Geng Xiaonan, a ‘Chinese Decembrist’, and Professor Xu Zhangrun

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Viral Alarm

 

The 9th of September 2020 marked the forty-fourth year since the death of Mao Zedong. On the 10th of September, Professor Xu Zhangrun, formerly of Tsinghua University, issued the following statement:

On 9 September 2020, the 22nd Day of the Seventh Month of the Gengzi Lunar Year, Geng Xiaonan and her husband [Qin Zhen 秦真] were detained by the Beijing police. And so it is that the good and the worthy suffer under the tyranny of this vile regime. This is an outrageous act of injustice!

Today, any Chinese citizen of conscience and decency who raises a voice in protest against inequity may be subjected to similar violations without warning. They too can be thus deprived of their freedom.

I appeal to all compatriots who reject such a condition of enslavement to join me in my appeal for their release. Free Geng Xiaonan! Demand justice!

Xu Zhangrun

庚子,農曆七月二十二,陽曆九月九號,耿瀟男夫婦均被警方帶走。暴政高壓之下,良善受難,不義橫行!任何公民,只因信守良知,為公義發聲,便會隨時可能遭受橫逆,失去人身自由。所有不甘做奴隸的同胞,我們呼籲放人,還瀟男女士以自由,還世界以公道!

許章潤

Geng Xiaonan 耿瀟男 had been in the international news since early July when, following the detention of Xu Zhangrun by police in Beijing, she had spoken out in his defense. As Chris Buckley reported in The New York Times:

He was detained on an accusation of consorting with prostitutes, according to Geng Xiaonan, a friend who said she had spoken to the scholar’s wife and students.

“It’s just the kind of vile slander that they use against someone they want to silence,” said Ms. Geng, a businesswoman involved in film and publishing.

“He foresaw this day,” she said. “He kept some clothes in a bag hanging inside his front door, so he wouldn’t have to go without a change when they took him away.”

— ‘Seized by the Police, an Outspoken Chinese Professor
Sees Fears Come True’
, 6 July 2020

***

Geng Xiaonan has been a constant presence in the ‘Xu Zhangrun Archive’, our record of the persecution of Professor Xu Zhangrun. She is a noted cultural critic and publisher, as well as the editor-in-chief and proprietor with her husband of Ruiya Books 瑞雅書業, a commercially successful and much-celebrated enterprise, and a film production company. With a background in theatre and film, Geng was a producer of River Road, an award-winning film which premièred at the 2014 Tokyo International Film Festival.

Geng is also known for her outspoken support of Chinese men and women of conscience, including, among others, the legal scholar Xu Zhiyong 許志永, the citizen journalist Chen Qiushi 陳秋實, the lawyer Ding Jiaxi 丁家喜 and Reverend Wang Yi 王怡. Over the years, as the Xi Jinping autarchy has increasingly encroached on China’s cultural life, she has been unstinting in her behind-the-scenes support for many other older dissidents as well as less-controversial cultural figures.

Geng Xiaonan has promoted the essays published by Xu Zhangrun from early 2016 which, taken as a whole, constitute the most thoroughgoing critique of Xi Jinping’s rule over China’s party-state-army and warn of the ongoing political crisis of the People’s Republic. In the introduction to the ‘Xu Zhangrun Archive’ we quoted the lapidary summary of Xu Zhangrun’s work formulated by Geng Xiaonan:

直擊七寸, 劍指廟堂。

Blows directed at their Achilles Heel;
A sword pointed at their Sacred Heart.

Living with increasing state repression, along with the possibility of censure, police harassment and even arrest, other prominent cultural entrepreneurs like Xu Zhiyuan 許知遠 have long since fallen silent. Some internationally lionised Chinese thinkers like the Tsinghua academic Wang Hui 汪暉 are said to take delight in the parlous condition of liberal thinkers like Xu Zhangrun. Indeed, shortly before Geng Xiaonan and her husband disappeared, such establishment Marxist-Leninists celebrated the reappearance of Steadfast 中流, an odious revanchist publication long sponsored by Maoist nostalgics until it was ordered to cease publication.

Geng Xiaonan has been steadfast; she has been an outspoken supporter of open discussion and free thought throughout the tumultuous Gengzi Year of 2020. Apart from her public advocacy and private acts of charity, her activities have included the production of ‘Gengzi Free-range Talks’ a series of online lectures,《庚子自由談》.

***

Following Xu Zhangrun’s detention and release by the Beijing authorities in early July, Geng Xiaonan gave an extended interview to Bei Ming 北明, a noted émigre writer, broadcaster and commentator on Chinese affairs.That interview was broadcast in two parts in Bei Ming’s ‘Washington Notes’, a series produced for Radio Free Asia. In it, Geng acknowledges that her support for Xu Zhangrun could well result in her own arrest.

The following translation of Geng Xiaonan and Bei Ming’s exchange is prefaced by Xu Zhangrun’s ‘Letter to China’s Dictators’, which he released on the evening of 10 September, the day word got out that Geng and her husband had indeed been detained.

The following material is included in Viral Alarm — China Heritage Annual 2020, as well as being a chapter in our series ‘Xu Zhangrun vs. Tsinghua University’, links to which can be found in the ‘Xu Zhangrun Archive’ on this site.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
10 September 2020

***

‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.’

— Fyodor Dostoevsky

***

Xu Zhangrun and Geng Xiaonan, 30 July 2020. Source: Xu Zhangrun

Geng Xiaonan’s Arrest:

Bei Ming on Geng Xiaonan:

Geng Xiaonan on Xu Zhangrun:

Bei Ming on Xu Zhangrun:

Related Material:

Geng Xiaonan’s ‘Gengzi Free-range Talks’:

  • 庚子自由談》,耿瀟男主持. This series offers an eclectic range of ideas from some of China’s most prominent, if embattled, thinkers, academics and cultural commentators, curated and introduced by Geng Xiaonan

***

A Letter to China’s Dictators

On the Detention & Incarceration of Geng Xiaonan

就女子羈獄 致暴政書

Xu Zhangrun
許章潤

Translated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

It is the Seventh Month of the Gengzi Year [according to the traditional lunar calendar; that is, September 2020], a time to enjoy the cooling relief of early autumn. Who would have thought that your persistent miasma would manifest itself in the form of your thuggish arm descending upon the innocent unannounced. The disastrous floods of the summer months are still receding while the threat of the coronavirus remains. Outrage voices rail against China around the world and on your doorstep the constant threat of war is looming. One may well have thought that, confronted by all of these challenges and in light of the economic straits of the common people, surely we might enjoy a measure of [social and political] relaxation? Would it be too much to expect that you, the power holders, might pause to reflect on your missteps? Might you not even admit a measure of responsibility and fault as part of a broader hope to create a propitious environment.

But no! No one could could have imagined that, given all of this, even now The Axelrod [Xi Jinping] pursues his devious course and in the process continues to incite opposition and displeasure in every quarter. He devotes his energies to making enemies.

