My friend Jianbing

By Lu Yuyu (@darkmamu on Matters)

On social media nowadays, I see people disappearing for baseless crimes all the time. Aside from reposting to voice my anger, I don’t have much emotion toward these posts. There are simply so many of them that I am numb by now.

Still, I was shocked when I learned that Jianbing [written here as “Pancake,” a homophone in Chinese for Jianbing that his friends used for him] disappeared. I was downcast for a long time.

For an introvert like me, it is hard to make friends. Jianbing is one of my very few friends. There’s a saying on the internet that introverts never reach out for friendship. Yes, that describes me perfectly.

The first time I saw Jianbing, I was a bit surprised. Because when other friends talked about him, I pictured someone big and chubby. But when I met Jianbing, I saw a hardcore rock star, tall and strong, with a goatee under his chin. As someone from the south, I was a bit nervous. Fortunately, after talking for a few moments, he showed his true self: Jianbing was gentle and cared about others. He wasn’t full of himself. We quickly became friends.

It wasn’t until quite some time later that I learned Jianbing’s real name was Wang Jianbing. Then I realized people called him Pancake because it sounded similar to his real name.

I was shocked [when he disappeared] because Jianbing was detained for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power” despite the fact that he was such a gentle and considerate man. Upon further reflection, though, it became clear that in this country you are guilty of a crime as long as you don’t live according to their will. As for what crime to charge him with, they can simply select one to suit their whim.

The last time I saw Jianbing was at Zhengzhou Railway Station. He came to meet me on his way to somewhere else. We only had one hour. We squatted on the square and chatted. Jianbing said: People like us have no future or hope. We don’t have a house or a car. We don’t dare to fall in love or get married, otherwise the girl might get dragged down. — That was the first time I realized that Jianbing, an advocate for workers with occupational diseases, a man who always cares about others, was full of despair in his heart. He buried his despair down deep to prevent it from spilling over.

Yes, we are all in despair. Nevertheless, we stubbornly carry on with our way of life.

There are many pancake shops in the north. Everytime I pass by one of them, I think of my friend Jianbing.

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