Repression of free speech is necessary in China. I can already see the self-righteous anger building up in the mind of any American that reads that sentence. "WHAT???? Free speech is a basic human right!!" Actually, I agree. Every time I see a violation of free speech, I have to fight the knee-jerk American reaction of outrage. In fact, in order to read my own blog I must use a proxy because blogspot is often blocked in China. Even though I am against repression of free speech, I think that it is a necessary evil in China. Do you really think it would be possible to run a country of 1.3 billion people, maintain breakneck 10% annual economic growth, and sustain social stability if the government let everyone freely speak their minds? Nothing would ever be accomplished and there would be constant protests and riots. The population is simply too large and a large percentage of it is uneducated. To keep order and maintain economic growth, China needs nationwide consensus...even if means forcing unity down the throat of the people through monopolized media and censorship.
Having said that, I think that today's events regarding a young girl in the city of Shenyang are going a bit too far.
Tonight, while I was watching an episode of Frasier, my wife and her mother (she has come to visit and send us off next week) were watching a video on the internet. They were laughing hysterically and I thought for sure that they were watching a comedy, but when I came over to check it out they were just watching a video of a girl giving a monologue. As I am sure you know, there was a horrible earthquake in Sichuan province on May 12th. This past Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were declared official mourning days in China. Across the country there was a blanket moratorium on public entertainment. Movies on the internet were blocked. Movie theaters were closed. Every TV channel was covering the earthquake 24 hours per day. Online games were closed down. A girl named Gao Qianhui was not happy about her entertainment being taken away, so she made a totally inappropriate video:
Here are some highlights. Maybe the translations aren't 100% correct, but I think they are pretty close:
-"God, stupid old lady trapped under a building for over 100 hours...you aren't dead yet?"
-"You guys in Sichuan are being punished for bad Karma. See what happens when you boycott French goods?"
-"The aftershocks were caused by all the people in Sichuan farting so much."
-"Maybe your eyes were destroyed by the earthquake, but I can still see. I want my entertainment back."
-"You guys in Sichuan always come up north to beg. Now you are just using this opportunity to suck some more money up."
This girl, out of frustration due to the fact that her entertainment was taken from her, made a completely tasteless attempt at being funny. She uses dark humor and sarcasm to create something that people laugh at when they really shouldn't be laughing. As you can see, the girl next to her is about to die laughing.
I think what she did was totally wrong, and I can understand why people would be mad. What she did would be the equivalent of some club queen, angry that her favorite clubs downtown are closed because of 9/11, cracking jokes about people jumping out of the twin towers and making fun of the firemen that died.
Yes, this girl did a horrible thing. Yes, many Chinese people are justifiably outraged. These alone aren't newsworthy items. Why am I bothering to mention her in my blog? Because she is going to jail! She is being brought up on charges, including destroying national stability. Huh? Some foolish young girl makes a stupid video and she is destroying national stability? Young people say stupid things every day, that doesn't mean that they should go to jail. I'm guessing that Gao Qianhui is going to disappear in the Chinese political prison system simply because she made a few tasteless jokes. Crazy, huh? Chinese netizens seem to agree with this course of action, but I can't help but wonder how many people disagree but are too scared to publicly say anything. My wife and her mother are included in this group. After they finished laughing at what Gao Qianhui said, they agreed that what she said wasn't nice, but they saw her for what she is: a stupid girl that said a stupid thing, not a threat to national stability.
Most of the time, I don't even realize that I live in a communist country. I go about my life and this fact doesn't really affect me. It's when things like this happen that I get a reminder that I'm not in the US anymore.