We heard the astounding and shocking news that, yesterday, the Beijing police detained Ms Geng Xiaonan, a well-known publisher and cultural figure. You had her incarcerated along with her husband [Qin Zhen]. The international media already regards China’s image with sheer incredulity and now this! This news sends a numbing winter chill through the hearts of all Chinese people of conscience and decency.

Geng Xiaonan has for many years now been an active arts publisher and cultural critic. She has also devoted herself to the public good and pursued an eclectic range of activities, contributing to our society with selfless dedication. Xiaonan has repeatedly and bravely spoken out in support of the men and women of conscience whom you have chosen to persecute. Xiaonan has been tireless in providing succour to those in need, regardless of the cost and in the face of inevitable failure. She has done so with passion and with honour. Her own writing is suffused with an uplifting beauty, just as her heart-mind reflects a clarity of soul. Hers is a personality of clarion power and she is possessed of a moral sense that brooks no evil. One finds in the person of Geng Xiaonan beauty, talent and moral rectitude. As all of her friends know: this is a stunning woman who is also a real master. She is a real Chinese Decembrist, one truly admirable stature.

When I was detained and held by your police on those spurious charges [of having ‘solicited prostitutes’ in early July], Geng Xiaonan spoke out loudly and wielded her pen to protest openly. She made sure that the world knew just what was going on and thereby earned the undying enmity of you, the power holders. You have had her in your sights ever since.

In this vast land of China, one beset with so many difficulties, it is so often chivalrous women like this who prove willing to put their lives on the line in defense of righteousness. Their actions shame the menfolk of this land. No matter that they are no match for their enemies, time and again they prove themselves to be unwavering in their beliefs and resolute in their actions. In their person and in their behaviour they resist oppressors like you. They do so not as some vainglorious quest to be regarded as heroes, for their interests lie rather in cultivating finer things in the privacy of their own lives. Yet they are the valiant ones and by means of their passionate focus they prove ready to sacrifice themselves for a higher goal.

No matter how hard you may try to sully the name ‘Geng Xiaonan’, all know that she is actually a martyr to these dark days. She is someone who has the unstinting courage to continue the purposeful trek along the rocky path to freedom. She may be a victim of your totalitarian dictatorship, but she is a victim who is unswerving in her devoted opposition. She is an Outstanding Citizen of China, a person whose spirit of fearlessness suffuses our very land in its quest for democracy.

Stay your hand. Put an end to your evil and lay down your butcher’s blade! Release Geng Xiaonan. Restore her freedom. Let her and her husband out. Prove to the world that you can also be decent!

Pitiless are the workings of Heaven and Earth. My plaintive appeal is a song of sorrow. I call out to that Greater Power: open your eyes wide and witness what is happening among humankind… …

If Xiaonan is guilty, then the guilt is also mine. Do not persecute this woman. If you must have someone to jail, even to kill, then let it be me!

Xu Zhangrun

Twenty-Third Day of the Seventh Month,
The Tenth of September 2020 CE

***

就女子羈獄 致暴政書

 

歲在庚子,七月流火,適為人間清秋,不料戾氣瀰漫,捕快墮突街閭。大災甫息,瘟疫依舊,全球討伐聲激,周邊戰事一觸即發,而民生迫在目前,本該予民休息,進而反省罪己,以圖祥和。不意當軸反其道行,一意挑動不滿,專心製造敵人。就在昨日,警方抓捕著名文化出版人耿瀟男女士,夫婦二人同遭羈獄,頓時舉世譁然,將緊繃輿情往前再推一步,讓本就不堪之中國政情雪上加霜,而令萬千良善國民齒冷心寒。

多年以來,除開藝術評論與文化出版,瀟男女士秉持公共心腸,投入公共事务,無私無偏。每為身役公益而受难罹禍人士,不論親疏,勇敢发声,无惧无畏。奔走公義,抱薪牽馬,不惜代價,不計成敗,有情有義。而文筆激越爛漫,心意清澈如雲,品性豪邁嘹亮,脾氣嫉惡如仇,集美麗、才情和正義於一身,正如友人所言,身為美女,可稱先生,正為我華夏十二月黨之大丈夫也。

尤當在下蒙冤羈獄之際,瀟男女士仗義直聲,以筆呼號,因傳播真相而惹惱有司,這才埋下今日牢獄之災的禍根。浩瀚中華,危難當口,總有俠女捨身取義,令須眉汗顏。她們本是弱軀,奈何因信行義,以一己之力抵抗強權。 她們不想充當英雄,但願閨中吟詠,卻因一腔血湧,遂成以死明志的真正豪傑。瀟男,不管你們如何污名,她是這個至暗時刻,義無反顧奔赴在崎嶇自由之路上的殉道者,她是至剛至烈反抗極權暴政的受難人,她是浩瀚凜然、追求民主的偉大公民!

別作惡,放下屠刀,釋放瀟男,還瀟男自由,還瀟男夫婦自由,還這個世界以公道!

天地不仁,長歌當哭,上天吾王,你睜眼看看這人間⋯⋯

瀟男有罪,吾人同罪,莫欺負女子,坐牢殺頭,請自章潤始。

許章潤
庚子七月二十三,耶誕2020年9月10日

***

Geng Xiaonan’s Insights into
The World of Xu Zhangrun (Part I) 

耿瀟男詳說許章潤 (上)

Beiming
北明

Washington Notes

24 July 2020

Translated & annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

The circumstances surrounding the fate of Xu Zhangrun, a noted intellectual in the People’s Republic of China and former professor of law at Tsinghua University in Beijing, have become emblematic of the state of the Chinese nation itself. This is because … he has moreover refused pressure to self-censor and he has continued to speak the truth unwaveringly. As a result he is on the front line of the ranks of Chinese people who resist injustice, falsehood, the absurdities of the system and the dark realities of contemporary China. By dint of his efforts he has become yet another one of those people who themselves are writing the history of China. Falsehoods may well obscure history, but the lies can never obliterate history itself. This is even more so in today’s globalised world. There is no aspect of reality that the Chinese Communist authorities might wish to cover up that can entirely escape the notice of the world at large.

中國大陸知識人、前清華大學法學院教授許章潤的遭遇和命運,已經成為中華民族命運的符號,這是因為他不僅體察社會人心,而且拒接任何自我審查、直言真實,他因此不期然站在了中國人民抵抗不義、虛假、荒誕和苦難現實的第一線,他也因此將成為又一名書寫中國當代歷史的人。謊言可以遮蓋歷史,但歷史不會被謊言抹殺,何況在當今全球化的世界,沒有任何中共當局希望遮蓋的真相,可以瞞過世界的眼睛。

In this episode of ‘Washington Notes’ compiled for Radio Free Asia, I interview Mr Xu Zhangrun’s good friend Geng Xiaonan. She has been the CEO of the Tianhua Huatian Film Corporation and editor-in-chief of Ruiya Books. Both organisations are well known on the Chinese mainland for their cultural contributions. Geng has also been the host of a popular independent cultural, intellectual and arts salon. More relevant than any of these to our program, however, is the fact that she sees herself as, to use her words, ‘a stable hand taking care of the horses of the heroic figures who fight for justice, someone who provides practical succor to prisoners of conscience and a person who cares for the corpses of the valiant souls who die in the wilderness.’

