China Change, August 13, 2018
On August 9, the Beijing Justice Bureau issued a decision to cancel lawyer Cheng Hai’s (程海) license. Six months ago in February, the bureau cancelled the registration of his small Beijing Wutian Law Firm, claiming that the firm had not accepted the annual review on schedule. According to China’s Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers (《律师执业管理办法》), a lawyer’s license is revoked if they’re not hired by a firm for six months.
On August 10, lawyer Cheng Hai filed an Application for Administrative Review, which shows that the authorities were committed to having him disbarred, and refused to view contrary evidence. The application shows that Cheng Hai signed an employment contract with the Beijing Liangzhi Law Firm on July 30, and delivered his proof of new employment to the Justice Bureau of Beijing Mentougou District, which oversees the new firm. On August 5, he again mailed the same proof of employment to the Beijing Justice Bureau via EMS. His mail was returned. The authorities, by returning his documents, claim that they received no proof, and thus acted to disbar him.
The disbarment of Cheng Hai is part of the Chinese government’s broad, systematic effort to take human rights lawyers off the field. Those implicated in the 709 Crackdown, whether the detained lawyers or lawyers who signed up to defend their detained colleagues, have been the primary targets. Cheng Hai has represented lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who has been held well over 1,000 days now without trial.
The Beijing Justice Bureau is using the same method to keep lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and her husband Bao Longjun (包龙军), both 709 detainees, from returning to practice: their previous firm, the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, is no more, and new firms intent on hiring them were pressured not to accept them. Once the six-month period expires, they will also lose their licenses.
Since January 2018, at least 20 human rights lawyers have been disbarred — including Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Li Heping (李和平), Wen Donghai (文东海), and Yu Wensheng (余文生) — or caught in limbo and unable to practice, such as lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原).
The 64-year-old Cheng Hai is known for his dogged pursuit of the law as written, and he holds the authorities to it. He will exhaust all options provided by the law to defend his right to practice and to expose the unscrupulous behaviors of the government.
Cheng Hai was originally trained as an economist and later began practicing law in Beijing in 2000. In 2008 he was one of the five lawyers who called for direct elections at the Beijing Lawyers Association, and over the years has taken part in elections of district-level people’s representatives as an independent candidate. He has defended clients in many religious freedom cases, and has challenged rulings of reeducation-through-labor cases. During the New Citizens Movement trials in 2013-2014, he represented Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), a lawyer-turned-activist.
One lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, commented on the wave of disbarments that has been striking against and eroding the community of human rights lawyers in China: “If there is no fundamental progress toward the rule of law, these brave lawyers who dare to defend human rights will inevitably be eliminated. The newer regulations on the management of lawyers are meant to remove those who seek change, and keep only those who submit to the authorities. You can’t really call them lawyers.”
War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018.
Detention and Disbarment: China Continues Campaign Against Human Rights Lawyers in Wake of 709 Crackdown, China Change, January 24, 2018.
August 10, 2018
It is now clear, from numerous reliable sources, that shocking human rights atrocities are being perpetrated in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR).
The Communist Party authorities have established a large number of political re-education centers in Xinjiang, detaining people without any judicial process, stripping them of their personal liberty, imprisoning them, and detaining them for indeterminate ‘sentences.’ Estimates of the numbers detained range from hundreds of thousands to over a million, primarily targeting Uighurs, but also Kazakhs, Hui people, and other minorities who follow Islam. Among those detainees are peasants, workers, university, college, high-school and middle-school students, teachers, poets, writers, artists, scholars, the head of a provincial department, bureau chiefs, village chiefs, and even Uighur police officers. Uighurs overseas, as well as their family members and Uighur students who return to China after studying abroad — and even Uighurs who have simply visited abroad for tourism — have been particular targets of attack.
