China: Ran Yunfei’s Blogging for Political Change

The Deutsche Welle International Blog Awards, as GVO writer Filip Stojanovski and Juliana Rincón Parra have written about, is one of the most prestigious awards for online content producers. Organized by German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, it features 17 categories with winners chosen in two ways – those by the jury and those by Internet users who can vote until April 11.

Ran Yunfei at the 2009 China Blogger Conference. Photo taken by Rebecca MacKinnon and posted to Flickr.

In the Best Blog Chinese category, a number of political writers are nominated. Amongst them are Ran Yunfei, Chang Ping and Yang Hengjun, who have been subject to the latest round of crackdown on free speech and the media in China this year. Leading journalist Chang Ping was forced out of his job at the Southern Media Group in January. Sino-Australian blogger Yang Hengjun mysteriously disappeared for a few days in March, and nearly caused a diplomatic role between China and Australia.

Ran Yunfei has received the harshest treatment. An internet activist, blogger and writer from the Sichuan province, he is known for his advocacy of rule-of-law and democratic reforms. On February 19, he was detained by the authorities and, after five weeks of unacknowledged custody, formally charged with ‘inciting subversion of state power’ on March 28. This is the same crime that China’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and many other dissidents have been charged with.

A prolific writer and editor, his writings range from current affairs, politics and history to literature. Ran once reflected on why he keeps on writing one blog per day to criticize social wrongs:


The building of a democratic and free society is of the utmost importance. But you have to make the fight for democracy and freedom your life-long discipline, so that you will not lose hope and collapse. That’s why I appraise Mr Hu Shih’s spirit of ‘If I give my all each day, it would all have been worthwhile.’ Though I might not be able to witness the realization of democracy and freedom in China, my efforts would not be wasted. Like what Mr Szeto Wah said: I don’t have to achieve the success, but I am part of the success. I admire the saying on Mr Liu Binyan’s epitaph: The Chinese buried here have spoken and done what he should have.

Apart from his daily blog entries, he also tirelessly publishes a weekly selection and critiques of major news and social issues, and a weekly update on the development of civil society and NGOs in China.

Following Ran Yunfei’s custody and arrest, a number of writers in China have voiced their support for him.

Fellow activist writer Yu Jie from Sichuan wrote:


On surface, Ran Yunfei’s writings resemble those of Lu Xun, but at heart it is closer to Hu Shih. Although his writings at times appear angry, they follow the principle of ‘speaking with evidence’. He uses his proactive freedom to defend the passive freedom of the majority. His writings are clear, determined and concise. In his book The Road to the Empire of Stupidity, he criticized the stupefying official propaganda and education and the fabrication of history. Because of his comprehensive collection of historical materials, his conclusion is authoritative, making the lies on official textbooks all too clear.

Xiao Han, professor at the China University of Politics and Law, published an open letter to Ran Yunfei:


Over the past tens of years, I have read a lot of your essays and love and agree with you, albeit you keep a distance from actual politics. You have written about the sage Zhuang Zi, and have demonstrated your liberal spirits and independent thinking. And who will not like Zhuang Zi? I have once noted that, whether in terms of quality or quantity of outputs, you are the number one among China’s public intellectuals. Your essays, at once stylish and theoretical, romantic and rational, promote justice, common sense and good governance, and criticize evil and tyranny. If this is why the authorities charge you with ‘inciting subversion of state power’, then the authorities must be evil and tyrant, and the enemy of justice and good governance.

Wang Yi, a Christian activist and friend of Ran Yunfei, wrote:


Ran Yunfei stopped writing poems in 1992, at a time when the country stopped mourning the massacre. The Southern Tour of Deng Xiaoping is like a dry cough in a long funeral, after which a number of people started to laugh. The more they laugh, the more confident they become, and the more they hate those who do not laugh. Afterwards, Ran Yunfei evolved from an elegy poet of rare words to the loudest writer and liberal scholar in Sichuan who advocates the progressive spirit of Hu Shih. He responds to the age of foolish laughter with sneer, ridicule, derision and contempt.

This is how retired newspaperman and columnist Ceng Boyan described Ran Yunfei as an intellectual:


Ran Yunfei applies his early sense of poetry to develop his sensitivity for current affairs. He is a surprisingly fast and responsive writer. Utilizing the Internet, social corruptions and evils are quickly reflected and criticized in his blogs and tweets, with accuracy and sharpness. His blogs are eagerly awaited. They consistently attracted hundreds of comments on the Tianya forum before they were shut down. His diligence of writing a blog a day makes one exclaim in admiration. While most people are amassing fortunes, he is speaking the truth. Such kind of scholar who despises wealth and power but speaks the truth has long been regarded as the bedrock of the intellectual. Will the Chinese Communist Party not be assured until the last of these intellectuals are destroyed?


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