A providential coincidence in modern Chinese history:
Falun Gong and CDP
By Timothy Cooper, Executive Director, Worldrights
A providential coincidence of modern Chinese history may have aligned the strategic interests of two profoundly important but different groups of persecuted Chinese nationals who have suffered the same unhappy fate. Ten years of unrelenting state-sponsored repression against two sets of innocent nationals—one political, the other nonpolitical—may have, ironically, set the stage to potentially advance the well-being of both in the common cause of ending unchecked human rights oppression in China.
These two independent groups—linked only by national identity and vitality of purpose as well as their common faith in a more benign future for China—include courageous exiled leaders and mainland supporters of the China Democratic Party (CDP), together with the well-organized and intelligent members of the Falun Gong, which boasts more members worldwide than the entire Chinese Communist Party.
The near simultaneous emergence of the two on the Chinese landscape ten years ago, with CDP rising peaceably to register as an opposition party to advance prospects for political pluralism in China, and the gentle practitioners of the Falun Gong appearing silently and respectfully at Zhongnanhai headquarters in Beijing to protest the beatings of forty fellow members in Tianjin, generated lightening-like repression by former president Jiang Zemin, leaving a tsunami of human suffering in its shocking wake.
Despite international diplomatic interventions on behalf of both CDP and Falun Gong, the long season of oppression against them, as well as others, remains in full flower. In early September 2009, CDP dissident Xie Changfa was sentenced to 13 years in prison for “subverting state power.” He was convicted of attempting to organize a national meeting of the outlawed CDP in Hunan province—nothing more. On May 23, Falun Gong practitioner Li Min died at the age of 51 in Daqing Prison in Harbin. Reliable information suggests that he was denied proper medical attention after suffering a likely stroke. Evidently, he was also tortured. Tortured for practicing the art of qigong.
Astonishingly, even after all these years, Chinese leaders still fear Falun Gong practitioners’ benign language of tolerance and compassion; they persist on making enemies out of legions of otherwise kind and gentle citizens. And after sixty years of unbroken challenge to Communist Party monolithic rule, they go on recoiling at CDP’s not unreasonable call to advance the vital cause of political pluralism; they turn patriots into innocent prisoners, stifling the organic expansion of democracy while damaging the future political brain trust of the country.
While the economic landscape of China radically changes, China’s long era of brutality remains unchanged. Good people suffer. Illegitimate prisoners pack prisons. Citizens in custody die dreadful deaths. It is a government that is reliant on the brutal use of force to check the civil conduct of its citizenry, and is generally regarded as morally bankrupt, spiritually bereft, and lacking in political legitimacy, a government living on borrowed time. The only question is: How much time does it have left? It could be two years or twenty. However many years remain, if history has taught us anything, it’s that between now and then, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is perfectly willing and profoundly capable of destroying many more people’s lives in its desperate attempt at self-preservation.
Though a principal victim of Beijing’s offenses against humanity, the Falun Gong has exhibited a remarkable profile in courage by waging a pacific battle against a merciless empire that uses unbridled force to fight empty shadows. In doing so, it has been very careful to define itself as being one hundred percent non-political. That position is understandable in light of the fact that the practice of qigong—Falun Gong or otherwise—has been historically devoid of political affiliations, concentrating on a “mind-body cultivation practice” instead.
On the opposition end of the political spectrum is CDP. It is one hundred percent political. The guiding principles of CDP read in relevant part: “The CDP advocates fair competition in both the economic and political arena, opposes political monopoly and economic monopoly in any forms; the CDP is also committed to promote transparency in political life and administrative efficiency; the CDP calls for social and political institutional transformation in a peaceful and orderly manner, we oppose chaos, we oppose the removal of violence by using violence. We believe that we should achieve our goals through peaceful, rational and non-violent means. We support that political confrontation should be replaced by civilized dialogues...”
Such a keen emphasis on replacing confrontation with sophisticated dialogue is welcome and above all, necessary, if qualitative institutional change tilted toward democracy and a genuine respect for human rights is to arrive nonviolently in China at the earliest possible date. Chaos serves only the scavengers of history, not its most noble architects. However, a fundamental question about the development of CDP as a vehicle for positive political change remains. How is CDP to evolve into a mature instrument of power capable of asserting its political legitimacy worldwide and replacing the Communist Party when democracy finally takes hold?
On this question, the separate paths of Falun Gong and CDP could merge. If for no other reason than to compound the visibility of their oppression at the hands of the Chinese government and to extend the reach of their campaigns to nonviolently progress historical change inside China. How? By exercising—even in exile—their fundamental right to vote as Chinese citizens.
