Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Tenzin Lekshay

The 60 years old Chinese Communist Party rule over China is interestingly getting more trouble within. Once again, the history is going reverse as we are witnessing the plight of Chinese people coming on the front page. Once again, I fear of many more Chinese toiling to suffer with the emergence of their plea for freedom, which the Chinese Government will crack and crush them. But, I hope it won't happen this time.

Lets go back to the Chinese history briefly. In the early years, irrespective of disastrous failure of Great Leap Forward and Great Proleterian Cultural Revolution during Mao Tsetung, China remained forcibly silent under the Shadow of their horrendous leaders. Millions were killed, tortured and humiliated, which is still hidden under the surface of their history. Mao Tsetung, during his reign, once called upon people to exercise their freedom of expression, under the campaign 'let a hundred flowers blossom'. In February 1957, Mao declared, "Letting a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend is the policy for promoting progress in the arts and the sciences and a flourishing socialist culture in our land." But, what happened thereafter was exactly opposite to the much hyped campaign, which shocked the whole nation. Even Deng Xiaoping was subjected to house arrest and was exiled to rural Jiangxi by labelling him as 'Capitalist Roader'.

The capitalist Roader, Deng Xiaoping, when he ruled China after Mao's death, focussed on drastic economic reforms by opening some doors of the Middle Kingdom to the outside world. But, with the introduction of economic liberalization, China experienced more social problems. Like Mao, he also tried to suppressed others who sought for democratic political system. In 1989, whole world watched the bloody Tiananmen Sqaure Massacre, where hundreds of students and masses were killed. He was simply liberal on economic spectrum but was harshly enough to be called as hardliner on political issues, which evolves around stability of power. Such as the incidents like, the demotion of his comrade Zhao Ziyang, who was later subjected to house arrest till his death. Wen Jiabao was lucky enough to survive within the party, despite being closely associated with Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yobang.1

China today is vigorously going along with Socialism in their own atrocious character, which somehow helps China retain its control over economic gamut, and cling tightly on political sovereignty. President Hu Jintao, with his concept of Harmonious Society tries to charm the Chinese people and the world through soft power by successfully organizing 2008 Olympic Game. But that does not mean that China is staying behind on offensive military strategy. Rise of defence budget in China over the years is a clear indication that China is playing carrot and stick politics, or in other word, showcasting Charm offensive strategy.

Political and social system inside China are terribly unstable with high level of power struggle, censorship, corruption and inequality. China, the number two economy of the world is currently plagued with acute economic disparity, where China tries to stick only with economic approach rather than social and political approaches. Any hint of political transformation is considered taboo and are subjected to serious consequences. Many political activists, poets, authors, critics and lawyers considered as intelligentsia in China, are heavily restricted to be critical of the government. Such is the case like Nobel Peace Laureate, Liu Xiaobo who is currently under 11 years of imprisonment, simply because of his expression of freedom and human rights in China.

On the eve of October 1, President Hu Jintao urged party cadres to "boose harmonious factors to the maximum degree" through implementing policies that "match the wishes of the people, that take care of the people's worries, and that can win the hearts of the people."2 With the ongoing socio-political instability, he thought he is wise enough to understand Mao's socialistic approach of protecting proletarians by adopting Maoist key concept of "correctly handling contradictions among the people". He proposed certain outlines for improving livelihood and safeguarding people's right by upholding social equality and justice. But, it is such a difficult challenge for him, as man filled with bloods in his hands (crackdown on Tibet in 1989), is morally living with his pretentious principle of 'putting people first'.3

Recently, in a rare interview with CNN, Chinese Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao stressed that, "I beleive I and all the Chinese people have such conviction that China will make continous progress and the people's wishes and need for democracy and freedom are irresistible. I hope you will be be able to gradually see the continous progress of China".4 Over the last few months, excerpts of his speeches including the recent CNN interview were subjected to censorship in the Chinese medias.5

I wonder if Wen Jiabao is under the scanner of Chinese censorship, Hu will have the joystick of playing around this mysterious game. It may be of high indication that Wen Jiabao will meet the fate of his mentor, Hu Yoabang and Zhao Ziyang. But, the open letter by 23 former high cadres of Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the freedom of Speech and Media on 11 October gave a mandate on Wen Jiabao that he is in control of strong peers of party elders. Wen, 'the man of the people' has been serving long enough in the CCP than Hu Jintao, that even if Hu Jintao felt like putting his fist on Wen's face, he will not be able to do so. Even though, Hu Jintao tries to be like Mao Tsetung and adopted Mao's strategy of accomodating people's support, he is not as charismatic as Mao despite being common on being Killer of Chinese People. So, Hu Jintao is left with no option other than adjusting with the tone of Wen and the demands of the elders.