It is for this reason that she has a particularly important and unique status among Xu Zhangrun’s numerous supporters. By interviewing Geng Xiaonan I hoped to learn about Xu Zhangrun who is under house arrest and no long able to speak for himself.

這次華盛頓手記,北明採訪許章潤先生好友耿瀟男女士。耿瀟男歷任中國天畫畫天影業的首席執行長(CEO)、瑞雅書業總編輯,在大陸文化藝術影視圖書出版界多有業績。她也是深受愛戴的中國民間獨立的文化、思想和藝術沙龍的主持人。對於我們這個節目來說,更重要的是她的自我定位和行為方式:她是為中國當代為公義搏戰之英雄的牽馬人、為良心犯牢中送飯之人、為死於邊野的中國好男兒馬革裹屍送行的人。因此, 她無疑是許章潤無數支持者中,相當重要而極為特殊的一位。這次節目,我們將通過對她的採訪,瞭解目前依然被當局軟禁而不能出聲的許章潤其人其事。

(The transcript of the following interview was revised both by the host of ‘Washington Notes’ and Geng Xiaonan. 以下訪談文字是受訪人和主持人先後依據訪談錄音整理,內容略有變動或調整。)

Bei Ming 北明

***

‘Soliciting Prostitutes’ — official Chinese mud racking. A cartoon by Rebel Pepper 變態辣椒

***

Bei Ming: Recently, Professor Xu has been stripped of his teaching post and fired by Tsinghua University. Do you have any idea what he is planning to do in the future?

主持人:許教授歸來不幾天被褫奪教學權並被清華大學除名,據您瞭解,或者推測,他對未來生活有什麼打算嗎?

Geng Xiaonan: None of his friends have seen Professor Xu since he was released from detention on the morning of Sunday 12 July. At the moment, he is forbidden from leaving his apartment and no one is allowed to visit him; he is, in effect, under house arrest. The formal reason given by the authorities is that he is ‘subject to two weeks of coronavirus-related quarantine’. As a result, none of us have been able to talk to him about his future plans, although I imagine that when we finally can see him this will be a major topic of conversation. From my own rather limited understanding of Professor Xu, practicalities and financial matters are not necessarily his strong suit, nor of any great interest to him. In the time that I have known him, I don’t believe I’ve ever observed him giving a thought to his own future. Quite to the contrary, I would imagine that even now his overriding concern relates to the fate of this nation and its people.

耿瀟男:許先生於7月12日清晨被釋放之後,朋友們都還沒能見到他,事實上他仍處於半軟禁狀態,他不能出居所,我們也不能去看望他,當局給出的理由是「疫情隔離14天」。所以,我們都還沒有機會跟他交流他對未來生活的打算,我相信等大家可以見到他之後,這個問題會是一個熱點問題。但據我對許先生的粗淺瞭解,他對規劃自己的生活實務、財務不太有興趣也不太擅長,我似乎沒有見過他謀劃自己的生活,我猜想他念茲在茲的仍是謀劃國族的未來。

Bei Ming: There are many members of the intellectual elite among your acquaintances. Professor Xu is part of that circle and he has been a particular focus of media attention since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the last few months — what could be called the ‘2020 Genzi Year Epidemic’ 庚子疫情. Could you tell us how you met him?

主持人:您周圍有許多朋友,大都是知識精英。許教授出現在這個圈子,尤其是引起海外媒體關注,是最近幾個月的事情,與中國庚子疫情有關。您是怎麼認識他的?

Geng Xiaonan: First please allow me to correct you: Professor Xu attracted the attention of the international media long before the recent epidemic. Actually, he has been famous for quite some time, although he’s not one of those populist scholars; rather he is more at home in the ivory tower. Added to that is the fact that he is not much given to socialising or public engagement and so his views and publications are not well-known among a broader common readership. I would, however, hasten to add that over the last two decades he has on average published a new book every year: twelve major academic monographs, three collections of essays, as well as four translated books. Such a prodigious level of productivity would hardly have been possible had he not devoted himself to his work, or if he had been distracted by commonplace socialising. I would also like to mention that, in 2014, Xu Zhangrun was celebrated as one of China’s ten foremost legal scholars…

He had a solid scholastic record and was already a famously talented university lecturer long before all of this. To put it somewhat crudely, he was regarded as something of an academic star. In other words, Professor Xu has enjoyed a formidable reputation both in China and internationally for quite some time.

Let me illustrate my point. I was in Japan in the capacity of a visiting scholar when the authorities [of Tsinghua University] initiated their persecution of him in March 2019 [when the university suspended him from teaching and research, radically reduced his wages and put him under formal investigation]. I witnessed for myself the impressive media event that seventy-two leading Japanese scholars and media figures organised at the time to protest his treatment.

耿瀟男:我先要更正一下,許先生他並不是最近才引起海外媒體的關注,相反,他很早就已經享有盛名。他並不是大眾普及型的學者,他是象牙塔型的學者,再加上疏於社交,所以他的著作和言論可能在普羅大眾層面並不是太普及。但這二十年間,他大概出版了12本重磅學術著作、3本散文集、4部譯著,幾乎一年出版一部圖書,這樣的寫作量,不全情以赴、不自絕於社交歡場,是不可能完成的;並且早在2014年他就被評為十大法學家……正因為他強悍的學術功底以及罕見的演講天賦,他很早就已經是學術名咖、高校名師、明星學者了(儘管用明星這個詞有點辱沒了大先生),在國內外精英知識界,一直擁有廣泛的影響力。比如,2019年他被當局迫害時,我當時在日本做訪問學者,我親眼見證了日本全國72位著名學者和媒體人,聯名為他呼籲並召開新聞發佈會。

My first encounter with Mr Xu was some years ago at a gathering of public intellectuals in Beijing. It’s so long ago, in fact, that I can’t even recall the details of the event, although one memory has stayed with me. All the scholars present, be they from the south of China or based here in the north, were well known to each other. They were all old friends and the atmosphere was relaxed and jocular. At one point, the conversation turned to the thought that if, one day, China really was ‘liberated’, what role would most suit so-and-so in the new order, and what about such-and-such? For example, who should head a new Chinese parliament and who should be put in charge of the department of justice? And then there was foreign affairs to think about, and so on. I distinctly recall that amidst all the lively banter Professor Xu merrily chimed in loudly that: ‘If such a day does indeed eventuate, I can assure you that on the morning after I’ll set myself up in opposition to the lot of you… …’

我認識他是在北京的一次公共知識人的聚會上,時間久遠,已記不清當時狀況,只有一個細節我至今印象深刻:當時在場的南北方的著名學者們彼此之間都非常熟悉和親密,酒酣之際眾人彼此開玩笑,大意是假如自由來臨那天,張三適合做什麼、李四適合做什麼,議長適合誰、司法部適合誰、外交部適合誰……許先生當時笑著對他的好友們大聲說:那一天若真的來臨,我第二天就立刻成為你們的反對派……

This telling remark stayed with me. Our subsequent interactions confirmed my belief that Professor Xu is one of those truly independent scholars, a man possessed of a naturally critical independence of mind and clear rationality; he is an ‘eternal member of the opposition’ and he abides by that credo both in words and in deed. He keeps the wealthy and the powerful at arm’s length and has always cultivated his independence.

