I found out when I was taken away that China monitors foreigners to this extent

I found out when I was taken away that China monitors foreigners to this extent.

Tailing and surveillance are the norm, and I wonder if such a country should be allowed to host the Olympics.

Article on January 3rd 2022, by Yoichiro Aonuma (Born in Nagano Prefecture in 1968. Graduated from Waseda University. After working in the field of television reporting and program production, became independent. Has published reportage works on criminal cases and social events. Author of “Aum Jiken Saishouki,” “Ikebukuro Street Demon to Kaiten Shoseki,” “Chugoku Shokuhin Shokubutsu no Himitsu,” “Fujinshitsuzu: Zainichi Nihonhei Rokkannen no Toki” (The Secrets of Chinese Food Factories) (all in Shogakukan Bunko), “Shokubutsu Koryoku Nippon” (Food Colony Japan) (Shogakukan), and “Fukushima Catastrophe. –The Truth about Nuclear Power Plant Contamination and Decontamination (Bungeishunju).)

This year, China will be hosting the Beijing Olympics, a prestige event. And it’s just a month away. However, I wonder if it is appropriate to hold the Olympics in such a country.

 In China, I was once taken into custody. I was detained in China just for taking pictures of rice fields. I’d like to tell you about the unbelievable reality.

Would you please come with us?

The last time I visited China was in July 2015, and I went to Hunan Province, the birthplace of Mao Zedong. The Hunan Province has long been known as the “Home of Fish and Rice,” a place rich in water resources and known for its freshwater fish and rice. However, there was a problem when cadmium exceeding the permissible level was detected in rice shipped from Hunan to the neighboring city of Guangzhou in Guangdong Province. The year before, the state-run Xinhua News Agency and AFP reported that blood lead levels in children in Dapu Town, Hengyang City’s Hen Dong County, were up to three times higher than the national standard. It is believed to be caused by pollutants emitted from a local chemical factory, which has been temporarily shut down for investigation.

 Moreover, according to data released by China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection in April 2014, Hunan Province was the region with the most widespread soil pollution, along with Gansu Province. In fact, more than three quarters of the rice cultivation land in Hunan was found to be contaminated.

 In the area south of the Yangtze River, two cropping seasons are the norm, and at that time, harvesting work was still being done in the neighboring fields that had already been planted. It was while I was taking pictures of such scenes.

 As I was engrossed in my camera, I heard a voice behind me. I turned around and before I knew it, a police car with the words “China Public Security” on it had stopped, and two uniformed policemen got out. One of them had a small camera lens hanging from his breast pocket and was recording and monitoring our attitude.

The man in the flashy shirt and flip-flops was actually the district’s Communist Party secretary.

 We were taken to a rundown local police building a little outside the center of town. We were told to go inside and were taken to a room further in the back of the building.

 I was seated behind a desk by the wall, farthest from the entrance, when an elderly policeman followed by a man wearing flip-flops and carrying only a smartphone entered the room. From the flashy shirt and pants that stuck to his skinny body, he looked like a country hoodlum, but he was the Communist Party secretary of the district. More plainclothes men with computers and video cameras came in.

 First, they asked me to show my passport. Then they said they would check my cameras and bags. They said it was “voluntary,” but there was no way I could refuse.

Let me see if there are any recording devices or other small cameras.”

 And with that, he took all of my luggage into the next room. Everything was being tampered with, unseen by me. I hear the sound of shutters taking pictures of my belongings. When they was returned to me later, there were signs that even the credit cards in my wallet had been removed.

Persistent questioning about the source of the travel and accommodation expenses.

 Then the interrogation began, with the video rolling.

“What is your purpose for coming here?”

 I answered, “Sightseeing,” since I had entered the country on a tourist visa.

“Sightseeing, huh…. If you are a tourist, how did you pay for your trip?

 He replied that he had paid for it himself.

“What about travel expenses? Who is paying for your stay? Who’s paying for it?”

 So I answered, “I prepared it myself. It’s natural. If it was a news report, I would have to come up with the money myself or get it from the major media through my own efforts.

 Then the policeman immediately said.

“You are staying at a hotel called XX in Changsha city (provincial capital).”

 And then he went on to say, “With your income, you can’t afford it.

 Then he asked me where the money for this trip came from. THis next words surprised me.

“We know that the money was sent from a publishing company in Tokyo to a travel agency in China.”

 In China, when you check into a hotel, your passport information is registered and shared with government agencies. However, it never occurred to me that they even knew about the remittance of money from Tokyo in advance.

The intention is to get me to admit I am a spy

“The agency representative admits that he is using the money to set up the itinerary!”

 I felt the eeriness and fear that I was being stripped bare by the authorities.

“They must have asked you to come here for ‘investigative activities’!

 In China, the Xi Jinping regime has been using the term “investigative activities” to refer to spying and trying to get people to admit it. In China, an anti-spy law was enacted after Xi Jinping took power, and Japanese nationals have already been detained on suspicion of espionage.

“Why didn’t you apply for an interview?”

“Why did you lie about entering the country as a tourist?”

