Excerpt from Kong Lingping’s Memoir Bloody Chronicles 血纪: Encounters with Educated Youth Sent Down to the Countryside

Chapter 5 We are Even Less Than You Are

I don’t remember just when it started but sometime after the Lin Biao incident,  our group was sent every afternoon to dig potatoes in the big Sixth Brigade potato field on the mountain slope.  There some young people between 15 and 20 years old joined us. To judge by their accents, these children seemed to be local peasants.

Later, after talking with them,  we found that they were middle school students from Meishan and Leshan. They had recently been sent down to the countryside here as educated youth to be “re-educated” by the poor and middle peasants. The slightly older ones were “old Red Guards” who had been caught up in the “great tumult” of the Cultural Revolution.

I didn’t detect among these older children, although they had travelled all over China during the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution, any of the bookishness of the middle school students of my day. They were still childish so they left me an impression that is hard to explain.

1    A Chance Meeting

On the plateau, once the sun reaches the horizon, it gets pitch black in just half an hour. That afternoon I hurriedly finished pulling up sod and then, since I was being hit by strong gusts, I hid from the afternoon winds deep in the mountain ravine where potatoes grew best. Not only would I be out of the wind there, I could also dig up potatoes. That afternoon I was lucky. In less than two hours I had dug up a half scoop full of potatoes.

A scoop used in rural China      Credit:  红动中国

  When the sun had begun to set behind Sanhaoliang, I knew that it was already late so I picked up my sod digging tool and put the potatoes in a small burlap sack and got ready to carry them back in wicker baskets tied to the pole slung over my shoulders.

From thirty meters away, a young fellow less than twenty years old turned to me and yelled, “Put your scoop in my basket”. I was uncomfortable because it sounded like he was giving me an order. I didn’t pay him any attention so I just took my “stuff” and headed straight down the mountain slope.

He huffed and puffed to catch up to me. He stopped me and in a different tone of voice, childish and asking for help, he said, “Uncle, I forgot to bring a bag. I picked so many potatoes that I would like to borrow your scoop. I promise to give it back to you here tomorrow at 3 in the afternoon.”

I saw the pleading in his eyes and the perspiration dripping off his sunburned face. From the windblown rags he was wearing I saw how poor he was. I looked all around. There was only the two us. It was getting dark and the wind was still blowing hard.

I thought of another 20 year old child busy trying to fill his stomach in the mountain ravines and felt sympathy for him. I stopped,  put down my carrying pole, took the scoop out of the basket and handed it to him. I asked him, “What is your name? I think from your accent that you are not a commune member. How did you end up here?”

– 374 –

As he took the scoop and put some of the potatoes he had just picked in it, he answered saying, “My name is Lengjun. I was a middle school student in Meishan. I graduated two years ago. I thought then that I could find a job after I graduated from middle school

Meishan to Yanyuan

The educated youth sent down to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants were from Meishan, a city due south of Chengdu.  Kong  Lingping met them near the county seat of Yanyuan County at bottom left.

with the help of recommendations from my school or work unit. Unexpectedly, the street committee notified me that I had to report to the committee within three days for resettlement in the countryside. Then they sent us here.”

From his simple answer filled with disappointment, I could see that he was different from the lawless Red Guard soldier thugs of the time.

During those years we often met many members of the new generation deeply marked by the “Cultural Revolution” including Shen Liangyu, Pan Yufang, and Meng Pingdeng.  They were opinionated and scornful of everything and so very different from we humble, self-centered, timid and overcautious people formed in the Chinese Communist-run schools.

I thought a lot about what created such a big generation gap between us. I think it was because of our completely different positions in society. Our generation experienced one “revolutionary” movement after another. Students branded as capitalist class and so forever remained people to be struggled against. Mao Zedong trained the students of today to be his “power seizing foots oldiers”.

Naturally people with different social backgrounds were branded differently. The children of the black five categories — landlords, rich peasants, counter-revolutionaries, bad elements, and rightists — were all discriminated against.  As for the children of the five red categories — poor and lower-middle peasants, workers, revolutionary soldiers, revolutionary cadres and revolutionary martyrs — after the revolution had won, just what would their social category be? Would they be the rulers or would they become slaves like us? Even they didn’t know.


“Educated Youth Go to the Villages to Be Re-educated by the Lower and Middle Peasants!”    Credit:  Cultural Revolution Period: Educated Youth Art

This, however, did not affect their characters which were formed by their own personal experiences and by the social conditions under which they had lived.  I decided to talk to one of these young people and listen to his story. I didn’t care how late it was. I put down my basket and sat down next to him. As I watched him dig potatoes, I started to talk with him.

I asked him, “Which production brigade do you belong to?” “The Third Plum Rain Brigade” he answered.
“Do you live in production brigade housing or do you belong to a commune family? Or did you live with other young intellectuals sent down to live here?” I continued.

“When we first came here, we were dispersed among different peasant families. Later the production brigade leader said. “It would be better if you all lived together and cooked your own food. The commune will give you a house. Those of us who had arrived together were put in the same house and we made our meals together.”

“How big is your grain ration? Are you paid a salary?” I asked. The young man nodded as if answering those questions would be difficult. I saw that he had already finishing digging his potatoes and had filled an entire wicker basket. Some of them, however, were sprouting or rotted,  so he tossed those inedible potatoes away. Then he said, “These have poison in them and can’t be eaten.”

He was obviously very embarrassed. “I am not afraid if you laugh at me but we are even lower than you are. You get to eat three meals a day. We have to rely entirely upon ourselves. We don’t earn enough workpoints to eat. To be frank, we haven’t eaten our full for a year. During this spring season, when food is temporarily short, we have to rely on what we can find scrounging on the mountainsides!” He laughed bitterly.

It had already gotten dark. He picked up the muddy blue ragged clothes that he thrown on the ground, picked up his carrying pole and baskets of potatoes and nodded. Then he walked towards the northeast along the ridge and then down the slope.

The next day, he kept his word. He gave me back my scoop on time just as he had promised. There were two other children with him.  The both looked like they were under twenty.

He had kept the promise he had made to me on our first meeting, so the social distance between us shortened considerably. After we had all finished picking potatoes, if it was still early, we sat together on stone blocks in a circle who he and his other classmates who had come together to settle here. We had lively discussions about how to succeed.

– 375 –

“Do you know that we are convicts. Are you afraid to make friends with us?” I asked the youngest child. That child however gave a very sincere answer. He said, “No matter whether you are a convict or not, we are even worse off than you are. We never know where our next meal will come from.”

That was exactly what Lengjun had said to me the previous evening. That was the common lament of all the “educated youth” that we met. It was a heavy load for a young person just starting out in life to carry. Were they to seek those “broad horizons” right here?

Liangshan Prefecture Sent Down Youth

Photo of Sleeping Quarters for Youth Sent Down to the Countryside from the collection of the Museum to the Youth Sent Down to the Countryside in Xichang, Liangshan Prefecture. Over 50,000 educated youth from Chengdu and other cities were sent to work in seven townships in the Xichang region. Yanyuan County is in the same Liangshan Prefecture but in a different region.                                              Credit:  Educated Youth Museum of Xichang, Liangshan

“Did you come here completely voluntarily as educated youth? Why would you choose to settle here?” I asked.

Lengjun replied immediately, “When we graduated from middle school there were no universities we could go to. Middle school graduation meant that our student days were over. If, by then our relatives couldn’t get us a job in a factory or in a government office, earning work points would be very hard. We couldn’t just stay at home and eat for free. Three days later, two people from the street committee came to my home and told me to sign up to go to work in the rural and mountain areas. They claimed that there were great opportunities for us in the countryside. We knew they were lying to us but we didn’t dare contradict them.  Later they sent us blunt notices telling us that we would be sent down to the countryside!”

Even before Lengjun had finished speaking, the smallest child was even more blunt: “The people from the street committee exaggerated how good life was in the countryside. They said pork and beef were common dishes there. My father started to get suspicious. He asked the people from the street committee was there any limit to how long the educated youth would stay in the countryside? When they came back a year or two later, would they be assigned to a job? We never imagined that we would be sent to a place so desolate that even ghosts can’t lay eggs there. Two years went by in a flash. When we ask about returning home, it is like dropping a rock into a deep well. We don’t get any answer at all.”

I interrupted him, saying, “You were tricked but why didn’t you just return home? It can’t be too late now to return home.”

“It is not that easy. When we were sent here, our household registration moved along with us. If we were to move back, it would be impossible for us to get a household registration. We know that the police can grab people without registration at any time and put them in a detention camp. They would arrest us.”  Lengjun said with bitter hatred in his voice.

I finally understood a little their situation. How could these young people have been tricked into coming here and then on top of that their household registrations changed so that they wouldn’t be able to return? Such a poor and desolate place would be enough to change any mischievous student into a criminal. How could these naive students play in the same league as those political scoundrels in Beijing?

“What is your ration now?” Four of the children started to argue about how to answer my question. Their conclusion was that they had had to wait from the last spring plowing season until October 1 National Day before they started getting rations.

Each person got about 150 pounds of workpoint grain. The grain ration had been all been consumed by the month of May. The rations given them in late autumn, a mix of potatoes and grain, came to over 90 pounds each. That would not be enough to pay back the commune for the grain that they had already eaten. So the only thing they could do was to “go out at night and look for food themselves” including gleaning crops that had been left behind scattered in the fields. No wonder that they kept saying to us, “We are worse off than you are.”

When we told them that our daily ration was just one pound plus 50 grams. If we had to pay for it ourselves we would be just living hand to mouth. That simple calculation broke down all the barriers between us.

Except our different political situation, we all lived in the same hell.  We bore the terrifying label of “counter-revolutionary” and were kept under armed escort. These educated youth, though they wore the laurels of people who had been sent down to the countryside, were like us forced to suffer from hunger.  We were as alike as patients in the same hospital ward. No wonder they said that being “sent down to the countryside” was just a disguised form of “reform through labor”.

Then I got the idea of visiting them in their quarters so I asked, “Do you all live together?” The four of them nodded all at once. They all welcomed my visit to their “home”. They told me where they lived and we agreed that I would meet them in their yard two days later at 4 PM.

As promised, I prepared a small sack of white rice and went to the agreed place, the courtyard of a peasant household. Lengjun was already waiting for me there.

When I got close, I realized that they lived along the route we had to take the previous autumn when we carried back some grass. At the time none of us realized that we were fated to meet again.

Coming into their courtyard brought back memories of when I had been banished to the home of the Zhaos in a Nantong village. As I thought back to that time, the sour stink of hog wash assailed my nose just as it had fifteen years before.

A twenty-square-meter room on the west wing of the compound was their “home”. The peasant family’s pigpen was just behind their room. That made me think back to that period with the Nantong Jiepai production brigade when we had all lived together.

Their environment was even worse than ours had been. Very little light got into the room. The only opening other than the door was a 20 centimeter long square window hole that had been bored into the wall.

From the dim rays of light in the room I could make out two upper and lower bunk bed with an old small table between them. That was where they “dined” and “studied”.

The small room was very crowded. The bedclothes were scattered on the bed. It was so dark it was impossible to see how dirty they might be.

I could tell at a glance that the potatoes piled in one corner of the room was the “grain ration” collected from our field at Third Ridge. Along the hallway was a small “oven” made from piling several big stones together.

My four hosts were busily washing the pots, the rice and the potatoes. They started a fire using some corn stalks and sunflower stalks piled up in the back of the courtyard. Half an hour later came the savory smells of rice and and pot of hot potatoes. The food was put on the table. They had no vegetables only a small dish with some salt and chili water. The five of us sat around the table and talked about our experiences.

Lengjun was the oldest of the four. What a complicated resume he had! We spent most of the time listening to his story. He talked about being a student, then about being a Red Guard. On his way back from a trip to establish ties with other Red Guard units, he had been involved in fighting. He talked about smashing the Four Olds — Old Thinking, Old Culture, Old Customs, and Old Habits — and about destroying some temples and cultural relics in western Sichuan province. He talked about the unbridled violence along with his own personal regrets. He spoke for over an hour. I felt that I had heard it before. Only the times and places were different.

It became pitch dark without me realizing it. The stove fire in the hallway had long since gone out. The potatoes left in the dishes on the small wooden table were all cold. I got up and put the skin from the potatoes lying next to the dishes and dropped them on the ground in front of the room. It was already quite late. I suddenly thought that the iron gates to the Sixth Brigade may have been already closed and whether when I entered the sentry would give me any trouble. So I hurriedly said my goodbyes and rushed back to Fifth Ridge. Their words “We are even worse off than you are” kept ringing in my ears.

Afterwards, we often caught sight of them, silhouetted on the hills, struggling to survive.

2 A Fortunate Encounter

During the later years of the Cultural Revolution, I got very interested in the erhu alto fiddle. That musical instrument was good at comforting the sad feelings we felt in our hearts. Nobody had ever given me pointers on how to play. When Li Kejia was sent to the Sixth Agricultural Brigade, a house that had originally belonged to the Fifth Agricultural Brigade was turned into a small prison. He was imprisoned a year after I was. The year after we were sent in 1964 under escort from Huanglianguan to Yanyuan, he was sent under prison escort from Chengdu to Yanyuan.

In 1966, he was transferred from the Fifth Agricultural Brigade to the Sixth Agricultural Brigade. Li was famous throughout the Farm for his frequent escapes from prison as the “foremost resister of remoulding”.

In summer 1968, when a prisoner who had escaped from solitary confinement was shot to death on the basketball court of the Sixth Agricultural Brigade, he was the one whom the guards sent for to see  that evening’s “death scene”.

