Covering up Dr. Gao Yaojie’s house arrest

This is slick. First they harass her and put her under house arrest, and then they concoct a photo-opp to prove she’s free and happy as a clam.

The photograph and article in Tuesday’s Henan Daily could have been headlined ‘Happy Holidays.’ Three highranking Henan Province officials, beaming and clapping as if presenting a lottery check, were making an early Lunar New Year visit to the apartment of a renowned AIDS doctor, Gao Yaojie.

They gave her flowers. Dr. Gao, 80, squinted toward the camera, surely understanding that pictures can lie. She was under house arrest to prevent her from getting a visa to accept an honor in Washington. Her detention attracted international attention, and the photo op was a sham, apparently intended to say, ‘Look, she’s fine and free as a bird.’

On Thursday, Dr. Gao said in a telephone interview, a handful of police officers remained stationed outside her apartment building in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

‘I just can’t simply swallow it all,’ she said. ‘I want to know two things. First, who has made the decision? I am an 80-year-old lady, and what crimes have I committed to deserve this? Second, they must find out who has been slandering my name on the Internet.’

…. International pressure seemed to have weighed on the Henan officials who had visited Dr. Gao since her detention. She said one official visited three times a day, urging her to write a letter blaming poor health as a reason for not attending the Washington ceremony. Dr. Gao said she finally relented Wednesday.

‘After negotiation, we agreed that I will just say I am preoccupied and won’t be able to leave for the award,’ she said. ‘The letter I wrote only had two lines.’

It is unclear what the Henan authorities intend to do with the letter. Dr. Gao said she had written it to relieve political pressure on the local health department and her family.

She was also upset with entries on a blog she recently started in which she posts AIDS cases to give them public attention. ‘Various posts accused me of lying and making these cases up,’ she said. ‘Personal insults were posted. These posts were then rebutted by victims. My blog then became a battlefield.’

Jeremiah posted about this earlier, and one of the commenters took the same path as those who are insulting Dr. Gao on the Internet, insinuating that there is some dark, malevolent side to her or that she is being propped up by the CIA. This is another sad indictment of the rampant nationalism we talk about a lot here – you would think those with 5,000 years of glorious civilization behind them would be more confident and secure, so that the slightest questioning of their government didn’t send them into breathless conniptions that result in unfounded accusations and slander against a true patriot, someone going so far out of her way for the good of all China.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

I think you’ve become even more cynical since moving back to China. Not that I don’t like it. I’m right with you on this.

February 16, 2007 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

Kevin, I can’t win. I have actually gotten emails telling me how there’s a meme going around that I now am a slave to the CCP, and therefore my attitude toward the party has become fawning and coddling. Then you say I’m more cynical than ever! I think the answer lies in-between: I take same stance and harbor the level of cynicism I always have. I’ll try to acknowledge the good when I see it, and similarly, I’ll call them out when they do things that are fucked up.

February 16, 2007 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

It’s a very curious case isn’t it: For a start, she is 80 so arresting her is bound to attract a lot of attention, and then its about AIDS, something that theoretically can be discussed now.

I’m quite cynical about this: Sounds like she is being intimidated and smeared in an attempt not so much to silence her, but rather to discourage future whistleblowers from coming forward – reinforcment of the environment of self-censorship if you like.

Sure equally nasty things happen everywhere, but it must be tough to blow the whistle when you know the people you are criticizing control the legal safety net you would want to fall back on.

February 16, 2007 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

Sure equally nasty things happen everywhere,

Well, yes and no. It’s when we read shit like this that we appreciate real rule of law and the right to appeal and the right to call in the 60 Minutes crew.

but it must be tough to blow the whistle when you know the people you are criticizing control the legal safety net you would want to fall back on.

And therein lies the rub. That’s what makes being a whistleblower here such a terrifying prospect, and you have to question the sanity of those who do it. They are usually doomed before they even start – a further reason why people like Gao win my undying admiration, and why the system that would crush such heroes wins my unbridled contempt and fury.

February 16, 2007 @ 3:49 pm | Comment

By ‘everywhere’, of course, I mean the United States, and specifically Russell Crowe and Al Pacino in The Insider and all other heroes in Hollywood evil corporation movies…

February 16, 2007 @ 3:57 pm | Comment

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