What Could he do? With his entire Family and Livelihood in Jeopardy?
The following is a fictionalized account of real events taking place in China (Part 1 of a 2 part series). Links to the real story are at the bottom.
It was cruel that the name of a brainwashing facility should be a homophone for a beloved musical instrument, but there is was — Erehu Re-Education Center, which if you weren’t careful sounded a lot like Erhu, the beloved “two-string violin,” a popular way for youth and old people alike to pass the time in his home town of Jianyang.
Mr. Zhang had been a formulation chemist, for the Packaged Goods Division of the General Food Production Unit of Sichuan Provence, for many years. He held a number of patents, that he was quite proud of, for the development of aerosols.
It was ironic then, that he should be poisoned now, and dying, possibly from chemicals delivered through a vaporized mist.
For a man of sixty and six years, there were few enjoyments left to life except watching ones children grow up and gossiping with neighbors down the hall, or playing mahjong in the alley way, on top of a cardboard box, over cigarettes and conversation.
For a long while now, Mr. Zhang had been passing notes to his neighbors; slipping them under the door or leaving them in the letter drop. Not the sort of notes that one would ordinarily pass, things like, “Can I borrow up a cup of sugar tomorrow at 4 o’clock?” or “I saw a cat loose in the alley way, was it yours?” These were political notes. Actually they weren’t political notes, but they were labeled as ‘political notes’ by the CCP. Of course, just about anything the CCP didn’t like could be labeled as ‘political notes,’ and afterwards there was nothing a person could do about it, except possibly complain to the local bureau office. After which the person himself might be labeled as a ‘political note,’ and so on.
Anyways, these notes weren’t actually political, as it turns out. They were only friendly advice. Mr. Zhang had, in fact, a few years earlier improved his health quite considerably by practicing a certain qigong, and he was possessed of so much enthusiasm, partially because of his improved health, and partially for other reasons, that he often, in his free time, penned notes, or typed them out and printed them on the printer his daughter had given him, and gave them to his neighbors. Most of them, to be quite honest, dealt with health, not politics. But the CCP never labeled anything as a ‘health note,’ because it wasn’t sensational enough for the news channels. They mostly stuck to ‘political notes,’ unless they were being sarcastic or something, which they hardly ever were, because the CCP had no sense of humor. None at all. Of late, they had even banned the use of puns, which Mr. Zhang and his neighbors thought was so funny that they began making constant puns about the CCP and laughing at them over cigarettes and mahjong — something they had never done before puns had been banned.
But these health notes were, in fact, no laughing matter. When you’ve reached the age of sixty and six or seventy and six or even ninety and six as some of Mr. Zhang’s neighbors had, health became a very important topic. Mr. Zhang was really healthy too. Probably the healthiest one in his whole retirement community, or ‘sectional housing unit for the elderly and infirm,’ as the CCP so lovingly called it. That was, at least, until the poisoning.
It had all started one day simply at the department store. It was the city’s main one, though not the only one anymore, as it had been when it was built, and it was simply called Jianyang City Department Store. Mr. Zhang loved that store. After he had retired from the General Food Production Unit, he had even worked there for several years because he loved it so much. But he was now retired from there as well.
But on this particular day it had seized him that he ought to hand out some notes he printed up to tell people about his excessively good health, because, after all, health was really important, and qigong was even more important, especially this particular type of qigong that Mr. Zhang practiced, called “Falun” Gong, the name referring to the type of energy and in Chinese, energy is simply called “gong” and gong and health and energy were all very important to Mr. Zhang, so there he was passing out ‘health notes’ at his favorite department store, which were soon to be labelled ‘political notes,’ though Mr. Zhang had no way to know that at the time. And this had been the start of a long spiral of events that ended with Mr. Zhang being poisoned.
So he had been standing there, notes in hand, and smiling really politely and doing his best to stand up straight and look presentable, despite his age, and hand out as many notes as he could to passerby. Some people threw the notes in the waste bin a few moments after they had received them, which saddened Mr. Zhang. He thought to himself that they must not have understood the contents and importance of the notes or they would not have done that. And he resolved that the next time he got a chance, or maybe even if his daughter showed him more on the computer, he would write the notes better, so that less people would throw them away. That, and he was also conscience of the waste of the paper. People from Mr. Zhang’s generation were very conscious of waste and resources, having grown up poor.
