Silence in the Face of Tyranny
In a Feb. 9, 2017 essay in Beijing Spring, Ma Qing, a blogger and internet activist in China, reflects on the thick network of social control that keeps many Chinese from expressing discordant political views. — Epoch Times translation team
A few days ago, a cousin of mine, who is a retiree from the Chengdu Cultural Law Enforcement Brigade, responded to my post in the 2017 Spring Festival Travel Journal. He told me to spend more time with my mother and my family, and to think about what I should and shouldn’t do. In my cousin’s view, I am not a normal person, I don’t fulfill my family obligations, am indifferent to my family, and lack feelings.
Some time ago, my uncle, who was born in the 1940s, showed my 80-year-old mother my poem “Center of the Lake” that was posted on a blog. The poem is about my experiences of being detained for sharing a photo online about the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square “Incident.” My poem had been published in Beijing Spring, an overseas dissident publication, under the title: “A True Experience of Chengdu First Detention Center.” Actually, the title was changed to “Center of the Lake,” and sensitive content was also deleted, and so it was not removed by the blog, which has very strict review policies. Being a little careless will lead to article removal or account shutdown. I had five previous Jianshu accounts shut down, but “Center of the Lake” was not removed, so it didn’t cross the red line monitored by online police.
But in my uncle’s eyes, this poem is outrageous and has violated the rules. After my mother read the sanitized version, she cried and phoned my cousin, sister and friends and asked them to “discipline” me. She said she could not take another blow at her old age. If I was detained again, it would be her end. Ever since the end of 2009, when I began writing the epic about the Spirit of the Chinese, my mother has repeatedly made such comments. She told me to be careful and not talk “nonsense” on the Internet. If I got in trouble, she would die, she said.
I am 51 years old, but I am still being controlled by my mother. Isn’t that sad? Chinese parents do one thing all their life: they tightly cover their children’s mouths, so their children will abide by the law. Being law-abiding means being politically correct, that is, not anti-Party, not anti-socialism. You could say that Chinese parents are accomplices of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
I think that if we were living during the Cultural Revolution, a time when relatives reported on each other, I would have been reported by my relatives instead of just being “persuaded” by them and made to feel isolated. Fortunately, I have another cousin who holds the same political opinion as I do, although he also tries to persuade me to stop what I am doing.
The way we Chinese see it, to love your children is not to give them freedom, but to tightly hold on to them and to control their thinking. This is how Chinese parents have become partners with the CCP. The CCP governs people’s opinions through Chinese parents. Chinese parents don’t want their children to have their own thoughts. They don’t want them to become dissidents in pursuit of fairness, justice, freedom, human rights, and democratic constitutionalism. They only want their children to be happy, safe, and peaceful. Even if their children have no independent thoughts, or even if they have brain damage, parents will be very content.
After I was released from detention, my son, who was born in the 1990s, said to me: “Anyway, you gave me life. My life is in your hands, you may take it at will.” He meant to say that if I crossed the red line again, my life might be in danger, and his life too. Alas, not only do my parents control me, my cousin controls me, and my son also controls me!
My actions have turned me into an independent dissident poet — anti-Party and anti-socialism — questioning the ruling party, telling the truth about history, commenting on politics and writing a “Chinese spiritual epic.” In the eyes of my mother, netizens, and my relatives, I am doing “irrelevant” things. They believe that the pursuit of democracy and freedom is not the business of unimportant people; it’s for a small number of elites. They constantly tell me that peace and safety are a blessing, and that I should just enjoy the good life and not create chaos. They say I shouldn’t rush things, take things lightly, be tolerant and rational. They also say that China is not suited for democracy because of its huge population and that the Chinese people are not smart enough; only the Communist Party can do a good job.
In my family’s WeChat group, my cousins often upload pictures of tasty food, beautiful scenery, tips on healthy living, road trips, and travels abroad. If I upload an unofficial political news piece or some historical facts, they pretend not to see it. My family’s WeChat group is the reflection of social groups all over China. There is only positive energy on the surface. Everything looks very happy and harmonious.
What does “indifference” mean? Hiding in the back and remaining silent when faced with tyranny, is indifference. Standing with this group in silence and amnesia, is indifference. Turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the suffering of people at the bottom of society, all day indulging in drink, playing mahjong, or cards, or the stock market, pursuing photography, travel, leisure, and health, grabbing red envelopes, all this is indifference.
Living in a society where news is censored, speech controlled, the internet blocked, one is brainwashed and fooled all the time, everywhere. On top of that, there is a history of political movements. Speaking one’s own mind in such an environment means breaking up with everyone around you, being isolated and rejected as a “psychopath.” Those who watch CCTV news and read the Party newspaper will say that you are extreme, weird, and that you confuse people with devilry.
Japan and the United States are two of the most advanced developed countries in the world. Chinese television often shows news about natural disasters, shootings, and demonstrations in these two countries. It almost never shows anything about their civilizations, arts, education, welfare and medical systems, science and technology, environmental protection, income and cost levels, rule of law, and so on. However, these countries that are said to have so many disasters and so much violence are the havens that Chinese officials long for. This is brainwashing.
In order to have a sense of collective identity, avoid oppression by the dictatorship, and enjoy family harmony and a relaxed life, most people choose to remain silent. In the Internet age, many people have through various means been able to see through the evil nature of the CCP, but they choose to go along with the current. It appears as if these people are very smart, but they inadvertently become the CCP’s accomplices. And eventually they run into trouble. Inflation, resource depletion, materialism, corruption, smog, water pollution, toxic food, gutter oil, unemployment, the gender imbalance, adult children having to live with their parents because housing is so unaffordable, ghost towns, garbage dumps, farmland shrinking, desertification, Communist Party political movements—all these are the outcome of silence and indifference to tyranny.
The tyranny of rulers and the indifference of the ruled complement each other. Countries with gangster regimes implement state terrorism. It gets more and more brutal because of the silence of most people.