bear to gain that level of resolve and courage? All I can say is: I wish you well, Li Tingyu.

 

September 5, 2016

 

Huang Simin (黄思敏) is a Hubei-based lawyer.

—————-

Related:

What Do Lu Yuyu’s Statistics of Protest Tell Us About the Chinese Society Today, by Wu Qiang, July, 2016

Case against two citizen journalists who compiled China protest blog transferred for prosecution, HKFP, September, 2016

 

 

#LoveTwitter, a Special Place Like No Other for Mainland Chinese Netizens

China Change, March 24, 2016.

In no particular order and with a couple of exceptions, we sample Chinese netizens’ thoughts on March 21, 2016, Twitter’s 10th anniversary. We don’t know who else will be touched by this, but we certainly are. – The Editors

LoveTwitter2

 

乌鸦哥哥 ‏@wuyagege : Twitter is like a small cafe that never closes. People come and go, connecting with each other in ways both lasting and fleeting. You can exchange a few words if you feel the urge, otherwise everyone goes about their own business. After these many years, I have so many friends from all over, both old and new. Some have faded away, others are still around. Still others have been made to vanish. I somehow manage to continue on. I cherish the fact that a place like this exists, where you can pull up a bar stool and manage to find a way to enjoy some freedom and relax a while.

LoveTwitter_Valerie

via @knifepoint

浅洚 / Valerie ‏@knifepoint : In August 2009 I was wearing the Twitter Tee designed by GeekCook @digitalboy. That summer I sent Xu Zhiyong (@zhiyongxu) a postcard and weeped over Tan Zuoren’s essay. Through using dabr to get on Twitter, I started to learn how to get around the Great Firewall. That was the summer I stopped being a little commie and turned into a rebel . . . the first day of the rest of my life.

Michael ‏@zombie023 :  I love Twitter the Great, and don’t know what I’d do if it comes to an end.

Akira Yan ‏@akirayan  :  Through Twitter, I get so much more information than any of my classmates inside the Great Firewall. To this day, some of them remain convinced that I have a team of people who are funded by a foreign government and who helps me to research, since I can always debunk their lies in a matter of minutes.

刘晓原律师 ‏@liu_xiaoyuan : Today’s the 10th anniversary of Twitter’s founding. When Twitter founder Jack Dorsey visited China in 2012, he could only tweet by sending text messages back to the US:

@jack: Hello, Shanghai. Unfortunately, I can’t read Twitter in China.

@aiww: Hello, Jack.

@jack: Hello, Lord Ai.

@aiww: Let’s work hard to get Twitter into China.

书叔 ‏@gavinleehead : I love Twitter because I can curse whomever I want and say whatever I like here. Here there are no sensitive words, no messages that can’t be displayed “according to the relevant laws,” and no risk of having your account shut down at any moment. I have a group of followers who share messages that can’t be shared inside the Great Firewall and I can share that information with others without having to worry. I can curse those 50-cent idiots . . . And on the most important occasions, I don’t need to worry about keyword filtering.

不卖内裤的大叔 ‏@NalaGinrut :  Actually, everyone knows that it’s not Twitter I love, but female tweeps.

张贾龙 ‏@zhangjialong : I joined Twitter in November 2009. That’s when I got my first taste of freedom. In May 2010, state security police in Guizhou invited me to tea over some sensitive things I’d said online. In April 2011, police in Beijing summoned me for questioning for 24 hours and searched my place over a tweet. Four days after I got home, they gave me a 10-day administrative detention for “disrupting social order by using overseas website Twitter to post false information that was reposted 37 times.”

兔爷 ‏@rbttt  : I’m not going to get melodramatic: Twitter is great.

Jian Alan Huang ‏@hnjhj:  To me, Twitter is both newspaper and television, classroom and bookstore, teahouse and bar, shopping mall and theater. It’s both a society and a way of life. Twitter has come to replace a number of things in my life. Every day, I’m forced to sift through oceans of information, consider different viewpoints, and endlessly refine my own thinking. I’m probably one of only a few people who reads every single tweet, and I’ve never blocked a single person. And, I’ve had the good fortune to meet 119 tweeps in real life.

马了个 ‏@majunlive : I never see anyone say anything bad about Twitter in my timeline. It’s all deep expressions of gratitude or emotion, as if a website had been endowed with a soul. You may be only a “machine,” but you have far more dignity than [Mark] Zuckerberg.

陈闯创 ‏@1957spirit : On Twitter’s 10th anniversary, the first thing that comes to mind for me isn’t that “Big V” Jia Jia @jajia, but people like Zhang Haitao (@xjvisa), Ying Ligang (@ylg9712), and Wang Yi (@Wangyi09) who’ve gone to prison or been sent to re-education through labor for things they posted on Twitter. And then there are even more unknown Chinese Twitter users who’ve simply vanished.

Victor ‏@chuhan : I’ve been on Twitter almost seven of the past 10 years. Early on, I’d use dabr and embr, then to save bandwidth costs I stopped loading avatar images. Later, I used Gravity on my Nokia E63. To this day I fondly recall how convenient it was to scroll through and post to Twitter on that phone. More recently, I used Tweetbot and T4C on iOS. In the end, I started using the official app.

zengshensi ‏@zengshensi  : One day in 2009, I was on Twitter while crossing an intersection in a small town in Zhongshan (Guangdong province). A tweep with a cute monkey pirate avatar asked me where Ms. He Qinglian (@heqinglian) had gone. Later on this tweep became my wife, and we have a daughter who is now three and a half years old.

