Ge Xun: a Bunch of Flowers and an Email Address from the State Security

In a phone interview on Monday from his home in Fremont, Calif., Mr. Ge described how the agents, infuriated by his assertion that bloggers in the United States were volunteers and not government-sponsored agitators, demanded that he turn over his Twitter password. When he refused, two of them unleashed a torrent of kicks and punches that lasted 30 minutes, he said. “The more they beat me, the less I felt like cooperating,” he said.


A few hours later, en route to the airport, he said, he endured another brief beating after refusing to hand over his laptop for one final inspection. Once at the terminal, they returned his camera and recording device, although the contents had been erased. They also handed back the bouquet of flowers he had planned to give to Ms. Ding.

As Mr. Ge limped away in pain, he said, the lead interrogator, Wang Jie, reminded him that the entire episode was a “national secret.” The agent also scribbled down an e-mail address and told him to send a note the next time he came to town. (An e-mail sent to the address seeking comment was not answered on Monday.)

New York Times, Febr 13, 2012

Dissidents report that such treatment is commonplace for Chinese citizens. And while China has undertaken to follow international norms in dealing with foreigners, the police have begun to ignore those norms with impunity. That’s particularly so when it comes to foreign citizens of Chinese descent.

Wall Street Journal, Febr 14, 2012



» 21 Hours in Beijing, Seeing Red, Febr 8, 2012


2 Comments to “Ge Xun: a Bunch of Flowers and an Email Address from the State Security”

  1. I think the important thing to underline is how this represents a change in priorities and tactics. The Chinese security services used to pretty much ignore what happened on blocked websites, and it’s hard to think of an incident when they’ve detained a foreign citizen like this. It’s also amazing how they failed to see how this would back-fire so as to make the harm caused by this incident far worse than anything they might have gained from it.


  2. I think this incident will backfire in terms of image and soft power, but I don’t believe that this is where the CCP top-level’s priorities are. Officials who care about these effects, and semi-officials or academics from their vicinity who might care remain silent (probably glad about the limited attention this latest case involving a foreign citizen of Chinese ancestry got after all), and I believe that in the eyes of many, this has actually added to the CCP’s hard power: the CCP can do what it wants without impunity. I believe their next step will be to tackle foreigners with no roots in China whose activities they dislike.

    Are you ready for some Zhongnanhai astrology? I believe the mere fact the CCP invests heavily in its foreign propaganda – compared to Western trends, for example – is no real contradiction to my view above. CRI, CCTV-9, its international Mandarin services etc. may not convince a global majority, but they will entertain a kind of early Christians, er, early harmonists who feel good with the semblance of normality and public life these outlets are conveying. Besides, they don’t cost as much as many other projects, and the more globally-minded faction needs to be kept happy with a few budgets, too.

    Many things that are said and done about China are based on wishful thinking. If the CCP can achieve its kind of stability at the current opportunity costs (if that will spell stability or not might be an issue of another debate, but that’s how they seem to see it) is probably worth paying the price. Among foreign elites, anyway, the damage will be hardly noticeable. Expect further growth in Confucius Institutes.

    Also, I think current developments at Deutsche Welle mirror this trends in a way of its own. To be clear, and to avoid misunderstandings, the Welle may indeed be free to develop into whichever direction its management deem desirable – this is something Germany’s constitutional court needs to decide, in my view -, but here is a foreign broadcaster or multi-media organization, itself part of a bureaucratic faction which should be tracking its image very closely, and still, they seem to have found a narrative they can live with rather comfortably, when it comes to declining users or listeners in China – even though they have probably seen a much more traceable backlash from their more recent decisions, re their Chinese department, than the one Chinese human-rights violation may have lead to.

    I think there are dynamics involved here which one will probably find kind of lunatic from an individual or small-organization point of view. I certainly do, and I find this apparent McCarthyism in Cologne on the one hand, and the continuing greed for Chinese diplo-academic investment eye-catching (as I said: expect more Confucius Institutes, in Germany, too). But big machines, in contrast to people like (you, possibly, and) me may feel that such paradoxes make perfect sense, or aren’t paradoxes at all.


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