What is behind the silence?

I have seen the new reports from Guanxi, and the pictures too. There is still confusion about what happens there – a terrible disease, we know, but it may be something more. Is this a “Blood Flu”, like in Europe 1918, so the sick person bleeds through the skin? At our meetings, there is a group with many followers now; they say this is a lie used to cover a massacre, that there is an insurrection, and this is why the communications are stopped from the silent provinces, to stop the spread of revolution, not panic or disease. I do not know what to believe. Some information still comes from Anhui: they say the disease is not so bad there now, only they have very little food and people who survive everything else may die now from starving. Still so many questions, and no way to reach my family.

I try to be busy and not think of the worst things. I meet with other students and workers from these regions, and we protest why our homes are kept from communications for so long. Last meeting there is a student who speaks about the June 4th massacre. His name is Zhen. At first I think he is a new student, like me, but I find out he is 23 years old, a postgraduate student in economics. He looks down, blushing all over his neck and ears to hear his voice in the big dining hall – but he speaks loud and well, with the accent of Southern provinces. He says we have the W4 now, so they cannot block us from the free socnets unless they do what is done in Anhui and Guanxi, and they will not do this in Beijing or they put everybody out of business. This fear is why they wait too long to impose quarantine – for our leaders, profit always comes before the health of the people. He says we have to rise up to save our own lives, that we can do better than Cairo, than London, than our parents, that now is our time. People listen to this, and they cheer, but when he calls for a march to Tienanmen Square we hesitate. The W4 will not stop tanks. Public gathering is forbidden for health and safety, should we march when there is a risk of disease? We all argue until very late. Everybody is angry, and afraid. There are few soldiers in the street, but many police. The army is busy in the Silent Provinces – they go out to “assist and defend brave health workers”. They all have anti-viral drugs – but Li tells me nobody knows yet if these are good for this type of flu. Li has become very popular, always speaking in meetings, answering questions on flu. She speaks with great authority, sometimes I think even if she does not know the answer, but she finds out more every day. She decided the flu will be her thesis. I do not speak a lot in meetings. What can an undergraduate student of painting say about disease or politics? But I listen.

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7 thoughts on “What is behind the silence?

  1. Don’t have a lot of time to read blogs, but this stood out from my feeds. Hope you’re being careful who can read this, Mei – the “river crabs” aren’t so busy they can’t follow up on the odd search for their favourite key words.

    • Don’t worry about the river crabs (this is old slang for censorship on the internet) – I am on the Iceland socnet for my blog, because they have good encryption, and I use only one part of our names, so nobody can identify us.

  2. Would you be better off using a UK socnet, perhaps? It would be outside of the “river crabs” jurisdiction without looking as suspicious as Iceland.

        • Children, please! I was giving my friends dire warnings about social networking security when at least one of you was getting tiny sticky finger-marks on your father’s brand new iPad… Being on socnets known for their privacy and encryption is all very well for ubergeeks and self-styled radicals in the West, but in Mei’s situation it might actually draw serious unwanted attention. Being on an Iceland socnet makes it look as if she’s got something to hide.

          • I do have something to hide. Everybody has. I think you don’t know how many Chinese students use a private Socnet – it is like downloading a movie, illegal but what can they do? They sometimes make an example, but cannot stop everybody.

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