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Guo Yushan, September 22, 2016
On September 22, after nearly two years in detention and a trial in August, lawyer Xia Lin (夏霖), my friend, will finally face his sentence.
Whatever he’s been charged with, it’s clear to everyone that it was only because he defended me that he has been imprisoned, and suffered as he has to this day.
In May 2014, Xia Lin got dragged into a number of disputes because of his involvement in Pu Zhiqiang’s (浦志强) case. One day in mid June, me, Xia Lin, and Kaiping (黄凯平) were sharing drinks at Beijing Worker’s Stadium, lamenting Pu’s case. At a break in the conversation, Xia Lin suddenly said to me: “If you get sent to prison in the future, I’ll be your lawyer. I’ll fight your case publicly to the end and I’ll do whatever it takes.” I replied that, of course, if I’m thrown in jail, fight it by all means, fight it as you see fit, and you don’t have to worry about the consequences for me. That we concluded, with Kaiping as witness, raising our hands in toast and draining our cups.
Who’d have thought that the day would come so soon? Three months after the drinks at Worker’s Stadium, both Kaiping and I were taken into custody [in October 2014]. Xia Lin indeed defended me. A month later, he was also detained. In the time that followed I was bounced between three detention centers, while he was kept in the Beijing First Detention Center. A year later I was released on bail — but they kept him behind bars because he refused to supply a confession. Another year passed, and only now is he going to meet a verdict.
We’ve all paid the price we expected.
The price is bound to be exacted, given that we’ve chosen our stance toward this country since when we were young. Xia Lin made his choice in the flush of his youth, as part of the 1989 generation, choosing to go to Tiananmen Square, wearying his spirit in the struggle with his peers to improve this country. He again made his choice when he was a student at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law (西南政法学院), where he made an open vow never to be a lackey or collaborator with evil.
This he achieved. He never wavered from his course for 27 years. From Guizhou to Beijing, from a commercial lawyer to a human rights lawyer: the road of life he took became rockier and rockier, but more and more soul stirring.
As for the price of a life to be paid — Xia Lin, like me, is ready for it. He’s much more awake than I to the reality of how the system reacts, and its brutality.
Our lives have been interwoven together, as if by fate, from our first meeting in Mao Haojian’s (茅海建) course on modern Chinese history at Peking University. In 2004 after fellow students and I were surrounded on the Jingyuan Lawn on campus, where we protested [over the death of a female student], he came with law books and an attorney contract, walking around the lawn, always within reach. In 2008 during the Deng Yujiao case (邓玉娇案), he was in Badong County, Hubei, and I rushed there from Beijing to be a help to him.
In 2012, after I drove Chen Guangcheng to the American Embassy, Xia Lin sat in my study and combed through all the possible charges the authorities could resort to for reprisal, from “subversion of state power” to “illegal business operations.” He analyzed and whittled through them one by one. Two years later, when I found myself in prison, all that probing became precious legal experience.
We all know the fates we’ll come to assume in history. Both Xia Lin and myself, and so, so many of our colleagues, are all fated to be the stepping stones, the paving stones, for the age of the future. Accepting this humble place in history is our honor.
As for what lays ahead, we’ve not changed what has animated us from the beginning, and we won’t.
Whether we’re slandered or given heavy sentences — what surprise will it be in today’s China? When I was first arrested, I repeated to myself, and to the authorities, over and over again: If I were to be sentenced, one day will be the same as a decade. With Xia Lin, who is so proud, it’s the same.
The September 22 sentence might be, say, 11 years imprisonment, or it might be 2 years, but however many years it is, it will have had nothing to do with the law. This is our fate. We have no choice but to accept it.
Such is our world — so top up the goblet. On September 22 I’ll be outside the court with wine, waiting for the outcome. But for Xia Lin, for myself, for the judge Yi Daqing (易大庆), for the 101 Special Investigation Team assigned to my and Xia Lin’s case, this isn’t the conclusion. It’s just the beginning.
September 20, 2016
Guo Yushan (郭玉闪) was the head of the now disabled Transition Institute (传知行), an independent think tank in Beijing that advocates political and economic liberalization. Mr. Guo was one of the founders of the Open Constitution Initiative (Gong Meng公盟). He was detained in October 2014, tortured during detention, and released on bail in September 2015.
Also by Guo Yushan:
Civil Disobedience in Sodom – A Letter to Xu Zhiyong, August 10, 2013.
Zhao Xin, September 11, 2016
“Chinese state media spilled much ink on the “three factors” and “five main proposals” to demonize Hu Shigen, but avoided discussing Hu’s “three stage” roadmap to change. This is because if the 88 million Communist Party members hear about such a moderate and rational roadmap for transition, some of them may very well embrace it, leading to fissures within the ruling clique itself.”
