‘When Things go Dark, You Light a Fire’

China
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Veteran journalist Gao Yu, executive deputy editor at Caixin Media, posted an open letter at the start of the year, in which she gives voice to a sense of despair over the failure of the liberal elite to influence the direction of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over the past three decades. The letter was quickly deleted by government censors, but is translated here by RFA:

Today I took out an old cell phone that has been hanging around gathering dust for the past six months. Not for a trip down memory lane, but to message my thanks to some of the people — both friends and strangers — who helped us [while reporting on the early stages of the pandemic] in Wuhan. I wish them a happy Year of the Ox.

On it was a photo taken at around 4.00 a.m. on Jan. 23, 2020 in the basement parking lot of the Wuhan Grand Mercure, at the start of the battle to defend our city.

After I got back from Wuhan, friends would ask me, particularly when people were accusing us of aiding and abetting [anti-China forces], whether the price I had paid was worth it, given my previous comments about not wanting to pay that price for nothing.

Speaking for myself alone, I can say that it was worth it, but people need to figure out where they stand. As the song says, “the south wall was hit, but nobody remembers that story now.”

Out of a tragic national disaster, we have fashioned hymns of praise and glory. Any lessons we could have learned have been ignored. And only a handful of people, it seems, are still asking questions.

And while those still capable of critical thought harm nobody but themselves, the ranks of the self-confidence brigade [supporting CCP leader Xi Jinping’s ‘victory’ over the coronavirus] continue to grow.  

As a counterpoint to the foolishness of Westerners, the scars left by this disaster are being covered up with medals of honor.

Anyone still willing to expose these scars is surrounded and targeted by our proud keyboard warriors on Weibo.

As Du Junfei once wrote: “The truth has disappeared, but illusions live on, like a patient whose doctor has died.”

Here, on the last day of 2020, I will cross a red line and say this: the past 30 years of liberal political effort have been in vain.

Increasingly, the people we have been trying to liberate from fear and persecution are actually the people who hate us the most. They hate us even more than their own oppressors.

So we have failed. Nevertheless, I remain a positive pessimist. As we move back into dark times, I won’t be clinging on to memories of sunlit days.

When things go dark, you light a fire.

We don’t keep going because we still have hope for the good things of this world: we avoid falling into despair by simply keeping going.

Anything that’s worth having is worth hanging on for; it’s worth the wait.

The last time we were in this dark year of the horoscope was 1960. That generation had to wait 18 years [before the darkness lifted with the coming of the reform era in 1979]. The time before that was in 1900, when our ancestors had to wait another 11 years [for the fall of the Qing Dynasty].

So tomorrow, we start again from year one. We wait. Those 30 years are gone, along with our youth. What is there left to fear?

Where there is faith and love, there is also hope.

May you always have loved ones around you to bid you goodnight, as we keep going, as we wait. May your journey along this difficult road not be too lonely.

I wish you health and happiness in 2021.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

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