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My Brother’s Keeper: A Proposal for “Dual Key” Accounts to Preserve Twitter’s Voices of Freedom

Jeff Rambin, December 11, 2018

 

Twitter purge, 漫画

A cartoonist in Nanjing marks his 10th anniversary with Twitter. He describes his Twitter experience as “like bathing in a hot bath, enjoying momentary peace and freedom.” https://twitter.com/YaxueCao/status/1070666032556204032

 

“There is no word for the pain, sadness, humiliation and anger I feel in my heart.” After six years and four months of tweeting, Wang Jiangsong was forced to delete his account. Wang calls himself a “labor scholar,” but he is too modest. William Nee of Amnesty International calls Wang “arguably the most prominent labor academic in China.” This is due not only to Wang’s scholarship, but also to his connections, and most importantly, his compassion. Wang’s perspective has been relied on by the Associated Press, Foreign Policy, and Reuters. Last year, Wang became part of the news himself. As reported by Radio Free Asia, officials in a Beijing neighborhood used a November fire as a chance to evict migrant workers. With winter effectively underway, Wang and others not only set up shelters for the workers, but also penned an open letter condemning the evictions as illegal.

In a farewell tweet, Wang said that the deletion was “due to force majeure which you all understand.” Though he said that “the sun will continue to rise,” Wang spoke of the deletion of his account as an “obituary.”

5,614 tweets to more than 23,300 followers will be gone in a few hours.

[As of now Prof. Wang’s handle is still alive, and he’s subsequently tweeted an account of the police visit.]

This happened on Tuesday, December 11, 2018, the day after the 70th anniversary of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

As followers of ChinaChange.org are aware, Wang Jiangsong’s story is far from isolated. It is part of a recent and accelerating crackdown on the use of Twitter by Chinese authorities. On November 9, 2018, Wu Gan’s Twitter account was deleted. That deletion carries concerns of its own, because Wu has been in prison since 2015. What is more, the deletion was unannounced. Yaxue Cao just happened to be online at the right time to see it go down. As with Wang Jiansong, Wu Gan used his Twitter account for the cause of the oppressed. Time and again, Wu rallied support to those who were ignored.

30,277 tweets from 2009 to 2015. Erased as though they never existed.

The list of names is rapidly growing. The campaign against Chinese Twitter users is being followed with increasing alarm on Twitter itself. It has been reported by outlets including Beijing Spring, the Epoch Times, the Hong Kong Free Press & Agence France Presse, and Human Rights Watch. As reported by Eva Xiao of AFP: “Despite being blocked in China, Twitter and other overseas social media sites have long been used freely by activists and government critics to address subjects that are censored on domestic forums — until now.” More and more Chinese Twitter users are receiving invitations to “drink tea” at the police station. To put it mildly, this is a consent issue. These accounts are not being deleted voluntarily.

What Wang, Wu, and so many others are up against is the “People’s Republic of Amnesia,” as described by former BBC and NPR reporter Lousia Lim in her book by that title. Indeed, the first rule of imposed political amnesia is that there is no amnesia; China has banned novelist Ma Jiang’s book China Dream, in which he describes both the efforts to erase memories, and the way those memories come back to the surface like a ball which has been held under the water.

 

Twitter purge, old wine

The account of Shenzhen-based dissident and businessman 陈年老酒 @old_wine was deleted after he had been interrogated three times. In April he called out “Save the Uighurs!”, a rare outcry from Han Chinese who have remained largely silent on concentration camps in Xinjiang.

 

The systematic campaign to erase history is now reaching out to Twitter users. Not via technological means, but by the knock on the door in the middle of the night.

This is loss on a staggering scale, and the worst of it is that there’s no way of knowing exactly how bad it is. How do you account for the damage done by severing the connections of someone like Wang Jiansong? How do you assess the impact of the collective body of free-minded people tweeting everyday acts of individuality? We can get some idea of their value from the extent to which oppressors are going.

Has the next Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vaclav Havel, or Martin Luther King, Jr., been formulating ideas tweet-by-tweet? Purists might laugh, but I wonder if today’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, or at least its existence and how to access it, wouldn’t be spread via Twitter. Imagine such tweets permanently disappearing.

