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“So Free, So Rich, So Beautiful!”—Missing Wang Lihong

July 1, 2011

[Translation by Paul Mooney, Abridgment by Human Rights in China]

It has been more than 100 days since Wang Lihong lost her freedom. It’s really an unimaginable thing. She and I live in the same world, but Lihong not only is being held in a detention center, but has also been formally arrested. She was originally charged with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” (寻衅滋事). The charge was later changed to “gathering a crowd to disturb social order” (聚众扰乱社会秩序) [sic].

In the middle of the night, I often think about friends who have lost their freedom. Among these, for me, Lihong has been my closest sister. She is two years younger than I am, about 56. She has a serious herniated disc and needs a metal brace for support; she is also very nearsighted. In her own words: “When I take off my glasses, I’m just like a blind person.” But at the detention center, you weren’t allowed to bring in a back brace and you had to take off your eye glasses. Dear Lihong, how are you able to cope with the hazy world around you? Lihong, who once suffered from depression and insomnia, how many sleepless nights must she now endure? Was she prepared for this long detention and even arrest? Will she be filled with trust when she thinks of us, her friends, confident that we would run to help her as she would for those who were suffering? And how disappointed will she be in our inability to help her!

Let’s look back forty years, to a time when Lihong was an educated Beijing youth sent down to Yan’an. The 18-year-old young woman walking on the winding mountain road covered in loess dust suddenly heard a sound. A loudspeaker on the highway was playing a piece of Western violin music. In her memoirs she wrote: “At that moment, my soul was touched. Although at that time, my clothes had patches upon patches, a straw rope was tied around my waist, my back was bent over from the load, and I had just four fen [less than one cent] in my pocket, my soul felt so free, so rich, and so beautiful! I was bathed in the brilliant sunlight of humanity’s highest intelligence, immersed in the most beautiful music mankind had been able to create! The music was so familiar, so intimate—it has always stayed in my heart and never left me, but was waiting to be roused to take flight. It was magnificent beyond comparison!”

Lihong was the daughter of a general. Her father was a member of the Eighth Route Army1 during the War of Resistance against the Japanese, and worked for the navy after 1949. As a young girl, she also learned to play the violin. She wrote: “As I stood on that noisy dirt path in northern Shaanxi, my violin was lying motionless and cold in my cave dwelling; its bowstring gnawed away by a mouse. The fingers that I had placed into position each day had become impossibly stiff. I had not opened the violin case for a very long time, but my heart was incredibly sensitive to the dream-like sound, the sacred and beautiful music made by the violin strings.”

Lihong did not pursue arts. After spending three years in a production brigade in Yan’an, she passed the entrance exam for admission to the Chinese literature department of Yan’an University, and returned to Beijing after graduation. In the 1980s, Lihong worked in a government office in Beijing. In the spring of 1989, like cadres in many other government units, she marched with the protesters. She has kept, to this day, the clothes she wore during those demonstrations, which are emblazoned with the words: “Long Live Freedom.” One can well imagine why Lihong left her job at the beginning of 1991.

The world of mortals surges on, and our destiny rises and falls. Lihong was materially satisfied but not happy, until a few years ago, when she, Laohu Miao,2 and others got together and launched a volunteer effort to help petitioners who came to Beijing but had no place to stay. Lihong reawakened that soul that had longed to be “so free, so rich, and so beautiful,” and recovered the ideals, friendships, and intrinsic richness of her youth.

Lihong drove me to visit the painter Yan Zhengxue. We chatted in the car about our experiences during our lives. I got to know her on the Internet because she and my friend, Wang Keqin, had been following the death of Li Shulian, a female petitioner from Shandong.3 Lihong had posted exhaustive details about the case on the Internet, and she personally traveled to Shandong to gather information. There was also the Deng Yujiao incident4—she and Tufu5 had gone to Badong County6 to get information. One could say that the path of Lihong’s life was changed because of the Internet. The Internet has coalesced people’s ideals, and enabled those who are concerned about the fate of the disadvantaged groups to go from online to offline, and to strive to change the actual destiny of people.

