China Pressures Expatriate’s Mother Over Tiananmen Book; Daughter Shouldn’t ‘Betray Motherland,’ Woman Told

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
China’s national flag
Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Liu Yanzi

The mother of Liu Yanzi, a scholar of contemporary Chinese literature who is based in Osaka, has been under pressure from Chinese authorities since Liu published a book to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the deadly Tiananmen Square incident on June 4, 1989, it has been learned.

Chinese authorities have continued to strictly control people’s speech domestically. They are now increasing their interference in the statements of people of Chinese origin in Japan, by putting pressure on family members who remain in China.

Liu, 58, is originally from China’s Hunan Province and holds Japanese citizenship. According to Liu, national security officials in Hunan Province visited her 87-year-old mother’s home in the province on June 20 and demanded Liu not write “unpatriotic books.”

Liu published ”Fushi no Bomeisha” (Immortal Emigre) through the Shukousha publishing company at the end of May. The book introduces about 10 intellectuals in and outside of China, including Fang Lizhi, an astrophysicist who played a significant role in the pro-democracy movement of the 1980s and defected to the United States.

It also refers to Tibetan minority writer Tsering Woeser, who remains in China.

Liu said three security officials came to the home of her mother, who lives alone. They told her to tell Liu: “Don’t write nonsense that betrays your motherland. Don’t associate with those who are no good.” They also said they didn’t know what would happen if their warnings weren’t followed.

Liu came to Japan in 1991 and has researched issues including the Tiananmen Square incident, in which China suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations with military force. When she visited her hometown in 2017, she was summoned by national security authorities.

Liu said an official asked her, “Would Japan protect you?” regarding her acquisition of Japanese citizenship.

Since then, she has not returned to China for safety reasons. She was unable to attend the funeral of her father, who died last year.

“I just want to document the people of my time, but I have to prepare myself for not being able to see my mother again,” Liu said. “The authorities are trying to take advantage of my weak point and apply psychological pressure to blunt my writing. They’re trying to extend their control of speech to another country, ignoring its sovereignty.”