Imagine that the perpetrators of the June 4, 1989 massacre at Tiananmen Square had the ability to delete every image of Tank Man. No doubt they would.

That is not an armchair historian’s counterfactual. Through the deletion of Twitter accounts, we are losing the record of what is happening right now in the Xinjiang camps. We are also losing the record of non-Uighur Chinese who are trying to stop that atrocity. In other words, this is not only about a historical record. Twitter users are trying to save lives in the here and now.

The “Dual Key” System

What is Twitter going to do about this? Twitter may not have the resources to investigate consent in so many cases. Besides, determining whether a deletion was voluntary or under duress could embroil Twitter in political issues. Same for issuing a blanket order that no deletions will be permitted from China, or any other country. Twitter is by-and-large, what the users make of it.

Given what is at stake, though, Twitter should find a way to do something.

The point of a dual key system would be to protect the dissenter, the dissenter’s tweets, and Twitter. Twitter would not be involved in assessing consent.

The second key would be held by a person of the primary account holder’s choosing, most likely in another country. The second key holder would have no ability to tweet, only the ability to approve or veto deletions. The conditions under which deletion would be permitted would be determined up front between the keyholders.

Such a program presents moral quandaries. To state but one: If the ground rules between key holders are to never delete no matter the circumstances, do you abide by that as a second key holder?

The thing is, we are already in the moral quandary whether we acknowledge it or not. As things stand, when the knock on the door comes, Chinese Twitter users are alone. And we’re letting that happen, pretending that none of the responsibility falls on us. To my mind, though, as I’ve gone about my daily business, I’ve been a free rider on what Wang Jiangsong and so many others have done and are doing to fight darkness in this world. So in some way I owe this to him — even though we’re a world apart and we’ve never met. Perhaps others see things the same way. Perhaps Amnesty or Human Rights Watch or others would be willing to coordinate this with volunteers from around the world. Electricians, teachers, retirees, college students – the variety of volunteers will be surprising.

This is about connection and shared burden. When a Twitter user is sitting in an interrogation room facing a demand to delete their account, they should not be alone. The very existence of a second key holder changes the dynamic in that room. If a deletion request is made, the notification to the second key holder will be a pre-arranged call for help. A dual key system turns the table on the interrogator by shining a light into a dark place.

Please, Twitter, do something. Brave dissidents are already risking punishment by speaking. Give them the option of a dual key account to preserve their words. In these trying times give us reason to sing “All people become brothers where your gentle wing abides.”

 

 

Jeff Rambin is a father and attorney from Tyler, Texas. He is a lifelong student of history and politics. Years ago, he served as the chairperson of the foreign-policy focused Wiley Lecture Series at Texas A&M. Memories of 1989 have stuck with him. At some point he grew sick of reading books and watching the news and decided that he had to do something.

He can be followed on Twitter at @RespectHope.

 

 

https://www.theepochtimes.com/chinese-regime-forcing-twitter-users-to-close-their-accounts_2723395.html
http://beijingspring.com/bj2/2010/150/1115201825953.htm
https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/21/chinas-social-media-crackdown-targets-twitter#
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/11/18/stealth-crackdown-chinese-censorship-extends-twitter-activists-accounts-disappear/
https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/04/03/meet-chinas-protest-archivist/
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-labour-lawyer-insight/labor-movement-concertmaster-tests-beijings-boundaries-idUSKBN0JL00T20141207
https://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-168-million-migrant-workers-are-discovering-their-labor-rights-2015-4
https://www.theepochtimes.com/chinese-regime-forcing-twitter-users-to-close-their-accounts_2723395.html
http://beijingspring.com/bj2/2010/150/1115201825953.htm
https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/21/chinas-social-media-crackdown-targets-twitter#
https://www.hongkongfp.com/2018/11/18/stealth-crackdown-chinese-censorship-extends-twitter-activists-accounts-disappear/

 

 


Related:

China Steps up Nationwide Crackdown to Silence Twitter Users – the Unmediated Story, Yaxue Cao, December 5, 2018.