The 23 letters Wang Lihong wrote to Sun Chunlan, the Party secretary of Fujian Province

In order to write Lihong’s story, I spent yesterday reading her blog. Many people witnessed her running around trying to raise concern about the Three Netizens of Fujian.7 But how did this all come about?

In September 2009, Lihong was in Geneva, Switzerland, taking part in a human rights training program. At the time, the Three Netizens, who had helped Yan Xiaoling’s8 mother produce a video [about her daughter’s rape and death], had already been arrested. She wrote on her blog that day:

I once heard Laohu Miao tell a story that sounded like a children’s fairytale. A person in Fujian set aside a portion of his small salary every month in case one day a person, facing a tragedy, came to him for help. I really couldn’t believe it. Could there still be such a pure person today?

I really couldn’t believe this. Under our special national condition today—where filth is painted as something pure and holy, the corrupt are hyped as heroes, and morality has already reached a bottomless low—are there actually people who persist in doing good despite being called foolish!

You Jingyou,9 I really wish you weren’t in there but here in Geneva. The air is clean here, and the tree-shaded roads fill people with dreams. You Jingyou, you’re just a high-level bridge engineer, you’re not God! Please don’t be so good; please don’t make us feel so ashamed!

Later, in her letters to Sun Chunlan, the Party secretary of Fujian Province, she wrote:

Frankly speaking, the first time I heard his story, I was a little skeptical. I’ve met too many swindlers in my life, and was tricked too many times. But then I saw and heard: You Jingyou was really someone who put into practice his belief that kindness can provide warmth to others, and that love can change society. I was very moved by him.

In the masses, Lihong is an ordinary person, and the same is true for You Jingyou. These two are not famous scholars, artists, or distinguished people with high social status. Nor are they members of legal circles. But because they met on the Internet, they began to practice what they preached by taking up the responsibilities of a citizen. There are probably very few experts and scholars in China who dare speak out for the people from the lower rungs of society. But the participation of countless ordinary citizens as netizens has brought forth a new form of politics. This is the beautiful life that this country has never had before but that has begun, with citizens joining together through the Internet and playing a role in public affairs. Regardless of their social status, people are gathering under the name of “netizens.” There is no need for knowing each other or using their real names. They only need a shared interest.

Instead of a sense of powerlessness and apathy, netizens believe that an ordinary person can achieve something—even if it is just raising one’s voice for innocent netizens who have been imprisoned. The idea of “Changing China by Watching” (围观改变中国) is now spreading on Twitter. It is precisely this idea that led netizens from all over China to gather at the entrance to the Mawei District People’s Court in Fujian Province [during the trial of the Three Netizens], and more than 5,000 others to sign an online petition in 2010. Herzog Days, produced by Beijing independent documentary filmmaker He Yang,10 documented in detail this unprecedented political event: with their simple conviction, people for the first time since 1989 (at least it was the first time that I had seen this since 1989) marched in the streets shouting: “Speech is not a crime, long live Freedom!”

Lihong’s effort to promote this action to fight for freedom of expression on the Internet is the socalled crime of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order,” with which the procuratorate has charged her. . . .

. . . If we say that Lihong is guilty of disturbing social order, then she is not the only one who committed this crime. Countless netizens around China took part in online discussions of the Three Netizens’ case; and many well-known lawyers, legal experts, and scholars also raised questions and issued appeals. There were also CCTV, local TV stations, and many newspapers. The visibility of the Three Netizens’ case was made possible by these media and the Internet. Most of the people who gathered in front of the Mawei court did not know, or had any close ties with, any one of the three netizens. People came together only for a common goal—protect citizens’ right to freedom of expression. Just as Lihong said during the birthday celebration gathering for the imprisoned You Jingyou:

Who says we’re trying to rescue you? We’re fighting for ourselves. You are our conscience, and we don’t want the last bit of conscience to be buried by cowardice. It’s you rescuing our conscience, our courage. It’s you who are rescuing the last remaining space for our speech.