From about 1967 onwards, ever day after dinner, he would sit in the corridor in front of the prison cells and play gentle melodies on the erhu. When we heard him play the northeastern China folk tune “River Waters” 《江河水》 江河水 YOUTUBE I had never heard, except for broadcasts of the Central Philharmonic Orchestra, tunes like his that brought tears to our eyes.

He also played the old tunes by Liu Tianhua. His hand on the strings of his instrument made tunes that gave us the feeling of “sounds of a murmurring spring flowing down to a beach” and tunes in which “its intermittent silences touched our hearts more deeply than the tune itself”. That fountain of emotion flowed right into the hearts of his listeners. It made people look upwards and sigh as they reflected on the griefs in their own lives.

I could hear in his playing how he so wanted to communicate with other people.  Every tune and every note flying off those strings was the sound of weeping and cries from his heart!

I decided then that I would learn how to play this instrument that could so vividly express one’s feelings.


                 Erhu  二胡                            Credit:  Baidu Baike article 二胡 

I thought that this peculiar environment would made it easier to converse with people using this instrument and could better express one’s deepest feelings.

Naturally, I knew that learning how to converse with people by erhu would be very difficult for someone like me who had no idea even of the basic fingering. To help me with that, Li Kejia gave me an old lower quality erhu to practice on. He gave me that eight-character mantra “Hearts willing to take hints find a way” [“心领神会,自己摸索”] but didn’t teach me anything.

At the same time, I asked Li Xianghua who was cutting down trees to bring back several pieces of boxwood and asked another person good at woodworking to make me a new erhu.

Everyone told me that I wasn’t making much progress with the erhu. They told me I needed to put a clip fastener on the erhu so the sound would spill out more vividly when I practiced. So I boldly put a fastener on the erhu so that everyone would be able to criticize the “killing chicken, killing duck” tunes that I made as I practiced.

The several “seasoned hujin” players in the Sixth Agricultural Brigade all played differently. Three months after I started playing, Chen Xiaolu said after hearing me played asked me in astonishment, “I never heard you playing the erhu before. I didn’t know that you could play too. He asked me when I had learned to play. I smiled a little and asked “How did I do?” “Not bad, but your playing is too sad and too inhibited.”

That was a matter of being “as majestic as Mount Tai while being as placid as a river”. Chen Xiaolu was someone who knew what a mountain stream sounded like.  His praise showed I was using the erhu to express my sadness.  He had heard it in my playing.

– 378 –
That my listeners could hear the sadness in my playing showed that I had achieved my original goal in learning to speak through my instrument. The only people who could hear that sadness in my playing were just those whose empathy was aroused from sharing the same plight.

I wanted the feelings of oppression radiating from my strings to call out to people who had become morally benumbed.  I wanted to shock them as if they had been suddenly jolted out of their drowsiness to face a new day. How could people who were not even aware of how miserable their situation really was even think about trying to change it!

The second half of the year before the autumn sowing the vegetable group was set to Maoniu Mountain to collect fertilizer. It was a virgin forest region composed mostly of pince and cypress trees. The Yi minority people who lived their used it for pasture.

Most of the fertilizer we gathered were years-old rotting pine needs and the scattered manure of cattle and sheep were most of the fertilizer that we gathered.

The day we went up to the mountain, I took not only my bedspread but also the erhu that Li Kejia had given me. The car took us into the virgin forest. We stopped after after an hour by the side of the road near a Chinese style mansion house.

That mansion would be our temporary residence. After entering the courtyard, we went into the left wind of the house and went up the stairway and put our bedding down on the wooden floor. That afternoon we went into the forest.

Living in the midst of the natural world gave us a temporary spiritual life after locked up behind iron bars for so long. Here there was no requirement that we constantly report to the sentry. Here the fear and gloom of prison was absent.  It was late autumn. The free atmosphere of the forest comforted my long-oppressed soul.

Maoniushan Yanyuan

2018 satellite photograph of Maoniu Mountain    牦牛山, Yanyuan County.  On the improved roads of today, it is a three-hour bus ride from the Yanyuan county seat.

“The forest is very beautiful!” I exclaimed in a loud voice. Chen Xiaoyu called to us from far away in an astonished voice. “Look, there is a very big fungus here.” He held in his hand a half pound of mountain fungus that had alternative red and white coloring. We gathered all around him but none of us could name it.

As we kept collecting fertilizer we saw more of them, under trees and in mounds of grass. On the cliff there were yellow ones, red ones and white ones. Li Xianghua who had lived in the area for a long time, taught us which ones were not poisonous so we brought back some mountain fungus along with fertilizer we had gathered.

Several Yi girls were getting water from the well near the manor when we passed by. They put the water in a cloud white crockery vase and then put the vases on their heads and walked away barefoot down a stone mountain path and soon disappeared into the deep forest. I wasn’t able to talk with them as they got water at the well because of the language barrier. Even so, the sight of them moved me more than any picture could have. The feet and the faces of Yi girls were “decorated” but even so they were still beautiful.

We lit a fire in the hallway. We boiled the mushroom in an iron vat. I climbed up the stairway alone to get the erhu that I had hung on the wall. After tuning the tension on the strings, I wanted to play a tune that would fly into that deep forest and call out to the homeless spirits that dwelled there.

Suddenly, in the gloom of the stairway,  I made out a man’s face. Then I heard a low voice calling to me “Lao Kong”.

– 379 –

Astonished, I turned to face him. During my fifteen years in prison, people generally called me “Kong Lao’er”. Very few among the exiles called me “Lao Kong” especially in the vegetable group. Be called “Kong Lao’er” made me feel closer to the group. Be called “Lao Kong” was surprising, but the voice was very familiar. I soon recognized the voice and called out in astonishment “Lengjun!”

It was him. He quickly came up the stairs. It had already been quite a while since I had seen him on the mountain ridges of the Sixth Agricultural Brigade. I had never imagined that we would meet here. I put down my erhu and shook his hand. When I saw him standing there in the dim light, I thought it was a bit thinner than before. I didn’t know when he started wearing eyeglasses. There weren’t any seats upstairs so we sat on the floor.

After we sat down, I asked him, “How did you end up coming here too? Where are your other classmates?” He started to talk about the changes that had taken place over the past year. “Of we four banished classmates, only one was assigned to a job in the city. I heard that his parents found a connection to some influential person in the county employment office and so was called back to the city.”

“The three of us remaining planned to last winter to steal and kill one of the commune’s sick sheep. We were caught and beaten up by people’s militia soldiers and so we got into trouble with the commune and so returned to Meishan.”

“After my father died, my family was all gone. Fortunately I found a job repairing roads with the Yanyuan County Road Bureau. I reported for work and now earn 20 RMB per month. After money is deducted for food, I have four or five RMB left. Life is easier now than it was in the village.  There I never knew where the next meal was coming from.” He continued to chatter away about his experiences that year.

“These past few days, our road repair group had been staying in the manor house. This afternoon at six we finished work and came back. Just as we were making supper, I saw your group in the forest. I could see you in the evening light. It was too dark so I wasn’t sure. After supper, I heard the sound of the erhu coming from the second floor. I followed the sound, climbed the stairs and found out that it was really you.”

3 Returning Home

As he spoke he felt the erhu that I had put on the bed. He said enviously, “I never imagined that you could play the erhu so well.”
After hearing his account about what had happened since we had last seen one another, I looked at this “educated youth” friend that I had met again by chance.

Temporary workers are on the job only for a short while. His wages are so low and in a short while he will be 24 years old. The time will come when he will want to start a family but who would want to share that misery with him? In those years, getting married and starting a family was too much to hope for. Life experience had made him see that our fates were linked.

We only spent two short weeks on the mountain. Every evening after supper he would come the stairs to my room to practice “killing chickens, killing ducks” on the erhu.

I told him that in my experience the erhu is the voice of the heart so one does not necessarily have to learn it the same way that others learn it. Once you have learned the basic fingerings, you will be able to make pleasant music according to your own ears and feelings.

After two weeks, when we left there he couldn’t bear to part with me. The day we left, he gave me a jar with his sugar ration inside. He had been stroking the erhu that I had brought with me to the mountains. I understood what he meant and so I gave the erhu to him as a parting gift and carved my name on the body of the erhu.

However, I never would have guessed that just a year later, in early 1975, I read posted on the wall of the Sixth Agricultural Brigade a “Strike Hard” notice from a court in a section of Chengdu. The notice listed a dozen odd names of people who had been executed. The third name, written in bright red type, was the name “Lengjun”. I was shocked. Many people have the same name. Could that Lengjun be the one that I knew?

When I read the details on the court notice, I saw that Lengjun had been a middle school student in Meishan and laster resided on the Meiyu Commune in Yanyuan County. As he appeared again before my eyes, I re-read the “evil deed” for which he had been executed. The notice read “One evening (of a certain day of the month in a certain year) he broken into a peasant home to steal 30 pounds of corn stored in a room. He was caught by a 60 year old woman. They fought in the dark as the old woman yelled for help. Lengjun used his carrying pole to beat the old woman and ran away with a bag full of corn.

– 380 –

Unexpectedly, that old woman died on the spot. For the sake of stealing 30 pounds of corn, two lives, one young and one old, were lost. Tragedies like that happened every day amidst the misery and starvation of the Mao Zedong era.

I didn’t doubt that Lengjun had broken into the room. He had only meant to steal some corn and of course starvation had forced him to that extreme.  Wasn’t it a sign of the decay of morals and the vanishing of all human feeling that a young person like Lengun would murder someone?

They were marked with the “fight to the death” scars of the Cultural Revolution. Long-term starvation in China had forced them to give up, as Lengjun had for 30 pounds of rice, their young lives far too early!

The sounds of his “kill chickens and kill ducks” playing on the erhu seemed to be playing in my ears. I thought of that “fight to the death” slogan popular during the Cultural Revolution and how it had destroyed moral values. Was he fated to lose his life so early?

I read in that notice the indictment of Mao Zedong for the “educated youth” for their tragic fates during those years. This “educated youth” I had met by chance in prison had jimped from the prison gate into that inferno from which there was no return.

Later, after my unjust sentence was overturned, I made more “educated youth” friends. Their fates had been much the same. Many of them when they reached middle or old age looked back, as I did, and agonized over the memories of those years that were so painful to recall.

The youth led astray during those years, were empty both morally and intellectually. The Cultural Revolution had made them empty-headed ignoramnuses.

I didn’t understand why that devil Mao, in his efforts to restore despotism, had so deceived and hurt those ignorant young students? Could the destruction he wrought on Chinese society be rooted in his own character?

Could it be that under the dictatorial rule of the Chinese Communist that many young ignorant students like Lengjun are led down a path that takes them to an early death?

Posted in History 历史, Politics 政治, Society 社会 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(2008) Tankman Wang Welin Probably Met a Bad End – by Wu Renhua

See the video for yourself — here is a link to the PBS Frontline program The Tankman.

Not long ago the Voice of America journalist Shu Guofu invited me for a video and audio interview. The reason of the interview was that a University of California at Berkeley tankmananthropology professor has provided a new study result and he would like to get my take on the result of the study. This professor determined that at the scene of the tank Wang Weilin first fell into the hands of plainclothes police and then into the hands of martial law soldiers.

This anthropology professor is an expert on the body language (body movement) of human beings. For many years he pays close attention to the fate of Wang Weilin. He repeatedly studies videos of the scenes where Wang Weilin blocked the tank until when he was pushed away. There were more than one video but most of them are the same. They were taken by different foreign journalists at the same time, location and angle from the porch of Beijing Hotel.

The time when Wang Weilin blocked the tank was on June 5, 1989. The location was Dongchanganjie near Tiananmen Square. The videos showed that Wang Weilin blocked the convoy of more than ten tanks which were advancing from east to west on Dongchanganjie in the direction of Tiananmen Square. He moved from left to right several times blocking the convoy of tanks which attempted to move past him. Once he even boarded the first tank and talked to the soldiers in the tank. Then a young man on a bicycle came along and approached Wang Weilin and had a brief conversation with him. Immediately after that two other young men came to pull Wang Weilin away and then one on each side seized him, took him away from the scene and quickly to the side of the street. For many years many people believe that the three young men who pulled Wang Weilin away were kind-hearted people from the crowd and that once he reached the side of the road he quickly hid himself among the crowd at the side of the street and safely got away.

This anthropologist studied closely the body language of the three young people and Wang Weilin and concluded that the three young people were not ordinary citizens but were instead specially-trained plainclothesmen. Wang Weilin did not escape but was arrested on the spot and his fate was ominous. To this day nobody knows what happened to him.

Having been concerned about the fate of Wang Weilin for many years and to get ready to give my views, I once again repeatedly studied the documentary film. I put it on a big screen and varied the speed of the film so that I could study it in great detail, paying close attention to the body language of Wang Weilin and the three young men. If that professor of anthropology had not pointed it out, most people would not notice the body language. There wasn’t anything that looked like a conflict or overly bodily conflict. The two young men who later appeared very professionally seized Wang from his two sides.

If you look closely, you can see them twisting his arms and pressing on the vertebrae in his back (when I passed the entrance examination for Peking University I was a professional officer in the People’s Armed Police and so I have some knowledge of this type of moves that paralyze people.) Their moves prevented Wang Weilin who wanted to fight to the death from even making a move and could only submit passively to towards the side of the street. The young man who first approached Wang Weilin immediately gestured to the tank after Wang had been seized and been taken from the center of the road. The professor of anthropology believes that that was not a gesture that an ordinary person would make but it is instead a trained gesture filled with significance.