Deletion of Wu Gan’s Twitter Posts Reflects the Urgent Need to Protect Chinese Human Rights Activists’ ‘Data Ownership’, November 11, 2018.

#LoveTwitter, a Special Place Like No Other for Mainland Chinese Netizens, March 24, 2016.

 

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Video: Six Policemen Came to the Home of a Young Woman at Night and Seized Her for Interrogation [Subtitled]

China Change, August 28, 2018

 

 

This 3-minute video has gone viral on Twitter the last couple of days. It’s not a movie; it’s an everyday reality in China that’s seldom captured on record. We, as many people do, know it’s a commonality, but the video somehow sends chills down the spine.

The video emerged on Twitter on August 26. The event supposedly occurred late night on August 23 in Shenzhen, and the police came from Shajing police station (沙井派出所) for this young woman named Chen Guixiang. She’s an average Chinese, not an activist or a dissident. She posted or said something online, and the police arrived to take her to the station for an interrogation.

It appears that she knew they were coming — it’s likely that she had already resisted prior orders from the police. She set up a hidden cellphone and recorded the scene.

On Monday, a reporter from Voice of America’s Chinese service called Shajing police station in Shenzhen. A woman officer who answered the phone said she didn’t know about the incident, and a male officer huffed at the reporter, telling him that it was “ridiculous” to call the police station.

China Change has uploaded the video and provided English-language subtitles. Below is a transcription in English:

[Woman] What’s going on??
[Police] Take your ID out.
[Police] We’re coming in to look around a bit.
[Woman] I don’t have my ID here.
[Police] What’s your name?
[Police] What is your identification number?
[Woman says her name; inaudible]
[Police] You’re the one we’re looking for.
[Woman] Why are you coming to my home this late? What’s going on?
[Police] You come with us and we’ll discuss it.
[Woman] Why should I?
[Police] Because we’re the police.
[Woman] So just like that you can take people away for no reason?
[Police] Yeah — so what?
[Woman] Do you have any identification?
[Police] What ID do you want?
[Woman] Or an arrest warrant??
[Police] We’re not arresting you now, we just want to have a chat, OK?
[Police] We want you to come to the station with us.
[Woman] On what basis?
[Police] On what basis? We’ll tell you in the station.
[Woman] I need the reason now.
[Police] I don’t have to tell you now.
[Woman] So why would I go with you?
[Police] So do you think the three of us can’t take you away?
[Woman] You’re illegally entering a citizen’s residence!
[Police] This isn’t illegal.
[Woman] Then show me proof of this, I’ll take a look.
[Police] What kind of evidence do we need?
[Police, largely inaudible] We’ll take you to the police station and show you, no problem.
[Woman] Why do you want to interrogate me? I haven’t broken any law.
[Police] So what were you up to online?
[Woman] What I was doing online??
[Police; inaudible]
[Police] What did you post online?
[Woman] What did I post? I didn’t post anything.
[Police] You didn’t publish anything? Then come with us.
[Woman] Why should I?
[Police] How dare you!? [and says her name, which is inaudible]
[Police mumbling, shouting]: ‘Cooperate, cooperate!’
[Woman] How can you just come in like that?
[Police shouts] Are you gonna cooperate or not?
[Police inaudible; demands she cooperate; says they’re going to take her away.]
[Police shouts] Either you come with us or we’ll force you!
[Woman] What is going on here?
[Police crosstalk] Just cooperate. We’re doing an investigation.
[Woman] I didn’t break the law!
[Police interrupts] You’re not the one who decides whether you broke the law!
[Police] What nonsense did you write online?
[Woman] So many of you breaking into my home…
[Police] Take her away!
[Police] Don’t reason with her!
[Police directs his colleague to drag her out]
[Woman] All of you breaking into the house of a woman, what’s going on here?
[Police] Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.
[Woman] What are you doing?!
[Woman] What is this? How can you do this?
[Woman] I have absolutely no sense of safety.
[Woman] Why?
[Woman] You’re breaking the law!
[Woman] This is against the law.
[Police] We’re enforcing the law, not breaking the law.
[Police] I hope you’ll cooperate with our investigation.

