(October 14, 2010) Dai Qing, one of China’s foremost writers, recently wrote in Radio Free Asia about a dinner held in honour of Xie Chaoping, the author of “The Great Relocation” who was detained in August at his Beijing home on charges of “illegal activities” and held until September 17 in a Shaanxi Province jail.
Xie’s book, which was published shortly before his arrest, is a detailed account of the decades long impoverishment and ill-treatment of the 400,000 Sanmenxia dam migrants. He was released after higher level prosecutorial officials took the unusual step, in China’s rubber stamp judicial system, of dismissing the charges for lack of evidence.
In her piece Dai Qing talks about how Xie’s arrest and subsequent release has rallied free press advocates across China.
The People’s Power
By Dai Qing
Xie Chaoping, author of “The Great Relocation”, was recently released by authorities and allowed to return to his home in Beijing. He was arrested after arrogant Weinan police officers from Shaanxi Province raced to Beijing to handcuff him in his home. In an act of humiliation, the police shaved the 55-year-old writer’s head and dragged him from one train station waiting room to another as they escorted him back to Weinan. Authorities only stopped their ill-treatment of Xie—who suffered severe pain in his shoulder due to police abuse—after he boldly announced, “I’ll kill myself by throwing myself against the wall.”
But now, after 30 days of detention, Xie is back in Beijing. He was allowed to return after the Procuratorate in Weinan disapproved of his arrest, saying the evidence against Xie was insufficient, even as the police insisted the case was handled “by the book” and the offence was “committed by a unit of organized crime.”
The Procuratorate’s decision seems strange, as that office in China’s judicial system usually operates together with the police under the leadership of the Communist Party. Why didn’t The Procuratorate allow the police to save face and uphold their charge against Xie?
To celebrate Xie’s release, we gathered at a Beijing restaurant on the last day of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday. Everyone at the dinner believed that his release, in accordance with the “Code of Criminal Procedure”, was a triumph of the people and a victory for Netizens, Twitters and bloggers across the country. The Chinese people, typically submissive and patient in adversity, expressed their power in what is now being called the “book case.”
The guests at the restaurant straddled generations—from the three-year-old daughter of Hu Jia, who is still in jail and who brought flowers to Xie, to the 84-year old Guo Daohui, an expert in Chinese law and civil law.
Many of those at the dinner were survivors of the “Anti-Rightist Campaign” fifty years ago, with the youngest of this generation already more than 70-years-old. Recently they’ve begun telling their stories, talking about their own experience and the suffering they endured during that campaign. Now, they’re even demanding compensation from the state for their suffering. Their demands, which are both fair and reasonable, demonstrate their perseverance and are an example to younger generations.
Unfortunately, until now their activities have been confined to the same circle of fellow sufferers of the Rightist campaign.
But this time, the elders came for the sake of Xie and the migrants relocated by the Sanmenxia dam on the Yellow River. They, who survived the Rightist campaign of years past and say they were unjustly convicted for their dissent, are now asking themselves, how can we allow this sort of thing to continue? It is becoming clear that the former Rightists, no longer under attack, have joined the battle, becoming pioneers, promoters and the backbone of a new movement for free speech and a free press.
Tie Liu stepped up to the microphone first, boldly stating that the “ ‘book case’ is not Xie’s personal matter.”
“Without new laws protecting the press, unjust convictions for free expression will be endless,” he added.
After conferring with his wife, he decided to donate 1 million yuan (RMB) to promote discussion and research on legislation establishing a free press and support for journalists and writers who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
He also introduced the establishment of the “Tie Liu Fund for Press Legislation”.
Though we were extremely touched by this gesture, we are also concerned: will authorities trouble him in the same way the Trade and Industry Bureau harassed Gong Meng? Perhaps, this “man of iron” as I call him, is fearless—both for his own life or the criticism he will receive, or even the possibility that he will be arrested in a manner similar to Xie, in his quest to establish a legal foundation for a free press.
Xin Ziling, another celebrant of Xie’s release, meanwhile, called for the National People’s Congress to immediately proceed with laws protecting the press and publishers, which would not only repeal the government’s control over the media, but would also introduce a system of liability, where publishers are held legally responsible for their content, as opposed to the current environment in which the government pre-determines what information should be made public. Xin, speaking candidly, said he was trying to save the Communist Party from itself, as it would lose its vitality—and possibly collapse altogether—if it didn’t take the initiative and legislate and implement these much needed reforms itself.
Sun Xupei, a veteran scholar on the Chinese”Press Law” contained in the Constitution, also attended the event and discussed how the an earlier “Press Law” was drafted, revised, promoted, released and then quickly banned in the early 1980s—mirroring the chaos of China’s politics at the time. Other experts in law including Ren Yanfang, Ding Dong, and Yang Jisheng also spoke at the event.
The staff of the Chinese Writers Association & Writers Protection Committee refused to attend the event, no matter how strongly they were urged to do so. They firmly distanced themselves from the event, and instead, said they were “understanding, sympathetic, but not in a position to comment.” We’re curious, though, how those working for Chinese Writers Association & Writers Protection Committee, who are supposed to protect the rights of Chinese writers and journalists, can justify such a position.
Also lingering in attendance were plain-clothes authorities, who did nothing to intervene or disrupt the event.
Further Reading from Probe International:
- Introduction to Xie Chaoping’s book, “The Great Relocation”
- The great relocation that failed
- In Xie Chaoping’s Own Words
- Damming dissent: China jails journalist for Sanmenxia dam corruption exposé
- Complaints of corruption surface as town slips underwater
- New migrants, same story: villagers in Sichuan protest relocation packages
- Special report: Major problems and hidden troubles in relocation of Three Gorges project
- China’s giant dam faces huge problems
- Chongqing fights crimes from Three Gorges resettlement
- The Three Gorges Project: an error in ‘democratic decision-making’
BACK TO POST: 1. Tie Liu, whose real name is Huang Zerong was born in 1935 in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. He is a famous novelist and was arrested in 1957 for being a Rightist and spent 23 years in jail.
BACK TO POST: 2. Gong Meng: Beijing Gongmeng Consulting Co Ltd, known as Gongmeng or Open Constitution Initiative was set up by a group of lawyers. Last summer authorities in Beijing launched a probe into alleged tax evasion by Gongmeng, which was shut down in July. Click here for more information.