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The Thinking of the System vs. The Thinking of Individuals Within the System

Sun Liping, January 21, 2018

 

This essay was published when I first launched a public WeChat column. Now, I’ve made some revisions, and am publishing it again as follows. I’m doing this because people have a hard time comprehending a few recent events because they were incredibly unreasonable. It’s hard to understand why people, who are clearly smart and have gone through great travails, are screwing things up so badly. This essay attempts to explain this phenomenon from the perspective of the thinking of the system. –– Sun Liping, December 14, 2017.

 

About 20 years ago, I once said: Sometimes the system is more stupid than individuals in the system. That is to say, people within the system may all appear to be shrewd, but the system as a whole sometimes nevertheless behaves foolishly. Certain academic big shots were unhappy about my comment.

Below I’ve recounted a story I told in 2008 during a lecture at Tencent’s Yanshan Lecture Hall (腾讯燕山大讲堂), which says something about the truth of what I said.

Around the late 70s or early 80s when I was studying at Peking University, I came upon a short story in a provincial literary magazine. It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten the title of the story and the name of the magazine; nor do I remember the author, and haven’t found any other mention of this very meaningful story. But I remember vividly the plot of the story, nearly 30 years later.

The story involved a soldier who was about to be demobilized. In order to be able to find a good job after he left the military, he wanted to secure Communist Party membership (at that time, the kind of work you could find and whether or not you were a Party member were directly related). So, acting on suggestions from friends, he started to give presents to his political instructor, spending a lot of money on the effort. But up until the day before he left the army, he still didn’t have his Party membership.

One evening, he charged into the instructor’s office and got into a big argument. Suddenly, he spotted a gun in the office, grabbed it, and pointed it at the instructor’s head. The company commander, who was nearby, heard the altercation. The moment he opened the door, he saw the soldier pointing the gun at the instructor’s head.

What to do? If the company commander forcibly seized the gun, it was likely to accidentally discharge and kill or injure the instructor. In such a state of emergency, he thought of the plot of a movie he’d seen not long before, involving the use of psychological deterrence. Accordingly, he walked towards the soldier while shouting “Go ahead and shoot!” “Shoot!” The soldier was stunned: How could the commander be yelling at me to shoot? Meanwhile, the commander slowly walked over and pushed the muzzle of the gun toward the floor, preventing a tragedy.

Now it was time for the incident to be handled. That the soldier would be punished was inevitable. The next to be punished was the commander. The reason for punishing the commander was because he was telling the soldier to shoot when the gun was pointed at the instructor. The commander defended himself: “It was to deter him psychologically.” But the system is incapable of acknowledging the law of psychological deterrence, because in the only political logic recognized by the system, there is no way to put the law of psychological deterrence in an appropriate position. What the system could acknowledge was a fact that could not be simpler –– that “when the muzzle of the gun was pointed at the instructor’s head, you said ‘shoot.’” As independent individuals, the people who were handling the case perhaps understood perfectly well the true intention of the commander, but the system in which these individuals operated had no way to do so.

What’s my point in telling this story again? I hope to point out the difference between an individual’s thinking and that of the system. Some years ago, a well-known British anthropologist, Mary Douglas, wrote a book titled How Institutions Think. The title implies that systems are able to think. Indeed, systems are able to think. Such a proposition gives us an even greater recognition and understanding of systems. But regretfully, in the end, scholars still often attribute the system’s thinking to human thinking; that is, they suppose that the thinking of the system thinking is carried out through individuals. In this way, individuals and the system are again rather simplistically confounded with one another.

What I want to emphasize is that the thinking of the system is not the same as the thinking of the people within the system. In fact, the thinking of the system is sometimes quite different from the thinking of the people in it. Every person in the system may understand a matter, but the system does not. For another example: during the Cultural Revolution, a man accidentally broke a statue of Chairman Mao. Everyone understood that it was an accident, but the system does not allow such an event to be an accident: If you broke a statue of Mao, you must be punished.

Why is the system’s thinking different from the that of individuals within the system? Because the thinking of individuals depends on the individual’s intelligence and knowledge, and institutional thinking depends on the logic and circumstances of the system. And so to the question raised in the title of this article.

 

 

Sun Liping (孙立平) teaches sociology at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This is an unauthorized translation of his WeChat post 《孙立平:体制的思维与个人的思维是不一样的》 on December 14, 2017. (Archived here.)

 

 

 

In Beijing, Who Is and Isn’t a ‘Low-end Person?’

Mo Zhixu, December 14, 2017

 

 

Beijing expulsion, diggers

 

In the evening of November 18, 2017, a fire broke out in the Jufuyuan Apartments (聚福缘公寓) in Beijing’s Daxing District (大兴区), prompting authorities across the city to begin “clearing out illegal apartments.” In an abrupt and sweeping action, tens of thousands of people were commanded to collect their belongings and vacate their homes onto the cold and windy streets of China’s capital. It was heart wrenching to watch.

The incident raised much online discussion. The drive to remove the so-called “low-end population” (低端人口) of Beijing harks back to the “shitizen” (屁民) phenomenon that arose a decade earlier in Shenzhen. For many, it is a blatant reminder that in China, a veil of prosperity and affluence conceals the poor state of human rights and even that of the Chinese human condition as a whole.

What Is Meant by ‘Low-end Population?’

A cursory look at the term “low-end population” suggests it is a concept of class, but detailed analysis shows this isn’t necessarily the case.

Firstly, “low-end population” in the Chinese sense refers exclusively to those from other regions. It is an identification status created by the household registration system (戶籍), as opposed to a class formed by market forces. Low-income but legally urban residents and poor rural dwellers may belong to a similar economic class, but they are not included among the “low-end population.”

Secondly, “low-end population” is partially defined by profession. As noted in the overseas edition of the People’s Daily on August 1, 2016, “low-end population” refers to “workers employed in wholesale markets inappropriately placed in megacities, or in mid-to-low-level industries.” Others, combing through past usage of the term, have discovered that “low-end” is often used primarily to characterize a type of industry, and as such it mainly refers to low-income people of low cultural background engaged in physical labor; in short, mostly rural migrant workers in the manufacturing or construction business.

By contrast, unskilled workers such as nannies, janitors, restaurant staff, deliverymen, etc. do not count as belonging to the “low-end population.” This is because they provide services essential for the “high-end population’s” standard of living and without them, the city’s functions would come to a halt.