Wang Lihong and Zhao Lianhai's Wife and Children

Why did Lihong become the initiator of the action to show concern for the case of the Three Netizens? In order to understand her motives and purpose, I sincerely request those who are concerned about Lihong, especially those who ordered her arrest, to read and re-read her letters.

She began writing these letters on December 4, 2009, National Law Day. Five days before this, Sun Chunlan was transferred to Fujian to replace the previous Party secretary, Lu Zhangong. Lihong had some hope for this transfer. She believed that with this new beginning, there would be a change for the better for the Three Netizens.

In her capacity as a citizen of Beijing, Lihong introduced the case and described its repercussions. She wrote:

It’s said that there are 300 million netizens in China now, and so who can guarantee that every word written on the Internet is 100 percent correct? If these three honorable people who take pleasure in helping others are imprisoned for their postings on the Internet, how many of us 300 million netizens should expect to be caged?

From December 4, 2009 to June 15, 2010, Lihong wrote a total of 23 letters to Sun Chunlan (for the complete set of letters, please see Wang Lihong’s blog). From the inscriptions at the bottom of the letters, and their time-stamps on her blog, we can see that many of these letters were written in the middle of the night, and posted just before dawn. . . .

I really believe that Sun is a fortunate woman because a citizen far away in Beijing was concerned about the exercise of her power in Fuzhou [capital of Fujian]. Lihong’s genuine intentions came across vividly on paper. Lihong wrote in the first letter:

The official name of our country is People’s Republic of China, a name that was paid for with the lives and bloodshed of countless martyrs for the past 100 years. Although there are many things still unsatisfactory today, the tide of history will only march forward. If we were still in a feudal society, a citizen’s appeal against the government would itself be a crime, and haughty officials would be untouchable. In that situation, if one were to complain about the government, he or she must first be willing to be rolled on nail board, caned, or even imprisoned. And if the complaint were found to be “not factual,” one would even risk beheading. But we are now living in the 21st century; our political system is a republic, and a people’s republic. Article 35 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China states: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.”

Each time I read these letters I’m very moved by Lihong’s persistence and compassion. Where did she get the strength that allowed her to spend sleepless nights to persevere in writing letter after letter to Secretary Sun? I feel that many people are compassionate and intolerable of evil, but what we generally lack is action. Furthermore, we do not believe that action is effective. Every day there is tragic news on the Internet, and over the course of time, our feelings of powerlessness become habitual and we turn a deaf ear.

Lihong’s love is uncommon because she believes in action. In her letters and blog postings, she frequently mentioned that You Jingyou saved a fixed amount from his salary each month to help those who might be in need. This action may seem like a small thing, but it can be done. The volunteer action to help migrants that Lihong participated in used donations from citizens to help a young man seek treatment for a leg infection that had never healed since his childhood. This aid enabled him to stand and travel again, and to be reunited with his family. From these activities, Lihong saw the possibility for action to change one’s fate, and so she believed action was useful. And because of this, she deeply cherished the spirit of the Three Netizens—realizing that they were all the same kind of people, striving to use their meager strength to comfort others. Helping one another in adversity is the citizen’s spirit that Lihong admires. She cannot tolerate people like this being thrown in jail. And because of this, in the middle of the night, she repeatedly urged the provincial party secretary to show her sense of justice and conscience:

One letter not delivered, two letters not delivered, three letters not delivered . . . . This is my ninth letter. I’ll continue writing. Maybe it will take my 100th letter to move you? . . .

Today, a woman from the Fujian Provincial Office in Beijing told me that Secretary Sun will not read the letters. “To tell you the truth,” she said, “she won’t let them get anywhere.” I used to work for a government office and I know the way documents are circulated. But I still want to write. Otherwise, the heat of the grief and indignation flowing through my veins will make my blood vessels burst. I may write 100 letters, or even 1,000. . . . This land of China has already suffered too many miseries; we really don’t want to see any new wounds inflicted.

