Wang Dan, a Chinese dissident and student leader in the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests, has published an article at the Independent Chinese Pen Centre in which he discusses the political implications of the Tigergate Incident, the Yilishen Scandal and the Chang’e Moon Photograph Saga.
The latest update of the Tigergate Incident can be found at China Digital Times, under the title “National Authorities Order Reevaluation of Tiger Photos“.
The following is my translation of Wang Dan’s article:
Two incidents have captured the attention of netizens in China lately. They are the Fake South Tiger Photograph Incident, and the Yilishen Scandal. The fake photograph is obviously a part of a scam. I do not intend to speculate about the political powers behind the scenes. I only want to point out that the Chinese authorities’ reaction to the Tigergate incident is surprisingly open; to date, the “Imperial Guard Against Public Opinion” has made no attempt to curb open discussions. It is as if traditional mass media and the Internet in China have suddenly been granted a right to freedom of speech. This opportunity for open discussion is the reason why the Tigergate Incident has had such an impact on Chinese society. As the Tigergate Incident was unfolding, a protest broke out among ant farmers in Shenyang. Tight information control over this scandal serves as a solemn reminder that the CCP has no intention of relinquishing its control over public opinion.
It is interesting to note that both incidents inevitably touch upon the question of “public trust”. The truth about the Yilishen scandal, however, is that both the Liaoning Local Government and the State Ministry of Commerce condone illegal marketing activities of a drug company. Even the celebrity comedian Zhao Benshan had joined in to give the public some serious “flickers”. One might want to ask: what roles did the Chinese Government and the state-controlled mass media play in the Yilishen scandal? The answer to this question makes the Yilishen scandal potentially more important than the Tigergate Incident: it highlights the reason why public trust is eroding in China; it also demonstrates how illicit collusion between money and power continues to grow into a malignant tumour that plagues Chinese society today.
However, the Chinese Government’s strict control of public opinion means that the Yilishen scandal, unlike the Tigergate Incident, will never be a hot topic for public debate. The way in which discussions about the Yilishen scandal are regulated makes one wonder if the political implication of this incident might be far more sinister.
The Tigergate discussion serves one important function: it has triggered a wave of skepticism. The public has begun to question authority and their criticism is fast spreading to other areas. Since the topic of ants has become off limits, people have shifted their attention to the Chang’e-I space project. Some netizens have begun to look with suspicion at the first image of the moon taken from the Chinese exploration satellite. They have even discovered many questionable flaws with the image. Eventually the Chief Commander of the Chang’e-I project Ye Peijian had no choice but to come out to vouch for the authenticity of the image. He said, “I read some irresponsible comments recently on the Internet. Some netizens are questioning the authenticity of the Chang’e-I satellite image of the moon. They even compared the image to the photograph of the South Tiger and claimed that they are both fake ….”
Ye Peijian’s frustration is understandable. But the remaining is that too many people are telling far too many lies in China today. The public sentiment of distrust was almost out of control when the news about a Gansu Province resident winning 100 million yuan lottery prize came under public scrutiny. I cannot determine if there is foul play involved in the 100 million yuan lottery prize. This is beside the point. I can, however, conclude from this event that the policy fabrication of lies, which has been used effectively to sustain despotic rule in China, is no longer functioning. The public is shocked by the ridiculous events that have unfolded recently, and is now starting to wake up. People have become aware of the mechanism through which the CCP has systematically fabricated the truth. This realisation is motivating people to start hunting for lies, even in situations that are not labelled politically sensitive. As a result, every opportunity for freedom of speech will instantly be turned into either cynicism or a battleground for the truth. The mechanism of fabrication of lies is now under public scrutiny, and the CCP is being exposed to unprecedented challenges. The only option left is “violence”. Lies and violence are the two “legs of evil” that help prop up a totalitarian regime. When one of the legs is severed, can a despot rely entirely on a single leg of violence to support his rule?