In Beijing, the “high-end population” comprises first and foremost those in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) power structure, or the regime’s privileged class. As a result, some of the central authorities’ state-controlled media have commented sympathetically on the service workers among the “low-end population” who were affected by the recent expulsions, putting out phrases like “the city can’t only run on white-collar workers.” The starting point for their rhetoric is that these people are needed.

Lastly, it is possible to be considered “low-end” even if you are not economically poor. The stall owners in the wholesale markets make a sizeable income, even higher than that of the average middle-class resident. But because the customers at these markets are typically “low-end people,” the business is irrelevant to the needs of the “high-end population.” Thus even the affluent stall owners have themselves become “low-end people.”

In 2016, prior to the clearing out of illegal apartments, the famous Beijing Zoo clothing wholesale market, which boasted tens of thousands of stalls, was forcibly dispersed and the market closed.

As can be seen, the meaning of “low-end population” is determined entirely according to the needs of the “high-end” privileged class. It is derived from blatant discrimination based on status.

 

Beijing expulsion, line of police

 

Why the Urgency to Clear People From the Capital?

Why is the city of Beijing in such a hurry to suspend the so called “non-capital functions” and remove people from the region? It’s impossible to explain this using an economic rationale. But looking at it from the political perspective and considerations of the privileged class, everything falls into place.

Beijing was the imperial capital of multiple dynasties and is built around a single center. After the CCP seized power, Mao Zedong rejected a proposal by Liang Sicheng (梁思成) to relocate the administrative center to a different part of the city. Mao criticized the architect’s ideas as an “attempt to deny that Tiananmen was the political center in the eyes of all the nation’s people.” Development of the new Beijing was therefore carried out radiating out in concentric circles from the government sector at Tiananmen and Zhongnanhai [the CCP leadership compound].

Liang Sicheng had his concerns: “Whether the multitude of government buildings are placed here in a meandering shape along narrow streets, or snaking about the edges of the massive public square, either option results in a long line of administrative workplaces. With the constant coming and going of vehicles, traffic will increase uncontrollably and the parking situation will be fraught with serious difficulties as well.”

After the year 2000, China began to industrialize. Beijing’s population increased rapidly, jumping from nearly 14 million in 2000 to 22 million in 2016. At the same time, the number of automobiles shot up from several tens of thousands to nearly 6 million in 2017. The daunting flow of people and vehicles overwhelming the single center validates the concerns Liang Sicheng raised back in the Maoist era.

The business day ahead of the mid-autumn festival in 2009, Beijing was hit by unprecedented traffic jams due to the high-level social gatherings and gift exchanges taking place at the time. “Cars couldn’t even get out of Zhongnanhai.” Rumor spread that following this experience, Hu Jintao gave the order: “Control the population, improve traffic.”

However, early decisions made by CCP authorities mirrored Mao’s architectural thinking. Moving the administrative district was out of the question given the need to “reinforce and safeguard the political center’s spatial security,” “safeguard safety and stability to ensure that the central military and political leadership can operate with high efficiency.”

As a result, the only option was to cut down the flow of people, vehicles, and goods in, toward, and around the core district. But as explained above, Beijing radiates outwards from a single center, so merely expanding the core to within the second ring cannot achieve this goal. They have to clean up all the rings one by one, to create some breathing room for the center.

This is the basic mentality behind Beijing’s need to weed out “non-capital functions.” Looking at the latest map of cleared-out areas summarized and provided by the media, it can be seen that virtually no distract is untouched. Put plainly, the people who are now freezing in the streets were expelled for the comfort and convenience of the privileged people occupying Zhongnanhai.

 

Beijing expulsion, street

 

 

In a Totalitarian State, Who Isn’t a “Low-end” Person?

Just removing this small portion of the “low-end population” is clearly far from sufficient when it comes to satisfying the CCP regime’s need to ensure the convenience of its privileged class in the center core district. It can be assumed that even more “non-capital functions” and “low-end people” are awaiting treatment. But just who isn’t a “low-end person” in the coordinates of privilege?

Firstly, a “low-end person” is anyone who is unnecessary. University students don’t directly benefit the “high-end population,” so they can be considered transitional “low-end people” and thus be driven to the fourth or even sixth rings [Beijing’s beltways]. Beyond this group, the elderly and infirm provide no use to the “high-end population” and even consume extra resources, so the hospitals must also be relocated to the outer rings.

Beijing expulsion, 哑河

More importantly, to “reinforce and safeguard the political center’s spatial security” is meant in the political as well as the physical sense. Auxiliary to Beijing’s cultural, media, technical, education, and health resources, the city has developed some of its own competitive industries. In these industries, many are self-employed workers, specialized technicians, administrative staff, sales personnel and the like. They are a new social class, and a good part of the near 10-million population growth in the past decade belongs to this class.

This new class has intrinsic liberal tendencies. As a center of culture and cosmopolitanism, Beijing has become a multifaceted and dynamic stage. It is a ripe environment for nascent social movements. In the last few years, whether it’s the rights defense movement, the Charter 08 movement, or the New Citizens Movement, all of them began and were most active in Beijing.

Civil society and opposition movements have found space for expression in large part due to the existence of this new and large-numbered class. From the standpoint of the Party authorities, the presence of such a social class makes it possible for a repeat of the 1989 Tiananmen incident, should certain conditions converge.

Some commentators are already pointing out that the expulsions targeting the “new displaced class” are designed to preemptively halt large-scale social incidents. The logic is quite sound.

Getting to the core of the matter, the definition of “low-end population” in China is determined by the “high-end population,” that is, the demands of the privileged class. By clearing out “non-capital functions” to satisfy this privileged class, Beijing authorities have brought physical, emotional, as well as economic pain to a large number of people. As long as the government continues to operate on this logic with its premium on political security, still more people — including those currently involved and seemingly still in the ranks of the upper middle class — can be targeted according to their political leanings, societal potential, or perhaps just because of their numbers, and end up in the ranks of the “low-end population” all the same in a blink of an eye.

 

 

Mozhixu

Mo Zhixu (莫之许), pen name of Zhao Hui (赵晖), is a mainland-based Chinese dissident intellectual known for his incisive views of Chinese politics and opposition.

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Related:

Beijing Refugees and the New Displaced Class, Wu Qiang, December 3, 2017.

Campaign to Drive Out Migrants Slams Beijing’s Best and Brightest, The New York Times, December 11, 2017.

 

Translated from Chinese 特權之下 誰不是「低端人口」》

 

 

 

 

Atrocity in the Name of the Law

Teng Biao, December 7, 2017

 

This is the Foreword to The People’s Republic of the Disappeared: Stories From Inside China’s System for Enforced Disappearances, a newly published book about China’s “Residential Surveillance at a designated location.”

