Yu Qiuyu's Earthquake Essay On The Anniversary of the Wenchuan Earthquake

This essay is generating discussion in China.

(Yu Qiuyu's blog)  You Are Not Permitted To Continue Insulting The Chinese People.  May 19, 2009.

Just before the first anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake, I and some friends got together and asked the elementary and middle school students of Shanghai to each select their favorite book on the Internet to send to a fellow student in the disaster zone.  The Jiujiu Online Bookstore worked for free to complete this gift program.  I wrote something for the 20,000 students, which included these words: "The calmest response of the next generation of China to a disaster is to read aloud."

On the afternoon of May 10, I personally delivered the almost 20,000 books to the disaster zone.  All the elementary and middle schools in the disaster zone held acceptance ceremonies.  The scene was very touching to me.

After giving out the books, I spoke to the several thousand technical workers from Shanghai who are working to rebuild Dujiangyan city.  I said that the recovery projects in the disaster zone showed the spirit of love of the Chinese people and proved that they have excellent capabilities in collective action that are as good as any other people in the world.  Therefore, I told the engineering technicians from Shanghai: "The Sichuan disaster zone is a huge classroom to interpret Chinese civilization.  It is an honor for you to have the opportunity to come here to reconstruct."  My speech was delivered in a crudely erected factory room in which more than 2,000 people were squeezed inside.  Everybody was sweating profusely.  But they stayed for three hours and gave sustained applause.  Not a single person left.

During my time in the disaster zone, I also witnessed the reconstruction of schools and the restoration of cultural artifacts.  I also paid tribute at the preserved ruins.  I visited some famous rescue heroes, ordinary disaster victims and the hard-working grassroots cadres.  I learned about their unimaginable hardship over the past year and I knew that they have so many obstacles yet to overcome.  Generally speaking, it was a moving scene of efforts being made by everybody.

To my complete surprise, my words were fiercely attacked by a person using the pen name "Sang Pu" in Hong Kong's Apple Daily.  He thought that I was just offering a "mind-numbing potion" when I spoke about "grand love," "extreme kindness," "concern for live" and "treating humans as the principle."  He told that the Hong Kong readers that during the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, "there was nothing but misery and suffering," "the land was covered by famishing refugees" and "the main cause of the disaster was human."  He even claimed that "the truth is right in front of our eyes," "there were signs that the earthquake was coming" and the earthquake disaster was "the result of government corruption" and "very much expected already."

Several writers in Hong Kong read that essay and told me that the writer must surely be a mainlander because the style can only come from the mainland.  I was incensed, but not because it was directed at me.  In the whole world, including all those countries which hold bad feelings towards China, nobody thinks that the May 12th earthquake was caused by humans and not by nature.  Nobody thinks that the spirit of grand love shown by the Chinese people was just a non-existent "mind-numbing potion."

The Americans don't say so, the French don't say so, the Japanese don't say so and not even the Taiwanese say so.  On this first anniversary of the earthquake, the media from all over the world came here once again and not a single reporter said so.  But some Chinese people are saying that and right to the international media.

Many places in the world have experienced earthquakes and the devastation is well-documented.  Last year's May 12 earthquake was the most severe earthquake ever in a densely populated area.  But up to today, there has been no sign of epidemics, famine, flight or refugees.  This is a miracle that the whole world can see.  Why do they want to close their eyes to this miracle that occurred within their own motherland and instead they tell the world that "there was nothing but misery and suffering" and "the land was covered by famishing refugees" to mislead foreigners?  Where is your conscience as a Chinese person?

Their words were seemingly spoken on behalf of the "perished souls" but they are actually used to demean China and its people.  I can tell for sure that these people have made no donations, they did not commemorate the dead, they did not visit the disaster zone and nobody in their families joined any rescue teams and volunteers groups in the disaster area.  This is because they have repeatedly stated that any donations or assistance will be wasted on corrupt local government officials.  In truth, these lies were spoken in order to deter donations and assistance that could come from people around the world.

I am not saying that the local government was problem-free either before or after the earthquake.  When Japan invaded China, the Chinese government also had plenty of problems.  But as Chinese persons, we cannot say that the major cause of the Japanese invasion came from us.  Regardless of the problems with the Chinese government at the time, we must first resist Japan and defend our motherland.  It is treason to use all disasters coming from the outside to blame ourselves.  Sixty years have passed and we live in very different times than during the war.  During this earthquake disaster, the whole world acknowledges that the Chinese government, military, police and doctors performed marvelously.  The whole world acknowledges that, with the sole exception of a few Chinese person who completely denies that.  I really don't know how to describe them!