From August 2 to 5, The Tianjin Intermediate People’s Court carried out a four-day so-called “open trial” against Hu Shigen (胡石根), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), and Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), where they were charged with subversion of state power. The first two were sentenced to 7.5 and 7 years of imprisonment, while the latter two were given suspended sentences. Their punishments were so severe, on evidence that was so rash and far-fetched, in a trial that was so expedited, that both foreign media and China watchers were outraged. The Chinese activist community called it Beijing’s version of the “Moscow show trials.”
The four were among the over 20 human rights lawyers and activists arrested in what’s known as the “709 incident” (referring to a rash of arrests on July 9, 2015). Over the past year they have been put through secret detentions and forced to “make statements” dismissing their own lawyers, while also being deprived visitation from them. After the four trials, not one of the victims lodged an appeal. In the following weeks and months, more lawyers and activists will be forced to perform the same farcical show trials.
However, one of the unintended products of the four trials in August is the discussion and dissemination of “Hu Shigen thought” and the “topple-the-wall movement,” thanks to the hysterical vilification of the veteran dissident. Immediately following the trials, Communist Party mouthpieces including Xinhua, People’s Daily, CCTV, and Legal Daily, published articles with headlines like “How Hu Shigen’s ‘Topple-the-Wall’ Theory Bewitches and Poisons the People’s Minds,” “Using the ‘Topple-the-Wall’ Theory to Subvert State Power,” “Instead of Repenting, Hu Shigen Sentenced for Trying to ‘Topple the Wall’,” and “Trying to ‘Topple the Wall’ But Only Toppling Himself.”
All of these were clear demonstrations that Hu Shigen was being tried and punished as a thought criminal. The concept of “toppling the wall” has been familiar to Chinese political activists for a long time already, but thanks to the Communist Party’s propaganda, many people who are afraid of politics, or afraid to ask about politics, are inquiring: What is Hu Shigen’s thinking? What is the ‘topple the wall’ movement?
As someone who has known and worked with Hu Shigen for 26 years, I’ve been asked many of these questions myself. In the following passages I will set down what I know about these questions, as a preliminary explication.
I. Hu Shigen’s ideas are the consensus for China’s peaceful transition to a constitutional democracy
During the show trials, the state media reported the following: “According to the testimony of multiple witnesses, this gathering (in an Anhui restaurant called Qi Wei Shao, 七味烧) was not a simple dinner party. Instead, it was a meeting for exchanging views and perfecting ideas about subverting state power, and for planning and implementing the overthrow of the socialist system. The gathering had a number of strict and set regulations, with clear, explicit topics for discussion about the subversion of state power, including a summary of the activities to subvert state power undertaken in 2014, and the secret conspiracy and plot for continued organization to subvert state power in 2015. The meetings also set forth systematic theories, methods, and steps for the subversion of state power, and these were also concrete acts by Hu Shigen and others to organize, plot, and carry out the subversion of state power.”
The activists were also accused of “widely spreading so-called ‘state transition’ and other subversive theories.”
In reality, the so-called “Hu Shigen thought” and so-called “state transition and other subversive theories” are no more than topics that have become a matter of widespread consensus in Chinese civil society about China’s peaceful transition to a constitutional democracy. The reason the Chinese authorities made such an implausible attempt to point out Hu Shigen’s “harmful thinking” was in order to leverage his status as a veteran of the democracy movement to make false charges against rights defense lawyers and human rights defenders, casting the peaceful attempts to defend civil rights and the rule of law as nefarious efforts to subvert state power. The goal, of course, is to strangle the rights defense movement of the last decade or so.
In the years since the June 4 massacre in 1989, China’s civil society has gone through different stages of political activism for change, and it has also reached a consensus that China needs a peaceful, rational and nonviolent transition, not a violent revolution, toward democracy; that rights defense should be based on the law (thus the role of lawyers came to the fore); and that a free and democratic constitutional republicanism, not a totalitarian dictatorship, is the future for China.
A component of this consensus is that the Communist Party could transform itself into a socialist party, or a democratic socialist party, participate in democratic elections, and that its officials could hold government offices. It could even, after laying down a clear roadmap for transition to a constitutional government, consider making the Communist Party itself a legal transitional ruler.
For all these reasons, it’s clear that this is a moderate, rational, and constructive consensus, and that it can guide Chinese society toward a broad and open road with the least risk, the lowest cost, and the greatest value, where there are no losers and only winners. But all this has been besmirched by a terrified dictatorship as “subversive thinking.”
