Below is Zola's recount of what he's been through over the past few days and his abrupt conclusion. In a second blog post since his forced return earlier this week he talks of redirecting the space to focus more on blogger education, but also mentions some unfinished business related to his time in Shenyang.
It's not the specific type of violence he claims he encountered at the hands of police while in custody there, he seems to have brushed that off. Nor is it having been in custody for more than the legally allowed 24 hours or possibly having been turned in by the ant farmer he was trying to help. Zola, reminding readers of his rural socioeconomic background, wants back the USD160 he says security agents confiscated while he was being held; in this message to readers, he threatens to sue to get it back.
In his Dec. 6 account of the previous few days’ events, Zola writes of an angry police officer punching him several times in the neck and all the events leading up to and following the night he spent in detention. His first day in Shenyang was largely uneventful, food with online friends and the arrangement of a meeting with one ant farmer for the following day:
后来，开始有一个小伙子开始询问我在沈阳的细节，跟哪些人接触，和哪些人打过电话，受何人指使，有何目的。我当然是坦白啦，我又没做错任何事。做了一份笔录后，然后让我打开背包，他们就一件件检查啊，我就一台电脑、一个黑莓7230、一个小手电筒、一把五元钱从天桥买的来类瑞士军刀、一个” 蚂蚁工坊” 和三只活蚂蚁、一个三脚架、SD卡、还有一个索尼记忆棒、一个U盘还有几个读卡器，那个索尼记忆棒把他们弄糊涂了，明明我没有相关设备，怎么会有索尼记忆棒，让他们去猜测吧。他们要看我的QQ里的记录，结果我的TM版的QQ是前天才下载的，我根本没有和谁聊过，那天加入的QQ群也被解散了，最近联系人里啥也没有。上卫生间是有人陪的，想喝水人有帮我打来水。手机不让玩，把电池取下来了。
1. They felt that “there is no absolute freedom of speech,” and I said that I don't need absolute freedom of speech, just that which the law allows;
2. They felt “you don't understand Yilishen, so you shouldn't be speaking about it,” and I said that it's precisely because I don't understand that I'm trying to understand;
3. They felt that my views weren't objective enough, and I said that there are different sides to everything. My objective side is but one sample within a statistical sampling set, and according to the laws of statistics, only with sufficient samples can one approach truth and objectivity;
4. They felt my “pretending to be conducting interviews, yet refusing to admit to imitating a journalist” wasn't plausible, and I said “interviewing” is not patented for journalists only: I may not be a journalist, but I am qualified to speak to anyone I want. Chinese law stipulates that any interview only requires agreement from the interviewee or location involved.
5. They felt that the act of me photographing their police vehicles was illegal, and I said ‘fear that in investigating a case, photographs or recording might lead criminals to exact revenge would make this an internal regulation; please produce the relevant provision in the law to which I'm bound;
6. I report on sensitive news, which apparently affects national image, so I mentioned the motorcar finals drift incident as an example of the inappropriateness of over-emphasis on ethnicity when making arguments: if someone winds up hurt, it won't have been me who hurt them, but fact. Those who wish to not have their image affect by reporting should please avoid engaging in events which effect their image;
7. Freedom of speech supervises small mistakes, and prevents them from becoming unmanageable large mistakes;
8. Freedom of speech is willingness to take on the freedom that freedom of speech brings; wherein even if the consequences are clearly known, as long as one is willing to accept the consequences, one can choose to express one's self in a way which brings said consequences. For example, if someone knows that to speak the truth will bring retaliation, at this time he has the freedom to choose: stay silent, or speak out. If being willing to speak out means accepting the consequences, he will choose the freedom to speak out.