這個細節給我很深的印象,在後來的交往中,也的確感受到許先生一直秉持學者應有的批判性、獨立性、理性,以「永遠的反對派」立言立世,自覺遠離權貴、保持可貴的獨立。

Bei Ming: Could you give us an overview of the work that Professor Xu Zhangrun has published in recent years, including his new book China’s Ongoing Crisis — Six Chapters from the Wuxu Year of the Dog. [Note: for details of this book, see ‘Six Chapters — One Hundred and Twenty Years’, China Heritage, 1 January 2020]

主持人:請簡單介紹一下許章潤教授近些年的寫作情況,包括他最近出版的新書《戊戌六章》?

Geng Xiaonan: In recent years, Professor Xu has produced ten major works of political analysis and critique that have attracted widespread attention. The first of these appeared in 2016. [Note: See ‘Reaffirming the Magisterial Importance of the Idea of a Republic’] But the real ‘breakout’ works in this series [starting with ‘Defend the “Economic Reforms and Open Door Policy” ’ and including the famous jeremiad ‘Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes’] were published in the 2018-2019 Wuxu Year of the Dog. Because the key works in his series of political pamphlets appeared during the Wuxu Year, he decided to call his new book Six Chapters from the Wuxu Year. As a matter of fact, the book actually contains ten major works, including essays that he wrote both in 2016 and 2017. It also includes some material written in 2019.

耿瀟男:許先生撰寫大型、重磅的政論文章,目前進入我們公眾視線的一共是十篇。最早的一篇是在2016年就成文的。其中的「井噴」是在2018年戊戌年,所以他最近的那本新書取名為「戊戌六章」。《戊戌六章》里其實一共是十篇,其中有幾篇是在2016年、2017年就成文了,然後還有2019年的。加起來是十篇大型的、重磅的政論文章。

Bei Ming: Can you tell us about the overall impression that you have of Professor Xu: his personality, his style and manner? The way he navigates the world. Would it be possible to illustrate your observations with a few examples or anecdotes.

主持人:可否談一談您對許教授的整體印象,他的性格特徵、氣質、為人處世等。能舉一兩個例子或細節說明更好。

Geng Xiaonan: It’s quite a challenge to capture a complex personality like that of Mr Xu in a few short sentences. Let me sum up my overall impression of him by saying that he is, above all, a 士 shì, a ‘literatus’ [a traditional term for a learned person who is also possessed of great moral integrity].

[Note: For more on the word-concept 士 shì as it relates to Xu Zhangrun, see Bai Xin 白信, ‘Tsinghua’s War with Tradition’; and, Feng Chongyi 馮崇義, ‘A Scholar’s Virtus & the Hubris of the Dragon’]

耿瀟男:許先生的豐富,是很難三言兩語就描述清楚的,我只能選取我感受最深的一點,那就是士!

Chinese people are familiar enough with the word 士 shì, after all everyone comes across it from an early age. But, let me ask you and your listeners: you may have heard about the 士 shì of the past, but have you ever actually encountered one in the present? My guess is that the vast majority of Chinese people simply have no idea what a living 士 shì might really be like. But I can proudly say that I do, and that’s because I know Xu Zhangrun. He answers to the definition of 士 shì in that, for me, in his person he combines ‘intellectual excellence’ with the accomplishments of a ‘public intellectual’ and the virtues of a ‘model citizen of the Republic’.

「士」這個詞中國人都很熟悉,從小大家都學過,但請問各位,你們見過嗎?我想絕大多數的國人此生根本沒有見過「士」是什麼。我很榮幸地說,因為許先生,我見到了。許先生滿足了我對「士」的所有想象、滿足了我對「精英」、對「學者」、對「公共知識分子」、對「民國風範」等等這些概念的所有想象。

Moreover, apart from his outstanding academic achievement there’s in the kernel of his personality a unique individual resonance [性靈]. [Note: 性靈 xìng líng, an expression that was prominent in the late-sixteenth century, was revived in the 1920s by writers who advocated independent thought and non-aligned literature. The term enjoyed another revival in the 1980s.] He can lose himself listening to Shostakovich all night; he himself says that he is a failed art-school student; but he can be so moved by creative works that he will happily write essays about them in appreciation, and he finds it easy to make friends with artists. … Long years of intensive academic work have in no way leached vitality from his spirit. On the contrary, apart from being an acknowledged academic authority, he has a breadth of interests that is more commonly found in an artist or a creative writer; his is a personality that is deeply empathetic and hungry for inspiration. Even in the casual essays that he dashes off I’ve been astounded to detect that he naturally engages with the ‘classical three unities’ that are so much celebrated in the dramatic arts. I’ve seen him readily form friendships with musicians who find in him a ‘soulmate’. He also delights in the company of outstanding writers, just as he is immediately at home in the company of successful artists. A famous film director noticed that there is some ineffable quality in Mr Xu’s personality, a certain charisma pull, something he shares in common with our most outstanding performers.

另外,許先生除了學者高蹈之外,他的精神氣質中還有一種難得的性情、性靈。他會一整晚地聽肖斯塔科維奇、他自稱是失敗的美院落榜生、他被作品打動而主動為別人寫藝術評論、他很容易跟藝術家成為朋友……多年的嚴謹治學絲毫沒有讓他的靈魂乾癟,相反,他在著名學者這層身份之外,他有著藝術家和文學家的豐富、善感、悲憫、激揚。他隨手寫的小品文,我驚艷於居然渾然天成就是一出嚴格符合戲劇三一律的劇本雛形;他與著名音樂家互相引為知音;他與著名的作家惺惺相惜;他與著名畫家一見如故;他被著名導演在鏡頭下發現是天生自帶氣場的大腕級演員……

There’s another thing about Mr Xu that can perhaps best be described by using a somewhat disrespectful but popular online term. You see, he’s a bit of a ‘nerd’ [二 èr]. It’s a term that pretty much covers his lack of interest in the kind of canny socialising aimed at benefitting oneself. He’s not at all calculating and, yes, perhaps he’s too frank in his views. He’s someone who has no interest in manipulating a situation to his advantage and he doesn’t play it safe at all. To put it another way, that popular expression that extols ‘having one’s way with the world and being practiced at manipulating others’ reflects a worldview that is entirely foreign to his way of thinking, so much so that it might as well be Martian. A more polite way of describing his personality would be to say that he has pretty minimal emotional intelligence; or, more crudely, you could call him ‘nerdish’, so much so that he’s even a bit of an ‘über-geek’. But then again, that all makes sense when you really think about it. After all, if he wasn’t someone with so little concern for turning things to his advantage or for his own well-being, a man so absorbed in his scholarly pursuits, how could he ever have written those magisterial works that respond to this tumultuous era with such resounding force, works that, at the same time, have placed in him such clear and present danger? When I say that Mr Xu is a ‘nerd’, I don’t mean to say that he’s just a socially inept wonk. Rather he’s that rare kind of person in China today for his spirit remains untrammeled and without artifice.

