CHINA

Arrested for a subversive T-shirt

You often see Western teenagers wearing Che Guevara T-shirts as a sign of rebellion. Guangzhou resident Liu Shihui decided to don a T-shirt with the motif "The Chinese Communist Party opposes one-party rule". But despite explaining that the phrase came from the government itself, Liu was detained by the police. Read his account...

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You often see Western teenagers wearing Che Guevara T-shirts as a sign of rebellion. Guangzhou resident Liu Shihui decided to don a T-shirt with the motif "The Chinese Communist Party opposes one-party rule". But despite explaining that the phrase came from the government itself, Liu was detained by the police.

 

“The guard’s sense of class struggle was triggered”

Liu Shihui is a lawyer from Guangzhou. He's one of 300 Chinese intellectuals who signed Charter 08, which demands political reform and democratisation in China. He published this entry on his blog.

At  5pm, 12 May, 2009, I was waiting for my girlfriend at a subway station in Guangzhou.

Right then, a security guard came up to me, staring at me vigilantly and questioned me with a threatening voice: ‘What are you up to? What are you doing here?' I told him that I was waiting for my girlfriend. But he opened up his terrifying eyes and pointed at my T-shirt, ‘Your dress is wrong, what do you mean by that? You can't dress like this here!'

I was wearing a home-made T-shirt, with a quote on the front: ‘One-party rule is a disaster - by Xinhua Daily'. On the back, there's a quote by former president Liu Shaoqi: ‘The Communist Party opposes the one party rule of KMT [Taiwan political party], and absolutely does not want one-party rule!' The front alarmed the guard, whose sense of class struggle was triggered.

I said, ‘What's wrong with my clothes? What does it have to do with you? Did I hurt anyone by waiting here?'

At the time, a police officer came by with another security guard. So did a subway employee, who held a camera and took pictures of me. More people stopped by, circling us, looking at my T-shirt curiously. I felt like a canoe in the ocean with so many people looking at me along with the police, guards and staff surrounding me.

‘It is wrong to have such a phrase (one-party rule is a disaster) printed on your T-shirt. Come with us for further investigation,' the guard said.

I pointed to the quote, telling the guard, ‘The Communist Party said this themselves! It's part of an editorial by the Xin Hua Daily (the former state media in China). If you went to school, you should know Xinhua Daily was a newspaper during the war against Japan in the 1940s. You can check it yourself.' I also told him that I was a lawyer and warned him not to infringe on my legal rights. The security guard was outraged, behaving like a thug, chiding me in front of the crowd, ‘You idiot, I don't care what ‘-er' you are. I have read many more books than you'. He then ridiculed me, ‘Someone like you has a girlfriend?!' I was disgusted to have this man cursing me.

The policeman was not as mean as the guard, but evidently he viewed me as a suspect. I was so uncomfortable. I explained to him, ‘the quote is an excerpt from an editorial published by the Communist Party paper, Xihua Daily, on 3 March, 1946.' I also told him that my girlfriend had already come out of the station and I needed to pick her up right now. But he refused my request and was about to detain me. I pointed out it was an illegal restraint. At that time, more police had gathered around, some of them appearing to be tough, while some polite. They dragged me to an open space and the staff immediately erected screens around me. It was to prevent passers-by from seeing what was written on my T-shirt.

The police asked me where the quote was from. I explained to them in detail and offered to help them look it up online. But they said there was no computer in the area. I asked for documents that permitted them to detain me, but was refused. I required them to help me make a statement, but was first refused and then promised only after I was taken to another place. I later wrote a statement about my experience, asking for an apology and compensation. I told them, ‘This is an illegal constraint. I, as a lawyer, will charge you and spread the word online'.

The policeman's attitude was apparently softened. He tried to persuade me, ‘During the anti-Japan war the Communist Party was opposed to the authoritarian KMT, so it published the editorial. But the quote is quite politically sensitive today...'.

An officer finally wrote out a ‘note of investigation'. I took a rough look. It stated that I ‘made up rumours and disturbed social order'. I scoffed: ‘Don't you think this is a violation of common sense? Don't you think this is more absurd than the ‘eluding the cat' incident'? He remained speechless. Since the note distorted the truth and I was not allowed to get a photocopy, I refused to sign my name.

At 8:10 pm I left the police station. Three hours had passed since I was stopped at the subway station.

On my way home with my girlfriend I was exhausted. Today the world is no more like the one during the anti-Japan war. Two thirds of the world's countries have adopted democratic systems. I simply printed a quote by the party on my T-shirt, a quote that told the truth. But I was treated like an enemy of the state, by exactly the same party that printed the quote decades ago. How many fingers can I raise if I want to count how many of the same countries still remain?"

Text based on translation from Chinese to English posted on Global Voices.