Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that the words of a punk rock song are part of the evidence to be raised against dissident writer Zhang Lin when he is tried next week on charges of incitement to subvert state power.
Sources in China told HRIC that Zhang Lin will be brought before the Intermediate People’s Court of Bengbu, Anhui Province on the morning of June 21 in a trial that is closed to the public. Zhang Lin was detained at the Bengbu train station on January 29 this year after returning from a failed attempt to attend a memorial service for deposed Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang in Beijing. Zhang was one of dozens of people reported detained around that time for similar reasons, and the current whereabouts of many of these people remain unknown.
HRIC has now learned that Zhang Lin’s indictment mentions nothing about his memorial activities for Zhao Ziyang, but rather accuses him of inciting subversion through his Internet writings, including the posting of some stanzas from a song by the punk rock group Pangu.
The indictment issued by the Bengbu municipal procuratorate on May 23 states, “The accused, Zhang Lin, used the Internet, overseas radio transmissions and other such media to openly disseminate language that misrepresents and denigrates the national authorities and the socialist system, and which incites subversion of state power and the overthrow of the socialist system under Article 105 of China’s Criminal Law.” The indictment states the details of Zhang Lin’s alleged crime as follows: “During the period between August 2003 and January 2005, the accused, Zhang Lin, posted 192 articles on the Internet Web sites of Boxun, Epoch Times, Secret News, China Monthly and others.” The indictment states that the contents of Zhang’s essays “opposed the basic principles of the constitution, damaged national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, spread falsehoods, disturbed social order and damaged social stability.” Among the critical writings the indictment cites is Zhang’s essay “Pangu – The Hysterical Ravings of the Chinese People.” The essay quotes a song by the punk rock group that says, “The Yellow River should run dry, this society should collapse, this system should be destroyed, this race should become extinct, this country should perish.” The quotation of this song is included in the indictment as an example of incitement to subvert state power.
According to Internet Web sites, Pangu is a punk rock group formed by a group of young people in Nanchang City, Jiangxi Province in 1995. After the group moved to Guangzhou, its popularity spread across the country. Articles observe that the band’s countercultural attitude has proven especially popular with disaffected Chinese youth. When Pangu performed in Taiwan in 2004, one of its songs, “Independent Revolution,” was viewed as supporting Taiwan independence. The group has since settled in Sweden, where it continues to perform punk songs, including one setting a poem by Zhang Lin to music. Some sources in China have expressed particular concern that the citing of the Pangu song in Zhang Lin’s indictment effectively construes artistic expression as a political act.
Zhang Lin, born in Bengbu in 1963, is a long-time political dissident. During the Democracy Wall period in 1979, Zhang Lin was introduced to dissident writings while a student at Tsinghua University. During the 1989 democracy movement, Zhang Lin led student hunger strikes in Bengbu. Following the violent official suppression of the democracy movement in June 1989, Zhang Lin was detained and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “counterrevolutionary incitement.” Following his release, in 1993 Zhang Lin joined Liu Lianchun, Yuan Hongbing and others to establish the “Federation for the Protection of Worker’s Rights,” after which Zhang was detained again in 1994 and sentenced to three years of Reeducation Through Labor. Following his release in 1997, Zhang Lin settled in the United States, but in 1998 he illegally reentered China, where he was detained again and sentenced to three years of Reeducation Through Labor. Zhang Lin experienced considerable hardship and ill-treatment during his various detentions. Following his latest release, Zhang Lin was subjected to constant monitoring and harassment by the police, and was never able to live a normal life. He supported himself and his family largely through the money he was paid for the articles he published overseas. Two of Zhang’s articles describing his personal experiences and the situation in Bengbu have been published in English in HRIC’s quarterly journal, China Rights Forum.
Zhang Lin is currently detained in Bengbu’s No. 1 Detention Center. He has gone on hunger strike twice to protest his detention and the physical abuse he has experienced there. Zhang’s lawyer, Mo Shaoping, has not been allowed to see him. Mo Shaoping earlier this month learned from the trial judge that Zhang’s trial would not be open to the public. Mo applied for an open trial on the basis that Zhang was being prosecuted for his public writings, and there were no state secrets involved, but his application was denied.
“The use of the words of a punk rock song to charge Zhang Lin with subversion shows the lengths to which the Chinese authorities feel compelled to go in persecuting and suppressing those who exercise freedom of expression,” said HRIC president Liu Qing. “Zhang Lin has been subjected to constant persecution over the past 16 years, even though his chief aspiration has always been the welfare of China and the Chinese people. The Chinese authorities should withdraw their prosecution against Zhang Lin, or if they insist on carrying it forward, they should try Zhang in open court so the public can witness how justice is administered in this deplorable case.”