For nine consecutive days from February 6, 2010—from the final days of the lunar year to the first day of the new lunar year—Lihong sent a letter a day to Secretary Sun, asking her to show concern for the Three Netizens and to allow them to return home for the Chinese New Year holiday. She wrote:

People like them are like the white blood cells protecting humanity itself ! They are so rare in the world, and we should protect them—not fabricate charges to destroy them. . . .

On the 29th day of the 12th lunar month I made steamed buns. There was good news today: Feng Zhenghu11 came home for Chinese New Year. In his Chinese New Year speech, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed that everything we do is to make the Chinese people’s lives happier and to allow them to have dignity. As we approach the New Year, would not releasing the innocent Three Netizens be a good way to harmonize the society?

Children of the Three Netizens Holding Support Banner on Day of Trial (Photo by Wang Lihong)

Today, the Three Netizens’ case has become part of history. In a few days, it will be one year since You Jingyou walked out of prison. I believe that, apart from He Yang’s documentary, Lihong’s 23 letters will be remembered in the annals of history. Many years from now, when Chinese citizens are no longer hounded for posting on the Internet, can supervise the authorities without fear, and can take part in public affairs, they should know that all this began with the efforts of ordinary citizens. That seven months after the Three Netizens’ case ended, Lihong could be detained and then formally arrested is a testament to how brutal the environment is for the fight for freedom.

Resisting Banality: The Soul of Poetry

I first met Lihong one day in September 2009. That day, I originally planned to give a talk about my documentaries in a media research class at Peking University. It was during that trip to the school that I found out that my lecture at the university had been canceled. (The day before, I was giving a lecture at Capital Normal University when someone burst in and interrupted my lecture. I told a teacher at Peking University that I likely would not be able to deliver my lecture there. The teacher who had invited me said: “This type of thing could never happen at our university.” But that evening, he received an order informing him that I could not speak in his classroom.)

That evening I met Lihong for the first time. With my lecture canceled, I had a lot of free time and we were able to talk leisurely. Lihong talked with me excitedly about the German movie, Der Vorleser (The Reader). We talked about the the banality of evil shown in the movie; Lihong even took out her recorder and began taking audio notes. At the time, I thought she was planning to write a review of the movie, but she did not have time to do it. On October 8, Lihong and a group of others, including Xu Zhiyong,12 He Yang, A'er,13 and the Butcher, were all detained because they had gathered for a dinner to celebrate Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize. They were taken to a police station, where Lihong was kept for eight days.

Lihong later wrote about her eight days in detention:

The deputy chief of the police substation said smugly, “You are all just fooling around; you need to spend more time reading books! You see, I like reading, and I especially like the classics, such as the Guwen Guanzhi anthology.14

My glasses didn’t fall off, and I was in no mood to laugh. Although I didn’t really believe at all that he’d actually read Guwen Guanzhi; even if he did, I’m afraid he would never have understood it. I just told him: “Your knowledge is obsolete; someone working in law enforcement should be reading Sociology and Politics. You should go online and check to see what “banality of evil” means. Why are you law enforcement people so violent? Is it necessary?”

Lihong wrote a series of poems, entitled Eight Days, about her experience in detention. They are the only poems on her blog. Moreover, it appears that these were her first attempts at writing poetry:

Separate Action I am so young With lush hair on my temples Stepping into the iron cage of my “bridal chamber” For the first time—I learn To put words in rows In the pale yellow of autumn Against white walls and black windows I am a bride awaiting marriage without guile

From a layman’s point of view, this collection of six poems is exceptional. They provide a sketch of a courageous woman, and describe the agony of the soul. They are sharp, simple, unique, and allow others to see a back which refuses to bend, as in the following poem:

Prisoner of Conscience

From now, you and I are the same You are the past and present prisoners You all have the same name —prisoner of conscience

From now, you and I are intertwined Brutal hands break the roses of iron and blood Leaving hardened thorns Nevermore to sway in the wind

From now, I, like you With sharp cold eyes Dissect a country poisoned That locks my body in ice With my boiling heart I embrace the land of my flesh

