‘I’ve Forgotten How to Kneel in Front of You!’

It started with a simple message to his parents. Russian forces were invading Ukraine and, in case something happened to him, Wang Jixian, a computer programmer based in Odessa, decided he had better record a few words addressed to his parents on his social media account. Following that, in a stream of short videos posted daily over the following weeks, Wang offered a personal on-the-ground record of what was going on around him. His version contradicted the messaging coming from Beijing; soon, Wang was being subjected to taunts, verbal assaults, and threats. On the afternoon of Thursday March 17, Odessa time, Wang realized that his WeChat accounts had been deleted. He posted the following message on YouTube in response.

When I saw the title of this video, “Sorry, I’m used to standing upright and have forgotten how to kneel in front of you!,” I was reminded of a banner I saw in Tiananmen Square during the mass protests in May 1989. Held up by an elderly man, the banner read: “After kneeling for 30 years, it’s time to stand up and stretch my legs.” “30 years” was a reference to the purge of “Anti-Party Rightists” in 1957, during which over half a million people were denounced and many were sent off for “re-education through labor” for having aired their grievances about Communist Party rule. By the late 1970s, the vast majority of those targeted by the Anti-Rightist purge had been exonerated. Ever since then, the Communist Party has maintained that five men, a handful of troublemakers, were guilty of a “frenzied attack” on China’s rulers aimed at toppling Party rule. The continued condemnation, demanded by Deng Xiaoping, who had overseen the logistics of the 1957 purge, was a seminal moment in the Party’s crackdown on free speech and thought, something from which China has never recovered.

— Geremie R. Barmé

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‘March 17: I’m still alive! Sorry, I’m used to standing upright and have forgotten how to kneel in front of you! And, on to the day when this war is won,’ a Video by Wang Jixian

March 17, 10:30 at night. This is Jixian. I’m in Odessa and I’m still alive. News about the war: The Defensive Forces are recovering lost territory, bit by bit. It feels as though we can make out the dawning light of victory.

Honestly, I really don’t know what you are so afraid of. Is my voice really that threatening to you?



Wang Jixian: A Voice from The Other China, but in Odessa

Geremie R. Barmé
“Hello, everyone. This is Jixian in Odessa. Just checking in to let you know that I’m okay; I’m still alive.” This is the way that Wang Jixian, a 37-year-old software engineer originally from Beijing, starts most of his daily vlog updates posted...

Today, I went to buy some beef and pick up the AirPods that I’d sent to Kyiv to be repaired. If nothing else, it proved to me that despite the recent bombardment of Kyiv the fellow there was still at work and deliveries between Odessa and Kyiv were still being made. Of course, Odessa is also still a functioning city. I should add that they’re Apple AirPods, so I wasn’t charged, although it did take two weeks to get them back. Doesn’t that news unsettle you, as well?

Then, around 3:45 p.m. my time [9:45 p.m. Beijing time], I learned that my Chinese social media accounts had been cancelled in a single coordinated action; they weren’t “blocked,” they were “cancelled.” Everything is gone, including the means I have to let my family know that I’m safe. It’s also the only way my parents can contact me.

You’ve deleted all of it.

Here we can accept scenes of Russian soldiers laying down their butcher’s knives; why are you incapable of tolerating one of your own citizens, a lowly computer programmer? I’m not involved in the war, nor am I spy. I have no party affiliation either.

I don’t blame the underling who deleted my accounts, because I’d like to believe that the only reason they pressed the delete key was because their superiors ordered it. But right now, I want to know who gave that order. Who’s the person responsible for this? Don’t you have parents of your own? Children even? Would you have pressed “delete” if it were your child who was in a war zone? Would you have cut off the only way they had to stay in touch with you?

Now I have to rely on other people to pass on a message to my parents. That’s right, TO PASS ON—because I can no longer contact them directly. It’s the only way I can let them know that I’m still alive; that I’m determined to see this war won, a day that I believe will not be too far off.

You cowards. Who should be the true masters of the land on which you tread? The people, or you, who lord over it and exploit the people?

I’m Chinese, the citizen of a country with a constitution and the rule of law. Its ruling party also has a constitution of its own. If you think my actions are in breach of the law, then why haven’t I been tried? If you don’t want to deal with me legally, if you want to treat me as an enemy, well, isn’t this the kind of battle ground you’d prefer? Then why don’t you come here yourself? Why are you pressuring my parents instead?

The power that you have is the power vested in you by the people. What are your cannons and weapons for? To attack your own people? If you like repressing people so much, then come here and shoot at me yourselves! But you hesitate, you prefer to support the Russians who are murdering Ukrainians. In a previous video, I told you that if this were the Second World War and the invaders were Germans, I’d volunteer to be Jewish. Now, let me tell you: I volunteer to become a Ukrainian. Don’t you enjoy seeing Ukrainians being murdered?

You cowards!

Don’t think I don’t know what is going to happen to me now. It is, after all, what you people do. You excel at concocting lies, it’s the only real talent you have; and lies are the only kind of language you really know how to speak. So, from here on in, I know I’ll be the subject of even more outrageous rumors. Do you think I really care? Every day here I’m embroiled with Big Boss Putin and his nuclear threats. A few days ago, when they used a vacuum bomb, was that you? Why are you so scared of people knowing? The whole world knows what’s going on here; the whole world except for the people of two countries [Russia and China]. Why have you been so willing to get involved in Russia’s war on Ukraine? It’s not your fight. I’m a resident here; do you think I’m scared of your pressure? Do you honestly think that the way you treat me is more frightening than the missiles or the threat of nuclear weapons? Who should really be afraid? Just think about it.

Are you like Putin? Are you also afraid that if people know too much they’ll wake up to what’s going on and start thinking for themselves, that they’ll chose to ignore all of your lies?

Let me remind you, people nurtured by Chinese civilization know that the darkness will not always conquer the light. See what history tells us—through the ages, how did all the political forces and dynasties that tried to control people’s minds end up? You should know the answer better than anyone.

Normal everyday people just want to get on with their lives. Why do you try and force them? No matter who turns up, people will still have to pay their taxes and get on with their lives. So let me make a suggestion: give everyone a break; no one wants to force you.

Friends, when you can get in touch with my parents, my family, and my old friends on my behalf, I hope you’ll tell them that I’m here and that I’m still alive. Please, let them know what’s been going on. I only hope that, regardless of what happens to me, every time they mention my name in the future they’ll do so with a sense of pride, that they’ll know I did not bring shame on them.

If my motherland makes me choose between living on my knees or dying while standing upright, I hope you know what I’ll do. Sorry, I’m used to standing upright and I’ve forgotten how to kneel in front of you!

You can sue me, take me to court. You can formally declare that I am your enemy, but just remember one thing: I’ll never kneel before you, I’ll never bend. The only way you can convince me of anything is if you do it with reason; I will never submit to your violent ways.

Today my heart is heavy. This is Jixian. Goodnight.