This person with the pen name "Sang Pu" also attacked me over my advice to the disaster victims last year.  He made out as if he was on their side.  Actually, the reason why I hurriedly came out to offer my advice was that I saw that some people were trying to play politics with these disaster victims.  These people knew that it would not be easy to prosecute people for shoddy construction in the disaster zone because the legal process would be long and drawn-out.  They also knew that a large-scale epidemic could break out any moment or that a quake lake could burst any time.  They knew that the disaster victims really needed to have spiritual comfort.  But they let these disaster victims kneel out there in order to attain their own political objectives.  This is far too cold-blooded and scheming.  If you want to oppose the Chinese government, you can do that at another time and place.  Besides, you should say so yourself instead of using these parents who have just lost their children to become your pawns.  Why don't you ask these parents if any one of them agrees with your political views?

I am an independent writer with no job or position.  I have no fixed abode and I don't know anyone with authority.  I am not even a member of the Writers Association or Literature and Art Association.  I only speak on the basis of what I personally witnessed and what my conscience tells me.  Under the so-called western democracy of "Sang Pu" and company, shouldn't I have the freedom of speech?  Shouldn't I have the right to praise the people of China and offer comfort to the disaster victims?  Why are the disaster victims listening to my words of comfort instead of theirs?  What reason do they have to stop me from speaking out?  So they had to fabricate a reason to stop me: they said once again that I made "errors" during the Cultural Revolution by being a member of the "Shi Yige" writing group.  As soon as "Sang Pu" said that, I knew his identity.

I have stated repeatedly that my whole family suffered during the Cultural Revolution.  After the Lin Piao affair, I participated in the revision of textbook materials which was planned personally by Premier Zhou Enlai.  That was an open, upright and very good thing.  But "Sang Pu" and others deliberately called the mission of Zhou Enlai a "Cultural Revolutionary" activity and they made the pen name "Shi Yike" to be mine.  I have previously offered a reward equal to my full-year's income for anyone who can prove that I wrote an essay, paragraph or sentence under the pen name of "Shi Yige" and I will also announced this in the national media.  This offer was been out there for 600 days and it is even published in my book <Lend Me A Life> that was published in mainland China and Taiwan at the same time.  Over these 600 days, nobody could even point to a single sentence.  Shouldn't the truth be obvious?  Laughably, the essay by "Sang Pu" in Apple Daily this time not only said that I was "Shi Yige" but I even committed murder!

In Hong Kong, libel is a serious legal matter.  But it costs an astronomical amount of money to file a lawsuit in Hong Kong and I cannot afford it.  It is precisely for this reason that "Sang Pu" and others have been publishing smears against mainland Chinese people and events in recent years in Hong Kong.  Why do they do such things?  Of course, it is for money.  Where is the money coming from?  They know themselves.

What I want to say finally is that you people have been libeling me for more than a decade by now.  I don't care.  It is also your right to criticize the Chinese government.  But I will not tolerate it if you want to demean the disaster rescue and recovery effort of the Chinese people, or the grand love that the Chinese people have for each other, or the collective image of the Chinese people in the eyes of the world.

I am not young anymore so I have nothing left to fear.  The only thing that I need to do right now is to hit back in the cultural field at the various special interest groups who demean the Chinese people, and to restore the dignity of our people.  Over the years, my speeches at the United Nations World Civilization Congress, the U.S, Congress Library, Harvard University, Yale University and elsewhere have addressed this issue.  The May 12th earthquake gave me new insight into this subject.  Here, I would like to repeat my conversation with two American friends two weeks after the May 12th earthquake ...

American Friend: Mr. Yu, your May 12th in China is very much like our 9/11 in America.  Although these were disasters, they strengthened the national spirit into a unprecedented level of unity.

Yu Qiuyu: No, May 12th meant more than 9/11.  9/11 left behind a great deal of hatred which caused you to start two wars.  After May 12th, the Chinese people solved all the problems with only love.  Why was the Chinese civilization the only ancient civilization that has not perished?  It has managed to survive every disaster.  No individual person can cope with a disaster on his own.  They must always rely on mutual help in order for civilization to continue.  Civilizations are just like individuals, in that the good live longer.  This is the secret of the long life of Chinese civilization, because it is more kind-hearted than other civilizations.  Unfortunately, our history did not record these most important things.