Last week, Chinese novelist Yu Jie was taken into custody and interrogated by the State Security Bureau after announcing that he would soon be publishing a book, titled China's Best Actor: Wen Jiabao, about China's premier. After his release, Yu insisted that he would continue to pursue publication of the book, even though the authorities threatened to give him a long prison sentence like that given to his mentor and fellow writer Liu Xiaobo.
Yu also penned and posted a fascinating transcript (in Chinese) of his interrogation session with state security on the dissident blog Observe China, which has now been translated into English by the Laogai Research Foundation. Yu's narrative of his surreal conversation with the Chinese authorities is a must read: It is simultaneously chilling, inspiring, and hilarious. He ridicules, challenges, and baits his interrogators, even as they threaten his family, friends, and church with reprisals if he continues to pursue his critical writings.
One section in particular caught my attention, however. At one point in their "discussion," the Chinese policeman "Zhu," who is leading his interrogation, taunts Yu over the Obama administration's apparent lack of interest in him and other dissidents (emphasis mine):
Zhu: I should remind you that you shouldn’t be taken advantage of by some anti-China forces. You see, since Obama came to power, the American embassy no longer keeps in touch with you. America is not reliable. You criticize Obama; is it because he wouldn’t grant you an interview like Bush did? I said: I’m an independent intellectual beyond the control of any force. I criticize the CCP, not because America protects me. No matter what American policy will be, it won’t change my critical attitude toward the CCP. If you learn from my articles, you’ll see that since Obama became president, he hasn’t cared about Chinese human rights issues, but my critiques of the Communist government haven’t declined. Besides, I criticize Obama, not because he hasn’t seen me, as I never take the initiative to meet with these political figures. When I met with Bush, we didn’t know about it in advance. Today, I criticize Obama because I’m a hardcore Republican. Aside from his policies on China, I very much disagree with his domestic policies. If I was an American intellectual, I would criticize Obama more sharply than I criticized Wen Jiabao.
It’s outrageous to see that the U.S. Embassy in Beijing has apparently cut off contact with Yu Jie since Obama's election. For brave and committed individuals such as Yu Jie, who are risking their lives for freedom in defiance of China's authoritarian government, international support is an important source of protection. But both Yu and his official tormentors seem to be accommodating themselves to a new world in which such support cannot be relied upon. The Chinese government's increasingly bold attacks on dissidents are a predictable outgrowth of the conspicuous silence of the West.
It saddens me to see that Yu no longer expects support from the American government, but I know that he will keep fighting for freedom of expression in China, whether our government stands with him or not. The bravery of China's dissidents in the face of their government's bullying threats and abuse is a devastating rebuke of the Obama administration's weak-willed China policy.