I watched the film closely several times and each time became more and more convinced that the anthropology professor’s expert judgment was correct. What is especially important to me is that the documentary film that the professor chose ran a dozen or more seconds longer than most of the frequently shown videos. This sequence continues until Wang Weilin was pushed up onto the sidewalk. I noticed that there were only two or three unidentified plainclothesmen there, that there was no crowd gathered at all and that Wang Weilin had nowhere to hide.

Even more important, a row of tanks had already stopped there, indicating that even if this was not a restricted area belonging to the martial law troops it was very close to it and very close to Tiananmen Square in the vicinity of Nanchizi where ordinary people were not allowed to approach. It was the same area where, from the early morning to the morning of June 4, a large number of Beijing citizens tried to go to Tiananmen to support the students but were repeatedly shot down by the soldiers of the martial law troops. The horrifying slaughter there was second only to the massacre on West Chang’an Avenue. My book The Bloody Clearing of Tiananmen Square includes many eyewitness accounts, providing a detailed documentary of the massacre at Nanchizi.


I had previously thought that the location where Wang Weilin blocked the tanks was nearer the Beijing Hotel and further away from Tiananmen. I believe there would have been a big crowd on the side of the street there and that once Wang Weilin reached the sidewalk there, he might have been able to quickly melt into the crowd and get away safely.

Using the video control, I paused and rewound the video many times. Finally I could clearly see the serial number on the side of the tank. That tank belonged to the First Division of the Tianjin Garrison Command.

If the anthropology professor’s study results above and my own analysis are correct, we can basically conclude that Wang Weilin’s fate is ominous. He might have died under the brutal force of the Martial law troops. All of the students and ordinary people arrested within and without the square before and after Tiananmen was cleared were badly beaten by the martial law troops using clubs and gun butts. Many were killed and even more were disabled for life.

Shanxi University student Gao Xu was arrested in Tiananmen Square and beaten until he was permanently disabled. He described his own experiences. The detainees were all locked up near the Tiananmen watchtower in either the Beijing Working People’s Cultural Palace or in Zhongshan Park. Both locales became execution grounds for martial law troops blowing off steam. The detainees didn’t get food or water for three days.

I have always thought that “Wang Weilin” was not the real name of that young man who blocked the tank alone and that the name was just a rumor. From the way he was dressed, he must have been a student but not a student from Beijing. When he was blocking the tank, he had carried a little sack with him. Only students from outside Beijing carried sacks for carrying toothpaste, toothbrush and other daily necessities along with ID cards like their student ID.

The professor’s study results and my own commentary may already be on the Voice of America website. There must be a video accompanying it. If you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the study you can go on the website to search for it.

June 2008

Online in Chinese on the Epoch Times website at http://www.epochtimes.com/gb/8/6/7/n2146536.htm













Posted in History 历史, Politics 政治, Society 社会 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese Experts on Food Safety: Building Food Safety Governance in China

Building Food Safety Governance in China a PDF book downloadable free of charge by a group of Chinese scholars has just been published by the European Union.  The book is  is  available at https://eeas.europa.eu/sites/eeas/files/building_food_safety_governance_in_china.pdf

cover Food Safety Governance in China

“This book contains a comprehensive review and analysis of the current Chinese food safety regulatory framework. China is a country of paradoxes, relying on its age-old history on one hand, and able to quickly implement considerable changes on the other hand. I contributed to training courses on food safety organised in the context of the Shanghai 2010 Expo and could already feel there the resolute determination to progress of the Chinese authorities. I strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in food safety in China”.
– Eric Poudelet, former Director responsible for Food Safety in the European Commission
Directorate General for Health & Consumers.”

A book on a technical subject yes, though I found it an intriguing lens through which to look at decades of development of Chinese law, politics and economy.
Politics does rear its ugly head. Or perhaps this is just a matter of politics taking command.  Dealing with messy realities with the governance system of today and thinking about how it might be made to work a bit better.

How to implement food safety governance in China ask the Chinese scholars?      Social co-governance. Not banned yet apparently! I trust that the Party Center remains alert!
p. 22
” In addition, the emphasis put on social co-governance has also become an important feature of China’s response to food safety. The command-and-control type of regulation previously adopted translated into government’s intervention in the private market so as to protect public health and public interests. The advancement and evolution of regulatory reforms in various countries, however, shows that the continuous strengthening of government regulations might hinder the role of market mechanisms in resource allocation, and that the strict control of social organisations is not conducive to the development of social self-governance. On the other hand, as a continuous process of interaction and management, governance is characterised by the fact that public institutions and private institutions, besides governments, can also become important power centres at different levels thanks to the public’s recognition of their power exercises, thereby coordinating collective actions and sharing their interests and responsibilities. For this reason, social co-governance has been proposed in the area of food safety in the hope that all subjects from society can actively participate in food safety governance. The emphasis of social co-governance of food safety is also related to its very characteristics: in fact, food supply as well as food supervision and management involve multiple and diverse stakeholders such as producers, processors and retailers, as well as official supervision under the multisector model. In other words, the lack or perhaps overlapping of duties caused by division of labour creates a situation where everyone is responsible, but no one has responsibility. Frequently, food practitioners would shift the responsibility to others, and authorities would evade or abuse their responsibilities.

On this view, a whole-control process covering the entire from-farm-to-fork stage, and emphasising food safety as a shared responsibility, have been considered as important
principles for further enhancing food safety work. Accordingly, the aim of social co-governance is social sharing.11 If all social subjects in the food field can take up their social
responsibilities, they actually become responsible for themselves. For any producers and sellers that are involved in any segment of the entire industry chain, producing and selling safe food equals to responsibility for their own businesses. Only responsible enterprises can have a future with room to grow. If the government food supervision and management bodies can earnestly perform their own assigned functions, then they are fulfilling their own social responsibility, which equals to being in control of their credibility. If any consumer is able to truly monitor the safety level of the production and manufacturing of their daily food, then we can say they are truly responsible for their health and lives. More importantly, with regards to the approaches to shared responsibility and co-governance, China in its food safety-related laws has already established a system of responsibility from liability to accountability, including administrative and criminal punishment, and civil compensations. On this basis, institutional arrangements such as complaints, reports, risk communication, and media supervision also provide channels and benefits for all society subjects to participate in the governance of food safety. 



Re-inventing reputation:  media is controlled and government intervention is pervasive and credibility is low.  Apparently a reputation analogue needs to be invented.  A scientific one of course.
p. 40
“Credit reward and punishment mechanism: The modern society is a credit-based society.
In recent years, relevant authorities have cooperated closely to actively promote the
establishment of a credit system, and have achieved certain results, although still far from
giving full play to the credit system’s value. There is an urgent need to speed up the
establishment of a sound scientific credit evaluation mechanism for food enterprises, bringing all types of food enterprises into credit investigation, evaluation and disclosure network, through which the credit status of food companies can be disclosed comprehensively, objectively, and timely. This shall contribute to consumers when making purchase decisions; to relevant supervision and management authorities to implement categorised supervision and management; as well as to food enterprises to strengthen self-discipline management.” 

Decades of political and economic development in China as seen by Hu Yinglian, associate professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance in Beijing,   through the lens of food safety. 
P 63
4.4.4. Inner logic of the evolution of the food safety system
Looking back at the evolution of China’s food safety until 2011, we realise that its concepts and evolution are in line with the institutional logic of the time. At the early stage of the reform and opening-up drive, the national economy was in a precarious state. In the new
era, the main contradiction in the food sector was ensuring the daily food subsistence of the people, with the main food hygiene problems in this period being associated with the “premarket”  risks of an underdeveloped economy. Encouraging industry administration authorities and local governments to assume an active role in expanding the food industry therefore became a reasonable choice for decision-makers. As a result, laws and regulations, the regulatory system as well as relevant policy measures featured a distinctive mix of features of both a planned and commodity economy. Starting from this moment, however, the development of China’s food industry was disordered, market order was disrupted, and institutional barriers emerged. Against the backdrop of the market economy guided by socialist principles, a second reform was destined to take place. 
The central government initiated a battle against local protectionism and departmental interests by enhancing overall external supervision, by institutionalising food hygiene management, and by putting forth a new concept of food safety that should meet the needs and requirements for the development of the industry chain. Although economic development was still the “biggest political priority”, food hygiene and safety in this period clearly gained more attention from policy-makers. The constantly improving market economic system together with China’s entry into the WTO accelerated the development of food industry. The extended food industry chain and the emergence of new risks required changes in the institutional design. The political leadership came to realise that the safeguarding of consumers’ public interests was far more important than the commercial interests of the food industry.

The adoption of a model of “comprehensive coordination and segmented regulation”, together with the clarification of the responsibilities of local governments, must therefore be seen as a useful attempt to achieve this goal. Facing frequent food safety incidents, the institutional structure underwent constant adjustments, and modern regulatory and management tools were introduced one after another. Such new regulatory concepts and practices were eventually defined and clarified in the Food Safety Law promulgated in 2009.
The establishment of the State Council’s Food Safety Committee Office further contributed to the achievement of food safety policy goals from a top-down institutional design. This evolution of China’s food safety (hygiene) system from 1979 to 2011 is summarised in Table
food safety progress chart

P. 106
“To solve the above-mentioned issues, on the one hand, the most important thing is to ramp up efforts to establish a fairer procedure and to thoroughly implement the principle of transparency. The establishment of such a fairer procedure means that social actors including
media, consumers, neutral third-party supervisory organisations (such as the Consumer Protection Association), and in particular directly-concerned stakeholders, must engage in relevant procedures when enterprises set up standards, establish hazard and quality control systems, and exercise whole-process self-regulation. Since self-regulation features the sharing of public rights, it is necessary to ensure procedural supervision over sharing process. 

On the other hand, the key to warding off the risk of government inaction lies in clarifying the relationship between self-regulation and government responsibilities. Selfregulation is still a kind of regulation in nature, rather than laissez-faire, so self-regulation does not equal to a complete retreat of the government or the abandonment of government duties; rather, it simply indicates a change from a direct, upfront government supervision to an indirect, backstage one – “the supervision over the supervisors”. The government should employ measures such as record-filing (备案 bei’an), enquiries, spot checking, notifications and interviews on a regular basis to check the enterprises’ self-built standards, operational environments, and self-regulatory obligations. In the meantime, the government should also remind enterprises of the risks involved in their self-regulation in a proper and timely manner.

According to the traditional “subsidiarity principle” of the civil law systems, when the social mechanism of self-regulation misfunctions, the government must play the role of being the final thread that holds things together; in other words, the government should curb the regulatory risks and negative consequences which have already taken place.



Dealing with people who game the system: 
p. 115 
“In addition, anti-counterfeiting actions taken after the publishing of a product recall notice by a producer or distributor could also hinder the latter from recalling defective products in a timely manner, thus ultimately damaging the interests of consumers. In other cases, activities such as deliberately creating defective products and then consciously purchase them (a typical behaviour relates to hiding food products in places difficult to be seen by shelf stockers, and then buying them after their expiration) pushed many supermarkets into resorting to preventative business activities such as installing monitoring system, increasing the cost of shelf stocking, and stamping “the products have not expired” on the receipts, all of which unnecessarily increased the costs of operations, which would then reflect in higher prices for consumers.

In more extreme cases, the “professional anti-counterfeiters” would ask for large compensations from the producers and distributors in addition to the punitive damages stipulated in the law, by way of claiming to report to law enforcement authorities or disclosing information to media. As rational business actors, producers and distributors would usually evaluate and compare the consequences of directly facing legal penalties, and then decide the appropriateness of reporting such extortions to public security authorities and accept the consequences imposed by law. But there have also been cases in which insufficiently informed producers and distributors would overestimate the severity of legal penalties and pay sums of “ransom money” far exceeding the legal amount of the compensation.



Progress in food safety yes but still many difficulties remain.
P. 132 “Standardisation stage (2015 – present)

During this stage, food safety governance was incorporated into the national governance system and was elevated to the position of national strategy; 81 the entire society’s understanding of food safety reached a high level as it integrated social, economic, livelihood
and political issues.82 Officials believe that since the 1978 economic reforms, it took over 30 years for China to go through a food supervision and management process which, in comparison, took the United States more than a hundred years to complete. However, the food safety situation remains grim. It is at a special stage where several issues co-exist, including food adulteration, technical risks, the menace of sudden incidents and new risks brought about by technological changes. 
Posted in Economy 经济, Health 健康, Law 法律, Politics 政治 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kong Lingping’s Maoist Labor Camp Memoir: What I Saw and Heard at the Photography Studio

Old Photographs 【老照片】 is a very popular series of books published in China since the mid 1940 Chongqing Bombed School1990s (now publishing volume No. 118!) filled with pictures and short accounts   of both family and public lived history from the late 19th century onwards but especially from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

In this chapter from Kong Lingping’s “rightist” political prisoner memoir Bloody Chronicles, Kong and two other prisoners are another prisoner to go into the county seat near their prison to collect manure for the fields of the prison farm.  They take advantage of the opportunity to go to the photo studio to have their pictures taken.  Just the sort of photo that might have made it into “Old Photographs” if the censors had been asleep the day the manuscript arrived!

Cover photo from Old Photographs No. 15: a church school in Chongqing hit by Japanese bombing in 1940.

(3) What I Saw and Heard at the Photography Studio

When Xiao Dilang and I were “chosen” to collect manure, I pulled out my “semi-new” Chinese tunic that I saved for special occasions. In prison everyone is the same so we weren’t ashamed to be wearing rags. So that mother would not see my convict’s shaved head, I borrowed Chen Xiaoyu’s cap. Dressed that way, with clothes and cap wrapped up, I hurried to the Farm headquarters motor pool and got into a car.

