Liz Carter senior contributor

80 Days After Tiananmen Anniversary, a Censored Voice Reemerges on China’s Twitter

Zuoyeben's adorable avatar

After he posted a picture of the Tiananmen candlelight vigil at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, the account of an anonymous microblogger calling himself “zuoyeben” (literally, “homework book”) was deleted from the microblogging site. This effectively censored a witty, often sharply critical Weibo celebrity who sports over 3 million followers. But at 10:05, on August 25, he reappeared with an essay expressing his reflections about the past 80 days, during which he has been kept from posting on the site. As of the time of this article’s writing, that essay had been reposted over 161,000 times and generated over 92,000 comments, most welcoming him back. Below is Tea Leaf Nation’s translation of his essay in full:

It wasn’t until the morning of June 5 that I discovered I had disappeared.

It happened so suddenly, I didn’t have time to bid you farewell, didn’t even have a chance to say “bye!” All at once I slid back into the rush of the crowd, to some unknown place, and lost touch with you.

I’ve been face-down in the water for too long, and finally I’ve floated to the surface. I’ve thought it over, and the only thing for it is to feign nonchalance: “It wasn’t a big deal.”

It really wasn’t a big deal, because the summer has passed already. In this hot, anxious season, everything has finally passed…three years ago maybe I wouldn’t have made any “iffy” posts, but time not only ages us, it also forces us to grow up. Maybe saying you have a “sense of purpose” sounds too high and mighty, or describing a “burning urgency” sounds like building yourself up, but you can’t always be a person who pretends to be “fun.” You have to speak your own mind a little. It doesn’t matter if it’s stupid, or fake, you have to pay the price.

If you only play the part of a fun or funny person all day long, your life is really meaningless, frittered away in idiocy.

Even if people say you’re stupid or fake, that you are just rehashing old tropes, what does it matter? Your life is long. Why would you care about people pointing their fingers at you from the sidelines? On the road to being awesome, the streets are not lined with thorny bushes, but with idiots. It doesn’t matter–keep going ‘til you reach the finish line.

None of this really calls for any kind of praise, and there’s no need to be afraid of your own shadow. All you’ve done is clicked your mouse a few times. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, no logic to speak of. You’ve thought about it for a long time, and you can only describe it this way: The blood is still warm in your veins. That may be a low-brow way to put it, but it’s clean, at least.

Who lives a youth without regret? We all regret something from our past, but there will always be some things we look back on that deserve our remembrance. That’s just the way it is.

It’s been my good fortune that after the passing of eighty days and eighty nights, I once again have the opportunity to appear here. That’s not something that happens every day.

Today is August 24. It was a long eighty days, but it was also short in many ways. We can only go forward, not back. In these days that I’ve lost, I ate a lot of barbeque, frog, and prawn…but I couldn’t share it with you. 

One night, I got drunk. I didn’t know why I had to get drunk, but all that alcohol in my body swished back and forth without finding an exit. I knew it was having a hard time, but I was having a harder time. All that happened to it was that it couldn’t find a way out.

I also dreamed dreams. I dreamt countless times that people told me I could post on Weibo, and I snatched up my phone, but I always discovered I could only send a few text messages. After I’d been having these dreams for a while, I finally understood what Tantalus must have gone through.

There was really nothing I could do, and I couldn’t take it.

I’ve rambled on like this, but how could I thank you? All I could do was wait for you, all three million of you, with my barbeque.

Today, three years have passed, my life is no different from before.

It’s just that now, when I face the world, I feel totally helpless. I don’t get it. Where has my youth buried that feeling that I could turn the world upside down if I just rolled up my sleeves and set to it? Where did it go? I just kept running and falling, running and falling, feeling weaker and smaller all the time. I haven’t done much, and maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was…three years have passed, and I’m thirty. 

There are not many thirty-year periods in a person’s life. Sooner or later, we must bid Weibo farewell, and go our separate ways.  Everything must run its course. At least in this moment, though, I want to hug all three million of you.

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Liz Carter

Liz Carter is a DC-based China-watcher and the author and translator of a number of Chinese-English textbooks available on amazon.cn. She and her cat Desmond relocated to DC from Beijing, where she studied contemporary Chinese literature at Peking University, after learning that HBO was planning to adapt Game of Thrones for television. She writes at abigenoughforest.com and tweets from @withoutdoing.