BEIJING — When a sharp-tongued real estate tycoon publicly derided President Xi Jinping’s demand for unstinting loyalty to the Communist Party from the Chinese news media, the party’s response was predictably swift and harsh.
北京——當一位措辭犀利的房地產大亨公開嘲笑習近平要求中國新聞媒體毫無保留地忠於共產黨時,可想而知,黨迅速做出了嚴厲的回應。
His microblogs, which had tens of millions of followers, were erased overnight. Party websites unleashed an onslaught, calling the tycoon, Ren Zhiqiang, a capitalist traitor in language reminiscent of the Mao-era purges. The authorities vowed further punishment.
任志強有幾千萬粉絲的微博一夜之間被刪除。黨辦網站對他發起猛攻,稱這位大亨是資本主義叛徒,這種語言讓人想起毛澤東時代的整肅運動。當局誓言要進一步懲罰他。
What happened next, however, was a startling departure from the standard script.
然而,接下來發生的事情卻與標準的廣播稿有驚人的偏離。
Journalists, scholars and party insiders came forward to defend Mr. Ren. A professor at the party’s top academy spoke up. A prominent magazine rebuked censors. A letter supporting him signed by a staff member at the state news agency spread online. A party newspaper warned about the risks of crushing all dissent.
記者、學者和黨內人士開始出面替任志強辯護。黨的最高學府的一位教授大膽發聲。一家著名雜誌對審查者表示譴責。一封由國家通訊社工作人員簽名的支持任志強的信,在網上風傳。一份黨報對壓制所有不同意見的風險發出了警告。
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The unexpected backlash sent a shiver through the political landscape here, exposing deepening unease about the adulatory promotion of Mr. Xi and his demands for unquestioning public obedience.
這些意想不到的反對意見給這裡的政治舞台送來一股寒意,暴露出了吹捧習近平的做法、以及他要求公眾無條件服從的做法,引發的日益強烈的不安。
“The Ren incident has been an eruption of feelings pent up inside the system for a long time,” said Zhang Lifan, a Beijing businessman and historian. “I think a lot of people felt fed up, and they felt that finally somebody had spoken up. The backlash over the attacks on Ren Zhiqiang went beyond what the authorities expected.”
「任志強事件是長時間以來一直壓抑在系統內的感情的爆發,」北京商人和歷史學家章立凡說。「我覺得很多人都感到厭煩了,他們覺得終於有人出來說話了。對攻擊任志強的反應超出了當局的預期。」
Mr. Ren has become a symbol of growing frustration, including inside the Beijing establishment, with the incessant demands for conformity to Mr. Xi’s strictures.
任志強成了包括北京當權派在內的越來越多的人,對無休止地要求遵守習近平各種禁令的不滿的象徵。
“It’s not just an issue of Ren Zhiqiang,” Mao Yushi, a liberal economist in Beijing and a longtime friend of Mr. Ren’s, said in an interview. “The whole space of free public opinion has contracted. It’s not an isolated case.”
「這不只是任志強的問題,」北京的自由派經濟學家茅於軾在接受採訪時說,茅於軾和任志強是老朋友。「整個自由公共輿論的空間在縮小。這不是一個孤立的事件。」
Mr. Ren, an outspoken Beijing property developer with swaggering self-assurance, has been called the Chinese Donald Trump.
任志強是一位直言不諱的北京房地產開發商,他有着神氣十足的自信,被人稱為中國的唐納德·川普(Donald Trump)。
As he approached retirement a few years ago, he embraced Twitter-like microblogs to defend property developers from complaints of corruption and started posting blunt views about the country.
幾年前他開始打算退休時,喜歡上了類似Twitter的微博,用這個平台來為房地產開發商受到的腐敗指控做出辯護,還直言不諱地發表有關國家的看法。
Mr. Ren was never a typical liberal; he disdained the protesters who occupied Tiananmen Square in 1989. But as Mr. Xi amassed power, Mr. Ren’s posts reflected growing irritation with the authoritarian turn in politics.
任志強從來不是一個典型的自由派;他看不上那些1989年佔據了天安門廣場的示威者。但是,隨着習近平掌控更大的權力,任志強的帖子也開始反映出,他對政治轉向威權的日益增長的惱火。
3月,中國國家主席習近平(中)與中共反腐負責人王岐山在北京的會議上一同離席。
3月,中國國家主席習近平(中)與中共反腐負責人王岐山在北京的會議上一同離席。 Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
The current skirmish began last month after Mr. Xi made highly publicized visits to the three main Communist Party and state news organizations to reinforce a new policy: State media must “speak for the party’s will” and “protect the party’s authority,” he said.
