Global Tuidang Center



Tea Drinking in China Is Code For an Informal Interrogation



When someone does something that officials dislike, that person will be invited to ‘drink tea.’ It is actually an informal interrogation. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Peng Chengxian’s family woke up on a Sunday morning to the sound of knocking on their front door. Two policemen walked into Peng’s house; his wife became panicked. She immediately took his smartphone, turned on the recorder, and put it in his pocket. “Be careful,” she said.
Peng was nervous. He did not know what would happen next. He knew that people could disappear for months or get beaten up. Before the police vehicle stopped in front of the police station, he calmed down. He thought this would probably be a “tea drinking” experience because of his blogs.
In the police station, two men met him. He did not ask who they were. They wore light jackets and carried dark briefcases. Peng guessed that they must be “national security,” the so-called Chinese secret police who maintain social order.
“We would like to talk with you. Don’t be nervous!” they said “I know; this is tea drinking, right?” Peng asked.

Tea drinking

Details of tea drinking have been widely circulated on the Internet. Going through this process, one will understand that this is a means for the government to control the society. When someone does something that officials dislike, that person will be invited to “drink tea.” It is actually an informal interrogation.
On the Internet, there are even tips on how to behave during tea drinking. These tips include such recommendations as do not get angry, do not show fear, and avoid insulting the interrogators. At the beginning of 2009, Pong started to write microblogs. Peng wrote about current problems, such as poisonous food, corruption, and the effects of family planning.
Even though the police invited him for tea, no tea was served while he was there. A uniformed policeman did pour him a cup of hot water. After an hour of talk, he could not help but ask why he was there.

Signature drive

Police officers were surprised that he did not know the reason. They told him that six days before, he wrote an article against censorship regarding reporters at Southern Weekend. The dispute became a nation-wide public protest against limited media freedom. Peng also signed an open letter to support the protest. In addition, he asked other people to do the same on his blog.
A plainclothes policeman asked him whether he knew that the protest was under the manipulation of Western anti-China forces. Peng was calm and just responded: “I am just an ordinary person; how would I know?”
“You can do it by yourself, but when a lot of people together express their thoughts, it becomes very dangerous and is not allowed. Next time, when you want to sign something, call us first. It is safer that way.”
Peng later explained to his wife that the reason he wrote blogs was to make sure that their son could live freely in a peaceful and stable environment. However, he reassured his wife that he would not participate in any future protests or hurt his family. His wife said: “Tea drinking is enough; just don’t let them invite you to dinner.”

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