A Phone Call to the PSB

The following is a translation of a part of this post from Ai Weiwei’s blog. It’s a transcript of a phone conversation between him and a PSB officer, and we think it’s interesting in several ways. The analysis, though, we leave up to you.


On the afternoon of Sept 9th, Liu Yanping saw she had a missed call from a number she didn’t recognize and returned the call. On the other end was a local PSB bureau head named Qiu Yong. His initial stated purpose in calling her was “to ask what age [her] daughter is” and confirm that she didn’t have another daughter who died in the Sichuan earthquake, but things quickly turned ugly. Unprompted he comments that she seems smart but “this fuss you’re causing over nothing on the internet, and these human flesh search engines who beat people, aiya!” She tells him everything they’ve said is fact, and that they’ve made a documentary. A quasi-debate ensues over the veracity of the documentary and whether or not they have specialized agents making trouble on the internet.

Qiu Yong eventually calls the documentary “masturbatory” and says “I don’t care what trouble you’re making on the internet, I only dare to say that I welcome any challenge from you!”

The “trouble making on the internet” refers to Ai Weiwei’s project to chronicle the names of the children who died in the earthquake and his insistence on posting information and accounts of official harassment on the internet.

Then, presumably, Liu called Ai Weiwei and told him about this phone call. Ai called Qiu at the PSB, and the following conversation resulted:


Ai Weiwei: Are you head [of the local PSB substation] Qiu?
Qiu Yong: Yes.
Ai Weiwei: I am Ai Weiwei.
Qiu Yong: Oh, hello!
Ai Weiwei: Hello, why did you call Liu Yanping just now?
Qiu Yong: I can’t call her?
Ai Weiwei: Why did you make this phone call?
Qiu Yong: Is there a rule saying I can’t make phone calls?
Ai Weiwei: How did you get her number?
Qiu Yong: Huh?
Ai Weiwei: How did you get her number?
Qiu Yong: What?
Ai Weiwei: That was her private phone, how could you have that number?
Qiu Yong: Hey…
Ai Weiwei: Hey.
Qiu Yong: Huh?
Ai Weiwei: How could you have her private number?
Qiu Yong: She definitely told me it before I called her.
Ai Weiwei: She told you her number? She called you up first and told you it?
Qiu Yong: Ah…
Ai Weiwei: Or did you call her first?
Qiu Yong: She called me and gave me [the number] first.
Ai Weiwei: So today she called you first?
Qiu Yong: Ah.
Ai Weiwei: Then afterwards you returned her call?
Qiu Yong: I told you [already].

(Qiu Yong’s phone starts to ring, he answers)