The car reached its destination at 10 AM. So that we would have enough time to have a photograph taken, Xiao Diliang and I filled the car up in less than an hour. We estimated that it would take the car two hours to return to the farm and then come back again. During that intervale, we would wash our feet, change into our Zhongshan Chinese tunics, and walk to the center of the Yanyuan County seat. This was the first time in a decade that I had been in Yanyuan that I had walked the streets “in freedom”.

Yanyuan only had two big streets crossing each other. It was a cold clear day. We looked for a photo shop but did didn’t pay attention to the city itself.

不多一会,我们就在一家临街小店门口,看到悬挂在街边的照片剧照。走进去,里面坐 着一位中年妇女起身向我们打招呼。问我照的几寸,便吩咐我在一张长木凳子上坐下,没到五 分钟,我的尊容便掇了下来。

开票的是一个老者,他向我询问道:“听你口音,可不是本地人,你们是临时到这儿来出 差的吧?”我含糊应了一句,没有在意他对我们的关注。


– 371 –
异样的眼光盯着我,披在我身上的可是一件全身上下,沾满牛粪的吊巾吊挂“体无完肤”的烂 油渣。

这些年老百姓虽然也穿得破破烂烂,但毕竟还没有烂到这样程度,加上“铠甲”散发出 来的臭气,使那位老者立刻判断出我们的身份。

After a little while we came to the door of a small shop on the street which had a sign on the front “photographs taken”. We walked inside and saw a middle-aged woman beckoning to us. She asked how large a photo we wanted and told me to sit on a stool. I was all tied up and ready for the picture to be taken less than five minutes later.

The man who made up the invoice asked me, “To hear your accent you are not from around here. Did you come here on a business trip?” I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t been aware that he was paying attention to us.

When the photograph was ready, I felt cold and so put the “armor” of my jacket on. I was surprised that the old man started looking at me differently and at the streaks of cow manure on my clothing.

In those years, although ordinary people wore rags, their clothing wasn’t in as bad shape as mine was. Moreover, the stink radiating from my “armor” made that old man guess just who I was.

Yanyuan today Google Digital Earth photo

Yanyuan County, Liangshan Prefecture, Sichuan Province county seat today.  Google Digital Globe photo.

他当即表示,我所照的像片不能取走。面对这突如其来的变故,我和老肖费了足足半小 时的口舌,我还掏出了母亲给我的信,向他说明我照相的来由,好说歹说最后店主人答应,要 我必须一周内来取像片,不准取走底片。

真想不到“劳改”连自己照像的权利都被剥夺了,更想不到这么一件“铠甲”,竟被当成 了劳改标致惹出麻烦来,也罢,比起“破帽遮颜过闹市”来,我虽不如故人,我就偏偏要穿着 这“万巴衣”游一下盐源街头!

便大摇大摆的敞开破“铠甲”,向前走去。只觉得那上面数十块破棉絮和破布条随风飘摆 动,扑扑作响,衣服上粪便臭味也随风散发,使我一时获得那济公活佛的潇洒感。

He told me that I could not have the photograph that I had taken. With that sudden turn of events, Xiao and I spent half an hour arguing with him. I even showed him the letter that my mother had sent me and explained why I wanted the photographs. After a long while, the shopowner promised to give them to me, but I would have to come back a week later and he wouldn’t give me the negative.

I hadn’t imagined that someone in “reform through labor” didn’t even have the right to his own photograph. I hadn’t even imagined that my “armor” would get me into trouble with the farm. All right, at least that is better than “going shopping in filthy clothing”. Although I wasn’t dressed like a local, I still wanted to wear my “thousand-times patched clothes” and stroll the streets of Yanyuan!

So I strolled along with my ragged “armor suit” open wide walking down the street. I felt those dozen strips of cotton fiber and torn cloth blowing back and forth in the wind, making flapping noises as the manure stink was broadcast by the winds. This made me feel for a time like a Living Buddha come to rescue disaster victims.

马路渐渐变得干净起来,左手隔马路大约十公尺地方,出现了一排围墙。前面斜放着两 个很宽的玻璃厨窗,厨窗上的玻璃剩下几块残片,那里面贴着许多“文章”。

左面厨窗里,彩色的刊头上贴着:“革命大联合,复课闹革命”十个大字,右面厨窗贴着 “批林批孔、斗私批修”八个醒目大字。

厨窗间夹着宽大约十米的水泥过道,是学校校门。校门右侧墙柱上挂着“盐源中学”四 个大字的木板校牌。

The road gradually became cleaner. On my left, about ten meters from the road, was an enclosing wall. Two broad glass kitchen windows sloped ahead of us. A few panes of glas were left on the window. Many “documents” were pasted on the inside of the window.

The masthead on a red colored periodicial pasted to the left window in big characters “Great revolutionary coalition, go back to class to make revolution”. On the right window was pasted “Criticize Confucius and Mencius, fight selfishness and criticize revisionism” also in big characters.

Between the two windows was a ten meter wide concrete path that was the entrance to a school. The four characters “Yanyuan Middle School” were written on a wooden signboard.

到盐源整整十年,只听说盐源中学是盐源县唯一一所完中,也是这个县的最高学府。虽 经文革血洗,横扫牛鬼蛇神弄得它面目全非,但此时校门很安静,没有碰到一个学生进出。

校门口的屏风墙挡住了我们向内窥探的视线,正好,一个十六岁左右的男孩子,从屏风 右侧闪身出来。我忙向他问道:“你们的学校还在上课么?”他诧异地望着我,摇了摇头,接 着又点了点头,露出一种不知如何回答的神色,便匆匆走进那“屏风”消失了。

我实在想看一下,文革以来学校被红卫兵整治得怎么样了?正想向里面走去,但又自觉 不妥,自己这付尊容,冒冒失失往里撞,倘若被红卫兵拦住,找我的麻烦,我该怎么说?于是 收住了脚步。

In the decade that I had been in Yanyuan, I had heard that the Yanyuan Middle School was only university preparatory middle school in Yanyuan. It was the highest level educational institution in the county. The bloodletting of the Cultural Revolution and the evil forces that had swept over it then had left it in poor condition. The school gate was still. There were no students going in or out.

The screen on the wall gate blocked my view to the school’s interior. Just then a boy of about sixteen years of age came out through the left hand side of the screen. I asked him hurriedly, “Is your school still in session?” He looked at me in astonishment, shook his head, then nodded. With an expression on his face that showed that he didn’t know how to answer than question, he hurried back through the screen and disappeared.

struggle against selfishness criticize revisionism

Cultural Revolution in the classrooms: “Struggle Against Selfishness, Criticize Revisionism”  From Sohu website article “The Chinese People Remember Five Sayings of Chairman Mao”


I really wanted to know, what had the Red Guards done to the schools since the Cultural Revolution began? I wanted to go inside but felt that it was inappropriate. Someone with my appearance suddenly barging in would get into trouble if he were to be caught by the Red Guards. What would I say then? So I didn’t go in.

这些年,六队收纳了一些从文革沙场上扫进来的学生“另类”,从他们口里知道,在学校 里,上了年纪的教师除逃亡在外不知去向的,留在校内低头苟且渡日的“良民”,其状况并不 比五类好。

校园成了革命闯将的习武场,十三四岁的毛孩子,个个都成了老子天下第一,使枪弄棒 的“红小兵”。

In those years, the Sixth Brigade accepted some “other” category students who had been swept from the battlefields of the Cultural Revolution. From them we had learned that in the schools all the older teachers had run away to who knows where or else had stayed in schools with their heads bowed, submitting as “good citizens” to whatever might come. They were treated just as bad as people who fell into the “Five black categories of people”.

The schoolyard became the training ground for revolutionaries. Children of thirteen and fourteen all thought of themselves as the most important person in the world who could shoot and beat people with clubs as “little Red Guards”.


– 372 –

The “documents” pasted on the kitchen windows on both sides of the school gate drew my attention. The handwriting was sloppy and there were many mistaken characters. The document was ungrammatical and incoherent.

好半天我才读出,两个厨窗里虽有“坚决把复课闹革命进行到底”的承诺,但许多“纸” 上写着“打倒×××小爬虫”,留着文革年代的野蛮味。
好在在“文斗”约束下,只保持着口头上的“杀气”,并没有血迹。 我极想去看看那屏风后面在演“什么戏”,便同肖弟良商量道:“你想进去看看吗?”老

我们立即停住了脚步定晴一看,原来是一个年龄比刚才那孩子还要小的孩子。不过,他 身着草绿军装,正站在校门中间叉着腰,双眼雄视着我俩,显得幼稚又野蛮。

我原想以交朋友的心态同这些孩子们谈心的,但看到面前这孩子那威风凛凛的样子,使 我原先已堆在舌尖上的话,倒了一个拐,全部的吞回肚里去了。满不在乎地回答说:“怎么, 不可以参观一下么?同志”。

After a long while, I realized that although on the kitchen window was pasted the admission that “We should be resolute fully implementing return to class to carry on revolution” there were still many “papers” on which were written “Down with the XXX opportunists” which were still written in the savage style of the Cultural Revolution.

Fortunately because of the limitations of “literary battle” although there were murderous words there were no traces of blood. I wanted to badly to see “what kind of play” was being put on behind the screen. I asked Xiao Diliang “Do you think we should go inside?” Old Xiao looked hesitant, when suddenly a voice came from behind the screen asking “What are you up to?” That voice was clearly aimed at us.

I stopped immediately to take a look. It was a child even younger that the one we had just seen. He has however wearing a green military uniform and standing in the middle of the doorway bending towards us. He stared at us proudly, both young and fierce.

My first thought was to speak with this child in a friendly way but when we saw his arrogant and threatening attitude, I swallowed back all the words that I had first meant to say. In a careless voice I answered, “Well, can we look around? Comrade.”

那小孩居然悖然大怒,挑畔的喊道:“谁是你的同志,我看你们就不是什么好人,该不是 从监狱里逃出来的犯人吧!”

糟糕!我们的衣着成了我们身份的标记,在盐源城里,让这些孩子们都能认出来。我和 老肖会意地相对一视,此刻我再不想象潇洒的济公,萌生对校园怀旧和好奇心了。

但我们今天招惹谁呢?难道就因为我们的形像也犯了王法?使那男孩用这种口气训斥我 们?想到这里,便板起脸,俨然以长辈的口气训斥道:“小朋友,说话要讲礼貌,不要让别人 听到像没有受过家教似的。”

那孩子看我们不但没有被他吓走,反而还教训他,立刻更凶恶地吼道:“你们再不走,我 就喊人了。”看来,这里是进不去了。

争吵声很快把校园里的学生们吸引过来,屏风后面转出来了五六个脑袋,年龄基本上是 十五六岁,一齐用好奇的眼光盯着我们。听得他们窃窃私语议论说:“我敢打赌,他们肯定是 盐源农场的犯人。”

That small child suprisingly got very angry, challenging us saying, “Who is your comrade? You don’t look like good people to me. You look like escaped prison convicts!”

What a predicament! Our clothes told everyone who we were. In Yanyuan city, even these children can tell who we are. Old Xiao and I looked at each other. No longer did we feel like confident people on a relief mission. We lost interest in remembering our school days and all curiousity about the place.

But whom had we offended today? Was it simply our personal appearance that had violated the law of the land? What made that child speak to us in that way? When I thought of that, I made a straight face and admonished him as an elder person, “Child, you should speak politely. Don’t let people think that you weren’t brought up properly.”

The child saw that not only had he not driven me away, but I was admonishing him, he immediately yelled ferociously, “If you don’t leave I will call others.” It seemed like we wouldn’t be able to get in.

Our quarrel quickly attracted a group of students. Five or six heads appeared behind the screen. A group of fifteen and sixteen year olds stared at us curiously. We heard them saying to each other. “I’d bet, I’m sure that they are convicts from the Yanyuan Farm.”

两个女孩子向男孩嘀咕了一阵,回过身便朝我们喊道:“你们赶快走吧?”老肖拉着我的 袖子,暗示着犯不着同这些不懂事的孩子称狠。

面对着这种被人赶出来的尴尬,我的心里很不是滋味,悻悻离开了那校门,老肖向我解 释:“现在这些孩子,我们惹不起,我们的身份不同,本来今天上街又没向队长报告,出了事 还不是由自已负责,何必同这些孩子一般见识。”

学校没看成,反而用阿 Q 精神来安慰自己。一面向着那装牛粪的地方大步走去,任那风 吹破棉甲发出的拍拍的响声,一面心里还在消化今天一天的不愉快,咀嚼在像馆里受到的冷遇, 和在学校门口的闭门羹。

Two girls whispered their suspicions to the boy, then turned around and yelled to us: “Why don’t you hurry up and get out of here?” Old Xiao tugged at my sleeve to hint that we don’t stir up any more trouble with these immature kids.

Disappointed at having been driven away, I left in a bad, resentful mood. Old Xiao explained to me, “We can’t go around provoking these kids. Our status is different from theirs. We already didn’t tell the brigade leader that we would walk the streets. We would bear responsibility if something happened. There is no need to lower ourselves to the level of children.”

We weren’t able to see the school but we comforted ourselves in the spirit of the main character in Lu Xun’s short story Ah Q. We had thought to stroll around confidently in our cow-manure stained clothing. The wind blew on our armor loudly announcing our presence. We had not yet absorbed just how unhappy that day was. We ruminated about the cold reception we got at the photo studio and how we had been denied entrance at the door of the school.


