Dissident Liao Yiwu's story of his ordeal in jail released in France

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 3:35am


Liao Yiwu clearly recalls the moment when he first stepped into a Chinese jail. He was stripped naked by inmates who then violated him with chopsticks - the beginning of a four-year prison ordeal.

"I only stayed naked in front of everyone six to seven minutes, but I felt I had lost all dignity," the author and poet said about the start of his 1990 imprisonment after the bloody crackdown on Tiananmen protests.

More than two decades on and despite intense police obstruction, the 650-page account of those four years - a rare depiction of life in a Chinese jail - has finally come out in France after first being published in Germany and Taiwan.

The book was a long time in the making and has come at huge personal cost. Faced with the threat of more prison if he had it published abroad, he decided to flee China in 2011, leaving his mother and others behind.

"They were watching my emails and they knew I was in touch with editors in Germany and Taiwan," he said at the launch of For a Song and a Hundred Songs in Paris.

"They said I couldn't publish the book, and if I did, they would put me in prison again, this time for at least 10 years ... The German and Taiwan editors got worried about my safety and they pushed back the publication date.

"All in all, they pushed it back three times. The third time, I decided to escape."

Liao, 54, has never fully revealed how he managed to flee over the border to Vietnam in 2011, when activists and dissidents were under intense scrutiny over fears Arab spring-type protests would spread to China.

"I used the mafia. China is a very corrupt society, so for once corruption was useful for me," he said at last week's launch, refusing to say any more and explaining he would reveal everything in another book. Liao's self-imposed exile in Germany is the culmination of decades spent on the wrong side of China's ruling Communist Party.