A Case Study of Blog Personality

Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕) is the wife of dissident Hu Jia (胡佳).  When her husband was detained, Zeng began to maintain a MSN Spaces blog.  I find this blog to be interesting to read, not necessarily because of any strong emotional strength or sweeping intellectual arguments.  Rather, Zeng Jinyan has the kind of Eastern European deadpan humor about the absurd situation that she finds herself in.  Here is the translation of the entry of July 23, 2006.

(in translation)  The Person Known as 'Knight Errant' Peng

Yesterday, I went with 'Knight Errant' Peng to check out the bookstores in the Xidan district.  I was followed by two Volkswagens whose license plate numbers were Beijing GGR936 and Beijing AJ7753 respectively.

'Knight Errant' Peng wore the "Save Chen Guangcheng" t-shirt and strolled around the busiest commercial streets of Beijing in his slippers.  Several people asked him: "Who is the man in the photo on your chest?"  'Knight Errant' Peng patiently explained just who Chen Guangcheng is.

(Source: Boxun)

Reportedly, 'Knight Errant' Peng has even given the t-shirts away to street side vendors and asked them to wear them everyday.  They are allowed to change them once every three days and he will come and check every day.  The vendors were quite happy to do so, because they save the money for buying summer clothes and they wore the t-shirts to play cards and chat in the tree shades.  The only exception was the watermelon vendor who said: Since I sell watermelons, the white t-shirts get soiled very quickly.  Everybody who heard that laughed heartily.

Several days ago, 'Knight Errant' Peng returned from Guilin to Beijing.  Due to the floods, the railroad service was interrupted.  When 'Knight Errant' Peng changed trains at Changsha, he was only able to purchase a hard-seat ticket.  So he walked back and forth the train wearing his 'Save Chen Guangcheng' t-shirt and he hung around wherever he found university students.  The young people asked: "Who is the person printed on the chest of your t-shirt?"  So 'Knight Errant' Peng explained, and that was how the monotony of the train ride was broken.

Several years ago, 'Knight Errant' Peng was often detained by the National Security people or closely followed.  But he has so many tricks that the National Security people no longer dare to follow or detain him.

One day, he was riding a bicycle on Chang'an Avenue and the National Security vehicle was tailing him.  'Knight Errant' Peng headed to the meridian and then suddenly reversed directions.  The pursuers could do nothing because this was Chang'an Avenue where the traffic was separated by barricades.  While a bicycle can go in the opposite direction on the pedestrian sidewalk, a sedan could not.

When he was taken to the police station for note-taking, if the police officer was "Zhang Shan", for example, he would say, "Zhang Shan is a dog."  If "Zhang Shan" did not write down on the notebook that he was a dog, then Peng would refuse to sign his name on the notes.

If police forbade him to go out because they want to keep him under house arrest, he would take a chopper and implement his 'two-off' policy -- he was going to hack off those with two legs and knock off those with four legs.  Have you ever seen the police being chased all over the street by a chopper-wielding "rioter" but could do nothing except to flee?

The National Security people talked to him and he started off by saying, "You are obviously someone with two legs, so why do you insist on being a four-legged dog?  You should elect a representative and let me cut off two of his legs."

The only time that the police got some consolation was when 'Knight Errant' Peng saw people fighting in the street and attempted to mediate.  Instead, he got bloodied by the combatants because he was a pacifist mediator.

Every day at 11am, 'Knight Errant' Peng would bring a book and proceed to the local restaurant to sit on the stool and read.  At 12noon, the National Security people wanted to eat and ordered food.  As soon as the first dish was brought up, Peng would immediately sprint off.  The National Security people had to abandon their delicious food to chase him.  Afterwards, 'Knight Errant' Peng would bring a book to read in a restaurant, or else he ate with his daughter-in-law wife at a restaurant until 2pm.  The National Security people could only look at him but they dared not order food.  Obviously, nobody from National Security wants an assignment in which they cannot have meals.

In the evening, 'Knight Errant' Peng went downstairs.  The National Security people said hello and asked, "Old Peng, are you going out?"  'Knight Errant' Peng said without any hesitation: "Yes, I'm going to walk the dog."  The National Security person asked: "Where is the dog?  I don't see any dog."  'Knight Errant' Peng said with a straight face: "Look, isn't it following me?"

At night, everybody was ready to go to bed.  The National Security people were still stationed downstairs and keeping watch.  Peng opened the window and poured a bucket of urine downstairs.  The National Security were mad but they could not say anything.  They asked the local security people to come and clean up the mess.  As soon as the cleaning was done, Peng poured another bucket of urine downstairs.  This went on over and over until the National Security people abandoned the scene.

The National Security people were engaged in illegal, immoral and unjust activities.  When the individual human rights of these National Security people are violated, they are not protected by the law and they will not be supported by society.  'Knight Errant' Peng was doing something that represented the refusal to submit while causing isolation, despair and shame among the individuals who were carrying out the orders.

Who is 'Knight Errant' Peng anyway?  'Knight Errant' Peng is a graduate of Peking University and makes a living from translation and odd jobs.  He claims to be an unemployed vagabond who fights for justice.  He has been bloodied N times without receiving any rewards.