Many leaders in the past, who adopted liberal views on politics suffered badly, but the time has changed and Chinese people are now aware of where they are standing. Peoples pride and nationalism will no longer become a tool for Chinese leaders to hang around with them. The recent developments in political and social issues of China will bring light to the freedom of Chinese people. Afterall, Chinese people want freedom to live peacefully.

Open Letter on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Media by 23 party elders are given below.


Enforce Article 35 of China’s Constitution, Abolish Censorship and Realize Citizens’ Right to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press: A Letter to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress
Written by Li Rui, Hu Jiwei and others
Dated: October 11, 2010

Dear members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress:

Article 35 of China’s Constitution as adopted in 1982 clearly states that: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” For 28 years this article has stood unrealized, having been negated by detailed rules and regulations for “implementation.” This false democracy of formal avowal and concrete denial has become a scandalous mark on the history of world democracy.

On February 26, 2003, at a meeting of democratic consultation between the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party and democratic parties ['s_Republic_of_China], not long after President Hu Jintao assumed office, he stated clearly: “The removal of restrictions on the press, and the opening up of public opinion positions, is a mainstream view and demand held by society; it is natural, and should be resolved through the legislative process. If the Communist Party does not reform itself, if it does not transform, it will lose its vitality and move toward natural and inevitable extinction.”

On October 3, America’s Cable News Network (CNN) aired an interview with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao by anchor Fareed Zakaria. Responding to the journalist’s questions, Wen Jiabao said: “Freedom of speech is indispensable for any nation; China’s Constitution endows the people with freedom of speech; The demands of the people for democracy cannot be resisted.”

In accord with China’s Constitution, and in the spirit of the remarks made by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, we hereupon represent the following concerning the materialization of the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and of the press:
Concerning the Current State of Freedom of Speech and Press in Our Country
We have for 61 years “served as master” in the name of the citizens of the People’s Republic of China. But the freedom of speech and of the press we now enjoy is inferior even to that of Hong Kong before its return to Chinese sovereignty, to that entrusted to the residents of a colony.

Before the handover, Hong Kong was a British colony, governed by those appointed by the Queen’s government. But the freedom of speech and freedom of the press given to residents of Hong Kong by the British authorities there was not empty, appearing only on paper. It was enacted and realized.

When our country was founded in 1949, our people cried that they had been liberated, that they were not their own masters. Mao Zedong said that, “From this moment, the people of China have stood.” But even today, 61 years after the founding of our nation, after 30 years of opening and reform, we have not yet attained freedom of speech and freedom of the press to the degree enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong under colonial rule. Even now, many books discussion political and current affairs must be published in Hong Kong. This is not something that dates from the [territory's] return, but is merely an old tactic familiar under colonial rule. The “master” status of the people of China’s mainland is so inferior. For our nation to advertise itself as having “socialist democracy” with Chinese characteristics is such an embarrassment.

Not only the average citizen, but even the most senior leaders of the Communist Party have no freedom of speech or press. Recently, Li Rui met with the following circumstance. Not long ago, the Collected Works in in Memory of Zhou Xiaozhou were published, and in it was originally to be included an essay commemorating Zhou Xiaozhou that Li Rui had written for the People’s Daily in 1981. Zhou Xiaozhou’s wife phoned Li Rui to explain the situation: “Beijing has sent out a notice. Li Rui’s writings cannot be published.” What incredible folly it is that an old piece of writing from a Party newspaper cannot be included in a volume of collected works! Li Rui said: “What kind of country is this?! I want to cry it out: the press must be free! Such strangling of the people’s freedom of expression is entirely illegal!”

It’s not even just high-level leaders — even the Premier of our country does not have freedom of speech or of the press! On August 21, 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao gave a speech in Shenzhen called, “Only By Pushing Ahead With Reforms Can Our Nation Have Bright Prospects.” He said, “We must not only to push economic reforms, but must also to promote political reforms. Without the protection afforded by political reforms, the gains we have made from economic reforms will be lost, and our goal of modernization cannot be realized.” Xinhua News Agency’s official news release on August 21, “Building a Beautiful Future for the Special Economic Zone,” omitted the content in Wen Jiabao’s speech dealing with political reform.