II. The Three Factors (三个主要因素) and the Five Proposals (五个方案) for China’s Peaceful Transition to a Constitutional Democracy
Chinese state media have engaged in widespread and targeted criticism of the three factors and five proposals for China’s transition. The “three factors” refers to the three main forces needed to push forward China’s transition:
- A powerful citizenry: A mature civil society and a strong citizenry are the fundamentals for social progress;
- Splits in the ruling clique: Given that the Communist Party has previously produced types like Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang, it’s entirely possible that a catalyzing figure, like Chiang Ching-kuo or Boris Yeltzin, may yet emerge;
- The involvement of the international community: A hardline totalitarian regime is not in the interest of the world.
The Five Proposals include:
- Transition: That the transition to constitutional government be peaceful, steering clear of violence;
- Nation-building: That a democratic constitutional government system be established;
- Livelihood: The communists tax heavily but neglect the people, while maintaining massive bureaucratic institutions. Post-transition China will need to focus on education, healthcare, care for seniors, housing, welfare, and other aspects of the people’s livelihood;
- Rewards: All those who made contributions and sacrifices should be recognized through rewards, thus asserting a set of social values;
- Punishments: Reconciliation should be extended on the basis of truth and righteousness, while the obstinate criminals will be accorded punishments.
III. The Three-Stage Roadmap for Social Change
During the trial in Tianjin, Hu Shigen “confessed” the following: “On multiple occasions of citizen meal gatherings (同城饭醉) with lawyers and petitioners present, I talked about my concept of a ‘peaceful transition,’ in particular the ‘three main factors,’ ‘three stages (三个阶段),’ and ‘five proposals’ for transition. I inculcated these ideas in other people in order to achieve the goal of a ‘color revolution.’”
Chinese state media spilled much ink on the “three factors” and “five main proposals” to demonize Hu Shigen, but avoided discussing Hu’s “three stage” roadmap to change. This is because if the 88 million Communist Party members hear about such a moderate and rational roadmap for transition, some of them may very well embrace it, leading to fissures within the ruling clique itself.
The three stage roadmap for social progress that Hu Shigen proposed can be summarized as follows:
- The Phase of Enlightenment
The root of this enlightenment can be traced back to the enlightenment movement at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the early Republican Era. The Democracy Wall-era of Wei Jingsheng and others in the late 1970s was a continuation of this, with the most recent episode being the enlightenment of public intellectuals in the post-1989 era. While this enlightenment has not been completed over the last century, and faced brutal repression under communist rule, the ideas have not died. The importance of movements to enlighten and transform the thinking of the masses by spreading truth and common sense has been a consensus of all liberal Chinese citizens who favor democracy.
In 2004, when Hu Shigen was still serving out his 20-year sentence in prison for organizing political groups and activities shortly after the Tiananmen Massacre, I wrote an essay titled: “The Plight of Hu Shigen Is a Test of the Conscience of Every Chinese,” in which I quoted something he said to me during the post-June 4th white terror. He said (roughly): China doesn’t need heroics. What China needs is for every citizen to find a little conscience and courage inside themselves, a bit of public spiritedness and sense of civil responsibility. If everyone can think, beginning with themselves, to proactively get involved, then our country will definitely have hope and future.
This is what he ardently hoped for — and he practiced what he preached. Over the last few years he and Zhao Changqing (赵常青) and other like-minded people have steadily organized and expanded the same-city dinner gatherings across the country. They have met with threats and crackdown, but the activities remain alive among activists.
- The Rights Movement Phase
At the heart of civil consciousness and the development of non-government citizen organizations, is the struggle and defense of citizens’ rights. This includes economic rights, political rights, cultural rights, religious rights, and personal rights.
The Communist Party claims that it’s the vanguard of the working class, and that its political base is an alliance of workers and peasants. But the greatest irony is that, given that the Chinese economy is an oligarchy and reforms are rudderless, those harmed the most by China’s vested interest groups have been workers, peasants, and urbanites.
So where is the social base for those in favor of constitutional democracy? Where is the breathing room for this opposition group to survive? Which groups should those committed to China’s social advancement represent? This is what Hu Shigen thinks, and it’s also the consensus of China’s rights defense community: we need to rupture the authorities’ plan to marginalize us, and also the tendency to marginalize ourselves. We defend everyone’s rights, be they workers, farmers, city-dwellers, businessmen, military officials, intellectuals, religious believers, victims of forced sterilization, the elderly, and those demanding equal education and healthcare. In the final analysis, if one has no political rights, then one has no right to other rights. A system of constitutional democracy is for safeguarding all lawful rights of every Chinese citizen.
As early as 1991, again since his release in 2008, Hu Shigen emphasized repeatedly: rights defense is the greatest enlightenment. Every citizen should help to defend the rights of everyone from every strata who has been harmed, and use every rational and reasonable means to do so. Only by completely disintegrating the Communist Party’s social base and undermining its foundation can the temple of constitutional democracy be constructed.
