On 4 May 2012, Song Ze, a 27 year-old volunteer with Beijing based NGO, Open
Constitution Initiative, was taken away by the police near Beijing South Railway Station. His lawyer was allowed to meet him twice on 15 and 31 May. Song Ze told his lawyer that he had been interrogated and charged in relation to his involvement in a project helping petitioners. This includes his visits to ‘black jails‘ in Beijing and his distribution of food and donated clothes to petitioners in need. On 12 June Song’s lawyer was told that he was taken away and placed under “residential surveillance”. “At present, neither Song Ze’s family nor his lawyer have been informed of either his whereabouts or well-being.”
Xu Zhiyong, the founder of OCI wrote an article on the story of Song Ze, further explaining what Song did and why he was detained for the fabricated crime of ‘disrupting public order’. Xiao Guozhen, a Chinese lawyer also told us how the young idealist Song Ze helped petitioners in Beijing.
The following is the letter of application by Song Ze (in Chinese here) to join Open Constitution Initiative dated 16 October 2011.
Dear Respectful Mr. Xu,
My name is Song Ze, male, 26 years old, from Xiangyang Hubei Province. I have heard your story for a long time. I visited the Open Consitution Initiative Tuesday. The visit inspired me deeply. You were not in the office but Ms. Zhou was there. I shared my understanding briefly with Ms. Zhou with regard to the situation of providing support, organization development etc. Before I left, I asked Ms. Zhou to forward my application to join the Open Constitution Initiative. This afternoon, Ms. Zhou suggested that I can provide an application letter together with my education background, working experience, life story and application motivation. I am rather a blunt person, but very sincere. Unable to express myself face to face, I would like to recommend myself with my application material for you and the team to evaluate.
Education background and working experience
Song Ze, studied natural science in senior high school, but majored in liberal arts in university. I obtained my Bachelor of Law, majored in International Politics, and also Bachelor of Economics, majored in Financial Studies, from Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. During my university years, I did several part-time jobs, including editing work, to support my study. After graduation, I worked for 18 months, first in the Wuhan office of a Sino-Germany Elevator Company, in charge of business administration; later in the GM office of a private enterprise in Shenzhen, responsible for drafting presentations, letters, website articles, microblog posts for the Chairman of the Board and the General Manager.
The pain of being a citizen
I was the third child born in a farmer’s family, my family was poor when I was small. However, my parents always encouraged us to be useful people and to act from trivial and concrete matters and for the goodness of poor people. During primary school, after watching How the Steel Was Tempered, I was lost in the story that Paul Korchagin fought for the revolution of the whole human beings; during middle school, I started to understand the complicated human life, and decided to pursue liberal art studies and explore the way of saving the world; during university, I took some social sciences subjects and realized the difficulties of helping people and saving the world with one’s limited effort… All these have made me disappointed, and thought I could only be an ordinary person, to live “in the half an hour CCTV news” and only care about myself but not others. However deeply in my heart, I refused to be like that.
In early 2010, when I just started working, I often encountered with people working on our construction sites. They come from poor families, dark-skinned and wrinkles spreading on their faces; they worked the hardest, but lived in temporary shelters on the sites, drinking from the tap, eating the worst bread. Every time when I saw them, I was filled with an impulse urging myself to do something.
In mid 2010, in the small county where I lived, led by the court, militia demolished a building. A citizen videotaped the incident and was sent into prison. I found that I was always intentionally and consciously aware of this type of issues.
By the end of 2010, I was on a business trip to Xiangyang. At a dark and cold winter night, I saw a rubbish picker near the dustbin. I approached her and was told that their land was taken away and could not live in their village any more. She came here from the faraway home, and lived in city pedestrian subways or near the dustbins. I gave all my small changes to her and felt unbearably sad. Every night when I passed that place, I left my small money to her.
In the mid of 2011, the second incident happened in the country where I lived. There was a forced demolition in the city suburb and leaked video showed that the daughter of the house owner was forced to jump off their house. Is it only because that the forced demolition was so near to my home that such a strong feeling I felt?
I forced myself to be an ordinary person to focus on my own life; however I found it was too difficult to do. Whenever when I see a person in need of support, I feel painful if I cannot offer my hand; whenever if there is unjust happens, I feel ashamed if I cannot stand out; whenever I see other people can do more for those in need of help, I blame myself for being helpless and unable to do more…
Why? Why is it so painful to be an ordinary person, a helpless person, a person lives for himself ? Later I realized that it was the human conscience of sympathy, justice and responsibility. It simply urged me to be a citizen.
I am just an ordinary citizen
If every citizen knows his human conscience of sympathy, justice and responsibility, every citizen will experience some unforgettable changes, just like me.
In 1999, for the first time, I learned about the 1989 Tian’anmen Massacre, my mind was confused for the whole day. I was wondering what was the purpose of pursuing university study.
In 2000, my neighbour died at home since the family could not afford to get him medical treatment. I knew that it was not rare. However I did not know what I could do if this happened with my families.
In 2001, there was a village election. Voting was repeated until the pre-selected person got the most votes.
In 2002, I entered my senior middle school. I heard that some students with very good grades dropped out of school for being poor. I told myself that I would never let this happen with my friends.
In 2005, villagers went to work as migrant workers. One fell from the top and died, left his family with nothing to live, and without any compensation.
In 2006, when I was in university, I found that some students used money to buy their entering the university and thus occupied positions that some excellent students were excluded. The first time when we had a social election in university, our professor told us who we should vote for.
In 2007, after watching the documentary about 1989 student movement, I started to think that there was something that we should fight for with our lives.
What I really want to do
Facing all the stories happening around me, I do not know what I shall do and what I can do. Occasionally, I ask myself, who I am, what is my mission, what I really want to be?
When I was small, I always wanted to be a swordman, fighting against evils and eliminate all the injustice under the sky.
When I was in the middle school, I wanted to have power and money to build a utopia, and to make all my families, friends and villagers live happily there, and to welcome all suffering people.
When I was in the university, I thought there must be a way that to make everyone free of suffering. Thus I studied hard in pursuing it.
After graduation, when I looked up the statue of Sun Yat-sen in Zhongshan Park, I saw my weakness in reality. All I could do was to give meagre offer to the people in need of help on the roadside.
At the end of last year, the TV series New Water Margin started. It emphasized the Monk Lu Zhishen’s gallantry and Song Jiang’s Salvation Role. The theme song also sung “hidden salvation secrets in common stories”. Every time when I listened to it, I felt painful and confused, is the salvation only remains in Lu Zhishen’s saving good guys out of trouble with a sword? Or is it with Li Kui’s having people within his jurisdiction be not hungry? When the injustice is seen and people within jurisdiction be saved, then how about those that cannot been seen and in remote place?
What can I do in the end? What is the real way of helping the world?
The true answer
“xingxiazhangyi” (To act like a swordsman to help the world” is always the keyword in my mind. When I searched it on the Internet, the first shown report is “Xingxiazhangyi Xu Zhiyong” reported by Sina Finance. Maybe this is the answer.
Mr. Xu, as the founder of Open Constitution Initiative, you have been making all your effort together with other colleagues on the frontline of fighting for justice, human rights, democracy and rule of law. Your articles and acts have all inspired me, a person who wants to do something but feel helpless to take measures. Moreover, with the ultimate sense of justice, social responsibility and conscience, you have made yourself bearing the pain of many. All this have made me feel ashamed.
This has made me decide not to be a standby but to be a man that is determined to “take out his sword” when it is needed. Alas, Song Ze is just an ordinary person, a person who wants to do something, and a person who feels the pain if he cannot help. If I can avoid all this pain of suffering, why shall I mind, even if I will be put into prison like what happened to you?
One who fully understands that he cannot be a standby but to be a determinant citizen, he does not beg for trust, he proves it with his actions. I sincerely hope that Mr. Xu and your team will give me the chance to make my effort, and provide me a space where I can share the burden to achieve our common mission. Song Ze will make all his effort to contribute for the tomorrow of all Chinese citizens.
Song Ze, 16 October 2011