Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is the Chinese Democratic Party Ready to Come of Age?

On March 19-21 there will be a global congress of Chinese dissidents related to the Chinese Democratic Party (CDP), to be held in a 'Chinatown' section of New York City—Flushing, Queens.

The major U.S. TV Networks—and their so-called "news divisions"—long ago kicked the Chinese democracy movement to the curb. Their very sympathetic story of brave individuals standing up to the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) "went dark" on U.S. television screens.

It appears that managing editors prefer their work to be pleasing to the Chinese regime—the bloodiest and most murderous regime in history (responsible for more deaths inside China than World War II caused globally).

And so these editors have been missing out on one big story after another. Two years ago, began the "jiuping" and "tuidang" campaigns. Jiuping refers to a book, Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, published by The Epoch Times. That book was released, smuggled around China, and began to drive the tuidang phenomenon.

Tuidang means "quit the party," meaning the CCP that rules China. The campaigns were largely driven by the Epoch Times and by the practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that is being brutally persecuted in Mainland China.

However, the original (paleo-?) Chinese dissidents, many of them secular or Christian, also joined in, piled on, and vocally led in heaping opprobrium upon the CCP, and in encouraging resignations from it. That is to say that what is at hand is not just an "Epoch Times story" or a "Falun Gong story," but rather a "Chinese story."

How dramatic is the news we are missing? Two years ago, I wrote an article and noted that 300,000 people had recently quit from the CCP. The tuidang counter has now surpassed 19 million, and when Chinese dissidents have their political convention next week, the number will be around 20 million. This backlash against the Communist Party has indeed been gaining traction.

In the past year, there has been another piece of historic news that if covered would shake the CCP and arouse opposition to it around the world: credible reports that the Chinese government has been selling human organs, harvested from prisoners of conscience, who are also killed in the process. This has shades of Nazi medical experiments performed upon prisoners, and it underscores the holocaust-like nature of the Falun Gong crackdown. The crackdown has become more deadly than the Tiananmen Square crackdown—more people are thought to have lost their lives—and, it has been available for the U.S. news media to cover for the past seven years. Rather than cover it, they have covered it up.

Now we have another dramatic story: after a long period of disunity, Chinese dissidents are coming together. Will the media let the world know what is happening?

Political Punditry in Dissident Politics

The habit of U.S. writers is to look for the famous names and faces whom they already know. They might know two names of Chinese dissidents (Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan), and that leads to the portrayal of a two-person democracy movement. But about 20 million people have been shifting their loyalties, away from the CCP and in the general direction of the Chinese democracy movement. Even while Wei and Wang are leading figures, the movement is more than those two men.

One point is good to note. Chinese culture has a higher place for writers, as compared to American culture, which is celebrity-seeking. In Chinese culture, very high esteem is attached to writers who have built up their influence. So, beyond seeking out celebrities, U.S. reporters would do well to seek out Hu Ping and Xin Haonian. Hu Ping is the Editor-in-Chief of Beijing Spring magazine; Xin Haonian is the Editor-in-Chief of Huang Hua Gang magazine, and author of a noted book, Who Is The New China? They and their magazines are institutions in the Chinese dissident community.

Back Story About the Chinese Democratic Party

The founding of the CDP in 1998 included roles for two well-known dissidents, Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai. Xu is a long-time veteran dissident who was imprisoned for 17 years in China due to his political dissent. Wang was a student leader in Tiananmen Square's "June 4" movement in 1989. He has also been a political prisoner.

Somehow, the CDP in exile began operating with four or five branches or "the Balkans" working autonomously and independently of one another. In August 2006, there was a "delegation conference" to reorganize the CDP, held at the same hotel where we now expect a global congress in March 2007. That conference was called by the dissident Ni Yuxian, who had been known as the Chairman of another political party, the PFDC (Party for Freedom and Democracy in China).

One might have hoped that the conference could smooth out differences and get different branches of CDP to cooperate; but it did not sit well with Xu Wenli, who rejected it and declared that action to be null and void. Far from an example of cooperation, the conference instead became an example of the routine squabbling that has plagued the Chinese democracy movement. The situation prior to the conference included CDP segments under Wang Xizhe, Xu Wenli, Wang Jun, and Xie Wanjun. After the conference, this situation was unchanged, but there may have even arisen a new CDP segment under Ni Yuxian (plus, Chairman Ni had the black eye of being repudiated by Xu Wenli).

I was an invited speaker at that conference, and I took the occasion to deliver my speech, "Defrag CDP!," in favor of unifying the party. In my mind, this is just like defragmenting a hard drive. Simply take the pieces of related information, and place them together into one contiguous extent. I was not the only speaker urging greater unity upon those concerned with the CDP; Executive Director of Worldrights' Timothy Cooper was also there and urged unity upon the CDP.

On the one hand, Mr. Cooper and I could feel frustrated, because the Chinese dissidents have yet to heed our advice. (They have yet to heed our advice, but they keep inviting us back into the discussion, which is encouraging.)

On the other hand, we can now ask, will the CDP at this global congress now begin working together as a political party? Hence the question in my headline: Is the Chinese Democratic Party ready to come of age?

Dissident Unity Imperative

Chinese dissidents are well aware that through 2006, 17 million people quit the CCP. Admittedly, that is a raw number, unadjusted for duplicates and faulty submissions, but that top line counter number could very possibly double by the end of this year. This number of people leaving the Chinese Communist Party is unsustainable in the long run. Party collapse could occur before the Beijing Olympics that are slated to occur next year in 2008.

In many ways, the dissidents have a splendid situation that was arranged for them by the Epoch Times and by Falun Gong. Falun Gong practitioners prefer "no political involvement," which means that they are not ambitious to run China.

But the CDP is not Falun Gong, and its nature is that of a political party. CDP would not mind running China; in fact that is a long standing ambition in the scope of its work. When the Epoch Times and Falun Gong started the jiuping / tuidang campaign, they made it clear that in looking at the CCP, they said—"no more of this." Jiuping and tuidang answer one question, "What are they against?"

However, those campaigns leave open the question, "What are they for? What are they in favor of to replace the CCP?" Those campaigns offer high-minded ideals about justice and restoring Chinese traditional culture.

However, "truth, justice, and the Chinese way" is a blandishment that does not answer questions as to who should lead; who should rule; and who should set policies for the Chinese nation. In the absence of the CCP, there is a void in this area, and it is the hope, the aspiration, and the ambition of China's political dissidents to step into that void and to fill the leadership vacuum that is left when the CCP is counted out.

The jiuping and tuidang campaigns, while they are essential, chronicle the past and present, not the future. There is a natural question, to wit—"Where is all of this going"? I believe this question must be answered with reference to China's political dissidents. CDP's global congress comes at a crucial time in the history of their movement. This is a time when leadership must emerge. The crisis in China has been deepening; the pressures on the regime have been building; the stakes have been rising; and now good dissident leadership could clarify the answer to the question, "What is next?" The upcoming congress is a very important one, and we must all congratulate the attendees and wish them well, good luck, and great success in their historic endeavors.

1 comment:

Annie Jia said...

Hi John,
I'm a student at Columbia Journalism School who is writing an article on Chinese democracy activities in the New York metropolitan area, and I just stumbled upon your post. I know this is a bit random, but I was wondering if there was any chance you might be willing to talk briefly by phone - I'd be very interested in asking you more about this topic, in particular about any sources you might have for the info you have down here. It would be terrific if you could e-mail me at xj2121@columbia.edu I greatly appreciate it. Thank you!
Regards,
Annie