2. 关于网站为何建立在国外的原因、动机、目的、费用来源、支付方式，我告诉他们我的alouz.com是被要求删除文章过的，我当然要顺便批评一下 “非营利网站备案制度”啦，我估计那份笔录会至少让省级别的领导看到，我要趁机传递我的观点给那些当领导的人，假如他们当领导的人还有开明的，我还能算得上自下而上配合他们的改革；
1. A recording regarding everything I'd heard and all the people I'd come in contact with in Liaoning, including activities with my net-friend Scavin, also including the financial assistance received from net-friend Liumiao and classmates Mei and Xu;
2. Regarding the reasons, motives, goals, funding sources and payment methods for my overseas-hosted blog. I told them that my previous alouz.com was ordered to have posts deleted, and of course I'm critical of the regulation that non-profit websites must be registered. I'm sure that at least this recording will be seen by the provincial-level leaders. I hope for chances to pass on my views to these leaders. If any of these leaders were open-minded, I might just be assisting their reforms from the bottom up;
3. Regarding my post “Who's willing to go to Shenyang to report on the situation of the ant farmers?”, a statement on my motives and aims; they printed it out and asked me what my motives and aims were. I of course told them the truth, on one hand I came out of curiosity toward sensitive news, and on the other hand to sell ad space, raise readership and my level of fame;
4. A statement regarding the contacts in my cellphone, of which there are over 600. After the state security agent promised not to delete my contact numbers, I unlocked my Blackberry and let them inspect it while I watched. They only wrote down 20-something names and info for people like Ms. Xu from Time magazine, Chan Kim-ching in Hong Kong, and the Deutsche Welle people. I told him that Ms. Xu had interviewed me, that I'd stayed at Chan Kim-ching's home when I went to Hong Kong, and the Deutsche Welle number was the one they used to interview me while they were choosing the Chinese contender for their Best of Blogs. I guess they're checking to see if I have connection to overseas groups, or if I receive funding from overseas;
5. A statement regarding my motives and aims in my New Year's Day post this year, “Against the communist party, against one-party dictatorship”. This post was balanced and fair, and doesn't amount to calling for action or instigation; it mainly speaks of the ease, in absence of external media oversite, with which small social problems become large social problems. Right, they're very smart. The version they printed out was actually the mobile version.
They woke me up at around 7am, now Dec. 4, and we went down to the canteen for breakfast. They had millet congee, steamed buns, salted pickles. Each table sat six people, and there were five tables, so around 30 people didn't get any sleep that night. When we finished breakfast, it was off-and-on again with the statements. When we finished the last two, one higher-up came in to see me, he was around 60, hair was all grey, wearing glasses, and very polite. The mood felt different after he walked in. This is Director Li, someone said, and I guess that between Shenyang or Beijing he was probably the highest-ranked person involved in my case. I shook his hand, and we chatted for a while. He only said that their Hunan office had phoned, and I don't remember anything else important in what he said; he went to take a phone call, and then left without saying anything more. I guess he just wanted to give me a summary talk before they let me go.
By noon on Dec. 4 I was still giving statements, and neither the recorder nor I had had lunch. At around 1pm they gave me a bowl of Master Kong instant noodles. Ph yeah, as we were doing the last statement, someone said to me: “you're a true warrior.” I couldn't hear clearly, so he said it again, “you're a true warrior.” I guess seeing me dare write a post in opposition to one-party party dictatorship because of its controls on media scared the balls off him. I think he actually was giving me praise, and not just mocking me. Later, someone else gave me their own assessment, and I asked: “are you mocking or praising me?”, and then I said “thank you.”
Then they made me write a letter guaranteeing that I would not create disturbances for the government, that I would not instigate people's emotions, and that I'd encourage people to give the government time to make their records and liquidate Yilishen Co.'s property. The ant farmers’ losses could only come from Yilishen Co., the ant farmers and the government each taking on their own part of the burden. For example, ant farmers were saying they'd lost 400,000 RMB, when really they'd only invested 100,000 RMB. They can demand 400,000 in compensation, but the government will not see this amount as correct, and in the end it can only be all three parties taking their own share. The government knows that the people's emotions are a little irrational, and that's why it hasn't let them go to Beijing to petition or block the railways. This is the government attitude and approach that I heard from their conversations; as for how widespread the disaster is and how much money is involved, I only heard that there was someone who, when they saw the total figure, started to cry. I was not given any concrete data.
When it seemed I could leave, the recorder and the other familiar computer people came to chat with me, saying that I was a computer master, and they wanted to learn a few things. The recorder said he wanted to see some foreign porn websites and asked me how. I told them there's this open source free thing called Tor that they can use with Firefox and FoxyProxy that will allow them to see most overseas websites. I even told them the basics of how to use a VPN. They knew all about software like Silence and Wu-jie. I'm not worried about them “knowing the enemy” and stepping up censorship. Anyway, Tor is unblockable, unless there comes a day when everyone goes “bandit.”
At around 4pm, four people put me into a police vehicle. I sat in the back, squished between two people; throughout all of this I didn't see a single pair of handcuffs. When we got to the airport, they spent 4,650 RMB on three plane tickets to Changsha. I saw them take out a big stack of money, which looked like ten thousand flat. I also saw them put my 1,200 yuan and identity card into an envelope. I assume they took my money not because they needed to cover travel costs for the case, but to stop me from running off and going underground to continue doing my reports on the Yilishen incident. I assumed they'd give me my money back.