Those locked up in detention centers have been forced to sing Red Songs, learn Mandarin Chinese, and study Xi Jinping Thought. Many have been forced to eat pork, drink alcohol, and been force-fed unidentified drugs. Abuse and torture is common in re-education centers, and reports of deaths in custody due to torture have become common. The well-known deaths confirmed to date include Muhammad Salih Hajim (穆罕穆德.萨利阿吉), the renowned Uighur scholar of Islam known for translating the Quran with official approval; Halmurat Ghopur (哈木拉提·吾甫尔), a leading food safety administrator and Communist Party official in Xinjiang; and Ayhan Memet, mother of Dolkun Isa (多里坤·艾沙), the chairman of the World Uyghur Congress. Many children, because their parents were disappeared, have been crammed into orphanages and are now suffering terrible conditions.
According to official Chinese statistics, over 227,000 Uighurs in Xinjiang were criminally arrested in 2017, 8 times the 27,000 recorded in 2016. In 2017, the number of people detained on criminal charges in Xinjiang was 21% of the total in all of China, while Xinjiang’s population is only 1.5% of the country’s.
Further, Communist Party authorities have set up a comprehensive electronic surveillance system trained on the daily lives of Uighurs in Xinjiang. They’ve deployed cameras with facial recognition capabilities, cell phone scanners, a DNA collection system, and a ubiquitous police presence, turning the entire Xinjiang region into the world’s most high-tech Police Garrison. All of the Party’s efforts are directed toward the cultural destruction of the Uighur people, who now face a crisis of survival.
In light of this grave human rights catastrophe, all who value human rights and universal values cannot be silent. We hereby state the following:
- We strenuously protest the CCP’s unilateral barbaric violence, and we demand that the authorities immediately cease the political persecution of Uighurs and other minority peoples, shut down the political re-education camps, and release all prisoners of conscience including Ilham Tohti (伊力哈木.土赫提) and Gheyret Niyaz (海莱特尼亚孜);
- We support the righteous struggle by Uighurs and other minority peoples in XUAR aimed at securing their basic human rights;
- We call upon the U.S. government to continue speaking out about the human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and to put more effective pressure on Party authorities;
- We call upon the United Nations to launch an investigation into what is taking place in XUAR and to publicly censure the CCP’s despicable acts.
Hu Ping (胡平), honorary chief editor of Beijing Spring, New York.
Wang Dan (王丹), founder and director of China Dialogue, Washington, DC.
Teng Biao (滕彪), human rights lawyer, visiting scholar at New York University, Princeton.
Xia Yeliang (夏业良), independent scholar, Washington, DC.
Mo Li (茉莉), teacher, Sweden.
Fu Zhengming (傅正明), scholar, Sweden.
Cai Chu (蔡楚), editor of minzhuzhongguo.org and canyu.org, Mobile, Alabama.
Zhang Yu (张裕), coordinator of the Committee on Imprisoned Writers, Independent Chinese PEN Center. Stockholm, Sweden.
Lü Jinghua (吕京花), deputy chair of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, New York.
Liao Tianqi (廖天琪), president of Independent Chinese PEN Center, Köln, Germany.
Zhang Qing (张菁), chairwoman of Women’s Rights in China, New York.
Liao Yiwu (廖亦武), writer in exile, Berlin, Germany.
Yaxue Cao (曹雅学), editor of chinachange.org, Washington, DC.
Sulaiman Gu (古懿), student, Georgia, USA.
Wang Juntao (王军涛), chairman of the National Committee of China Democracy Party, New Jersey.
Qi Jiazhen (齐家贞), independent writer, Melbourne, Australia.
Chen Weijian (陈维健), chief editor of Beijing Spring, Auckland, New Zealand.
Xia Ming (夏明), professor of political science, CUNY, New York.
Sheng Xue (盛雪), writer, journalist, Toronto, Canada.
Zhou Fengsuo (周锋锁), president of Humanitarian China, New Jersey.
Zhong Jinjiang (钟锦江), chairman of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, Sydney, Australia.
Guo Dongcheng (郭冬成), worker, Sweden.
Cai Yongmei (蔡咏梅), writer, Hong Kong.
Chen Chuangchuang (陈闯创), member of China Democracy Party, New York.
Yang Jianli (杨建利), founder of Initiative for China, Washington, DC.