Shengyi Wang ‏@txyyss : Twitter is practically the only way an old homebody like me has to make new friends. I hope it will stay around forever.

LoveTwitter @MyDF

via @MyDF

东先生 ‏@MyDF : The Chinese Twitter scene is where a bunch of Chinese who’ve self-exiled themselves gather to enjoy the free Internet and break down the information imbalance created by the Great Firewall. Twitter’s Chinese circle deserves a round of applause for undercutting the authority of the state media.

牟山夫 ‏@even5435  : In the 7-8 years I’ve been on Twitter, I’ve witnessed all of the big online events. I feel fortunate to have been able to stick around. Thanks to Google and Twitter for being the Zion in my own spiritual Matrix. Thanks to the selfless ones who developed tools for scaling the wall. Thanks to those friends whom I don’t know in real life but share common goals. I hope we can all soldier on until the dawn breaks.

哲尔夫 ‏@Zeove  : When I first came to Twitter, I was terrified by you guys. So much anti-CCP talk everywhere you turned. It doesn’t bother me as much these days, since I know that all told those guys don’t even outnumber a square-full of dancing grannies.

吴发课 ‏@wufake :  Of the 10 years of Twitter, 2009-2011 was the golden era of Chinese Twitter. Since then, changes in the sociopolitical environment, the rise of social media inside China, and the diversification of the Chinese Internet have led to the gradual decline of Chinese Twitter. But I remain convinced that Twitter has had an irreplaceable value to the revolutionary nature of the Chinese language. Freedom of expression will always be the most fundamental part of universal values.

LoveTwitter @wufake.jpg

via @wufake

wailon ‏@doctor8888  : My two deepest impressions of the Chinese Twitter scene (if you don’t count the Jasmine Revolution, which everyone’s familiar with) are two online actions. The first was when Ai Weiwei borrowed money [to pay his tax fine] and the second was the mobilization of tweeps to support Wang Lihong (@wlh8964) by gathering outside the courthouse on the day of her trial. Actually, Twitter’s most important role is to provide a space for what can be considered free discussion. Thanks to debate online, the plans for a number of actions became much more realistic. This sort of “republic” is essential for collective action, without a doubt.

明天我就不追了 ‏@oohlalalevre :  I began playing with Twitter during my freshman year at university. Since then, I’ve gone through a few different accounts, deleting one and setting up a new one and so on. It’s simply impossible for me to leave. Isn’t that what love is about? As soon as you part you start thinking about being near each other again. I think Twitter must me my true love.

初夜 ‏@eachgo  : Mm-hm, promise me you’ll stay here with me until Twitter goes bust.

冉云飞 ‏@ranyunfei : Twitter celebrated its 10th anniversary yesterday. I’ve been on Twitter for seven years. Generally, I haven’t stuck around consistently on too many websites, but I’ve stayed on Twitter more or less the whole time. I don’t want to get too emotional, but when I write my memoirs one day and look back at my life and my various spiritual journeys, Twitter will be an irreplaceable part of the story. Compared to those sites that delete posts every time you turn around, so brutal that at any moment they can erase you without a trace, a record of one’s Twitter timeline resembles a chronicle of a person’s life.

SUN ‏@sunzhiyi  : In 2009, Fanfou* voluntarily shut its service down on the sensitive anniversary of June Fourth. After the incident in Xinjiang, it went completely dark. So, the refugees all came to Twitter. Many years later, and still no one’s kicked us out yet.

DR.K ‏@kielboat :  In a thesis back in 2010, I categorized active Twitter users as an opposition group. Even though a lot of them seemed as if they were only pretending and engaging in “opposition lite,” they still took part and became part of a common opposition culture on Twitter. For the first time, opposition no longer follows the earlier model of the wretched and hysterical dissidents making impassioned outcries about how hopeless everything is. Instead, Twitter is more of an opposition lifestyle and a great platform for communication.

老貓 ‏@octw : A single tweet travels thousands of miles, carrying my thoughts to five continents.

LoveTwitter @Zeove good night twitter

“Good night, Twitter.” via @Zeove

 

StarKnight ‏@StarKnight : I’ve been on Twitter for nine of its 10 years. Fleeting thoughts in this brief life have become a long and voluminous river of information. As long as one drop of water can meet up with other drops of water, the river will never run dry.

莫之许 ‏@mozhixu : I once said that when the number of [Chinese] Twitter users surpassed one million, the dictatorship would be finished. Now that we’re in a time when even patriotic little commies are getting past the Great Firewall, I guess I ought to specify that they need to be liberal Twitter users. Unfortunately, it’s six years later and not only aren’t there a million users but the number of liberal [Chinese] Twitter users has been in decline and they’re less active than before. Some of the public intellectuals who were once on Twitter have even abandoned it altogether. But this is okay. Even if Twitter can’t be an engine [of change] under neo-totalitarian repression, at least it can be our own little backyard!

基德酱 ‏@akid_ : All I can say is that I don’t even bother to wash my hair when I go out to eat with friends who don’t have a Twitter ID.

ZHealoT ‏@zhealot : I test my access to Twitter when I test tools for getting around the Great Firewall. Every time I saw that little blue bird, it reminded me of how it used to feel, when I was a kid, at the moment the lights came back on after we’d had a power outage.

 

*Fanfou, 饭否, was China’s first social media platform, an imitation of Twitter that predated Sina Weibo. It was shut down on July 7, 2009, resulting in a large exodus of China’s earliest social media users to Twitter.

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Related:

A Month or so in the House of Twitter, by Yaxue Cao, January 23, 2012.