China's Web Watchers

Nothing in Zheng Yichun's upbringing foreshadowed his landing in a political prison. His English-speaking father interrogated captured American G.I.s during the Korean War, and as a teenager two decades later, Zheng led his middle school's Communist Youth League. Only when the reform era hit China in the 1980s did the aspiring poet have what his family calls an "awakening." China's leaders were corrupt and tyrannical, he said, and he would fight them with words. Yet despite the provocative title of his self-published 2002 collection of poems, The Era of Brainwashing, his work went mostly unnoticed. If not for the Internet, Zheng,...

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