Pan Yongzhong (潘永忠), secretary general of Federation for a democratic China, Germany.
Chen Pokong (陈破空), political commentator, New York.
Li Weidong (李伟东), director of China Strategic Analysis quarterly, USA.
Zhang Lin (张林), internet writer, New York.
Wang Ce (王策), chairman of Chinese Republican Party, Madrid, Spain.
Li Ruijuan (李瑞娟), journalist and editor, Taipei, Taiwan.
Wuerkaixi (吾尔开希), initiator of Friends of Liu Xiaobo, Taiwan.
Zhao Xin (赵昕), civil rights defender, Bay Area, California.
Su Xiaokang (苏晓康), writer, Washington, DC.
Guo Chen (郭琛), businessman, former chief supervisor of the Association of Taiwanese in Europe, Germany.
Bob Fu (傅希秋), founder and president of ChinaAid, Texas.
Fei Liangyong (费良勇), engineer, member of Federation for a democratic China, Nuremberg, Germany.
Wang Jinzhong (王进忠), deputy chair of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, Tokyo, Japan.
Chen Liqun (陈立群), deputy chair of the National Committee of China Democracy Party, New York.
Ma Yuzhong (马育忠), editor, Xi’an, China.
Fu Sheng (付升), scientist, Xi’an, China.
Cai Shufang (蔡淑芳), Friends of Conscience, Hong Kong.
Ren Wanding (任畹町), founder of Human Rights Defenders, France.
Chen Hanzhong (陳漢中), board director of China Spring Research Foundation, chief supervisor of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, California.
Zhang Jie (张杰), Boxun News journalist, USA.
Hong Zhesheng (洪哲胜), chief editor of Democracy Forum, New York.
Xue Wei (薛伟), manager of Beijing Spring, New York.
Xiao Man, August 9, 2018
China’s online P2P lending platforms are currently being rocked by one crisis after another, with media and the public calling a crash, collapse, and high storm in the sector. A large number of investors who have lost their principal entirely have recently flooded into Beijing to petition for redress. To shield the financial institutions from the public rush, Beijing police set up barricades on August 6, grabbing anyone they thought suspicious and loading them into rows of passenger coaches they had lined up on the Second Ring Road.
Video and photographs show buses, full of petitioners, along the shoulder of Beijing’s Second Ring Road; police were also stationed nearby in large numbers. China’s Banking Regulatory Commission, the Bank of Beijing, Bank of China, and other major financial institutions were the focus of the police defense measures. Some reports also say that a number of important financial agencies in Beijing received instruction to establish patrols inside and outside their buildings and strictly prevent outsiders from entering. Employees of the banks were instructed not to stop and make a spectacle of the intrusion, and that they had to wear their employee badges at all times.
In June, China’s supervisory and regulatory agencies embarked on a clean-up of online financial platforms, resulting in the liquidation of over 100 P2P lending platforms, business closures, flight of executives, and the cessation of redemptions for investors. A full-blown domino effect had taken hold by the end of July; within the first week of August, 42 P2P companies went bankrupt, sparking the mass protests by investors attempting to recoup their capital.
As the Financial Times explains, after 40 years of reform and opening to the world, the Chinese have capital they wish to invest, but are dissatisfied with simply leaving it in the bank. Nor are they happy with the “wealth management products” offered by banks. But due to China’s political system, the financial system is monopolized, and the development of the internet and in particular smartphones gave investors and lenders the ability to rapidly find platforms matching them with borrowers for their capital. This allowed some degree of financial liberalization and ‘inclusive finance’ (普惠金融).
China’s peculiar national circumstances have resulted in the rapid development of internet commerce, with both good and bad companies in the mix — and to a degree, growth in the sector has been distorted. The result has been that investors face risks beyond those expected in a normal market economy — they must also bear the risks of the gaps and loopholes in regulation caused by the political system. There are both good and bad P2P lending platforms in China. Many of them, in order to gather capital, have deceived investors by trumpeting their connections to officialdom. Some of them do legitimate business, while others are simply Ponzi schemes. Further, the deterioration of economic conditions in China has led some projects that initially appeared viable to become insolvent and unable to return investor capital. Finally, the government policy of deleveraging has resulted in a lack of liquidity in the market, making it impossible for some of these platforms to source new funding to pay out creditors.
