“Saboteur” by Ha Jin takes place immediately after the Cultural Revolution has been declared over. Mr. Chiu, a college professor, is anxious to return to his school and catch up on his work. At this time, Chiu optimistically believes that the police can be trusted.
Mr. Chiu, the protagonist, and his bride are sitting in a train station in Muji City waiting to return home after their honeymoon trip. They are eating outside at a table. Nearby are two railroad policemen who are drinking tea and laughing. The couple is enjoying the pleasant afternoon.
One of the policemen gets up and throws a cup of tea in the couple’s direction. It gets all over their feet and ruins Mr. Chiu’s new leather shoes.
Mr. Chiu accosts the policeman telling him what he has done. The policemen handcuff Chiu; in addition, the policeman puts his gun on Chiu while his wife watches begging for his safety.
They take Chiu down to the police station and place him in a jail cell. Mr. Chiu was not afraid; consequently, he lay down on the cot and closed his eyes. Later, he was taken to an interrogation room; on the way, he was roughed up by a passing policeman.
During the interrogation, Chiu makes no progress with the interrogator. With both sides throwing insults back and forth, Chiu winds up back in the cell forced to spend two nights until Monday morning. Chiu had recently had a serious case of hepatitis. Because of this, he has to watch his diet. After the food that night in the jail, his stomach felt like the fire of anger from before.
He told the jailer that he was sick, but nothing happened. Imprisoned without proper medical attention, Chiu, in fragile health, deteriorates rapidly.
Furthering the action
On Sunday, everything was quiet and restful. He did not even really miss his bride.
On Monday morning, Chiu could hear someone moaning. He went to the window and saw a young man chained to a tree. The man was swearing, but no one was paying any attention to him.
Chiu recognized him as a young lawyer that has been sent by his wife. Chiu watches as the policeman torture the lawyer.
Finally, Chiu is taken before the magistrate. All he has to do is sign a prepared confession, and he is free to go.
‘What if I refuse to cooperate?’
‘Then your lawyer will continue his education in the sunshine. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to write out your self-criticism. We have your crime described clearly here. All we need is your signature.’
He agreed to sign it if he and his lawyer were set free. By the time everything is done, Chiu is almost doubled over with sickness.
Chiu apologizes to the lawyer for his mistreatment. As soon as the two men walk out of the jail,
Chiu buys some hot tea. In his bitterness, disillusionment, frustration, and rage, and with his hepatitis “finally attacking him,” Chiu makes “up his mind to do something” for revenge Chiu went from restaurant to restaurant buying a soup.
All of the restaurants were near the police station. He ate noodles and wontons. As he ate, Chiu mumbled that he wished that he could kill all of them. The lawyer did not understand why Chiu was behaving in this way.
After about a month, it was reported that acute hepatitis had hit the city of Muja. Six had died from the disease, including two children. Over eight hundred people had contracted the disease. No one knew how the epidemic was started.