That is the “Topple the Wall” theory.
- The Truth and Reconciliation Phase
How will a post-democratic transition China treat the 88 million Communist Party members and their families? This is a massive social constituency. If they have no future, China has no future — because they’ll form the greatest obstruction to social progress. Absorbing and reconciling with them, thereby reducing as much as possible the obstacles to peaceful transition, needs to be at the forefront of our work.
Hu Shigen was determined to learn from the examples of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, who advocated a truth and reconciliation movement in their country. At an appropriate time in the future it will be necessary to carry out the same process in China. Just as Archbishop Tutu said: If there is no truth, there can be no justice, and if there is no forgiveness there can be no future.
Hu Shigen remarked on many occasions that since the social transition in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Chinese Communist Party has been needlessly terrified and anxious about a future peaceful transition to constitutional democracy in China. The reason, as Hu said during that Qi Wei Shao dinner, is because the social transformation of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe demonstrated one principle very clearly: as long as Communist Party officials aren’t “blinded by their Party nature so much that they sacrifice their lives for it,” and as long as they mobilize when the time is right and become a force for social progress and not an obstruction, then they will have made a great contribution to the future constitutional democracy. Whether the Chinese Communist Party re-organizes itself to become the Chinese Socialist Party, or the Socialist Democratic Party, current party members will be in a relatively better position to play a larger role in every aspect of Chinese society to promote positive changes.
According to statistics, following the social transition of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, as many as 95 percent of the key social positions, with the massive social resources those posts commanded, were still held by former Communist Party members. Hu Shigen joked about this: There are golden bricks in the Berlin Wall — we’re just waiting for the Chinese Yeltsin. In the future, China is bound to produce minor and major “Yeltsins,” guiding the China’s transition to constitutionalism.
Twenty six years ago, Hu Shigen declared before me: Sitting around and waiting for freedom is a poor cousin to getting up and fighting for it. Twenty six years later in the Qi Wei Shao restaurant in Beijing, Hu Shigen is said by communist mouthpiece media to have made the following rousing declaration before his colleagues: “It’s better to mount a rebellion than wait to be shot.”
August 11, 2016
Zhao Xin (赵昕) is a student leader in 1989 and one of the earliest rights movement activist. After years of being blocked from traveling overseas, he was able to leave China recently and relocate to San Francisco. This article was written for China Change.
Chinese state media sources:
China Sentences Hu Shigen, Democracy Advocate, to 7 Years in Prison, the New York Times, August 3, 2016.
Hu Shigen: The Prominent Yet Obscure Political Prisoner, Ren Bumei, August 2, 2016.
China Change, September 1, 2016
Human rights cannot be treated as a stand-alone issue anymore.
President Obama is going to China again, this time to attend the G-20 summit on September 4 and 5 in Hangzhou. Every time the President, the National Security Adviser, or the Secretary of State visits China, or every time Chinese leaders visit the U.S., human rights organizations and activists, inside and outside China, take it as an opportunity for change, asking the President or the senior leaders to pressure the Chinese government for human rights improvements, and to raise a number of individual cases.
To be sure, the administration makes an effort to hear from activists and NGOs. Just two days ago, for instance, National Security Advisor Susan Rice met with Chinese human rights advocates in the White House to hear about a range of human rights violations, and their specific requests.
The American leaders and high level officials do raise concerns and express their disappointment at the human rights situation in China. They raise specific cases and names, and sometimes that leads to better treatment in jail for persecuted Chinese citizens.
But overall, American concern and pressure have made little impact; all these dialogues and conversations, private or public, have produced few results. The human rights situation and the rule of law in China have steadily deteriorated.
The frustration in Washington, D.C. is palpable. From White House to Capitol Hill to the State Department, the prevalent sentiment seems to be that “we can’t influence the Chinese,” or “we have too many fish to fry with the Chinese and we need their cooperation.”
We at China Change are not surprised that nothing works. Nor are we surprised that people are sinking into self-defeatist propositions.
All evidence considered, we believe that the problem is that the U. S. has never put the money where its mouth is – it has not had a human rights policy toward China.
That’s right: we are not urging the U. S. to reconsider its human rights policy toward China; we are urging it to actually get one:
Human rights cannot be treated as a stand-alone issue anymore. U.S. officials talk about it with their counterparts in China. If it yields something, great; if it doesn’t, “Oh well, let’s move on.” When human rights is cordoned off from other issues, this is what happens: it allows both sides to make pro forma statements and then go on to other matters.
It can’t go on like this anymore. Human rights must be integrated with, and linked to, and leverage on, other engagements. How? That’s something the U. S. government needs to figure out.