Because many P2P platforms were endorsed by local governments — or claimed they were backed by state enterprises and took out advertisements on CCTV and other state media — they won the trust of investors. By 2016, 160 million Chinese had taken part in P2P investment; by 2018 the P2P market had grown to a value of over 7 trillion yuan [Translator’s note: according to DBS Group Research, the figure was 1.2 trillion yuan ($175 billion) by 2017]. In the first half of this year, the legally responsible individuals at over 700 lending platforms absconded, leaving investors unable to get back their capital. The sums involved extend into the hundreds of billions of yuan. In particular beginning from early June, 150 P2P platforms have defaulted on payments to creditors.
On June 14, the chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, Guo Shuqing (郭树清) said the following at the Lujiazui Forum: “When anyone offers you a yield above 6%, you need to ask questions; when it’s above 8%, it’s very dangerous; if it’s above 10% then you need to be ready to lose all your capital.” Yet the warning came too late. The platforms that quickly unraveled included both state-backed and private enterprises; some P2P companies stole their customers’ funds, while others had liquidity problems causing defaults. The majority of investors with losses regarded themselves as ‘financial refugees’ and hoped the government would take a stance and resolve the problem, taking responsibility for the absence of supervision. They sought to converge on the key financial institutions in Beijing, and hold demonstrations and assemblies to put pressure on the authorities to make them whole.
Apart from retail investors extending credit, P2P lending platforms were a major source of funding and liquidity for small-sized enterprises that were unable to get loans from banks. When the platforms buckled, these companies also lost their source of funding, which further accelerated the collapse of other P2P platforms.
Scholars in China have pointed out that China to this day has still failed to develop a mature system for extending credit to businesses and individuals, and despite this the government began allowing the development of P2P lending platforms — effectively a dereliction of duty as regulators. Though the Beijing police managed to strangle the first wave of protests in its crib, the essence of the problem hasn’t been resolved. From now on, P2P lending platforms will become a new problem affecting China’s social stability.
This article was published in Radio France Internationale on August 7, 2018, translated by China Change.
China Change, August 8, 2018
Until recently, David Missal (@DavidJRMissal) was a graduate student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, on a two-year DAAD scholarship (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst; or German Academic Exchange Service). Two months ago, Missal told RFA, he applied to the Exit and Entry Administration of the Beijing Public Security Bureau for the renewal of his student visa. Under normal circumstances, it takes about 10 days to complete the process. But last Friday, the bureau notified him that his renewal was denied, and he was ordered to leave China within 10 days. The reason they gave is that Missal has engaged in activities not in accordance with his student visa.
Missal believes that the denial of visa and expulsion has to do with the topic he chose to work on for his journalism study: the study of human rights lawyers, in particular those targeted from July 9, 2015, onwards. (This is despite his advisor approving the research.)
In April, when 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang’s wife Li Wenzu and a group of activists started a walking trip to Tianjin to highlight the predicament of Wang Quanzhang, who had been disappeared for over 1,000 days, Missal accompanied them as part of his field work.
On May 2, Missal accompanied lawyer Lin Qilei to Wuhan on the latter’s trip to visit his client, veteran dissident Qin Yongmin. Missal was taken away by police for several hours for questioning. In a video he shot with his cell phone, police can be seen repeatedly stopping him from filming.
On July 10, the same day that Liu Xiaobo’s widow, Liu Xia, was allowed to leave China for Germany following intense international pressure, Qin Yongmin was sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion – the most severe sentence for a dissident in over a decade.
Missal has spent time with a number of human rights lawyers for his study, according to Lin Qilai, a rights lawyer. But everywhere they went, domestic security police would intervene and stop him. Retaliating against a foreign student and sever his academic career for studying human rights, Lin argues, doesn’t help China’s international image.
