China Change

Home » Posts tagged 'Xie Wenfei'

Tag Archives: Xie Wenfei

The Southern Street Movement: China’s Lonely Warriors

By Mo Zhixu, April 13, 2016

“When the Southern activists stood amidst heavy traffic and photographed themselves holding placards of protest, the feeling it gives is a little surreal….”

 

Xie Wenfei

Xie Wenfei

On April 8, 2016, after a year and half in detention, two activists arrested in 2014 for holding banners on the streets of Guangzhou in support of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement—Wang Mo (王默) and Xie Wenfei (謝文飛, real name Xie Fengxia 謝豐夏)—were sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment by the Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court. In addition, they will be deprived of political rights for three years. On the same day Zhang Shengyu (張聖雨, real name Zhang Rongping 張榮平), who held a placard in support of the Hong Kong students, was sentenced to four years.

That all three were convicted of “inciting subversion of state power” is no surprise. During the trial last November, Wang Mo and Xie Wenfei not only shouted pro-freedom slogans in court, but their defense statements were upfront, and were disseminated widely online. About them was none of the oft-seen attempts to depoliticize their stance, or hide their positions; instead, each man voiced their ideals openly and directly. In doing that, they represented the ethos of today’s new wave of activists.

Xie Wenfei, Wang Mo, and Zhang Shengyu all recognize themselves, and are recognized by others, as members of the “Southern Street Movement” (南方街頭運動). This “movement” sprung up in the last few years, and has a distinct character: It contains a thoroughgoing opposition to the political system, promulgating slogans like “abandon one-party dictatorship” and “establish a democratic China.” Further, the Southern Street Movement doesn’t focus on interacting with the regime as a path to change, but instead directly appeals to the people. The movement treats itself as a match, attempting to set ablaze a conflagration of mass protests across the country and thus activating a comprehensive transformation. For all these reasons, the movement is often seen as a radical form of political opposition.

Political opposition movements have always been around in mainland China, despite the ever-present threat of harsh crackdowns by the dictatorship. After 1989, there was the Liberal Democratic Party (自由民主黨) in 1992, the secret campaign to organize the Social Democracy Party (社會民主黨), the campaign to openly form the China Democratic Party (中國民主黨) in 1998, the joint signature campaign around Charter 08 in 2008, and so on. All of these movements are deeply tied to the 1989 student movement, and carried on the basic demands of the 1989 student movement: among the chief demands has always been to call for a full re-evaluation of the historical incidents in China—referring to previous political campaigns like the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the massacre of students—and to make known the truth of history. The key representatives in this movement had often participated in the student movement and other democratically-inclined protests. Because of all this, these post-89 groups are seen as opposition movements led by elites who rebelled  against the system from which they had come.

南周抗议2

Voicing support for the Southern Weekend, January 2013.

In contrast, the Southern Street Movement was only in its embryonic stages a few years ago in Guangzhou. Most of its membership was composed of new social classes: entrepreneurs, small business owners, laborers. So the movement came to have about it a genuine grassroots feel, and it demonstrated new mechanisms in which democratic movements can take rise. Specifically, it was the incursion of free markets that augmented the formation of these new social classes—but they found that the fruits of their own innovation were systematically robbed from them, that their basic rights as citizens had been stripped away, and that any attempts to demand their rights or benefits would be met with total suppression.

It was the recognition that they were being systematically deprived of their rights and interests that became fertile soil for a tendency toward opposition among this newly formed population. New social classes empowered by markets are able to readily apprehend that there exists between them and the political system a vast and deep chasm of opposing interests. It’s no accident that the movement sprung from Guangdong, the most fertile ground for the new social classes.

While the 1989 student movement and subsequent political movements were inspired by ideals and historical memory, the Southern Street Movement makes a clear break from that in the guiding ethos of its resistance: it’s a new creature brought about by contemporary circumstances. In an information-rich age, the movement didn’t have a design; instead it learned from many popular civil society movements over the last decade or so. Like other movements that sprung up around the same time, such as the New Citizens Movement (新公民運動), the Southern activists would hold periodic events like “criminal feasts” (飯醉; the Chinese term literally means “eat and drink” but is a homophone for “commit a crime”), or organize flash mobs, or get on Twitter and QQ groups to transmit their message to the people. Clearly, in the face of a “stability maintenance” system that becomes more harsh by the day, the Southern activists’ stance and mobilization tactics were bound to meet with suppression. And this is precisely what has happened: it was attacked from the very beginning, and the brutal clean-up operations against Southern members continues to this day.