最近的這次小衝突始於上個月,當時習近平高調視察了黨和國家的三個主要新聞機構,要求它們遵守一項新政策:他說,官媒必須「宣揚黨的意志」、「維護黨的權威」。
As Mr. Xi bathed in the adoring news coverage of his pronouncements, Mr. Ren fired off a few gruff comments to his nearly 38 million followers on Sina.com Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
正當習近平沐浴在媒體對他的言論諂媚報導之中時,任志強在自己擁有近3800萬粉絲的新浪微博上,發表了幾條粗魯的評論,中國的微博相當於Twitter。
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“When did the people’s government turn into the party’s government?” he wrote in one post.
「人民政府啥時候改黨政府了?」他在一條微博中寫道。
“Don’t use taxpayers’ money to do stuff that doesn’t provide services to the taxpayers,” he wrote in another. “The people have been tossed into a forgotten corner.”
「別用納稅人的錢去辦不為納稅人提供服務的事,」他在另一條中寫道。「人民已被拋棄到被遺忘的角落了。」
Until these remarks, Mr. Ren, 65, had seemed to be at least partly protected by his elite status in the Communist Party as the son of a senior revolutionary who became a vice minister of commerce. He went into business, first selling rabbit pelts, as Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms were coursing through China in the 1980s, and he later built a fortune in real estate.
任志強現年65歲,直到他發表這些言論之前,曾經似乎至少部分地受到他在共產黨內所擁有的精英地位的保護,他是一位擔任過商務部副部長的老革命的兒子。隨着鄧小平的市場改革在20世紀80年代席捲中國,他下海經商,先是賣兔子皮毛,後來在房地產生意上發了大財。
He is also a friend of the party’s powerful anticorruption chief, Wang Qishan, a relationship that has raised intriguing questions about the possibility of deeper rivalries at play.
他也是權力巨大的黨內反腐大將王岐山的朋友,這一關係已激起人們對可能有更深層競爭在作怪的問題的興趣。
Mr. Wang was Mr. Ren’s political instructor in junior high school and still “occasionally calls late at night” to chat, Mr. Ren wrote in a 2013 memoir.
王岐山是任志強初中時的政治指導員,仍「偶爾在夜裡打電話過來」聊天,任志強在2013年出版的回憶錄中這樣寫道。
But this time, Mr. Ren’s background offered no immunity.
但是這次,任志強的背景並沒有為他提供保護。
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The Cyberspace Administration office said he had broken the law by suggesting that the party and the people might not be inseparable, and it wiped out his microblog accounts. Party websites and newspapers heaped scorn on him, and party officials said he would face further punishment.
國家互聯網絡信息辦公室表示,任志強暗示黨和人民可能並不是不可分離的說法已經觸犯了法律,並下令關閉了他的微博賬戶。黨辦網站和報紙對他群起而攻之,黨的官員說,他將面臨進一步的處罰。
“Ren Zhiqiang represents a capitalist overturn-the-heavens faction,” said a commentary on Qianlong, a news website run by the Beijing city propaganda authorities.
任志強代表着「資本翻天派」,北京市委宣傳部辦的千龍網上的一篇評論說。
Another commentary on the website hinted that Mr. Ren had the temerity to criticize Mr. Xi only because of Mr. Ren’s ties to Mr. Wang or other senior officials.
該網站上的另一篇評論暗示,任志強竟敢批評習近平,是因為他與王岐山及其他高級官員的關係。
“We can’t help asking where a party member, who can ignore the party constitution, finds the gall to brazenly oppose the party,” it said. “This Ren Zhiqiang who likes to call leaders in the deep of the night, just who gave him the ‘courage’ to come forward and push over the wall?”
「我們不禁要問,一個連黨章都能無視的黨員,公然反黨的底氣何來?」文章說。「一個半夜三更喜歡給領導打電話的任志強,究竟誰給了他跳出來推牆的『勇氣』?」
Mr. Ren has not commented publicly since he was criticized for his comments, and repeated calls to his cellphone were not answered.
評論受到抨擊後,任志強從未公開發言,記者多次撥打其手機均無人接聽。
The controversy does not suggest that Mr. Xi’s control is in danger; he remains powerful and popular with many Chinese people, who have welcomed his drive against graft.