Missal asked the Chinese police which of his activities violated the rules for foreign student visas, and the police responded, “You know yourself!”
Tsinghua University’s international student center declined to comment on the event. The Beijing PSB’s Exit and Entry Administration failed to answer RFA’s calls.
Missal started his two-year program last September; he is now contemplating completing his studies in Taiwan.
We have accidentally sent you a testing post. We apologize. Please disregard. Thank you for your patience. — The Editors
China Change, August 1, 2018
On July 24, Unirule (天则), the liberal, beleaguered economic think tank in Beijing, published a 10,000-character essay by the Tsinghua University legal scholar Xu Zhangrun (许章润) which has lit up the Chinese internet at a time when the voice of Chinese intellectuals has been dying out.
The text, deploying all the rhetorical potency of literary Chinese — even in its length, the ‘Ten Thousand Word Petition’ having a specific valence in Chinese political history — has captured the zeitgeist of revolt against the China that Party leader Xi Jinping is busy constructing. Since being republished on the website of the Hong Kong-based Initium Media, the article has been widely shared and reflected upon by intellectuals and scholars inside and outside the country.
Initium wrote in a tweet that “this text carries out a systematic critique of the retrograde tendencies in Chinese social and political life, in particular since the end of 2017. It explicitly points out and warns against the danger of the return to totalitarianism, and calls for a stop to the cult of personality and the resumption of term limits on the post of the state chairman. The piece has become one of the few direct criticisms of contemporary ills in China among the intellectual class.”
Below we offer an outline, followed by a small selection of picant excerpts from the essay, aimed at giving readers a flavor of the whole. China Change understands that Geremie Barmé will be publishing a full translation of the essay on the website of The Wairarapa Academy of New Sinology (http://chinaheritage.net/) in due course.
Xu Zhangrun’s essay, titled ‘Our Dread Now, and Our Hopes’ (我们当下的恐惧与期待), is composed of four parts: ‘Four Bottom Lines,’ ‘Eight Forms of Anxiety,’ ‘Eight Hopes,’ and ‘The Interim.’
The four ‘bottom lines’ — i.e. the fundamental assumptions on which CCP rule has been based for the last 40 years — that Xu identifies as having been breached are:
- The maintenance of basic social order and a clear direction for the country
“The cessation of successive ‘political movements,’ the end to ‘no protection from law or heaven,’ as well as the constant ‘strike hard’ coercive rectification campaigns, the prevention of social anomie, the safeguarding of social order, and attempt to realize social harmony, have all significantly contributed to the basic living conditions of regular people, and has for 40 years been the bottom line for the legitimacy of the current political system…”
- Allowing limited private property rights and tolerance of citizens’ pursuit of wealth
Xu writes that economic reform allowed unprecedented growth, and that this has been a key element in the citizenry’s tolerance of continued Party rule.
- Limited tolerance of personal freedoms
Xu writes that for more than the last decade, mere sprouts of civil society have been crushed through political campaigns, thus severely stunting the development of civic consciousness and a real understanding of politics among the public. Chinese people are encouraged to “amuse themselves to death” while getting rich without scruples, Xu says.
- Political term limits
Here Xu is directly targeting Xi Jinping’s abolition of term limits for the post of state chairman, effected at the most recent meeting of the National People’s Congress in March.
Xu writes: “For thirty years, the essence of the matter is that — despite salient increases in social pluralization and political tolerance — the entire political system has seen no substantial or meaningful progress or change. In its bones it’s that same set of banal and brutal ideas about political struggle and dictatorship, topped off with the disgraceful avarice of kleptocrats who consume the country’s patrimony.”
In light of this, he says, the Chinese people had some minimal comfort that the constitution contained basic rules limiting the tenure of Party leader to two terms, and the system observed some adherence to constitutional norms.
The abolition of term limits “is like scrapping 30 years of political reform with one flick of the pen.”