From now, standing on one side of the egg I have a band of brothers in righteousness Hey, how are you! Let me in—since the revelry of the world’s end has begun

For many years, I haven’t read contemporary Chinese novels or Chinese poetry. But Lihong, who is neither a writer nor a poet, made me feel the enchantment of poetry. In a time when banality and evil are so prevalent, poetry is actually possible, emerging from clarity of thought and purity of the soul amid extreme difficulties. By purity, I mean a firm adherence to moral conviction and responsibility. The poetic sentiment in Lihong’s works exactly reflects herself: her actions and beliefs are one and the same. Her suffering is not just talk, but is rooted in the suffering of the people in this boundless land. Her poetry is neither narcissistic nor self-pitying, but channeled toward others. Therefore, when she saw Yao Jing, a young female petitioner from Shandong, suffering from fluid accumulation in her spleen resulting from a beating by a hefty man who was sent by the authorities to intercept her, Lihong would stand on the street together with Xu Zhiyong and others to solicit donations for Yao. And in her writings on her blog, she would cry out loudly for people who cannot, such as Li Shulian and Wang Jingmei.15

Wang Lihong and Peking University Professor Xia Yeliang at a Memorial for Zhang Zhixin

In writing this commentary on Lihong, I am trying to describe her character, kindness, and goodness. I know that Lihong herself would much rather make films than write poetry. At opening of the Three Netizens’ trial on March 19, 2010, Lihong using a small handheld camcorder, recorded scenes that are deeply moving. If you watch He Yang’s Herzog Days, the scene shot from a camera closest to the police was filmed by Lihong. Previously, in a review of Ai Weiwei’s video, Disturbing the Peace (Lao Ma Ti Hua), I mentioned that the camera was right there at the front line of the faceoff between the petitioners [and the police]. Lihong’s camera did the same. He Yang said this about the scene: “It was really amazing. In the history of independent documentaries in China no one has ever filmed anything like this or as good as this scene, where the cameraperson is running in pursuit of the police while shouting, ‘Why are you hitting people?’”

We Must Protect Wang Lihong

Although I’ve written so much on her here, if you were to ask me “Who is Wang Lihong?” I would find it difficult to answer you at first. Wang Lihong is retired, she is over 50, and you would not be able to distinguish her within a crowd of older women playing mahjong on any street or lane. She writes poetry but is not a poet, plays with a video camera, but only in her spare time. She passionately promotes the public good but does not belong to any public interest organization.Wang Lihong is a netizen, a person whom her friends respectfully refer to as “Older Sister.”

There is simply no justification for the arrest of Lihong this time based on her personal behavior. After she was detained for eight days last year because she took part in a celebratory dinner for Liu Xiaobo, Lihong was put under house arrest for three months with no freedom of movement. It was not until January 21 this year that the guards downstairs from her apartment were withdrawn. While she was under watch, I would occasionally see her on Skype and we would exchange a few words. Did we discuss national politics? No. I most often tell her to eat the leaves of the goji berry plant which are good for her blood, that she should take care of herself, and talk to her about the changing world outlook on health care, etc., etc. The questions she would ask me were: What kind of hairstyle should I have? I feel short hair is nice. What about shaving my head? Too radical. I have a lot of white hair. Don’t dye your hair, it’s poisonous. . . .

During this period, she was required to write a letter of guarantee, and in the end, to my surprise, she wrote “a letter of non-guarantee.”

. . . [F]rom a legal point of view, making a citizen write a guarantee letter pledging to not do things that are not illegal in order to have freedom of movement is illegal and a mockery of the law.

I am a citizen of the People’s Republic of China. I have the right to live on the land of my own country and the right to freely move around.

I am a person with conscience and I cannot guarantee that I will remain silent in the face of suffering. I cannot guarantee that, when I face the stories of Qian Yunhui,16 Tang Fuzhen,17 Li Shulian . . . I will pretend not to see. . . .

