Is "The Great Rollback of China"
Informed speculation about this year's Congress of Chinese dissidents,
an interview with Xu Wenli of the China Democracy Party
An historic Congress is to occur in Providence, Rhode Island on June 4 & 5, 2007
By John P. Kusumi
Casual observers might think of Chinese dissidents as merely glorified protestors, and cynics might suggest that their role requires only two job skills: The ability to say "Hooray freedom," and to say "Hooray democracy." They would be wrong; it is far more complicated than that.
When we think of Chinese dissidents, they fall naturally into two groups: the younger "Tiananmen dissidents" who ran the 1989 pro-democracy uprising as college students; and the older "senior dissidents," like Wei Jingsheng, Harry Wu, Xu Wenli, and Wang Bingzhang. They may be thought to have seniority because their activities began earlier, such as the beginning of the Cultural Revolution (1966), or the Democracy Wall period (1978), and they were already prisoners before the students' uprising happened in 1989. (Note to clarify: In 1989 Wang Bingzhang was in exile, not in prison. That role is reversed in 2007 when he is in prison, not exile.)
The China Support Network once published a list of 33 people who were identified as "Tiananmen Square student leaders." 4 are in China, 29 are in exile. It seems obvious that the 29 exiles could get together and represent "The June 4 Uprising Leaders." It is simply an obvious thought, but it's been tried before -- and the group found itself to be falling apart due to internecine squabbles. If it were my work to do, I would add about six more people due to their close association with the June 4 events. Then from the 35 top exiles associated with June 4, there would be attrition. Some have quit the movement to go into business. Famously, that is Chai Ling and Li Lu, but there are others (e.g., Shen Tong, Xin Ku, and "Majer" Zhou Yongjun) who might prefer to tend their own businesses rather than get drawn in to a reunion of Tiananmen Square leaders.
It's not easy to assemble, but I think it would be valuable to have a functioning Tiananmen Generation Association (TGA), even if its membership were only near two dozen. This year's June 4 (2007) provides an example or an object lesson. With no functioning TGA, one of the senior dissidents -- Xu Wenli -- is about to become the loudest voice in the pro-democracy movement. He is assembling a special Party Congress, a conference of Chinese dissidents, for the China Democracy Party (CDP) where he is one of its founding fathers. The Congress will issue a Declaration of China's Third Republic.
In and of itself, the activity is well and good. --But, we can see that it would be valuable to have the Tiananmen Generation Association. If it were up-and-running, would it be supportive, in favor of this declaration? Or, would it take an opposing stance, against it? (A rumor is suggesting that Wang Youcai is against the conference. The two most famous names attached to the CDP are Xu Wenli and Wang Youcai. Wang was a student leader during June 4; hence, he is in the Tiananmen age range.) Usually, when the dissidents need or intend to make a display of unity, what happens instead is a display of disunity.
So, how will China attain democracy? Casual American observers might think that to have a democracy is easy. All you need is a Constitution, and a flag, and that's all. The discussion might end there for casual American observers, but for Chinese dissidents, there is more to it than that. Chinese culture needs to change to permit the rule of law and to respect any national Constitution as a rule based system. The Chinese practice under the "Party Culture" of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) is to have flagrant disregard for the Constitution. It is also true that Chinese dissidents, with their history of internecine disputes, might despair of ever arriving at agreement on a flag and a Constitution.
However, Chinese dissidents seem to have a plan, and with this article I am dubbing it "The Great Rollback of China." While Chinese dissidents cannot agree on very much in 2007, there is wide agreement and respect for the political state of China in 1947. The idea is to make 1947 a "rollback point," to undo all of the political changes as have occurred under the CCP, which took power in 1949. When all newer efforts fail, the dissidents would agree that they like the rollback point and would work in keeping with a restored Constitution, and restored flag, of the Republic of China (ROC) of 1947.
Of course, this is a severe slap in the face to the CCP. If China moved to the rollback point, it would be like "organ rejection" -- all of the legacy of the CCP would be repudiated. For dissidents, the beauty of the plan is that no negotiation is necessary. China already had a post-war conference in 1946, where all political parties participated and hammered out the ROC Constitution. Even the Communist Party was at the table, so the ROC Constitution was something that all parties could agree to.
The Party Congress that Xu Wenli will host, on June 4 and 5 in Providence, Rhode Island, will issue the declaration of dissidents' intent to raise "the Third Republic of China," which is not something entirely new, but rather is presented as a restoration and carrying forward of work by the original founders of the ROC. The Congress' goal is not a government in exile; the Declaration is the main item of business that speaks to China's future. The Congress will also work on a Party Constitution for the CDP, and on electing leadership for the CDP. Hence, those are party building activities. The Congress has also invited a speech from the China Support Network -- a speaking engagement for this author.