Due to the zero-tolerance policy toward dissent by the authorities, most people have never even heard of political opposition, whether it’s the Southern Street Movement or otherwise. Meanwhile, its stance of total opposition to the government, and plans for thorough political transformation, actually differ quite significantly from mainstream liberal thought.

What the mainstream liberals really hope for is that liberal developments take place from within the system, to arrive at a gradual transformation via a kind of dialogue with the regime. Thus, they’re more apt to recognize and support the more restrained and gradualist agenda of the New Citizens Movement, and not the radical approach of the Southern Street Movement. For all this, since the birth of the Southern movement till today, it has not only needed to face down attacks by the regime but also survive in the absence of any support from mainstream liberals. It’s been a lonely struggle all along. Wang Mo and others have engaged in lengthy disputes with liberals on Weibo about this.

广州举牌

Demonstration in Guangzhou on March 30, 2012.

Though the Southern activists like to see themselves as a match that lights a fire, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that, in the face of a neo-totalitarian system that is strengthening its power by the day, this agenda is too simplistic. The regime has ample resources and means of identifying and weeding out activists. On the eve of the recent court judgement, for instance, due to suspicions that there would be protests on the day, Guangzhou police mounted a sudden raid on over a dozen activists while they while were eating dinner together. They were all given a criminal summons and several of them were forcibly escorted back to the place of their household registration.

Just as the New Citizens Movement went quiet after being hit with an intense and rapid succession of crushing blows in 2013, the Southern movement will likely also be forced to give in as the Party’s continuous siege drags on. Nevertheless, the conflicts and antagonisms between the marketized neo-totalitarian system and the people are only escalating, and one match could very well spark a blaze. The sacrifices of the Southern activists may come to nil, but they can’t be said to be mistaken.

When the Southern activists stood amidst heavy traffic and photographed themselves holding placards of protest, the feeling it gives is a little surreal: one struggles to understand how those strolling past maintain their indifference, or how the action fails to gain more support and attention online. It invites curiosity, and makes one wonder how grassroots activists like Xie Wenfei, Wang Mo, and Zhang Shengyu, maintain such firm conviction, such extraordinary courage, to not only resist blows from the dictatorship, but also withstand glaring indifference.

Perhaps this is inseparable from their own experiences: their deep recognition that their opposition to the unfairness of the system is right and correct, and that the goals they pursue are legitimate and indisputable. All this is what sustains them and allows these lonely warriors to light up our age.

 

Mo Zhixu (莫之许), pen name of Zhao Hui (赵晖), is a Beijing-based Chinese dissident intellectual and a frequent contributor of Chinese-language publications known for his incisive views of Chinese politics and opposition. He is the co-author of “China at the Tipping Point? Authoritarianism and Contestation” in the January, 2013, issue of Journal of Democracy.

—————

Related:

Guangzhou Activists Sentenced to Jail After Backing Hong Kong Protests, the New York Times, April 8, 2016.

Grassroots Activist Tells Court: I Committed No Crime Trying to Subvert the Communist Regime, Wang Mo, November 22, 2015.

The Southern Street Movement, China Change, October, 2013.

China activists push limits, protest dictatorship, AFP, December, 2013.