– 373 –
其贫穷,更体会了它精神的极度空虚。如此在中共禁锁下封闭的社会,如何去面对一个文明世 界敞开的大门?

That day felt to me like we were trying to enter a completely unfamiliar society. Our region,  largely populated by ethnic minorities, was not only desperately poor but also a place where one felt an immense moral emptiness. How would a society so tightly locked up by the Chinese Communists face react to a door that had been opened to the civilized world?

Posted in History 历史, Literature 文学, Politics 政治 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kong Lingping’s Maoist Labor Camp Memoir: A Decade Spent between Life and Death

Another excerpt from my draft translation of Bloody Chronicles , Kong Lingping’s memoir of his twenty years as a political prisoner in Mao’s labor camps.  In this excerpt, Fang Jianzhi -- A Troubled Soul

Kong Lingping recounts how he first got in touch with his mother for the first time after fifteen years of imprisonment.  Kong Lingping also wrote a biography of his mother Fang Jianzhi  方堅志  entitled My Mother Fang Jianzhi — A Troubled Soul which was published in Taiwan.




You can find other translated excerpts from Bloody Chronicles on this blog by typing Kong Lingping in the blog search box.  The cover photo below comes from the CD publication of Bloody Chronicles in Hong Kong about 2010.


Photo of cover of a CD edition of Bloody Chronicles the author gave me when I visited him in Chongqing and available on my Flickr account.

Section Four A decade spent between life and death

When Chongqing University labelled me a rightist in 1959, expelled me for no reason, and sent me to the Nantong mining region for supervised “reform through labor”, I had in addition anger at being mistreated, I also felt the pain of being separated from my family. How could I handle the pain of separation from my own flesh and blood?

In those days I had no idea of just when the hell stretching before me would come to an end. When I thought of how the old people who had raised me were bearing up under the pain of separation, I felt like a sharp knife was slicing through my heart.

外婆和弟弟在父亲被捕时,已经历了一次心灵的重创,接着又是母亲划为右派,这雪上 加霜后,现在我又遭入狱大难,当时我想无论如何不能告诉他们,给他们层层创伤的心上再洒 上一把盐。
既是中共菜板上的肉,把我们一家赶尽杀绝,我们就只好忍受这“灭门”之灾的降临! 入狱后把一切可怕的后果埋藏在我的心底,万般无奈中,我只有选择不告而别。十九岁

剩下的孤儿寡母会不会踏遍千里寻找天涯沦落的我?常使我陷在不知如何处理的两难之 中!我只能如此了。
入狱开始的那段岁月里,我往往在夜半睡梦中哭醒。 最后,一个决心与命运抗争到底的信念控制了我,当时想,除非我从监狱里沉冤昭雪那
主意打定,我就突然消失了。 从此就再没有向家里写过一封信,告诉他们任何关于我的信息。从那以后,我独自任由

My grandmother and younger brother had already suffered the deep grief of seeing my father arrested. Then, adding to the burden, mother was labelled a rightist and now I was now suffering my own calamity. I thought that no matter what I could not tell them what had happened so as not to sprinkle salt on the many wounds they were already suffering.

Kong Lingping family photo

Kong Lingping’s grandmother (1940), mother (1956), father (1947), and younger brother (photo at age six).  Photos courtesy Kong Lingping via Epoch Times online article.

We were already cut off from any food supplied through the provisioning system set up by the Chinese Communist Party. They spared no-one and so we just had to endure the coming of this calamity that threatened to wipe out our entire family! The consequences of all this I always kept in mind after I went to prison. There was nothing that could be done about this parting without ever having had a chance to say goodbye. From then onwards, I never received a letter from my family and I was never able to share with them any news. From them onwards, I was exiled to distant places in reform through labor brigades. I was sent forever onwards from one gate of hell to the next.

算起来,我在狱中渡过这段日子至今已整整十五年了。每一年的中秋之夜,我都要透过 瓦背上挤进来的月光想念他们。每逢大年卅日晚上我会摆着从厨房端来的饭菜,默默地坐在我

– 363 –

When I added it all up, I had been imprisoned for a full fifteen years. At Mid Autumn Festival each year, I would always look at the beams of moonlight coming through the rafters and think of my family. Ever year on the eve of the Lunar New Year, I would put food from the kitchen and quietly sit in front of my bed, and facing four bowls four sets of chopsticks laid out there, touch them with the palm of my hand, and wish them peace in whatever faraway place they might be.

“风急天高猿啸哀,渚清沙白鸟飞还”,千里孤飞的失群之鸟,终有回巢的时候,“悲歌 可以当泣,远望可以当归。思念故乡,鬰鬰累累。欲归家无人,欲渡河无船。心思不能言,肠 中车轮转”——悲歌·乐府

对亲人长年的眷念,像一杯永远无法喝尽的苦水。屈指算来,我已“三十五岁了。先前 还是一个稚气的孩子,十五年已变成了未老先衰的小老头。如果那倚着竹篱,盼我归来的白发 外婆还在人间,那么她已经是八十五岁了。

有一天,心灵的感应像一股强电流聋击着我,使我强烈地感到一种说不清的预兆,隐约 感到这些我日夜萦思梦绕的人都已不在人世。

一种不能再与他们相会的恐惧催促我,我不能再音信杳无的继续下去。否则,我也许永 远都找不到他们了,那么就算我从这里活着出去,我将要终身负罪,我既对不起日夜盼我归来 的老外婆,也对不起艰辛中抚育我的母亲。

High heavenly winds howl, sad monkey cries resound
Sandbank gulls fly away
A lone bird flies alone far separated the flock
Finally returning to its nest

Singing sad songs is weeping
Gazing far into the distance is returning home
Thoughts of my hometown and now sadness mounts in me.
How I want to return home but there is no one there
How I want to cross the river but no boat can take me.

I cannot put into words how I feel
I put my hands together in prayer, praying that they so far away are at peace

— a dirge from the Music Bureau of the Han Dynasty

For many years thoughts of home have been a bitter cup I have never been able to finish. I counted the years on my fingers. I am already 35 years old. I am no longer young. For 15 years I have been becoming a little old man old before my time. If the white-haired old grandmother I last saw leaning against the bamboo fence still awaits my return, she would be 85 years old.

One day I have in my soul a sharp, electric shock like feeling that gave me a mysterious premonition and feeling that all these people whom I had been thinking about day and night are no longer in the world of mankind.

Fear that I would never see them again came over me. I could not go on without ever hearing from them again. If I did, I would probably never find them. Even if I should get out of here alive, I will alway bear the blame of having disappointed the grandmother who waited day and night for my return and my mother who had endured so many hardships to bring me up.


1973 年春节期间,就在这股寻亲思潮的冲击下,我结束了十五年的固执。第一次提笔向 母亲写了狱中给她的信,全信仅用了一百多字,因为十五年的变迁,我不知现在我到那里去寻 找他们!该怎么去寻找他们?

“妈妈,已经整整十五年没有给您写信了,我仍按十五年前的地址试着写这封信,倘若 你能收到它,就请立即回我的信。我这是在四川西南边陲上一个小县城里给你写信,希望这封 信能接上我们之间已断了整整十五年的联系。
您的孩子 孔令平 1973 年 2 月于西昌盐源 909 信箱六中队。” 这一百字寄走了我整整十五年对亲人的朝思暮想,也寄走了十五年筑成的自闭,我想这
得出,在这个文字狱紧锁,我们间唯一可沟通的窗口上,魔鬼正用怎样的眼睛监视着这些信! 这第一封信,必会受鬼蜮们的盘查,嗅出阶级斗争的火药味。

然而这一百个字,堆积整整十五年的血泪意欲喷溅出来。就宛如一个丢失了母亲整整十 五年弃儿的呼喊,在误入地狱的不归路上,寻找归途!寻找她的喊声!

(1) Searching for Mother

During the 1973 Spring Festival, just as a wave of determination to search for my family came over me, I put an end my fifteen year long stubbornness. For the first time, I took up my pen to write a prison letter home to mother. My letter was only one hundred characters. With all the changes that had occurred during those fifteen years, I didn’t know where to look for them! How should I search for them?

Mother, it has already been fifteen years since I last wrote to you. I am trying to write to you are the address I had for you fifteen years ago. If you receive it, please reply immediately. I am writing to you from a small border county in southwestern Sichuan. I hope that this letter will restore the contact between us that has been broken for fifteen years. Your child Kong Lingping February 1973 in the Xichang Yanyuan Box 909 Sixth Brigade.

Those one hundred characters carried the weight of my entire fifteen years of yearning for my family.

所以我纵有再多的怨恨要倾诉,但委曲和苦都不能露出丝毫,否则一不小心就会徒生枝 节,不但我这一百多字不能打破关闭了十五年的亲情大门,还可能带来意想不到的麻烦。

我这封问亲信,整整过了五十来天,与其说因为她在十五年来从北碚托儿所任教,到目 前在一家乡村医院接受监督劳动,需要辗转传递,还不如说,经过了多部门折信检查层层审阅, 耽误了这么长时间。


I had a great deal more to say but I could not reveal the full story and my hardships or else a moment of indiscretion might cause complications. Not only would my hundred character letter not breach the barriers to familial affection closed to me these past fifteen years, it could also cause me all kinds of difficult to predict problems.

My family letter took two weeks to reach my mother because she had moved from her teaching post at the Beibei nursery school to the supervised labor she was now doing in a rural hospital. The letter had to be forwarded and go through various twists and turns as it went through censorship inspection in many departments. That is why the letter took so long to reach her.

On March 15th, the gatekeeper at the Caijia Hospital called me mother and told her that a letter had come to her from Xichang.
– 364 –
咋闻西昌来信,她心中一惊,自 1967 年小儿子失踪后,已整整六年,她没有收到任何信 件。

从 1966 年文革以来,至今整七年,北京,上海,那些她曾寄托过希望的,她年青时代的
老师和同学们,突然好像从大陆这片海裳叶上消失了,从此再没人给她写信,使她隐约感到, 当年学生时代的好友,也在文革中自身难保。
那么,现在又是谁从西昌给她寄来了久久盼望的信呢? 当她急忙来到门房,从小张手里接过这一封腊黄的信时,她心中交织着一种复杂的预感,

其实自己已没有什么值得当局神经过敏的。这么多年来地处北碚边沿的小镇医院,被强 迫监督劳动的母亲,对所受的人身侮辱,和非人虐待早已习以为常。她的家已被查抄过十几次 了,“革命”群众搜去了他所有稍稍值钱的物品,连一身像样的防寒棉衣都没有给她留下。

She was astonished to get a letter from Xichang. She had not received a letter in the six years since her younger son had disappeared in 1967.

Ever since the Cultural Revolution because in 1966, a full seven years previously, she had hoped to hear from the teachers and classmates she had known in her youth in Beijing and Shanghai. They all seemed to have disappeared from the vast landmass of the China mainland. Since then no one had ever written to her. She had the feeling that the good friends that she had known as a student would have had a hard time getting through the Cultural Revolution.

Now, would write her the letter she had long been waiting for from Xichang of all places? When she hurried to the gatehouse to get the yellow paper letter from Zhang’s hands, she had a complicated premonitions.

“Could this be news of the whereabouts of my younger son?” When she saw that the envelope had been opened many times and torn in some places, she realized that she would just have to face the news calmly whatever it may be.

In fact there was nothing in the letter that the authorities needed to worry about. My mother during her many years doing supervised labor at the small township hospital on the edge of Chonqing’s Beibei district had become accustomed for many years to humiliation and cruel abuse. Her home had been searched and some of her possession confiscated more than ten times. The “revolutionary” masses had everything she had of even the slightest value. They had not even left her her only decent cloth winter coat.

前年就为给自己缝一件御寒棉衣,招来一顿毒打和斗争,使她断绝了生活的念头,那次 她烧掉了珍藏三十多年的老照片,并且决心投湖自杀。

然而苍天却安排了她绝处逢生,她被救生还,并在附近农民们的安排下,一个小女孩在 她的身边伴她聊渡晚年……

然而此刻他来不及思考得太多,捏在手里的信封上所写收信地址,分明是:北碚机关托 儿所,那字迹好熟悉。她的心紧张起来,立刻又去看那信封上所留下寄信人的地址:西昌 909 信箱,邮戳上印着:西昌盐源。这会是谁呢?她连忙拆开了信封,拿着信笺的双手在微微颤抖:

“妈妈”这称谓使她从一场恶梦中惊醒,从她那昏花眼睛里闪出了一束十几年从末有过 的喜悦来,难道是失踪六年的兴儿?兴儿,你在哪里?你真还在人间吗?这么长的时间妈为你 流过多少泪?你可把妈想坏了呀……

Two years previously, a cloth coat she had made for herself brought her a vicious beating. She had decided to put an end to her life. She burned the photographs that she had treasured for 30 years and decided to throw herself into a lake to kill herself.

Heaven itself arranged for her rescue from that desperate situation. She was rescued and was taken to a nearby peasant home where a little girl became a companion to rely upon in her old age.

She didn’t have time to think much about all this. The address written on the letter was the address of the Beibei office nursery school. The handwriting was very familiar. She got anxious and immediately looked for the address of the person who had written the letter: Xichang Box 909. The postmark read Yanyuan. Who could that be? She hurriedly opened the letter and held the letter in her two shaking hands.