Ai Weiwei: Hey! Hey! Hey! You can’t have a meeting [right now]! What was the reason you gave her that phone call just now?
Qiu Yong: Hey!
Ai Weiwei: Hey!
Qiu Yong: Ah.
Ai Weiwei: Just now what happened [that led to] you giving her that phone call?
Qiu Yong: What do you mean? What do you mean, I gave her a phone call…
Ai Weiwei: Were you threatening her?
Qiu Yong: I threatened her…?
Ai Weiwei: As the head of a PSB substation you can call people’s private phones and threaten them? Eh?
Qiu Yong: You ask her, see if I’m threatening her or not.
Ai Weiwei: Why would you call her? I just want to ask about your intention.
Qiu Yong: Intentions? I had no intentions.
Ai Weiwei: So without any intentions you just randomly call people up?
Qiu Yong: Who said it was randomly calling people up?
Ai Weiwei: How did you get her number?
Qiu Yong: She told me it.
Ai Weiwei: When did she tell you it?
Qiu Yong: Are you interrogating me? Huh? Yes or no!
Ai Weiwei: I’m not interrogating you; she is a member of my staff who was threatened by you.
Qiu Yong: She’s a member of your staff, [but this] call was a private matter between her and me.
Ai Weiwei: A private matter? But when you spoke with her, you were talking about this [recent] time when we were arrested and beaten by you guys, right?
Qiu Yong: No, I didn’t talk about that.
Ai Weiwei: Right?
Qiu Yong: Whatever I talked about, it was with her…
Ai Weiwei: Why did you tell her we were making a fuss over nothing?
Qiu Yong: Uh-huh, that’s…
Ai Weiwei: Were you bothered/inconvenienced in any way [by us]?
Qiu Yong: I was not.
Ai Weiwei: If you weren’t bothered then why did you call her?
Qiu Yong: I called to ask her, this is my own private matter.
Ai Weiwei: Your private matter? You’re a public servant of the nation, are you not? You got her number through your authority…
Qiu Yong: Yeah.
Ai Weiwei: Does she know you?
Qiu Yong: How could she not know me?
Ai Weiwei: If you got her number by using your public authority, you don’t have the right to use it for private matters! Every phone call you make you are representing the nation, you know?
Qiu Yong: You…
Ai Weiwei: You started threatening a citizen, you want to threaten her, this is unreal!
Qiu Yong: Good lord!
Ai Weiwei: Being a PSB bureau head, you called a private number to disturb someone else’s life and threaten her. Is that behavior suitable for a PSB bureau head?
Qiu Yong: Have you asked her if I was threatening her or not?
Ai Weiwei: Of course you were threatening her!
Qiu Yong: Ah, that was just…
Ai Weiwei: You, a PSB bureau head, had nothing to do so you just called her up?
Qiu Yong: That’s your, that’s your…
Ai Weiwei: Were you or were you not threatening her?!
Qiu Yong: That’s your opinion, that’s your opinion!
Ai Weiwei: This phone call, were you making it representing yourself or representing the public?
Qiu Yong: Representing myself.
Ai Weiwei: How can you as yourself just call other people’s private numbers?
Qiu Yong: Where is the law that forbids this? Where is the law that forbids this?
Ai Weiwei: How did you get her number? When you’re locking people up and and taking their phone numbers, you’re not allowed to use these phone numbers!
Qiu Yong: Here you go again, here you go again!
Ai Weiwei: Of course! Are you pretending to be innocent?
Qiu Yong: Hmph…you’re pretending.
Ai Weiwei: You still want to pretend you’re a saint?
Qiu Yong: It’s you who is pretending!
Ai Weiwei: You’re a bureau chief, I still haven’t settled [this] with you!
Qiu Yong: Then casually settle, however you’d like.
Ai Weiwei: What kind of thing are you! Huh?
Qiu Yong: Then what kind of thing are you?
Ai Weiwei: You are a beast, do you know?
Qiu Yong: Then what are you?
Ai Weiwei: You are a beast, I say you are a beast! You are a beast, got it?
Qiu Yong: OK! I get it.
Ai Weiwei: You understand? Fine. You’re not permitted to harass anyone again, if you do, we will put the record of this phone call online, understand?
Qiu Yong: OK!
Ai Weiwei: Because…because when you’re a police officer working for the country, then getting someone’s private number and using it to threaten them…

(Qiu Yong hangs up).

0 thoughts on “A Phone Call to the PSB”

  1. 1. It reveals that the PSB made serious check on the names of children died during the earthquake
    2. It reveals that some troublemakers must have claimed that Liu Yanping’s “another daughter” died during the earthquake
    3. It was a normal ordinary call check by a public official, but the conversation turned “ugly” over the “veracity” of the “documentary”, and the public servant sincerely believed that the “documentary” was “masturbatory” and there were “specialised agents” stirring up trouble
    4. “I don’t care what trouble you’re making on the internet, I only dare to say that I welcome any challenge from you!” This final statement does not really amount to a “threat”. It does reflect that the public official was confident of himself.
    So, who is or are the real trouble-makers?


  2. @ MatthewTan: I agree that Ai Weiwei is overreacting a bit; however, I don’t think there’s much that’s “normal” about the initial phone call. I also wonder why all the scare quotes. If you doubt my translation, go read it yourself.


  3. C. Custer,
    “I also wonder why all the scare quotes. If you doubt my translation, go read it yourself. ”

    Because I am quoting you, like this one below.

    “scare quotes” – what is that supposed to mean? Who is getting “scared” or what is “scaring”?

    I said the call is “normal” because this is what I expect a responsible PSB to do, to check whether there are children who have died and are not accounted for, or the reverse, to check whether there exists phantom names of non-existent “dead” children.


  4. The documentary – the PSB suspects that there are “specialised agents” creating and spreading “black” and untrue information on the internet to stir up social unrest. This is something I suspected also.


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