If I remain silent when confronted with suffering and wickedness, then I will be the next person beaten down by evil. You as law enforcers, the restriction you place on my freedom is illegal and has seriously affected my life. I hope that law enforcement and related departments and personnel will quickly correct their illegal actions and give me back my freedom.

—Wang Lihong, citizen of the People’s Republic of China.

After Chinese New Year, Lihong made a trip to Henan. First, she went to visit netizen Wang Yi,18 who had been ordered to serve one year of Reeducation-Through-Labor for re-tweeting a statement by someone else. Following that, she went to Xincai to visit the parents of Tian Xi,19 who had contracted HIV through a tainted blood transfusion. She also wanted to go to Shangcai to visit Tian Xi, who had been sentenced to a year in prison. I remember we spoke once on the phone and she said, “I may not be able to go! My back problem is flaring up again and I’m thinking of returning to Beijing.”

Shortly after returning to Beijing, on March 21, the Chaoyang District police took her away and searched her home. She was formally arrested on April 20. By now, she has been in police custody for 102 days. Since the end of February—from Ran Yunfei’s20 detention and arrest, to the disappearance of Ai Weiwei21 and others—a series of events has occurred that has left people unsettled and shocked. Eventually Teng Biao,22 Jiang Tianyong,23 Ai Weiwei, and others have been released, while the situation Lihong is facing remains unchanged. Each day on Twitter, I see only a very small number of netizens who still tweet information about Lihong. One persistent tweet is, “Let my mother come home to eat!” by Lihong’s son, Xiao Qi.

When Ai Weiwei was detained, there was news about him every day around the world, and there were even websites that collected discussions about him. There was no such effort on behalf of Lihong. Aside from the blog posts of netizen Qiu Mazha,24 I saw no other commentaries about Lihong. One real problem is that Lihong’s friends have been beaten and warned individually. Some no longer use Twitter, while others continue to go online but keep a low profile. I think, perhaps, it may be more difficult to speak out about Lihong than Ai Weiwei. This is because, when you speak out for Ai Weiwei, the artist’s international reputation gives you a powerful protective screen. But Lihong is a just an ordinary Beijing citizen, and netizen, that’s all.

But we must protect Lihong and the reason is simple—because she is a good person, a good citizen, and a good older sister. If netizens such as her could be seen as enemies of the state, then my worries for the country are far greater than those for the enemies themselves. Even though in the face of the powerful state machinery today, each of us are small and weak, my fear will not overpower my friendship with Lihong. I hope more friends will stand together with Lihong’s son, to let him know that he’s not alone. I also hope Lihong knows that we miss her. I thank Lihong’s friend, the poet Yin Longlong,25 for writing this poem. I hope that all our friends will shout out, “Lihong, come home to eat!”

Nine Lines, Cold Weapons
—For Older Sister Wang

I want to write a poem about pain; in it is Older Sister Wang
I want to write a poem about Older Sister
Wang; in it are transparent breaths
I want to write a poem about air; in it is freedom

I do not say what I have seen; you can hear
I do not give what I have finished; you dig up a modern proverb: “was suicided”
I do not believe it is my fate; you strip a layer of skin
Only the general’s daughter claims this shame, this honor

There is only the smell of gunpowder, as if in New Year.
For the people who have thrown off their armor
There are only poems, left unwanted in the street like nonsense.

July 1, 2011

Translator’s Notes

1. The Eighth Route Army—full name: the Eighth Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China—was one of the two fighting units in the National Revolutionary Army that was led by the Communist Party of China (CPC), rather than by the ruling Nationalist government, during the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–1945). ^

2. Laohu Miao (老虎庙, literal: tiger temple) is the screen name of Zhang Shihe (张世和), a netizen, who has long been involved in rights defense activities. For four months every year, he bikes along the Yellow River to document the conditions of China’s displaced citizens, and posts what he sees and hears on his blog, 24-hours Online ( He has also produced many videos on hot-button issues in the Chinese rights defense community, including his series, Striving for Civil Society (努力走向公民社会), and the video edition of The Ordeal of Fragrant Soul (飘香蒙难记). ^

