Mourning Alexei Navalny, Shedding Tears for China — Xu Zhangrun

The Other China


The prison-murder of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny, 4 June 1976-16 February 2024, reverberated in the Chinese world. Some recalled the death in incarceration of Liu Xiaobo in July 2017, others asked why there was no opposition figure with either the fame or the popularity of the Russian dissident in China. For China Heritage, the answer lies in the systemic suppression, defamation, indifference, craven opportunism, incarceration, persecution, murder, torture, exile and mass forgetfulness that we have recorded and commented on in various ways for over four decades. As Li Yuan of The New York Times observed, China has thousands of Navalnys, hidden from the public. However, unlike the Russian Federation, China’s People’s Republic has never allowed any form of political opposition or abandoned a harsh ‘people’s democratic dictatorship’.


Xu Zhangrun, an undaunted opponent of Xi Jinping’s rule living under suffocating surveillance in the western suburbs of Beijing, commemorated Navalny with a poem, translated below. We conclude with some lines from Anna Akhmatova’s poem Requiem which appeared during the obsequies for Navalny in Moscow on 1 March 2024.

My thanks to Reader #1 and Linda Jaivin for their suggestions.

See also Xu Zhangrun, An Ice-Shroud for Lost Souls Cast on a Torrent of Blood 魂如縞素血如江. In December 2023, Professor Xu published a new collection of poems under the title Burnt Offerings 燔祭.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritge
2 March 2024

Moved by the martyrdom of Alexei Navalny, I composed the following poem. I shed tears for China as I commemorate this hero of neighboring Russia.


Xu Zhangrun 許章潤
2 March 2024


This Blood-thirsty Earth


Xu Zhangrun


translated by Geremie R. Barmé


So, this world still needs victims to travel that path of blood and tears
Pin-pricks of starlight and proffered dawn alone can pierce night’s iron curtain
In its swift passage time flies ever upwards, suffusing the nine realms of heaven
While the depths of the earth remain as icy as this indifferent humanity


The cups arranged at the banquet of this plague brim into the void
Of course, the arms of the murderers twitch in arthritic pain
Because the condemned refuse to plead for clemency
Frozen blood, frigid defenses — earth’s vastness is too small


Heaven’s flowers blossom yet in gaping wounded hearts
Injuries that never heal, ancient immeasurable vistas
‘Whoever was tortured, stays tortured’
Corpses litter the undulating landscape of this country


Brute laughter can barely disguise their vainglorious unease
The coming calamity marches forth, cheered on like a victory parade
In this deepening autumn of reason collapse is no abstraction
How much more blood does this thirsty land demand, how many more heads


21st Day of the First Month of the Year of the Dragon
1 March 2024, the day of Alexey Navalny’s funeral.

‘Whoever was tortured, stays tortured’ is a quotation from Jean Améry




Unmoved by the glamour of alien skies,
By asylum in faraway cities, I
Chose to remain with my people: where
Catastrophe led them, I was there.

Anna Akhmatova, 1961

trans. Stephen Capus



dào, ‘to mourn, grief stricken’, in the hand of Zhu Yunming (祝允明,1461-1527)