許先生還有另外一個特點,請容許我使用一個稍微欠敬的詞,那就是:二。基本上,用這個詞就可以概括他的疏於社交、拙於算計、過度直率、不計得失、不顧安危……總之,「世事洞明、人情練達」對他來說,就是另一個星球的語言。說得好聽些,就是情商低;說得粗糙些,則可稱之為「二」,並且到了「二氣沖天」的程度。細想也合理,如果許先生不是這樣一位完全不計算自己的利益安危得失的人、不是這樣純粹的學者,他怎麼可能寫得出那樣黃鐘大呂一般的、置自己於死地的、真正與這個風雲際會的大時代匹配的文章?許先生的「二」,不是呆,而是一種在當今中國罕見的純粹、高貴的心無旁騖。

Bei Ming: I have the definite impression that the three words ‘Xu Zhang Run’ are among the most oft-repeated in the Sinophone world today, be it in the corridors of power or more broadly, in China or among Chinese speakers internationally.

I just did a Google search for Xu’s name and, in exactly 0.38 seconds, I got some 2.74 million items. I followed that with a search for a well known older scholar — the aesthetician Li Zehou — and, in 0.39 seconds, 310,000 items turned up. When I searched for He Weifang, a well-known independent-minded legal scholar of Xu Zhangrun’s generation — I got 340,000 items in the space of 0.48 seconds.

At a guesstimate, that means the average well-known Chinese intellectual can pretty much boast of about 300,000 Google entries. Compared to that, Mr Xu Zhangrun has 2.7 million. Xu’s name has also been mentioned by America’s political heavyweights when calls have been issued for his release from custody [in early July].

Xu Zhangrun’s name is now aligned with the pursuit of freedom and democracy in China. That’s also how people have come to know about him, in particular because he is someone who has openly and directly challenged Xi Jinping and his retrograde policies. Still, it’s now impossible for people to know more about a man who, though he is in the public eye, is someone who is forbidden from being public. Can you tell us what it is about him, his character and personality, that make him so special? Can you be more specific?

主持人:許章潤這三個字大概在漢語世界、朝野內外以及海內外,是最近重復使用最多的詞語之一。剛才我在谷歌上搜索了一下許章潤這三個字,0.38秒鐘出現了274萬條。我又搜索了另外一個知名的學術前輩李澤厚先生,0.39秒出現了31萬條。跟許章潤同時代年齡段的知名的知識分子賀衛方,0.48秒出現了不到34萬條。這樣看來,一般的知名知識分子是30多萬條,而許章潤先生是270多萬條。許章潤這個名字這個名詞也出現在美國政要的話語里,是為了呼籲當局釋放當時在押的許先生,也是以這個名字和這個人的行為,表達中國人對自由民主的追求。人們由此知道許章潤這個人,公然以毫不妥協的語言文字抵擋當局主要是習近平的倒行逆施。但是人們還是沒有渠道去瞭解這個引起這麼大反響的公眾人物,究竟是什麼特質、什麼個性,您可不可以講得再具體一點,舉些例子?

Geng Xiaonan: Okay, let me give you an example. There was this occasion when we were all together having a very jolly night when suddenly someone noticed that Mr Xu had disappeared. We all set off searching for him and, eventually, we found him lying, somewhat tipsy, in the courtyard of the restaurant. As we helped him to his feet, he said: ‘I’ve just been looking at the stars. See for yourselves: the stars!’…

In his study at home you can see this card set up under a desk lamp that carries a message of his own composition: ‘Think complicated thoughts but nurture a heart-mind of clear simplicity.’ I feel this is a perfect word-portrait of the man I know. Whether it be in his academic work or in his concern for the fate of China, its people and the future, his mind is without doubt subtle and complex. But, when it comes to his own life, his personal situation and fortunes, even his own safety and his interpersonal relationships, his thoughts are absolutely pellucid.

耿瀟男:嗯,有一次我們聚會非常開心,後來就找不到許先生了。然後分頭去找,後來就在這家餐廳的院子里找到了。他公然地躺在院子的地上,處於微醺狀態。大家趕緊想把許先生扶起來,許先生說「我正在看星光呢!看星星!看星星呢!!」…… 許先生書房裡面,一個台燈下面,放著一個小小的紙牌兒,紙牌上很隨意的寫了兩句話,叫做「頭腦務必複雜,心思盡量簡單」。這兩句我覺得是許先生的一個寫照。對於學術,對於中國當下的命運,對於中國十四億蒼生的處境和狀態,他聚焦這些問題的時候,他「頭腦無比複雜」,但是涉及到他自己的生活狀況,他的得失,他的安危,人際關係等這些事情的時候,他真正做到了「心思盡量簡單」。……

***

Geng Xiaonan. Source: Geng Xiaonan

***

Geng Xiaonan’s Insights into
The World of Xu Zhangrun (Part II) 

耿瀟男詳說許章潤 (下)

Beiming
北明

Washington Notes

30 July 2020

Translated & annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

Xu Zhangrun, a Chinese intellectual and a professor of law who has been dismissed by Tsinghua University, voiced his criticisms of the Xi Jinping regime without fear or favour. In so doing he has become another one of those unique individuals whose activities in essence write modern China’s history. For his pains Xu Zhangrun has had his reputation besmirched. He has been detained by the authorities and is subjected to constant surveillance. His name has been eliminated from the public sphere. On 27 July, it was reported that, after having been released from custody and allowed to return home on the 12th of the month, and after two weeks under ‘quarantine’, his WeChat account was now suspended. This meant his isolation was all but complete.

中國大陸知識人、被除名的前清華大學法學院教授許章潤,因直言不諱批評習近平當局,成為又一名書寫中國當代歷史的人,也因此,他被污名、被帶走、再被監控、被除名。7月27日,大陸再傳惡訊:許章潤教授12日被釋放回家,接著隔離十四天期限剛滿,他的微信號立即被封。

Censorship and interdictions on people speaking freely have long been factors in human history. It appears that it is natural for people who get into positions of power to think they have the right to control what people are allowed to say. That holds as true today as it did in the past. Ever since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, however, censorship hasn’t merely been limited to excesses of human nature; it has been institutionalised. That’s why the fate of Mr Xu Zhangrun has come as no great surprise. What is particular in his case, however, is that in the context of the present regime of censorship, Xu Zhangrun’s persecution reflects something paradigmatic about the way in which Xi Jinping is re-introducing Mao-era methods for persecuting the country’s intellectuals. Xi’s aim and hope is that by acting in this way he can bolster his autocratic regime, the policies of which have been generating widespread dissatisfaction in China and are also proving to be profoundly problematic internationally.

