Interviews with Dai Qing

Three Gorges and the environment

(November 15, 2005) Three Gorges Probe exclusive Dai Qing’s first public talk in China since 1989: ‘Three Gorges and the environment’

Dai Qing at Sanwei Bookstore in Beijing (Oct. 15, 2005)

Three Gorges Probe exclusive
Dai Qing’s first public talk in China since 1989:
‘Three Gorges and the environment’

In early 1989, acclaimed Chinese journalist Dai Qing published Yangtze! Yangtze!, a groundbreaking collection of interviews, essays and statements by Chinese scientists, journalists and intellectuals opposed to the Three Gorges dam. This pioneering critique was later banned in China for allegedly “abetting the turmoil” in Tiananmen Square. Dai Qing was arrested in July 1989 and spent 10 months in solitary confinement in Qincheng political prison on the outskirts of Beijing. For the past 16 years, Dai Qing has not been allowed to publish her work or to speak publicly in China – until a recent talk at the Sanwei bookstore-teahouse in central Beijing. The following is a transcript of her presentation, along with excerpts from the question and answer session. (Translation by Three Gorges Probe. The original transcript can be found on our Chinese site [PDF].)

Three Gorges and the environment

Talk by Dai Qing (Sanwei Bookstore, Beijing, Oct. 15, 2005)It is my great honour to be here with all of you today. This is the first time I have been able to meet my readers and friends in public since 1989. I’m happy to have this opportunity, because I have not been allowed to say anything in public in my homeland for 16 years. I think this event today is an indication that my country has made obvious progress toward freedom of expression and greater tolerance of different and even dissident opinions. Hopefully we will keep moving in this direction, and avoid making a U-turn. I know that many of you here are very adept at surfing the Internet, and so you’re doing much better than I am at getting information and broadening your horizons that way. Today, however, I’d like to take this opportunity to look back in time, and review our experience of the past 20 years – how we have struggled to voice our opinions on important issues that have a significant impact on our lives and the environment. I think you might learn something from our experience, and this will help us go forward, working side by side to build our country into a more open and modernized one. Meanwhile, I hope we have friends here from the Public Security Bureau and the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee. If so, I sincerely ask my friends if you could convey what I say here to your leaders. Tell them that both the speaker and members of the audience are extremely concerned about the future of our country, that we’re worried about our great rivers that are under threat. I’d really appreciate it if my friends could report on these views, which cannot be published in this country, to your respected leaders.

Before 1989, my name could be found in the newspapers on a weekly, if not a daily basis. In the 16 years since 1989, however, my name has been mentioned only twice in China’s government-funded newspapers. Ironically, I was mentioned in the Three Gorges Project Daily, when Lu Youmei, former boss of the Three Gorges Project Corporation, remarked: “She thinks she’s somebody? She’s a nobody! I don’t think she’s qualified to criticize the Three Gorges project because she knows nothing about water conservancy or hydroelectricity.”

Dai Qing, November 15, 2005

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