April 3, 2006

Day 39: Nina and Hao’s father

Filed under: Nina's blog — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 12:13 pm

On on April 1st, Nina Wu writes of a conversation with their father, who still hasn’t been told about Hao’s detention:

Just before going out, the apartment telephone rang again.  I picked it up without hesitation.  It was my father’s voice.  I hurriedly told him to wait a minute.  I didn’t know what to do.  My friend took the phone and calmly told my father that Hao Wu had gone far away to film a movie, and there was no cell phone signal in the remote mountain villages.  I don’t know if my father believed this or not, or whether he recognized my voice when I first answered (I had told him that I was in Dalian on business.)  My father rarely calls my brother’s apartment.  He has definitely sensed that something is not right.  I was terrified all day, afraid that some accident had happened, but I still didn’t dare to call home.

Our father played a critical role in our development.


Our father always taught my brother and me to be “upright, honest and kind.”  I clearly remember the one time I was punished by him.  It was when I told lies because I liked to play around.  The lesson he taught was made such a big impression that, throughout my development, I didn’t dare to behave dishonestly again.My father practiced what he preached.  He always remained true to these principles; everyone recognized him as an example of a fine person.  As a child, my father was always an object of my admiration.  He ranked number two, just behind the respected and loved Zhou Enlai.  My father’s life cannot be summarized by ‘success’ in the normal sense of the word, but he succeeded in being a pure man of clear conscience.

I pursue a life philosophy of “Be a good person first.”  For behaving in a simple manner I have suffered hardships, and for being inflexible in my work I have rammed my head against the wall, but in different stages of my life I have accumulated different things.  My life has been tranquil and content along the way.

My father’s teachings are most vividly realized in my younger brother.  His generosity has won him a large group of friends.  Outside of work, my kind brother actively raised funds to support the Hope elementary school in our hometown.  His virtue compels him to pay attention to and reflect on social problems, and use his pen and camera to honestly record it all.  He has a just heart, which makes him capable of rationally and objectively approaching, considering, and analyzing problems.

I don’t know how my father will react when he finds out about my brother.  Will he regret teaching my brother to be too “upright and honest”?   Will he regret that he did not teach us to follow the middle path?  I hope that my father will not blame himself for this.  Actually, we should thank him.  For having these convictions, more than thirty years of our lives have been lived so happily.  Furthermore, we have a third generation that needs instruction.  My daughter needs to learn from the older generation how to be a real “person,” a “person” with who is responsible to society.  I believe that the lessons of my father will be passed on.  I hope that I can see the day when my daughter also becomes an upright, honest and kind person.


In the eyes of others, both my brother and I are examples of excellence, but my brother much more so than I.  In the well-known key middle school of our hometown, his name was better known than mine.  He was always the first in his class, while I was at best fifth.  He sang better than I did, danced better than I did, and his English topped it all off.  He is so much better than me because he is both more patient and more persistent.
When we were young, we practiced brush calligraphy together.  The minute that the adults stopped minding us, I slipped away to play, while my brother could persist for the entire afternoon of a scorching summer vacation day.  He persisted for years, until he could finally write beautiful characters, while to this day my own writing twists threateningly on the paper.  All my family members have weak hearts, but my brother persisted in silently practicing distance running on the school track.  By the time he graduated he ran the 800 meters quite well, while I barely passed muster with the help of my friends.  My brother liked art, and during summer vacations he arranged for the opportunity to attend summer art classes.  To this day his painting ability greatly exceeds my own.  My brother’s English is often praised as miraculous by foreigners, but I know how he practiced to achieve this level of expertise.  From a young age he persisted in attending English corners events, actively practicing his spoken English with foreign teachers.  Even after moving to the US, when he was already fluent, he persisted in looking up the words he didn’t understand from TV.  Besides this, he persevered in recording his daily thoughts and feelings.  By February of this year, he had already filled over ten journals (unfortunately, they were taken by the police.)

Perhaps in intelligence, and grasp of things, I might exceed my brother.  I am not jealous of his excellence, because I understand that his gift is persistence.  Due to his persistence in pursuing his artistic dreams, after taking the path of scientific research counseled by my father, he actively took part in artistic and recreational activities in his spare time.  Due to his persistence, after studying and working in the United States for over ten years, he gave everything up to return to China and realize his dream.  Due to his persistence, his first movie—Beijing or Bust—was born, he was able to make independent documentary films in the materialistic China of today, and he was able to write, after profound reflection, essay after essay on his blog.

Will my brother, now like a bird with folded wings, still be able to persist in flying toward his dream?  We hope he will.

P.S.  Today I received two text messages…I believed both of them and turned on the TV looking for the news.  Later I realized that they were just April Fool’s Day jokes.   When will I receive the message “Hao Wu has been released”?


  1. Something I still don’t really understand: just why would Hao Wu be arrested?

    -Because of blog posts? There were some other bloggers a few months ago, who blogged about things the government didn’t like. Their blogs were blocked (bad publicity for msn followed), but as I recall the bloggers themselves were not arrested. And if Wu was arrested for something he said in his blog, wouldn’t the logical next step be to close his blog? But it’s still online (right?).

    -Because of Wu’s contact with dissident lawyer Gao? But they can hardly arrest everybody who ever made a few phonecalls with Gao.

    -Because of his footage of an illegal Christian church? But they already know where that church is, they can just go there and arrest people, can’t they. If they need more proof, they can send someone there undercover to see what exactely is going on there. Why go through all the hassle of arresting a filmmaker, and then search his footage for… yes, for what?

    It doesn’t make much sense to me.

    Comment by Lu — April 3, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

  2. There are a lot of people arrested in China for no apparent reason. Look at Zhao Yan and Shi Tao. Sure, the government has given “reasons” (usually dealing with an alleged threat national security or harmony), but the “crimes” have nothing to do with the horrific sentences meted out by the courts (i.e., the Party). Ten years for leaking word a few days early that Jiang was going to resign? Is that such a grave offense that the defendant’s life has to be destroyed? Such is life in a police state.

    Comment by richard — April 4, 2006 @ 6:31 am

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