On Friday, July 19, a text circulated on QQ that is a record of Xu Zhiyong’s “talks” with a top official of the Beijing Public Security Bureau that occurred on June 25, 26 and 28. Its authenticity has since been confirmed by Xu’s close associates. ChinaChange.org is providing a complete translation of the text in three installments.
By Xu Zhiyong
Published: July 22, 2013
On the three afternoons of June 25th, 26th, and 28th, I had “talks,” per appointment made by the police, with one of the heads of the Beijing Public Security Bureau in a conference room of a vacation hotel in Changping, Beijing. We argued about many issues, including democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism, CCP’s leadership, socialism, the concept of citizenship, public disclosure of officials’ assets, the petitioning system, equal education rights and more, and we each put forward our views. The other party said I had already committed multiple crimes and coercive measures would soon be taken by the authorities. He demanded that I support the Party’s leadership and cease committing crimes. I said I would be adhering to the spirit of the new citizens’ movement, but I was willing to listen to his opinions on the specific ways and methods [on how to pursue it], but if it was committing a crime to become a citizen, I was willing to pay full price for it.
The police requested the meeting the day before. The team leader of the guards outside my home told me that one of the municipal Public Security chiefs wanted to have a talk with me, and he promised that I would be able to return home that evening. I accepted it without giving the matter much thought.
It was the first time I went outside my home since April 12, the day when I was placed under house arrest. I rode with three plain clothes policemen to a small, nondescript vacation hotel east of Zhongka Orchid (中卡庄园) in northern Changping. After getting out of the car, I was searched, led to a conference room, and seated in a single chair on one side of the table. Opposite, there were two men in their fifties. One of them would be the main interlocutor who, one could tell, was someone in a high position. Let’s call him C and the other D. A young man was fiddling with a video camera.
Sitting down, I said I was Xu Zhiyong, and I asked who they were. C said, “I’m the head of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, and I opted to talk to you this way today.” I asked him why I was brought there.
C: It’s been almost three months since we took coercive measures in early April against the illegal organization of Citizen (referring to the detention, and then arrest, in April of ten citizens who demanded disclosure of officials’ wealth in Beijing – trans.). As the head of this organization, you have committed several crimes of the Criminal Law. We will soon detain you as well, and we want to hear what you have to say.
Me: Citizen is far from being an organization. Instead, it is a voluntary group of people who pursue democracy, the rule of law, freedom, justice and love, and who have been consistently advocating the nation’s progress through moderate and reasonable approaches. Our actions, whether it was a dinner gathering or calling for officials to disclose assets, were merely the exercise of citizens’ legitimate rights, and were not crimes at all. I will not change in my pursuit of the ideas of citizenship; as for our approaches, they can be discussed. We have always been reasonable and willing to listen to others’ input. Of course, if people as moderate and reasonable as me cannot escape being locked up in prison, so be it. It’s the misfortune of the Chinese people, and I will surrender myself to my destiny.
C: Are you people reasonable? You displayed banners more than a hundred times in various cities over the last few months. If we don’t stop you promptly, it will trigger social turmoil.
Me: Shouldn’t officials disclose their assets? If they do so, corruption will be curbed as a result, and we would not have to display banners to call for it. Your fear of theses actions triggering mass gatherings only indicates that asset disclosure is what the people want. Making a call for it is merely an expression and it will not cause tumult. If tumult is upon us one day, it will be because of escalation of conflict caused by privilege, corruption and the perverse stability maintenance.
C: Hasn’t our Party been actively campaigning against corruption?
Me: Isn’t that great? We are trying to help.
C: Are you people really serious about anti-corruption? If so, why can’t you see all the progress the Party has made in anti-corruption?
Me: Of course we are sincere about fighting corruption. We do what we say and vice versa. Shortly before the ten advocates were arrested, we had been discussing a bill called the Sunshine Bill. I don’t deny that the CCP is fighting corruption, but the system is the problem, and corruption is becoming more rampant despite the anti-corruption campaign. I ask you to use your reason: Over the last ten years, has corruption in China increased or decreased?
C: Which country doesn’t have corruption? Will the country rid itself of corruption if it’s governed by your model?
Me: Indeed. Every country has corruption, but the difference is gargantuan. In the US, a ministerial level official taking a bribery of two million dollars would be a huge scandal, but in China, it’s nothing. To curb corruption, we need to monitor power; we must have an independent judiciary, checks and balances of powers, and free media. These are effective ways used all over the world. Asset disclosure is another recognized mechanism, so why are they so afraid to disclose?
C: With equal education rights as a pretext, you people besiege the Ministry of Education every month, causing enormous trouble for us. You were a people’s representative before, why didn’t you make appeals through legitimate channels?