 

Also by Mo Zhixu on China Change:

China’s Future: Unstable and Unsettled

The Glory and Suffering of Pu Zhiqiang

Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers

The Coming Information Totalitarianism in China

 

 

Grassroots Activist Tells Court: I Committed No Crime Trying to Subvert the Communist Regime

By Wang Mo, published: November 22, 2015

On October 3, 2014, Chinese activists Xie Wenfei (谢文飞, a.k.a. Xie Fengxia 谢丰夏), and Wang Mo (王默, real name Zhang Shengyu 张圣雨) held banners in the streets of Guangzhou, expressing support for the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong. They were arrested the same evening and indicted on May 12, 2015, for “inciting subversion of state power.” On Nov. 19, Wang Mo was tried in a Guangzhou court (Zhang had been tried separately a week earlier.) Verdicts in both trials are pending. Following is an abbreviated translation of Wang Mo’s defense. The translation remains unauthorized because permission could not be secured from the writer. – The Editors

 

Outside the court in Guangzhou - trial of Wang Mo and Xie Wenfei. Photo: @zouxingtong

Outside the courthouse in Guangzhou – trial of Wang Mo and Xie Wenfei. Photo: @zouxingtong

Decades ago Chinese Communist Party, crying slogans about opposing corruption, opposing dictatorship, and pursuing liberty and democracy, subverted the Nationalist regime of the Republic of China and drove the Nationalist government to Taiwan. The Republic of China was then split into two countries: the Mainland and Taiwan, and the Republic of China [as it was known] was no more.  

I was charged with the crime of “inciting subversion of state power” and found myself a defendant in the court simply because I held a banner in support of Occupy Central in Hong Kong. I have no idea what logical or causal connection there is between a simple banner and inciting the subversion of state power.

Common sense tells me that as long as the state exists, a state regime will exist. Only if a country is invaded, defeated, annexed, or split apart by foreign invaders could its regime really be said to have been subverted. Hong Kong is part of China, and all that Hong Kong people want through their protests is universal suffrage, based on one-person one-vote, for the election of the city’s chief executive, and greater freedom. All these are stipulated in the constitution as the rights of citizens, and protected by the law. From afar in Guangzhou I held a banner to express my support for the Hong Kongers, and you are telling me that’s inciting subversion of state power? If this act of mine counts as inciting subversion of state power, then what crime are the hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers guilty of?



I’d like to hereby solemnly declare that all along it has been my private wish to topple the rule of the Chinese Communist Party’s autocracy—a dictatorial regime—but not to subvert the state regime. A country should belong to its people; it’s not the property of this party or that party. A ruling party being toppled from power isn’t the same as the state being subverted, because as long as the country exists then the state regime will exist. Of course, if the court believes that the country is the Party and the Party is the country, and that China is indeed the Communist Party’s country, then trying to subvert the ruling party would be equivalent to subverting the state regime. So, would the court please explicitly state that China belongs to the Chinese Communist Party, and that China’s governing paradigm is that of the model of a Party-State? Failing that, the attempt to charge me with inciting subversion of state power has no ground.

A century ago the Xinhai Revolution succeeded, signalling the end of 2,000 years of feudal imperialism. Since 1949, the Chinese communists have imprisoned countless political opponents—people who pursued liberty and democracy, and to that end sought to get rid of the communist dictatorship—on charges of subversion. But it was the Chinese communists who seized power with slogans claiming they were pursuing liberty and democracy. Please tell me: in China today, where is the liberty? Where is the democracy?

Supporting the Umbrella Movement in Guangzhou in October, 2014.

Wang Mo (first from left) and Xie Wenfei (second from right) among activists who held banner in Guangzhou to support the Umbrella Movement in October, 2014.

The Chinese constitution expressly stipulates: All state power belongs to the people, citizens have the freedom express themselves, assemble, organize, march, demonstrate, and to elect and be elected. That’s to say that only the people have the right to decide to whom state power belongs, and have the right to remove from power any ruling party. Voting is a mechanism for entrusting power to, or remove power from, a ruling party. The people may also express their support or opposition to the ruling party or government through such actions as speech, assembly, the formation of organizations, protests, etc.