An internationally recognized human right, the right to vote is enshrined in core UN human rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The act of voting is arguably one of the highest acts of citizenship—if not the highest. Its authority stems from the fact that voting for duly elected representatives is the most direct expression of the will of the people and represents the consent of the governed. It is a profoundly moral act because it allows citizens to take responsibility for and control over the policies and performance of their governments. There can be no steadfast protection of basic human rights in any society without the effective exercise of the right to vote. Arguably, it is first among equals in the universal pantheon of civil rights.
Which is why the CDP needs to engage in the democratic process—even in exile. In order to mature its leadership on behalf of the overseas Chinese community in preparation for the day when it can and will compete for political power in China, and demonstrate that it is fully capable of conducting itself as a credible organization, it needs to practice what it preaches—democracy—and on a grand scale.
That is to say, CDP will best serve the cause of human rights in China—and one of its main constituencies, the Falun Gong—by calling elections, fielding candidates, overseeing the voting in of elected officers, and starting to function on a daily basis as a legitimate political party. This will be the first step toward eventually accomplishing two other critical goals: 1) the establishment of a truly global Chinese World Congress, composed presumably of both CDP and non-CDP members; and 2) the creation of the official Chinese “shadow” government-in-exile, along the lines of a high profile, fully operating “China Interim Government,” responsible for the authoritative articulation of official overseas Chinese democrats consensus views in opposition to the CCP. Other prime examples of democratically-run political organizations-in-exile, formed to serve the interests of their constituencies, are the Government of Tibet in Exile, under the leadership of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the World Uyghur Congress, led by Rebiya Kadeer.
The overseas CDP is fully capable of coordinated and qualified leadership. Such exiled leaders as Xu Wenli, Wang Youcai, Ni Yuxian, Wang Jun, Xie Wanjun, Tang Yuanjun, Wang Xizhe, and Wei Jingsheng, among many others, could choose to run for election to senior CDP leadership posts, drawing global attention to important Chinese issues, both in the mainstream Western press as well as the Chinese press. Candidates for office could take part in a myriad of vigorous public debates, before any number of interested constituencies, including the Falun Gong, in order to stump for votes. Their views and opinions would then be communicated to the entire world through newspapers, including the World Journal and the Epoch Times, for appraisal by potential voters. Indeed, those news sources could sponsor candidate debates and forums, as is done in the West in national elections. Television networks, like NTD, could broadcast those debates internationally, informing voters about the candidates on a grand scale. On Election Day, polling places would open in America, Canada, Europe and Australia, permitting the first-ever slate of CDP leaders to be elected by ballot box.
Such elections would immeasurably enhance the institutional and political legitimacy of the current Chinese human rights/pro-democracy movement, and significantly raise its political profile worldwide, especially if voters turned out at the polls in large numbers on three continents. Political leadership elected by such large numbers would start CDP down the path toward becoming a highly persuasive opposition voice for the Chinese people. Moreover, it would demonstrate that the Chinese rights movement had finally arrived and was capable of practicing the essential art of democracy, moving it down field toward establishing a Chinese World Congress and eventually a functioning “shadow” government, one day mounting a serious political challenge to Beijing.
How are Falun Gong’s nonpolitical interests served by CDP’s political empowerment?
Assuming that Falun Gong practitioners accept that a democratic China will best protect their right to practice qigong, it is clearly in their vested interests to perform one of the first duties of citizenship in a democracy: cast their vote for duly elected representatives, exercise their human right to enjoy representation in exile. It is the most meaningful way in which the Falun Gong, singularly and collectively, in Australia, Europe, America and Canada, can contribute to the advance of democracy in China that does not—and will not—violate its peaceful and nonpolitical nature.
The Chinese pro-democracy movement has been steadfastly supportive of the Falun Gong. It has stood by them for over ten years. It is time for Falun Gong to reciprocate by helping them, by supporting their right to do what democrats do the world over—run for election.
In this way, with the simple exercise of the power of one person-one vote, a ten-year-old coincidence of oppression, initiated by a paranoid Chinese government against the Falun Gong and CDP, can be turned into an historic providential coincidence of another kind—one that advances rather than retards democracy and human rights in what may one day become the New Republic of China, or in CDP’s own visionary language of China’s future, the “Third Republic of China.”