3. Li Shulian (李淑莲), from Shandong, was a petitioner, to whom Wang Lihong provided assistance. On September 3, 2009, Li was detained in Beijing by officers from the local government of Longkou, Shandong Province. On October 4, 2009, local authorities notified her family that Li “hanged herself,” and they ruled it a suicide. But Li’s family saw a number of wounds and bruises on her body, and Wang called for further investigations into Li’s death. ^

4. On May 10, 2009, three officials from Yesanguan Township, Badong County, Hubei Province, went to a hotel and requested “special services” from a hotel employee, Deng Yujiao (邓玉娇). When Deng refused, the three attempted to rape her. In the struggle, she stabbed the men with a fruit knife, injuring two and killing one of them. Once the case was made public, it garnered national attention, and Deng was called a “Modern Day Woman of Virtue” (当代烈女) and received support from many netizens and lawyers. She was later convicted of manslaughter but was not given a sentence. ^

5. Tufu (屠夫, literal: butcher) is the short form of the screen name, Chaoji disu tufu (超级低俗屠夫, literal: “ultra-vulgar Butcher”), of Wu Jin (吴淦). He is a rights activist and citizen reporter, and actively supported Deng Yuqiao and the Three Netizens of Fujian. ^

6. Badong (巴东) is a county in Hubei Province, made famous for being the site of the Deng Yuqiao incident. ^

7. The Three Netizens of Fujian are Fan Yanqiong (范燕琼), You Jingyou (游精佑), and Wu Huaying (吴华英). In June 2009, they posted essays and videos online to help Yan Xiaoling’s mother publicize details of her daughter’s death and her belief that Yan had been gang raped and murdered. The three netizens were arrested for “libel” and later convicted by the Mawei District People’s Court of Fuzhou. Fan was sentenced to two years in prison, and You and Wu were each sentenced to one year in prison. ^

8. Yan Xiaoling (严晓玲) was a 25-year-old woman who was found dead in Minqing County, Fujian Province on February 11, 2008. The police announced that she had died of hemorrhagic shock resulting from an ectopic pregnancy. Yan’s family maintained that she had been gang raped and murdered, and that her assailants had close ties with the police. ^

9. You Jingyou (游精佑) is one of the Three Netizens of Fujian. ^

10. He Yang (何杨) is an independent filmmaker and rights activist in Beijing. He has created several documentaries on the rights defense movement, including Herzog Days (赫索格的日子), Disbarment (吊照门), and Emergency Shelter (应急避难所). ^

11. Feng Zhenghu (冯正虎) is a rights activist and legal educator in Shanghai who has organized many “I Want to File a Case” campaigns to protest court inaction on citizens’ complaints. He became internationally known when he tried to return to Shanghai from Japan on his Chinese passport but was denied re-entry by the Chinese government eight times. He camped out near the immigration checkpoint in Tokyo’s Narita International Airport for 92 days as a form of protest until he was allowed to return to Shanghai in February 2010. ^

12. Xu Zhiyong (许志永) is a constitutional legal scholar at Peking University. He is a founder of Open Constitution Initiative (also known as Gongmeng, 公盟), a legal research and legal aid organization aimed at advancing the rule of law and constitutional protections that was shut down by the authorities in 2009. Xu is known for submitting a proposal to the National People’s Congress in 2003 with lawyer Teng Biao and others to repeal the Measures for the Custody and Repatriation of Vagrant Beggars in the Cities, which was abolished shortly thereafter. ^

13. A’er (阿尔) is a poet and rights activist, as well as a good friend of Wang Lihong. ^

14. Guwen Guanzhi (古文观止, literal: “Incomparably good classical Chinese”) is a well-known anthology with approximately 800 articles in classical Chinese from the Qing Dynasty. The writings are succinct, short, and snappy, and have been passed down through the ages. ^