The U. S. has to set clear human rights benchmarks for China according to international human rights standards. It is one thing to say that human rights issues are important to the U.S., but quite another to demonstrate that unequivocally. With no benchmarks to meet and with no consequences to be felt, why should the Chinese care about what the U. S. says? In fact, why do they even believe you really mean it? Maybe you don’t mean it as much as you say you do.
Human Rights Watch has for years urged democracies around the world to set human rights benchmarks in their interactions with China (here, here, and here), and their recommendations have fallen on deaf ears.
Human rights, rule of law, and the development of civil society in China are national security issues for the U. S. The fact that the U. S. is leaving them loose and dealing with them haphazardly is hurting its own interests.
The U. S.–China relationship has been experiencing difficulties, and it’s only going to get worse for a very simple reason: once you scrape away the bare surface of the relationship, you will find that every single problem the U. S. has with China is in fact a human rights problem!
The lack of human rights and rule of law in China is what makes much of China an ill-informed region with a population manipulated with false information, rife with negative ideas and attitudes about the U. S. and the outside world. Such deliberate disinformation and agitation (which China is exporting beyond its borders) has real consequences.
The threat that a totalitarian China poses to the U.S. and world peace goes far beyond disinformation, and surely the national security advisers to the President know that very well. Or, do they?
Speaking today at an environmental summit about combating climate change, President Obama said, “It won’t happen if we just pay lip service to conservation but then refuse to do what’s needed.” The same applies to dealing with human rights in China.
As far as human rights are concerned, we don’t expect President Obama’s meeting with the Chinese will be any different from his other meetings with them over the past eight years, because we believe that any meaningful work has to start from here, in Washington, D.C., and other capitals of the free world.
It has to start from real leadership at home.
André Gattonlin, Marie Holzman, and Noël Mamère, July 18, 2016
This is a translation of Donnons le prix Sakharov à un intellectuel ouïghour published in the French newspaper Libération on July 14, 2016. – The Editors
The Sakharov Prize is awarded every year in October, to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The award, which was created in 1985 by the French MP Jean-François Deniau, may well be awarded this year to an Uighur intellectual who was sentenced in 2014 to life in prison. It turns out that this professor from Minzu University (University for Nationalities) in Beijing had been discovered in 2008 by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was invited to spend a week in France under a program called “Personalities of the Future.” This project gave civil society actors under 35 years of age from around the world the opportunity to meet personalities of their choice in order to sharpen their knowledge of the workings of our country.
Since these “Personalities of the Future” were also chosen for their moral qualities, it is not surprising that many of them, including Ilham Tohti, chose to meet with organizations made up of human rights defenders, or representatives from the legal world or from trade unions. In other words, France invited people who might carry far and wide the universal values for which our country is proud to be a beacon.
This is what Ilham Tohti has tried to do. Having received an excellent education in Uighur as well as in Chinese, he had the rare privilege of being able to become a university professor in Beijing and to provide education in economics and geopolitics. His pedagogical gifts, the strength of his arguments and the breadth of his views quickly made him a charismatic teacher whose courses, taught in Chinese, were avidly followed by his Uighur students as well as by Han, Mongolian, and Tibetan students, among others. He expanded his circle by creating a site, Uighur Online, from which he conveyed constructive suggestions aimed at those active in China’s political and economic life, with the purpose of improving the situation in Xinjiang, the far west Chinese province, which is the cradle of the Uighur ethnic group and which joins together eight million people in the interior of China.
However, since September 11, 2001, and the subsequent worldwide struggle against terrorism, the Uighurs have become a favorite target of the Chinese government which accuses them of all evils: fundamentalism, Islamism, and terrorism. The new anti-terrorism law, passed on December 27, 2015, has simply added one more layer to this. While the counter-productive and repressive strategies regarding ethnic groups—such as Tibetans and Uighurs—have so far raised tensions between Han and non-Han ethnic groups, via torture, imprisonment, extrajudicial killings and the heavy-handed policing of even the most peaceful demonstrations supporting religious or cultural identity, the Chinese government has found nothing better to do than to sentence to life imprisonment, under the pretext of “separatism,” one of the only Uighur intellectuals who had attempted, by any means, to find common ground for cooperation between Uighurs and Hans.
46 years old, Ilham Tohti has already received several awards, including the Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award from the PEN American Center in 2014. World leaders have protested his conviction as unfair. It is time for French public opinion to take up his case: by dint of discussing the harm done by ISIS or Boko Haram, we’ve come to forget that certain Muslim citizens could make a difference and bring peace to a world torn by hatred and xenophobia. Ilham Tohti is certainly one among them. His place is not in the No. 1 Detention Center in Urumqi in Xinjiang. The Sakharov Prize would be both a tribute and a message of hope sent to an innocent victim of the ruthless dictatorship of Chinese President Xi Jinping. It is up to the European Deputies to rouse themselves on his behalf!
