Rare interview with China’s cyber-dissident Liu Di

It’s quite interesting to see the human side of people like Liu Di (aka the Stainless Steel Mouse), whose situation causes them to achieve a mythical stature. Anyone who has followed her case will want to read this excellent interview that explains who she is, how she ended up in jail and what her future looks like. A brief snippet:

She began participating in discussions on Democracy and Freedom, a Web site that is often at odds with the government. By 2001, she opened her own Web site, much of it dedicated to literature, but she also published some articles calling for more freedom and openness. And as cyberspace became her home, she began to be more bold.
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She wrote an essay defending a man jailed because of political postings on his Web site. She defended another intellectual who was targeted by the government for organizing a reading association and for posting political essays online. She wrote a critical attack on an advocate of nationalism, and also began dabbling in satire and parody at the expense of the government.

In one posting, she called for the organization of a new political party in which anyone could join and everyone could be chairman. She says it was a spoof. But by September 2002, college administrators summoned her with a warning. “They said the postings I published on the Web went too far,” she said. “Some of the stuff I thought was written in a joking manner. But they thought it was too far.”

Terrified, she said she scaled back on her online writing. But two months later, administrators ordered her to the campus police station, where officers took her to a Beijing prison. She was put into a cell with three other women, including a convicted murderer. Even today, she says she does not know which of her essays led to her arrest.

“I think a normal government should not be challenged by these writings,” she said. “We are not promoting violence. We’re not organizing to challenge the government.”

A normal government? You’d think someone this bright would know that the CCP is not quite your normal government, and that in its eyes, everything stated via a public medium like the Internet is automatically a potential threat to its stability. She certainly learned the hard way. And she’s damned lucky that she made it out — thanks to a worldwide outcry. The tragedy is that many others were not so lucky, and every time I think of them, I feel sick and helpless.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

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