Ai Weiwei Earthquake Project: “Muyu Diary”

The following is a translation of this post on Ai Weiwei’s blog by one of his volunteers. The investigation, it seems, is ongoing, as is the harassment of investigators. And, as one might expect, the investigators are getting tired and, if Keke is any indication, beginning to snap a little.

Muyu Diary

The weather in Qingchuan [county] is not bad; I don’t like hot weather. When I got to Qingchuan it was already the afternoon of the 19th. Then I went to Muyu.

This is a dust-covered town; I’m not sure what the reason is but the air here is worse than in an industrial city. Walking down the street, I hadn’t even gotten halfway down the strip before there was a layer of dust on my cell phone. The air was also moist, and there was a slight breeze. Everyone on the street was a local, and they were all staring wide-eyed at me, as if they had been born with an innate suspicion of outsiders, but [I also saw] a little bit of curiosity and happy surprise.

Originally, I didn’t want to call, I was just going to walk over there, but the number signs on the street were gone, so I had to make the call instead. I said I’d be at the wharf, and then went there, asking directions along the way. I waited there for a half an hour. Perhaps it was this half hour that gave the police the time to burst out run hurriedly over before the person I was waiting for showed up.

The one in front was a commander, and when he said he’d seen me before I guessed he had seen me during Tan Zuoren’s case. He was experienced; he showed me as badge as soon as he was in front of me. The dialogue [between us] was as boring as always, both sides just beating around the bush. He asked where was I from, what was I doing in Qingchuan, and used the 60th anniversary-mandated “checks” on outsiders and the concept of safeguarding river crab society [i.e., harmonious society] as excuses to arrest me.

First we went to the Muyu police substation, where I calmly and somewhat honestly wrote a record. Now, it looks like I was thinking about things too simply. I thought when I got out of the Muyu [station] I could just leave but they took me to the Qingchuan county station. It seems like they thought I was important.

The commander and a middle-aged female police captain received me. The commander of the Qingchuan station was a fairly self-important, arrogant middle-aged man. This is the kind of person I like dealing with the least, because they’re never honest. Even if he doubted his own position, he’d still strike a sanctimonious pose and continue playing his role, because that’s the role he’s used to playing.

At first, he thought I was the same as some of the kids who came before me, and thoughtlessly talked at me about how he had educated these volunteers until they were as if reborn and finally suddenly aware of reality. This was quite ridiculous, as soon as he started he layed bare his bad leadership habits and his flaw: arrogance. It may have disappointed him that I really didn’t care about the written pledges left by the so-called “volunteers from before”; in any event, he changed strategies, but he changed for an even worse one [than the one he was already using]: he dragged my family into it. He said warmly that his son was about the same age as me, and that he’d chat with me as a member of the older generation. Maybe in a different situation I could have mustered some respect for elders when speaking to him, but this was different, I never looked at him as a member of the older generation. Then, he asked about my parents. I told him very clearly that before, I had been good and talked, generally I’d been very cooperative, but that when it comes to my parents, I had no comment. As an adult, one has the right and the duty to take responsibility for one’s own actions, so bringing other people into the issue was offensive and pointless. The People’s Republic of China gives the commander food, clothing, power, glory, wine and meat, and a sauna, [he should] be a normal person and have a little conscience, that would count as paying back [his debts] a bit.

The commander called over the middle-aged female captain. Middle-aged women all speak slowly and are approaching menopause, so it seems as though the commander’s IQ wasn’t too low. This captain-of-who-knows-what auntie was actually brutal, as soon as she came in she went through my bag. From inside to outside she looked over everything. The commander told her quietly to examine it as she saw fit and then leave. Then he asked the same question as before. My answer was the same, and actually I was continuously cooperative, but some questions he still needed to drag people in, like asking who the sender was of a text message from my wife about picking up something. This was a small question, but I really didn’t want to talk about other people. I always knew they wouldn’t care much about this message, but I felt if I spoke about it I would feel like I was turning other people in for crimes. I wouldn’t say any name except my own. So, after many times being truthful with the men in police substations, my first lie: I told them the message was from someone in another province.

Auntie’s eyes betrayed that she was happy, as though her having found an important message was a great success, and her early cold and cautious behavior warmed to something more self-confident and bright. She started heavily stressing how she was a passionately patriotic CCP member, and how she fervently hoped in the dream that China would become strong and prosperous. Originally I didn’t want to swear or yell at her, but by this time I had begun to think auntie was really quite dumb. She kept pontificating and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I educated her on how stupid a concept patriotism is.

Auntie also said Ai Weiwei was a Canadian citizen, so he definitely doesn’t care whether China becomes strong and prosperous or not. I thought this was really funny, but didn’t want to say much, so I just said: first, Ai Weiwei is Chinese just like you and I; second, I think Ai Weiwei is more patriotic than you are. It’s like it says on my bag: “I love China but not the People’s Republic of China” [this sentence was written in English]. At this time, the commander came back in.

When he saw that I’d brought a computer, he got really excited. Actually, I just brought a computer because being alone on the road is boring and I wanted to listen to my iPod but I lost my power adapter so I can only charge it using my computer. It was that simple. There was nothing important on my computer, the only think they might be interested in was the full list of names of students killed in the Sichuan earthquake. But, as per my mother’s teaching, I had hidden this folder very deeply, and except for the Security bureau I figured no one could find it easily, so I gave them my computer and he started excitedly searching. Seeing him this excited, I didn’t want to ruin it, so I showed him [Ai Weiwei’s] Laoma Tihua [on my iPod] and he asked to copy it. I wanted to make him tons of copies, actually, but once you put something onto an iPod you can’t get it back out [easily]. I couldn’t do it, so he called someone who understood computers, a tech guy from a small town’s substation. […] I told him, don’t be so careless, if you somehow erase the ten gigs of songs I have on there, I’m going to be very angry, but the tech guy had a lazy look about him, and responded casually while carelessly clicking the mouse […] he was acting like he was such a badass he could defy the laws of God and man, and I, tired from having been sitting on a bus for the whole day, blew up.

The commander probably didn’t expect that I’d blow up. He came over to meet force with force and, still tired, I told him he should teach those in his leadership to respect others, and not break others’ property. The commander said OK.

I looked at the time; it was already close to midnight.

I got a text from a family member saying that my father’s condition was getting worse, and began to feel ill-at-ease. I don’t remember what those behind me were saying. I went to the local complaints office to sleep, accompanied by two female officers, one in front of me, and one to my left.

I didn’t sleep well that night, got up at eight the next morning, ate something, and bought a ticket back to Chengdu. The commander kept asking me if I’d get off the train halfway down the line and come back, but I told him I wouldn’t because I was tired, and I wanted to go home and rest.

-Volunteer Investigator Keke

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