 

 


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Economics Professor Expelled for ‘Politically Harmful’ Expressions, Including Estimate of Staggering Cost to Maintain the Communist Party Apparatus

China Change, August 21, 2018

 

Yang Shaozheng

 

 

Yang Shaozheng (杨绍政), a couple of months shy of 49, was for 11 years a professor of good standing in the College of Economics at Guizhou University. He taught game theory and advanced microeconomics, focused his research on optimization theory and mechanism design theory, and managed numerous provincial- and state-funded research projects. On August 15, however, Guizhou University made a decision to expel him for “long-running publication and spreading online of politically mistaken speech, writing a large number of politically harmful articles, and creating a deleterious influence on campus and in society.” He was also guilty of “being unrepentant” and refusing to accept “educational help.”

Prior to this, last November, Yang was suspended from teaching and banned from advising graduate students. According to a personal statement he published online, Yang repeatedly approached the administration and the university’s Party Office to demand a formal statement of reasons for the sanctions. In each case he was fobbed off or refused. His written appeal to the university president was ignored.

Around the same time, Yang’s WeChat account and his blog were shut down, leaving him cut off from all public communication channels to express his views.

Last November, Yang submitted to New Tang Dynasty Television, a station affiliated with Falun Gong, a persecuted spiritual practice, a short article titled: “Can We Really Leave the Party Out of Our Economic Research?” (《我们经济研究中政党真的可以被忽略?》) The essay said: “Party personnel as well as the staff of some non-Party mass organizations are sustained by the taxes of the citizenry plus the state’s revenue. They are across the government, the military, mass organizations, state enterprises, educational and cultural institutions, and the organs responsible for Party Affairs. Their number exceeds 20 million; the cost to maintain them, including the loss of wealth caused by maintaining them, is estimated at 2 trillion yuan annually, with every Chinese carrying a burden of roughly 15,000 yuan each.”

Yang published the more detailed analysis, with the full title: “How the Estimate of All of Mainland China’s Government, Party, Mass Organization and State Enterprise Annual Costs Coming to 2 Trillion Was Calculated,” though it has since been deleted from his Sina blog.

In the article, he wrote that in two different economic systems — with all else being equal — one of them that had to “provide for that many regime officials would become increasingly impoverished. As long as nothing changes, the society that has to sustain the more government officials will ultimately collapse.”

Yang Shaozheng pointed out that despite the problem being so important for the future of the country, in China it is a forbidden area of enquiry and a blindspot in the public realm. Interestingly, in the article Yang described how several scholars pointedly avoided the topic at an academic conference he attended on political economy. During the tea break he brought up the question of Party expenditures to other scholars. Fudan University professor Zhang Jun (张军),  gave no response; Zhejiang University professor Zhang Xukun (张旭坤) said he was worried that there may be State Security (国保) officers on site; Chongqing University professor Pu Yongjian (蒲勇健) said: “You understand what’s going on. If you’ve got the courage, go research it.”

In 2005, a researcher named Mu Zhengxin (穆正新) published an essay, which was widely disseminated, titled “The Chinese Communist Party is the Most Expensive Political Party” (《最昂贵的政党是中国共产党》). Mu calculated the expenditures on maintaining the Party apparatus, which he narrowly defined as Party organs and projects that have been set up just for the Communist Party and that are operated with funds from state revenue. The organs included in his calculations are: 1) The Party Committees, disciplinary committees, and consultative conferences at every level of government; 2) The specialized Party organs in schools and universities; 3) Organizations set up by the Communist Party, including the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, the All-China Women’s Federation, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, as well as the Party’s youth organizations and numerous, countless other variants; 4) Party organs in police, military, and paramilitary systems, as well as courts and procuratorates; 5) The Party Affairs units inside state-owned enterprises; 6) The Party organs and expenditures for propaganda projects that go on inside Party mouthpiece media; 7) Overseas united front and propaganda work.

