May 3, 2006

Day 69: Nina reflects on her brother’s loss of freedom

Filed under: Nina's blog — Rebecca MacKinnon @ 8:15 am

On May 1st Hao’s sister Nina wrote a blog post, The Bridge of Communication:

Deng Xiaoping had opened the gates of the country through his tour of and talks in the South, but people overseas still know little of China. I remember on my first trip to the United States in 1997, I’d met some kindly and approachable elderly people while strolling on La Jolla Beach. After barely 3 sentences, they started asking me questions on whether I had enough to eat in China; then, when a boatful of Chinese stowaways was found in Los Angeles Harbour, Americans tended to start debating with me the reasons why the Chinese sought to go to America by any means possible. No matter how I tried explaining to them, they found it impossible to imagine that “the good life” also existed in China. At that time, television channels broadcasted documentaries about Shanghai, the majority of whose scenes focused on squatter settlements and by-passed Pudong and the newly-emerging cityscapes. Quite possibly the standard impression Americans had of Shanghainese at that time was this: bleary-eyed in the morning; noisily unloading their nightpots; bicycles weaving in and out of narrow passageways; the very majestic “Lover’s Wall” of The Bund at night. As for Chinese politics, mostly what the television channels broadcasted were biographies of Chinese leaders and the Tiananmen Square incident. Repeatedly broadcasted were those few scenes and the interviews with student leaders; rare was any reflections from other perspectives. At the time, I had argued with little brother, feeling that the knowledge the outside world had of China was one-sided and lacking, but I did not know how to rectify this lack.

It’s hard to say that the news reported by CCTV is completely objective and comprehensive. Even “Oriental Horizon”, which has quite an influence within the mainland, only goes so far and no further in regards to the reporting of certain events. The style of this program is similar to that staple American interview program, “60 Minutes”, but content-wise often isn’t as in-depth as the latter. As China’s official window to the outside world – CCTV9, in terms of content, production quality and other points of evaluation, also has difficulties holding the long-term interest of the overseas audience. In order to have those from overseas understand the true China, there needs to be objective, diversified pathways of information.

The rise of the Internet indubitably provided a more flexible, choice-driven conduit for information communication, and also let Haozi find an effective way for understanding and exchange within and outside of the Great Wall. After little brother returned home to China, other than making plans for using the camera lens to record the changes happening in China, he also picked up his pen and wrote on his blog one story after another of what was happening around him. The sharpness of his perception made even this educated-and-having-worked-in-China-for-years older sister acknowledge her inferiority: his style was witty and lively, every story coming to vivid life, completely without sanctimony or the suspicion of artifice, seducing the reader into returning again and again; the stories he told involved the lives of the Chinese, the various aspects of society – to visit his blog is like seeing the world on the other side of the wall through a small hole in the wall. As for whether he was objective or fair, his readers knew the score; he synthesized various reasonings to analyze an event, a problem, seeking a moderate stance, free from bias, and not to mention that he welcome various debate on his blog. That, I think, is the main reason his weblog was heartily welcomed by everybody. Aside from that, having studied, worked, and lived in the States for many years, he could easily compose in English; this is the most important reason Haozi’s blog was able to gain international attention amidst the numerous Chinese blogs, even though one can find bloggers in China who are even better at telling Chinese tales.

Upon reading this, every reader must be saying, “Old wife Wang, bragging about the melons she’s selling”. Yes, I am proud of my little brother. But every since Haozi got into trouble, I’ve been reading my little brother’s weblog again and again, thinking to find the reason behind his fall to his current disgraced state. In the weblog, he didn’t express any political bias, nor used any anti-Party, anti-government turns of phrase, nor had any unreasonable rants. If readers have the inclination, they could visit Haozi’s blog, Beijing or Bust, or spaces.msn.com to help me analyze a little exactly what mistake Haozi made that caused him to lose an individual’s most precious possession – his freedom?

Also: on the last day of April, which is last night, around 8 o’clock, I received a phone call from Officer Liu of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, notifying me that they’d received on Thursday (yesterday was Sunday April 30th, , right? Don’t know why there’s a three-day gap in between?) the application “Requesting the Hiring of an Attorney to Provide Legal Aid to Wu Hao” I’d sent by Express Mail on Tueday. which is currently being transferred to the services department (the National Security Team?). Actually, in the two days since I sent out the Express Mail, the attorney had already notified by phone relevant personnel at the National Security Team of the sent application– and the National Security Team hasn’t yet delegated someone to pick it up? According to the letters regulation, the Letters and Complaints Bureau will monitor to make sure the relevant department gives a response within 15 days. It’s the head supervisory organ - could our anticipation be any higher? Especially considering that the voice of Officer Liu on the phone - full of Beijing patois - was kindly and approachable, his attitude impeccable. It’s only a tiny little program; having arrived at now, we’ve already exhausted a lot of time, but without seeing the sign signaling this program’s end. Perhaps, after this so-called program has completely run its course, we’ll long be white-haired.

A person’s freedom possibly appears very insignificant in the face of “national secrets”. But how much time does a person have?

1 Comment »

  1. Don’t forget Hao Wu…

    I was reading more of his sister’s torturous daily updates recounting the Kafkaesque wall of bureaucracy she and her family face every day as they try to find out something, anything, about the arrest of her beloved brother. I’m looking……

    Trackback by The Peking Duck — May 4, 2006 @ 4:04 am

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