In the previous episode of ‘Washington Notes’ broadcast by Radio Free Asia we interviewed Geng Xiaonan. She is a good friend of Mr Xu Zhangrun as well as being a noted cultural figure in Beijing in her own right. In her comments, Geng gave us some insights into this daring man, an intellectual who has taken a principled stand and spoken out about the situation in China today. As a result he has been subject to ever-increasing persecution.

In this the second part of our interview, we ask Geng Xiaonan to consider the significance of Professor Xu Zhangrun in the context of China today. In the process she tells us why she has become the most prominent advocate for Professor Xu and what dangers she now faces.

人類歷史上言論審查的情況由來已久,而試圖控制他人言論幾乎是當權者的本能,即便在現代文明的各國也未能免俗。但是四九年以來,延續七十多年的中國大陸的言論審查,是制度性的、而非僅僅出於人性。因此許章潤先生因言受難的遭遇並不令人驚訝。不過他卻是習近平治下大規模言論審查的一個特例,許章潤的被整肅,是毛澤東大規模整肅知識分子以來,習近平公然恢復整肅知識人傳統的新開端,目的是為了維護其在國內怨聲載道、在國際上風雨飄搖的獨裁統治。

自由亞洲電台本專題,華盛頓手記,上一集節目採訪許章潤先生的好友,中國文化藝術界人士耿瀟男女士,聽她介紹了許章潤先生其人其事,由此,我們對這位挺身而出、盡言責、遭迫害的中國知識人,有了具體的瞭解和情感上的親近。這次節目,我們繼續聽耿瀟男談許章潤,談許章潤教授在大陸當代的意義,我們也要瞭解耿瀟男一馬當先、冒著風險為許教授呼籲的理由。

***

Bei Ming: What do you think is the most significant contribution Professor Xu has made to contemporary China? Is it more in the area of his ideas, his personality or is it rather the way in which he has comported himself?

主持人:您認為教授對中國現實社會最大的貢獻是什麼?思想的、人格的、或者行為方式的?

Geng Xiaonan: That’s quite a challenging question. Since I am not a scholar, I have no way of responding in regard to his scholarship or the significance of his ideas. At best I can offer a few personal observations.

耿瀟男:這又是一個大問題。我不是學者,不具有從學術性思想性的角度來回答這個問題的能力,我只能從自身的個體感受上來簡單聊一聊。

Because of the professor’s recent predicament [his sudden detention in early July, followed by his unexpected release a week later] I’ve become aware of a rather fascinating phenomenon. Be it among friends who know him well, or among WeChat acquaintances who have never met him, everyone has spontaneously started referring to him by the honorific of ‘Teacher’ [先生]. [Note: On the significance of the term 先生 xiān shēng, see Xu Zhangrun, ‘And Teachers, Then? They Just Do Their Thing!’]. People variously refer to him as ‘Teacher’ or ‘Teacher Xu’ or even ‘The Master’… … I was delighted to discover that Chinese people today, no matter whether they are in the far south or here in the north, have spontaneously had recourse to an expression that has been long out of fashion, one that is both affectionate and respectful.

‘The Master has returned!’ [先生歸來] is a line that has featured in the media for quite some years, but this time, when Professor Xu was released from detention [on 12 July], it was the first time that I really had the sense that people were using it to express a profoundly felt sentiment, that it indicated a kind of popular will. The simple expression ‘Teacher’ or ‘Master’ suddenly seemed to sum up in a word this man who was speaking out on behalf of the nation as a whole. It was a shorthand that expressed the kind of thirst people have for a cultural hero of the likes of Professor Xu. It is a reverential expression used for a person who is seen as a champion of justice and decency. So, in response to your question: ‘What do you think is the most significant contribution Professor Xu has made to contemporary China?’ Let me say: ‘The Master has returned!’

我最近發現一個很有趣的小現象:此番許先生蒙難,很多朋友彼此打聽詢問他的狀況,我發現:不管是認識的好友、還是素未謀面的微友,大家在稱呼他時,都不約而同地使用了「先生」這個詞,「先生」、「許先生」、「大先生」……我非常驚喜的注意到,大江南北的當代中國人,居然都自發地對許教授使用這樣一個久違的、充滿著溫情與敬意的稱謂!「先生歸來」這種說法在各種傳媒中已經出現多年了,但在現實生活中、在這次先生蒙難的公共事件中,我還是第一次如此真切地感受到了撲面而來的民意和民心。公眾對於真正的國族代言人的呼喚、對於文化守門人的渴盼、對於公義扛鼎人的敬慕,都融匯在了一句「先生」當中。從這個意義上來講,我對「教授對中國現實社會最大的貢獻」這個問題的回答是:先生歸來。

***

‘The Master Has Returned — seven days of shock and warning that coursed throughout the world’, in the hand of Zhao Guojun 趙國君, an outspoken lawyer who signs himself here as ‘I’m a Person from Tangshan [in Hebei province, northeast of Beijing]’. Source: ‘Xu Zhangrun & China’s Former People’, China Heritage, 13 July 2020

***

Moreover, during these dark days — in particular from 2018, thorough 2019 and now in the Gengzi Year of 2020, Professor Xu has taken a stand despite the threat of political persecution and red terror. He has done so in particular by publishing ten major essays that are freighted both with an immediate public relevance and an academic value. In doing so, be it in terms of scholastic stance or moral courage, Xu Zhangrun has challenged the limits of free speech and thought in China today in an unprecedented fashion. He is a paragon for all who would champion freedom in China today. Professor Xu Zhangrun has set the standard for our time.

再有就是:戊戌、己亥、庚子,在這樣的至暗時刻,面對酷烈的政治迫害和艱危的紅色恐怖,對於公眾、對於學界,許先生這三年來的十篇重磅雄文,無論是學術位格上還是道德勇氣上,都無限抬高了言論和思想的天花板,為追求自由的公眾做出了最好的示範,竪立了時代標桿。

Bei Ming: You have actively advocated on behalf of China’s embattled people of conscience for many years, as well as supporting them in a variety of ways. When Professor Xu was detained ‘for solicitation’ this time around you really threw yourself into it by helping getting the word out. You gave interviews, sent out visual material and issued appeals on his behalf … To do all of these things as the situation is still unfolding is surely inviting trouble. What motivated you?

主持人:長期以來了您一直在為中國受難良心人呼籲,以各種可能的方式。這一次,言午[即許章潤] 被青樓被帶走,您一馬當先不遺餘力,傳遞消息,接受採訪,呼籲救援,發送圖片……這是在事發當口上,冒著風險,為什麼您要這麼做?