Mu Zhengxin’s calculations indicate that the Party’s annual expenditures on the above, just to sustain the Party, came to about 226 billion yuan. Ten years later, all signs indicate that such expenditures have, rather than decreasing, expanded enormously, possibly well beyond that dedicated to the educational system — and certainly far outstripping the budget dedicated to  healthcare. Inquisitive readers are invited to examine the Chinese government’s budget for themselves.

Yang Shaozheng’s figures included not merely the costs of sustaining the Party apparatus, but also the loss associated with the constant drain of these costs (including the massive corruption that takes place).

As to Communist Party expenditures, in 2012 the Peking University professor of law He Weifang (贺卫方) wrote on Weibo: “The Party’s treasury cannot be confused with that of the country. Party cadres cannot derive their income from the national treasury, and instead should be supported by the Party’s own fees. Taxpayers pay their taxes to a secular national government,  not a Holy Party.” (Professor He’s original post has likely been expunged entirely; the only online traces of it are in forwarded messages like this.) On March 27, 2016, He Weifang proposed on Weibo that national budgetary support be withdrawn from the Communist Youth League.

These demands are of course feeble without a transformation of the political system. The effect they do achieve, however, is to remind the public and the scholarly community to consider these issues. We look forward to Professor Yang Shaozheng and other Chinese or foreign political economists engage in detailed studies and calculations on this issue.

Prior to the Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress in October 2017, Yang was twice called in for ‘chats’ by the Public Security Bureau in Guizhou Province. He told Radio Free Asia in an interview: “The first was on September 19. They said that during the 19th Party Congress I had to keep my mouth shut. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t write anything online, and couldn’t say anything political during class. I said to them at the time: what you’re doing here is illegal according to our national constitution. The second time they came to me was the very evening of the opening ceremony of the 19th Party Congress, at about 9:00 p.m. They first accused me of spreading rumors. I asked them where I was supposed to have spread rumors and demanded that they present the facts. They had no facts to present. In the end they told me explicitly that I had to shut up, and then asked whether I’d do so or not. I told them clearly that I wouldn’t be quiet. They froze my Weibo account. I told my students about what happened.”

Yang Shaozheng’s writings on websites inside China have been blocked or purged, and now only a few of his articles are available on some sites outside the country. In 2012 when Yang’s personal page “Statecraft for the People” (经世济民) on KDNET, a popular Chinese-language website, was deleted without prior notice, he wrote to the website administrator: “Today it was my website that was unconstitutionally disappeared; tomorrow I myself may be, unconstitutionally and without reason, also disappeared; and you, among many others, may also have their websites or books disappeared, or be disappeared yourselves.”

An overseas human rights activist told China Change that, over the weekend, Yang Shaozheng and his family were attempting to travel to Hong Kong when they were intercepted at the border. China Change has been unable to contact Yang so far.

Over the last few years, numerous university professors have been expelled, pulled from classes, sacked, or had their Party memberships rescinded, among other punishments, for their transgressions of thought and speech. A sampling of such cases over the last two years includes:

  • Deng Xiangchao (邓相超), the vice dean of the School of Art at Shandong Jianzhu University, who was forced to retire in January 2017 after he forwarded a number of posts making fun of Mao Zedong on Mao’s birthday;
  • Zhai Jiehong (翟桔红), associate professor in the law school at the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law in Wuhan, who in May 2018 had his Party membership cancelled and was suspended from teaching after criticizing the constitutional amendment (to remove the tenure limit on the head of state in China);
  • You Shengdong (尤盛东), a professor of international trade at Xiamen University, who in June 2017 was sacked after being informed on by students for making statements in class that were “opposed to the socialist value outlook”;
  • Li Mohai (李默海), an associate professor and director of the political department in the political-law school of Shandong Institute of Business and Technology, who was sacked in July 2017 for “publishing incorrect speech online”;
  • Shi Jiepeng (史杰鹏), an associate professor of classical Chinese at Beijing Normal University who in August 2017 was expelled for “publishing incorrect views online over a long period of time,” “crossing the red line of ideology management, violating political discipline, and causing severe damage to the reputation of the university”;
  • Xu Chuanqing (许传青), an associate professor at Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture who in September 2017 was subject to administrative punishment after being informed on by students in his Probability Theory class for “making inappropriate comparisons between Japanese and Chinese people and giving free reign to his personal dissatisfaction.”