André Gattonlin is a French senator. Marie Holzman is the President of Solidarité Chine. Noël Mamère is a deputy of the National Assembly. This op-ed was translated from the French by Elliot Sperling, Professor Emeritus of Eurasian Studies, Indiana University.
Essential readings about Ilham Tohti:
My Ideals and the Career Path I Have Chosen by Ilham Tohti, 2011.
Present-Day Ethnic Problems in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region: Overview and Recommendations (downloadable PDF) by Ilham Tohti, 2011-2013.
Voice of America Interview with Uyghur Professor Ilham Tohti, November, 2013.
Ilham Tohti, a 30-minute Documentary , October, 2015.
A Short Introduction to Ilham Tohti, 2016 (downloadable PDF)
America and Europe’s Failure in Securing the Release of Lawyers and Activists in Connection With the ‘709 Incident’
Jiang Tianyong, July 17, 2016
Recently I’ve been thinking: Leading up to 1949, the Chinese Communist Party had been able to steadily grow its strength partly because of the United States. And a major reason the Party has become the disruptive and powerful giant it is today is because of the greed and appeasement of the United States, Europe, and other Western countries.
This became particularly clear with regard to the “709 Crackdown” last year, when the new communist boss, “Xitler,” directed a massive campaign of arrests in just a few days, targeting the most influential and active human rights lawyers and activists. As the only country with the actual leverage to exert pressure on the Communist Party (leverage being only one of the many reasons to speak out), the United States failed to do so in a forceful and timely manner. This is due to an opportunistic approach to the Communist Party, which favors policies of appeasement and prioritizes trade above all else. Thus, it appeared that President Obama, looking forward to “Xitler” visiting the United States, was afraid to anger the regime and lose out on business and other deals. If Obama could think of anything else but trade and empty rhetoric — if he could truly consider for a moment the value of liberty and human rights — then he ought to be able to think of the real, living people like Hu Shigen (胡石根) and Li Heping (李和平), both of whom are recipients of awards by the National Endowment for Democracy; Wang Yu (王宇), a prominent female lawyer that Hillary Clinton and other politicians have repeatedly mentioned, and Zhou Shifeng (周世锋). He’d then work hard at making sure these people are freed!
Xi Jinping’s trip to the United States last September would have been the absolutely perfect opportunity. Right then, “Xitler” had placed great importance on the trip to America, and desperately needed it to be a success. At the same time, those who had been detained were merely “disappeared” — they hadn’t been formally arrested, and so, under pressure, it would have been easy for the regime to release them without losing face. It’s entirely possible that the 709 Incident could have had the same outcome as the 2011 Jasmine Movement, where the majority of those extralegally abducted and disappeared were ultimately released.
Grumbling about it now doesn’t do much good, given that the perfect opportunity to rescue the lawyers was lost last September during the Xi Jinping and Obama summit. But there is no reason for the U. S. and Europe to miss the next opportunity: the G20 Summit in Beijing this year.
However, we are witnessing with deep regret that this important opportunity is now also slipping away, an opportunity that will not be in a long time to come, if it hasn’t been lost already.
Precious time for rescuing the 709 detainees has been lost. Now that the CCP has suffered a defeat on the South China Sea issue, they’re stepping up anti-Western propaganda domestically. It’s at this juncture that they began to process the “709” cases, indicting the four on July 15. Thus, pressure at the G20 Summit to release the lawyers has already lost much of its force.
A great misfortune is happening in front of our eyes.
The 709 Incident is now heading in the worst possible direction: it has been handled in a black box manner, the trials will be secret, and these pioneering advocates of peaceful social progress will be given heavy prison sentences. The consequences are extremely severe for all stakeholders.
For Xi Jinping, he has completely lost both the opportunity and qualification to lead China’s future transition to a constitutional democracy. All he can do now is continue down the path toward greater totalitarianism and dictatorship. He should thank the heavens if he’d be given a dignified trial in the future — more likely he’ll be lynched by an angry mob, venting its fury as the regime collapses, like Gaddafi.
For the Chinese people, the terrible denouement of the 709 Incident will be a heavy blow to their confidence and psyche. It will trigger a new wave of exiles; it will make a portion of peaceful resisters reconsider their means, methods, and strategies of protest; and it will suck all hope from the bullied and humiliated masses on the bottom rungs of society. As the economy continues to deteriorate, there will be a large number of people who lose their jobs, feeling angry and trapped. More frightening is the fact that this disenfranchised population has already lost its peaceful and rational leadership, all of whom have been jailed or forced into exile. In the end, China’s peaceful path toward the future has just become that much more difficult.