15. Wang Jingmei (王静梅) is the mother of Yang Jia, from Beijing. Yang attacked the Zhabei District Office of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Public Security on July 1, 2008, after having been beaten during interrogations by the Shanghai police. Six police officers were killed and four injured in the attack. The incident made headlines across China, and Yang was called as a “hero” online. After Yang’s arrest, authorities interned Wang Jingmei in a psychiatric institution until she was taken to Shanghai for a final meeting with her son before his execution. ^

16. Qian Yunhui (钱云会) was the head of Zhaiqiao Village, Puqi Township, Yueqing City, Zhejiang Province. After being elected in 2005, Qian was detained many times and sentenced twice for leading villagers involved in land disputes to petition. On December 25, 2010, Qian died in a traffic accident, and incident made national headlines. While the Yueqing Municipal Public Security Bureau ruled out foul play, the majority of netizens believed that it was intentional homicide. Many independent investigative groups went to Yueqing to try to ascertain the truth of the case. ^

17. Tang Fuzhen (唐福珍) was a villager from Jinhua Village, Jinniu District, Chengdu City, Sichuan Province. On November 13, 2009, in an attempt to stop the demolition of her home, she set herself on fire and died. Tang’s death prompted intense reactions from netizens. ^

18. Wang Yi (王译), also known as Cheng Jianping (程建萍), was an active supporter of the Three Netizens of Fujian. She has been subjected twice to administrative detention because of articles she wrote on the Internet. In November 2010, after she retweeted a sarcastic message, she was ordered to serve one year of Reeducation-Through-Labor for “disturbing public order by using other methods.” ^

19. Tian Xi (田喜) contracted HIV at the age of nine from a tainted blood transfusion at the No. 1 People’s Hospital in Xincai County, Henan Province. Since graduating from university, he has become a mainstay in the HIV/AIDS rights movement. In August 2010, upon being refused compensation from the hospital, Tian swept the items on a desk in the hospital to the ground. He was sentenced to one year of prison on charges of “intentional destruction of property.” ^

20. Ran Yunfei (冉云飞), an independent intellectual, blogged daily on current affairs and social problems. On February 24, 2011, he was criminally detained by the Sichuan police on “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power.” On August 9, 2011, his detention was changed to “residential surveillance,” and he was returned home. ^

21. Ai Weiwei (艾未未), an internationally known artist, has been a vocal critic of the Chinese government. In recent years, he organized volunteers to investigate the number of children who died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, actively participated in various rights defense campaigns, and spoke out on behalf of rights activists including Tan Zuoren and Feng Zhenghu, and victims of the tainted milk scandal. On April 3, 2011, en route to Hong Kong, Ai was detained in the Beijing Capital International Airport by police and was held in custody for 81 days on “suspicion of economic issues.” He was released on June 22, 2011. ^

22. Teng Biao (滕彪) is a lecturer on law at the China University of Politics and Law, a rights defense lawyer, and a founder of Open Constitution Initiative (also known as Gongmeng). He is known for submitting a proposal to the National People’s Congress in 2003, with Xu Zhiyong, and others for the repeal of the Measures for the Custody and Repatriation of Vagrant Beggars in the Cities, which was abolished shortly thereafter. Teng has received the French Republic’s Human Rights Prize, the Democracy Award from the American National Endowment for Democracy, and the Hellman-Hammett Grant from Human Rights Watch. In 2011, he disappeared (at the hands of authorities) for 70 days from February to April. ^

23. Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) is a rights defense lawyer. He has been involved in rights defense activities including: helping HIV/AIDS patients, providing legal assistance to child laborers in the Shanxi illegal brick kiln case, pushing for independent elections in the Beijing Lawyers Association, and advocating for Falun Gong practitioners. In July 2009, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice canceled his lawyer’s license. In 2011, he was disappeared for 60 days between February and April. He is currently the coordinator of a legal project for the Beijing Aizhixing Institute. ^

24. Qiu Mazha (秋蚂蚱, literal: autumn locust) is the screen name of a Han Chinese who was raised in Tibet. Qiu lived in England for five years before returning to China. He is a single father. ^

25. Yin Longlong (殷龙龙) is a poet and a good friend of Wang Lihong. He blogs his poetry. ^

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