He was sitting on the bench with his hands on his lap. Where have I seen that pose before? I could not immediately recall.
I approached him. He was oblivious to all the activities around him. His gaze was far away. I extended my hand. He obediently stood up and extended his. I shook his hands and welcomed him to Los Angeles. He did not smile. He was in another world all of his own.
What was it that finally took away his mental health? Was it the electric shock during which water was poured on the floor of his cell causing him to crash from wall to wall? I wonder how often he had to suffer such physical abuse? Was it the beatings from his jailers and from the criminal populations he was imprisoned with? Could it be a decision to shut off the physical torments of the tortures by showing no emotions in order not to give his jailers the satisfaction of inflicting such pains on him? Could the two years of solitary confinement succeeded in breaking his mental state? What unspeakable and untold tortures did he endure? He never signed a confession.
Yu Dongyue was one of three people who filled thirty egg shells with paint and threw them at Mao's giant portrait in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 pro-democracy movement. He belonged to a group of 9 young men who called themselves "“Hunan Student Movement Support Group, Liuyang Branch”. Four traveled to Beijing; three of them participated in the defiant action. Yu Dongyue was a journalist and art critic; his childhood friend, Yu Zhijian, a teacher; another friend, Lu Decheng was an auto mechanic. Lu was sentenced to 16 years; his wife took their daughter and left hm. Lu is now in exile in Canada. Yu Zhijian was sentenced to life imprisonment; later reduced to 16 years. Yu Dongyue was sentenced to 20 years but was released in 2006 due to his deteriorating mental state. The three were dubbed the "Tiananmen Three Gentlemen" by pro-democracy activists.
Someone called on me to find out when we should start the BBQ as we were having a welcoming picnic for the two Yu's. As I walked away, I turned to look at Yu Dongyue again. He was again sitting upright with his hands on his lap. All of a sudden it dawned on me - I saw the same pose in a drawing! It was a drawing Professor Li Shaomin made of his own imprisonment.
Dr. Li was a professor of Marketing at the City University of Hong Kong when he was lured into China and charged with spying in 2001. Li denied the charge but was convicted and expelled. In 2003 Visual Artists Guild honored Li with the Champion for Freedom of Speech Award. When he came to accept the award, Li showed us his ink drawings. One of those drawings showed the same pose of Li and two other prisoners were forced to put on while listening to prison instructions blasting from loudspeakers.
Ironically, Li was attending art school in China during the Cultural Revolution and when Mao died in 1976, he was ordered to paint a portrait of Mao for Mao's funeral.
After I said good bye to the two Yus's, Yu Dongyue's pose continued to haunt me. I have met so many people who have suffered China's horrendous laogai (prison labor camp) system and have seen some of their evidence of physical tortures, yet none spoke louder than Yu Dongyue's silent indictment of the inhumanity of the government of the Peoples Republic of China.
### By Ann Lau, June 25, 2010 ###