At that point, will a China that is absent peaceful and rational leadership be in the interests of the United States and Europe? Who can say that the crazed, xenophobic, and lawless Xitler and Communist Party won’t start on the path toward a new Third Reich?
The United States and Europe will suffer the consequences of their greed and myopia for years to come.
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) is a Chinese human rights lawyer based in Beijing. Due to his taking on politically sensitive cases, including those of Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, petitioners, and others, he has had his license to practice law cancelled. In 2011 he was taken into custody by Chinese security forces for two months, during which time he was tortured. He was also briefly detained in the recent crackdown.
After Four Detainees of the ‘709 Incident’ Are Indicted, Chinese State Media Name Foreign News Organizations, a US Congressman, & Three Embassies in Beijing as ‘Foreign Anti-China Forces’, July 15, 2016
Six Months On, An Assessment of the July 9 Arrest of Lawyers in China, Ji Dunhuang, January 28, 2016
From China, Messages to President Obama Before Xi Jinping’s Visit (2), Jiang Tianyong, September, 2015.
China’s Shattered Dream for the Rule of Law, One Year On, Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 8, 2016.
Translated from Chinese by China Change.
Gao Zhisheng, July 14, 2015
The legal profession is weak under the tyrannical Chinese Communist Party, yet there has been no lack of individual lawyers who stick to the law and principles. Because of their profession, lawyers witness or experience countless incidents of injustice or suppression bred by the cruel system itself. As the saying goes, the great waves sift the sand. In the face of this injustice and suppression, most lawyers simply try to get on with their lives. Some, acting as puppets, even join forces with the tyrants for selfish gains. But there is one group who instead have developed the towering wish to change the fate of the Chinese nation and people, and shoulder the special historic role of relieving the country of its current, heavy yoke. My friends, lawyers Li Heping (李和平) and Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), are firmly in the latter group.
Li Heping is considered a moderate in the Chinese legal community, and he has a wide circle of friends. He is a good friend of mine whom I have known for a long time, and one of the Chinese lawyers I’ve had the most interactions with. Given that our frequent interactions occurred when the authorities were terrorizing and devastating myself and my family, his association with me made him more of a threat in the eyes of the authorities.
In 2007, the same personnel that subjected me to torture and ill-treatment also abducted and savagely beat Li Heping, simply as a way of retaliating against him for his insistence on visiting me.
The deepest impression he left me with was how he was always so full of vigor, participating in nearly every gathering held by colleagues. Amid sharp disputes, he would be smiling and watching from the sidelines. Even when he himself was attacked, he was always able to mitigate the often emotional confrontation, and he could always be relied upon for insightful criticism or an opposing viewpoint. He is mild, rational, and compassionate. The two of us worked on a series of high-profile cases in early 2000s, including the appeal of Mr. Yang Zili (杨子立) , and the forced expropriation of private oil fields in northern Shaanxi province. I teased him whenever we met, and he always just laughed, never returning a blow. We became the best of friends despite our opposite temperaments.
I’d said on different occasions previously: if and when the mild-mannered Li Heping is arrested, the darkest days in China will have arrived, and the dawn for a new China will also be around the corner.
Most outsiders think that I’m the first Chinese lawyer to take on Falun Gong persecution cases — but that’s not so. Before me, Wang Quanzhang had already begun to help those kind-hearted victims.
The head of Beijing’s secret police in 2010 once suddenly asked me: “This fellow Wang Quanzhang, do you know him?” This was a clear sign that the Communist Party already saw him as trouble.
Wang Quanzhang and I only met once. In April 2006 when I was kidnapped by the Party’s thugs, there were strong calls of protest in a number of cities that left a deep impression on me. Among them was the Shenzhen policeman Wang Dengchao, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012; the police officer surnamed Wei in Xi’an (I don’t know his later fate); and also Wang Quanzhang.
Quanzhang was practicing in Jinan, Shandong, at the time, and he rushed to Beijing, to the Xiaoguan Police Station in my neighborhood, to demand my release. Quanzhang was the only person I met with then, and it was our only meeting. He was intelligent, dashing, and had an understated yet firm and direct style of speech, a manifestation of his internal righteousness. I exhorted him: following my path will endanger your life. He laughed and said: “However stupid I am, I know that much.” All these years later, I still remember those words.
As a Falun Gong practitioner from Shandong, who had come to Beijing to petition, put it, Wang was a good, brave, and compassionate man. He had many Falun Gong friends who’ve been victims of persecution, and has all along quietly worked to give succor to that kind-hearted group of practitioners who’ve suffered barbaric political violence. This is in fact how we came to be friends, and develop such regard for one another.
