1. You have not been allowed by the Chinese government to go to the Frankurt Book Fair. What exactly happened? Were you given any explanation or justification?
LYW: These past 2 months I’ve negotiated with the police administering me 3 times, emphasizing that this is a commercial and cultural activity, yet they still emphatically state that I cannot go to Germany to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair and associated activities. The local police say this is a decision made above them, because my name has not yet been taken off a very old list. Moreover, my recent literary work does not suit their tastes and damages the image of a socialist nation.
2. This is not the first time that you are fordbidden to leave China.
How many times has it happened? Have you ever been abroad? Is the man who arrested you in 1989 still working in the Customs of your province?
LYW: I’ve applied for and been refused a passport 9 times; I was successful the 10th time, but without special permission from the police I cannot leave the country. This is the 12th time I’ve not been allowed to leave the country. Zhuo Shu-min, the secretary of the special case squad that arrested me 20 years ago, is at this time the head of the Border Exit-Entry Department, and every time I deal with him, I feel humiliated, as our relationship is still that of policeman and prisoner.
3. China’s participation in the Frankfurt Book Fair is another step for a country that has been trying to show a new image of itself to the world. But, as it happened during the Olympics last year, the event ends up exposing many of the contradictions of contemporary China: it is a country that wants to open itself to the world, but it won’t let a writer go abroad. What do you think about these contradictions and do you believe they can be solved?
LYW: There is a saying in China: Be a prostitute, and attempt to establish a good reputation. The Communist Party is like this, and the authors who were raised by the Communist Party that are appearing in Frankfurt are also like this. This is the state of China under the iron hooves [of the CCP]. The unfortunate thing is this Party has too much money and so many westerners are impressed by money, in addition to taking part in the chorus of “cultural Olympics”. These contradictions cannot be resolved in the short-term. Amid these contradictions, people of China can only become more shameless.
4. With all these contradictions and problems with freedom of speech yet to be solved, is it correct to honor China in the Book Fair?
LYW: It’s understandable that business men and women praise China, they want pick [China’s] pocket; It’s understandable that politicians praise China, as they frequently speak blind words while their eyes are open. But if the journalists and writers of the West do not want to degenerate collectively, they cannot praise China.
5. You write about common people, about peasants and workers and
vagabonds. Why do you think your work is so threatening to the Chinese authorities?
LYW: My works hinder their brainwashing of the common people. I’m an individual witness, and they’re falsifiers of memory or amnesiacs. What’s frightening is that as a result of gaining benefits from them [CCP], the great majority of those who work in culture in China participate in this game of falsification and amnesia of their own initiative. For example, Zhang Yi-mou was the director-in-chief of the Beijing Olympics, Chen Kai-ge produced [the film] The Founding of a Republic, and Mo Yan is a selected competitor in seeding extreme nationalism. In this enduring contest of strength, me and my fellow writers of underground literature are in a bad situation.
6. What are “People without a residential permit” (Hei-ren-hei-hu) andwhy are they called “the silent majority” in China? You consider yourself one of them: how has this condition influenced your life and your writing?
LYW: “People without a residential permit” refers to those people without individuals and families without residence permits, including all those workers in cities without fixed abodes. They are constantly checked for “Temporary Residence Permits”, are carted off police stations for unknown reasons, and are similarly returned to their places of residence/birth. For example, I lived in Chengdu after my release from prison and I’d lived in Chengdu since I was a child, but I was registered as a resident of Fu-ling, another city, so the police often use this as a reason to inspect my residence permit, search my home, take me into custody, and order me to get a “Temporary Residence Permit” within a couple of months. And so I am also one of the characters in my literary works. I am included among “the silent majority”. However, recently I’ve had the right to speak out… as a result of not being able to go to Germany; I’ve been interviewed dozens of times.
7. You have been jailed for years and subject to torture and
confinement. ! And yet you say that prison has been one of your
“teachers” in life. What has prison taught you?
LYW: Throw the history written by China’s politicians and writers into the latrine pit. Start from the beginning… witness, witness, witness, then there’s literature.
8. You have often said that all your enemies are your teachers. Can your work teach something to the enemy too?
LYW: It could be said that I’ve taught them a little something over this Frankfurt Book Fair. A person may be imprisoned, but thought and culture cannot be. So, independent and free writing is more important than anything else.
9. You were arrested for writing a poem about the massacre of
Tiananmen. Did you take part in those protests? 20 years later, how does China deal with the memories of those events? And how has the country changed in these 20 years regarding personal lberties and freedom of speech?
LYW: In my youth I was an anarchist, and never participated in any collective movement. But what choice did I have that night when guns started firing, I could not control my terror and hatred of those doing the killing. So I write a poem, recorded a reading, and went to prison. Deservedly so. Today, see how they treat me, how they treat my friend Liu Xiao-bo, how they treat most of the families of the victims of June 4th, and you see how they treat this memory.
10. What would you say in Frankfurt if you had been allowed to go?
LYW: I would play the flute and recite poetry, and I would rip loose a few bitter folk songs of China. These richly locally-flavored things are better by far than anything produced by the vast majority of the officially sanctioned writers appearing at the book fair. Possibly as soon as they’d see such a wild man [as me], they’d collectively withdraw… but there’s nothing that can be done about that, our basic difference with the despots and their flunkies is in the area of aesthetic appreciation.
(博讯记者：蔡楚) (博讯 boxun.com)(本文只代表作者或者发稿团体的观点、立场)
职业革命家何家栋 (下) 廖亦武