My Post-"Anti-Central Propaganda Department" Era
Early this year, Jiao Guobiao published the Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department (討伐中宣部) document (see previous post). The following is a translated extract from his introduction to a book of his work soon to be published in Japan.
My Post-"Anti-Central Propaganda Department" Era
Initially, I e-mailed Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department to just a few friends. Unexpectedly, some of those friends posted the document on the Internet without telling me. This became an irreversible phenomenon as the article spread first around the Chinese-language Internet and then it became quickly translated into foreign languages and appeared on the international internet too. A student who returned from the United States told me that many university websites such as those at Harvard University and Stanford University have posted English-language translations of the Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department.
Among the traditional media, the first to publish and report was Hong Kong's Yazhou Zhoukan, and then the western media also reported. Sat 1 in Germany and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation both showed interviews with me. But within mainland China, not a single major media reported this, and it was also quickly banned on the Internet.
Yet almost everyone one that I came into contact with have heard about this or seen a copy of the document. People who lived in the cities found it mostly through the Internet including via e-mail. Those people in remote areas basically heard about it through foreign radio services. A friend in the Municipal Management Bureau in Hui-an City, Jiangsu Province sent me a postcard saying: "Gravedigger of the Central Propaganda Department; China's road guide; in support of Professor Jiao Guobiao" and this was the first reader response that I received.
Afterwards, I continued to receive more letters and telephone calls that supported and praised me. A 69-year-old man read the article in Yazhou Zhoukan and wrote: "I agree with your viewpoints. I admire the fact that you disregarded your own personal safety and your spirit to fight for the good of the country and the welfare of the people." Another old man from Yung-an County in Guangxi Province heard it on the radio and wrote: "Last month, I heard about your Declaration. More recently I heard you speaking me with the reporters. Both times, it was not too clear due to the interference, so it was disappointing. But I am gratified to hear that your voice was steady ... Unfortunately, the Declaration was only excerpted, and that was regrettable. I would appreciate it if you can send me a copy. Please bear in mind that no matter where you are, you just remember that I am someone on this earth and I want to be your reader and to read what you will continue to write." There were also some helpless petitioners, including a blind person who heard it on international radio, who came to my home to visit me.
My students offered me their respect and support via telephone, e-mail and notes. "Teacher Jiao, you have to endure!" "Teacher Jiao, we all support you!" "Teacher Jiao, do you need the public support of the students?" "There is no lack of intelligent people in the history of China and there is no lack of brave people, but there are very few brave intelligent people like you, teacher!"
A female reporter from Shanghai's Morning News who had just graduated with a journalism degree from Fudan University sent an e-mail: "I am embarrassed to have come across your Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department only today. It was a pleasure to read something that expresses the feeling of media workers. The spirit of righteousness and the eloquence of your document are admirable as well as inspiring. If there should ever be a huge reform in Chinese journalism some day, this document will be considered a milestone to be remembered by everyone ... I will remember your lesson and become a leader."
I even received a letter from a Finnish citizen all the way over in Scandinavia, together with a clipping from Helsinki News with a report and my photograph. A diplomat at the Greek Consulate in Beijing came to see me at Beijing University and offered to help me become a visiting university scholar in Greece. A publishing company in New Jersey wrote me to say that they want to publish my works. A Chinese professor at Yale University went through some friends to invite me to visit. A Korean girl who is a student in my class told me after school: "In the Central Daily News in Korea, I saw your photograph. I didn't know that you are so famous!" These friendly gestures from inside and outside of China were quite unanticipated.
A letter that was signed "A group of patriots at the Humanities Department at Wenzhou University" said: "After we finished applauding your letter, we cannot help but contemplate this problem: out of several hundred thousand media workers and several million intellectuals, how come nobody said that anything directly during the decades of lawlessness and recklessness by the Central Propaganda Department? Today, you have stood up to express the suppressed anger that they have felt for so long. Everyone is applauding and giving your respect in the backstage, but how many of them dare to stand up to identify themselves and voice their support?"
To be sure, at the same time that previously unknown readers expressed their support, I have other old acquaintances who do not dare to call me. One day, a literary friend told me over the telephone in a half-serious manner: "Jiao Guobiao, you must give me a sum of money." "What money?" "Agent service fee." "What agent service fee?" "A lot of people called me to send their regards to you. Am I not serving as your agent?" I was confused: "Why can't they call me directly?" "They say that their telephone must be under surveillance and so they don't dare call you." When I heard that, I felt immensely sad. It showed the terrible sense of personal safety that the people of China have. It also shows the depth of the slavish attitude of the Chinese people. To use a vulgar phrase: "So what if they listen in? If you call me, is anyone going to bite your testicles off?" But they are afraid in this manner.