China Support Network interviews Xu Wenli, May 2007
The China Support Network asked a series of questions of Xu Wenli, a senior Chinese dissident who is convening a Party Congress for the China Democracy Party in Providence, Rhode Island to be held June 4 and 5, 2007. It is expected that the Congress will issue a Declaration of China's Third Republic. Via email and through an interpreter, we obtained these answers on May 9, 2007.
CSN: Is there a flag for this Third Republic?
Xu Wenli: The Third Republic is not about building a new entity, but about restoring the foundations of Asia’s First Republic as envisioned by its founders. It is important to be clear that this is not about building something entirely new, but about rebuilding and restoration, much as the current Russia restored the country and its emblems to what it was before. Hence, there is a very good possibility that we might use the flag of the First Republic.
CSN: Is there a Constitution for this Third Republic? Will the First Party Congress work on a national Constitution as well as a party Constitution?
Xu Wenli: As the Third Republic is a restoration of the former republics, it is highly likely that the Constitution of the Third Republic will be largely built upon the foundations of the 1946 Nanjing Constitution. I believe there are English versions of this 1946 Constitution available for your perusal.
As for the Party Constitution, we already have three drafts and we will be making some final revisions on them. Unfortunately, there are no English translations of the Constitution yet.
CSN: Before the end of the CCP, will the Third Republic become a government-in-exile? Is that part of the meaning of the declaration to be made on June 4, 2007?
Xu Wenli: Setting up a government-in-exile has never been a consideration for us. The title, “Building the Third Republic”, serves as mainly the guiding principle of the China Democracy Party First Party Congress and as a rallying call for all interested people.
CSN: Should we think of the Declaration signers as "the founding fathers of Chinese democracy?" How many signers are lined up now? Will the signing stop and be closed after a certain date?
Xu Wenli: Technically, there is no deadline for the signing. The declaration and the signatures will be printed on a banner which will be displayed on the day of the June 4th Party Congress. To date, we have 129 signers of the Declaration, who come from the North, South, East, West and central China, including Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, it must be clarified that these signers are NOT the "founding fathers of Chinese democracy" but merely supporters of this initiative to build China’s Republic.
CSN: In order to sign the Declaration, must a person go to the First Party Congress and sign it while present in person? Or can a person sign from a remote distance by email, fax, or telephone?
Xu Wenli: There will be an official signing ceremony of the Declaration during the June 4th Party Congress and it would be most ideal if supporters can come personally for the Congress. However, we also accept signatures via email, fax or telephone.
CSN: At the First Party Congress and/or related to the Declaration, will you issue demands of the Chinese government? What do you demand that they do, and when?
Xu Wenli: In May 2006, the China Democracy Party publicly released their “Proposed Direction and Timeline to the Chinese Government for the Implementation of Political Reform in the People’s Republic of China”. We will be reiterating the demands highlighted in this timeline proposal. [Note. That document has been placed in the CSN blog. It can be read as 'CDP Direction/Timeline for Chinese government' at http://chinasupport.blogspot.com/]
CSN: How do you expect the CCP to react to the events of the First Party Congress?
Xu Wenli: I would say that no other conference organized by overseas dissidents has received such attention and emphasis from the Chinese Communist Party. There will be two top PRC reporters to the United Nations and one other PRC reporter to Washington attending the June 4th Congress. Apart from attending the June 4th Congress, two top PRC reporters from Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) and Wenhui Ribao (Wen Hui Daily) have and will be interviewing Mr. Xu Wenli prior to the Congress.
CSN: Did you explain the action to Nancy Pelosi and the U.S. State Department? How did they react?
Xu Wenli: We met both parties in face-to-face meetings where we broached the topic of the upcoming June 4th Party Congress and gave detailed documents regarding it. Their response was overwhelmingly positive and both Nancy Pelosi and the US State Department will try to support us as much as they can.
CSN: How can the U.S. government improve its support of the China pro-democracy movement?
Xu Wenli: Most importantly, the US government should increase its attention and spotlight on China’s pro-democracy movement and offer at least a symbolic sign of support for the cause. In the last few years, the Bush administration has generally been lukewarm in its support of China’s democracy activism at best.
CSN: Will the new Third Republic of China have a military commission, with former military officers? If the army of China wants to surrender, do they know who, where, or what office to call?
Xu Wenli: Certainly, if the Third Republic of China successfully becomes a new country, there will be a military commission and this commission will include former military officers. However, as we are currently nowhere near becoming a country with full-fledged national apparatus, there is no such “office” for the army of China to surrender at and we also do not foresee such a possibility happening anywhere in the near future.
Published May 29, 2007 by the China Support Network (CSN). Begun as the American response group in 1989, CSN represents Americans who are "on the side" of the students in Tiananmen Square -- standing for democratic reform, human rights, and freedom in China. For dissident news; to support a stronger China policy; or get more information, see http://www.chinasupport.net/.