NPC delegate advises changing the sentence for accepting a bribe

China’s lianghui, or “Two Sessions,” has convened, and delegates from across the country have gathered in Beijing to discuss changes to law and policy. On March 3, Guangdong lawyer and NPC delegate Zhu Lieyu described his proposal for changing China’s criminal law on bribery, calling for lawmakers to lower the minimum sentence for accepting a bribe of 100,000 RMB from 10 years to one year, raising the maximum sentence from 15 years to 40 years, as well as replacing the suspended death sentence – which Gu Kailai received last year – with life imprisonment in a remote desert prison.


Below is my translation of Sina’s article on this proposal.




NPC delegate advises changing the sentence for accepting a bribe of 100,000 RMB to one year

The average income has tripled, but the penalties for corruption have not changed, remarks Zhu Lieyu

Sina Quick Report – Special correspondents Luo Shi, Li Guohui

 “Since 1997, when the criminal laws currently in effect were established, China’s disposable per-capita income has changed greatly, and we must make corresponding changes to the standard length of sentences.” NPC delegate and Guangdong lawyer Zhu Lieyu plans to put forward his proposal, “On changing regulations requiring unreasonably long sentences for the crime of taking bribes,” in which he calls for the standard sentences for accepting bribes to be adjusted according to the actual development of China’s society and economy, and also calls for the establishment of a system to adjust the sentencing every five years.

●Suggestion #1

Accepting bribes totaling 100,000 RMB should result in one year in prison

Zhu Lieyu’s proposal points out that the average disposable income of China’s urban residents has risen to 21,810 RMB in 2011 from 5,160 RMB in 1997, while that of rural residents has risen to 6,977 RMB from 2,090 RMB, which represents an increase of 323% and 234% respectively. However, in judicial practice today, the standards of 1997, in which accepting bribes of over 100,000 RMB could result in 10 or more years in prison, are still in effect. “This is a clear example of an excessively harsh sentence,” stated Zhu Lieyu.

 “The criminal law from 1997 established ‘100,000 RMB’ as the basic standard for corruption, as it was equivalent to 50 times the yearly income of a rural resident, or 20 times the yearly income of an urban resident. With regards to purchasing power, 100,000 RMB today is the equivalent of 10,000 RMB in 1997.” Therefore, Zhu recommends that the criminal law’s sentence of at least ten years for accepting bribes of 100,000 RMB be changed to a sentence of at least one year.

He also advised that standards sentences for the crime of accepting bribes be adjusted every five years according to factors including the development of the economy and society, the living standards of the people, and the price of commodities.

●Suggestion #2

Sentences should be capped at 40 years

 “According to the criminal law currently in effect, the sentence for a single crime, excepting those laid out in Articles 50 and 69, must be at least 6 months, but no longer than 15 years.” Zhu’s proposal explains that the maximum sentence for a single crime is set too low at 15 years, meaning that sentences for the crime of accepting bribes may be restricted by that upper cap, and therefore not equal to the crime.

The proposal raises the examples of Xie Wuwei, the county party secretary of Jinggu county, Simao Region, Yunnan province, who was sentenced to 10 years for accepting a bribe of 100,000 RMB, and that of Sun Duokang, the CEO of Qinghai Investment Co. Ltd., who took bribes totalling 1,686,000 RMB and was sentenced to 10 years. The latter embezzled 16 times the amount of the former, but their sentences were exactly the same. “This kind of result is not only unacceptable to the criminals, but also to people in our society,” said Zhu Lieyu.

He recommends that the concrete standards for sentences as well as the rules for sentencing for the crime of accepting bribes be adjusted in accordance with the actual development of the economy, and that the basic standard for sentencing for the crime of accepting a bribe of 100,000 RMB be at least one year, while raising the maximum sentence for accepting a bribe to 40 years.

●Suggestion #3

Changing the suspended death sentence to life in prison in exile

The proposal states that the suspended death sentence is a special kind of punishment created by China, and it played an active role in China under certain historical conditions, but as the conditions for a suspended death sentence in our criminal law have been changed from “resisting reform and maliciously plotting,” to “intentionally committing a crime,” the suspended death sentence has become a life sentence in all but name.

Analysis within the proposal shows that criminals whose death sentences are suspended are already unable to commit crimes because they are under strict supervision, while the phenomenon of criminals being sentenced to death and having their sentences commuted has been an important reason why China still has a high rate of death sentences.

 “Criminals who receive suspended death sentences have committed crimes more serious than those who have received life in prison, but less serious than those who have been sentenced to death and are set to be immediately executed.” The proposal therefore recommends that the suspended death sentence be changed to life in prison in exile. “Changing the suspended death sentence into a life in prison in exile sentence, sending prisoners to specially designated national prisons in the northwestern desert or Gobi desert where living conditions are hard, will allow for prisoners to still serve life in prison while receiving additional punishment, and will also greatly lower the rate at which death sentences are given in China, demonstrating China’s policy of appropriately applying the death penalty.”


