Writer Huang Zerong, who published the memoirs of survivors of Mao’s labor camps under the pen name Tie Liu, has officially been charged by Chinese authorities for illegal business activity and “creating a disturbance.” The octogenarian has been detained since September, when he was taken from his Beijing home on the grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
Tie has a personal connection to the subject matter of the memoirs he published: he spent 23 years in Mao’s labor camps after being labelled a “rightest” enemy of the party in 1957. He was released in 1980 after being “rehabilitated” and made his living as a journalist.
Tie’s wife said that when the police visited to inform her of her husband’s formal indictment, they indicated that the first charge was based on the publication of the anti-Mao memoirs. Tie had been publishing these life stories for many years, often basing them on the handwritten accounts of his compatriots, but had never printed them officially. All this time, the police ignored Tie’s home publishing activities, even perusing copies of the memoirs when they stopped by to check in on Tie (as the police often do for former dissidents.) But Tie’s wife is adamant that the memoirs were not for public dissemination—that Tie printed them cheaply with plain covers and only gave them to the writers or their families. She told The New York Times, “It wasn’t to make a profit, so the illegal-business crime doesn’t make sense. He lost money from it.”
The second charge was based on more recent articles published online and abroad criticizing Mao and other party leaders, including President Xi Jinping.
Tie joins dozens of other activists who have been imprisoned in the last few months under a (supposedly) new campaign to stamp out dissent, but surpasses them all in age by many years. According to his lawyer, the 81-year-old Tie may face up to seven years in prison for the disturbance charges, though he may be released early due to his advanced age and poor health.
By Briel Waxman
WKND continues this Sunday, 12.30 – 5.30pm at URBN Hotel (183 Jiaozhou Lu), with free flow Vedett beer till the keg runs out!