Chen Qiu Shi said that few people are like him, having offended bot just the Left but also the right. While it’s definitely true that he had offended the Left, I’m not sure if he had really offended the Right. Most people on that side are not offended by what he said. They are merely suspicious that he could be an instrument of the CCP to show the public that they do allow some freedom of speech; a kind of a bait for the dissenters to come out of the closet. If Chen Qiu Shi can say such things without getting into trouble, maybe they too could do that.
How could Chen prove himself? First of all, is there really a need to when the burden of proof is on the accuser? Secondly, it’s virtually impossible, for instance, to prove that he is not working for the CIA even if he could show us all his bank statements. It’s easy to prove that something exists. You just need to bring out one sample of the exhibit. On the other hand, how do you prove that something does not exist? Can you search everywhere? How do you prove that you have actually searched everywhere?
Chen also pointed out that as a vocal, opinionated and independent-thinking person in China, the authorities can take three forms of action against him.
- Ruin his reputation
- Bankrupting him
- Injuring or killing him
Chen went on to explained why he was not bothered by the first two. As for the last, he said that if the government does anything to his parents, he would become a dissident with nothing to lose.
Chen Qiu Shi has disappeared in Wuhan while reporting on the inadequacies of the hospitals there. We don’t know if he’s dead or alive. One thing we do know, he is not an instrument of the CCP. He had been sincere in his criticisms of the government all along.
In 2002, Deng Liqun founded a New Youth Study Group which was a casual organisation of university students and young graduates. They were fans of socialism and were against Jiang Zemin’s capitalist leanings. Over half of the members were CCP members. They lamented the gradual erosion of Marxist values in China and posited that “Comrade Jiang needs to carry out serious self-criticism”.
Unknown to the group, co-founder Fan Erjun was a spy. He reported the group’s activities to the authorities, resulting in their arrest. Fan Erjun then changed his name to Fan Jinggang, and perhaps it was “survivor’s guilt” that made him stand by the vanquished group’s ideology. He founded Utopia 乌有之乡, a leftist movement in 2003. Unlike New Youth Study Group, Utopia’s timing was right. By then, Hu Jintao had taken over. To boost Hu’s popularity, there was a move to balance some of Jiang’s unbridled capitalism that had resulted in a yawning rich-poor gap. At the same time, popular nationalism was growing and Utopia’s philosophy went along with Hu Jintao’s policies to address inequality. While its website was blocked and censored numerous times to assure businesses that economic reforms would not be derailed, recent years saw its rival 炎黄春秋 shut down. Fan Jinggang did betray his friends, but he had also tried to redeem himself.
A similar kind of survivor’s guilt can also be seen in the late Liu Xiaobo. Most of us see him as martyr, but the Nobel Peace Prize winner was one of the leaders at Tiananmen Square in 1989. In the wake of the massacre, Liu made a statement on TV that he, along with other student leaders had negotiated the military at the eleventh hour and they had managed to get the students to clear the square before the tanks rolled in. Hence, nobody was killed. Liu was let off lightly along with other leaders like singer/songwriter Hou Dejian who “sang the same tune”, but in later years, he continued to push for freedom of speech and the rule of law. Liu had redeemed himself. He may have betrayed the fallen at Tiananmen Square to protect himself from the axe hanging above his head, but he continued the struggle for freedom and democracy and literally gave up his life for it.
Chen Qiu Shi was prepared for the sacrifice and he had already proven himself to all the doubters that he is not the CCP’s propaganda machine.