When Quanzhang came to Beijing to practice law, I was struggling with the government thugs and couldn’t meet. But every time I thought of him, I wondered: for a kind and just soul like him, it’s only a matter of time before he’s ensnared in the prison of the Communist Party. I knew how much suffering this would bring to his daughter and wife, Li Wenzu (李文足), and this pained me.
Regarding the unlawful “709 incident,” I recently heard an interesting comment: “Since the crackdown, there have been no discordant views in China, but how long this quietude will last is hard to say.” I told my interlocutor: Silence is just the other face of turmoil, a different read of what’s brewing.
Silence means a dead world — but for idiotic dictatorships, it’s a dream world.
Using coercion and violence at every turn is the clearest proof of the savagery, fatuousness, incompetence, and failure of the rulers. Apart from simply adding to the long list of sins and crimes, they’re also further isolating themselves from the civilized, law-abiding world. At the same time, they’re engendering further resistance to their rule by committing crimes against humanity, again and again. They will gain nothing from their despicable acts.
A stubborn fixation on stopping dawn’s arrival is not only foolish, but also destined to fail.
This new emperor, splashing money around the world, is only succeeding in ingratiating himself with a few people in and outside of China who’re happy, for now, to praise him to the heavens. But the reality is that normal people are simply astonished at the complete lack of understanding he demonstrates of the true complexity and multifacetedness of human society; his intellectual quotient seems to be less than that of Kim Jong-un.
Just as with all the techniques of stupid dictators, they’re only considering what’s in front of them, and not what lies ahead — they’re simply trying to get out of the current trouble, but not thinking of fundamental resolutions to the problems. There’s no consideration for the disaster that inevitably approaches. This is the tragic end common to all dictators.
Obsessively, they demand conformity among the people, and that is what most of daily conflicts are about. In a world in which everything is the same, one small deviation seems to offend the eyes, bringing down the fury of suppression, and even the impulse to eliminate.
One of Napoleon’s subjects once told him: “My Lord, you can do anything you like with bayonets, except sit on them.”
It’s one year on since the large scale of crackdown on lawyers, but the government has not succeeded in subjugating the rights defense community. The opposite is true. China’s arrogant rulers have further entrenched themselves in a war against the basic values of civilization, and are edging ever closer to their own collapse. Like a reckless gambler with nothing to lose, everything they’re doing simply brings them nearer to that inevitable fate.
Alexis de Tocqueville believed that lawyers, as a collective, were if not the only force to bring an equilibrium to democracy, at least the strongest force able to do so.
Of the 52 signatories to the “Declaration of Independence,” 25 were lawyers. Of the 55 representatives in the meetings held to draft the U.S. constitution, 34 were lawyers. Of all U.S. presidents in history, over half have been lawyers. In all civilized societies of the world today, lawyers with proper training and character are active in affairs of state and almost all important segments of society, fighting for the best outcomes in politics, rule of law, and social issues.
The liberty accorded to, and level of development of, the legal profession is a reflection of the overall degree of civilization of a nation. The history of all communist regimes on earth have shown clearly that they are the mortal enemies of normal politics, rule of law, and other universal values. As a profession that arises from civilized justice systems, lawyers have never been tolerated by communist regimes — this is clear through history. Recognizing this obvious historical phenomenon requires seeing clearly two pre-conditions: the first is that totalitarian regimes cannot accept the rule of law; the second is that communist regimes are fundamentally totalitarian. Failing to understand either of these statements always results in confusion.
After 1978, the Chinese communists came up with a trick that has fooled the world: “reform and opening up.” The rest of the world seems to have really been taken in by this, as the communists don Western suits and leather shoes, conning their way into the international community of civilized nations. The legal profession in China was originally meant to be a mere showpiece, an indication of how confident they are in their ability to control and deceive. But there were some lawyers that didn’t appreciate this, and refused to go along with it. This is a major inconvenience for the Party, and so in the end they couldn’t stop themselves from openly attacking the rights lawyers, using all of their scurrilous means and shocking the world.
History always records, honestly and diligently, just as it always punishes the evildoers in the end.
The 709 arrests add to a long list of atrocities following the Tiananmen Massacre and the brutal persecution of Falun Gong. These barbaric abusers of human rights will be brought to justice, one by one, in special courts after 2017*.
In the village, June 28, 2016.**
*Gao Zhisheng believes that the Chinese communist regime will fall in 2017.
**With permission from Geng He, wife of Gao Zhisheng, the translation does not include the two beginning paragraphs that are out of date. The essay has been edited.
China’s Shattered Dream for the Rule of Law, One Year On, a statement by the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 8, 2016.
The ‘709 Incident:’ some testimony from the human rights lawyer community, by Eva Pils, July 8, 2016.
Save Gao Zhisheng, by Yaxue Cao, August 15, 2014.