At about ten in the morning on July 5, 2010, Old Li from the police substation phoned me to say that people from the city police wanted to meet with me at our district office at 3pm that afternoon to have a discussion, and to understand some things from me. I responded that I had no time. And I didn’t have time. I was anxiously finishing up my book China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, which was to go to press in just two weeks time. It may be the job of the State Security guys to invite people to “have tea.” But I can’t fritter my time away like that, and as a citizen I have the right to decline an invitation to tea.
When Old Li heard me say I “didn’t have time,” he had nothing else to say . . . So around 4pm that afternoon, just as I was finishing up a piece called, “Dissolving the State Security is the First Step to Long-term Peace in China,” I suddenly heard an urgent knocking and ringing at the door . . . I saw through the peephole that a group of police were right outside the door.
When I opened the door I found that there were six police in all, four of them plain-clothed and two in uniform. One of the plain-clothed guys, a State Security officer for the Chaoyang District called Mr. Wang, was generally charged with overseeing me, and he accompanied me on trips to the bookstore or the library. The others I hadn’t seen before, but one was carrying a tiny video camera, which was trained on me . . .
I told them I had to change my clothes before we went out. They said they had to come inside, otherwise they couldn’t let me back in to change. So they all crowded in, illegally entering a private residence without a search warrant. I changed in the bathroom and made a phone call to my wife. After putting my signature to the summons form, I accompanied them downstairs . . .
They ushered me into an interrogation room. I sat down, bowed my head and started to pray . . .
At this time, a middle-aged man seated in a position of authority started speaking . . . He started by introducing himself, saying, my surname is Zhu, you should know who I am. I know a lot of your friends, he said. I started observing you years ago. In the whole world, there’s probably more information about you here with me than anywhere else. Before, we each knew the other existed, and finally today we meet face to face. I’m sorry this was the only way we could talk. I’ve heard you have many unfavorable views about me.
I said, the way you’ve handled everything through these years, including all the things your office does, are they good things? How could they leave a good impression with someone? I’ve said many times before to your underlings, let that Mr. Zhu come and see me for himself — there’s no need to go troubling my friends. I understand that you see me as a research topic. When I’m old, if I decide to write a memoir, I’ll come and make use of the materials you’ve gathered. But I’m confident that by that time these materials will no longer be in your hands, just as in the case of East Germany — I’ll go and look at them freely myself.
State Security Zhu said, if you’re willing to meet with me, why is it that this morning when we tried to make an appointment, you said you had no time, so we had no choice but to do it this way?
I said, the Mr. Li who phoned me didn’t say anything about meeting with you. If he had said it was with Mr. Zhu, I’m sure I would have consented. Besides, you should make an appointment a bit earlier than that. You can’t call in the morning and say you want to meet that afternoon. I need to schedule my own time. You’ve done things this way so you can get me off my horse, but that doesn’t intimidate me. These methods do nothing but demonstrate your ridiculousness, the way you have a penchant for destroying China’s image by creating news incidents . . . I’m a person very much at peace. I spend most of my time writing at home. I don’t generally go seeking media attention, and I don’t enjoy being the center of the news . . . Everything that your department does — these are the greatest factors of instability in our society.
State Security Zhu said, so it seems you have come to your own conclusions about our work. I hope that I can clear away these views in our subsequent meetings.
I said, please give me a cup of water.
Eventually, they sent someone down to buy several bottles of Nongfu Spring Water at a nearby shop. They already knew this was what I most liked to drink.
I said, a cup of water from the precinct office would do just fine.
One of the State Security guys off to one side said, the weather is hot, you should drink cooler water . . .
State Security Zhu said, so lately you’ve been quite active on Twitter, but it seems that you’re not listed too high up in terms of followers.
I said, you should dive in and have a look yourself. The stuff I post there isn’t just for my Twitter connections, it’s also for guys like you. I have no secrets to speak of. I don’t like posting shocking material just to win a big following. Some recognition is enough. It’s not about numbers.
State Security Zhu said, let me get right into it. Why don’t you look at this essay and see if it’s something you wrote. He handed me a printed article.
I glanced at it and found that it was my essay, “The Chinese Communist Party is a Taliban in Disguise.” It was something I wrote for Guancha Bimonthly online, posted on April 23. The printed version showed the source and date.
Did you write this, State Security Zhu asked.
I said, of course I wrote it. I put my name to everything I write. I’ve never written anything anonymously. I take responsibility for every piece I write.
State Security Zhu said, look at this sentence about how “the leader of the Communist Party has not only terrorized more than a billion people in China, but seeks to extend the violent rule of the CCP around the world.” What “leader” are you talking about? And what do you mean by “violent rule”?
I said, “party leader” refers to the chairman or general secretary. From Mao Zedong right on down to Hu Jintao. “Violent rule” is bit more complicated. In the Maoist era, tens of millions perished in the Great Starvation, and countless families were destroyed in the Anti-Rightist Movement and the Cultural Revolution. People were gunned down on “June 4th” in the Deng Xiaoping era. And today, children die needlessly as shoddy buildings collapse in the Wenchuan earthquake, or they are poisoned with milk powder and sickened with bad vaccines. If this isn’t “violent rule” then what is it? And then there is the CCP gunning people down in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Another officer who had been silent all along was suddenly goaded into a frenzy. He confronted me, saying, did you not see Uighurs massacring ordinary Hans? The government has an obligation to send police and troops to bring order, and to protect people’s safety and property.
I said, I don’t deny that Uighurs killed Han Chinese, but the violence of the authorities solves nothing. The greatest power of violence is in the hands of the government, and the government must apply it with utmost caution. What’s more, why do you think this ethnic conflict occurred? It’s because the ethnic policies of the government were flawed.
State Security Zhu said, well then, what was your goal in writing this article?
I said, I believe that China’s foreign policy is seriously flawed. First of all, we support all of these rogue nations, those nations involved in acts of terrorism . . . which seriously impacts China’s international image. Moreover, China’s foreign aid and assistance does not go through the approval of the National People’s Congress, and taxpayers have not agreed with how this aid is applied. Aren’t we talking now about openness in government expenditures? So I hope the authorities can make this portion of expenditures public, so that foreign aid is no longer a “secret.” . . .
State Security Zhu said, there is also this book, China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao. You’ve said on Twitter that this book will be published in Hong Kong soon. So when will it be finished, when will it be published, and what press is going to publish it?
I said, it will be completed within the month, and printed in two or three. The publishing house isn’t determined yet . . .
State Security Zhu asked, and what is the book principally about?
I said, it’s mostly a criticism of Wen Jiabao’s policies since he has become premier. The focus is on how he hasn’t done enough in the area of political reform, wasting the opportunity given him by history.
State Security Zhu asked, so what are the main chapters and what do they deal with?
I said, well, for example, there is criticism of Wen Jiabao’s economic policies, criticism of his foreign relations policies, his policies in the areas of culture and education, and criticism of his performance in various disaster situations. And of the way in which he destroys law and order in China by tolerating the actions of your department. These are the main parts. I’ve written a special chapter about my own experiences with State Security over these past few years.