We were eating lunch yesterday and I was having a good laugh.  'Knight Errant" Peng said: "You can't learn my tricks because you have to remove your psychological inhibitions first."

I have my own methods.  On many commercial streets, there are shops that produce customized t-shirts on demand.  Young people like to do that sort of thing.  For example, to commemorate the first anniversary of your romance, you can get your photos taken at some store (or else you can just bring your own photo), you add the words that you want and you can get your own customized t-shirt in less than one hour.  The only drawback is that the price is quite expensive: a pure cotton t-shirt with one-sided printing is 80 RMB, plus another 50 RMB for two-sided printing.  Lycras cost another 10 RMB.

'Knight Errant' Peng and I went into a custom t-shirt shop at Xidan 77th and we ordered three t-shirts.  Two of them are like those lovers' t-shirts and another one is a birthday present for my husband.  After about one hour, I walked out wearing a t-shirt that said "House Arrested Again" (in English) in front and "Follow, Surveillance, Shameful" (跟踪、盯梢、可耻) in the back.  The National Security men who were following saw me coming out of the women's restroom in a new shirt and they were stunned.

When I got to the courtyard at home, the National Security man and woman told me that their superior said that I was placed under house arrest because "she is the same as Hu Jia."  They were hoping to initiate a conversation and then they asked me why I wanted to wear such a t-shirt to fight back.  I shook my head and went inside my home.  I am the same like Hu Jia?  My heart choked a beat.  Does this mean that whatever my husband did is the same as me doing it?  Zeng Jinyan = Hu Jia?  I don't want to speak to the National Security people because I want to maintain our oppositional stances.  I am too soft-hearted.  As soon as I start talking to individual people, I will begin to take pity on them.  My husband, 'Knight Errant' Peng and other friends all laugh at me for being kind-hearted and unprincipled.  I will not put myself into a dilemma because I take pity on the National Security people.

(International Herald Tribune)  When activists fall foul of China's police state.  August 25, 2006.

A "green, high-tech and people's Olympics" in Beijing 2008? Nothing is more ironic than this official slogan as I look out of my window at my home in Bobo Freedom City in the Beijing suburbs, not far from where the Games are intended to bring glory to my country.

I live here with my husband, Hu Jia, an environmentalist and AIDS activist. We chose to move here because we loved the area's greenery and the Bohemian lifestyle it promised, as well as the idea of a "freedom city" in which civil rights were respected. But instead we have often found ourselves under house arrest or round-the-clock surveillance.

Since we moved in two years ago, state security police officers have been frequent visitors to Freedom City. My husband has been repeatedly harassed, including being detained by plainclothes police, without any legal procedure, for 41 days earlier this year.

National holidays, politically sensitive dates and visits by foreign leaders, all become "black dates" for us, when we and many other human-rights and democracy activists in Beijing are routinely deprived of our freedom of movement. In 2005, Hu lost his freedom for a total of 126 days, during which he was barred from medical checkups for his chronic hepatitis B.

In February 2006, just before the opening of the annual session of the "two meetings" - the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the National People's Congress - Hu was abducted by plainclothes police and simply vanished.

I went around Beijing, demanding that law-enforcement and government officials conduct a search for my missing husband. I met a wall of silence and repeated denials of any knowledge of his whereabouts. After persistent appeals to international agencies and the news media, Hu was finally released by the state security police, who had all along denied responsibility. Blind-folded, he was dropped off by a police vehicle on the roadside near our home. He was frail, his liver condition seriously aggravated due to the lack of treatment for his hepatitis during incarceration.

When I was running around looking for traces of Hu, I discovered that his case was far from unique. I met families whose loved ones were also suffering from such inhumane treatment - arbitrary detention, abduction and forced disappearance - for their efforts to defend human rights, including the family of Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist from Linyi City, in Shandong Province, who on Thursday was sentenced to more than four years in prison.

For many days now, Hu has again been subjected to house arrest. Police officers standing guard outside our flat even prevent us from taking walks in the enclosed grounds of Bobo Freedom City. I am followed and watched wherever I go. My colleagues have been told to pull out of our joint business venture, my friends are threatened and driven away, and my neighbors questioned and harassed if they talk to me.

Four official vehicles and a dozen policemen are camped downstairs, observing every movement in our flat. When I dialed the emergency police number, 110, to report illegal tailing, the person who answered my call just hung up. I wrote to the mayor of Beijing to seek help, but I got no answer.

This is how we have to live in Beijing. Our aspirations for freedom and respect for fellow human beings are suffocated, our care for each other as fellow citizens is being destroyed. Beijing fears the force of justice and conscience. Its law-enforcement officials resort to illegal means under cover of darkness to isolate and threaten social activists.

This is the Beijing that will be hosting the "green, high-tech and people's Olympics" in two years' time.

Zeng Jinyan is a businesswoman and an activist involved in environmental issues and the rights of people infected with HIV/AIDS.

Related LinkQ&A with Zeng Jinyan about the TIME 100 List