Liu Shuqing (刘书庆) and Zhang Xuezhong (张雪忠), two university professor who are also human rights lawyers, were also deprived of their teaching qualifications. Liu Shuqing was disbarred from practicing law, and while Zhang Xuezhong has managed to keep his license, he’s been unable to practice due to the university’s concerted interference. Recently Zhang, a law professor, received a harsh warning from the police for publishing a proposal for drafting a new constitution by citizens that aimed to help create a modern political system in China.

In July, the Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun (许章润), in Japan as a visiting scholar, published a lengthy essay titled “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes” which carried out a thoroughgoing critique of — and expressing his deep concern about — Chinese political and social life. In writing the essay, he seemed to have made preparations for whatever would come to him, again showing that in China today, the freedom of expression of intellectuals is deeply imperiled.

In early August, Sun Wenguang (孙文广), a retired professor from Shandong University was set upon and dragged away by half a dozen police officers, who barged into his home while he was in the middle of an interview with Voice of America. The recording cut off live as he was hauled off. He was illegally detained for several days before being allowed to return home, and since then hasn’t been able to speak with journalists. A VOA journalist and news assistant who visited him previously were also temporarily detained.

In September 2017, Professor Yang Shaozheng, no place to publish, no blog to write, and unable to have a social media account inside China, came to Twitter. Few knew who he was. He posted screenshots of his writings and published them on his feed as though speaking to himself. His inaugural tweet reads, “The more I think, the more distressed I become. It’s hard to pursue the truth; it’s hard to speak the truth; and it’s hard to be a truthful person. Being able to freely express ourselves, without terror, is our dream.”

 

 


Related:

Xu Zhangrun’s China: ‘Licking Carbuncles and Sucking Abscesses’, China Change, August 1, 2018

War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018

 


 

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A Long Journey to Visit My Husband Zhang Haitao in Shaya Prison

Li Aijie, April 23, 2017

Born in 1971, the Urumqi-based Zhang Haitao (张海涛) was arrested on June 26, 2015 for his online speech: to be precise, 69 WeChat posts and 205 Twitter posts, including retweets of others’ tweets. On January 15, 2016, Zhang was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and 5 years in prison for “providing intelligence to overseas [entities].” He was given a 19-year sentence. On November 28, 2016, the Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the lower court’s ruling. On December 2, 2016, Zhang Haitao was sent to Shaya Prison in southwestern Xinjiang to serve his jail term, which ends on June 25, 2034, when he will be 63 years old. He hasn’t met his son, “Little Mandela,” born after his incarceration. On April 19, 2017, his wife Li Aijie (李爱杰) embarked on a journey over 2,000 miles that began from their hometown in central China to visit him.  — The Editors

 

li aijie

Li Aijie leaving Zhenping, Henan.

 

April 19, 2017

Zhang Haitao is a native of Henan Province. He’s a prisoner of conscience in Xinjiang for the crime of inciting subversion of state power. He received a severe sentence of 19 years for his “thought crimes.” His second trial was held on November 28, 2016. The Superior Court of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region upheld the original judgement and sentence. On December 2, 2016 he was sent to Shaya Prison in the desert of southwestern Xinjiang. On April 13, 2017, after four months waiting, Haitao’s second eldest sister finally received a telephone call from Shaya Prison approving a family visit.

I feel like a knight-errant. I packed my luggage and set out on the journey. But I don’t have the chivalrous calm and natural gracefulness of a knight-errant, nor his speed and sharpness.

This trip I didn’t bring Little Mandela to see his father, and felt very guilty! Even though I knew Haitao eagerly awaited seeing his son, and Little Mandela missed his father terribly, the journey is long and I didn’t know if his young body could bear it. I have to go first on my own, experience, feel, and learn from it, in order to know just how arduous the journey is.