A Call for Marriage Equality in China

Two women recently made headlines in China when they were denied the right to marry. In response, some parents from China’s chapter of PFLAG sent this letter to the delegates of China’s National People’s Congress, which will convene soon, calling for marriage equality for their children. Below is my English translation of the letter.


Greetings, respected NPC delegates!

We are from all parts of China, and our children are homosexuals, so we are called “Comrade Parents” [“comrade” is slang for homosexual in Chinese]. Our children are unable to legally form a family with their beloved partners, becoming husband and husband or wife and wife, because of their sexual orientation, which has caused a great deal of inconvenience for them in a number of ways, including in everyday life and when they seek medical treatment.

It is widely accepted in the field of sociology that homosexuals represent 3-5% of the population. That means that China has about 60 million homosexuals, and because China’s Marriage Law defines marriage as a partnership between one man and one woman, they are unable to enter the halls of marriage. Some of our children have been with their same-sex partners for almost ten years; they care for and love each other dearly, but they are unable to legally sign for their partners when they are ill and in need of an operation. As the parents of homosexuals, we are often worried, because they cannot legally marry, and this impacts to various degrees their ability to adopt, sign [for a partner] in the event an operation is needed due to illness, inherit their partner’s assets, or even buy a house.

What is even more incredible is that our homosexual children have the right to legally marry opposite-sex partners, even if they do not love someone of the opposite sex. It is widely known that when homosexuals marry partners of the opposite sex, this leads to the serious societal problem of the heterosexual partner becoming a “beard,” leading even more people to live unhappy lives. Our laws can’t possibly be encouraging homosexuals to marry heterosexuals, can they?

Furthermore, homosexuality is not a violation of any Chinese law currently in effect; homosexuals have all rights afforded to citizens of the People’s Republic of China, and homosexuals cannot be denied the right to marry for long.

We strongly request that NPC delegates and CPPCC committee members give their attention to this matter, listen to the voices of 120 million “Comrade Parents,” acknowledge the wishes of 60 million homosexuals for equality and dignity, and call for a the Marriage Law to be changed as soon as possible, so that China’s 60 million homosexual citizens can have an equal right to marry.

Thank you for taking the time to pay attention to our request, and we wish you all the best in your work and health!

 Best regards,

 Some parents of PFLAG China

February 25, 2013



"An Urgent Call to Immediately Scrap the One Child Policy"

This open letter was published on August 18, 2012, but recently recieved attention again online due to a statement by Wang Xia, the official in charge of China's policies on reproduction, that the One Child Policy would not be scrapped anytime soon. In this translation, I've used "One Child Policy" interchangeably with all versions of China's policy on reproduction, although a small minority of people are allowed to have more than one child under certain conditions. The original Chinese of the letter can be found here; my article on reactions to this letter and Wang Xia's statement is on Tea Leaf Nation.


An Urgent Call to Immediately Scrap the One Child Policy

To China’s 18th Central Politburo Standing Committee:

China’s population growth has slowed dramatically over the past ten to twenty years. The 2010 census revealed that the overall birth rate for women (the average number of children each woman has) has dropped to 1.18 from 4.5 in 1973, making China’s birthrate one of the lowest in the world. China needs to increase its birthrate now; the strict One Child Policy is already out of date. There are also cadres at the most local levels who will infringe upon others’ human rights without compunction, creating conflict between officials and the people, leading to an increase in public anger and creating international issues, greatly harming the international reputation of China. There is no way we can continue to maintain this policy, which is nothing but wrong after wrong after wrong.

When the One Child Policy was first introduced, China was one of the poorest countries in the world, with an average annual salary of less than $300 USD. Agriculture accounted for 30% of the economy, and almost all products were in short supply. At the same time, the birth rate was very high, and the population was increasing rapidly. China’s economy was faced with such problem as difficulty in providing enough employment, low average food production, and insufficient investment in education. These were the conditions that gave birth to the One Child Policy. It required that it be strictly enforced in cities, and enforced somewhat less strictly in the countryside. For this, the Chinese people made a great sacrifice. Many families were unable to realize their wish of having both sons and daughters. The terrible violence of local officials, destruction of houses, confiscation of livestock, and forced abortions also became common occurrences.

China’s economic condition is much different today. In terms of size; it is second only to the US, and per capita annual income is more than $5,000 USD. 200-300 million rural residents have found work in urban areas. The people have also developed an increased awareness and understanding of human rights. After maintaining an outdated policy restricting reproduction for so long, it has gradually lost its place in the changing environment, and its negative consequences have become more and more obvious. Especially apparent is that the percentage of the population made up by young people has rapidly dropped. Although the population has increased by 40% since 1976, the number of primary school students has decreased by 33%, from 150 million to 100 million. Primary schools have been merged all over the country. There were half as many primary schools in 2010 as there were in 2000. Due to the fact that the birth rate and number of children has continued to drop, there have been fewer and fewer secondary school students as well. Universities are facing a lack of students too, and schools are competing for students. China’s present condition – one of an extremely low birth rate and lack of children – is one of the few of its kind in the world. The rate that China’s population is aging is faster than any other country has ever seen.

The increase in population has dropped from 18 million per year in 1978 to 6 million now. If we continue the One Child Policy, the population will peak in 2017 at about 1.35 billion, and after that it will begin to shrink. Even if we scrap the One Child Policy immediately, after about ten years, China’s population will begin to shrink. At that point, China will have about 1.4 billion people. Previous predictions that the population would reach 1.5 or 1.6 billion it the policy were not in place are far from the truth.


The main changes in China’s population over the past ten years:

In 2003, the number of people aged 20-39 and in their prime working years began to shrink. This has already become apparent in the increasingly serious problem of labor shortages.

In 2010, children under the age of 14 made up only 16.6% of the population. Even if everyone could live to be 70, and the birthrate would remain stable, children 14 and under would make up only 20% of the population. At present, they make up only 16.6%, lower than the global average of 27%, and much lower than the average among developing nations of 29%. China is facing a serious lack of children.

The overall birthrate among women was 4.5 in 1973, 2.8 in 1979, 2.3 in 1990, 1.5 in 1995, 1.22 in 2000, and 1.18 in 2010. This dramatic drop in the birthrate is mainly due to economic and societal development, although the One Child Policy does play a role. Therefore, the immediate scrapping of the One Child Policy could not possibly result in a dramatic increase in the birthrate. That’s why they say that development is the best form of birth control.

According to the demographic breakdown of China’s population, the following events must occur in the next 20 years. These events are inevitabilities, just like ten-year-olds today will definitely be twenty years old in ten years. No matter how we adjust the Policy, we will not be able to change or avert the following events:

The number of children of childbearing age reached a point of negative growth in 2012. This means that China’s reproductive ability is currently going in decline.

In 2012 the ratio the non-working population to the 15-64 year old working population increased. The percentage of children below the age of 15 shrunk, but the percentage of people over the age of 65 grew rapidly. After taking into account both of these changes, the ratio of non-working to working has begun to increase. By 2015, 15-64 year old working-age people will hit negative growth, and after that, we will face the issues of long-term labor shortages and insufficient consumption by young people.

In 2015, the “bachelor crisis” will start to become apparent, and after that, the crisis will become more serious by the year. By 2023, there will be more than 20 million bachelors, and the number will eventually hit 40 million. These 30 or 40 million bachelors will forever lose the possibility of forming a family during the years they could have had children.

From 1975 to 2010, more than 220 million only children were born. About 4% of all children die before age 25. Even if some of these families successfully have another child, there will still be several million families that suffer the pain of losing their only child.


If we do not change the present One Child Policy, the following events will occur:

If we continue to maintain a birthrate of 1.18, China’s population will stop growing by 2017 at about 1.35 billion.

Thereafter, the population will continue to shrink rapidly. By the end of this century, China’s population will shrink by two thirds, leaving only 460 million people, and after another hundred years, in 220, there will be only 68 million people left. This nightmarish possibility is a clear reason China’s One Child Policy is not sustainable.

If we scrap the currently enforced One Child Policy, will the birthrate bounce back up dramatically? The vast majority of population experts predict that it would not. This is because the current low birthrate is not entirely due to the One Child Policy. What we must fear is that even if we stopped controlling the population with this policy, the birthrate may not reach a high enough figure to keep the population balanced. What China actually needs is to encourage people to have children, at an appropriate rate, in order to reach an appropriate rate of birth, and not to continue to limit reproduction.


We should change how we think about the relationship between population and the economy:

One of the main reasons China controls the population is that it is believed that the average amount of resources per person will determine whether economic development is hard or easy. A large population would increase the burden for society as a whole. Therefore, those who have more children than allowed by law are forced to pay fines for societal benefits. This kind of thinking overestimates how much resources can restrict economic development, and overlooks the fact that a large population results in a more efficient division of labor, more innovation, the gathering of industry in one place and other benefits. Furthermore, the idea that “A large population leads to poverty” is completely unsupported by the facts. There are rich countries with bountiful resources like the US, Australia, Canada, and there are rich countries and regions with extremely limited resources, like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. In truth, after industrialization, not a single country in the world was unable to develop due to a lack of resources. East Asian countries, with comparatively limited resources, were able to develop very well, and countries in Latin America, with bountiful resources, did not develop as well. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, many countries experienced rapid population growth, and the percentage of people in the world who were Chinese did not increase markedly. It’s just that China did not grow like the four “Little Dragons” and Japan due to in the implementation of incorrect economic policies, so its economy did not grow along with its population.

