Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
"这些人是在非正式地讨论政治和社会议题，"在巴黎社会科学高等学院(School of Advanced Studies in Social Science)担任教授的魏简说。他正在写一本有关该主题的书。"它表明社会正在变得多元化，其他人正在加入这场全国性的讨论。"
当然，其他一些人这样认为。最近，有爆料者告诉伦敦《泰晤士报》(The Times)，游泳项目中存在系统性用药问题，进而促使世界反兴奋剂机构(World Anti-Doping Agency)展开了调查。中国的反兴奋剂机构随后承认存在与兴奋剂有关的违规行为，但否认掩盖相关信息。
A Father's Death Sets Off a Quest to Delve Into China's Soul
The Saturday Profile
By IAN JOHNSON AUG. 12, 2016
At first, Mr. Yang said, he was viewed with suspicion. Who was this man who showed up with a professional camera and sound crew. Was he a government spy? Then, in 2011, he published the first of six volumes of interviews in Hong Kong (because mainland Chinese publishers refused, he said). Covering 105 of his interviews, the volumes are simply titled "For the Record," reflecting his goal: not to come up with grand conclusions but to let people speak out on China's national condition, in the sort of debate that rarely happens in the country.
Since then, Mr. Yang has become part of a growing scene of what the Paris-based academic Sebastian Veg calls "grass-roots intellectuals." Unlike the big-name Chinese writers of the past who pronounced on national affairs, people like Mr. Yang make their arguments through unofficial channels, such as underground films or articles published on popular social media outlets like WeChat.
"These people are unofficially discussing political and social issues," said Mr. Veg, a professor at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Science in Paris, who is writing a book on the topic. "It shows how society is pluralizing and how other people are joining the nationwide debate."
Mr. Yang uses the same 55 questions, most of them very open-ended ("What does 'serve the people' mean to you?" "How do you understand labor?" "How do you understand dread?") His ultimate goal, he said, is to use the videos as part of a documentary. But he says he first wants to reach 500 interviews — and even then he is not sure what to do with all the material. (Copies have been sent abroad, he said, for safekeeping.)
The most memorable answers often come in response to his last question: "In the current society, what do you need most?" The answers are sometimes banal, other times profound:
"I need fairness," said Xu Maomao, an actor.
"I need almost nothing now," said Chen Ershou, a famous geologist who has since died.
"I need freedom the most," said Chang Ping, an exiled columnist.
"I need freedom of speech the most," said Mao Yushi, an economist and advocate of political overhauls.
"I need time," said Yang Jisheng, a prominent journalist and historian.
"China needs science most," said Fang Zhouzi, a writer who debunks myths.
"I need to tell the truth," said Yao Jianfu, a retired official.
"I need money," said Gao Yu, a dissident journalist who has since been placed under house arrest.
The project has put Mr. Yang and his family under severe pressure. He and his wife, Du Xing, once owned two apartments but had to sell them to pay for the film crews. They now rent a slightly beaten-up apartment in a subdivision.
Ms. Du married Mr. Yang just before his father died, and since then she has experienced the slow erosion of their standard of living and personal freedoms. A former manager of a golf club, the 45-year-old now joins her husband on his project, operating the camera and tending to the sound because they no longer can afford a crew. She is also a photographer and helps document some of the interviews.
"My parents ask me how my life is and will we have children," Ms. Du said. "It would be nice to have a normal life, but it doesn't seem possible now."
That is especially true now that the public security services have taken a close interest in their work. Mr. Yang traces this to the publication of the books, which he believes made the government aware of him. He is now regularly followed, and he says he often faces harassment. For example, he designed pottery in hopes of selling it to support his project, but he says the authorities harassed the kiln owners so that they would not take his work.
Officials also stop by for regular visits, and he is under a formal travel ban, barred from leaving Beijing. That is the result of his being detained last year for the first time. He was held for over three months but never charged after he posted online a picture of himself naked in front of a government office protesting a decision preventing him and his mother from traveling to Hong Kong. Mr. Yang said they were not allowed to travel because theInternational Olympic Committee was about to decide whether Beijing should win the 2022 Winter Olympics and did not want Mrs. Xue to repeat allegations of doping. (Beijing subsequently won the bid.)
Throughout the family's problems, Mr. Yang's mother has been a constant supporter. Having recently had two strokes, she is less mobile than before and sleeps for several hours every midday. But when awake she is still a sharp, formidable presence. She is also sure that Chinese athletes are still doping.
"They prevented me from leaving, saying it would affect national security," Mrs. Xue said. "So do you think they still dope?"
Certainly, others do. Recently, other whistle-blowers told The Times of London that doping is systemic in swimming, prompting an investigationby the World Anti-Doping Agency. China's antidoping agency laterconfirmed doping-related irregularities but denied covering up the information.
Mrs. Xue said doping was endemic to sports machines like the ones in China and Russia. Although she has no direct knowledge of the current situation, she said it was an inevitable byproduct of an authoritarian system reliant on the legitimacy of producing national glory. "They don't even tell the athletes," she said. "They just tell them it is nutritional supplements."
And what of her son's project?
"I tell people that he is now a prospector," Mrs. Xue said with a laugh. "He is mining China for treasures."