First stop: Zhenping county — Nanyang city — Zhengzhou city (Henan Province). On the road it was hard to calm my thoughts. My heart and mind was agitated and sad, to such an extent that just starting the trip made me cry. On November 30, 2016, after almost five months of agony, in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region detention center Haitao and I met for a brief 20 minutes. It felt like it had been ages since we last saw each other. It was such a difficult meeting, under what circumstances will we meet again? What condition will you be in?

Setting out, I pretend to be strong and chivalrous, but I know I’m just a weak little bird that can’t stand up to any wind. It’s all you friends that give our whole family selfless love and support that gives me the strength to spread my wings and move forward. Following in the footsteps of Mr. Gao Zhisheng*, I cherish the companionship, concern, and support of all you friends on this long journey to Shaya to see my husband! My deep and profound thanks!

April 21, 2017

Dear friends, yesterday I arrived safely at our home in Urumqi. As the plane was delayed, after arriving I had to do some errands and couldn’t respond to friends’ messages in a timely manner. My apologies.     

After arriving back at the home I’d left almost five months ago, everything was the same, except it’s all covered by a layer of dust. Opening the bedroom door, my eyes were met by the sight of Haitao’s clothes I’d brought back from the detention center on November 30, 2016, folded neatly on the bed. I was overwhelmed by sadness. Things remain but people are no more. Haitao’s familiar silhouette appears before my eyes, and past events flash back scene by scene…

Although our home is small, only one bedroom and one living room, it’s suffused with love. After eating dinner you always carried me from room to room, never tiring of it, and calling it: “Losing-weight exercise.”

Returning from our walk after dinner, I’d petulantly say I couldn’t walk anymore because when I had just arrived in Xinjiang I thought living on the sixth floor was too high and there was no elevator. You pledged to me: “Don’t worry, I’ll carry you on my back!” You carried me up from the first floor, huffing and puffing, and I teased you: “Piggy carrying his bride!” Your Chinese zodiac animal is the pig, but you don’t want to live like a pig!

Often when we got to the third floor I would try to get off your back. You wanted to keep carrying me, but I didn’t want to tire you, my sweetheart. I remember our happy laughter and cheerful voices as if it was yesterday.

How I want to lean on your sturdy back, and let you carry me one more time! Until we’re so old we can’t go anywhere…  

And the chubby child’s poster on the wall. I remember that day you entered the house in low spirits, I took your hand and pushed open the bedroom door. This cute chubby child’s poster appeared before our eyes and you immediately broke into laughter: We are ready to have a child of our own.

But you were not in a hurry: “The doctor said after taking medicine you should wait at least half a year before getting pregnant!” Yes, I was taking medicine to cure six uterine fibroids, and had only stopped for three months. And a month ago I was still taking anti-inflammatory medication (the doctor also said I should stop taking that medicine four months before pregnancy). And you said that we hadn’t shared enough of our two-person paradise yet. I disagreed: “We’re both getting old, we can’t just have a child whenever you want.”  

Having so many uterine fibroids, I worried whether I could conceive. Not long before that you also received calls from your family, they wanted us to return home and adopt a child. Your elder sisters didn’t believe I could have a child of my own.     

Whenever I think of our son Little Mandela, I am moved to tears! God had mercy on us and granted us this son. When I had been pregnant for a little more than three months, we were immersed in happiness, and then disaster struck. You were taken from our home. Since then, I’ve searched for you so many times in my dreams and couldn’t find you. Our family of three should be enjoying happiness, but now we’re separated by such a great distance.

Opening up the friend group [on WeChat], messages poured in from so many friends. Their love, support, and encouragement overflowed in their words. Their love moved me to tears. I invite all of my friends to continue this journey to Shaya with me!

———

Editor’s note: On 21st, Li Aijie told RFA that she was leaving Urumqi on the 22nd, she would arrive in Aksu on the 23rd, and Shaya on the 24th. There has been no updates from Li Aijie since the 22nd.

 

*Lawyer Gao Zhisheng was imprisoned in Shaya Prison from December, 2011 to August, 2014.

 


Related:

U. S. Government Must Intervene in Zhang Haitao’s Case, November 21, 2016.

 

Translated from Chinese (here and here) by China Change.