 

郭飞雄_老虎凳

 

 

Those holding unchecked power often seek to hide their cruelty behind euphemisms. In China, classic examples range from “land reform” to the “Cultural Revolution.” You can’t easily see the cruelty from the surface of such words. Expressions like “the three year natural disaster,” used by the Communist Party to describe the Great Leap Forward of 1958 to 1961 in which tens of millions died, or the “6/4 counterrevolutionary riot,” the description of the Tiananmen Democracy movement, are shameless acts of misrepresenting history and reversing right and wrong. Do “Legal Education Centers” really have anything to do with law or education? No. They are Black Jails for arbitrarily detaining and tormenting politically sensitive groups around the country.

“Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” (RSDL) is the latest euphemism.

Tyranny is not only reflected in murder, evil laws, and crackdowns; it is reflected even more in the minor details. This book is a collection of details, vividly reflecting China’s cruelty.

Much remains unknown about RSDL, and for that reason this book is an invaluable look into the rarely exposed systematic tyranny behind the euphemism of “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location.”

Looking into its legislative history, RSDL was first envisioned in the 1997 Criminal Procedure Law (CPL), which dictated a special form of Residential Surveillance to be applied to those suspects without a fixed residence. However, with police having near unlimited powers, it is little wonder that the regulation has been used for repression.

The most famous democracy advocate in China, the deceased Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, was placed under Residential Surveillance after he was taken in December 2008. His crime had been signing “Charter 08,” a petition calling for democracy and political liberalization in China. Obviously, Liu Xiaobo did not belong to the category of “suspects without fixed residence” and should have been allowed to serve his Residential Surveillance with his family at his home. His lawyer should have been allowed to visit him anytime. Instead, Liu was effectively disappeared during his seven months of Residential Surveillance, before being sentenced in a mockery of a trial to 11 years in prison for inciting subversion of state power. On 13 July 2017, Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer, likely treatable had he not been a prisoner of the state. His wife, Liu Xia, has also been disappeared at times, denied contact with the outside world with no legal basis or justification.

During the 2011 “Jasmine Revolution,”[i] the authorities kidnapped and secretly detained human rights defenders on a large scale, in a gangland act of criminality under the banner of “National Security.” Human rights lawyer Liu Shihui (Chapter 2) reflected on his secret detention. “I was beaten so badly that I needed stitches. My ribs were in extreme pain, which continued to interrupt my sleep for days. I wished that I would be transferred to a detention center.”[ii]

Similarly, [activist] Tang Jingling was not allowed to sleep for upwards of ten days. In the end, he felt “trembling, numbness of hands, and a bad feeling in his heart, that his life was in great danger, and only then did the police just allow him to sleep one or two hours a day.”[iii]

Writer Ye Du was held in a Guangzhou Police Training Center for 96 days, like lawyer Sui Muqing (Chapter 10). Ye recalled, “[I] didn’t see sunlight for over a month. I was subjected to 22 hours of interrogation every day. I was given one hour for eating, one hour for sleeping, until the 7th day when my stomach had massive bleeding.”[iv]

Hua Ze’s book, In the Shadow of the Rising Dragon, published in 2013, records the experiences of 47 activists caught up during the Jasmine Revolution. I was one of them.

After I was kidnapped, I was detained in secret for 70 days. I was told that I was being placed under Residential Surveillance. No one ever told me their name, department, or position. Nobody ever showed me a work permit, search warrant, or any legal documents. I suffered. During this time, I was beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to maintain stress positions, forced to wear handcuffs for 24 hours a day for 36 days, threatened, abused, forced to write a confession, and otherwise ill-treated. Even now, years later, it is hard to put it into words.

RSDL is classified as a non-custodial coercive measure, but in reality it has not only became a system for prolonged, pre-trial detention outside a formal, legal location, but has also become a more severe, more terrible, coercive measure than normal criminal detention. RSDL is not limited by detention center regulations, nor any real supervision at all. The chances of torture are greatly increased; in fact, torture has become rampant under RSDL.

The authorities must find RSDL to be a very convenient and effective way for dealing with rights defenders, judging by its indiscriminate use since the CPL was revised in 2012.

Article 73 of the CPL, stipulates that, “Residential Surveillance shall be enforced in the residence of the suspect or defendant. For those without a fixed residence, it may be enforced in a designated location. When… enforcement in the residence might impede the investigation, it may also be enforced in a designated location upon the approval of the People’s Procuratorate or Public Security organ at the level above.”

The police can decide for themselves if someone is to be placed in RSDL, which means the police decide who is to be disappeared.

It is little wonder that this was one of the most controversial articles during legislative reform, leading many commentators, myself included, to call it the “Jasmine Article.” This is because it appeared to legalize enforced disappearances, which had become more common during the Jasmine Revolution crackdown.

The CPL stipulates that RSDL “must not be enforced in a detention center or special case-handling area;” but in reality, all RSDL is enforced at special case-handling areas run by the Public or State Security Bureaus, or it is carried out at euphemistically named “training centers,” “prevention bases,” “anti-corruption education bases,” or sometimes even hotels that have been specially converted into secret detention facilities known as Black Jails.

The law permits for exceptions where family members don’t even need to be informed, and allows the state to deny access to a lawyer. These exceptions, which have now become the norm, have turned RSDL into a de facto enforced disappearance, exactly what the RSDL system seeks to achieve.

 

艾未未_监视居住2

S.A.C.R.E.D. — Artist Ai Weiwei’s depiction of  his own RSDL experience in 2010  Photo credit: http://cn.wsj.com/gb/20140411/PHO102344.asp

 

During suppression of the “Jasmine Revolution” in 2011 and the “709 Crackdown” starting in 2015,[v] terrifying enforced disappearances became common experiences within the human rights community. The most serious example is lawyer Wang Quanzhang. While I am writing this, Wang’s fate and whereabouts have remained uncertain for over two years. The cruelty and brutality of RSDL is clearly visible for the world to see.

In 2010, the Chinese government refused to sign the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. This was an irresponsible act but far from surprising. Enforced disappearances are nothing new in China. High-profile examples include the 17 May 1995 disappearance of the then six-year-old Panchen Lama, who had been confirmed by the Dalai Lama, and the widespread disappearance of Uyghurs following the July 2009 Urumqi riots. Still, the legalization of enforced disappearances in the CPL is shameful.