Geng Xiaonan: My reactions are visceral, I have responded according to the person I am; it’s a reflection of who I am and how I think about things. Such a reflexive response is not the result of calculation, or the upshot of carefully weighing up the pros and cons. But, since you’ve asked, allow me to try and explain my motivations:

In my younger days I experienced the sense of loss resulting from a hopeful but ultimately frustrated quest for freedom. As I matured I gradually came to appreciate my limits and the extent of my abilities. I realised that I’d never be one of those heroic types who can inspire others, nor would I be able to lead others through the pitch dark of night holding a bright torch aloft. But, even given my limited capacity as a nobody, I felt that I could still shoulder my share of responsibility.

If I could not be a hero, at least I could offer garlands to the heroic few and cheer on their endeavours. I could help them on their way or perhaps even take a bullet for them. Or, then again, I might serve by helping retrieve their fallen bodies from the battlefield… … The spirit of the ‘Decembrist Wives’ [of nineteenth-century Russia] is deeply ingrained in my personality and their resonate fame remains an inspiration to me. The majority of Chinese women are a version of Lady Precious Stream or Guo Meimei, occasionally a Lady Meng Jiang [whose bitter tears breached the Great Wall] or a tragic figure like Dou E makes an appearance. Rarely do you see a ‘Chinese Decembrist’.

耿瀟男:去這麼做的時候,完全是出於生命的本能和本心,沒有去想過為什麼要這麼做、這麼做的利弊權衡是怎樣,但既然北明老師這麼問了,我還是很願意追根溯源去探究一下自己為什麼要做這樣冒風險的事:少年時代我有過類似經歷,感受過爭取自由而帶來的心靈激蕩和落敗;一路成長,一路開始明白自己的天資、能力、能量都有限,此生做不成那種登高一呼的英雄,或暗夜執炬的牧羊人,但生為小人物,也有小人物應盡的職責和擔當;我做不了英雄,但可以為英雄獻花和歡呼,為英雄牽馬,為英雄擋槍子兒,為英雄收屍……十二月黨人的女人已經深深烙刻進了我的骨髓,她們在青史上閃耀著獵獵英姿。中國女性大部分是王寶釧和郭美美,偶爾出一個孟姜女和竇娥冤,中國還很少十二月黨人的女人。

But there’s more — you know that saying, ‘freedom comes with a price’? Since freedom is the epitome of life for me, it only stands to reason that I must be prepared to pay a price for it. The small things that I feel I can do for all of the heroic people around me, the dangers I might experience, the things I might lose — these are merely the price I’m willing to pay for that freedom.

再有,就是「自由從來不是白來的」,我既然以自由為人生的標配,那麼,理應為自由付出代價,為我身邊眾多受難的英雄們做點小事情,為此所冒的風險、所失去的利益,也算是我為自由所付的代價吧。

Bei Ming: Is there anything else you’d like to add at this point?

主持人:對這個訪談,您有什麼要補充的?

Geng Xiaonan: Of course, and it’s an important addition: Although Teacher Xu has been released, it is only temporary. His safety is far from assured. The butcher’s knife can come down at any moment. That’s why I appeal to all of those who cherish freedom to continue to pay attention to Professor Xu’s plight and to concern yourselves with his fate.

耿瀟男:當然有,我認為這個補充非常重要:許先生被釋放,只是暫安而已,他遠沒有平安,當局的屠刀隨時都可能鍘下來,所以,請所有熱愛自由的朋友繼續關注許先生的安危,關注他今後的命運。

***

14 July 2020

On 14 July 2020, a message was circulated on the Chinese Internet containing a poem written by Xu Zhangrun:

‘On 12 July, the Master of Erewhon Studio returned. Thereupon, Tsinghua University stripped him of his job and cancelled his professional ranking. On the third night of his release [the 14th of July], out came an impromptu verse:

Stumbling thence into their clutches, imprisoned,
Reputation befouled, vile minions still besmirch.
So long as blood yet courses through these veins,
Revelatory essays surge forth, energy undiminished.

也曾踉蹌鐵牢中
負垢蒙羞對鬼蟲
但有一絲心血在
文章點化斗牛衝

The expression 斗牛 dǒu niú in the last line refers to the constellations 斗宿 dǒu xiù (Dipper) and 牛宿 niú xiù (Ox), two mansions or lodges in the northern Dark Warrior 玄武 quadrant of the sky, one that relates to protection and longevity.

from ‘Xu Zhangrun & China’s Former People’
China Heritage, 13 July 2020

***

Three days after Geng Xiaonan spoke these words her prediction came true. As I said at the beginning of this broadcast, after Xu Zhangrun met up with friends on the 27th of July the authorities suspended his WeChat account. People familiar with his situation reported that Mr Xu, himself a legal expert, had signed a power of attorney and instructed two Beijing-based rights lawyers — Mo Shaoping and Shang Baojun — to pursue a civil action against the authorities for the illegal punishments they had meted out to him.

That was by no means the end of it: On the 28th of July, Beijing time, two Beijing state security agents paid a visit to Mo Shaoping at his office. According to people familiar with the situation, the authorities warned the lawyers to limit their interactions with international media outlets so as to prevent the ‘highly sensitive’ case of Xu Zhangrun falling victim to a ‘media beat-up’.

耿瀟男這話說完三天之後應驗,這就是北明在本次節目開始說的,許章潤與7月27日跟朋友會面之後,他的微信帳號被封。另據消息人士稱,法學家許章潤已經簽署委託書,授權北京維權律師莫少平與尚寶軍代理他提出行政訴訟,追究當局對他的行政處罰決定的法律責任。但事情到此沒完,接下來北京時間28號白天,北京兩名國保到莫少平律師事務所找律師談話,消息人士稱,警方試圖以「本案件非常敏感」、「會被炒作」為由,表示希望不要過多對境外媒體談論此訊。

***

Geng Xiaonan: I also appeal to listeners to be mindful of the situation of others like Dr Xu [Zhiyong, the prominent civil rights activist], [the citizen journalist] Chen Qiushi, [the lawyer] Ding Jiaxi, and Reverend Wang Yi of Chengdu [all of whom have been punished for their activities in recent months]… … and this blood-and-tear stained list of names just goes on and on. Each name on this roll call is a record of an outstanding member of our nation; they are all people who, in their pursuit of justice, have been willing to pay an enormous price. Please show your concern for them; please do what you can to support them and show care for their families.

People like me are minor characters, but what we say and do should be worthy of the suffering around us. In these tumultuous and uncertain times, even the most insignificant person has a duty to respond to challenge in such a way that they can take pride in themselves.

Bei Ming: Geng Xiaonan, thank you!