On the plane, I was still sitting between the two state security agents, one young surnamed Wang and another older surnamed Zhai. Halfway there we stopped in Hefei, and it might have been that my cellphone turned itself on or that it was never shut off, but right then the BBC called. I said I was on the way back to Changsha. They wouldn't let me say too much, and I turned the phone off again.
At 9:40, we arrived at Changsha Huangji Airport and the Changsha provincial Security Department was there to pick me up. While we met I noticed that the Department had sent security agents straight from Ningxiang County to pick me up, and take me straight back to Ningxiang. The state security agents had the Meitanba police come to Ningxiang to pick me up and take me back to Meitanba. Turns out the Meitanba people wouldn't come, so they had to take me from Ningxiang to Meitanba as well. The Ningxiang state security agent was surnamed Ou, and there was civilian cop who stayed in Ningxiang to find places to stay for comrades Wang and Zhai. When they got out, they dropped the three plane tickets and comrade Wang's identity card right in the open, and I picked them up and gave them back to comrade Ou. Then I asked him about my own identity card and my 1,200 yuan. He said comrades Wang and Zhai hadn't given them to him, but that he would ask when he got back to Ningxiang.
At the police station in Meitanba, I did yet another recorded statement for a Meitanba cop, comrade Huang, a record of my movements in Shenyang. Then he told me of many unstable factors here in Meitanba, telling me not to say anything crazy. He even went out of his way to say that if I do go ahead and open my own vegetable shop, to give him a call when it opens so he can come take a look, and that if there are any crime issues to let him know. But for now, he said, you're not to go too far from home. If you need to go out, you have to give me a call first.
When I got home it was already 2 or 3. I got something to eat and then went to sleep, waking up on the afternoon of the 5th. For two days I didn't sleep well, and it's always more comfortable at home anyway, so..
Dec. 5, did nothing. Went online and put a few lines on Fanfou and Twitter to let friends know what was up and that I was safe. I checked my computer for anything unusual, but only noticed that they'd deleted all photos and video related to ants. I don't know if they turned on my GTalk or Skype, I'll have to check when friends come back online. I wasn't online from the afternoon of the 3rd to early morning of the 4th, so if friends saw me online during that time, please tell me. Of course I'll be changing my passwords and taking related measures.
Dec. 6, today, I said at lunch that I'd write something. First I gave officer Huang a call to ask if he had security agent Ou's phone number. He said he didn't, so I phoned Director Li at the Hunan Province Security Department, asking what was going on with my 1,200 yuan and if he could give me comrade Ou's phone number. He said it was none of his business, telling me to figure out my own way of getting ahold of them. All I can do is blog this. I assume that the Dengta City police and internet monitors can see my blog, so I hope you give me my money back. Writing this took me 2-3 hours.
I hope that if Dengta City state security agents Zhang Qicheng and Wang Qingyou see this, that they can get in touch with me and give me the airplane ticket money back. Taking the airplane was not my idea. The time the flight took already put you over the 24 hour time limit on detaining me; you already overstepped your limits on my freedom of person, and if you don't give me my money back, I'll sue you for corruption or the illegal plundering of a citizen's property.
If you've been following Zola's blogging career, you might have read of the controversy this autumn over payments he received from those whose stories he blogged, with one subject in Xining accusing him of theft. Zola addresses this briefly at the end of this post in a manner which suggests the matter is quite complicated. All parties concerned seem to have made their sides clear in different places online, and Zola's peers from within the active blogging community seem to have left the issue behind.
In closing to the above post, Zola lists several ways readers can continue funding his blogging pursuit or support his possible upcoming legal battle, from adding money to his mobile phone card to buying ads on his blog. For those seeking to deposit to his bank or PayPal account, he provides a disclaimer:
1. 写BLOG 真实的表达自己的想法是合法的，
2. Entitlement comes from awakening of the conscious, one can only save one's self;
3. Oppression is normal, giving up resistance is abnormal;
4. Fulfill your obligation as a citizen, uphold citizens’ rights;
5. Establish urban society, defend public spaces.
6. Reform is bottom-up, don't count on heroes coming to rescue you. Even if there is such a hero, in a bottom-up society, he can only become a dictator; when wolves go, tigers move in;
7. Make democratic awareness universal, raise the people's cultural education levels.
The task of saving yourselves is in your own hands now. I have no responsibility or obligation to anyone currently in a situation of life or death; the only person who can save you is yourself. Don't come to me looking for justice or truth; justice and truth are things of idealism; if it's the truth to you, then the truth it is; it's certainly none of my damn business.