According to the original intention of the law, Residential Surveillance should only be a monitoring location. It is not to be used for interrogation or custodial purposes. However, the facilities used for RSDL have not only become specialized interrogation facilities, they have become even harsher than prisons and detention centers.

These custom-built prisons, spread across China, which are not allowed to be called prisons, have become terrifying torture centers where all manner of abuse is common: long periods of sleep deprivation, beatings, electrocution, forcibly handcuffed and shackled, confined to tiger stools and dangling chairs for long and painful periods, subjected to fumigation of the eyes by smoke, subjected to stress positions, denial of food and water, denied hygiene, extensive and continuous interrogation sessions, threats of violence, or threats to family. Everyone placed in RSDL is kept in solitary confinement.

Torture during many disappearances is well documented in a number of high profile cases. The accounts have sometimes been too much for people to bear reading about. Many rights defenders related to the 709 Crackdown, such as Li Heping, Li Chunfu, Xie Yanyi, Li Shuyun, and Gou Hongguo, have explained how they were forcibly fed unidentified medicine, leading to different painful symptoms.

Families of some of the 709 lawyers published an open letter in which they wrote, “Lawyer Li Chunfu, Xie Yanyi, Xie Yang, and Li Heping were all tortured to such a degree that they became different people from who they were before they were taken, some only 40 years old but looking more than 60.”[vi]

Until now, most of what we know about RSDL has come from scattered reports or open letters from family members. This book is the first to present a fuller picture of the suffering imposed under RSDL.

Jiang Xiaoyu, an IT worker, writes in Chapter 8 of being told:

I can make you disappear for years. Even your wife and daughter won’t know where you are.

Another victim, lawyer Chen Zhixiu, details in Chapter 4:

It wasn’t until the third day that they gave me two small steamed buns and a few green vegetables. The size of the two buns together was still smaller than the palm of my hand. I felt that I was going to lose consciousness. I felt dizzy all the time because of lack of food and sleep, but I was still expected to submit to being interrogated. If I started to wobble in the chair they would make horrifying sounds to snap me awake.

I myself had experiences such as these during my detention. I tried to distract myself with memories, talked to myself, outlined literature and found other ways to keep from going crazy, since I was deprived of all forms of communication. Once I accidently saw a Party newspaper. I was very excited. Finally, I could read some text! When they played a propaganda film to brainwash me, I was happy just to hear the background music.

It doesn’t matter if it is physical or mental torture. Both are hard to describe and express in words. However, the most painful thing is not the torture itself. For prisoners of conscience held in secret, I have found, there are two things that lead to even greater suffering:

One is being subjected to forced confession. Several individuals in this book describe with previously undisclosed details the experiences of delivering a forced confession. Those who have stepped onto the road of human rights defense face enormous pressure, living with threats to their family and heavy prison sentences. Many have been forced to confess. The authorities have used these confession videos to broadcast propaganda on state television, to confuse public opinion, to crack down on the will of resistance and dehumanize those who resist, and to turn rights defender against rights defender. It is used to split supporters. This may be the hardest part for China’s many political prisoners.

The authorities don’t always achieve their purpose but they more or less always have an impact. Many people have suffered the pain of misunderstanding and have grown distant from others. Many have quit rights defense because they were ashamed of themselves.

Secondly, those detained in secret have almost all experienced the indescribable suffering of having their families threatened or persecuted. In general, those who have chosen to become rights defenders under this kind of dictatorship are already aware of the risks and are prepared. When we are “invited for tea” [a euphemism used to describe a police summons], placed under house arrest, detained or tortured, nothing can stop our fighting spirit. But for the authorities to achieve the greatest deterrence, all they need to do is apply the threat of pain to our family members. This has become a common tactic used by the authorities, and used with growing expertise. As with my own experience, the hardest thing for activists fighting for freedom is how to balance conflict between family and social responsibilities.

People compromise, yield, fall silent, or give up after their family has been threatened or attacked. The Chinese Communist Party understands this clearly. I have written about the Party’s assault against the family members of rights defenders before.

RSDL goes far beyond normal detention. Serious human rights violations are widespread. It goes against the rule of law. It should be abolished. But under the One Party Dictatorship, the lack of judicial independence or freedom of expression, the state has instead expanded its suppression of the human rights movement and hurriedly broadened the use of RSDL in the name of “stability maintenance.”

The publication of this book has great importance and meaning: to reveal the truth, record the misery, and provide evidence of guilt. It is an indispensable signpost on the road to justice.

 

 

[i] Inspired by the so-called Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, and the broader Arab Spring movement, starting 20 February 2011, activists in China began calling for public assemblies in cities across the country to advocate for reform. After initially being met with overwhelming violence and repression, organizers started calling for people to assemble and “take strolls.” Some 35 activists were detained, five of whom were charged with endangering state security. Many human rights defenders detained during this time, including Teng Biao, Tang Jitian, and Liu Shihui, were subjected to lengthy disappearances in which they were tortured. In many ways, the repressive extrajudicial tactics employed during this time can be seen as part of the inspiration for the current RSDL system.

[ii] Wang, Yaqiu. “What You Need to Know About China’s ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Place’.” China Change. 2 August 2015. https://chinachange.org/2015/08/02/what-you-need-to-know-about-chinas-residential-surveillance-at-a-designated-place/.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] The 709 Crackdown was a nationwide strike against both individual rights defense lawyers and the larger rights defense movement. Also known as the “war on lawyers.” The name, 709, comes from the date when the first lawyer was detained, Wang Yu, on 9 July 2015. As part of the crackdown, over a period of months, some 300 lawyers were targeted, many of whom were placed in Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location. Some were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, such as rights defender Hu Shigen. In August 2016 he was given more than seven years in prison for subversion of state power; others were released following lengthy periods of incommunicado detention, torture, and forced confessions, such as lawyer Xie Yang. By many accounts, it has been the largest and most brutal crackdown on civil society since the 1989 Pro-Democracy Movement ended in the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

[vi]  “Lǐ Wénzú: Zhōnggòng gōng’ān, huán wǒ zhàngfū Wáng Quánzhāng——Wáng Quánzhāng nǎ’er qùle?” 李文足:中共公安,还我丈夫王全璋——王全璋哪儿去了?
(Li Wenzu: CCP Ministry of Public Security give my husband Wang Quanzhang back—Where is Wang Quanzhang?) China Citizens Movement. 16 May 2017. https://xgmyd.com/archives/29811.

