Disparate Voices: Five Chinese Women Speak


A group of women seeks redress for official wrongdoing in Beijing. Photo: AFP

Ms. Zhang, 58, from Shanghai. Caller to "Voices of the People"

When I heard the caller to your show the other day it made me think of my own situation. I too was forcibly evicted in 2004. That operation had very little to do with the law. The property developer's license wasn't even genuine...They came by the land illegally.

The forced evictions went on from 2003-2004...We took them to court and sued them successfully but still nothing has been done to this day...I am living at friends' houses or wherever I can these days. My pension is very low. It works out to about U.S.$100 a month...My mother was taken to the police station on the day we were evicted, and she collapsed. I don't know whether they had given her some drug or something.

I am weighed down with a terrible sense of injustice...I am crying even though you can't see it. There is so much wrongdoing in Chinese society now. I don't know when it will change.

Today we are in the hospital. I have tried to put in an official complaint about this. My mother had another stroke in December. We have been to Beijing to petition about this, but everything is much more tightly controlled during the parliament. They detain you and beat you to stop you from petitioning. This happened to me on Nov. 19 when I was in Beijing. The beating was so bad I now have neurological damage...

They say that China is a country where there is the rule of law, and that should be in order to protect ordinary people, but private property owners, individuals like me, have no power at all in this system. They talk about a "harmonious society," but I don't have any experience of such a thing.

Ms. Xu from Shandong, called "Voices of the People"

I was recently detained by the police. This has to do with my family, and with the telephone...It was suddenly cut off by the company. It was in someone else's name. I wanted to continue to call RFA so I tried to register another line in my name. They refused. I went to the office and tried to climb over the metal barrier they have there, in protest. They called the police.

What I wanted to know was why they were refusing my application for a telephone account today, when yesterday they had said it would be fine. I wouldn't leave it alone, so eventually the police didn't have much choice. They grabbed me by the arm and into the police car, and to the police station.

They held me there from noon to about 9 p.m. They were threatening to keep me detained, telling me that I had already broken the law by causing a public disturbance. I told them, that's fine. You can detain me. Then at least I'll have food to eat. They got very angry with me and said I had some "problems" on my file, and that they were concerned about me...

The next day, I went back to the telephone company and they said they would give me an account. That was after I threatened to go to the relevant municipal authorities and launch a complaint. Maybe that scared them a bit.

Ms. Shandong called "Listener Hotline"

When I was in high school, it was the Cultural Revolution, and we were constantly holding struggle sessions to attack people. We struggled the teachers, and we struggled the school principal, accusing him of some completely irrational "crimes."

During one of these sessions, when they were struggling a teacher, a really well-behaved boy suddenly thought of a good way to hurt the teacher, by putting a certain kind of caterpillar in his trousers. This sort of caterpillar had irritating fur that would cause extreme itching and pain if it came into contact with your skin. The teacher was in agony and rolling around on the floor. This had a really big impact on me.

After the end of the Cultural Revolution a lot of people got punished. But the caterpillar incident never got much notice because the student who did it wasn't really one of the leaders. After a while, as time went by, everyone gradually forgot about it. A few years later I saw the student again and...asked him if he still remembered it. He said he remembered it and please not to mention it. He said he had already suffered retribution for that incident.

He said it didn't land on him, but on his own child. The whole family had been really happy when the kid was born but then the child developed a mysterious illness. He would periodically be covered in small, irritating spots, which were itchy and painful and made the child cry and scratch himself. They couldn't work out what was wrong with him. They took him all over to seek treatment, but without success. These spots would appear once in a while, and go away in a few days by themselves.

Gradually he recalled the incident during the Cultural Revolution when he used a caterpillar to hurt the teacher. The spots plagued his child over a period of six years. The attacks gradually got less and less severe before they went away entirely.

He told me he firmly believed that this was a form of retribution for his actions in the Cultural Revolution, quoting the old saying, "The sins of the fathers will be visited upon the sons." I believe in this too. A lot of people think they can get away with doing bad things with no retribution from the law. But an even worse fate is awaiting them.

Ms. Xu, regular caller to "Listener Hotline"

Recently I have heard a lot of talk on your show about the U.S. elections. I was pleased to hear that a black person is running for president of the United States. If a black person like Obama can get elected president, more people, including myself, will have more respect for the United States. It has always been my impression that in countries where the majority of the population is white, blacks are somewhat discriminated against.

I think that Obama's running indicates that all are equal under the law. I had hoped that Hillary [Clinton] would come out ahead, because she is a woman, and in the history of the United States, no woman has ever been president. Then I heard there is a candidate that is non-white. So I think there will be a lot of good feeling if either of them is elected, actually.

Ms. Anonymous, called "Voices of the People", Feb. 11

I wanted to call you because my mood is very bad. I am crying all the time and barely had the energy to call you today. I am weighed down with a terrible sense of injustice...I am crying even though you can't see it. There is so much wrongdoing in Chinese society now. I don't know when it will change. I hope there will be a future with more justice in it, or I will live the rest of my life in sadness and grief.

This great Party of ours is riddled with corruption at every level and nobody cares. I sincerely hope that we can arrive at a democratic system with the rule of law sooner rather than later. Yesterday, a lady in Shanghai was asking after me on your show. I was very moved by this and want to thank her. It made me very happy because nobody usually asks after me. I wish her peace and happiness, as well as her nearest and dearest, for the rest of her life.

I often want to talk to you about my suffering, about how I can't bear the pain of life any more. I want to tell the world that the gap between rich and poor in China is getting wider and wider, that everywhere you turn there are corrupt officials. We can't do anything to change it. We can only let our tears flow inside us. I don't know how much of my life is left to me. This winter is too, too cold.

Original reporting in Chinese

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