耿瀟男:還要拜求大家關注許博士、陳秋實、丁家喜、成都的王怡……這是一份長長的血淚交織的名單,上面的每一個名字,都是我們這個國族里最優秀最純粹的人,都是甘為公義而付出巨大代價的人,請關注他們、請盡您的所能為他們呼喊奔走、請照顧他們的家人。我們都是小人物,但我們的所言所行要配得上我們所受的苦難,風雲際會的時代大潮中,小人物也有責任交出起碼令自己驕傲和榮耀的答卷。

主持人:瀟男謝謝你!

***

Dear Listeners:

You will daresay be aware that this interview was undertaken at an extremely sensitive moment, when Xu Zhangrun was still under intense surveillance. It was also highly likely that due to her public advocacy on behalf of Mr Xu and her long-term support for him, Geng Xiaonan was herself being secretly monitored by the authorities.

Following Xu Zhangrun’s release various WeChat accounts related to him or which discussed his situation were suspended, including that of Lu Nan, a classmate from his days as a student at People’s University who now lives overseas. Professor Guo Yuhua of Tsinghua University, another prominent supporter of Mr Xu’s, also had her WeChat account suspended after she posted a picture of the cover of his new book Six Chapters from the Wuxu Year of the Dog.

Geng Xiaonan’s undaunted heroism means that her own safety is increasingly at risk. After the first part of this interview was broadcast, on the morning of 28 July Beijing time, Xiaonan told me that her situation was precarious:

Geng Xiaonan: ‘They’ve all told me that I’m now in personal danger. I’ve been able to take the measure of things myself and I know that I’m constantly being tailed by a vehicle no matter where I go. I feel that my time is nearly up. However, I have brought this upon myself fully aware of the consequences of my actions. [Note: 求仁得仁 qiú rén dé rén, here Geng employs the same famous expression from the Confucian Analects that Xu Zhangrun used when he was suspended by Tsinghua in March 2019]. What will be will be; there’s simply no escape. Anyway, given the state of China today, there’s nowhere anyone can go.

‘If you study history you learn about the events of those other Gengzi Years [1940, 1900, 1960], each following on from a Wuxu Year. I poured everything I have into my six essays, they are my appeal to the Heavens, they are at one with the World.’

This was what Xu Zhangrun declared upon returning home from his recent detention. It’s the one and only thing he has said [so far, see the introduction and Xu’s letter of 10 September above].

Geng Xiaonan adds: ‘At the very least we need to be a people who can prove that they are deserving of such heroic figures [as Xu and others men and women of conscience].’

***

As I was transcribing our interview Geng Xiaonan added words to the effect that:

‘What we say and what we do should be worthy of our suffering.’

It’s a line inspired by a famous statement made by the nineteenth-century Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky:

‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.’

Dostoevsky lived in Tsarist Russia and his works were banned. He was arrested and even sentenced to death, although this was commuted shortly before being carried out. He was exiled to Siberia instead. Although his was a life of suffering, he concluded that:

‘There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.’

各位聽眾朋友,必須告訴各位的是,本次採訪是在許章潤釋放回家被監控的極端敏感的時段安排的,由於耿瀟男對許章潤先生的公開支持和她長期以來支持良心犯的行為,這個採訪更可能是在公安當局暗中直接監控下進行的。據悉,隨著許章潤先生7月6號被逮捕,中國當局封了一批支持他的同道的微信的朋友圈,此後在他歸來會見朋友之後,隨著他的微信號被封,再有一批傳播他歸來後情況信息的同仁的微信賬號的功能,遭到封鎖或者微信號徹底被封,其中包括在海外的人大校友魯難的微信功能,和清華大學唯一挺身公開支持許章潤的郭於華教授的微信號。她的微信帳號是在她7月29日貼出許章潤《戊戌六章》新書的貼圖之後即可被封的。

而耿瀟男的義勇已經導致她的安全危險程度不斷加碼,就在本採訪播出上一部分之後的北京時間28日上午,耿瀟男告訴北明她的安危情況不妙:

耿瀟男:「他們都說我已經非常危險了,我自己也通過各種徵兆也感覺非常危險了。因為這段時間出去都有車跟著我,後面都有跟蹤的。我也覺得我快了。但是,求仁得仁,該有什麼,該來的總會來,我跑也跑不掉,這樣的中國我也跑不到哪兒去。」

「讀史早知庚子事,飄蓬又是戊戌年。六章輾轉心血在,萬象豪端一線天。」 這是許章潤先生本次釋放回家之後的第一個也是迄今為止最後一個公開的表述。」而耿瀟男說,「最起碼我們要成為配得上為我們犧牲的這些英雄的一個民族」。耿瀟男在這個採訪結束後整理文字稿的時候,還加了一句類似的話,她說:我們的所言所行,要配得上我們所受的苦難。這句話典出十九世紀俄羅斯大文豪陀思妥耶夫斯基。陀思妥耶夫斯基因批評俄國沙皇而被禁書,被逮捕、被判處死判,被行刑前的最後一刻被減刑,被流放西伯利亞而服苦役,他一生受盡苦難,但是他說:他一生只擔心一件事,那就是但耽心自己配不上自己所受的苦難。

***

‘Suffering’ is hardly an unfamiliar concept to Chinese people. The unfamiliar thing is the idea that one might prove to be unworthy of the sufferings one experiences. It is a way of saying that suffering is not a blight on life as much as something that offers a path to sublimation. To follow such a course is not to be lost but rather to advance despite all obstacles in the way. Only then may you truly become worthy of your travails.

The wellsprings of such a transcendent attitude can be found in a particular understanding of what is of true value in life: the notion that human beings are unique, straddling as they do the world twixt heaven and earth, or they are the creation of a greater power. Regardless, they are beings possessed of a spiritual essence that allows them, when the situation demands it, to find themselves unencumbered by material limitations and the mere physical so that, through their inner strength, they can achieve a higher level of being.

I believe that this is what Geng Xiaonan is talking about in her discussion of Professor Xu Zhangrun. It is the reason that she supports him and why she expresses such admiration for him. These are the very traits that elicit her admiration and her wonder as she contemplates the fortitude that he has continued to display to this day.

受苦,對於中國人來說不是一個陌生概念,但是擔心自己配不上受過的苦,確是一個相當陌生的概念。這句話意味著,苦難不是生命的坎陷,苦難是靈魂超拔的階梯。登上這層階梯站直了,而不是被這個階梯絆倒了栽下去,你才能配得上自己受過的苦難。這種超凡脫俗的生活態度,源自一種價值,這個價值就是,人是天地之子或上帝之造物,擁有天地精氣和神性,必要時有能力擺脫物質局限與肉體束縛,深化自己精氣提升自己的神性。我想這正是耿瀟男所介紹、做支持、所贊嘆的許章潤教授目前的狀態和人格表徵。

***

From left to right: Xu Zhangrun, Wang Bin 王斌, Geng Xiaonan, Wang Xilin 王西麟, Guo Yuhua 郭於華 and Mr Sun, at a performance of a composition by Wang Xilin