On September 22, 2010, (U.S. local time) Premier Wen Jiabao held a dialogue in New York with American Chinese media and media from Hong Kong and Macao, and again he emphasized the importance of “political system reforms.” Wen said: “Concerning political reforms, I have said previously that if economic reforms are without the protection to be gained by political reforms, then we cannot be entirely successful, and even perhaps the gains of our progress so far will be lost.” Shortly after, Wen Jiabao addressed the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, giving a speech called, “Recognizing a True China,” in which he spoke again about political reform. Late on September 23 (Beijing time), these events were reported on China Central Television’s Xinwen Lianbo and in an official news release from Xinhua News Agency. They reported only Wen Jiabao’s remarks on the circumstances facing overseas Chinese, and on the importance of overseas Chinese media. His mentions of political reform were all removed.

For these matters, if we endeavor to find those responsible, we are utterly incapable of putting our finger on a specific person. This is an invisible black hands. For their own reasons, they violate our constitution, often ordering by telephone that the works of such and such a person cannot be published, or that such and such an event cannot be reported in the media. The officials who make the call do not leave their names, and the secrecy of the agents is protected, but you must heed their phone instructions. These invisible black hands are our Central Propaganda Department. Right now the Central Propaganda Department is placed above the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and above the State Council. We would ask, what right does the Central Propaganda Department have to muzzle the speech of the Premier? What right does it have to rob the people of our nation of their right to know what the Premier has said?

Our core demand is that the system of censorship be dismantled in favor of a system of legal responsibility.

The rights to freedom of speech and the press guaranteed in Article 35 of our Constitution are turned into mere adornments for the walls by means of concrete implementation rules such as the “Ordinance on Publishing Control”. These implementation rules are, broadly speaking, a system of censorship and approvals. There are countless numbers of commandments and taboos restricting freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The creation of a press law and the abolishment of the censorship system has already become an urgent task before us.

We recommend that the National People’s Congress work immediately toward the creation of a Press Law, and that the “Ordinance on Publishing Control” and all of the local restrictions on news and publishing be annulled. Institutionally speaking, the realization of freedom of speech and freedom of the press as guaranteed in the Constitution means making media independent of the Party and government organs that presently control them, thereby transforming “Party mouthpieces” into “public instruments.” Therefore, the foundation of the creation of a Press Law must be the enacting of a system of [post facto] legal responsibility [determined according to fair laws]. We cannot again strengthen the censorship system in the name of “strengthening the leadership of the Party.” The so-called censorship system is the system by which prior to publication one must receive the approval of Party organs, allowing for publication only after approval and designating all unapproved published materials as illegal. The so-called system of legal responsibility means that published materials need not pass through approval by Party or government organs, but may be published as soon as the editor-in-chief deems fit. If there are unfavorable outcomes or disputes following publication, the government would be able to intervene and determine according to the law whether there are cases of wrongdoing. In countries around the world, the development of rule of law in news and publishing has followed this path, making a transition from systems of censorship to systems of legal responsibility. There is little doubt that systems of legal responsibility mark progress over systems of censorship, and this is greatly in the favor of the development of the humanities and natural sciences, and in promoting social harmony and historical progress. England did away with censorship in 1695. France abolished its censorship system in 1881, and the publication of newspapers and periodicals thereafter required only a simple declaration, which was signed by the representatives of the publication and mailed to the office of the procurator of the republic. Our present system of censorship leaves news and book publishing in our country 315 years behind England and 129 years behind France.

Our specific demands are as follows:
1. Abolish sponsoring institutions of [Chinese] media [NOTE: This is the controlling organization that exercises Party control over the media], allowing publishing institutions to independently operate; Truly implement a system in which directors and editors in chief are responsible for their publication units.

2. Respect journalists, and make them strong. Journalists should be the “uncrowned kings.” The reporting of mass incidents and exposing of official corruption are noble missions on behalf of the people, and this work should be protected and supported. Immediately put a stop to the unconstitutional behavior of various local governments and police in arresting journalists. Look into the circumstances behind the case of [writer] Xie Chaoping. Liang Fengmin, the party secretary of Weinan city [involved in the Xie Chaoping case] must face party discipline as a warning to others.