The word “mother” awakened her from her nightmare. A joy that had not shown in those eyes for over a decade shone brightly from those dim-sighted eyes. Could this be the son that had lost six years before? My son, where are you? Are you still alive? How many tears had your mother shed for you all these years? You made me sick with worry…

一股暖流溶进了她身上的每根血管,纵使枯木逢春老树新芽,好比行进在沙漠上快要渴 死的探险者,忽然发现了一缕清澈的甘泉;一个深埋在地底下将要绝命的矿工,触到了救援者 的手,那惊喜和绝处逢生交织在一起的感情,千头万绪般钻动在心头!
儿哇,你可知道妈妈活到今天是多么不容易! 一阵激动的初潮拂过心头后,她又重新在老花眼镜背后去分辨那熟悉的字体,写在那发

再翻看那信封的背后写着这孩子嘱咐邮递员的话:“邮递员,如果这封信的收信人已调往 他处,请务必将这封信转到她现在的单位上去。”

现在终于明白了,含愤断绝音信整整十五年的大孩子此刻现身了! “风尘荏苒音书绝,关塞萧条行路难,已忍伶俜廿年事,强移栖息一枝安”,孩子呀,这

– 365 –
么长岁月你到哪里去了呀,你可知道这十五年来,我怎么盼你的音信?然而每次都在黄昏之后, 失望的望着街灯。你的外婆哭过不知多少次了,直到她临终还不停喊你的名字呀!而我熬过了 多少断肠的长夜,有过万千次祈祷么?

Warmth flowed into every vein in her body. It was like an old withered tree with a new lease on life throwing out new buds and leaves in the spring. Or like an explorer nearly dead of thirst walking through the desert suddenly discovering a clear spring. Or like a miner trapped hopelessly deep in the darkness of a collapsed mine shaft suddenly feeling the hand of a rescuer.

The sudden joy of suddenly being rescued from a desperate situation filled her heart with complicated feelings! My son, it has been so hard for your mother to live to see this day! After a wave of excitement that washed over her heart subsided, she once again began deciphering those familiar handwritten characters from behind the eyeglasses she wore for her farsightedness. There were only a few short sentences written on the yellow paper. The letter was signed Kong Lingping.

She looked again at the words her child had written to the letter carrier at the end of the letter. “Mailman, if the recipient of this letter had already moved somewhere else, please make sure that this letter is forwarded to her current work unit.”

Now she understood that the elder son she had lost fifteen years before had now reappeared!

In the words of Du Fu’s poem

In the world’s confusion, time slips by,
Imperceptibly we lose touch with one another
Difficult travel on bleak mountain pass roads
Twenty years alone I have endured
My storm tossed years are ended
Here I will stay

My child, where have you been all these years?  You know that it has been fifteen years. How I have waited for your letter. Every evening at dusk I watch the streetlamps in despair. You grandmother cried I don’t know how many times. She called your name over and over when she died. How many long heartbroken nights have I endured? How many thousands upon thousands of prayers have I prayed.

唉!我的孩子呀,你纵有再大的冤屈和难言苦衷,也该托梦向你的妈妈报一个吉凶吧, 然而你却一点声息都没有。

在那个时侯,为娘的也身遭劫难,我因禁锢之身又不敢多打听,写信去重大问到你的下 落时,他们从不告诉我关于你的情况。
从此生死两茫茫,直到今天,你才突然从地下钻了出来,向我喊道:妈妈,我在这儿呢! 天哪!这是真的吗,这是我在做梦,还是苍天安排的悲剧呢?如果这是一场悲剧,那么

母亲连忙找来了放大镜,又拿起那个腊黄的信封反复看那邮戳,再一次证实是西昌盐源 县发来的,她又拿起信笺……是大孩子的亲笔手迹,一点都没有错啊,十五年了,连这么熟悉 的笔迹,竟一时想不起来了。

泪水再次模糊了她的眼睛。唉!真的老了,没用了!她把那腊黄的信,摆在小桌上,好 久才回过神来,将那腊黄的信收折好,再将它放在自己的枕下。

此时一个年仅七岁的女孩,正挨着母亲身旁。这就是两年前一位附近农妇送来的‘干女 儿’。此时她正瞪着那童贞稚气的眼睛望着她。

Oh, my child! No matter how great the injustice done to you and not matter what you might have been embarassed to mention, you should have sent me a message no matter good or bad in your dreams. But I had no word of you at all.

In those days, when my mother was also in terrible condition, and because I was not allowed in the office I didn’t dare make inquiries, or to write to Chongqing to ask what had happened to you. She picked up the letter again. Yes, it was indeed her elder son’s handwriting. It has been fifteen years, that handwriting is so familiar, I am surprised that for a moment I didn’t recognize it.

She repeated wiped the tears out of her eyes. Oh, I have become so old. I am useless. She put the yellow letter on the little table and waited a long while until she recovered. Then she folded the letter and put it under her pillow.

她认识方兴哥哥,不过那时她仅只有两岁,只记得他长得很高很瘦,但为什么突然走了, 从此以后,就再没有回到母亲居住的小屋子来?

一切都怪怪的,小脑筋里盘旋着一连串疑问:妈妈是那么善良,她成天为医院打扫清洁, 不像其它人偷奸耍滑,医院把所有的重活和脏活都扔给她,而医院的人为什么总是找岔欺侮 她?为什么妈妈在忍受人们欺侮时,总是低着头,好像医院里有一根令她无法解脱的绳子,牢 牢捆着她?

今天还是第一次看到妈妈这么高兴,她注意老人的一举一动,数着她戴了几次老花眼镜, 一会儿取出那腊黄的信封,看看又放回原处,虽然她什么也不懂,但为母亲难得的高兴而高兴。

现在她才知道原来自己还有一个很大的哥哥,他可是在她还没生下来时,便离家出走的, 妈妈从没有讲过的啊!他长得像什么样子?她只能依凭她所见到的方兴哥哥的照片,想一付很 大很大的图象。

She knew elder brother Fang Xing even though she was only two years old at the time. She only remembered that he was tall and thin. Why did he suddenly go away and why had he never returned to see his mother after that?

It was so very strange. Her young mind was full of questions. Mother is so good, she sweeps and cleans the hospital every day. She is not lazy and sly like the others. The hospital gives her all the heavy and dirty work. Although she didn’t understand why, she was happy that her mother who rarely had joy in her life was now so happy.

Today I learned for the first time that I have a much older big brother. He may have left home before she was even born. Mother never said anything about him! What did he look like? She could only only look at the pictures she had seen of elder brother Fangxing and think of an even bigger picture.

他真是一个奇怪的人,听说在重庆大学念书时就离开家了。他为什么要离开家,为什么 离家这么多年从没回过家呢?今天又怎么知道妈妈在这里?

她那小脑袋瓜里翻滚着一连串的疑问,看妈妈在她布满皱纹的鬓角边扑刷刷流下的泪, 心里猜测着,这大哥哥什么时候才回家呀?她知道在这种时候,妈妈不喜欢打断她的思考,就

– 366 –

He must be a very strange person. I heard that he left home when he was a student at Chongqing University. Why did he leave home? Why had he never returned after all these years? How did he know now where mother lives?

All sorts of questions where turning round and round inside her little head. When she saw mother wiping away the tear from the temples of her wrinkled face, she wondered, when will this big brother come home? She knew that on this occasion, mother would not want to be interrupted and would not answer if she were asked.

晚饭以后她躺在小床上,盯着妈妈重新从枕头底下取出了那腊黄的信,然后戴上她那付 老花眼镜,在电灯下面重新细细读起来,彷佛那信写得好长好长,一直就没有读完似的,一边 读,一边又在擦着眼泪。

妈妈为什么还在伤心呢?大哥哥什么时候才能回来呢?她想着想着闭上了眼睛,去了她 的梦乡。


他得马上去找回这个失散了十五年的孩子,最好此时,她能插上翅膀,腾空飞去……但望断茫 茫华夏,他在那里呢?

After supper, she lay on the small bed and watched mother take the yellow letter out again from under her pillow. Then she put on her eyeglasses and turned on the light so that she could read it again. She read it over and over again for a long while as if she had never finished reading it. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she read it.

Mother why are you so brokenhearted? When will big brother come home again? She thought and thought about it, closed her eyes and was off to her land of dreams.

Our thoughts go on and on like green grass bordering a river.

What is too far away to imagine comes to us overnight in our dreams.

In my dreams he is beside me,

When I awake I realize he is in another land.

— Official Music Bureau of the Han Dynasty.

Such an ordinary night. Mother looked at her daughter already fast asleep by her side. She fell asleep without realizing it, returning immediately to bring back the son that she had lost fifteen years before. If only now she could fit herself with wings and fly away but spreading out before her was the vastness of China. Where could he be?

想到这里,于是翻身下床,去抽屉里寻找出那本很旧的地图,这还是兴儿的遗物,在方 兴出走时她就反复地看那本地图,想从那地图上找到孩子所去的地方,可是她一次又一次的失 望了,地图上没有一丝孩子出走的痕迹。

现在有了:西昌盐源。在模糊的老花眼镜后面,她终于找倒了那个位于她所在位置西南 方向,相距她足有千公里的盐源县。

凭着她的灵感,她知道自己的孩子正在崴崴耸山一片,人烟稀少的地方服刑役,她得马 上给她写信。

于是她伏在小桌上,开始提起笔来,但是千头万绪如乱麻股的脑子里,怎么开这封信的 头?第一封信中该告诉他什么呢?
手上的那张信纸,柔了又写,写了又柔。 她知道自己和儿子今天的处境都很危险,纵有千言万语,也是万万不能在信上倾泻的,

“亲爱的平儿:从我收到了你的信后,你给了我很大的力量,我一想到我重新获得了我 心爱的儿子,便全身有劲。热烈地渴望着有一天我们能母子见面,我仔细地翻阅了地图,我知 道你是在四川的边区,离我这里很远很远。但我的一颗心离你是那么的贴近……”

When she thought of that, she got out of bed and got a very old map out of a drawer. The map was a precious relic of Xing’er. When Fangxing ran away she would often take out this map and try to find on the map where he son had gone. But she was always disappointed. The map had no trace of the route that her son had planned to take.

Now there was a place she could find. Yanyuan in the Xichang region. The dim eyes behind her glasses found that Yanyuan County about one thousand kilometers southwest of her home.

She guessed that her son was imprisoned in a thinly populated mountainous region. She decided that she should she should write to him immediately.

She bent over her small table and began to write. With a great flood of emotions and thoughts washing through her mind, she wondered just how should she begin her letter? What should she tell him in her first letter? She caressed the letter as she wrote again and again.  She knew that both she and her son were then in difficult positions. Even though there was so much to say, that was also so very much that could not be committed to a letter. She knew that all letters are opened and examined by the censor in order to discover clues about “class enemies” who are “getting ready to make trouble”. Therefore this is what she wrote:

My dear son,
I received your letter. You give me great strength since what I have always wanted is to get back my beloved son back safe and sound. I can’t wait until you get home. I looked at the map and see that you are in a border region of Sichuan Province and very far away from me. Even so I feel in my heart that you are close by…

“我在这里想告诉你,我于 1958 年下放农村劳动,1959 年又下放工厂车间劳动,1962 年调到蔡家场这家医院,1961 年 11 月 8 日,你外婆在北碚逝世,临死那几天,我和你弟弟守 在她身旁,死前她一直喊唤着你的名字!”

“弟弟于 1959 年在四十四中毕业,考入重庆电力学校,62 年压缩回家,一直跟着我,64


– 367 –
文化大革命他瞒着我,于 1967 年 7 月 14 日离开了我,从此音信全无,生死不明。”

Let me tell you that I was sent down to the countryside in 1958. In 1959 I was sent to work in a factory. In 1962, I was sent to the Caijiayuan Hospital. On November 8, 1961 your grandmother died in Beibei. My younger brother and I stayed at her side during her last few days. Before she died she kept calling your name!”

“Your brother graduated from Middle School #44 in 1959 and passed the entrance examination for Chongqing Electric Power College. In 1962 he was forced to return home and stayed with me until 1964 when he answered the Party’s call and went down to the countryside. He settled down in a nearby commune. We were able to see one another and got by without difficulty. When the Cultural Revolution began, without telling me, he on July 14 left me. I haven’t heard a word from him and don’t know whether he is alive or dead.

“我在这所医院整整十二年了,这所医院离北碚四十里左右,汽车不到一小时。规模不 大,是综合性医院,附照片一张,你妈妈已经老了,希望你也能给我一张像片,要说的话很多, 下次再谈。”

这便是一个在遭到家破人亡后的母亲,同阔别十五年沉沦监狱的唯一儿子写的第一封信, 那中间被压仰得喘不过气来的辛酸,只能“领会”。

她知道,要把家破人亡的噩耗告诉天涯一角的孩子,又让当局放过它,必得写些中共强 迫人们说的“话”。

她微微闭上了眼,想到在中共建国的二十三年中,自己同丈夫,老母亲和两个孩子组成 的平常百姓之家,就因丈夫的历史“罪”,不但他本人入狱至今不知生死,母亲在忧愤和潦倒 中去世,两个无辜的孩子一个在“劳改”,一个生死不明。自己孤伶伶一人被医院的造反派任 意践踏侮辱,这究竟是为那门?

I have been less than an hour away from home at the hospital north about 40 kilometers north of Beibei for twelve years. This is a small general hospital. I am enclosing a picture. Your mother has gotten old. I hope that you will send me one too. There is so much to say. I’ll put more in my next letter.

This letter from my mother after our family had been broken up and scattered to the winds was the first letter she had received in fifteen years from her son languishing in prison. I could only imagine the bitterness that had left her unable to breathe easily during those years.