It’s evident that wealth and average per capita resources are unrelated: wealth is related only to a country’s development model. In the short term, the size of a population does not necessarily have a positive or negative impact on its economic development. Looking back in history, population and the level of economic development are positively correlated. However, a skewing of a population’s demographic makeup will certainly have a negative impact on long-term economic development. The latest research in economics shows that after a country’s working population ages, the ability of the country’s youth to innovate and start new businesses drops dramatically, and the entire country’s competitiveness in science and technology weakens. In the past 20 years, the changes in Japan’s economy have proven that an aging population and lack of youth have an impact on innovation; their competitiveness in technological innovation has dropped markedly.

China’s rapid economic growth over the past 20 years is related to the makeup of its population and changes thereof. The country’s earlier, more youthful population provided a great labor force for economic development, and at the same time the number of children it produced decreased dramatically, so the burden for families was much lower.  Savings rates soared to unprecedented heights, making China number one or two in the world. This created the conditions for China’s high investment and high growth. However, despite conditions that were beneficial in the short term, in truth it was the population borrowing against itself, only to be forced to pay back the benefits in the future. This is because the dropping of the birthrate created a later labor shortage, and the serious burden of caring for the elderly in the future. Society will have to pay this price – that’s just what it means to pay your debts. In the process of paying this back, savings rates will be low, which will cause a number of problems, like a lack of investment in infrastructure, no money for environmental protection, and insufficient funds for scientific research. The result of this is that society’s economic development will slow, and even become more poor, decreasing the sustainability of the country’s per capita income.

Societies with a high proportion of elderly people, compared to societies with a high proportion of working people, are not as beneficial, but due to economic development and medical advancements, the aging of the population is a global development trend. Through the adjustment of technology, groups, and policies, and especially through the increase in societies’  wealth, the increase in education level, and the increase in societies’ adaptability, human societies are able to handle these kinds of changes. However, overly rapid aging of a population could lead to an aging without increasing wealth. Compared to other developed countries with aging populations, China’s population is aging before sufficient development has been achieved, and the problem of its aging compared to the country’s lagging societal development level is very obvious.

Besides economic problems, the One Child Policy has led to an extreme twisting of society’s structure and ethical framework. The One Child Policy has created a 4-2-1 family structure, with each family being comprised of 4 grandparents, 2 parents, and one child. Today’s young people must care for six middle-aged and elderly people, and each of these young people lacks brother and sisters, uncles and aunts. The entire society is lacking in horizontal blood relations, leaving only vertical, linear relations. This flat structure significantly weakens interpersonal relations. If one person becomes ill, or encounters other problems, besides his or her immediate family, there are no other people who would be able to help him or her. Even if friends can help, they would not help as naturally and closely as if they were blood relatives. Everyone’s position in their family line means that they must be responsible for the safety and security of their relatives, and that no one else is able to truly help. Excessive burden on children his highly unbeneficial to the safety and security of society.


What kind of reproductive policy should we choose?

According to calculations based on China’s present level of societal development, even if we did not have any restriction on reproduction, the birthrate would only be around 1.7. In countries with similar levels of economic development, like Iran and Thailand, the birthrate has naturally settled at around 1.8. China’s present state of economic development is similar to that of East Asian regions and countries like Taiwan and South Korea 20 years ago; at that time, they had a birthrate of around 1.7. Now, they are encouraging people to have more children, but the birthrate continues to be very low. Some people worry that the minute China relaxes its policy, rural young people will have 3 children. In actuality, most young people from China’s rural areas are working in the city, and they face the same pressures of caring for their parents and live the same kinds of lives as China’s urban youth. Much research shows that they would not want to have more than 2 children. Therefore, there is no need at all to worry that relaxing the policy would lead to an overly high birthrate. What we truly need to worry about is that once the restrictions are relaxed, the birthrate may still be far below necessary levels. In the global sphere, East Asian regions have the lowest birthrates, and areas where Chinese live, like Hong Kong and Taiwan, are even lower.

Will letting everyone have two children instead of one be enough? Or would it be better to allow people to freely have as many children as they want without restriction? Ending restriction completely means the end of the reproductive management, so it would end this cost for society and individuals. Allowing people to have a second child (or restricting it) would still mean there would be some management costs. Also, restricting people to two children still leaves room for barbaric infringements upon human rights. It is clear that allowing people to choose how many children to have is the best course. For the good of society, China must increase its birthrate, for all the aforementioned reasons. Therefore, we advise the immediate scrapping of restricted reproduction, and advise giving China’s citizens the rights of freedom, self-determination, and responsibility for their own reproduction.

 This advice is controversial because it could lead to out-of-control reproduction and the rapid rise of the population. But in actuality, women in China’s large urban areas are having less than one child on average already. In Beijing and Shanghai, the average birthrate per woman is only 0.7, lower than the 1 required by the One Child Policy. This shows that the elimination of the policy will probably not lead to an excessively high birthrate.

