"My 56th Birthday" by Huuchinhuu
The following is an essay by Ms. Huuchinhuu, an ethnic Mongolian dissident writer, who has been put under house arrest recently by the Chinese authorities for rallying the Mongols to greet the prominent ethnic Mongolian political prisoner Hada upon his release on December 10, 2010.The essay was originally written in Chinese and sent to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC) via email through one of Huuchinhuu's friends. The English translation is by SMHRIC:
My 56th Birthday
Tongliao City, Southern (Inner) Mongolia
November 26, 2010
Today I spent my birthday under house arrest.
On this same day in 2007, annoyed by the confiscation of my book and a sciatica attack, I marked my birthday with two friends, moving my body in a way that can only be described as crawling. I can never forget how I was attempting to find a little bit of solace and happiness out of the frustration and pain I felt that day. The following year, 2008, a nephew and a niece of mine brought me gifts and we celebrated my birthday together. My son sent me some clothes and cosmetics as well. I was living my life feeling so adrift, without that single place that one calls home. Unhappy events, cold weather and social injustice frequently were visited upon me. In 2009 with my son I had a small but very pleasant birthday in Qiong Hai City. I was still drifting around. Today I am spending my 56th birthday in a cage with a profound feeling of accepting myself as both a stranger and a prisoner. Since 2007 I have been living a life just drifting from place to place. This drifting life and suffering were a direct result of the confiscation of my book which brought me a 30,000 yuan (approx 5,000 USD) huge debt. I had no choice. I had to sell my apartment, my only property, to pay this debt and the remainder I used as a down-payment on my future house. Destiny makes fools of people. But in a society where trust means nothing, the construction contractor of the apartment complex fled with the down-payments collected from the applicants leaving just the shell of a building. At the same time, heartbreaking news: 40 boxes of my books that I had managed to hide in my relative’s basement were flooded several times by water. My relatives had no other safe place to store them. Nearly 200 CDs that I always regarded as my small library where the big portion of my book contents was saved were also destroyed by the floods. Forget about my other items damaged by the floods, some electronics and book shelves.
Now, I am put under house arrest in my rented house by the Public Security Bureau. Therefore I always say to myself that I am guest-cum-prisoner. Some Public Security personnel reminded me that “in fact they are very kind to me”. Perhaps they are right, because they haven’t beaten me up yet. They haven’t thrown bad words at me either. I’ve come around to thinking that the saddest event in human life is when one drops tears in thanks for the mercy of those who deprived one’s freedom? Luckily, I don’t have this feeling of thankfulness to drop my tears. What I am really desperately longing for is freedom and a normal human life. To me having a normal human life in my own home, cold and small as it may be, means so much. Unfortunately this simple hope seems too distant from me, and there is no sign telling me when it might arrive.
My imprisonment is my misfortune. However, the most unfortunate event is that the Southern Mongolians have lost their freedom as a people. My personal misery would be nothing if the Mongolian people enjoyed freedom. A middle-aged Mongolian man had been arrested and detained for 97 days merely for running a Mongolian website. He was released on bail, but has no freedom at all; a young Mongolian was locked up for writing and singing a song. No one knows if he is freed or not. Friends of mine were planning to meet Hada upon his release, but they were “advised” not to meet with Hada. I heard these while under house arrest. How many others have been “advised” or locked up is completely beyond knowledge.
Isn’t it reasonable and expected that friends meet with a prisoner upon his release after their jail term even if he or she was a criminal? Let alone Hada, a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned purely for his political opinions. It really does not matter what he advocated as far as right or wrong. Above all, he is an individual human being who has been arbitrarily jailed for 15 years. As friends, people who respect and admire him, what is wrong to welcome and cheer for him. But the Chinese authorities have no tolerance for this most fundamental, humane and universal human emotion --- personal friendship. I am totally puzzled with their behavior. Are they afraid that a few cheering people might cause trouble? Is that even possible under the tight control of the authorities’ massive police and army? I am still totally puzzled.
Waking up in the morning with a headache and fever I wanted to go to the doctor. Three plain-clothes police followed me closely. Frustrated I went shopping instead and wanted to buy a scarf or something I might like to congratulate myself for surviving the dark and uneasy 56 years. But I didn’t buy anything. There was nothing I liked. Then I went to the Telecommunications Bureau to apply for an Internet access. They told me earlier that once I have a base phone unit it can be setup any time since the cable is already there. The “visitors” from the Public Security Bureau delayed my request yesterday for setting this up. Today the Telecommunication people asked me this and that and the final answer was “No!” Had I come yesterday would it have been ok? I don’t think so. I forgot that this is a government that is afraid of the Internet. Actually even if I had the Internet it is impossible for me to tell people what is happening in plain and simple language. In fact the Public Security have no need to conceal things so carefully because people already know about those things. If you don’t want people to know what you do, don’t do it.
That’s how my birthday passed. It is worth celebrating because I am still alive. To a person who does not really care about dying, life has its own meaning as does death. Let me celebrate my own 56 years of rough and rugged way of life.
In the evening, relatives and friends came with cakes and wines to celebrate my birthday. I felt happiness out of unhappiness. Every one pretended to ignore the watchers outside the door and tried to be happy. In the midst of the celebration I received a phone call from a customer who ordered an item from my small online business that I setup for myself to make ends meet. Friends are happy for me for my birthday gift is sold. In order to provide a satisfactory service to my customer I rushed to an Internet café nearby. Two plain-clothes police, an older one and a young one, followed me to the Internet café. I gave my identity card and the fee to the Internet café attendant. But the followers got them back from the attendant and told me that “this is not allowed by the higher-ups”. I called the Director of State Internal Security Protection Department of Public Security Bureau immediately about this. He asked me to “do it tomorrow”. I raised my voice and told him, “you have forcibly locked me up, and harassed my business for 8 days already. The customer has made the payment and is waiting for the item. Isn’t it too much for you to interfere in this?” He asked me not to do anything but the business. I was allowed to go online once. It was difficult …. (2010-11-18).
On the morning of November 23, Wang Bo, Director of the State Internal Security Protection Brigade, along with other police came to my house and took me to their leader. They took me to the office of Geng Shuying, Deputy Director of Horchin District Public Security Bureau. He showed me a print-out and asked me to confirm if it was my article. I took a quick look at it. They were my posts to the Internet as early as 2001 to 2004. While taking notes himself of what I said he asked me to explain about a sentence from the posts, “what did you mean by saying that there is a conspiracy going on to wipe out the Mongolian language and culture from Southern Mongolia? Who is the conspirator?” I told him, “the Chinese Communist Party’s policy is to wipe out Mongolian language and culture from Southern Mongolia!” He continues, “what do you mean by ‘we need a popular project’? what is this project?” I told him, “you should write down the whole sentence. Otherwise, I suspect you will just pick what you need to accuse me.” He said I omitted some part in the post that he has in his hands. I said to him, “the post is very clear. One should learn how to tell truth and learn how to strive for their rights.” He continues his question, “where is the so-called ‘Southern Mongolia’ you mentioned in your posts?” I answered “it is the Mongolia south of Gobi Desert.” “What is the Mongolia south of Gobi Desert?” “Didn’t you claim you majored in history? It is a name descended from history referring to the Mongolia south of the Gobi Desert.” “What is the Mongolia north of the Gobi Desert then?” I told him, “it is the independent country of Mongolia. Historically Southern Mongolia and Northern Mongolia had always been an integral part of Mongolia, an independent nation. Before Qing Dynasty there was no such thing as ‘Northern Mongolia’ and ‘Southern Mongolia’.” He asked, “we Chinese call it ‘Inner Mongolia’, but you say it is ‘Southern Mongolia’. Do you think it is appropriate?” I asked him, “are you trying to persecute me for what words I picked from my vocabulary as was the case during the Cultural Revolution? I will still say it is Southern Mongolia.” “Who did you write these posts for?” he continues the interrogation. “I wrote them to whoever can read them. Now it is for you. In fact, I was calling on my fellow Mongolians with them,” I replied.
He asked: “why do you need to call on them?”
I said: “I call on them to fight for their legal rights. I call on them not to send their children to Chinese schools.”
He said: “Sending the children to which school is not important.”
I said: “It is extremely important, because language and literature are determinants of the culture of a nation. Without language and literature a people or nation will go extinct.”
He said: “Language and literature are not important. But learning foreign language is important.”
I asked: “Are you suggesting to learn foreign language? I guess your children learned two languages. My son learned four languages. I am not an anti-foreign-language. What I am saying is not to forget the native language. How would you feel if you were schooled in English?”
He said: “My people did not give up our native language, but your people have given up your language. You should not blame others for this.”
I said: “It is the Government that has caused the marginalization of the Mongolian language.”
He asked: “Why do you say the current policy is intended to wipe out Mongolian language and culture?”
I said: “It is so because the Mongolian language and culture are marginalized under Government led initiatives. For example, November 3, 2003 is the first time that prospective government employees had to compete through oral presentations. All nine judges are Chinese, none of whom understands Mongolian. Every minute or two, the Mongolian presenters were interrupted for the Chinese interpretation. Forget about the accuracy of the interpretation. Who can perform well with this type of frequent interruption? Do you think this type of interview is fair?”
He said: “If your knowledge level is high enough you would not be affected by even more frequent interruption.”
The conversation went on without any organization until I was tired of talking to him any more. For example, I told him, “the reason why the international community pays close attentions to the Chinese human rights condition is that the Chinese human rights problem is indeed very serious.” He asked me, “paying attention? What’s the use of it?” Like this the conversation turned into an argument only for the sake of arguing. The main content of his notes are about my internet posts. He asked me to admit that I wrote these posts, and forced me to leave my finger prints on them. After I left my finger prints I told him, “Hada will be freed soon. He is a sign and symbol of our Mongolian people. I am sure you are collecting evidence to throw me into jail after Hada’s release. Aren’t you? I don’t mind being jailed because in fact Southern Mongolians need this symbol anyway.” He said, “I will visit your home again”. I objected, “I don’t welcome people who are not honest. Citizens’ residence should be free from invader’s harassment.” I left his office.
In the evening, students of mine invited me to have dinner together. The plain-clothes police who followed me like shadows also came to the restaurant and occupied a table ordering dinner as well. After the dinner when with my nieces we four ladies chatted in my home, PSB Director Geng Shuying along with four people from the State Internal Security Protection Brigade rushed into my home and started questioning who these visitors are, what work they do, where they live and what relationship they have with me. It was already 8:00 PM. I asked him, “Mr. Director, you are not a census worker. Why are you questioning about their personal information?” When he asked again about the relationship with one of my students, I told him, “she is my student. That is none of your business here. Get out of my house. Give us our privacy.” Angered by my attitude, one female police grabbed my student’s bag and pulled her out of my home and left. Now the PSB Director Geng started yelling at me and complained that I never stopped making trouble by “messing with them”. I asked him to explain who “they” is referring to and what he means by “messing up”. He gave me a ferocious stare and said “you know what I am talking about.” In fact one of these police had accompanied me the entire afternoon. He told me, “you had talked with this student about your house arrest.” I replied, “You have done it. Why am I not allowed to talk about it?” He angrily stood up and pointed his finger at my nieces, “stop buying her any phone card! From now on all of her outdoor activities will be strictly prohibited!” Then he turned to me and pointed his finger at me, and shouted, “originally we did not plan to lock you up. But you want it. We have no choice!” At that moment, I received a phone call. Since I was not in the mood for talking I hung up the phone after excusing myself from the caller. He scolded me angrily and asked who the caller was. “None of your business,” I told him. He pointed his finger at me again and said “fine, you will see what will happen to you!” as he slammed the door behind him. I was not able to find the answer to my question: why is Chinese law so arbitrary that the enforcers can imprison whoever they want to imprison?
In fact today’s dinner was the only normal meal that I had since my house arrest on November 11. Yet, it brought trouble to those who invited me. After Geng left, I called my student and asked to make sure she was not taken away or threatened. She appeased me and told me that she was brought back to her home by the police. In fact I had the right and courage to resist their unlawful act of harassing my guests. But I tolerated it because I was aware that that would have caused even more trouble to them and even others. I asked the Director to think about his own image and to be aware of the “appropriate etiquette for a visitor”. He yelled at me and said he is not a visitor, but he is here to do his work. I told him, “this is not your office. You should know intruding people’s residence is illegal.” I did not chase him away in order not to embarrass him in front of his followers. But I know this doesn’t mean it is the end of the story.