這場爭議並不意味着習近平的控制處於危險之中。他依然手握重權,並且受很多中國民眾的歡迎。他們很支持他的反腐運動。
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But the authorities did not appear ready for the counteroffensive in support of Mr. Ren.
但當局似乎沒有對支持任志強的反擊言論做好準備。
Several of his defenders said the episode had crystallized their fears that the exaltation of Mr. Xi and severe treatment of even mild dissent threatened to curtail the already limited room for debate.
幾個為任志強發聲的人表示,他們一直擔心對習近平大加讚頌、連溫和的異議也受到嚴厲對待的情形,恐怕會壓縮原本就受限的言論空間,而此次事件正體現了這種擔憂。
Some said that Mr. Ren’s vilification carried worrisome echoes of the “mass criticism” of the decade-long Cultural Revolution, which began in 1966.
一些人說,任志強受到的詆毀讓人想起了文化大革命期間的「大批鬥」,令人擔憂。始於1966年的文化大革命持續了十年之久。
And these concerns came not just from liberals outside the Communist Party.
產生這些擔憂的,不僅僅是黨外的自由派。
Cai Xia, a professor at the Central Party School, the party’s main academy for training officials, wrote in an essay that Mr. Ren’s treatment “smacks of a political trial.”
共產黨培訓官員的主要院校中央黨校教授蔡霞,在一篇文章中寫道,任志強的遭遇「大有對任志強進行政治審判」的架勢。
“Controversy over different viewpoints is normal,” she wrote. “Cracking down on different opinions will bring severe dangers to the party.” The essay was later scrubbed from Chinese websites and condemned by a party newspaper.
「不同觀點爭論本屬於正常」,她寫道。「打壓不同意見,將會給黨帶來嚴重的危害。」文章後來被從中國網站上刪除,並受到一家黨報的譴責
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Even in the National People’s Congress, the party-controlled legislature, hints of discontent emerged during an annual meeting that ended this week. Caixin, a Chinese magazine, quoted one member of a consultative council as saying, “Everyone is a bit dazed, and people don’t want to talk so much.”
即便是在共產黨控制的立法機構全國人民代表大會裡,本周結束的年度會議期間也出現了不滿的跡象。《財新周刊》雜誌援引一名政協委員的話說,「大家都有點迷茫,希望少講些話。」
The report was deleted from the magazine’s website, but Caixin posted an article in English chastising censors for cutting the “free speech comments.” That article was also removed from the website.
該報導被從財新的網站上刪除,但財新刊登了一篇英文文章,指責審查機構刪除「關於言論自由的評論」。這篇文章也被從網站上刪除了。
An editorial in late February in the newspaper of Mr. Wang’s anticorruption agency added to signs that some party officials were unhappy with Mr. Ren’s excoriation.
王岐山領導的反腐機構旗下的報紙2月底刊登了一篇評論文章,該文是部分黨內官員對任志強受到嚴厲責難感到不滿的另一個跡象。
“Those who succeed in mighty undertakings are always open-minded and willing from the bottom of their hearts to hear different views,” the commentary said.
「大凡成就大業者,往往虛懷若谷,從內心深處願意傾聽不同意見,」這篇文章說。
Mr. Ren’s connection with Mr. Wang has kindled speculation that the case is a sign of a higher-level power play. Was Mr. Wang sending a signal to Mr. Xi? Could the cracks of dissent exposed by Mr. Ren point to more destabilizing internal rifts?
任志強和王岐山的關係,促使人們揣測,此事表明高層內部出現權力爭鬥。王岐山是在向習近平傳遞信號嗎?任志強表露的不同意見是否指向了更不利於穩定的內部分歧?
No one outside the party’s inner circle knows, but if officials have held back from punishing Mr. Ren, his connections may explain why.
在共產黨的核心集團以外,沒人知道答案。但如果官方不懲罰任志強,他的人脈關係可能是其中的原因。
“They originally wanted a heavy punishment against him,” said Chen Ping, a friend of Mr. Ren’s with ties to the party elite. “But they found voices of opposition were so loud, and included people quite high up inside the party, so they’ve delayed a decision. They’re waiting to see what happens.”
「本來想嚴厲懲罰,」任志強的朋友、與黨內精英有聯繫的陳平(音)說。「但發現反對聲很大,包括黨內地位相當高的人,所以就推遲了懲罰的決定。他們在等着看情況。」