Look at the reproductive policies of all the other countries in the world. In Japan, Singapore, and the region of Taiwan, where population density far exceeds that of China, their policy is to encourage people to have more children. Most European countries also have similar policies, and even so, they have not seen a population increase. Societies with excessively low birthrates face all kinds of crises. China also needs to encourage people to have more children, and there should be no doubt that China should eliminate the One Child Policy.

Scrapping the One Child Policy will mean that hundreds of thousands of officials must assume new positions, but this isn’t a bad thing. Ceasing to perform unnecessary, even harmful actions, will result in great savings. However, it is highly important that a plan should be implemented to allow them to assume new jobs as smoothly as possible, to ensure there are no obstacles to the removal of the policy.


Authors who put forward the letter:

James Liang (Peking University Guanghua School of Management Economics Department Research Professor, C-Trip CEO)

Mao Yushi (Honorary Chair of Unirule)

Mu Guangzong (Peking University Population Research Institute Professor)

Yi Fuxian (Researcher at the ChangCe Think Tank)


Signed (in order of response):

Xu Xiaonian (Professor of Economics and Finance at China Europe International Business School)

Chen Zhiwu  (Professor of Finance at Yale University School of Management)

Li-An Zhou (Peking University Guanghua School of Management Professor, Chair of the Economics Deparment)

Li Honglin (Tsinghua School of Management Professor)

Zhao Yaohui (Peking University Center for Economics Research Professor)

Hu Dayuan (Peking University Center for Economics Research Professor)

Li Jianxin (Peking University Institute of Sociology and Anthropology)

Chen Yuyu (Peking University Guanghua School of Management Assistant Professor)

Su Jian (Peking University Department of Economics Professor, Assistant Chair)

Yuan Gang (Peking University School of Management Professor)

Li Honggang (Beijing Normal University School of Management Professor)

Yuan Yang (China Economic Theory Innovation Award Vice Secretary)

Gu Haibing (Renmin University School of Economics Professor)

Liao Jinzhong (Hunan University School of Economics and Trade Professor)

Fan Jianyong (Fudan University School of Economics Professor)

Wang Susheng (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Economics Department Professor)

Leonard Kwok-Hon Cheng (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Economics Department Lecturing Professor, Chair of the Business School)

Li Weisen (Fudan University School of Economics Global Economics Department Professor)

Xue Zhaofeng (Peking University Law and Economics Research Center Co-director)

Zhu Tian (China Europe International Business School Economics Professor, Economics and Policy Department Chair)

Tang Fangfang (Peking University Economics, Finance, and Marketing Professor)

He Yafu  (Independent Expert in Population Studies)

Liu Guo’en (Peking University Guanghua School of Management Professor of Applied Economics)

Lin Wanjuan (Peking University Guanghua School of Management Professor of Applied Economics)

Yang Qijing (Renmin University School of Economics Professor of Economics)

Yong Cai (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Population Center Researcher)

Zhou Chunsheng (Zhejiang University School of Economics Professor of Economics)

Ma Lianghua (Zhejiang University School of Economics Professor of Finance)


"We Could Make it Harder for the Wealthy to Emigrate"

Below is a translation of this article in the People's Daily Blog, which is currently trending on Sina Weibo with over 13,000 retweets and 3,500 comments.




Recently, reports that the chairwoman of the Beijing-based restaurant group SouthBeauty Zhang Lan renounced her Chinese nationality have been a subject of great interest.

Zhang Lan is not the only wealthy Chinese to have choosen to emigrate in the past few years, and the controversy surrounding the topic has been constant.

Why are people from some European and American countries much less upset about the emigration of the rich compared to the Chinese? One reason is that compared to Chinese rich people, some rich Europeans and Americans face complicated taxes levied when they emigrate.

According to media reports, the US tax code has established that if Americans renounce their citizenship, the government may go back 5 years and require that the person renouncing American citizenship pay fines for overseas assets and unreported tax evasion. If they do not pay taxes according to the law, then they must, in accordance with the regulations of the new proactive reporting case, pay back 8 years of taxes and interest, as well as fines levied in the amount of 25% of the highest-income account in the past 8 years.

Additionally, US laws require that Americans renouncing citizenship must pay an “exit tax” on unrealized capital in excess of $600,000 USD. According to previous media reports, when former Facebook founder Eduardo Saverin emigrated he was billed $365 million in taxes on his share of the stock, which he may postpone paying until he sells his shares of Facebook. But if he chooses to postpone paying the bill, Saverin must pay 3.28% interest every year to the US government.

In contrast, when rich Chinese want to renounce their citizenship, it is much easier. According to Article 10 of the Nationality Law of the People's Republic of China, Chinese citizens who meet any of the following requirements may renounce their citizenship by application: 1) are a close relative of a foreign citizen; 2) have established permanent residence abroad; 3) have another legitimate reason.  Also, according to Article 9, Chinese citizens who voluntarily take other citizenships automatically lose their Chinese citizenship. No body that levies taxes in this country has an “exit tax,” and all taxes levied on Chinese abroad is done by voluntary disclosure of assets. When a person renounces citizenship, there is no strict tracing back.

