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Advancing a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, & cooperative action

Dr.YANG Jianli’s Opening Remarks at EU Public Hearing on Human Rights in China

Dr.YANG Jianli’s Opening Remarks at Public Hearing “Prospects for human rights and democracy in China after the leadership change; the freedom of expression, the situation of artists, writers and intellectuals” held by Subcommittee on Human Rights (DROIT) of European Parliament on Dec. 6, 2012, Brussels, Belgium

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Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

I want to first take this opportunity to congratulate the EU for its honor of winning this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. But we should not forget that, as I speak, the winner of the 2010 Prize, Liu Xiaobo, is languishing in China’s prison. Liu Xiaobo is the only detained Nobel laureate in the world.

 

Neither should we forget the human disaster now unfolding in Tibet. As of today, 92 Tibetans have self immolated since 2009 in protest of the Chinesecultural genocide policies against the Tibetan people. Today silence on this crisis is no longer, indeed never, an option.

 

Today’s hearing is intended to cover a few issues. I am here to testify on only one of them: the outlook on democratization after the recent change of leadership in China.

Before and after the Chinese Communist Party’s eighteenth congress, people have been wondering about this one important issue: “whether the new leadership will start democratic reforms”, and have embarked on an intense debate around this question.

From the speech given by the outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao, we should have a clear answer to this question. That is, the Communist China has decided not to abandon the one-party dictatorship in favor of democratic reforms. Hu’s declaration of  “never to take the evil road of changing flags and banners ” unambiguously indicated this determination. The follow-up speeches given by the newly appointed general secretary, Xi Jinping, also struck the same cord. They both set the tone for the policy of the next generation of leaders, which based on past experience, has a tremendous binding power.
Nevertheless, the CPC is not the only factor that affects the future development of China. The reality is that the Chinese Communist regime is facing unprecedented pressure and challenges from all walks of life that demand fordemocracy. The foundation on which the CPC regime has tried to mix a high-growth market economy and rigid one-party dictatorship is corroding.
For a period after “June Fourth”, the CPC co-opted the intellectual elite economically and politically, and therefore successfully defused the regime’s most direct legitimacy crisis. Terms like democracy, human rights, universal values, political reforms, etc. simply disappeared from the public dialogues.  Today, however, these phrases and concepts increasingly occupy the center of the public discourse. They have essentially become the common theme of people of all social sectors.

The intellectual elite’s renewed demand for democracy is mainly based on the understanding of the reality of China’s national crony capitalism. This crony capitalism has sustained a long period of high-speed economic development, which has almost become the only source of legitimacy for the CCP’s one-party dictatorship. However, such an economic system has carried an incalculable cost in the form of human rights abuses, environmental deterioration, and morality collapse. It has become insolvable.

The only positive achievement in the Chinese Communist Party governance is the establish of the “two terms in ten years as a generation” term-limit system. Many observers stipulate that such a system will ensure long-term stability forthe CPC regime, because they wishfully believe that this system found a way out of the pit of power discontinuity that has plagued all dictatorships in the history. The Bo Xilai event, however, mercilessly bursted such a bubble.  This “voluntary term limit” system may make do only temporarily. The unsatisfying undercurrent within CPC may erupt in the mid-term power shift 5 years from now and in the generation change 10 years from now. The entire regime may collapse at the time.

 

Through long-term information control and neo-nationalist brainwashing, the Communist regime somewhat successfully fed the Chinese public the idea that “democratization is a Western conspiracy to prevent the rise of China”. However, the wide spreading use of Internet has started to break the information blockade. The Communist Party can no longer promote wholesale neo-nationalism. For example, there are substantial differences between today’s public opinions in cyber space to those of as recent as 2008.
After “June the Fourth”, corruption has become an important basis for stability of the communist system, because no Communist Party officials at any level will be loyal to the regime if they were not give the privilege to corrupt.  Such a predatory regime is growing more and more mafia-like and has caused unprecedented infringement of the basic rights of the ordinary people, resulting in increasingly frequent protests on an increasing scale. At present, there are on the average more than 500 protests EVERY DAY that involve over 100 protesters. That’s once every 3 minutes. In order to keep these self-motivated protests from becoming a conscious pro-democratic movement that threatens the regime’s power, the Chinese government has built a monstrous “stability sustaining system” which has an operating budget exceeding China’s national defense budget. This gigantic SSS treat every citizen as a potential enemy: dissidents, independent intellectuals, landless peasants, victims of forceful demolition, victims of forced abortions, veterans, migrant workers, Tibetans, Uighurs, Mongols, Christians, Falun Gong, you name it. Particularly, the SSS protocol mobilized an unprecedented 1.4 million strong professional police force and civilian “voluntary guards” to “defend” the Chinese Communist Party’s 18th Congress. Against whom? No clue. What the Communist ruling class does not know is the real enemy may actually come from the top leadership circle.
I am not saying that this regime is going to collapse or forced to “change lanes” tomorrow.  I am just pointing out the fact that there is a major crack withinChina’s communist power structure and the public at large is accumulating enough power to seriously challenge the one-party dictatorship. These are the two most important factors leading to a Democratic reform in a totalitarian country.

 

That said, we cannot forget that we still need an overall persistent pro-democracy movement to force the one-party dictatorship to crack open. A long-term resilient movement will reach critical mass when idealists like Liu Xiaobo join force with self-motivated public who are unsatisfied with the status quo. One of the milestones would be the formation of a civic leadership group which possess the following four characteristics: 1) represent and trusted by the general public, 2) powerful enough to at least partially alter the current political order, 3) able to catch the attention and support of the international community, and 4) able to carry out (and call off) effective negotiations with the government. What happened in Guangdong’s Wukan village a year ago is a good example.

Such a group of civic leaders in China is taking form. So my conclusion is there may not be significant change to the Chinese regime in the next one to three years, but there will be a major one in the next 5-10 years. This major change will be caused by many factors, including international pressure, which will be a good topic for Q&A.

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