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China: Blogger interrogated after criticizing Shanghai EXPO 2010

A blogger, A Bad Friend, was summoned by security police for interrogation over tea upon writing an article, 10 sins of EXPO 2010, on his blog. After the tea session, he wrote another article, “La Dernière Classe”, recording the conversation between the security police and himself. The exchange reflects the ideological conflict between a party-state nation represented by the security police and a people-orientated nation represented by the student blogger. The two original posts were deleted but still circulated widely online.

Long before the EXPO 2010 started, the Propaganda Department has issued notice to newspapers and major web portals for positive reports. Despite all the chaos during the opening, most of the official reports remained positive and there were very few negative comments online. The 10 sins listed by A Bad Friend were so far the most elaborated criticism of the EXPO from a local resident's perspective and that's probably the reason behind the tea session. Let's look at the EXPO 10 sins first:

EXPO 10 sins


Expo refugees — In order to prepare for the Expo, many residents near the Huangpu river were forced to move, losing their homes.


Violation of human rights — with the Shanghai Expo approaching, the Shanghai government started to monitor over 100 thousand foreign residents, demanding they return home no later than 11pm. This is a violation of personal freedom and privacy… And recently, human rights activists Feng Zhenghu's home was raided by police after he proposed holding an ‘Injustice Expo’. His computer and modem were confiscated. During the Shanghai Expo, there isn't any demonstration zone, implying that all demonstrations during the Expo will be illegal as we don't have freedom of assembly and demonstration in China.

好大喜功的面子工程――由国家主办上海承办的世博会的花销为4000亿,成为史上最昂贵的世博会,与勤俭办博的理念背道而驰。再看看,西南五省大旱,6000万人受灾,损失200多亿, 中央拨付旱灾救灾资金1.5亿元;“两会”期间,有官员指出: 中国实现全民免费医疗每年需花费1600亿元,目前中国不具备这个经济实力!对比一下,民生工程在面子工程面前显得多么的脆弱…

A wasteful decorative engineering project — This Expo becomes the most expensive world Expo as the government has spent 400 billion yuan on it. The Central government only allocated an RMB 0.15 billion relief fund to fight against the drought that cost RMB 20 billion in economic damages and affected 60 million people. During the “Two Congresses”, officials said that it only took RMB 160 billion annually to achieve universal health care. The spending on people's livelihood is much less than all these decorative projects…


Non-transparent budget and closed-door decision making — up till now, the government is yet to disclose the details of the Expo expenses. All the decisions were made with the doors closed…


Destructing cultural heritage and creating a distorted property market — Shanghai's old city was destroyed, and the newly built Expo pavilions will be demolished. A small number of them will be preserved in order to boost the property market…

扰民会――…当局以改善市容保障安全为由,除了限制民众晒衫,又劝阻民众穿睡衣上街,买菜刀也要实名制… 上海当局近日又宣布,居民购买老鼠药及含剧毒成份的农药物品,也要凭身份证…

Disturbing people's livelihood — … the government, under the pretext of improving the city's outlook, restricts people from hanging their clothes outdoor and stops people from wearing pajamas in the street. Real name registration is now required when buying chopping knives… and recently the Shanghai government has demanded residents to show their ID when buying rat poison and pesticides…

礼仪小姐变态培训―― …来自各地高校的数名美丽可爱的姑娘们经过层层选拔,接受形体、外事礼仪、世博会知识、外语等方面的培训,最终确定为礼仪人员。但如此训练方式,真是让人不免心生怜惜。礼仪不是这样练成的!这么练是叫这些女孩子去卖笑么?我就不明白了?就不能像其他国家的女孩子一样?发自内心的微笑么?

Training of Miss Etiquette — cute and beautiful girls are selected from universities all over the country and have received all kind of training, such as physical, manner, Expo knowledge, and foreign language in order to become Miss Etiquette. I feel pity for the girls and wonder if manner should be trained like this. Why can't they smile from their hearts?

世博歌曲抄袭事件――…未开幕,先丢人,这个估计动用了一千万人民币制作费的世博曲 现在看来成了上海世博会的烫手山芋,也实为一大国耻。…

Plagiarized Expo theme song — we have lost our face before the opening of Expo. The theme song, estimated to have costed 10 million yuan has become a national shame…

城市,让生活更糟糕―― 上海世博会的口号“城市,让生活更美好”…中国的大城市就是这样,毁灭100万个理想,用这100万个理想诞 生出1到2个新富。…

City makes life worse — the slogan of EXPO is “Better City, Better Life”… In China, our city is to ruin one million dreams to give birth to 1 to 2 new rich…


Sins covered up for building a “Great Nation”

“La Dernière Classe”

On May 11, the blogger was summoned by security police. The main purpose of the exchange, apart from delivering a warning to the blogger, is also an examination of his thought with an attempt to identify the source of his idea and whether or not there is a social network behind the scene. The blogger called the tea session “La Dernière Classe”:



SP: Where do you have your blog? What did you write about the Expo?