The optimization of every aspect of the tax system is something ordinary people care about. The establishment of a tax policy that helps the optimization of the system as a whole and the equality of society, raises the incomes of lower-income groups and limits overly high incomes, and realizes the sharing of the fruits of development among all people, is an important aspect of the 18th Party Congress Report. Some tax measures taken by European and American countries in response to the renunciation of citizenship by the wealthy may serve as a good example for us.


Li Chengpeng’s talk at Peking University: “Speak”

Original here


I’ve been invited to speak here at Peking University tonight, and standing here where such revered figures as Hu Shi, Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhao, Bo Sinian, Xu Zhimo and Yu Pingbo have stood before, I cannot avoid speaking of “free-thinking principles and an all-embracing approach” [as advocated by former PKU president Cai Yuanpei]. But this topic is too broad, so I can only speak on a smaller topic. In my opinion, “an all-embracing approach” is just having many opinions, while “free-thinking principles” is most directly understood as freedom of speech. So today, I will talk about “speaking.”


China is currently in the process of losing its ability to speak.


Even animals are practically able to speak. When it stops raining, birds begin to chirp. When flowers blossom, bees buzz everywhere. When spring comes, male wolves smell female wolves and begin to bark excitedly. People, as high-level animals, have mastered the most basic form of speech: “I’m hungry.” Infants cry when they are hungry – that’s the language of infants. Even infants can express when they are hungry, but about 50 years ago, or around 1960 to 1962 for about 3 years, a full 600 million people on this planet somehow could not say they were hungry. You feel hungry instinctively, but you can’t say you are hungry…because that would be disgraceful for a socialist country. With high production, and the ever-correct red sun, we must tighten our belts and give our crops to our brothers; we can’t say that we are hungry. During the Great Famine, the whole nation lost its language. Not only did they lie to their family and friends in political struggles, but they also lied to their own stomachs.


At the time, to show how great production was, newspapers ran pictures of crops growing so closely together than several fat children could sit on top of them. Later it was discovered that those pictures were made by bringing several acres of crops together and planting them close together. Because the wind couldn’t blow through, those crops quickly died. Yet in the official discourse system, there was no “truth,” so everyone pretended to believe that the news of great yields were true, and that their hunger was fake. But that famous library manager of yours [Mao Zedong worked in the PKU library] was from the countryside, how could he not understand? Peng Dehuai was also from the countryside, and he once said the truth – that it wasn’t possible that an acre could produce so much…everyone knows what happened to him later [disgraced and died from persecution after questioning Mao’s policies].

It’s not only hunger that we can’t speak of. We can’t even say, “I love you,” openly. Everyone’s read “Guan guan, go the ospreys, On the islet in the river” [the first line of the Book of Poetry]. Even birds can sing their love. But at that time, people could not say things like that, because it was bourgeois. When I was young in Xinjiang, I always loved watching “sluts” get caught…at that time, they loved to go after sluts. Back then, anyone could be a slut, not just adulterers, but also anyone who had a partner in the outdoors. I thought that of all the supposedly bad people, and there were many types, at least the sluts were a little prettier, and usually more refined. At that time, Hami city had an outdoor movie theater called “Little Brook Cinema.” As cool waters ran down on the mountain, the sluts would be forced to walk on either side of the brook and talk about how they became sluts, how they kissed…although I can’t get into the rest of it, even this little bit was very interesting to me. Everything they said was like a movie, it was things I couldn’t read in my textbooks, it was the truth, it was human.


There was a man surnamed An who was always getting caught. Not only did he like to be a slut in the wilderness, but he liked to play the saxophone beforehand. That was just his style, he liked to do that, but it wasn’t allowed. I saw him once after he was caught, and they made him play something on the sax. He was smiling a little, and played a very nice tune. After that, I thought playing the sax must be the same thing as being a slut, and that being a slut must be something that was very beautiful. Yet however beautiful it was, it was still being a slut, which wasn’t allowed in those times, and even saying “I love you,” was practically considered immoral.


When the movie “Love is the Last Word” came out, and the male and female leads shouted, “I love you, I love you!” at the mountains, the entire nation was shocked in theaters. It was a successful film, and it went into the history books just by having characters publically say, “I love you.”


You can’t say “I’m hungry,” and you can’t say “I love you,” and you definitely can’t speak the truth. Take, for example, Peking University graduate Lin Zhao. This beautiful girl not only discovered that the truth was different from what the papers were reporting, and spoke the truth herself, but she also helped her classmates report their grievances, and then she was arrested. She was released, spoke the truth, and was arrested again, spoke the truth, was arrested, and after many times, she became mentally ill and died.


