The power and danger of words: Chinese artist indicted for writing a poem

Sui-Lee Wee reports on Reuters that Chinese artist-activist Zhu Yufu, aged 60, has been indicted on subversion charges for a poem he wrote one year a go. The poem is titled ‘It’s time’. It was published online. Here is one verse published in Reuters:

It’s time, Chinese people!

The square belongs to everyone

the feet are yours

it’s time to use your feet and take to the square to make a choice.

This is Zhu’s second arrest for his pro-democracy activism and he is the second high-profile artist-activist to be recently indicted by Chinese authorities. A third activist has also been questioned by police.

Activist-artist Ai Weiwei spent 81 days in jail for demonstrating against the government. He reports that when he was arrested, he did nothing more than throw stones at surveillance cameras parked outside his home. He was warned ‘to behave’. Ai’s response is as poignant as Zhu’s poem:

They said to me: ‘This is a warning because you have to behave’… I said: ‘I’ll behave. I take your warning seriously. But I’m human, I have to show my attitude. It’s just a gesture. You’re so powerful, how can I destroy you?’ (my emphasis).

In October I wrote about Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr who was arrested for her film work in Iran. On the 21st of December, I tweeted about how artists were being targeted by the Syrian government, as Syrian protesters were using dancing, finger puppets & songs to express political dissent. (See the New York Times.)

Art has long been used in social protest. If you love the arts and the words that inspire social action, it’s worth bearing witness and always remembering the price others pay for expressing their creativity.