 

Dr Teng Biao (滕彪) is a human rights lawyer, formerly a lecturer at the China University of Politics and Law, and currently a visiting scholar at the US-Asia Law Institute, New York University. He co-founded two human rights NGOs in Beijing—the Open Constitution Initiative and China Against the Death Penalty, in 2003 and 2010 respectively. Because of his human rights work, he was abducted and detained by Chinese secret police in 2008 and 2011.

 

 


Related:

The Nightmare – An Excerpt of Lawyer Wang Yu’s Account of 709 Detention and Torture, Wang Yu, November 13, 2017

A Record of 709, Xie Yanyi, October 15, 2017.

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (1) – Arrest, Questions About Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 19, 2017.

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (2) – Sleep Deprivation, January 20, 2017.

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (3) – Dangling Chair, Beating, Threatening Lives of Loved Ones, and Framing Others, January 21, 2017.

Transcript of Interviews with Lawyer Xie Yang (4) – Admit Guilt, and Keep Your Mouth Shut, January 22, 2017.

 


Also by Teng biao:

The Confessions of a Reactionary, Teng Biao, August 27, 2013.

Politics of the Death Penalty in China, Teng Biao, January 16, 2014.

 

 

 

 

Do ‘We,’ the World’s Political Parties, Know That ‘We’ Have Issued an Initiative Extolling the CCP’s Global Leadership for a Better World?

Hu Ping, December 5, 2017

 

Beijing initiative1

 

The World’s Political Parties Dialogue held by the Communist Party of China in Beijing closed on December 3, 2017. According to the Global Times, representatives who attended the meeting include Burmese leader and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, President of the Cambodian People’s Party and Prime Minister of Cambodia Hun Sen, President Choo Mi-ae of South Korea’s Democratic United Party, representatives of parties from traditionally friendly countries such as the United Russia Party and Communist Party of Vietnam, and representatives from G7 countries including the U.S. Republican Party, Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, the Conservative Party (UK), the Republican Party (France), and the Liberal Party of Canada.”

After the meeting the Xinhua News Agency published a document titled Beijing Initiative of Chinese Communist Party and the World’s Political Parties High-level Dialogue (Chinese).

Article 1 of the Beijing Initiative states: “We, the more than 600 Chinese and foreign leaders of nearly 300 political parties and political organizations from more than 120 countries attended, from November 30 to December 3, 2017, in Beijing, the Chinese Communist Party and the World’s Political Parties High-level Dialogue sponsored by the International Liaison Department of the Communist Party of China.” This means that the “we” in the Initiative includes the “more than 600 Chinese and foreign leaders of nearly 300 political parties and political organizations from more than 120 countries.”

Article 2 of the Initiative describes the theme of the meeting as the following: In-depth and extensive dialogues and exchanges were held at this high-level dialogue on themes such as ‘responsibility of political parties for construction of a community of a shared future for mankind and the building of a better world together’; on ‘ Xi Jinping’s Socialist Thought with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era’; ‘China in the New Era: New Developments and New Ideas’; and China’s Contribution to Creating the New World’… and other issues. It claims that the meeting reached a broad consensus and achieved complete success.”

Now on to Article 13 and 14:

13.  We highly value the tremendous efforts and important contributions made by the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government with General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core in pushing forward the building of a community of shared future for mankind and a better world. We are pleased to see that “One Belt and One Road” has gradually shifted from idea to action, from vision to reality, and has achieved fruitful results in construction. The ideas and concepts put forward by China in the process of building the One Belt and One Road have also become increasingly popular. “The principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration” has been incorporated into the resolutions of the United Nations. The Silk Road principle of peaceful cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning, mutual benefit, and win-win as its core has increasingly gathered a wide range of consensus. Connectivity of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance, and people-to-people exchanges has also provided important ideas for international and regional cooperation. Practice has proven that the “One Belt and One Road” initiative is in keeping with the trend of the times and is in the interest of all the people in the world. It has provided a practical platform for building a community of a shared future for mankind, for which we have all the fervent expectations and best wishes.

14.  We are pleased to see that Xi Jinping’s socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era emphasizes the need to promote the building of a community of a shared future for mankind. This shows that the CCP is not only a political party that seeks happiness for the Chinese people but also a political party that strives for the cause of human progress. It not only pays attention to the welfare of its own people, but also has a world vision and shoulders the responsibility that a big party is meant to take. We also highly praise the courage of the CCP in its own revolution. Since the 18th CCP National Congress, the CCP Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the core has firmly and unswervingly pushed forward with comprehensive and strict rule over the party, continuously improving the party’s ability to govern and to lead, laying the most solid groundwork for the historical achievements and historic changes that China has made and also providing the most important guarantee for China to play the role of a responsible big nation and to make new and greater contributions to the world.

It is reported that Tony Parker, Treasurer of the U.S. Republican National Committee, also attended this meeting and made a speech. Therefore, he is certainly among the “us” in the Initiative. I would like to ask Mr. Parker: Do you also “highly value the tremendous efforts and important contributions made by the CCP and the Chinese government with General Secretary Xi Jinping as the core in pushing forward the building of a community of a shared future for mankind and of a better world?”

Are you also “pleased to see that Xi Jinping’s socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new era emphasizes the need to promote the building of a community of a shared future for mankind?” While in Beijing, did you agree that “the CCP is not only a political party that seeks happiness for the Chinese people but also a political party that strives for the cause of human progress?” Mr. Parker, I’d like to hear your answers to these questions.

 

 

Hu Ping (胡平) is a leading dissent intellectual based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @HuPing1

 

 


Related:

President Xi says China will not export its political system, Reuters, December 1, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Beijing Refugees and the New Displaced Class

Wu Qiang, December 3, 2017

 

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“Newly-Built Village” (新建村) in Daxin District. Photo: China Daily

 

On November 18, a fire killed 19 people in Jiugong township, in the Daxing District of Beijing. A few days later, the city government launched a mass clearance operation of “low-end people” around the city’s suburban belt. Within a week, probably more than 200,000 of the “migrant low-end population living in Beijing” was evicted from their rental homes or workplaces.

Videos uploaded to social media, and reports by both citizen and mainstream media journalists, show that people living in the migrant worker “shantytowns” — village enclaves within urban areas — have been told that they have only two or three days to disband. The restaurants and factories in these shantytowns face marauding thugs who roam around smashing doors and windows. Their homes are invaded in the middle of the night by uniformed police, or auxiliary police, who kick in their doors and enter without permission, forcing them to evacuate under the threat of violence. The videos show them cold and homeless on the streets of Beijing in the middle of the night. Some pack onto trains taking them back to their home villages, while others look for temporary accommodations in nearby Hebei Province. Some simply linger on Beijing’s streets, refugees within China’s own borders.