Chinese dissidents should heed Tim Cooper's advice
- More ideas on unity for Chinese dissidents -
By John Kusumi, Director emeritus, the China Support Network
In a recent article, friend of freedom Timothy Cooper (Executive Director of World Rights, also experienced with the Free China Movement and the China Democracy Party), advocates that Falun Gong and the China Democracy Party (CDP) should move closer together, with CDP to hold an election and Falun Gong practitioners to vote for its leadership.
It is well known that Falun Gong urges everyone to move away from the Chinese Communist Party -- so it seems natural as they move away from the old arrangements, that they should move towards new arrangements for Chinese society.
The CDP is indeed working on new arrangements for Chinese society. They have a project of enormous proportions to change the sweep of history. In June 2007 in the U.S. state of Rhode Island, a First Party Congress of the CDP was held under the auspices of Xu Wenli. That Congress adopted a Declaration of "China's Third Republic," an expression of intent to build a third republic while respecting the work, effort, and legacy of two earlier attempts (1911 and 1946) to make a democratic Chinese republic.
For many years, Chinese dissidents have focused on the party system. One could argue that too many dissidents have made too many political parties, but from a review of all of the efforts, higher name recognition and hence greater strength is present for the China Democracy Party. The effort of CDP is "out in front," ahead of the pack of additional dissidents who work on more alternative parties.
Dissident Xu Wenli had ambitions to make a political party -- and that Declaration of the Third Republic of China -- but, was not ambitious to make a government-in-exile.
A saying says that "nature abhors a vacuum," and late in 2007, other dissidents announced plans for the China Interim Government (CIG), which went into operation at the start of 2008. The CIG has a very hardline flavor to its politics, while at the CDP, Xu Wenli is known to be more moderate. Xu might be willing to talk to Maoists; while CIG would be more inclined to jail Maoists, bringing them to justice for their crimes against the Chinese nation.
The free Chinese movement includes towering intellects such as Yang Jianli, who has been able to formulate a proposed Constitution for a future democratic China.
All of the mentioned efforts are strong steps in the right direction -- I believe that China needs these things, and that the mentioned efforts should be welcomed. And for my part, I came up with a proposed flag for a future democratic China.
Timothy Cooper and this author are known friends of the cause for a better China. For both the CDP and the Falun Gong, we are observers and often guest speakers in their activities. I can't speak for the origins of Tim Cooper, but when June 4 happened (the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989), I was a 22 year old American student -- an undergraduate of Arizona State University.
I thought that American students should help the Chinese students. I started the China Support Network. Hence, mine is authentically a "grass roots" group, which takes no money from government. We do not have CIA involvement, nor even that of the NED (National Endowment for Democracy).
As a result, for free Chinese we have advice that is sincere and not sold out. I believe that this one thought in particular underpins the article of Tim Cooper: Chinese dissidents are like a school of fish, and they would be more graceful if they all swam in the same direction. Added power would flow from the added grace.
Mentioned above are four things that nations need:
- a political party;
- a government;
- a Constitution;
- a flag
These are four separate efforts coming from four separate camps in the democracy movement. My article title is "Thoughts About Unity for Chinese Dissidents," and I am arriving at the bottom line. Let's imagine that all four efforts can be united with the common theme and branding, that these are for the Third Republic of China.
"Third Republic of China" is the project declared by CDP, yet the project is larger than CDP itself. Theirs is good leadership, because they have provided a theme into which all of the other efforts fit.
Suppose that China Interim Government changed its name to be the Interim Government of the Third Republic of China. With one move, the CIG could increase its relevance and legitimacy, and by moving closer to the moderate wing of the democracy movement, it would become more central and more attractive to "centrist" Chinese dissidents.
Suppose that Yang Jianli renamed his Constitution to be a proposed Constitution for the Third Republic of China. Simply by renaming it, he would express that his is part of the larger, integrated effort to establish the Third Republic.
Suppose that CDP took up a slogan of being "the majority party of the Third Republic of China," and suppose that Falun Gong practitioners chose to be citizens of the Third Republic of China. They can be a large part of the constituency that is represented, even while the Third Republic lives overseas in exile.
The Interim Government could be more democratic by holding elections like those proposed by Tim Cooper, and Falun Gong practitioners could vote.
And for my part, I will rename my flag proposal as a proposed flag for the Third Republic of China. (Note that the word "proposed" indicates that the Constitution and the flag are not even provisional; they are merely suggestions on the same plane with all proposals. It is for others to take up, adopt, approve, or ratify the proposals, or to reject them, or to accept alternatives.)
We have already reached the bottom line of my article. And now, here is the proposed flag for the Third Republic of China: