Friday, June 27, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: Wang Jinyao

Before death I want to meet this man.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: So Many Ma's, So Little Time. Ma Liping.

Dear Ma,
Nice to meet you, of a fashion. I've heard a lot about you. I heard that you have a Master's Degree from East China Normal University. That's from the website of the U.S. Department of Education, to which you are an advisor. Then I read that you were only a graduate student at East China Normal University. That's from the Stanford Chinese School website. So which is it Ma?

You are from Shanghai, I understand. Were you active in the Red Guards there?

I look forward to hearing from you and clearing up the discrepancy in your educational credentials.

Benjamin Harris, J.D.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: Ma Dexiu

Hello Ma,

Nice to meet you. I assume you
recognize your former Vice Principal Bian

Allow me to introduce myself. My name
is Benjamin Harris. I am a lawyer, a homicide
prosecutor, in America.

I look forward to learning more about you.
Please feel free to contact me anytime. I can
be reached at

Please say hello to your friends Song Binbin
and Liu Jin for me.

Benjamin Harris, J.D.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: Xu Weixin Paints the Soul. 中国的沉默长城:徐唯辛绘制灵魂

In this painting, Chinese artist Xu Weixin has taken as his subject matter a single photograph of a young woman. Xu has enlarged the photograph enormously; its scale suggests that of the painting of Mao Zedong that defiles the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing.


The innocence of the young woman comes through in the painting but there is more to her than the callow school girl. There is strength also; she wears an almost skeptical expression. She has a soul that one can see through her eyes. Mao Zedong had no soul and Gao Qiang powerfully depicted the result in his Swimming Mao: a human being, languid in a river of blood, blood that he spilled.

画中呈现出年轻女子的无辜, 但她并不仅仅是一个单纯的女学生, 其中也有力量:她露出似乎是怀疑的表情。人们可以从她眼中看到她的灵魂。毛泽东没有灵魂,高强在他的《毛泽东勇渡江》中有力地描绘了答案:一个在他自己溅出的血河里倦怠乏力的人。

The young woman is Rongfen Wang, and it is fitting that her photograph is enlarged (it is in fact the size of Mao's at the Forbidden City), and the subject of a painting, for Rongfen indeed had a soul. Forty two years ago this August, nineteen year old Rongfen Wang stood in Tienanmen Square and watched as Song Binbin pinned a Red Guard armband onto Mao Zedong. That moment was the start of the tyrant's great blood-letting in the Cultural Revolution.


Millions were caught up in the movement and did the Great Henchman's bidding. Rongfen did something different. She wrote to Mao, comparing him to Hitler, and resigned from the Communist Youth League. She spent twelve years in prison.


There is a gauzy, ghostly quality to this painting. Seen enlarged, the details of the face merge in the shadows and Rongfen almost disappears. In fact she almost did disappear. She attempted martyrdom by drinking four bottles of insecticide outside of the Soviet embassy, hoping to draw world attention to what was being unleashed.*


She survived though, and is now Rongfen Wang, PhD and lives and writes and teaches in Germany. And she has not lost her soul: last year she wrote a devastating critique of Carma Hinton's Cultural Revolution whitewash, Morning Sun.


The Chinese have an ancient, noble tradition of honoring their elders. There are those like Xu Weixin and Gao Qiang and Hu Jie who do honor to those deserving of honor: to Rongfen Wang and Bian Zhongyun and Youqin Wang and Harry Wu. In that tradition the title of Xu 's painting of Rongfen is Student and Teacher.


*Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, from whose book Mao, The Unknown Story, this sentence is taken, provide a vivid account of Rongfen Wang's actions (pp 515-516).


Thursday, June 12, 2008

China's Great Wall of Silence: On Gao Qiang's "Swimming Mao."


中国的沉默长城: 评高强「毛泽东勇渡江」。

This Warhol-esque work stands alone below as observers would have seen it in 2006 in Beijing's main art district. It shows Mao Zedong swimming in water colored bright red by the artist, the water staining Mao’s face. This painting is world famous, but not as well known in China. The authorities removed it shortly after it was first exhibited.


The subject of Gao Qiang’s painting is a black-and-white photograph of Mao swimming in the Yangtze River on July 16, 1966. The photographs were published nationwide and electrified the country. Mao had not been as visible or as powerful in the earlier years of the decade. The photographs showed him still vigorous at age 72.


Within weeks of the publication of the photographs Mao began to retake total command of the country in a movement that became known as the “Cultural Revolution.” Three million people were to be killed.


The Cultural Revolution is the defining moment in the political history of the People’s Republic of China. When it ended with Mao’s death the new authorities immediately reversed it. Despite it’s centrality, the Cultural Revolution is a taboo subject today. It and it’s disasters are too closely associated with the basis of the state’s legitimacy, that is, with Mao Zedong.


This summer, as China hosts the world, China’s leaders want the world, and the Chinese people, to forget the Cultural Revolution. They want the world and the Chinese people to pay homage to Mao, to his portrait at the entrance to the Forbidden City, to his mausoleum across the street in Tiananmen Square, but to forget that it was he who was responsible for the Cultural Revolution.


The Gao brothers will have none of this brain-washing. They will not forget, and will not let others forget. Every Chinese knows what that photograph symbolizes. They know that even in black and white, the photograph has color, that Mao Zedong swims in a river of blood, and the stains upon his face are the blood of the Chinese people. 