3. Abolish restrictions on extra-territorial supervision by public opinion [watchdog journalism] by media, ensuring the right of journalists to carry out reporting freely throughout the country.

4. The internet is an important discussion platform for information in our society and the voice of citizens’ views. Aside from information that truly concerns our national secrets and speech that violates a citizen’s right to privacy, internet regulatory bodies must not arbitrarily delete online posts and online comments. Online spies must be abolished, the “Fifty-cent Party” must be abolished, and restrictions on “tunneling/[anti-censorship]” technologies must be abolished.

5. There are no more taboos concerning our Party’s history. Chinese citizens have a right to know the errors of the ruling party.

6. Southern Weekly and Yanhuang Chunqiu should be permitted to restructure as privately operated pilot programs [in independent media]. The privatization of newspapers and periodicals is the [natural] direction of political reforms. History teaches us: when rulers and deliberators are highly unified, when the government and the media are both surnamed “Party,” and when [the Party] sings for its own pleasure, it is difficult to connect with the will of the people and attain true leadership. From the time of the Great Leap Forward to the time of the Cultural Revolution, newspapers, magazines, television and radio in the mainland have never truly reflected the will of the people. Party and government leaders have been insensible to dissenting voices, so they have had difficulty in recognizing and correcting wholesale errors. For a ruling party and government to use the tax monies of the people to run media that sing their own praises, this is something not permitted in democratic nations.

7. Permit the free circulation within the mainland of books and periodicals from the already returned territories of Hong Kong and Macao. Our country has joined the World Trade Organization, and economically we have already integrated with the world — attempting to remain closed culturally goes against the course already plotted for opening and reform. Hong Kong and Macao offer advanced culture right at our nation’s door, and the books and periodicals of Hong Kong and Macao are welcomed and trusted by the people.

8. Transform the functions of various propaganda organs, so that they are transformed from [agencies] setting down so many “taboos” to [agencies] protecting the accuracy, timeliness and unimpeded flow [of information]; from [agencies] that assist corrupt officials in suppressing and controlling stories that reveal the truth to [agencies] that support the media in monitoring Party and government organs; from [agencies] that close publications, fire editors and arrest journalists to [agencies] that oppose power and protect media and journalists. Our propaganda organs have a horrid reputation within the Party and in society. They must work for good in order to regain their reputations. At the appropriate time, we can consider renaming these propaganda organs to suit global trends.

We pressingly represent ourselves, hoping for your utmost attention.

October 1, 2010

Sponsors (23 people):
Li Rui – former standing vice minister of the Organization Department of the CCP Central Committee, member of the 12th Central Committee of the CCP
Hu Jiwei — former director of People’s Daily, standing committee member to the 7th National People’s Congress, director of the Federation of Chinese Communication Institutes
Jiang Ping – former head of the China University of Political Science and Law, tenured professor, standing committee member to the 7th National People’s Congress, deputy director of the Executive Law Committee of the NPC
Li Pu — former deputy director of Xinhua News Agency
Zhou Shaoming — former deputy director of the Political Department of the Guangzhou Military Area Command
Zhong Peizhang — Former head of the News Office of the Central Propaganda Department
Wang Yongcheng — Professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University
Zhang Zhongpei — Research at the Imperial Palace Museum, chairman of the China Archaeological Society
Du Guang — former professor at the Central Party SchoolGuo Daojun — former editor-in-chief of China Legal Science
Xiao Mo — former head of the Architecture Research Center of the Chinese National Academy of Arts
Zhuang Puming — former deputy director of People’s Press
Hu Fuchen — former director and editor-in-chief at China Worker’s Publishing House
Zhang Ding — former director of the China Social Sciences Press at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Yu You — former editor-in-chief of China Daily
Ouyang Jin — former editor-in-chief of Hong Kong’s Pacific Magazine
Yu Haocheng — former director of Masses Publishing House
Zhang Qing — former director of China Cinema Publishing House
Yu Yueting — former director of Fujian Television, veteran journalist
Sha Yexin — former head of the Shanghai People’s Art and Drama Academy, now an independent writer of the Hui ethnic minority
Sun Xupei — former director of the News Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Xin Ziling — former director of the editorial desk at China National Defense University
Tie Liu — editor-in-chief of Wangshi Weihen magazine (Scars of the Past)
Legal Counsel Song Yue — Chinese citizen, practicing lawyer in the State of New York, U.S.

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