The cruel and violent actions of the government have sparked fury and protest on Chinese social media. Some officially-controlled media, those which still retain some compassion, have published articles that offer veiled criticism of the Beijing municipal government’s policy. Civil society groups in Beijing, which have been under sustained repression for the last five years, have summoned up extraordinary courage to organize protests and relief. Alumni of Renmin University of China, Beijing intellectuals, and labor groups in China have published open letters of protest, for example.

What is particularly noteworthy is that, apart from the small number of Christian organizations and labor NGOs that reached out to help, some Beijing residents volunteered and organized their own relief networks, providing emergency accommodations, food, and jobs to the displaced. Hundreds of volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got involved, showing that civil society in Beijing, despite being under tremendous political repression, is still resilient and courageous.

Consideration of Political Security Underlies the Fascist Expulsion Campaign

As far back as February 2014, during his first inspection of Beijing, Xi Jinping proposed the idea of “relieving Beijing of its non-capital city functions (“疏解北京的非首都功能”).” In 2015 the State Council passed the “Programme on the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Coordinated Development (《京津冀协同发展规划纲要》).” In the same year, Beijing passed the “Beijing Municipal Party Committee and People’s Government’s Opinions on the Implementation of the ‘Program on the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Coordinated Development (《中共北京市委北京市人民政府关于贯彻〈京津冀协同发展规划纲要〉的意见》)’” and, in 2017, “Beijing Municipal Overall Development Program (《北京市总体规划》).” This indicated that China’s top leaders had made up their minds that Beijing’s population would be capped at 23 million, and cleaning out “superfluous people” would be a key task for the next two Beijing administrations, in addition to the urgent target of Beijing returning to its so-called “capital city functions.” The officials determined that “demonstrable results” would be reached in 2017. Thus, just as winter 2017 arrived, a suspicious fire in a low-rent apartment building in Daxing District presented the perfect pretext. Beijing municipal authorities, using their executive organs in every district where migrant workers dwell and their shops and factories operate, struck. Using the excuse of “fire safety” and an environmental requirement to convert households from coal to gas (煤转气), they orchestrated a mass mobilization of personnel, bringing in construction equipment accompanied by uniformed officers, directly entering the villages and getting to work expelling residents. That is how the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Beijing was created.

The mass clearance is occurring shortly after Cai Qi (蔡奇), an associate of Xi Jinping, ascended to the office of Beijing Party Secretary around the 19th Party Congress in October. To be sure, it has been common for local Party cadres to kick into radicalist governance as a means of accumulating political merit and showing their loyalty to the top. Similar things took place during the G20 in Hangzhou (杭州), with a massive urban redevelopment plan that came with restrictions on city operations and vehicles, or in Xiamen (厦门), prior to the BRICS summit, where city officials took up a scorched earth policy for stability maintenance. Officials in Lijiang, Yunnan (云南丽江), forcibly shut down guest houses when the occasion called for it, and Shenzhen (深圳) officials have suddenly banned electric-powered scooters.

But there is more to what’s happening in Beijing now, in addition to scoring political points and realizing the central government’s desire to turn Beijing into a show-case city like Pyongyang. Defining why Beijing is undergoing urban redevelopment in People’s Daily in August, Cai Qi stated clearly that “political security” is the number one security issue in Beijing and is part of the national security.  

 

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Areas of mass clearance in Beijing. According to Beijing municipal government, by 2020, Beijing will reduce its population by two million. The mass expulsion of “low-end population” has only just begun. Credit: Initium Media

 

A New Displaced Class

The difference between the current actions and the “arrest and control” of public intellectuals, dissidents, and NGO workers during the 2011 “Jasmine Revolution” in Beijing, is that Cai Qi’s target this time is a massive group of people. These are the “new displaced class,” the main target of expulsion in Daxing District and now in virtually all districts of Beijing. This group includes clothing manufacturers, small factory owners, home renovation laborers, others in the service industry, individual business owners, Taobao store owners, and other small business enterprises and self-employed workers. They — along with the construction workers now holed up under tents on work sites, as well as the contract and lease workers (派遣工) now sleeping in factories — all constitute a massive, growing group, a new displaced class. Their common characteristic is the lack of a stable and long-term employment relationship. They also lack social security or real estate. Compared to the mainstream class in society, they live on the margins of China’s urban environment. Ten years ago, the main representative of this group was the “migrant worker” (农民工), but with the rapid growth of urbanization and movements of people — in particular the relentless expansion of temporary employment relationships, the collapse of the social security system and the shrinking rights of city residents — this group continues to grow. They have now spread to the so-called low-skilled computer programming (码农) and traditional industrial workers.

Guy Standing of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London took note of this phenomenon in 2011. He discovered that the globalization of capital was creating a larger and larger displaced proletariat, from developing countries to the developed world. Their employment is unstable, their work hours are not set, their pay is not fixed, and their scale is massive — from the lowest-rung of work to traditional blue and white collar work. They include both “leased workers” in factory workshops and white collar working positions. They’ve become “The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class,” as Standing titled his book, a new source of social inequality and unease.

The first “displaced class” to arise in reform-era China were migrant workers and entrepreneurs who moved to cities. Today the faces of the displaced class have changed a little, but they’re all a part of the “new displaced class” in the backdrop of globalization. This is not an exclusively Chinese phenomenon, but it’s a trend that has deepened and expanded as China has globalized. This group has uncertain work, a lack of rights, informal contracts, no social security, unstable family environments, and exists outside the social mainstream. This description of the “precariat,” in fact, can be traced back to the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 170 years ago.

The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The unceasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes.

The unstable work and compensation of the newly displaced are creating a new form of inequality and insecurity, and also new forms of marginalization that they are unable to overcome. They may end up the objects of resentment due to wave after wave of “evictions,” whether scorned by city residents, or the nation as a whole. Put another way, the reason they are helpless in the face of expulsion is not because they suffer the feeling of inferiority of the so-called lower class. Strictly speaking, they are different from the lowest class. But, it is their lack of security and civil rights that makes them helpless in the face of violence. This is why the danger of the newly displaced is different in the eyes of the authorities from the Jasmine Revolution in 2011 although the group is big, living in close spaces and has the appearance of potential political confrontation.   