Xu’s then enumerates the eight fears of the Chinese everyman:
- Fear for the safety of personal assets
- The rise of ‘politics in command’ and the abandonment of economic development as the basis of national policy
- The reemergence of class struggle
- Shutting China off from the world once more, getting into a stalemate with the United States (and the West more generally), yet warmer ties with North Korea and other ‘evil regimes’
- Excessive foreign aid, leading Chinese to have to tighten their own belts
- Increased repression and thought reform of intellectuals
- Becoming trapped in a new armed race, war, and new cold war
- The end of opening up and reform and the comprehensive return of totalitarian politics
A sample translation by China Change of some of these fears follows.
- Asset Dread. Can the wealth accumulated over decades, no matter how much it is, be guaranteed safe? Can one’s current livelihood be maintained? Will the property rights proclaimed in the law be guaranteed? Or will it be that because you wrong some individual who really holds power (including the director of the Village Committee), your company is driven to bankruptcy and your family is out on the street? This and so many other questions have, in the last few years, with the passage of time become far more indeterminate, and people up and down the line are in a state of constant panic. The first ones under attack are those who already gathered their treasure during the tidal wave of reform and opening up; and the response of the rich is mass emigration…
- Class Struggle Once More. The official media and managers of ideology once again raising class struggle in recent years has everyone panicked. The direction of the current administration over these years has led people to doubt as to whether we’re going to see yet another round of Stalin-Maoist class struggle campaigns… In the first place, writing protections of private property and human rights into the constitution, accompanied with the custom of abdication of Party rulership after two terms, created hopes that China was slowly and gradually heading in the direction of a normal country, meaning that we no longer need to deploy the ‘struggle’ rhetoric — but the actions of the last few years seem to be going in completely the opposite direction, and everyone is naturally scared witless.
- The Totalitarian Revival. Though this phrase ‘reform’ has already been besmirched to some degree, and in the end tyrannical governance continues while hiding under its name, in the discourse of contemporary China, locating ourselves in the midst of a yet-to-be-completed grand transformation, with just one final push needed, is still better and more stable than a regression into volatile revolution and extremist leftist politics. Reform spinning its wheels, and perhaps even going backwards rather than forward, has already been going on longer than just these last few years, extending far beyond one term of office. Given this tendency, whether or not ‘reform and opening up’ has reached its end and totalitarianism will return is yet unknown; but at this very moment the entire Chinese people have no greater fear…
The remainder of the essay is dedicated to Xu’s eight hopes — all of them going to the heart of the CCP’s system of rule and control:
- Stop wasting money abroad
- Stop wasting money on ‘sportsground diplomacy’
- Abolish the privilege system for retired high-ranking cadres
- Abolish the system of Special Needs Provisioning (the enclosed system of food and other supplies for Party officials)
- Legislation forcing disclosure of official assets
- Immediately put a stop to the cult of personality around Xi Jinping
- A return to term limits on the post of state chairman
- Overturn the political verdict on June 4
Geremie Barmé provided translations of items three, four, and six on China Heritage, which are reproduced below.
- The Party Nobility: Elite privileges for retired high-level cadres should be eliminated. The system of the present ‘dynasty’ 國朝 allows for the state to provide inclusive retirement-to-grave care for high-level cadres according to a standard that is far and away above that allowed to the average citizen. These cadres retain the privileges they enjoyed during their careers, including health care and access to luxury resorts for rest and holidays. Everyone is aware of the extraordinary burden and financial cost this places on the people; the details are never released for fear of sparking public outrage. This system continues the kinds of prerogative given to the Imperial Zhu Family Lineage during the Ming dynasty [founded by Zhu Yuanzhang in 1368CE] and the emoluments permitted to the families of the Eight Banners [exclusive Manchu military and administrative groups that contributed to the founding and rule of the Qing dynasty in 1644; the privileges continued until the end of the dynasty in January 1912]. This is not merely a betrayal of the self-advertised ‘revolutionary spirit’ [of the Communist Party], it is also in breach of modern standards of civic life. What’s all that talk of ‘the remnants of feudalism’? This is a perfect example of it! People are outraged but powerless to do anything about it; it is one of the main reasons people hold the system itself in utter contempt. On one side of the hospital, Commoners face the challenge of gaining admission for treatment, while everyone knows grand suites are reserved on the other side for the care of high-level cadres. People despise you for it. Every iota of this bottled up anger may, at some unexpected moment, explode with thunderous fury.