 

 

 

#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.

———–

Related:

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

 

 

A ‘Historic Mistake’: Another Case of China’s Social Media Warfare

China Change, March 23, 2016

Social media is by nature subversive in a country like China, where totalitarian rule depends on monopolizing the narrative and suppressing free speech. The Chinese Communist Party is well aware, and worried: state propaganda calls social media an opposing sphere of opinion,” and hawkish PLA generals refer to it as battleground where life and death are at stake. On Monday, in an essay “laced with wartime imagery,” the chief editor of the People’s Daily warned of a “historic mistake” if China (meaning the Party) loses grip on new media. The war has been a daily affair for years now, despite the censorship, and despite the fact that netizens are thrown in jail for what they post. Another round of pushback against the Party was triggered yesterday when the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, warned Japan, for the nth time, that it should be “highly responsible to history,” and needed to “confront and reflect on its aggressive past,” so as to “educate younger generations with the correct historic views.” She said all this on the very day that the Chinese public was gripped by something that actually matters to them: yet another vaccine scandal. Herein is a sample of some of the online reaction. — The Editors

 

网友回应华春莹

Screen shots via @wangyi09. Click to enlarge. 

@小学生THU: “In my middle school textbooks there was nothing about land reform, or how many were killed during the suppression of counterrevolutionaries, or anything about the anti-rightist campaigns, or how people were persecuted during the purging of the “four olds.” There was nothing about how tens of millions of peasants starved to death during the Great Leap Forward. Oh, and when it came to the Cultural Revolution, it was one page, and the teacher said we can skip it because it won’t be on the college entrance exams.”

@赵_小孟: “You’re going to use Japan to divert people’s attention again? How many children have been slaughtered by your vaccines?”

@魏佳WEIJIA: “That’s got nothing to do with common people. Let’s go back and talk about vaccines.”

@大贤良師: “Oh dear, here we go again. Japan’s like a chamber pot: whenever there’s a crisis of public opinion, it’s dragged out and used. Does this still work after so many decades?”

@仅知: “Firstly, interfering in the internal affairs of other countries is wrong. Secondly, failing to correctly look at your own history is wrong. Thirdly, the matter of the vaccines has not been cleared up—and that’s wrong too.”  

@西山环上: “First explain clearly what on earth is going on with the vaccines.”

@F_小小: “You’ve still got the nerve to say this? You don’t provide a proper account of your own history, you don’t respect your own citizens, and you turn around and ask other people to respect you? That’s not gonna happen.”

@涩胖子: “Other countries textbooks, other countries’ politics—what’s it got to do with you?! First explain your own problems properly! Our biggest enemy right now isn’t [Japan].

@拈花神探: “We are very concerned about the vaccine issue!”

@一月近日点: “This morning the vaccine incident came out, and this evening you’ve brought up all this old stuff. Can you stop with the routine and be a bit more sincere?”

@寻解放的Django: “Actually, we can’t control what Japan does with its textbooks. Deleting things from textbooks isn’t the same as distorting history.”

@两半簃主人: “Mainland textbooks have never properly presented the Nationalist government who fought the anti-Japanese war. Who’s the jerk here?”

@红发的红发: “You make it sound like your Party had recorded its own ugly history in the textbooks.”

@散騎長不侍: “When the regime begins to reflect thoroughly on the Cultural Revolution, only then will Japanese militarism be afraid.”

@米哈如: “During the siege of Changchun by communist troops, hundreds of thousands of Nationalist troops and civilians starved to death. Have you put that in your history textbooks?”

 

————

Related:

‘What’s The Name of This Vegetable?’ Netizens Send Nearly 10,000 Answers to People’s Daily’s Question, China Change, February 27, 2016.

Fury and Angst — The Recent Confrontation between State Media and Social Media in China, by Jia Jia, February 23, 2014.

Internet Freedom in China: A Menace that Must Be Removed, by Mo Zhixu, March 14, 2014.

The Anxiety of a Propaganda Chief in the Face of Media Changes, by Song Zhibiao, April 28, 2013.