In that era, the entire nation lost the ability to speak. You couldn’t say what you knew instinctively: you were hungry. You couldn’t say what you felt: I love you. You couldn’t criticize the leaders’ speeches – massacring your comrades wasn’t right. You couldn’t speak of science – you had to say that an acre could produce 20,000 jin. You couldn’t even describe nature. For example, saying the sun was poisonous would reflect badly on leaders. Speaking, as an animal instinct, a way of thinking, a right…it was taken away. We were even worse off than Sima Nan, at least after he was castrated, he was able to continue to complete his histories. We’ve only produced literary trash.


This country has some problems in the area of, “Speaking freely.” This extends to all areas, as Li Shutong in his song “Goodbye,” demonstrated: “Outside, along the ancient road, grass and sky combine…later, our goodbye is only a farewell between partners in war, a step along the journey. Shedding a few wordless tears, our revolutionary paths part ways forever.” That’s even considered literary compared to later verses: “The bonds between fathers and daughters cannot rival our gratitude towards the Party.” By this point, even ethics is left by the wayside.


What has made us betray our human instincts…


Having lost the ability to speak the truth, we will tell many lies. What’s even more frightening is that in addition to lies we have invented a new kind of speech: ghost-talk. Lies are just meant to deceive others: our village produces 20,000 jin per acre. But ghost-talk is meant to hurt, to consume: all our country’s villages must produce 20,000 jin per acre. Anyone who doesn’t comply will be killed, no matter what their rank. When speaking the truth will cost you your life, no one is willing to speak the truth. When telling a lie was rewarded with promotions and wealth, this country became the Kingdom of Lies. This process continues uninterrupted to this very day, and it hasn’t yet reached completion. For example, our railways are the fastest in the world, then accidents happen, or “the Chinese people’s restoration is 62% complete,” and then we discover more than 62% of officials are corrupt….to give you another example, if you want to speak a little truth, there will be a group of people who come out of the woodwork and say, “What makes you qualified to say that so many people died during the Great Famine? Did someone in your family die? Did you see Lin Shao tortured with your own eyes? Were you there at that very moment? If you weren’t there, stop spreading rumors.” They seem to not believe that there is a such thing as records in this world, or documentaries, or people who have testified to these events. According to their logic, Jews could not have died in gas chambers at the hands of Nazis, because you didn’t see it with your own eyes. They can’t even prove they are their parents’ children, because they didn’t see it with their own eyes.


Besides lies, and “ghost talk,” a lot of ridiculous terms have also come into being: “temporary rape,” “vacation-style treatment,” “protective eviction,” “contractual cheating,” “policy-related control,” “ritual gifts,” “Policy-related price increases,” “fishing-style law enforcement,” “decisive election.” In the end, everyone just says, “customary bullshitting.”


This country has already lost lively language: News broadcast, the Global Times…raise highly, go deeply, continue to intensify, maintain, climax, even higher climax…this kind of language is inferior, and to be honest I’m surprised that the campaign against pornography hasn’t yet resulted in its elimination.


It’s undeniable that this country has made great progress. Yet we still have not regained our ability to speak. Censorship of published materials is still harsh. Zhang Yihe wrote a book about Li Yuan that is still banned today. If you’re afraid of the lives of actors and actresses, you’re worse than Empress Dowager Cixi. Every time I see relevant organs announcing that, “Our country has the most books and newspaper distribution in the world,” I think, well, our country also produces the most Kleenex in the world. In this porcelain country, we produce the greatest number of sensitive words: democracy, freedom, and reform, or Nanhu, ship, Tiananmen, “the masses,” and “gather.”  Even “the Chinese Communist Party” was sensitive for a while; it had to be changed to “Our Party,” before you could press send. Can we only sing, “I love Beijing Tiananmen, The sun rises above Tiananmen! Greatest Leader Chairman Mao, Leading all of us forward!”? Chinese are a smart people, so they invented the river crab, sausage, Sparta, the pearl…many years from now, archaeologists will not be able to understand. They’ll think that this is a new era in characters with so many fake names. We also have so many jokes and snide remarks and text messages, but no good words, or deep literature. I also often use these remarks or jokes, but from a certain point of view, it seems that it isn’t the development of new words, but the withering of speech.


I have long wondered why the Shenlong master used so much evil magic to keep the people from being able to speak in Jin Yong’s novels. For one thing, they thought Hong Antong could lead them to a beautiful new world: everyone was brainwashed. For another, more importantly, the master Hong An had a tool to control the masses – a magic pill. This pill was no regular capsule; when you swallowed it you would obey all orders, and feel immense pain if you did not. Recently I’ve read some works by Anthony Lewis, Hu Ping, and Jefferson on freedom of speech: you cannot determine whether a country has freedom of speech by whether those with power are willing to listen and accept criticism and advice, but by whether or not they have the power to punish those with dissenting views. Freedom of speech is the first precondition for democracy, and it’s also democracy’s last line of defense.