Me: Sinablog and I wrote about the 10 sins of Expo. Probably because I am not famous, I am not HanHan, that's why you come after me. Actually I am under the influence of HanHan, I read many of his novels and I like him a lot. Today is a misfortune to me.



SP: HanHan is HanHan, what is your opinion on Expo?

Me: I am not against Expo as an event, but against its politicization. The Expo, as an exhibition of culture and science development, can be an Enlightening event in China. It is a platform for us to understand the world more. However, it is not necessary to turn it into a propaganda and post so many restriction on people's life. It should not be organized as a political mission. Last year when Chicago applied for 2016 Olympic, not so many Chicago residents supported the city government, but the government would not “educate” the mass and threaten the people to support the Olympic application. The Shanghai Expo has not followed the principles and ideas that it advocated, such as “Low carbon Expo”, “Green”, “Hardwork and Thriftiness” etc. I travelled to Cambodia once, unlike other countries, their Expo took place near the forest. Our firework in Huangpu river is more than the Beijing Olympic. Many countries do not want to hold EXPO nowadays. When our people do not enjoy basic health care and unemployment support, I don't see the value in spending so much money on this. Moreover, so many people were forced to move with little compensation, most of them chose to keep silent, a few decided to defend their rights but repressed, some had lost their home. The government should be responsible for these. When the Expo comes to an end, the government will sell the land and many will be exploited again.



SP: Expo is a marking tone of our nation's progress and strength, we should be proud of it. Where did you learn all this information?

Me: Overseas news media, like BBC, VOA, RFI, DW, RFA, New York Times. Also, unblocked Chinese news websites such as I don't trust mainland media, western media are more independent and therefore trustworthy, that's probably why they have a global audience.



SP: Your English is good, right? I also visited foreign news websites, they are not that trustworthy, they like to report negative news. We should see the bright side more.

Me: My English is so-so, but I managed to understand the basic content. News media should be independent in order to monitor the society. They should not become propaganda tools. Our society needs progress, that's why we have to confront the dark side, not cover it up and create a false harmony. Of course western media are more objective, they also praise China, for example the reports on the opening of Beijing Olympic is very positive.



SP: Their media has their stand, not very objective.

Me: Everyone has their own stand and value, but it does not negate objectivity. When we have free speech, the news media will be more objective.



SP: Our country also has free speech, but not absolute freedom. Your cannot defame others and invade others’ rights, and you cannot leak national secrets.

Me: I don't thing there is anything called absolute freedom. Freedom is based on a country's constitution. One cannot attack other people's character and infringe other's right. However, the president and the government should not be counted as individual, which means I can curse the U.S government outside the White House or criticize the government in front of T.V. Even though my criticism is invalid, I should not have legal responsibility. As for leaking national secret, unless I worked in certain institution and signed an agreement, I should be responsible for the leak. National secret should be defined with an official procedure, ordinary people don't know what a national secret is. If they know about it, it is leaked by those who had signed the confidential document, they are the ones to be blamed. The government should be accountable for their mistake, and ordinary citizens do not have the responsibility to keep the secret. It should not become a pretext to suppress ordinary citizens.



SP: Our country has made a lot of progress in free speech. When compared to 10 years ago, the media is more free, they would also report on forced demolition. The internet has also opened.

Me: The media reports on negative news is because of the competition from the Internet. Some responsible media are testing the baseline. They also care about the market, people do not like propaganda. Many incidents are disclosed on the Internet and the media stepped in to channel the public opinion. They are compelled to make progress. The government cannot shut down the Internet because of business interest. They cannot shut people up and gain business interest at the same time; Google is an example.



SP: What about Google?

Me: Google cannot stand the non-transparent censorship system anymore. The flash point is the hacking of human rights activists’ Gmail accounts, and Google considers it a violation of its values.



SP: What you had said is Google's version of the story, why do you believe in it?

Me: The picture is clear to me. I cannot do the investigation. When compared with other Internet companies, I believe Google more and like its service. They cannot become a global corporation without reputation.



SP: Do you know that the U.S national security department monitored telephones and the Internet activities all over the country? Americans are not very free, you haven't been there and you cannot feel it. They also violate their constitution.

Me: I cannot be sure about this. I read reports from local media about this, but doubt if they are trustworthy. I have not heard from other media that American people's lives are under monitoring. People who returned from the U.S did not say anything on this. The U.S is a very open nation governed by law, if they monitor the phone, I believe it only targets terrorists and won't violate citizens’ rights.



SP: Have you heard about the recent bomb attack in the U.S? How do they find out about it?

Me: Yes, I have heard about that. A hawker in the square noticed a suspicious vehicle and reported it to the police.



SP: Why the suspect was arrested so quickly? Now there are more than 0.2 billion people (I interrupted and said more than 0.3 billion), their information is controlled by the government.

Me: The Pakistani American was arrested in the airport during security check to Dubai. It reflects the effectiveness of their administration and judiciary. The fact that the U.S government has citizens’ identity on record does not mean that their privacy was violated. It is the government's duty to protect citizens’ information, at the same time, security is a very important issue, but the government also respects the suspect's right.



SP: The progress of U.S is a result of its diversity, but you only read from overseas and are selective in your information. When we talked, you interrupted. You don't like other people's opinion. You are too homogeneous. Our country has a large population, this is our national context.

Me: I agree that the U.S has a very diverse system, while China is very homogeneous, that's why I am here. I am not homogeneous, I have a sense of right and wrong, in China, many don't have such concept. I wish we can openly discuss all issues and I respect all individuals’ rights in expression, regardless of their position and thought. The information that I receive is very diverse, I also hear positive voices. I like Wen Jiabao, but I don't like Hu Jintao.



SP: So you also like Wen Jiabao.

Me: Wen Jiabao is a very distinctive person in the CCP, he does not have a clan and says words of wisdom. Regardless of his family background, such kind of character is very remarkable within the CCP.



SP: Much information online is not true, such as the rumor about the reclamation of part of East Lake in Wuhan for hotel, it has had a very negative impact.

Me: I heard about it too. If it is really the case, the government is responsible for such a rumor. The Chinese government likes to operate in the dark, of course there are rumors. If it is more transparent, rumors will stop spreading.



SP: Are there many people who think like you?

Me: No. Probably people receive the same kind of education here and train for the standard answer. Even our composition needs to be politically correct and it kills independent thinking. I oppose the present education system and wish we will have genuine civic education. No more party education.



SP: Now you talk about civic education. You should know that our political system cannot be changed.

Me: I believe many problem in this country is result of this political system. I know that in the U.S, they also have a corruption problem, this is part of human nature. However, in the U.S, there is a control mechanism, while in China, almost all government officials are corrupted and the amount is huge.



SP: Let's not talk about corruption problem. You should see that our country is getting strong and you only focus on the dark side, you should look at the mainstream.

Me: I don't think my concern is the branch stream of this country. Our media are full of stories that praise the government. We need more criticism to transform our society and make it better. I wish our country could be a free and open society that can contain different voices, like the U.S.



SP: Our country has been making progress all these years and this is the mainstream. Do you feel the progress?

Me: I don't have that feeling, on the other hand, I feel the regression.



SP: So what do you think are the problems?

Me: All these years the forced demolition problem keeps recurring. In order to make profit, the government works with triad to rob people. People only receive little compensation and many visit petitioners are arrested. Pollution and different security problems are elevated. People don't have basic social security protection, many sick people can only wait for death to come. Workers are not protected. Prices keep rising while wages remain the same. Government officials and business people are colluded and corporate displace their pressure on the workers. The country has progress but not its people. There are many many such kind of problems.



SP: What you talk about is people's livelihood and all these problems are true. However, we are making progress, for example we are now legislating against forced demolition.

Me: I don't think legislation would solve the problem if the government nature remains unchanged.



SP: Can you say what progress our nation has made?

Me: We have some progress, for example we have Olympic and Expo, the air condition is Beijing has improved and the economy has grown. Moreover, we have Confucian Institutes all over the world to export our culture. In terms of economy and culture, there are some progress. (Not sure whether they can be counted as progress, just to answer their question.)



SP: What you have said is not accurate enough. Our progress is reflected in the betterment of our polity. The party and the state have solved many problems. And we have better international status.

Me: I don't share your feeling. Probably because I belong to the lower class outside the system while you are within the system and you can feel the “progress”.



SP: This is not the problem of political system, you are too negative. You have to be objective and rational.

Me: I am objective and rational. I don't create rumors in order to criticize something. I love truth. Maybe I should be more objective and rational in the future.



SP: Now I have three demand, please remember: 1. don't write those kind of article anymore; 2. Be objective, rational, accurate and all-dimensional in dealing with issue; 3. I wish you can find a good job. You have to deal with your life first and some issues are not of your concern.

Me: Got it.



SP: After you enter society, you have to solve many personal problems and your thought will be more mature.

Me: After I enter society, I will find out that society is darker than the school. How to become mature? To be more secular. I am not sure whether I would still continue my principle and value.



SP: I have gone through your state. I was more radical than you are. Now I look back, what I had done was very naive. Don't just uphold the principle of democracy and human rights, thinking that you have occupied the moral ground and refused to listen to others’ opinion.

Me: Everyone's experiences and values are different, I don't have very intense feeling. Maybe I will change, but I wish our society will become freer and opener. I also wish that every individual can be equally respected.



SP: If you have further questions, you can communication with this secretary.

Me: My time in the school won't be long, it won't be necessary.



SP: Remember what we said and you can go.

Me: Thank you.

Special thanks to Marta Cooper for language editing.


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