She knew that if she put in her letter to her son living far away the sad news of the death of her younger son and still wanted the authorities to release her son, than she must put in the letter “the kind of talk” that the Chinese Communists demanded that people use.

She closed her eyes and thought of how as the Chinese Communists built China these past 23 years, an ordinary family — her husband, her old mother and their two children — had, because of her husband’s “historic guilt” had not only landed her husband in a prison where she still didn’t know whether he lived or died, her mother had died filled with anger and anxiety, and her two innocent children had been lost — one to “reform through labor” and the other lost, whether dead or alive she did not know. The Cultural Revolution “Rebel Faction” that ran the hospital constantly humiliated and insulted her. What was all that for?

而今大孩子居然还在人间,就算一种最大的“快慰”了。唉!这种遭遇岂可用“生不如 死”所能概括啊?

她重新望了望那张刚刚才写完的信。拿起那破藤椅上的棉垫子靠在小女儿身边躺下,此 刻脑海里再次回到十五年前,脑子里全是大儿子的音容。可惜,照片已经完全烧掉了,敞若不 是那杨婆婆,自己早成了池塘里的水鬼,这个家就算无声无息在暴政下消失了。

现在想来,杨婆婆的话果然没错,她那时就劝过自己,“像你这样的人中国多的是。凭什 么要走这条绝路呢?就不能长着眼睛看看这世道还会变成什么样?”那话里可是一种预言,一 种普通老百姓在黑暗中的等待,一种希望啊!

她想着想着,脑海子里又呈现出大孩子的样子,活鲜鲜的,宽大而长园的脸旦,白皙的 皮肤,从淘气的童年直到中学时代……背着背兜捡二煤炭的身影,晚上伏灯读书的身影,又重 新回到眼前。

记得他考上大学离家时,几乎整整一夜同儿子促膝交心,谆谆劝导他:“千万不要去从政, 那是一个说不清的危险领域;也千万不要去从事教育,你父亲就是一个活的教训。你选择了工 科,有一门专长就是自己一生一世安身立命的本钱了。”这可是父母从动荡的年代里,为躲避 暴政总结出的切身体验。

Her greatest joy and consolation was that her older child was still alive. How could she express this existence in which “death was better than life” in just a few words?

She looked again at the letter that she had just written. She took the cushion off the broken rattan chair and lay it next to her little daughter and lay down. Her mind returned to fifteen years before. Her son’s face and voice filled her mind. She had burned up the photograph. If it were not for old lady Yang, she would have become a watery ghost in that pool. Her family had faded away under that tyranny.

Thinking back to it, old woman Yang’s words were correct. She had admonished herself at that time, “There are many people like you all over China. Why did you decide to end your life? Why not open your eyes and see that the world can still change?” Those words were a prediction, something that ordinary Chinese people were waiting for, some hope!

She thought and thought. Again to her mind came thoughts of her elder child with his fresh, generous and long faces, fair skin, growing from mischievous to middle school student, carrying his backpack searching for bits of used charcoal, studying at night with the lamp.

She remembered after he got into university, the night before he left home how she had a frank talk with him and had admonished him, “Above all, stay away from politics. That is a uncertain dangerous area. Don’t think about becoming a teacher. Your father is an example of what happens to teachers.  You chose engineering. That is a good specialty that will earn you a living all your life.”

Those were the conclusions that her parents had drawn from the upheavals they knew during their generation.

可惜,这样的躲避,依然没有躲过劫难。为什么中共连这么一个勤奋苦读的孩子也不肯 放过啊?

想到这里她痛苦地翻了一个身,于是又想到自己同大陆上受残害的知识份子一样,她自 己又招惹谁使她家破人亡?想到这里,她只能打住了,唉!今晚被那些痛苦思绪扰得乱麻一团, 总是高兴不起来。


– 368 –
里雁,辞根散作九州蓬,共看明月应垂泪,一夜乡心五处同”(白居易)古人的灾难有今天这 么沉重么?

Unfortunately that kind of avoidance could not shield them from calamity. How could it be that the Chinese Communists wouldn’t free even such a hard working, studious child?

Her pain got even worse as she thought about it. When she thought about her sufferings and the suffering that the other intellectuals in mainland China had suffered, she was moved to ask who had destroyed her home? When she thought about that, she had to stop. The train of thoughts she was caught up in that evening would not bring her any joy.

The days are hard, the land is laid waste, there is no work to be had, and my brothers have all gone away. 

The farmland is desolate and empty after the battles, 

My family wanders on the roads,  separated from one another and lonely like wild geese, far from home and scattered all over China. 

Tears come at the sight of the bright moon,

The scattered are as one thinking of their old hometown

— Tang poet Bai Juyi

Could the disasters that people suffered in ancient times have been as bad as what is happening to us now?

渐渐地,她在朦胧中感应到自己的骨肉,正在无数大山相隔的那一面向她呼唤,于是她 真的腾空飞起来了,穿越那重峦叠障的山脉,在那雾气缭绕的冯虚之境,她找到了自己可怜的 孩子,他褴褛一身,瘦骨嶙峋。不过那一刻,扑进她怀里的依然是那又长又园像鸡蛋一样白净 的脸……

记忆可真是一个怪东西,十五年过去了,处境限涩,音容依旧,就这样母子相逢在梦中, 相拥在幻境。醒来时,泪水浸湿了一片枕头和被盖。她望了望熟睡在身旁的小女儿,替她盖好 露出被外的手脚低声叹了一口气。
当这一封信从何庆云的手中交给我时,他那脸上堆着一脸奸诈的笑。 “现在,你总找到精神寄托了吧!你看你的母亲还健在,她可不像你处处同政府对立,
绝了十五年的联系,终于接上了,不过十五年前那时,负气天真的想法,已被十五年的折磨彻 底纠正,此时此刻我才知道,我日夜牵挂的亲人除了母亲,都已不在人世!欲哭无泪,断肠天 涯。

Gradually she made out, through the mist, her own flesh and blood, calling out to her from far away across the uncountable mountains separating them. She soared into the sky, crossing those chains of mountains separating them, and found, spying through a gap in the swirling mists, her own poor son. He was starved and in rags. That moment that long face fair egg-white face flew into her embrace.

Memory is a strange thing. Fifteen years had gone by. The times were hard. Yet when mother and son met in their dreams, their voices and faces where what they had been as they embraced one another in the dream world. When she awoke, her tears had wet her pillow and bed cover. She looked at her adopted daughter lying beside her, quietly covering her exposed arms and legs and sighing softly.

When He Qingyun gave me that letter, he had a treacherous smile on his face. “Now you have finally found your fount of moral strength. Your mother is still alive and well. She is certainly not opposed to the government like you are. Carefully read her letter and learn from it. Don’t disappoint her hopes in you.”

He said this as he handed me the letter. Getting this letter ended fifteen years of separation from my mother. However I had left behind my naive views of fifteen years before. Fifteen years of hard trial had corrected my errors. At that instant I realized that my mother was my only family member who had survived. I wanted to cry but no tears came. I felt heartbroken as in my mind they receded past the setting sun into the distance, never to return.

从外婆去世的年代,可以判断,因为长期无人照料,饥饿年代死于营养严重不足,而我 的可怜的弟弟,真想不到会惨死在造反派的乱枪之下。我又回想起当年小龙坎的夜。我真没有 想到我和他共进的那一顿年夜饭,竟是和他共进的最后晚餐。临别时没有遗留下一张照片,我 那断肠的追念又向谁表达?

母亲有了下落,我该向她简单讲一下我这几年来的遭遇,以及我生活在监狱的概况。后 来我才知道,母亲所在单位掌权的造反派们,不仅公然无视公民通迅自由的法律规定,把我们 的信件私下拆阅,还因为这些小痞子为表现自己的政治嗅觉灵敏,而把信中他们所不认识的字 句和不懂的词语,拿来集体“破译”,对信中用到“亡羊补牢”,“扑朔迷离”等辞句,整整研 究了一个上午。

他们为此专门找来新华词典,按照那些词的字面解释,一面按照毛泽东的阶级斗争论点 逐一分析,把亡羊补牢说成是我想待机逃出牢房,把“负荆请罪”说成拿起杖棍毁灭罪证,牛 头不对马嘴的解释以后,还要责令母亲作出解释。

可笑的是他们竟会以蔡家医院革命委员会的名义,向盐源农场的革命委员会写来一封信, 要求盐源农场对我严加追查和管教。
在接到母亲下一封回信时,要我写信中不要用成语。 哭笑不得之余,我只好用常人写信的四段式,即称呼、问好、说事、祝身体健康。这大

From the year that my grandmother died, I could conclude that because nobody had taken care of her for a longtime, she had died of severe malnutrition during that famine era. I had never guessed that my poor younger brother would be shot down cruelly by the guns of the Red Guard Rebel Faction. I thought back to that dinner we had when he visited me at school. I had never imagined that that would be the last meal we would ever share. It turned out to be the last supper we had together. We hadn’t had a picture taken when we parted so how could I share that heartbreaking memory with anyone else?

Now that I knew my mother’s whereabouts, I should send her a few words about what had happened to me these past years and what my life was like in prison. Later I learned that the Rebel Faction that controlled my mother’s work unit not only openly ignored laws and regulations about the freedom of citizens, but also when they secretly opened our letters, in an effort to manifest their strong political intutiion, those thugs “decoded” the characters and phrases that they couldn’t understand. They spent an afternoon deciphering phrases in the letter such as “locking the barn door after the sheep has escaped” and “the puffy feet of male rabbits and the half-closed eyes of female rabbits” — a common literary expression meaning two things that are hard to distinguish.

They went to their New China Dictionaries and interpreted these idiomatic expressions character by character according to Mao Zedong’s theories on the class struggle. ‘Closing barn door after the sheep have escaped’ must mean that I was waiting for my chance to escape from prison. They took the expression “serving my time and apologizing for my mistakes” to mean that I would grab my walking stick and go destroy the evidence of my crimes. After they made this incongruous interpretations, they would demand that my mother explain those phrases.

The stupidest thing they did was to write a letter, in the name of the Caijia Hospital Revolutionary Committee, to the Yanyuan Farm Revolutionary Committee, to request that the Yanyuan Farm give me stricter supervision and discipline. After I got mother’s response, I stopped using idiomatic expressions in my letters. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry, I was reduced to writing the ordinary four paragraph formulaic letter with form of address, greeting, message, and salutation wishing good health. That was probably the greatest achievement of the Cultural Revolution in transforming me!


– 369 –
再独唱悲歌。还能同其它有家有父母的流放者一样,收到一小包慈母一针一线缝好,熨上她体 温和关爱“礼物”。

From then on, though still far away from home, my time alone had ended. No longer was I alone without family. No longer sing sad songs alone at Spring Festival time. I could like all the other exiles who had parent, get presents in small packages sealed with mother’s love and feel in it her warmth and love.

她把省吃俭用下来的每一分钱都变成了儿子身上穿的背心,脚上穿的鞋,洗脸用的毛巾, 以及粮票。

我知道在这物质极溃乏的年代,寄来的东西来之不易啊!在那一小块肉,一截香肠,一 包水果糖中凝聚了多少深情!

这一年秋收季节,我在山上那些烂在地里的砍皮瓜中,挖出了许多白瓜子,把它们洗净 晒干,用晚上学习时间,倦缩在屋角落,一颗一颗地剥出它们的仁,再用一块毛巾缝成一个口 袋装好,准备找机会带给她。
(二)一包砍皮瓜子 第二年,刚刚刑满的王大炳,回长寿探亲。我便委托他在途经北碚时将瓜仁带给母亲,

1974 年冬天,王大炳在阔别重庆整整十五年以后,第一次回到重庆,并且专程沿途询问, 找到了北碚蔡家场东方红人民医院,然而,他还没有进入这家乡村医院的大门,便被传达室里 的“门卫”截住了。
“你找谁?”那门卫从黑洞洞的窗口里,向外上下打量着这个农民打扮的陌生人。 “啊,你们有一叫方坚志的吗?我是来给她捎信的。”大炳直言寻找的人。 “你是从那里来的,找她干什么?”门卫死死盯着来人,好象要从来人身上发现什么秘

All the money she saved she put into making for her son a vest, shoes, a towel and ration coupons.

I knew that in that era of great scarcity how hard it was to send things! How much feeling there was in every chunk of meat, every sausage and every pack of fruit drops!

That year at harvest time among the pumpkins rotting in the fields I dug up some melons. I washed and dried them. During evening study time I would sit exhausted in the corner of my cell picking out the kernels one by one. Then I used a piece of towel to sew a bag to await my chance to bring them to her.

(2) A bag of melon seeds

The next year, Wang Dabing, who had just completed his sentence, returned home to visit his family. I asked him to take the bag of melon seeds to my mother in Beibei which was along the way and to ask him to give me an honest report of mother’s living conditions.

In winter 1974, Wang Dabing went to Chongqing for the first time in fifteen years. He asked for directions to the Caijiayuan East is Red People’s Hospital and made a special trip there. Before he even could get in the door of that rural hospital, he was stopped by the “guard” in the reception room.

“Who are you looking for?”, the guard asked from beyond the pitch-dark window. He looked out at that stranger dressed up as a peasant. “Ah, do you have someone named Fang Jianzhi there? I am here to deliver a message.” Wang Dabing said bluntly that he was looking for someone. “Where are you from? Why are you looking for her?” said the guard as he stared at Wang as if he wanted to discover some secret. Wang Dabing felt uncomfortable as if he were being interrogated.