 

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Police guard a street where residents and shop owners have been forcibly evicted within 24 hours of notice. Phone: online

 

Beijing: a City Gearing up for the ‘Beautiful Life’  

Daxing District is located in the new Beijing airport’s “economic zone” (临空经济区) and is crowded because of its economic opportunities. So the evictions have been the most violent there. These shantytowns burn coal through the winter and create pollution, leading to frequent fires. They also lack law enforcement. “Zhejiang village (浙江村)” in Dahongmen has a high concentration of clothing manufacturers, logistics companies, repair workshops and houses large numbers of the newly displaced class. But such areas also frequently turn into places with appalling Kowloon-Walled-City-style living conditions; they are seen as a cancer on the outskirts of the city; and they provoke the authorities “sense of security.” They have become a sacrificial offering to the “beautiful life (美好生活)” policy unrolled at the 19th Party Congress. The existence of this class is incompatible with the “beautiful life” designated by the powers that be.

In addition, as the rising middle class has grown, so have internet industries such as courier and online sales services, changing the traditional urban landscape. Streets are filled with couriers, delivery trucks, and countless shared bikes. The expansion and instability of the new middle class has itself impacted many traditionally high-salaried industries and groups, including computer programmers and financial workers. Their temporary accommodations and shared housing arrangements also go against the notion of a “beautiful life” envisioned by the authorities.

By identifying the undesirable class of floating proletarian migrants and analyzing the Beijing government’s policy to “cleanse and reduce the low-end population,” we are bringing the state of this “non-citizenship” to the attention of the public and the international community. In Beijing and the rest of the country, this new and growing class of floating migrants who are “long-term temporary workers” is quietly altering China’s social class structure and urban landscape. They lack basic civil rights and the right of free movement into cities. Their unstable labor relations — that is, the obstacles caused by the backwardness of Chinese labor conditions and social security net — inform their unstable lifestyle that in itself poses a challenge to the urban space. Matters of household registration (户籍) aside, it is possible that this group of people will be used as an excuse for future discrimination and stratification by the state. This kind of stratification no longer entails the classic distinction between the modes of education and residence that once formed the gulf between proletariat and bourgeoisie.

In practice, recent years have seen Beijing’s poor move away from the old city quarters to the suburban districts at an accelerating rate as they search for economical housing, engendering a localized kind of class stratification.

A Genuinely ‘Dangerous Class,’ Perhaps

Placing ourselves in the aftermath of the 19th Party Congress, the net result of the authorities’ utopian designs for “a beautiful life (美好生活)” and hardline radical governance is a new kind of internal colonialism. Walls to maintain financial stability and to spatially isolate the new displaced class are being erected so as to guarantee what Cai Qi (蔡奇) calls “political security.” It is a reversal of the continuous breaking of social barriers during the 30-some years of reforms and opening up.

At the Davos World Economic Forum at the beginning of the year, China projected itself as the greatest proponent of globalization. Its arbiters are clearly taking a page from the statecraft of Li Hongzhang (李鸿章), a general and a diplomat of the late Qing Dynasty, whose Huai Army employed a fortress tactic to overcome the Nian rebels. In the same vein, firewalls are being erected everywhere. The tactic is being elevated to overall strategy: not only has the concept of internet sovereignty received heavy promotion; the “One Belt, One Road” is threatening to divide Europe. Meanwhile, in the United Nations, China has started proactively undermining the universal concept of human rights.

In the future, as Slavoj Žižek said in 2012, “to be exploited for the sake of holding of a long-term job is becoming a kind of privilege.” In the future, perhaps the only people allowed to live and work in Beijing will be elites and members of the new privileged class who accumulate a sufficient score in the new “social accreditation system.” Maybe there will be no more need for the display of state violence in the streets, which would be superseded by symbolic, big-data violence. This would be enough to ignite the increasingly intense class and spatial conflicts between the new displaced class and the mainstream class, creating human rights crises over and over again.

More Beijing refugees will likely be produced as a result of internal colonialism. At the same time, this new displaced class, in the course of repeated expulsions, could in theory find their self-consciousness and engage in independent societal grouping—becoming a genuinely “dangerous class.”

 

 

Dr. Wu Qiang (吴强) holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. He is a researcher of social movements and a freelance writer.

 


Also by Wu Qiang:

Liu Xiaobo: The Founder of China’s Political Opposition Movements, Wu Qiang, June 30, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Six Key Phrases to Construct Civil Society

Xu Zhiyong, November 19, 2017

 

Dr. Xu Zhiyong (许志永) was released on July 15, 2017 after serving four years for organizing social movements such as the New Citizen Movement and the equal education rights campaign.  He is a 44-year-old legal scholar, a pioneer of China’s rights defense movement, and a founders of the Open Constitution Initiative (Gong Meng 公盟) in 2003 which offers legal assistance to the disempowered and the wronged. — The Editors

 

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A recent photo of Xu Zhiyong.

 

After getting out of prison I discovered a pessimistic sentiment in many of my friends. Some of them fled China. Others said that the Chinese people aren’t worth saving. With this totalitarian surveillance state and its repressed people, it feels like history is running in reverse. But I’m an optimist at heart and I remain optimistic. I see that authoritarianism is actually weakening, while the strength of liberty and democracy is on the rise. More and more citizens have woken up.

The authoritarian ideology, once powerful beyond compare, is in rout. The last few years have seen challenges to economic growth and nationalism—the pillars of legitimacy in the age of reform and opening up [China’s economic and social reforms beginning in the 1980s]. The economy is in recession, and nationalism has met with setbacks in the Diaoyu Islands and along the Sino-Indian frontier. Confucianism and other aspects of traditional Chinese culture are incompatible with Communism. A privileged class predicated on profit is sure to be brittle and weak. As we can see from the example of Yuan Shikai (袁世凯),* rule by vested interests betrays the current of history. When the time comes, it collapses overnight.

China’s finances are in a bad way. The economy relies on a monetary policy of forced stimulation that has reached a dead end. Endless sums are created, lent, and spent on inefficient infrastructure investments, betraying the principles of economics and making financial crisis unavoidable. The split Party and civil administration are almost like a double government, the hierarchies are multitudinous, and the burden upon the people is among the highest in the world. State revenues decrease while the cost of maintaining stability rises rapidly. Just like the imperial dynasties in their final years, today’s financial situation is dire.

However, the biggest uncertainty comes from the central leadership. Chinese officials are unenthusiastic and shirk their responsibilities by deferring everything to orders from above. Totalitarian systems are doomed to grow weaker over the generations as factional compromise saps the regime’s core strength and places mediocrities in positions of power. Even if there is someone who wants to restore the old order, his efforts will lead nowhere. He is ridiculed, not revered, by the majority. The leader is the greatest uncertainty of the system and indeed of the entire country.