- Special Needs Provisioning: Eliminate the system of Special Needs Provisioning. Starting in Yan’an some seventy years ago, this system continued unimpeded even during times of mass famine and deprivation. It continues even now as the Countless Masses are ever increasingly concerned about [the quality of and access to] dairy products for their babies and the hygiene and safety of their everyday foodstuffs. The Special Needs Provisioning system allows the high-level Party nobility access to a vast range of speciality products beyond the dreams of the average person. Apart from a few totalitarian polities, there is no other country that does this like China. The luxury afforded these people is only outdone by the shamelessness of their indulgence. Of course, inequalities exist in all societies and disparities in ability and wealth are natural, but they are a result not due to the fact that the ideal playing field imagined by our citizens does not include a level starting point; that doesn’t even take into account the outrage of allowing a small group of Party grandees to be continuously supplied from the coffers of the state. As long as this system and ‘No 34’ [originally ‘Number 34 Provisions Store’ in Beijing, a restricted-access shop established as deprivations created by the socialist planned economy became more acute and Party privileges more jealously guarded; the term later came to indicate regulations covering special access to necessities and luxury goods for the nomenklatura] remain unchecked, real food safety in China will never be realised; no side will really be assured of its long-term security.
- The New Personality Cult: An emergency brake must be applied to the Personality Cult. Who would have thought that, after four decades of the Open Door and Reform, our Sacred Land would once more witness a Personality Cult? The Party media is going to great lengths to create a new Idol, and in the process it is offering up to the world an image of China as Modern Totalitarianism. Portraits of the Leader are hoisted on high throughout the Land, as though possessed of some Spiritual Mana. This only adds to all the absurdity. And then, on top of that, the speeches of That Official, formerly things that were merely to be recorded by secretaries in a pro forma bureaucratic manner, are now carefully collected in finely bound editions, printed in vast quantities and handed out free throughout the world. The profligate waste of paper alone is enough to make you shake your head in disbelief. All of this reflects the low IQ of the Concerned Official and his craving for fame. More importantly, we need to ask how a vast country like China, one that was previously so ruinously served by a Personality Cult, simply has no resistance to this new cult, and this includes those droves of ‘Theoreticians’ and ‘Researchers’. In fact, they are outdoing themselves with their sickeningly slavish behaviour. It’s as though hundreds of millions of Chinese are oblivious; people tolerate the New Cult and allow it unfettered freedom; they are powerless in the face of all those arse-kissing bureaucrats [literally “those who would lick carbuncles and suck abscesses” as rendered by Donald Clarke]. It goes to show that China’s Enlightenment is far from over. Every generation must champion rationalism in public affairs painstakingly making a way to the future. Moreover, the New Cult is evidence that China faces a long struggle before it can claim to be a modern, secular and rational nation-state.
It’s clear that Xu has little faith in Xi Jinping. “You are touted for being a can-do man,” he wrote. “We’d be very happy if you could do one of the eight. If you could do three or four, we’d be convinced of your ability. If you do all of them, well then, the whole world will rejoice.”
Speech is dangerous, and Professor Xu Zhangrun knows it. But he seems to be at a point where if he doesn’t let out his thoughts, they’ll turn into kidney stones and kill him. He ended the essay with great relief: “I’m done talking; I leave my own life and death to destiny, the rise and fall of the nation to Heaven.”
That’s how disproportionately significant a matter it is for a Chinese intellectual to speak his mind in 2018 — a circumstance we find breathtaking.
Xu is currently on an academic tour in Japan, according to a news source. There is no word yet on what awaits him when he returns to China.
As China’s Woes Mount, Xi Jinping Faces Rare Rebuke at Home, the New York Times, July 31, 2018.