Today is November 24. I have already been under house arrest for two weeks. Before noon, I went to complete some paper work for my sick sister’s medical records with police at my side. Shortly after I arrived home, Wang Bo, Director of State Security Protection Brigade, and Wang Aijun, Deputy Director of the Brigade, came to my house. With a very serious attitude Wang Bo said, “you should respect our leader. In fact, he had helped you a lot. Otherwise you would have been imprisoned long ago.” I said immediately back to him, “you are law enforcers. If I violated the law I should have been brought to justice.” Wang Aijun asked, “where is your medical record? Bring it to us.” I told them, “my medical record is at the hospital. Why are you searching for it?”. He said, “we are still trying to help you.” I shouted, “stop pretending to help me. I don’t mind being arrested if I violate the law. None of you is taking my case seriously. After depriving me of my freedom, under the excuse of helping me you intruders are now threatening and harassing me. I warn you to not even think of giving me this type of help which I don’t need. Instead return my freedom and legal rights. You have already violated the law. You must end your violation of my rights. I assure you that I will refuse to talk to your Bureau Director next time. I will not authorize you to go to the hospital to make a copy of my medical records. I don’t need your “kind help”. Have you thought about how rudely you treat those who are weaker than you using your state apparatus and forceful sanctions? If you are confident about your strength then go ahead and bring those corrupt officials and gangs who are posing imminent threats to society to justice. I cried and criticized them without hesitation. Wang Bo pointed his finger at me and said before leaving, “you will see, you pigheaded old lady!”
Two weeks of nightmare has passed. Originally I thought they are just preventing me from seeing Hada by guarding me. Now I think it is not that simple. They are trying to anger me to want me to say something that can be used as evidence for their legal accusations against me. They think their world will be free from trouble if they put me into jail. Is this the so-called “stability maintenance”? I laugh at them.
Who is the real actor causing the instability? Is it the citizens or the Government and its officials? As early as July 2 this year, two police officers named Pan Haibo and Wang Aijun came to my house, claiming that they are “investigating the potential factors of social conflict”. I told them that social conflict is not caused by citizens but by the system. Changing this system can’t be done by the citizens, but can be done by the Central Government and other local governments. When I asked if the word of their commander is a law to them, they said yes. I laughed at them and told them, “you are wrong, because you call yourself ‘people’s police”. Neither do you call yourself ‘government’s police’ or ‘Party’s police or Commanders’ police’. You are duty bound to guard the people’s well-being. There are so many corrupt officials who ask you to act for their interest. You still carry out whatever tasks they have given to you. Isn’t that kind of conduct evil? Now you say you are inspecting the factors of social instability. In fact you are spying on who is thinking and doing what…..” I mentioned to them various issues regarding the ethnic problems. I also gave them a copy of my open letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Under my current circumstances I don’t feel this is my personal misfortune. It is a nation’s tragedy created by another nation’s dictatorial repression. The marginalization of Mongolian culture, its continuing deterioration that is not effectively mitigated, and people’s frustration and disaffection that can’t be expressed are all a direct result of the authorities’ brutal violation of human rights. It is the authorities’ will to create an atmosphere of terror under which people are fearful of everything. This type of “stability maintenance”, I think, in fact is very weak. The real instability has been created by the government. In his speech in Xia Men University, the Chinese dissident Han Han said, “masked word terms have their limits. The increase in the number of masked word terms speeds up its extinction.” The same is true for systems that subvert their own laws and cause havoc, those too have their own limits. What they carry are the root-cause seeds of the very destruction of what they are attempting to protect. If a system refuses to learn lessons from its own malfeasances the social environment it created will become increasingly darker and darker. Many individuals will sacrifice everything and even possibly give up their lives in protest. This will more and more lead to general condemnation and remove any validity to the entire system.
What is the true cause of various international and national conflicts? It is the nationality question. Plundering resources and marginalizing national cultures will, sooner or later, disintegrate a country. It is a natural law that this as a factor of opposition will swell proportionately to the level of suppression until a massive explosion occurs that might become a golden opportunity not only for the suppressed national minorities but also for all people under the dictatorship systems to reorganize themselves and redirect their future. “Since the fierce winter is here, wouldn’t the warm spring soon arrive?” I have always given myself courage to wait for the arrival of this hopeful season for 30 years since I first saw this well-known saying. Time has left many changes, but the political environment is still so dark. The night has really been long, but the dawn must arrive for sure…