[Translation by Human Rights in China]
Yesterday, at noon, I went out to buy a prepared dish for our lunch. We had already made the other dishes for it, but I felt that of the five spices, something hot was missing. It had been a long time since I had eaten spicy food—spicy hot is the flavor of the revolution; without it, there is no revolution— so I had a craving for a numbingly hot dish of thinly sliced beef in chili sauce [a Sichuan dish]. I grabbed 10 yuan and went out. All the way to the market my mouth was watering at the thought of that numbingly spicy flavor that had long been absent from my life. But unexpectedly, the thinly sliced beef in chili sauce that had been 10 yuan for 500 grams had all of a sudden shot up to 28.8 yuan for 500 grams, more than double the original cost. Moreover, a customer beside me told me that mutton that cost 8 yuan a few months ago was now 18 yuan, also more than twice the price.
At this point other shop customers started talking at the same time, criticizing the Communist Party:
One said, “Wages have indeed gone up, but the increase is not enough to cover the rising prices!”
Another said, “You’re doing okay—you still get paid—but those of us who’ve been laid off are unlucky! No wages, but the prices of goods are still going up! They should be shot, the Communist Party officials are inhuman!”
A third said, “Communist Party leaders only care about themselves getting rich through corruption, so who’ll listen to your complaints? What’re you doing about it besides complaining?” When this person said this, everyone else looked embarrassed and fell silent.
Then someone said, “Many people say that Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao treat the Chinese people like family, but I think that’s just bunk. Prices this year are the highest in Chinese history—that’s ‘treating us like family?’” Hu and Wen are on television every day visiting this village and that household and having all kinds of meetings, and it looks as if they’re really taking care of the people. But actually when the prices fall then it can truly be said that they’re taking care of the people. Otherwise who couldn’t do it if all you’re doing is looking good? Traveling on public funds! Today it’s Anhui, tomorrow, Sichuan, what for? The two of them are just putting on a show for the whole country. It makes them feel good about themselves; do they care whether people nationwide are disgusted? Reduced prices are the top priority!”
I laughed and told him, “The eyes of the people are sharp indeed! But I think that everyone understands this in their heart. The two of them[Hu and Wen] also understand. They’re just forcing themselves to play those roles, that’s all. Just like the way in The Emperor’s New Clothes the emperor knew that he wasn’t wearing any clothing, but he acted like he was. People laughed at him, and he played like he didn’t see them. In reality, they understand it very well in their hearts!”
My 10 yuan only got me 200 grams of thinly sliced beef in chili sauce. All the way home I pondered a single question: With our actual standard of living declining, and with people’s complaints heard on every street corner, how can the Chinese media have the nerve to say that “the yuan is appreciating” and that “people’s lives are getting better and better”?
All Chinese people, including the Communist Party, actually do know of our corruption and deterioration and of the decline in our standard of living. But this dictatorship has made it so that all words of justice can only be said in private and not appear in the media. This is because all newsmedia in China are “Party assets.” If workers within the “Party assets” do not tell bare-faced lies, they won’t be able to make a living. That’s why there is this kind of story on China Central Television 1 (CCTV1) Evening News: Prices rose 6.6 percent in October and people agreed that it “has little impact on their day-today life.” But CCTV4’s Across the Strait broadcast this story: Prices in Taiwan rose 4.5 percent and people cried that, “they could not go on like this.” Why is it that the reactions of people on either side of the Taiwan Strait are so different? It is clear to everyone that had Chinese people also said “we can’t go on like this,” CCTV would absolutely not broadcast it.
The truth pointed out by the child in The Emperor’s New Clothes—“the emperor is naked!”—would not be able to get on CCTV. That is how Hu and Wen can play their parts on CCTV in the buff.
And yet the emperor in Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes is still admirable. He didn’t send state security police to arrest that truth-telling child on “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power.” Children in China who speak the truth are not so fortunate.
In China, speaking the truth is something that you get locked up for, on charges of subversion of state power, and the intensity with which the emperors control those who tell the truth far exceeds that of their control over prices. The money that state security departments use each year to monitor, control, “chat with,” and “teach” me could be used to build one primary school or subsidize 50 children for their entire primary school education. The money used nationwide to control, arrest, try, and manage the incarceration of political prisoners and democracy activists could completely bring about the political and economic system with “multi-party elections under conditions that would benefit everyone” that I have proposed. However, the emperors do not want to do things this way. They would rather catch those children who speak the truth than put on the new clothes of freedom and democracy of modern civilizations.
Well then, let those emperors and officials go to hell naked!
January 21, 2008