Vancouver Sailing Farm – Li Liming

Calumny in exchange for liberty. Become an informer if you wish freedom again. It would be a temptation when you know you are the victim. Courage can be measured against the number of years a person spends behind bars, separated from family. What yardstick could be used to measure courage against a regime like this? At what point does such courage become heroism? (loosely quoted from Lan Yan-The House of Yan).

There were many important people sent to the labour camps as “criminals”. People who were close to Mao, senior civil servants, ministers, and more. No one is safe, even at the top. It is no different nowadays with Xi Jinping. It seems the further away you are, the safer you are.

Then as now, families do not know where their family members are imprisoned or if they are alive. They are not told anything about the “criminal”. In China, one is guilty until proven innocent, if that is even possible. Families were and are forced to denounce family members or even to divorce in order to save themselves and to prove their ideological progress. In prison, they are never told how long they will be there until the “kangaroo court” lets them know the sentence given them. Even so, they can be brought back to court and the sentencing can be changed for better or worse. Nothing is assured. It would be a terrible struggle to remain strong physically as well as psychologically considering the isolation and the brutal interrogation.

I experienced, to a smaller degree, that type of interrogation when I was called out of my classroom to the boardroom by the police. They had come to our school not long before Chinese New Year (a regular habit of theirs) in plain clothes acting as parents looking for schooling for their children. The classrooms are all glass and so I was seen standing at the front of the class giving a lesson. One of the Chinese teachers was standing with two other men. She opened the door and interrupted the class asking me to come out and follow them. When we got to the boardroom, there were other police in plain clothes waiting for me. I was not the only teacher to face this. Upon entering the room, I was told to take a seat and asked to hand over my passport. They were checking all the teachers for problems with their visas. This was done so that the school would give “bribe” money to let us go free. There was a problem with mine. It showed my residence to be Shanghai. I had not registered with the PSB for my address at that time and was questioned as to why. I told them that I tried to register but that the PSB in my neighbourhood refused to register it and that I was not told why. They just refused, so I had left. What else was I going to do? So, then the pressure mounted and I was asked over and over again when I was in Shanghai. The police officer, who I remembered seeing when I had a visa issue in 2008, (another story) would repeat the same question over and over again. When were you in Shanghai? When were you in Shanghai? I couldn’t think straight because of the constant badgering from the police officer. So, I spoke up and said, “I cannot think with you doing that!” He backed off and I told him I had been in Shanghai in the fall of that year. Then he asked me if I had gotten the visa from an “agent”. I told him I had, so he asked me for the phone number of that agent. I gave it to him and he called, but there was no answer. Somehow it was mentioned that my husband is Chinese and they were all shocked to learn this. The officer told me that I had better call my husband. I told him that I couldn’t because my husband is angry with me and if I call him, he will hang up on me. All the other officers started laughing really hard. I told him to call my husband himself. The officers laughed again. So, he told me to go and make sure I register my new address.

After it was all over, I asked the school management how much they paid the police for me. I was told 50,000 yuan.

(The writer of the article is Canadian born, English name Dawn and Chinese name Li Liming. Dawn was married to a Chinese man whose family name is Li and lived in China for 8 years where she taught English.)

Editor: abbs

Posted by: Shuang