Let me explain why I personally wish to remove the Chinese communist dictatorship from power. Since they seized power in 1949, the communists have instigated political campaigns, including land reform, collectivization, the Three-Anti and Five-Anti campaigns, and countless others—including the madness of the Cultural Revolution—which have directly or indirectly led to the unnatural deaths of around 20 million Chinese people. In the three years from 1958-1960, it’s believed that around 50 million Chinese starved to death as a result of the communists’ disastrous agricultural policies and plunder of grain from the rural population. As someone from the countryside, I cannot forget these 50 million lives. Further, in the 1980s the Communist Party began forcibly implementing birth control policies that continue to this day, which include induced abortions at late term pregnancy, forced injection of drugs to cause miscarriage, forced abortions and other methods, all of which have directly or indirectly led to the unnatural killing of around 30 million babies and fetuses. Taken together, the Chinese Communist Party has eliminated the lives of 100 million Chinese people.

Starting in the 1980s, even though the Party, in order to ensure its own survival, abandoned mass political mobilization and persecution and began focusing on economic construction, it has never ceased its slaughter of the Chinese people. In June 1989 on the streets of Beijing, hundreds and thousands of young students and people from all walks of life came out to oppose corruption, and countless died during the Party’s bloody crackdown. Over all these years too, others have died at the hands of the police or other security enforcers, from such varied causes as: Being sent to black jails, being incarcerated in mental hospitals, being beaten to death, dying during forced demolition of their homes or as their land is expropriated, dying from beatings by the chengguan, dying from ethnic repression, religious suppression, or in prison under the guise of playing “hide and seek,” drinking hot water, or dying from torture as the police attempt to extract a forced confession. The Chinese communists have never ceased relying on violence and persecution to maintain their dictatorship.

Xie Wenfei (left) and Wang Mo.

Xie Wenfei (left) and Wang Mo.

In the face of such an inhuman, bloody, sinister, and dark regime, that has in the space of just 66 short years severed the lives of 100 million people, it is my constitutional right to wish to topple and subvert it, and such a wish is also in accord with natural law. Getting rid of the outlaws and allowing the people to live in peace, and using violence to end violence have always been the innate rights of those living under oppression. There’s no crime in my wanting to subvert that regime—the real criminals are those whose hands are dripping with the blood of the Chinese people, the power-holders who uphold their dictatorship, and the running dogs, accomplices, and hired thugs who work on behalf of that regime.

The charge of “inciting subversion of state power” is naked political persecution, the Chinese Communist Party’s tool for shutting down and repressing political opposition. In this context, the public prosecutor and the judge on the case are merely fulfilling a “political task” by staging a trial with the sole purpose of sending political opponents to jail. There’s no possibility of fairness or justice in this; conscience and human nature are absent from the prosecutor and judge. I hope that after the conclusion of today’s trial, the names of the prosecutors and the judges will be remembered by many, and I also believe that one day, for your role in this case, aiding in the political persecution of myself and Xie Wenfei, you’ll pay a price.

I would like to thank my defense counsel Chen Keyun (陈科云) and Tan Chenshou (覃臣寿) , as well as Chen Jinxue (陈进学) for his prior involvement. Thanks are also due to the two lawyers defending Xie Wenfei. I also thank the friends who have given me financial aid from the day I was arrested, as well as the supporters who came to the court today but were blocked from entering and made to stand outside. I also thank the friends, netizens, brothers, and kindred spirits who have shown so much support, concern, and attention since I was taken into custody. It was the support from all of you that kept up my spirits in prison, allowed me to rid myself of fear and loneliness, made life a little easier, and led me to not give up. It’s your support that has made me realize that the journey towards liberty and democracy in this land of ours is never a solitary one. Countless members of previous generations came before us, among us we have a great many sympathisers, and after we’re gone there will be innumerable to follow. It’s your support that has given me warmth and strength.

Democracy movement for China has no path of retreat. Nor is there any possibility of a third way, or a middle way, by which we can negotiate with the CCP. Resistance is the only way: continual, endless resistance, and every possible form and manner of resistance. Only through resistance will we gain freedom, only through resistance will we gain dignity, and it is only resistance that will bring about change.

Wang Mo

September 19, 2015

 

Related:

For Freedom, Justice and Love — My Closing Statement to the Court, Xu Zhiyong, January 22, 2014.

The Sovereignty of the People: My Conviction and My Dream, Guo Feixiong’s Court Statement, November 28, 2014.

The Southern Street Movement, China Change, October 19, 2013.