Dignity of Female Political Prisoners in China

Written on June 7, 2011
Translated by Kriz cpec
Proofread by Michelle Adams and edited by Michelle Buchanan

Note: This article is written not only for female political prisoners, but also for all political prisoners, and every incarcerated compatriot in China.

For years I have not dared to speak to this subject despite my deep concern for the dignity of political prisoners. Because this, for the political prisoners, especially the female political prisoners, is a giant wound that bleeds forever, It has been something I really could not bear to face. But I am writing about it now because of something I witnessed on twitter.

The first tweet I saw after some days of being away from twitter was a sex-related one from Li Tiantian, a female lawyer in Shanghai who was made to disappear for more than three months during the “Jasmine revolution” in China. Shocked, I went through all of her tweets since the day of her release. Those tweets, unrestrained and wild, were completely different from how she used to speak and act before her disappearance. It made me think of my twitter friends who had written me to say that they were forced to surrender their twitter accounts, and that tweets from their account were not their own writings. So I assumed that Li Tiantian’s account was stolen from her, that those tweets were posted by the State Security officers with the intention of destroying her reputation. I made this thought public in a tweet.

Many twitter friends agreed with me. But Li Tiantian herself rejected that view and admitted directly that those tweets were her own writings.

There were some who thought she, understandably,was writing this way because she had been so badly hurt, while others figured that, after serious damage had been done to her dignity, she was accusing the sins of this regime with unprecedented bravery. It was until after I read Ding Dong’s compilation of Li Tiantian’s Weibo updates in “Why are Shanghai police interested in sex” – a blog post published on BlogChina, here, its English translation here – that I dared to believe those tweets were really by Li Tiantian herself.

Li Tiantian was detained due to the over-defensive approach the authorities employed against the “Jasmine revolution”. What she underwent was her dignity being shredded into pieces. From her experience we catch a glimpse of the abnormality of China’s judicial apparatus.

It causes me to reflect on the numerous brave and wise Chinese women, Lin Zhao, Zhang Zhixin, Li Jiulian, Zhong Haiyuan, and those women who were imprisoned because of April 5th Tiananmen incident, as mentioned in the book Blood Sacrifice, Dark River. The abuses they underwent were appalling. Zhang Zhixin was repeatedly raped by wardens and had gone insane, she ate mantou with menstruation.

There were forms of torture designed specifically to keep these political prisoners from speaking. Before execution, they stuffed Lin Zhao’s mouth with a rubber stopper. Zhang Zhixin’s throat was cut. It is said that these was done out of fear that they would shout “reactionary slogans”.
Zhung Haiyuan’s kidneys were taken from her, alive, before her execution, because a son of a high-ranking party cadre was waiting for kidney transplant.

Prior to her death, Li Jiulian was subjected to various forms of torture, one of which was having her jaw pierced shut with a bamboo stick. In the reportage Blood Sacrifice to the Red Soil there was a detailed record of the death of this respectable and pitiful woman. The system, and those living on it, did everything they could to inflict insults upon her. They tied her up, forced her to kneel. They fettered her, made her stand in public with a “Five Black Categories” banner on her; they anesthetized her in the head and stuffed bamboo tube into her mouth so that she could not shout. After public trial and an insulting parade through the streets, she was brought to the execution site. In her last moments before execution, the only way she could preserve her dignity was by refusing to be on her knees, yet the executioner shot at her leg. The abuses upon her after her death are something I would rather not write about,those details make me feel ashamed to be born and had lived in such a country.

There is a tradition of torture in Chinese history, many two-legged animals have an extra sense of joy when tormenting female prisoners. After being tainted with the communist authoritarian regime, this land is becoming ever more in need of humanity. The state apparatus, and the police force as well as the wardens who rely on it, inflict physical or mental abuse on the incarcerated. This has the singular intention of making plebeians realize that the authoritarian apparatus can willfully take away everything related to personal dignity, that those who find themselves crushed under that strong and powerful apparatus, their character and their body, will become dust.
If you compare the stories of martyrs who fearlessly faced their death in Chinese Communist Party’s revolution education, it appears that the way the CCP government treats it’s political prisoners, female political prisoners in particular, is probably unprecedented. Based on CCP’s own descriptions, prisons of the nationalist government, which were criticized as being very dark, were much more civil than prisons of CCP in the ways they treated political prisoners. For example, Jiang Xueqin could die a graceful death even at Zhazi Dong, which was known as the hell on earth. Before execution, she put on makeup, dressed in a clean indanthrene-blue RS qipao, a red sweater, and a snow white scarf. While walking toward the execution site, her head held high and with dignity, she shouted loud slogans like “long live the Communist Party” “down with the KMT”. Weddings at execution sites were even more poetic, to the extent that there were even imitations of them by students at Tiananmen Square on June 4th 1989. If these stories are not trustworthy because CCP made them up for propaganda and education purposes, we can site the examples of Ji Hongchang and Qu Qiubai. Before his execution, Ji Hongchang demanded out loud, “I die for fighting the Japanese, and for revolution. I will not be shot kneeling, and I will not fall after I die, get me a chair!” He also demanded the executioner to shoot in front of him, saying that a CCP member should die honorably, and must not be shot in the back. “I want to see for myself how Chiang Kaishek’s bullet takes my life!” In the end, he shouted slogans and died. “Bandit chieftain” Qu Qiubai could also write his dying note with grace and ease, he could groom himself, change clothes, sitting cross-legged and chanting Qijue poems before his death. When had the Nationalist government tied them up, put death sentence tokens on them, stuffed things in their mouths, cut their throats, or recklessly trampled upon the dignity of these political prisoners?
The world has entered 21st century, various oppositions have become part and parcel of the social life of democracies. Even in recently toppled dictatorships of Middle East and North Africa, the political opposition has long been able to voice their views in public. For instance, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt have both allowed political oppositions to have seats in the parliaments. It is only in China — leads by the self-proclaimed “the greatest, the most glorious and the most correct” CCP — that being a political oppositionist remains a dangerous matter, in that such people, once came under the authorities’ watchful eyes, would not only lose all their social status and job opportunities; their dignity would also be severely trampled upon. Let’s not mention Gao Zhisheng, a lawyer who has been subjected to various forms of destruction and insults because he did not observe the “forbidden rule” that no one shall speak for Falungong; let’s just take Li Tiantian for example, a woman who was caught by the authorities merely because of her out-of-line comments. The abuses she has gone through tells just how far and away CCP is from the word “civilization”.

Beijing has been promoting that China is rising. But whether or not a country is really rising is not judged by the sum of its GDP, nor is it judged by the number of rich and successful people that country has (as promoted in the state propaganda videos); it is judged by this–whether or not the people in this country can stand tall and live with dignity. All dissidents in China, in fact, commit but one “crime”: they insist on standing and living when the authority in Beijing forces all its subjects to knee for survival.

A regime that requires its subjects to kneel for survival will never be capable of leading the country toward prosperity, nor can it earn respect from the world.