高氏兄弟却不会被这些宣传所洗脑,他们不想忘记,也提醒其他人不要忘记。每一个中国人都能理解那张照片所蕴含的象征意义。人们知道即使照片本身是黑白的,但它的背景却是饱含血色的 - 毛泽东在一条血流成的河里游泳,而他脸上的水渍,正是其受迫害的中国人民的斑斑鲜血。

作者: 班杰明•哈里斯

Monday, June 09, 2008

True Crime Stories: Res Ipsa Loquitor

Res Ipsa Loquitor is a latin phrase, common in the law, meaning "the thing speaks for itself," which this police officer's deposition does.

Q. What was your assignment back in May of last year?
A. I was a sergeant assigned at that time to the 14th district.
Q. During the course of your duties did you have an opportunity to respond to an address where a homicide had occurred?
A. Yes.
Q. Can you tell me how it was that you became involved in this particular case?
A. I had a prior accident where there was damage to my police vehicle earlier that night where the gate—the gate at the south station closed on my vehicle. So I was at the station for approximately two hours. So I was in there speaking with the lieutenant. She was handling my paperwork reference the vehicle damage from the city gate. Once I completed that paperwork and all that, she asked me to go home because she knew I was pissed because I take care of my equipment.
At this point I told her—I said no. I am here. Something made me come to work tonight. This happened for a reason, full moon.
I proceeded to pull out of the gate at the station. I made a right-hand turn to go south.
Q. With the damaged vehicle?
A. Yeah.
Q. What happened next?
A. As I made the right-hand, I’d say maybe I got approximately 150 feet, all of a sudden, I see a Hispanic male running towards my car.
I didn’t know if it was the typical neighborhood drunk that got thrown out of the bar or just got robbed or whatever the case was, but he seemed extremely frantic. As he was approaching me he was only screaming and yelling in Spanish.
I stopped my vehicle. I got out. I told him, “Slow down, calm down,” so I could kind of—
Q. Do you speak Spanish?
A. No, I don’t.
Q. So, what did you do?
A. I was trying to gather what he was saying. I was able to ascertain in my mind, from what he was telling me, that either there was some children that might have drowned in the tub, or something to do with a bathroom, maybe a possible suicide. I am gathering this from my broken Spanish and just trying to figure out what he was saying because he was extremely frantic.
He was pointing in the direction of the address where this incident occurred.
Q. How far is that from where the police station is?
A. A few hundred feet, approximately a few hundred feet.
So he was motioning to me, you know, reference something with the kids and water, something to do with that in the apartment.
I go racing over with him.
Q. Did you drive or walk?
A. I drove my vehicle directly to the front.
As I pulled my vehicle up, I believe I started to advise on the air that I didn’t know what I had, a possible suicide or—I don’t remember the exact thing. I had no idea what I had. This guy is frantic.
As I am approaching it, the apartment door was ajar.
Q. Is this on the ground floor?
A. Yes. It’s all one floor apartments.
The door was ajar as I approached. The guy who had flagged me down, he kept pointing in there. He appeared to be terrified. He didn’t know what was going on.
As I swing the door open a little further, the apartment was completely pitch black.
Q. No lights?
A. No lights whatsoever on in the apartment, and the floor of the apartment was flooded. When I say flooded, I would say anywhere from one to two inches of water. That really raised my suspicion that I might have exigent type circumstances in the apartment.
I went into high gear very quickly because my whole thinking was I might have had children that were drowning. Now I am thinking, “Holy shit.” Now, obviously, there is some type of foul play.
I presume you had a flashlight?
A. Yes.
I scanned in the apartment to get a little further for my safety or whatever, because I thought I was going in there dealing with children that were maybe in the tub.
Once I enter the threshold to the door I drew my weapon. The whole apartment appeared to be disheveled. It had a very nasty smell, like a musty type of a smell.
Q. What room are you in when you enter?
A. The living room.
Q. There’s nobody in the living room?
A. There’s nobody in the living room. Past the living room is a hallway and I see a room off the hallway, I see a closed door.
As I got to the closed door, based on my training, knowledge and experience, I said “Let me scream out,” or something, see if I get a response before I go in, gain entry to this door. Maybe the kids are in there. If I end up smashing the door, knock them over, injure them.
Q. Had backup arrived yet?
A. No. I am still completely by myself.
I ended up screaming out very loudly: “Open the door! Open the door!”
I probably said it cursing. “Open the”—actually, I remember. “Open the fucking door.”
I said that maybe once or twice initially. I waited a second or two.
Q. Did you hear anything?
A. Nothing, no movement at all.
The second time I really got very loud, extremely assertive saying the same thing. “Open the fucking door!” “Open the fucking God damn door right now!”
I heard a little bit of shuffling inside of the bathroom. As I said that, within a very short span, one or two seconds, the door became ajar. As soon as the door opened up, I see the mother, the defendant—
Q. Ms. Alvera?
A. She is standing there holding a toddler; I’d say a three to five-year-old. I think she had her clutched, holding her in her left arm, like holding her like with her buttocks sitting on her arm, and the daughter had no shirt on. I noticed the mother was kind of like lethargic looking. She looked like she was totally in another—
Q. Place?
A. I don’t know where she was. Yeah, another place.
Once I realized it was her and the little girl, I holstered my gun.
I see the child, the three to five-year-old. She has got all kinds of—the way to describe it is pricks, which is like the—
Q. Little puncture wounds?