Me: We have been trying everything. We wrote letters to over a thousand people’s representatives, we held discussions with many experts. But the most effective way is to petition in front of the Ministry of Education, because your system puts stability maintenance above everything else, and a gathered crowd can place the most effective pressure on you, thus pushing the Education Ministry to change its policies.
C: Beijing is already very crowded. If Beijing opens up the national entrance exams (gaokao—trans.) to everyone, then won’t students from across the country flood Beijing to take the exams?
Me: That will not happen. Gaokao-motivated immigration is due to inequality in college acceptance. Students in Beijing municipality have an advantage in college acceptance because the city deprived the children of its eight million non-hukou (residency registration—trans.) taxpayers of their gaokao rights. If the kids of the eight million new immigrants are allowed to take the gaokao in Beijing, their advantage will diminish. Then, who will want to immigrate to Beijing for the sake of taking the gaokao here? Our fight for equal education rights is not fighting for that privilege, but fighting for the same rights for all taxpayers of the city, and for the rights of millions of left-behind children to unite with their parents. On your part, you think you have maintained stability by suppressing the calls for equal education rights, but have you ever thought: Where will they go, the children of Beijing’s eight million new immigrants who have suffered discrimination and whose prospects in life are hurt? They will still come back to Beijing, because their parents live here, and Beijing is their real home. When I was on a jury in a court, I knew very well that crimes among children of immigrants were rising quickly, and it is to a large extent the result of discrimination. (Part of argument omitted here)
C: You can make reasonable recommendations about these?
Me: We have been. For years we have been promoting social progress in constructive ways.
C: Your series of articles, such as The People’s Nation (《人民的国家》), echo totally the western system, and they are anti-party and anti-socialism. Your organization has grown to several thousand people over only a few months. Your actions have already constituted a crime, actually multiple crimes.
Me: Aren’t the communist party and socialism western products? May I ask, what is socialism? If a market economy is socialist, why is democracy and the rule of law, which we are pursuing, not socialist? Does socialism necessarily exclude democracy and the rule of law? As for anti-party, it is such an extreme charge. We support what we think are the right policies, and we oppose what we think are the wrong policies. In addition, I harbor no hostility towards anyone. If the Communist Party continues to rule the country through elections, I will support it. If it’s a crime for citizens to gather for dinner, discussing current affairs, serving society, and calling for officials to disclose their wealth, then you are making any accusation you want, and you will be sentencing me however you want. I don’t care.
D, at this point, interjected at great length on how awful western countries, especially the United States, were. He said, you, Xu Zhiyong, would most likely be a traitor of the Chinese people in the future, and many online have said the same thing about you. I answered seriously, “Most likely, I love China more than you do! When you have time, you should read my essay Go Back to China (《回到中国去》) to see a Chinese’s experiences and reflections in the United States. And you, how many of you corrupt officials have sent your wealth overseas?
C: Loving the party, the country and the people is a trinity. Since you don’t love the party, how can you possibly love the country and the people?
Me: My fatherland is 5,000 years old, this party from the west is less than 100 years old, and it will not be ruling China forever. How could there be a trinity? I love China, I love the 1.3 billion people, but I don’t love the party. One of the reasons is that it has inflicted on my country too many cruelties with millions having died of hunger and the Cultural Revolution thoroughly destroying Chinese culture and the nation’s spirit. Another reason is that, the party today is too dirty. There are so many corrupt officials. They lie blatantly when they apply for party membership and they lie blatantly when they swear into it: How many of them are really devoting themselves to communism? I abhor lies; I abhor the unscrupulousness with which some pursue their desires; and I abhor someone who lies even when he or she makes a vow.
C: I would say you are a man when you dare say you don’t love the party. Given that it’s not bad that you advocate freedom, justice and love, given that your intentions are good, we hope to educate you and we hope you will love the party, give up these civic activities, make more contact with people from all walks of life, and see things more objectively.
Me: Thank you for reminding me. I will do my best to be objective and reasonable. I examine social ills, but I also watch CCTV’s evening news. I am willing to take advice on specific activities that might not be perfectly without fault. Some actions might have been too rash, and we can stop for now. All these can be discussed, but don’t say anything about committing crimes.
C: I know I will not be able to change your views easily. I have read your files. You have been consistent like a pin for all these years, and your position has been there and has never moved. We’ll continue next time. What is a good time for you, tomorrow afternoon, or the afternoon of the day after tomorrow?
Me: Tomorrow will be fine.
Around 7 pm, I was taken back home, still under strict house arrest.
The Last Ten Years, a review of Gong Meng’s work by Xu Zhiyong