One of my secondary school teachers is more than 80 years old now and he lives in a remote area in Henan province. He has the habit of listening to foreign radio services. When he heard about my article on Voice of America, he wanted to call his former student but he was afraid because he was worried about the surveillance. His logic is this: sooner or later, Jiang Zemin is going to move against Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao. When Jiang pulls his military coup, Hu and Wen as well as any other vocal democracy supporters will be arrested. His student who wrote the Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department will obviously be at the top of the list and the old man might be dragged in too because this was his favorite student. That was why he could not call. I felt sad when I heard that. What kind of logic is that? You think about it! Even an old man who is about to enter the grave is so afraid. You can imagine what the evil politics of the past few decades have wrought to the spiritual well-being of the Chinese people!
Before the Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department came out, a Shanghai publishing company wanted to publish my collection "Looking Back At The Home Soil". They even sent me the contract with the editor's letter: "Elder Brother Guobiao, I have read the draft and I am very satisfied. Please send me your address so that I can sent you the publishing contract." After the Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department came out, the editor called: "The book cannot be published anymore. Who can afford to cross the Central Propaganda Department?"
A Beijing monthly magazine was all set to get me to write a column for them. Everything was set to go, and then the editor wrote me: "The leadership has withdrawn the article. They say that you have been noticed by the Central Propaganda Department. They say that it has been banned. We can't publish it."
A "Beijing Daily" deputy editor-in-chief instructed his editors: "You shall not solicit any more articles from Jiao Guobiao." A Guangming Daily leader told his workers in a joking manner: "Is this Jiao Guobiao tired of living?" A friend who worked at a website told me: They have received orders from above to ban my article as well as any other posts that praise and affirm it; they were also going to organize web pages to criticize me. A deputy editor-in-chief at the weekly magazine sent me an e-mail: "Elder Brother Guobiao: How are you? Like many people, I am concerned about your situation. Getting an article from you has now come a very [...] matter now. But I still want to ask you if you are interested in writing something? We are going to have a new magazine section called Viewpoints. Each article should be between 3,500 to 4,000 words; they should represent unique viewpoints; they must be interesting. If you have the time and interest, please send something over. But you can't use your own name. Sigh!" I wrote back to thank him and said; "I don't feel like writing right now. If I do, I will definitely send it over." What I did not say was this: A real man uses his own name. The freedom to use one's own name is a constitutionally guaranteed civil right. Even if I feel like writing, I am not going to be forced to use a pen name.
During this same period, my home telephone and my mobile phone were subject to nuisance calls. During one class, I received 18 nuisance calls. The students were angry: "Where is the sense of personal safety in China?" Even my 10-year-old son told me: "Dad, who is calling you? When I say that you are not home, they hang up the telephone. When I say that you are home, they still hang up the telephone!"
While all coverage about the Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department have disappeared from mainland Chinese websites, XinhuaNet has been systematically campaigning again me. On April 15, 2003, I wrote a poem "To American Soldiers" and posted that on the Internet. It has now been resurrected and criticized: "Be wary of these kinds of elite elements!" "Chase Jiao Guobiao out of the educational field!" "Chase Jiao Guobiao out of China!" "Chinese traitor" "Teacher-brute" "Sham!" "The new-age Wang Jingwei and Zhou Jouyan" "The shame of Beijing University" "With professors like these, don't send your children to Beijing University!" Do I deserve less to be a Chinese citizen than those corrupt officials? I don't hear them being chased out of China.
Many people advised me not to accept interviews from overseas media. This is a big pressure for me. This could be the biggest pressure for me, even worse than those nuisance telephone calls. This is because the Chinese people are heavy on emotions and light on principles. I am not worried about being pressured not to speak out, but I don't like being begged. "The International Declaration of Human Rights" and the "International Human Rights Treaty" guarantee freedom of speech. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China guarantees the freedom of speech. The Constitution does not have an article that says Chinese citizens must not be interviewed by foreign journalists. Since the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs permit foreign journalists to come to China, it implies that there is a contract: the foreign journalist may interview Chinese citizens and, conversely, Chinese citizens may be interviewed by foreign journalists. Freedom of the press should not be restricted only to journalism classes and freedom of speech should not be the sole possession of foreigners, for it should be practiced everywhere in the world. And I want to practice freedom of the press.
In a letter sent to a professor at the Beijing Film Academy, I wrote: "I am willing to use my immature acts and my tiny biological being to fertilize the fields of Beijing University for fifty years." But I now realized that the violators of freedom of press and freedom of speech are not just the Central Propaganda Department. There is also the entire administrative body. Intentionally or otherwise, they have unwittingly become the co-conspirator with the Central Propaganda Department in controlling what comes out of the mouths of the Chinese people and thus worsening the freedom of speech in Chinese society. The forces that control the freedom of speech are like the air that pervades in every bit of space.