Shifang, Qidong, and Ningbo…these were not political incidents, they were just people expressing themselves, but in the end they spiraled out of control. Some people even said these incidents were the work of officials. I think that the heart of the matter is that the power structure has a design flaw. When it was first designed, there was a big bug, and to fix the bug, it used anti-virus software, but the software itself had a bug, so they used a new bug, and another bug appeared, so they used an even newer bug…it always thought that the people didn’t have the right to speak, and it had the right to punish their speech. It was arrogant, sensitive, and autistic: an autistic giant.


Mr. Hou Baolin once said, speaking is an art. In my opinion, it is also a right.


I have suddenly remembered that today is still within the period in which I am forbidden to speak. As someone who is accustomed to being periodically forbidden to speak for long periods of time, to talk loudly of freedom of speech, I feel like a confirmed bachelor who wants to appear on the show, “If You Are the One.” Many people here are speech bachelors, people Lu Xun describes as “at first, unwilling, and at last unable.” Little by little, we have lost even this ability.


The United States also has a history of not being able to speak freely. For example, criticizing the president was illegal. In the movie “The Sedition Act,” they arrested everyone who spoke ill of the president and congress. In 1917, the U.S. fought in World War I, and the hawks had the majority, so those who spoke out against the war were not tolerated. Those with German heritage changed their names and even German cabbage was renamed “freedom cabbage” (just as we have replaced the Subaru emblem on Japanese cars with our national emblem). Several hundred people were arrested for their anti-war speech. Even a 50-year-old pacifist lady was sued for refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag and support for the war.


However, the U.S. government later discovered that restricting freedom of speech in this manner was bad for the government, and the country as a whole. This is because it dampened the country’s innovation and creativity, and restricted the ability of citizens to supervise the government. Without innovation and supervision, failure was certain. They’d been continually improving for 200 years. Jefferson once wrote emotionally that, “If I had to choose between government without newspapers, and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter.”


In truth, ancient China had freedom of speech. For example, in the Tang Dynasty, mocking the emperor was accepted to a certain degree. If you read Bai Juyi’s “Song of Everlasting Sorrow,” he wrote: “A Han Dynasty emperor was concerned with lust more than his own duties, yet for many years he could not find a woman to satisfy him.” (Isn’t this just mocking the emperor, can’t you see he’s just on the 5-1 Project Plan?) “They bathed together in the hot springs, the water on her pale skin, and her maids helped her out of the pool, too weak to rise: from then on, she was graced by the emperor’s advances.” (This is written quite boldly, as if it were heaven on earth.) “The spring nights came after short days, and the emperor did not hold morning court.” (By this point, he is almost openly criticizing the highest government official for neglecting his duties for pleasure). “All of her family were given lands, and their status was elevated, making others jealous.” (That’s just sleeping your way to the top).


Bai Juyi wrote this, operating within the system, and nothing happened to him. This poem even became a really famous song at that time. If the members of the Writer’s Alliance of China mocked the motherland, they’d be really asking for it. Bai Juyi was even eulogized by Tang Zongxuan when he died: that’s simply incredible. Freedom of speech was actually pretty good during the Tang and Song dynasties, and they were the golden era of Chinese culture. By the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties, the imprisonment of words began, and China was also abandoned and attacked by the world.


I am not a person with political ambitions, I only have ambitions to gain my own rights, my rights to write and speak. But the people of this country have lost their ability to speak, and replaced their speaking and writing with lies and ghost talk. It’s like I said at the Hong Kong book fair: we know that they are lying, and they also know that we know they are lying, and we also know that actually, they know that we know they are lying, and they also know that we are only pretending that they haven’t lied…but that’s the way things are these days. Everyone depends on lies, and knows that they are lying to get by. As Solzhenitsyn said, “lies have become a pillar of the state.”


We can’t speak the truth, or use vibrant language, and we can’t say romantic things, and we can’t make predictions. We’re like the world’s largest army of mutes marching forward. The most terrifying thing about this country isn’t poverty, or hunger, or not winning a Nobel prize, or not realizing a high enough GDP, or not producing enough Party reports, it’s that the people have lost their ability and right to speak. In my opinion, whether or not the people are able to speak freely is the most important standard for determining whether they can be considered a civilization. The only way this country will survive is if you let the people speak.


For a people that has produced the world’s most beautiful language, and has the most vibrant texts, and has maintained official censors for the longest period of time, “speaking” has now become a great problem. Everyone is bored to death, living in this sterile plastic land of official discourse, repeating lies, deceptions, and ridiculous claims that everyone knows to be false. English has Shakespeare, Spanish has Cervantes, France has Balzac and Dumas, and this country, which once produced Li Po, Zhou Bangyan, Xu Zhimo, Shen Congwen, and Li Xie shouldn’t rely on Zhao Benshan and Guo Degang to create its discourse.


I hope that this people has only temporarily lost its ability to speak. Discourse has always been the stage that’s easiest to occupy, but it is also the first fortress to fall.


Finally, though I am constantly critical of this country, I have always been full of hope for its people.