There’s a fascinating post over at this website that I’ve added to my daily read list about the way China often goes about arresting dissidents — with pomp and melodrama and brute force that would give inspiration to Hollywood producers of action films for teenagers. Houses are burst into, doors knocked down, black hoods placed over heads and the victim herded off by throngs of policeman when one or two could have handily done the trick.
He describes the 2006 arrest of Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, after a throng of bare-chested police surrounded his sister’s house he was visiting. Pardon the long clip, but it’s good stuff.
“At the very instant when my sister unlocked the door, three men kicked the door open…with thundering noises.” When they came in and seized Gao, “one man sat on my mouth, another pulled my hair backward, quickly wrapping my mouth with yellowish tape. Then they pulled me on the floor, two big men stepped on my calves to keep me in a kneeling position. Then they wrapped the same tape around my eyes. After that, they put a sack over my head.”
He was taken to Beijing, barefoot, in a pair of shorts. His T-shirt had been torn into pieces. The same night in the 2nd Detention Center of Beijing (北京第二看守所), he was interrogated, locked in a metal chair by metal shackles with bright light shining on him on both sides. He was no longer referred to by his own name, but the number 815.
Four interrogators came in. One of them, who Gao Zhisheng believed was the head of the pack, paced back and forth in front of him. “815, now you have an idea how powerful our party is, don’t you? From what has happened today, have you not seen how powerful our party is?”
To apprehend a bare-foot man in his shorts who was not known for extraordinary martial prowess, two policemen would suffice. Okay four. But instead, you have dozens. Instead of wearing their uniforms which represent the legitimacy, dignity and authority of their job, they resorted to bare chests and dark glasses. From the head interrogator we know that the whole sequence was choreographed to show force. A lot can be said about the need to “shock and awe,” but why bare chests? Why dark glasses? What’s going on? Why does the head interrogator sound like a mafia boss? Why did he talk like that?
The detention of AiWeiwei last year was similarly theatrical. We’ve all seen stories about these arrests. We even know some people who had the honor of being hooded and whisked to secret jails.
Following the logic of Occam’s Razor, wouldn’t you think the reason for the pyrotechnics is simply to instill terror? Terror for those being hooded and those witnessing it and those who hear about it later? Terror works. It’s a scary thing to go up against the Chinese leadership, and you have to know that once you cross that red line anything goes, and you will be made an example. You will experience repression CCP-style.
Read the entire post. It’s witty and wryly written, but it is in no way funny.
(And I realize a lot of this is done at the local level, and not all dissidents are treated this way. But the party seems to welcome the publicity of such grandiose operations. Maybe it’s all part of its strategy to stay in power?)
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.
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.