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Interview: ‘Do you realize there is also a price to pay for silence?’

Wang Jixian is Chinese national living in Odessa who turned citizen journalist when the war in Ukraine began, posting first-hand accounts of the conflict. But his outspoken YouTube videos cursing out Russian troops were out of step with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s official stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and have been deleted or blocked from social media platforms in China by government censors, while Wang’s personal social media accounts have been shut down. Wang, an artificial intelligence expert by day, has also been the target of online abuse from Little Pinks, an online army of troll-commentators who enforce the CCP line on China’s tightly controlled internet. He spoke to RFA’s Mandarin Service about what motivates him to keep posting.

I’m a programmer by profession. I have to go to work every day … I don’t even have advertisements [on my YouTube channel]. I’m not an influencer, and I’m not doing this for the money. I make my videos to show people what is going on in my region, which is the Russian-speaking world, where there is even more censorship, information blockage and brainwashing going on than in the regions you criticize. My idea is to use logic and reasoning to awaken people’s consciences. I’m not looking to get more traffic, or more subscribers.

They started out by deleting one or two of my videos … then they started doing it by stealth. It got to the point where, one day, every single social media account under my name — not just WeChat — had been shut down. The whole lot of them. All of them had been set up personally by me in China, using my national ID card, and they were all deleted simultaneously, on Baidu, on Douyin, different companies. So how were they able to delete them all at the same time? And that’s not all. They even deleted my face. They deleted videos in which the only thing I said was that I was still OK. Anything with my face in it.

Then they said I was spreading rumors. I read out parts of the Chinese Communist Party charter and the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China. How are those things rumors? And what reason did they have for deleting the accounts of people who reposted my posts? I didn’t just read [about freedom of speech], but also freedom of the person, of religious belief, freedom of speech, all of that is written in the constitution. As a Chinese citizen, I want the protections that are enshrined in the constitution. The constitution itself states that breaching the constitution is the worst kind of law-breaking, because it carries the highest legal authority. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to have done wrong. What did I say to oppose the party, or the government? I’m an incredibly patriotic person. My point in reading out those sections of the CCP charter was to urge people to be a passable CCP member before they start saying I’m opposing anyone. I was telling them that they should look to within party ranks.

The day [my social media accounts were deleted], I remember it very clearly … it took me a very long time to get in contact with my family. My dad is a pretty tough person, and he told me he was fine. But the last time I spoke to them I noticed that their hair was a lot greyer than the last time I spoke with them.

[Now that my WeChat account has gone], I have to rely on friends … to find ways to send them my videos, so they can still see them.

I’m just an ordinary person. I’m not a member of any party or political faction. My beliefs just tell me that I shouldn’t do anything evil. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

They didn’t report [the Ukrainian perspective]. This is something that mainstream media from all over the world managed to do. They sent their own journalists to the front line to report. What other country’s media just translated what the Russian media was saying, word for word about the Bucha massacre. Haven’t we had reports from the United Nations, from Ukraine, or any other country’s media? Why has none of it made it into Chinese?

But even if [people in China] can’t see what’s going on, they should be able to figure it out for themselves. Just look at a map of the world. This is Ukraine. There’s a bunch of tanks — have they got Ukrainian license plates? Do the guys driving them have visas?

You send these young Russian men to war, telling them that it’s just a military exercise taking place over the border in Ukraine and in the capital … that the people of Ukraine will welcome them with wreaths of flowers. Later on, you tell them that everyone they are killing is a Nazi, that they deserve to die. What Nazis? Who decided this? What did these people do for you to call them Nazis? It’s all lies.

Some internet users in China have tried to threaten me, saying, “You do realize you’ll have to pay a price for speaking like this, don’t you?” I told them, “Of course I realize that. But I have a question for you, too. Do you realize that there will also be a price to pay for your silence today? Do you not think you’ve already paid too high a price for that silence?” There’s a price to pay for courage, but no price to pay for silence? I want to wake people up a bit. I ask them what or who they think my speech is opposing.

I don’t really understand what news I’m supposed to be breaking. I just talk about daily life here, how much groceries costs, the price of seafood or beef. I think I report a lot less actual news than the media does.

I’m just trying to get people to see something from multiple angles, and to think about it for themselves.

It doesn’t matter what gets thrown at me — missiles, weapons, oppression from whatever quarter. I can only die once, after all, right? If I can use my life here on this earth to wake up a single person, then it will have been worth it. Actually I think that more than one or two people have already been woken up among my audience. So my life has already been worthwhile.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.