Friday, March 10, 2006

More of Shi Tao's writing ...

I just found this here.

The following essay illuminates some of the backstory into the arrest and imprisonment of Shi Tao. He was an obvious iconoclast, and extremely courageous in his criticisms. It's clear to see why he was disliked by the "tigers" in China. It is words like these they were attempting to silence. By republishing them here, I'd like to emphasize how this strategy will backfire.

Mr. Shi, after you're released from prison (In 2014), I'd love to have a beer with you!


Flies and Tigers, Fish and Bicycles –
Some Thoughts on Reading "A Harbinger of History" (part 10 of 10)
Author: Shi Tao
Translated by Roberta Raine

Apparent progress in freedom of the press in China is ultimately illusory given the absolute power of the authorities to revoke it at any time.

"Kill flies but don't kill tigers[1]" — this is a "commandment" strictly adhered to by those in the news industry in mainland China. Everyone knows that tigers should not be provoked, that one should not slap a tiger on its rump, whereas killing flies is very easy and gives one a great feeling of accomplishment. The news industry coexists peacefully together with tigers without a problem, but the more it swats at flies, the more numerous the flies become. With tigers, if you feed and take care of them, they get fatter and reproduce at an alarming rate. Tigers work together in groups, as if with one breath, while news agencies hardly dare take a breath, much less make a stink, and they are forced to keep their resentment towards tigers to themselves.

Not long ago, an anonymous young writer in this province who held the position of editor of a newspaper supplement gave this kind advice to several friends at the newspaper: "They (referring to the leadership of news agencies, as well as leaders in other types of fields; in other words, all kinds of tigers) are so powerful and so strong, you really don't want to provoke them." He was not yet 30 years old, but he spoke such a depressing "truth." It really makes one feel sad for these poor bastards — all the poor writers, journalists and editors in (mainland) China. Sure, tigers are scary and sure, you wouldn't want to try to kill one, but can't one at least shout at them? In a newspaper office, one may not dare swear or shout abuse, but can't one swear and complain while out eating and drinking with a few friends? If he doesn't have that much integrity, I'm afraid that even the flies he kills won't respect him.

In A Harbinger of History, there is an editorial from the Communist Party of China's Xinhua Daily dated March 30, 1946 entitled "A Single-Party Dictatorship Would Spell Disaster." The article pointed out that under Kuomintang rule, unspeakable disasters were occurring throughout the country. And yet, just a few years later under Communist Party rule, not only did natural disasters increase more and more, but human misfortunes also increased year by year at an unprecedented rate. There was so much tragedy in the human world, even the gods were angry! Awful precedents were set during that time of human misery, and the news media certainly can't avoid taking some of the responsibility for that. For example, on January 5, 1970 the "Tonghai Earthquake" struck Yunnan Province. It measured 7.7 on the Richter scale and killed 15,621 people, nearly as many as were killed during the great Tangshan Earthquake. However, the detestable "single-Party dictatorship" had its mouthpiece, the Xinhua News Agency, issue only one short, simple statement on the earthquake to the outside world. It said not a single word about the situation in the disaster area, and it even downplayed the magnitude of the earthquake on the Richter scale. As a result, the "single-Party dictatorship" adopted a closed policy towards international disaster relief, and domestic relief efforts were mainly aimed at providing "spiritual aid" with the result that, after the earthquake the disaster area was sent tens of thousands of copies of Quotations of Mao Zedong and tens of thousands of badges bearing the portrait of Mao Zedong from all over the country. As for the material and financial assistance that was so urgently needed, the amount given was pitifully small.

Although compared to the "Cultural Revolution," today's news media is able to "kill flies" — which is progress, historically speaking - is this progress really so great? Today's press has the freedom to "kill flies," but the tigers can, after all, deprive them of this one very small freedom at any time; they can revoke at will the pitiful right to "kill flies." There is an editorial in A Harbinger of History that states that "limits on free speech and publication make people ignorant" and "whether it's a democracy or dictatorship, there is no such thing as free speech." However, the news media in these advanced, modern times still vigorously works to kill flies as much as possible, still vigorously promotes "the Three Represents[2]" and still sings the praises of Jiang Zemin's core group of leaders. The news media is thus surely more repulsive than flies!

Recently, the whole country has been awash in propaganda about the "Three Represents," with one wave after another until it reached a climax. What is incomprehensible is that even well-known writers, scholars and certain other well-known personages have also been talking at great lengths about the benefits of the "Three Represents." It seems as if everyone has been inhaling some sort of mental opium and talking utter nonsense! In the middle of the 1980s, there was a popular expression in the UK among feminists that a woman needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle. Paraphrasing this, we could say that the "single-Party dictatorship" needs the "Three Represents" like a man needs a woman. But when we talk about the sad state of "freedom of the press," to say that the news agencies need the "Three Represents" is just as absurd as a fish needing a bicycle, isn't it?

Gorky once said, "if you put a man in a pigpen but expect him to become an angel, it's a foolish expectation." By the same token, to expect the ideology of the "Three Represents" to guide the way for the news media, or to expect someone who is good at killing flies to be molded into a "hero at killing tigers," is equally foolish. Moreover, given the current state of freedom of the press, freedom of publishing and freedom of assembly, to place our hopes in all the different tigers, or to place our hopes in the "single-Party dictatorship," or to place our hopes in the "Three Represents" — now that would really be the height of foolishness!

[1] Flies are used metaphorically here to refer to low-level officials in China, while tigers refer to high-level officials in positions of power.

[2]The "Three Represents" is a theory first put forth by Jiang Zemin in 2000 to guide the future development of the country and Party. It states that the CPC must always represent the three most productive parts of Chinese society: the development of advanced productive forces, the orientation of China's advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the Chinese people.


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