So after he had handed out a bunch, and was reaching into his small briefcase to get more. He moved to stand back up and all he saw was black. Someone in an all black jacket and black sweater and back belt with a black truncheon in it, was standing over him, leaning over him really, and much more closely then he would have preferred.
“Whatcha got in the bag?” the black shape bellowed. Mr. Zhang steadied himself and took a step back to assess the situation and who the person was and how to ought to answer the black shape, and he saw that is was one of the department store security personnel. Twenty something, but burly, more so than Mr. Zhang who was thin, but tall. He had seen the black shape there before, of course, but only once. The kind, elderly gentleman who staffed the store security before had retired. Usually he didn’t have any trouble with security personnel, but this particular one was one of those ones who stand there, not unlike other young men in the police and security professions these days, who just about look for trouble. Usually not much happens in small town department stores which makes men like Mr. black shape here restless. Like they’re not doing their job if the don’t find some trouble. So they start in with the “Hey you!” and “Whatcha got in there?” and the, “Come here!” to try and provoke people and hopefully someone will react poorly or loose their temper and then they’ll really be able to do something, and it will justify their existence.
He would have liked to say something to this young black shape about his attitude, but Mr. Zhang was in a pretty good mood today, and besides he knew that that was exactly the sort of response that the shape wanted, so he simply said, “Would you like to learn more about health?” and smiled and handed the shape a note to show him what he was talking about. That was about as far as the pleasantries got, though. Mr. black shape took the note roughly in his hand and scowled and bunched his lips all funny and bellowed, “These are political notes!” Bad to worse, Mr. Zhang thought. It’s one thing when these sorts of young men look for trouble and find someone who’s willing to give it to them or argue with them. That’s fun, and maybe if it gets bad enough, they can handcuff them with a plastic zip tie or even whack them a few times with the truncheon. But when the find ‘political notes’ (as the CCP has labelled as such anyways), it’s like finding gold in coal mine or having a young date say yes to you for the high school dance. The young black shape was so excited he whipped out his truncheon before he realized the Mr. Zhang was exactly resisting, so he fumbled around trying to put it pack and ended up just sticking it in his pocket before grabbing him roughly by the elbow to drag him over to the security phone on the wall. “I’m turning you in,” he announced proudly, as if Mr. Zhang himself would admire his accomplishment. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken,” Mr. Zhang said, “These aren’t political notes, they’re health notes.” “Oh no, we’ve been warned about these. I know political notes when I see them.” A man of twenty-something such as our shape here always knows exactly, precisely everything they are talking about and sees through the lies of everyone else.
After a few brief exchanges on the telephone and a few minutes wait, which seemed like a hour to Mr. Zhang, five police officers arrived, pushing and shoving, tying his arms behind his back with plastic ties, kicking him to the ground and stepping on his head for emphasis. Heavens knows why it takes five police officers to arrest a peaceful man of six and sixty, he thought, but communist logic never made a lot of sense to him.
His cell was dark and filthy. The ceiling so low that he could not fully stand. It did not have a proper toilet, only a hole toward the back that still contained the leavings of the unfortunate soul who inhabited the space before him. A date for his trial had not been set. It wasn’t clear to him that one would ever be set, or if the powers that be just intended to leave him in here to rot. Such things were never clear where the CCP was concerned, minor details like whether a citizen had right or not, and should be treated like a human being or like a cattle, changed on a daily basis, at the mercy of political whim or popular opinion.
“He’s one of those Falun Gong,” he heard another inmate whisper. He turned to see a giant yellowish man squatted in the cell kitty corner to his own. The man’s face filthy and appeared to by rubbing dirt between his hands to keep warm as is fire blazed in front of him. A little bit off, this one, Mr. Zhang noted to himself. Nonetheless I shall be cheerful.
Links to the real story: http://en.minghui.org/emh/articles/2009/1/12/103844p.html