Meanwhile, society is marching forward. Private wealth is increasing. Technology is improving, the world is becoming one. Pro bono lawyers, entrepreneurs of social care, independent intellectuals, and victims of the powers-at-large, the number of awakened Chinese citizens has increased during these four years [while I was in prison].

But we are still relatively scattered. How to concentrate the powerful energy of civil society is an urgent task that demands our full responsibility.

What does China need most for its social transformation? A mature civil society. If there is a mature civil society, we will incur fewer costs and a beautiful future awaits. Revolution is not the design of any one individual. Our responsibility is not to knock down walls—though of course, living freely and candidly is equal to knocking down walls. It would be irresponsible for us to wait for change. Our responsibility lies in construction, constructing ourselves as a civil body.

Is civil society possible? There is space for it. The critical matter is what is to be done, how it is to be done, and to which degree. We need to be wise and methodical. To build civil society and unite those Chinese who seek democracy and constitutional rule on one platform, I offer six key phrases.

The citizen is a common identity. This identity conveys rich inner meanings of power and responsibility, it implies a society and nation of citizens. The day that 1.3 billion Chinese are citizens is the day that China is truly beautiful. To become genuine citizens is our present and final objective. More importantly, citizenship can be an identity—yours, mine, everyone’s common identity. We can’t say “you are democracy, I am democracy,” but we can say “you are a citizen, I am a citizen.” This concept has roots in China over a century old. It cannot be taken from us or censored. However fearful people may be in private, all can come out and say “I am a citizen.”

Freedom, Justice, and Love are our shared core values. These values ought to be the new height following freedom, equality, and fraternity, the desired values of a future society. Freedom is the true sovereignty of individual action and existence, its scope expands with the development of civilization. Justice means a fair and just society—its meaning is richer than the egalitarianism that was once applied to the stratified French society. It is a society with democracy, rule of law, and rational boundaries between individuals—each to his own, each to his ability, each is provided for. Love is more generous and profound than fraternity; it is the wellspring of life and happiness.

One day these will become the core values of Chinese civilization. They don’t come from our ancestors. The core values of France—liberté, égalité, fraternité—were not those of the nobility, they were created by the people of France during their great revolution. Creating Freedom, Justice, and Love is the struggle of our generation of Chinese. For our ancient people and their civilization, these values will usher in renaissance and take common root across all humanity.

Truth shall be the common guiding principle in our actions. To be a true citizen. To uphold the citizen’s identity, rights, and responsibilities. To uphold and proactively implement the freedoms and rights written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Chinese Constitution. Late-stage totalitarianism also preaches democracy and liberty, but it doesn’t really mean it. In its crowning absurdity, the core values of socialism have become sensitive phrases and subject to online censorship. We uphold these things. The truth is the ultimate deconstruction of lies and absurdity, and the greatest tool for building a beautiful China. The 1.3 billion Chinese need not take radical action. If they all took the rights contained in the Constitution seriously, China would change.

A Beautiful China is our common direction. The China of our dreams is not only beautiful, but also free, just, and happy. A beautiful China encompasses beauty, but even more so embodies deeper values of democracy, rule of law, and freedom. Freedom, Justice, and Love is our direction, it is our mission and glory. Ours shall be a beautiful country reborn on the land where authoritarianism reigned for thousands of years. This is our purpose in life.

Citizens are not an isolated circle. Say not “you citizens,” but “we citizens.” Do not reject the noble identity of citizen just because some unscrupulous people may appropriate this title. Lawyers, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, judges, civil servants, regardless of your wealth, social class, you are citizens. All us Chinese shall identity as citizens. We may not necessarily all eat at the same table, lawyers and entrepreneurs may have their own circles, but our identity is a common one—the citizen.

The force of liberal democracy must be united. The identity of “citizen” is the best platform and the most solid cornerstone. Regardless of your social status or group, we are working forward together to a common goal. Communities of citizens can rise in each region and every industry. Assemble together, stay in touch with current affairs, and when the timing is favorable, take steps to coordinate with each other, for example by meeting on the last Saturday of each month. When millions and millions of Chinese assemble with the same identity, the same core values, and discuss the fate of the country and the people, they will have begun to form a civil body.

Being a citizen and building civil society does not equal being under someone’s leadership or joining some organization, it means independently wanting to be a citizen among citizens. Citizens in different regions act autonomously and make progress of their own accord. A community of citizens and civil society is necessarily an organic development.

Being a citizen, especially being a community of citizens, means standing up to oppression. If you abandon your identity in the face of pressure and don’t even want to be a citizen anymore, then you will have nothing to show for it. As the common body that shows the way towards social progress, the only way to build strength is to experience oppression and learn from the experience. If even the simple act of a same city dinner gathering (同城聚餐) means suppression, so be it. But this requires our perseverance. When the days comes that we are not even allowed to eat, there is still no problem: just go on hunger strike for a day. Even better, everyone go on hunger strike for a day. Have faith: your identity as a citizen can withstand oppression. It cannot be taken away from you.

I earnestly beseech every one of my compatriots seeking democracy and liberty to know their identity as a citizen and its significance. Be a dignified and upright citizen together with those who share your ideals and ambition, discuss with them when you meet, follow current affairs, spread the citizen’s ideal, and uphold social justice. If you are entrepreneurs, you can seek like-minded friends among your business circles and gather as citizen entrepreneurs. If you are lawyers, you can seek the like-minded among your legal circles and gather as citizen lawyers. If you are judges, you can discover the like-minded and gather as citizen judges. You have common ideals regardless of your professional fields, your wealth, or status. Seek out and join hands with the citizens by your sides.

I am a citizen, we are citizens. This is a pious faith. This is our responsibility to an ancient people. This is the struggle of our generation of Chinese, its undertaking, and its glory.

 

Citizen Xu Zhiyong (许志永)
November 2017

 

*Yuan Shikai was a general of the former Qing Dynasty who manipulated China’s republican movement in an attempt to establish his own dictatorship. His actions contributed to the chaotic warlord era.

 

 


Related:

Who Is Xu Zhiyong — An Interview with Dr. Teng Biao, Part 1 of 2, April 10, 2014.

Who Is Xu Zhiyong — An Interview with Dr. Teng Biao, part 2 of 2, April 13, 2014.

The China Manifesto – detained activist Xu Zhiyong calls for end to ‘barbaric’ one party rule, January 23, 2014.