 Before I came here, I was staying in Xi’an. From there, I took the high-speed train and a car to visit a small village in a valley called Liangjiahe. It was the site of a cave dwelling called “Yao Tong,” where Xi Jinping had been sent to live when he was young. It has been a tourist attraction since this past July, and they charge an entrance fee. Even though the purpose of the visit was to investigate Xi Jinping’s background, how could anyone claim that this was not tourism?

 The policeman was silent when I told him so. However, the Communist Party secretary, who had remained silent until then, reiterated the point.

“But I don’t understand. If the money sent by the publisher has brought us this far, then it must be an investigation!”

“What do you have to say about that?”

The endless “same questions.”

 From there, we continued to go in circles and push back and forth.

 I had noticed that ever since I entered the area, a sedan with black film on its windows had been following my car. At first it was white, but after noon, it was replaced by a black body. I’m being watched. It’s better not to stand out. So I took pictures from inside the car, even though I was going around the town and the countryside. Each time I stopped the car, the sedan also stopped at a certain distance.

“I think we’ll be okay here.”

 said the interpreter who was with us as we drove out of town. That was the first time I got out of the car and took pictures. Then they brought me here. The young man was now interpreting the interrogation.

 Eventually, an elderly policeman took the liberty of looking into my smartphone and said, “I just happened to see an email with an article about this area attached. I guess you’re here to investigate, after all?”

 He found the Chinese character for “lead” in the email and questioned me.

“Are you going to rehash something that was reported several years ago?

 The Chinese Communist Party wants to silence anything that is inconvenient, even if it is by a foreigner. That’s the nature of the Chinese Communist Party’s attempts to silence speech.

 Later, I realized that this elderly policeman also had a smartphone. The wallpaper of the screen was a portrait of Mao Zedong.

“How can you tell that the soil is contaminated just by taking pictures of the fields?

 I retorted. There was no way I could tell how contaminated the soil was just by looking at it. The camera had also been confiscated.

“Then why did you come here?”

 The Chinese persisted in repeating the same question. Repeated explanations are exhausting. So they were trying to get me to admit that the purpose of the investigation was to spy on me by accumulating frustration and fatigue.

 The door was left open during the interrogation, and local people came to peek inside the room one after another, taking pictures of us with their smart phones. They looked at us as if they were looking at monkeys in a zoo. It made me uncomfortable. How could this be a legitimate procedure?

Whose fault is it that I’ve already changed out of my uniform and still can’t leave?”

 I was brought in a little after one o’clock in the afternoon and I was kept in the same room for a long time, not knowing how I was going to be treated. Eventually, around seven o’clock in the afternoon, a middle-aged man in plain clothes entered the room. The air was tense.

“are you still going to do this?”

 The man with glasses and thinning hair said as he sat across the desk in front of me. He was the chief of police, the most powerful man in this department.

“Whose fault do you think it is that I have changed from uniform to civilian clothes and still can’t leave?

 He blamed me for not changing my mind. That’s how he intimidated me.

“I have the power to see the good and evil in people.”

 He looked me directly in the eye as he said this and began to interrogate me again from the fact of remittance. However, if I were to agree with him and admit to the purpose of the investigation, I could be charged with a crime.

“do you want to keep going on like this forever?”

 I asked him what I should do.

 Then, he brought out a blank A4 size paper and a ballpoint pen and instructed me to write what I was going to say in Japanese. Anyway, they wanted me to write a “self-criticism,” so to speak, titled “Explanation of the situation.

 In fact, during the interrogation, I was shown a document in Chinese and told to translate it into Japanese and copy it. Thinking that there would be no one in the countryside who could understand Japanese, I translated the document and handed it over, but each time I was rebuffed, saying that the content was different and that it was not good enough. I took a picture of the text with my smart phone and sent it to someone for confirmation.

 I guess they had to save face to let me go. However, if I only did what was convenient for the other party, I would never know what kind of crime I would be charged with. So, I composed a sentence while trying to find a compromise with the other party’s intentions. A sense of humiliation welled up in my chest at the sheer effort. This humiliation and the fear of an uncertain future turned into a trauma for me.

 I was finally released after being forced to put my finger on this handwritten statement in the form of an interrogation. It was just before 9 pm. All the photo data in my camera was erased. There were no streetlights outside, and it was pitch black all around.

The next day, more than 120 human rights lawyers were taken into custody at once.

 China is not even free to take photos. Local police relentlessly trying to get them to admit guilt.

 The day after I was detained at this police station, more than 120 human rights lawyers across China were taken into custody at once. It was called “Dark Friday” there. The current situation in Hong Kong is an extension of that. On the 29th of last month, the publication of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy online media outlet, Stand News, was suspended and seven senior editorial staff members were arrested.

 It is obvious that Olympic athletes, officials, and the press will also be under strict surveillance.

 The United States and other liberal nations have announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Olympics. Japan has indicated that it will not send its ministers, although it does not even use that term. However, from my point of view, having had this experience, I believe that Japan should take a more severe stance. No, I even think that a country that ignores even human rights should not host the Olympics.

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