整整十五年了,就像一个隔世的来者到了一个令他恐惧的环境中,他犹豫了一下,只好 将我托他带给母亲的信,一包瓜子仁拿了出来。一面恳求他说:“我是从西昌盐源来的,是方 坚志儿子的朋友。这次因为回家探亲,受他的嘱托给他母亲带来一包东西和一封信,拜托你是 否能通告一声。”

门卫把信和毛巾包接了过去,掂了又掂,满不在乎回答道:“那么你就在这里等着吧。” 说罢,转身进去。

不一会,便走了出来,一脸严肃地向他喊道:“你要见的这个人是我们单位的重点监督对 象,任何没有本单位的介绍信,不能同她单独见面,我已请示了领导,你带来的信和东西,我 们可以代她收下,并且转交给她本人,你走吧。”

这闭门羹,使大炳倒吸了一口凉气,他向门内窥望,那不就是一所普通的乡村医院么? 里面的过道上穿梭着赤脚的普通农民病员。

After fifteen years, it was if he was entering a frightening place in another world. He hesitated for a moment, and decided he had no alternative but to show the letter he had brought for mother and the sack of melon seeds. He implored the guard, “I have come from Yanyuan County in Xichang. I am the friend of Fang Jianzhi’s son. I was going home to visit my family and he asked me to take this bag of melon seeds and this letter to his mother. Please let her know.”

The guard took the letter and the bag, weighed them in his hand for a moment, and said carelessly, “Wait here.” He turned and went inside.

Later he came out and said in a stern voice, “The person you want to see is under strict surveillance by our work unit. Only those with a letter of introduction from their own work unit may see her alone. I have already informed our leadership. We can take the letter and the things that you have brought and then pass them to her. You may leave now.”

Wang Dabing, denied entry, breathed in the cold air. He looked inside. Wasn’t it just an ordinary rural hospital? The people walking back and forth inside barefoot were ordinary peasant patients.

He regretted that he had stopped at the door to ask. If he had just walked directly inside, he wouldn’t have been asked who he was. He had brought this problem upon himself by revealing who he was. It seemed that today he had come so far but he wouldn’t be allowed to see mother today. It seemed like mother was in a very difficult situation.

心中暗暗后悔,如果不去门房打听,径直走了进去,说不定根本没人问他是什么人,今 天自己找了麻烦,先暴露了自己的身份。看来,今天这么大老远的来,母亲是看不见了。如此

– 370 –

当大炳回到盐源,把蔡家医院所见情况告诉了我,顿时对母亲的担忧压在我的心头。她 在信中不厌其烦的写道“要听党的话”,恰恰证明她是多么无奈,母亲所受的精神压力,超过 生活在枪杆子下面的我。

这一年春节,我照样收到了她寄来的一斤猪肉,并在信中告诉我,我给他带的东西已经 收到。一再要求我能将半身的近照寄给她。

在狱中,我们的像片一直由当局摄制。所以,母亲这小小的心愿,对于失去人身自由的 我,还真成了一件大难事。我的身边已有十多年没有保存过一张像片了。为了满足她的要求, 我一直在寻找去盐源的机会。

盐源地处云贵川高原,在这个汉、彝、藏、苗等民族杂居的地方,有广阔的牧场,放牧 的牛羊群,和过路畜群,撒在这一带草地上的牛羊粪一直被农场各队争抢。徐世奎也不示弱, 在春耕栽插完毕后,便派了一个由六人组成的小组,长期驻外拣粪。

这个小组在马路边租了一间公社的小茅屋,六人吃住都在里面,每天所拣的牛粪便堆积 在屋外马路边,等到凑足了可以用解放牌拉上几车的数量后,便临时从场部抽调汽车,再派两 个人跟着汽车一起到积肥的地点为汽车装牛粪,当时装粪的人一般指派菜蔬组的人。

When Wang Dabing returned to Yanyuan and told me what he had seen at the Caijiayuan Hospital, I immediately became very worried about mother’s situation. She had taken great pains to write in her letter “you should obey the Party”. That in itself showed how helpless she was. She was under greater pressure than I was who lived with guns pointed at me.

That year at Spring Festival I got from her as usual the pound of pork that she sent me. In her letter she mentioned that she had received the things that I had sent her. She asked me over and over to send her a recent photo portrait of myself. All our photos in prison were taken by the authorities. Fulfilling my mother’s small request for someone like myself who had lost their freedom was very hard to do. For over a decade, I hadn’t kept any photographs for over a decade. To satisfy her request, I kept trying to find an opportunity to go into Yanyuan.

In Yanyuan, located on the Yunnan-Guizhou plateau, live mixed together people of many different ethnicities — Han, Yi, Tibetan, Miao and others. On the pasturelands graze herds of cattle and sheep. The different agricultural brigades scramble to gather the manure left by these livestock on the pasturelands and on the roads. Xu Shikui himself was no laggard in this respect. The special group from the Sixth Brigade sent out on this task spent a long time outside the farm gathering manure.

Posted in History 历史, Ideology 思想, Politics 政治 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Yang Hengjun: Will Kim Jong-un be the Architect of Reform and Opening for the DPRK?

Fascinating blog post by Chinese-Australian spy novelist Yang Hengjun.

 Trump as America’s non-ideological president and the opportunity for change in the relationship with the DPRK that that presents.

Like Mr. Spock said in Star Trek V, “We have a saying on Vulcan.  Only Nixon could go to China.”  In the case of the U.S., Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to Pyongyang in 2000, but shortly thereafter there was a change of Administration from Clinton to Bush and the moment passed.


Will Kim Jong-un by the Architect of Reform and Opening for the DPRK?

Summary: DPRK may change course not because of Trump’s threats but because within those threats was the implicit promise, unlike previous US presidents, that the US would no longer be dedicated to the destruction of the DPRK regime. In Trump, Kim saw a non-ideological US president with whom he could do business.

Yang notes that a recent US think tank session, it was clear that none of the US scholars saw that. Certainly all US presidents have been committed to the ultimate goal of the destruction of the DPRK regime. Probably Trump himself does not realize just why he is making a breakthrough.

Not the only reason, China and Russia are also pressuring him to make peace with the US. The important thing here is to find a way forward for the 20 million people of North Korea who are isolated from the world and need to move towards reform and opening. This may be the best way for all the countries involved to help push/guide/tempt the DPRK on this way ahead for which there is no alternative.

End summary


排行榜 收藏 打印 发给朋友 举报来源: 杨恒均的独立博客 发布者:杨恒均

热度88票时间:2018年3月30日 07:31



















杨恒均 2018/3/30 纽约

Posted in Foreign Relations 外交 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Automation of Telephone Call Monitoring in China

[ After writing this blog article, I got an interesting tweet from China about phone monitoring. 重要对话用 @telegram 端对端加密,电话短信早就被监控着了。” For important conversations use Telegram Messanger ( https://telegram.org/ )with its end-to-end encyption. Telephones and instant messaging have been being monitored for quite a while.”]
 The Economist on January 27 published the article “In China, consumers are becoming more anxious about data privacy — will this impede government snooping” about how Chinese are getting more concerned about data privacy.  China has some of the most active e-commerce websites in the world with much of the activity coming from the smartphones in the hands of hundreds of millions of Chinese.

Consumers in China have good cause to worry. Data collected through one medium can often end up in another. A man who talked on his mobile phone one day about picking strawberries said that when he used his phone the next day to open Toutiao, a news aggregator driven by artificial intelligence (AI), his news was all about strawberries. His post on the experience went viral in January. Toutiao denied it was snooping but conceded, blandly, that the story revealed a growing public “awareness of privacy”.

In the United States, at least until very recently, most people have generally been much more concerned about government snooping about their phone calls and internet data than with corporate snooping.  When they sign up to use many free smartphone applications, people often sign off to access to many functions (microphone, camera) to the app sponsor without considering how much of their privacy they are giving away to a corporation that might well sell it on to some other data aggregator.

I wonder how that works in China?

Telephone Monitoring and Me in China

I have always been curious about telephone monitoring since I was the object of telephone monitoring during the ten years I worked in China as a U.S. diplomat.  For the first month while I was at U.S. Embassy Beijing in 1996, my telephone had a funny humming noise.  I wondered whether that was because the monitoring people had bad equipment or because they thought they could intimidate me that way.  The funny hum went away after a month.  I supposed that the monitors must have decided that I was actually just a boring diplomat instead of somebody more exciting like a spy.


After that I only heard the funny home on my cellphone when I was travelling — but never while I was home in Beijing.  I always wondered — could the monitoring equipment be that bad or did they want to remind me that my conversations were being recorded. From an intelligence collection perspective, reminding me with that helpful hum that my phone calls were being recorded wouldn’t be a good idea.  One of the things I learned during my career is not to be too quick to think people are out to get you when incompetence is often a perfectly plausible explanation.  I never figured out just what was going on.

There were huts on top of all the buildings in the Tayuan Diplomatic Compound in Beijing where we lived. One time on of my colleagues told me how his five year old son was walking on the stairway when he saw that the door to the stairway leading to the roof hut was open.  He later told his father that he walked up the stairway and saw a man inside “with all kinds of computers and stuff”.  Perhaps that was someone changing tapes or adjusting the recordings.  Next to the compound was a five-story telephone exchange building — I imagined that there must be many people in there listening to phone calls in many foreign languages.

Ten years later, when I was working at the U.S. Consulate General in Chengdu,  I was walking with my friend, the now-deceased Chengdu writer Yin Shuping, past a very big telephone exchange building in the county seat city where he lived.   I said I was surprised at how large the building was.  Yin answered, “That’s because they need a lot of room for all the people listening in on telephone calls. Every county seat in China has a big telephone exchange building for that.”

I have always been astonished at the size of China’s domestic security workforce. For example, I remember when President Clinton visited China in 1998, his motorcade drove past my apartment at the Tayuan Diplomatic Compound there were miles and miles of  Chinese plainclothesmen every three feet or so.  They made it clear that they didn’t want to be in my photos either. So I figured they must be real plainclothesmen and not just some random people helping out.

In China the size of the police response to say a few demonstrators seemed wildly disproportionate to the number of protesters. Maybe they were worried that a “single spark can light a prairie fire” like Chairman Mao used to say. China’s domestic security spending exceeds China’s total military spending.  In the U.S., total annual spending on policing is over USD 100 billion while total military spending (2015) was about USD 600 billion. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so astonished since the U.S. military is so large and since I live here I consciously and unconsciously take the U.S. experience as a reference point.  I wonder what the ratio of police to military spending is in other countries.

Voice Recognition as a Tool for the Authorities in China

I wonder if this means there is widespread use of voice recognition technology on phone calls in China?  Perhaps voice recognition technology is lightening the phone call monitoring load for the Party.  Monitoring conversations in the various dialects of Mandarin and indeed the many different languages — Shanghaiese, Cantonese, Fuhouhua, Chaozhouhua, Minnanyu etc. — in the Chinese language family must be quite a challenge!

Looking around online, I saw a website offering a Chinese language voice recognition product that claimed to be suitable for generating transcripts of courtroom proceedings — actually saying it is for “intelligent courtrooms”.  One would hope that all courtrooms are intelligent courtrooms so perhaps a better translation would be cyber-augmented or something.   I hope the automatic court transcript generating system is reliable!

From https://cloud.tencent.com/product/asr


语音识别(Automatic Speech Recognition)服务,应用业界最先进的深度学习算法,具备出色的语音转文字、关键词检索、静音检测、语速检测、情绪识别能力。全面满足电话录音质检、实时语音输入、直播字幕及审核等多种场景下的语音处理需求。
Looking further I found a discussion of voice recognition technology in connection to the case cited in The Economist article above. The gist of the article: the Chinese corporate website belonging to a company in the Alibaba e-commerce group said, ‘No,  it isn’t true, that just isn’t possible with current technology. But the journalist asked a university prof expert on voice recognition technology Professor Xu Mingxing of Tsinghua University who said just the opposite “Current technology makes this automatic voice recognition of a phone conversation in this case entirely possible.”

Excerpt from the article  百度读取通讯录被告 今日头条陷“窃听风云”(Baidu Accused of Monitoring Record of Communications,  Jinri Toutiao Is Caught up in the “Bugging Cloud” Controversy)                    http://azcnews.org/20180107/%E7%99%BE%E5%BA%A6%E8%AF%BB%E5%8F%96%E9%80%9A%E8%AE%AF%E5%BD%95%E8%A2%AB%E5%91%8A-%E4%BB%8A%E6%97%A5%E5%A4%B4%E6%9D%A1%E9%99%B7%E7%AA%83%E5%90%AC%E9%A3%8E%E4%BA%91/

— “声音识别技术窃听用户隐私  (Using Voice Recognition Technology for Surreptitious Monitoring Invades User Privacy)






I wonder how effective this automated monitoring is?  Does it just pick out and flag some key words or does it do get enough of a conversation to do more useful monitoring that can pick out from many thousands of telephone calls the several that are worth the time of a human operator?   Background noises and the different dialects and languages spoken by people on the phone make monitoring more difficult.  I imagine with the massive investments now seen in China for domestic political security there must be quite a bit of work underway to develop these systems.
With the parallel applications developed for market research in the shopping trends of hundreds of millions of Chinese customers, there must be many commercial applications that are finding domestic security applications with the authorities, both in China and in other countries.
Improved technology now means that China can now cut its telephone monitoring workforce or it can now monitor a much higher proportion of all phone calls.
Maybe the next time I go to China I should talk on the phone in Pig Latin. Maybe there is not a voice recognition app for that yet!
Posted in National Security 安全, Science, Technology and Academic 科技学术, Society 社会 | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment