Murong Xuecun: “Who Gives You The Power To Deprive Citizens Of Their Right To Free Speech?”

Murong Xuecun

Hao Qun, 39, better known by his pen name Murong Xuecun, saw all of his weibos – Sina, Tencent, NetEase, and Sohu — deleted on Saturday. Successive attempts to re-register were quickly thwarted as well.

He lost 1.85 million followers, but it’s China and its ignoble band of fucking censors who have lost more: repute. Face. Or does that suddenly not matter?

Murong Xuecun spoke out in an essay published on Wednesday in the Guardian. The whole thing, translated by Helen Gao, is worth a read, but here are some highlights.

On a possible reason for his microblogs’ deletion:

Another possibility concerns the “He Bing incident.” He Bing is a professor at Chinese University of Political Science and Law, and has over 430,000 followers on Sina Weibo. According to an announcement issued by Xinhua on 10 May, he has been silenced by the State Internet Information Office for “purposely spreading rumours.” He wrote a statement responding to this accusation, arguing that the issuance of the punishment did not follow standard administrative procedure, and declaring that he was preparing to file a lawsuit. He asked me to help him retweet the statement. I tried five times, and saw the message censored each time. The next night, I posted a message on Weibo, asking the State Internet Information Office to answer the following questions: Who gives you the power to deprive citizens of their right to free speech? What are the relevant legal standards and procedures for identifying rumours? On what basis do you accuse He Bing of spreading rumours? Why do you repeatedly delete He’s statement? Why would you not allow him to defend himself? As one can imagine, the State Internet Information Office is not interested in answering my questions. In 20 minutes, all my Weibo accounts were deleted.

On the difficulty of “reincarnating” online:

My next reincarnation is going to be more difficult. The Chinese government makes sure its internet technology keeps pace with the times, which leaves me effectively no loophole to exploit. On the morning of 13 May, I attempted to re-register on Weibo, and after an hour of typing almost 30 versions of verification codes, I still couldn’t get registered. My IP address, which is static, has been blocked. Registering a new account would require a verification code to be sent to a mobile number. I have only one mobile phone, which has similarly been blocked.

And on what it feels like to be “silenced”:

“It’s as if you were chatting and laughing with friends in a brilliantly lit house, when you suddenly fell into a dark pit,” I told him. “You yell at the top of your lungs, but no one can hear you. You struggle to get out, but only sink deeper.” I also need to console those who love me, and let them know everything is fine. In this abyss, I am once again visited by the biting chill of uncertainty, of not knowing what will come next. I am not as prepared as I thought. I am still scared, but I will not stop struggling, because I believe my silence would only embolden those who are trampling on my rights, and will trample on the rights of others. I need to stand bold straight and tell those in the “relevant organs”: you can never take away my rights. This abyss, I believe, will not remain dark for ever. As long as I keep up my effort, I will eventually find a piece of flint and kindle a tiny spark to illuminate the square inch in front of my feet.

We’re used to hearing stories like this, and Murong, admittedly, was ready for his inevitable silencing — “I am mentally prepared,” he wrote. Yet it’s maddening all the same when it happens.

We’re glad Murong is continuing to speak out, and maybe now will feel more empowered to do so — at least in English media. What else would the government do, mm? (Note: we know what they can do, but would they?)

Chinese internet: ‘a new censorship campaign has commenced’ (The Guardian)

34 Responses to “Murong Xuecun: “Who Gives You The Power To Deprive Citizens Of Their Right To Free Speech?””

  1. Jonathan Alpart

    I love how he just did nothing but ask a string of extremely logical questions. The Chinese government looks preposterous. This has been a bad year for them. Hopefully they’ll stop this assholery.

    Reply
    • King Baeksu

      Love all the CCP apologists over there going on about how China is “still a developing country.” You’ve had 5,000 years — how much longer do you need, folks?

      Leaving aside the issue of culture, I would argue that the CCP is one of the primary reasons why China is still a “developing country.” For example, without public accountability or oversight in the awarding of government contracts for infrastructure projects, the promotion of corruption and attendant low-grade work is almost inevitable. There’s a major road near my house here in Shenyang that was repaved a little less than a year ago. Yesterday I nearly hit my head on the ceiling of the bus because there were so many potholes in it already. Where’s the contractor who paved it over, and shouldn’t they be held accountable for such shoddy work? Yes, but I suspect the local city government can’t be bothered to look into the matter because they probably got a cut of the action themselves.

      There’s a reason why China keeps on building tofu buildings and tofu infrastructure, which in turn is why China continues to be a “developing country” — which at least half the time actually means “fixing the fucked-up job people didn’t do properly the first time around.” So it’s a bit rich and ironic when CCP apologists claim that the CCP is leading the country forward, when it’s one of the main reasons why China is still “a developing country,” in fact.

      Reply
      • Jonathan Alpart

        China *is* a developing country by all metrics, and saying it shouldn’t be because they have been around “5,000 years” is ridiculous. The overall progress of humankind has happened in spurts in different locations throughout history – each civilization making invaluable contributions to the whole – and the recent speed of progress has increased so much exponentially it has shrunk the passing stretches of time. It’s not like other countries just naturally become “developed” after passing a certain mark of time. It’s a process that all countries have either undergone or are currently undergoing.

        There are countless reasons why certain countries developed faster than others – geography, microbiology and happenstance to name a few. China was the leading civilization for a long time, but they missed the boat on industrialization and modernization for various reasons all having nothing to do at all with the current leadership. I agree that the CCP got a very late start, but it’s hard to imagine anyone possibly catching up faster than they have in the past few decades.

        I can’t believe you are basing your argument around your own personal experiences driving down a bumpy road in Shenyang. Not only is that incredibly insulated, but shitty roads exist all over, even in the first world.

        I’m imagining you right now on this bus bitching arrogantly to people who could care less what you think on your way to English class.

        Reply
  2. king Baeksu

    “I agree that the CCP got a very late start, but it’s hard to imagine anyone possibly catching up faster than they have in the past few decades.”

    I can think of quite a few, actually. Ever been to South Korea? It was one of the poorest countries in the world in 1953 at the end of the Korean War, and yet thirty years later it was well on its way to being a fully “developed’ First World nation. And what about Taiwan, or post-1945 Japan?

    In any case, despite all your huffing and puffing you have not addressed my main thesis above, namely, that the CCP’s stifling grip on power has done as much to retard genuine development in China as it has done to promote it.

    “I can’t believe you are basing your argument around your own personal experiences driving down a bumpy road in Shenyang. Not only is that incredibly insulated, but shitty roads exist all over, even in the first world.”

    I’ve travelled all over China and Shenyang is fairly representative of what I see in this country. I see dozens of new high-rise apartment complexes going up in this city and none of my Chinese friends think they’ll last longer than thirty years. The apartment I live in was built a decade ago and it’s already falling apart. The point is that because workers and contractors here do not do a proper job the first time around, the “building” or “development” of modern China will never be finished, and hence it will be a “developing country” for decades left to come, if not hundreds. And did you miss the part where the road I mentioned was repaved less than a year ago? Surely roads should last more than a year, shouldn’t they?

    “I’m imagining you right now on this bus bitching arrogantly to people who could care less what you think on your way to English class.”

    Actually, I have 500 graduate students and we recently had a class on this very subject. They pretty much all agree with me, and had plenty to say about the crumbling facilities here on campus. For you to label us all “arrogant” when the hubris of the CCP no knows bounds simply laughable. Well, thanks for at least one good chuckle!

    Reply
    • Jonathan Alpart

      We’re talking about China, not South Korea, Taiwan or post-war Japan. Irregardless of the fact that the USA was directly involved in their developments, that’s apples and oranges. They are also much smaller countries, and Japan in particular had already been modernizing. Don’t forget they were neck and neck with the west up until their defeat?

      You’re right that a lot of the construction here is shoddy, but there are a lot of marvelous engineering feats as well. The expanding subway system in Beijing is fantastic. So are the new trains.

      Anyway, we just talk over each other. China has plenty of problems, yes, everyone knows this. I guess I just tend to focus on the positive where you focus on the negative. Nothing is black and white, though!

      Reply
  3. King Baeksu

    “We’re talking about China, not South Korea, Taiwan or post-war Japan”

    Dude, do you even read what you write? You said, “it’s hard to imagine anyone possibly catching up faster than they have in the past few decades,” and I showed that that was a factually incorrect statement, regardless of whatever qualifications you may wish to subsequently add.

    “You’re right that a lot of the construction here is shoddy, but there are a lot of marvelous engineering feats as well. The expanding subway system in Beijing is fantastic.”

    You’re being a bit arrogant yourself if you think Beijing is at all representative of the rest of China. It’s a showcase city, much as Pyongyang is for North Korea. That being said, if you think your defense of the status quo is somehow more “positive” and “morally superior” to my own curmudgeonly position, I beg to disagree. You are defending half-assed development and systemic corruption, whereas I am advocating a more equitable and higher-level form of development. Which is more positive?

    To recap: There’s a reason why the term “tofu” buildings or “tofu” construction has become such a potent meme in China, and is so often invoked nowadays. It’s because the term identifies a very real and widespread phenomenon in China that resonates with a great many people here. And the term was coined by a Chinese, not an “arrogant” foreigner such as me, just so we’re clear about that.

    And you still have not addressed my central thesis, basically, because you have very little chance of countering it.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Alpart

      Yes, I do read what I’m write, and when I write “it’s hard to imagine anyone possibly catching up faster than they have in the past few decades,” I’m talking about the speed of development IN CHINA as it pertains TO CHINA, so comparing it to other countries is irrelevant. That’s why I said “apples and oranges.” Pretty much every scholar or reporter concedes the point that China’s growth has been nothing short of a miracle.

      I know also that Beijing is not representative of the whole of China, and I have visited and lived in many other places – Hangzhou, Yichang, Wuhan, Chongqing, Xi’an, Dali, Kunming, Hohhot, Hefei, Shenzhen, Nanchang, Nanning, Taiyuan – as well as smaller towns and villages. There are a lot of awful, rundown aspects of some of these places, but extremely impressive aspects as well, especially considering what conditions were like even 10, 20, 30 years ago.

      If I’m more positive than you it’s only because I don’t seem to take every chance I can get to shit all over everything. Just about every comment you write on this blog is some smarmy snipe about how far above this place you are, and how everything would be better if you were given the reigns. Yes, China is fucked up and has massive problems – like the tofu buildings – but there is a lot to admire about it, too.

      “I am advocating a more equitable and higher-level form of development.”

      Everyone is, but it’s not just going to happen just because your bus ride is bumpy and you think it should be smooth. Shit, if things were that easy there’d be no problems.

      Reply
      • King Baeksu

        “If I’m more positive than you it’s only because I don’t seem to take every chance I can get to shit all over everything.”

        Spoken like a true bourgeois liberal. For someone who lives in an officially socialist country led by a party that calls itself “Communist,” you seem curiously resistant to the notion of critique. In fact, it has a central and very long history in the Marxist tradition. It’s only fake Communists and CCP apologists who seem to have a problem with it.

        “Shit, if things were that easy there’d be no problems.”

        Actually, the solution to just about every problem addressed in this thread, including the travails of Murong Xuecun, is quite simple, and we all know what that is.

        Reply
        • Jonathan Alpart

          I don’t get it, so are you are real Communist then?

          I have no problem with critique, I just don’t see why you have to take an “all or nothing” approach to this country. I see you are American; how come when people criticize America it’s always “yes, we have our problems, but we are still the greatest country in the world” but with China it’s always a hyperbolic jeremiad? Are you this critical of America?

          Let’s stay on topic…what is the solution you are referring to?

          Reply
          • King Baeksu

            “Hyperbolic jeremiad”? Hmm. I think I’ve offered a fairly dispassionate and realistic assessment of the problem of China’s development in this thread, without stooping to smear your character with foul language, I might add. In any case, if you look at the vast majority of posts on Beijing Cream, they are not exactly peaches and cream. If BC offered more posts on the kind of Chinese culture I like, be it Liao Yiwu or Yu Hua, my posting history here might not be so lopsided, but obviously high-brow literature or film don’t exactly drive the hits around here, do they?

            I’m going to pretend that you did not actually just suggest that 300 million Americans all think the same and are rabidly jingoistic. In my case, I was arrested in San Francisco protesting the first Gulf War, so does getting thrown in jail by virtue of denouncing US imperialism count as being “critical of America”? I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the fuckin’ walk, too. How ’bout you?

            I am not a Communist, although I think it’s a great idea that unfortunately does not tend to work out in reality due to the messiness of human nature. But I do think that Marxism offers a cogent critique of capitalism, which certainly seems to be the road that China is walking down these days.

            Do you remember Occupy Wall Street? The people who started it are anarchists. That’s really where my sympathies lie these days.

          • Jonathan Alpart

            You’re obviously a smart guy, and care about people, but you’d go a lot further convincing people to see your side if you didn’t call people CCP apologists all the time. That’s a pretty strong conclusion to draw for people you know nothing about.

  4. King Baeksu

    “You’d go a lot further convincing people to see your side if you didn’t call people CCP apologists all the time.”

    The CCP has a monopoly on power in present-day China. Ergo, if they’re going to take credit for China’s successes, they must accept blame for whatever policy failures have accrued on their watch as well.

    Moreover, when we look at the many incontrovertible faults of the present regime, from kleptocratic bottom-to-top wealth extraction to epic-scale environmental savaging to wholesale deracination of much modern Chinese culture, one cannot help but conclude that anyone who defends the status quo here is a priori a CCP apologist. It really is that simple.

    In any case, my initial remarks on CCP apologists in this thread referred to commenters on the Guardian story, so I would suggest that your defensiveness on this matter is actually rather telling.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Alpart

      There you go again! It’s not telling of anything except that you have directly labeled me as an apologist many, many times on this blog, even accusing me of colluding with the Party as absurd as that sounds. Don’t act like you’ve forgotten.

      Anyway, look at us two losers arguing on a Saturday night!

      Reply
      • King Baeksu

        It’s pointless to have an intellectual debate with you because you answer logical arguments with emotional bluster. Such is the Internet, I suppose.

        You’re welcome to call me a loser because I really don’t care what some random blog commenter thinks about my personal life. I had such a fantastic Friday evening that it didn’t even end until Saturday afternoon and I’m still recovering. Losing has never hurt so good!

        Reply
  5. RhZ

    The column was quite good. It emphasized on the wide power of government organs and how all of these orgs and individuals can unilaterally take away people’s rights, any rights at all. Indeed, organizations like Weibo are required by law to suppress the words of Chinese people, or risk administrative punishment.

    People in power just have the ability to ruin others at their whim, without a reason and as easily as picking up the phone. Think about the guy who can’t leave the country cuz someone with guanxi put his name on the list of foreigners who have lawsuits against them. So far no solution in that case. Think about a system where a guy has secret police watching him around the clock, by order of whoever, but then finally is able to walk out of the country because his name wasn’t on the list that customs uses of dissidents. And think about a country that hounds people into leaving the country, only to have the 50 centers tell everyone that these people are not influential, nobody knows them.

    China’s government today solves every problem with repression and the removal of people’s rights, and the expansion of government power. And that’s how its gonna be, until its not any more. Which, given how brutally the government controls dissent, will be a really ugly day.

    Reply
    • Jonathan Alpart

      “Think about the guy who can’t leave the country cuz someone with guanxi put his name on the list of foreigners who have lawsuits against them.”

      No fly list.

      “Think about a system where a guy has secret police watching him around the clock, by order of whoever, but then finally is able to walk out of the country because his name wasn’t on the list that customs uses of dissidents.”

      NSA wiretaps, PATRIOT Act, NDAA, expanded FBI surveillance.

      “And think about a country that hounds people into leaving the country, only to have the 50 centers tell everyone that these people are not influential, nobody knows them.”

      Fox News.

      Wank on!

      Reply
      • RhZ

        Do you want more abuse so that then you can complain about how everyone thinks you are an apologist? Piss off!

        The fucking guy can’t get out of the country because of some entry into a database, its Kafka-esque, where is the fucking equivalence to the US?

        Dissidents are beaten and tortured for years in some cases, where is the fucking equivalence Jonathan? One person, Jose Padilla, compared to thousands in China on a yearly basis.

        50 centers, which exist as you finally realized, even in English, are paid with government money. Fox news, not so much, fucking equivalence??

        God you are a piece of work. And I think you enjoy the abuse. Now piss off home foul wanker!

        Reply
        • Jonathan Alpart

          Do you know what the No Fly List is?

          Do you know what Guantanamo Bay is?

          I know Fox News is not paid with by government money, it’s corporate money, which supports and dictates the government through lobbying. What’s the difference where the money comes from – the result is the same, just comes through a different pathway with a different label.

          Just because what I’ve listed are not the *exact same* as in China, you are that dense that you can’t see the connection?

          And I am aware and have been aware of 50 centers.

          No, I don’t like the abuse, but I don’t like having my name tarnished simply expressing my opinions. Gee, someone like you who is all about free speech should be a little more supportive of unpopular opinions.

          Look at you, hiding behind your RhZ name, dishing out insults to anyone dastardly enough to think differently that you. You are so like those you claim to despise. You coward, how about revealing your real name, or even meeting in person? I’d love to see if you express yourself so boldly face to face!

          Reply
          • RhZ

            …and we have come full circle. Let’s watch the steps:

            1. Alpart writes vague comment that looks like a false equivalence.
            2. I point out the equivalence is false, and mention that 50 centers use this tactic all the time.
            3. Alpart gets pissed off because people are dragging his name in the dirt, see, and that ain’t cool, see.
            4. Alpart replies to a further comment with a classic false equivalence comment.
            5. I point out, again, that its a false comparison. Yes I can see the connection, no its not the least bit relevant, unless we are discussing how the US should be careful not to devolve down to China’s level.
            6. Alpart has a hissy fit because his poor name got dragged in the mud.

            Your name gets tarnished because you say stupid shit, but pls do go on, lord knows your name ain’t gonna get no cleaner anytime soon. You wanna pass out blame, look in the mirror. I would call you a useful idiot but I am not sure you are particularly useful.

          • Jonathan Alpart

            Dead-on. Haha, I could see how you would think that, but you still don’t get me.

            I’m not making any false equivalencies, I’m merely providing a mirror to you.

            You get on your soapbox comment after comment holding China up to a standard. A standard of what? A standard that doesn’t exist. The USA certainly doesn’t live up to it. That’s my point with the “false equivalences.” I’m never saying that the US is worse than China, or that China shouldn’t improve. I’m saying there are no easy answers, the reality is murky, and there is a lot more to take into account than just your own, hardened point of view.

            Whatever solution there is for China – and we all want to see China improve the lot of its people – it’s certainly not going to come from whatever we think we know about the world, because the world right now is all pretty much different shades of black. It’s only going to come from thinking deeper about the assumptions we hold, and pushing ourselves to new places.

            So when I bring up Fox News and Guantanemo, I’m not wagging my tongue at you. I’m saying, “yes, China sucks, but what example does it have to follow?”

            In the moral and social vacuum of contemporary China, what truths can they anchor themselves to? Are we not having crises of our own in the west?

            I like playing devil’s advocate and throwing up dissenting opinions. They’re just comments meant to breed some kind of new insight or a new discussion. I’m just not eloquent enough or clear enough, I guess?

            Sure, I say stupid shit sometimes, like any person does from time to time. I use my real name, too, because I’m willing to stand behind what I’ve said. I can admit when I’m wrong, and I often do, but I refuse to feel guilty about failing to reach the “correct” conclusions because I thought for myself.

            Does that mean I should be dehumanized, disrespected or driven to silence through humilation? You know who else says “stupid shit” depending on who you ask? Murong Xuecun! Get it now?

            I think this a very well-written and exciting blog, and personally I’d like to see it’s comments reach a higher level beyond grizzled expats shouting over each other. (I’ve been guilty of that, too.) You think very highly of your opinions about this country, but in all honesty they are very simple. Censorship is bad. No shit. The CCP is corrupt. Yes, I also got that memo.

            Maybe we could actually have some real discussions instead of everyone competing to see who can hate the Chinese government in the most sophisticated way?

          • RhZ

            Meh. You are like a monkey flinging poo because its fun. You like pissing people off and having them lay into you. There is no high-mindedness or brothers-in-arms debating coming from your side, and your occasional comments to that effect are just bizarre to be honest.

  6. DubMe

    Jonathan Alpart – I do get your point – and its refreshing to read some comments which go a little beyond the shallowness of everyday commenting on the Internet – without being personal or anything. No idea why the other commenters don’t seem to understand your point. Maybe they just don’t want to get it…

    “No fly list / NSA wiretaps, PATRIOT Act, NDAA, expanded FBI surveillance / Fox News” made it quite clear… We have the same shite/madness going on where we are from (I am from Germany). Maybe the madness is just a little more sophisticated than in China (where it is more obvious). But I am also sure that things on this part in will “improve” in China…

    Of course knowing that things aren’t always that different elsewhere – doesn’t necessarily make things better in China. But it helps trying to see things in a wider perspective. Less black and white…

    Well, I am not going to get into any more detail. Sometimes the internet ain’t the place for that – and I try to get away from the screen once in a while…

    Next time I am in China we should all go out for a beer :)

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • RhZ

      Yes that’s exactly right! Why, just the other day the government made a new rule forbidding university professors from talking about the many mistakes of the Party and about official corruption. But in Germany, the right to free speech is also limited, for instance neo-nazi hate speech is illegal. So its totally the same, just a difference of degree!

      And certainly things are going to get better and better! As we know, in about 2007 a classic leftist purge was carried out in Chongqing, with murder, torture, long prison sentences and subversion of legal institutions and rules. Even a large number of policemen were tortured and imprisoned, isn’t that fabulous! Then, around the same time, a campaign against dissidents nationwide also was begun, including, you guessed it, torture, murder, harassment and intimidation and long prison sentences, plus subversion of legal institutions and rules. So, clearly, things are going to get better and better!

      Let’s meet up for a drink sometime and chat about China’s wonderful rise under the guidance of the party! It will be fun!!

      Reply
    • Jonathan Alpart

      Thanks for your comment. This was all weighing way too heavily on me than it should have. You made my day, dude! I’d be happy to meet for a drink, and anyone else is welcome!

      Reply
  7. King Baeksu

    To answer Murong Xuecun’s question, “Who Gives You The Power To Deprive Citizens Of Their Right To Free Speech?”

    Um, no one gave it to them. They took that power by force a long while back now. Does anyone really think they’re just going to hand it over now without a fight?

    “Every Communist must grasp the truth: Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

    These are the kind of people you are dealing with, Murong Xuecun. Your liberal bleating and whining are useless in the face of such a ruthless opponent. They just don’t give a fuck.

    Reply

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