Awaiting a Democratic China
Six years has passed since I last worked on Glutter. In between, I moved to the US. I didn’t end up in law school because I had a baby. I separated from the baby’s father -a man who was in Tiananmen on June 4th 1989. I moved out on my own and have done so for two years. There are days where I yell at my son in ways I did not think I would, and there are days I feel like the perfect mother I imagined myself to be when I was pregnant.
I used to say I stopped writing on Glutter was because I moved to the US. I felt disconnected from the cause, unable to talk about something so far away. I would merely be an observer on a couch in a foreign country -having no connection to the pulse and every day reality. All true, but as I reedit the words of my younger self; I would say she was frightened.
She had a looming feeling that her freedom of speech, freedom of expression and just plain freedom was under threat. She was aware she was not in a democracy, she lived in a small West Berlin of Asia. If the larger Communist country that was in effect her rulers wanted to, they could come in and change everything. All the people of Hong Kong had was a contract saying that the government of China would keep Hong Kong “the same” for 50 years after the handover.
What does “the same” mean? Which part? The governments never spelled out it as a static political rule; it could have meant the buildings. It was a piece of paper. A piece of paper that was framed and placed in a museum but no one to enforce. The British would never intervene despite being the other signee. All that was, was a promise, like a marriage -based only on trust. We already knew our husband was not to be trusted, he could bring tanks in at anytime. People said that it would never happen but were they sure?
I was scared. I had achieved enough respect to be asked to speak in international forums, and to comment in papers. I wasn’t “Little Me,” anymore as I was when my blog was cut off in China. I remember feeling nothing further could be achieved. Again as an older woman, I wonder… when I wrote my little entry about hoping for democracy in 2003 did I think I would end up on BBC, NPR or talk on international forums? I did not.
With hindsight, I was no longer comfortable exposing myself intellectually, academically and personally. I didn’t want to embarrass myself if I didn’t know the answers, I didn’t want people to ask me why I was there as I had no qualifications. Future jobs were precarious as most businesses in Hong Kong had contacts with China. I could not work for them. I could feel people who had very different opinions treating me with caution or disdain.
I did not like being under surveillance. I knew I was. My computer was hacked, a collaborator of mine and I both had our CPUs spun out so fast the circuit was burned. My hard drive completely wiped clean. As if it wasn’t enough that a decision was made to place my name on a list, along with others, to be deleted off search engines then implemented by people within google, yahoo, MSN etc. Those who did not like what I wrote finally came into my home -albeit virtually.
To this day in 2012, when my internet connection slows and I cannot connect to gmail or FB, I worry a little, I wonder if someone is interfering. I wonder if “they” are reading my searches and correspondence. Do “they” know that I listen to crappy love songs? That I write stupid comments on my friend’s facebook statuses? Do I do things not befitting of someone being monitored? At my most vulnerable, I wonder if the person logging my internet behavior is amused or unimpressed with my childish whims, unintellectual emails and inconsequential articles I read.
Under the white glow, I do wonder if I was quiet maybe “they” will forget about me. The Chinese Government will believe I have been tamed by America, by the constant entertainment and apathy that is persuasive in this country. I have been a “good girl” Communist Government, have you forgotten me? I doubt it. In my mind, there is a little beep to let someone know that this blog has started again; it was worth all those years checking in on me. They take me far more seriously than I deserve.
I like to discuss myself as a banned writer in an incredulous manner, “Can you imagine “Little Me” blocked?” “I just write about my feelings and thoughts. It just happens that my thoughts are about democracy and freedom, but it's still just my thoughts, just ideas by “Little Me!!””
I am never sure if “Little Me” is my way of deflecting what I wrote in case I am found to be ridiculous or “Little Me” is an manifestation of humility that my grandmother taught we must always have or “Little Me” is a protective psychological space where my computer will not be hacked, my phone will not be tapped, and I will never ever be followed by anyone.
Maybe all three. Yet tonight as I edit my blog and imagine what I might write in the future, I feel frightened. I am still “Little Me” but controversial enough for a censor, a human being or more than one who works for a totalitarian regime to be aware of my existence. If I am scared in the US, then I know how frightened I really was in Hong Kong as a young woman. I probably said in public and to myself I wasn’t worried out of bravado and feeling if I conveyed the fear, it would come off as I thought far too much of myself.
At this time, I am more mature and I can admit that fear does permeate as I write. I feel a nervous tension in my shoulders, I do breathe a little deeper. Yet something within me needs to say we who believe in a democratic China are still here. We are not silenced by the violence and crackdown of 23 years ago or silenced because a new hardline, pro-China Chief Executive was “voted” into Hong Kong this week by 1200 people, so surely not just because someone is spying on my email correspondence.
I am frightened, I am scared of you, but I think that is the point. You want me to be, so I will be not speak my mind. But I can’t help it. I am convicted by nature and a billion plus people walking free is something I believe in. Maybe I won’t write much about it anymore, being so far away from home, but restarting Glutter, making public all the old thoughts, and words, at its core, it’s still a blog that believes in something..
With no sarcasm what-so-ever; I hope you have a good night with your family and friends this evening.
Yan, March 30th 2012