12/10/2010, 00.00
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Bao Tong: a tribute to Nobel Laureate, Liu Xiaobo. Rights for all, by nonviolent means

by Bao Tong
The great statesman, under formal house arrest since the Tiananmen Square massacre (1989), shows the great novelty of the proposals of Liu Xiaobo, who today will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, though he will be absent because sentenced to 11 years for "subversion of state power". Affirming human rights through peaceful means condemning Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping, who have betrayed the ideals of the People’s Republic of China. The present essay is written to honor the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner and as a preface to the book "A Collection of Essays by Liu Xiaobo”, soon to be published in Chinese.

Beijing (AsiaNews) The centennial of China's 1911 Revolution is approaching.  The 1911 revolution was a revolution to end the imperial Qing Dynasty and establish a republic. It resulted in the establishment of the Republic of China which was followed in 1949 by the establishment of the People's Republic of China.  For both, legitimacy rests on the idea of a "republic." One century later, the republic is still the only form of government universally accepted by all Chinese.

The early revolutionaries often misguidedly chose the path of violence for social change. Then at the Sixth Plenum of the Sixth Party Congress, Mao Zedong elevated violent revolution to the level of a universal truth:  "The seizure of power by armed force, settling an issue by act of war, is the central task and the highest form of revolution. This Marxist-Leninist principle of revolution holds well universally, for China and for all other countries. " Though this supreme order changed the fate of China, it is unfortunately not a universal truth.

Angry mobs revolting against oppression are easily turned towards violence.  The drive to revolt is often understandable, in some cases even inspirational for the resulting drama and epic grandeur. However, though revolts may help to release anger, they may not resolve any social issues.  The legend of "a burst of anger to force a nation into a state of tranquility" is nothing but hearsay with no basis in truth. There was Chen Sheng Wu Guang, The Red Eyebrows , The Yellow Turbans, White Lotus Sect, Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Boxer Rebels, and various other rebel societies, gangs, bands and parties; Zhu Yuan Zhang who became emperor, Li Zicheng and Yuan Shi-kai who wanted to but failed to become emperor, Wang Jingwei who attempted political assassination, and Mao Zedong who robbed the landlords. In two thousand years of killing and conquests, a few became kings but most turned out to be bandits. And what did all of this prove?  It proves that power can come from the barrel of a gun, emperors can be made at the barrel of a gun, as can dictators of various kinds; but not the institutions of a republic nor the protection of human rights for its citizens. Transitions bought through violent struggle can not reflect the will of the people, which requires a mechanism of debate, negotiation, consensus and cooperation to reach the goals of social development and peaceful coexistence.

The omnipotence of the Chinese communist party

Having been a subject of both Chinese republics, I can use my own experience as testimony that the People's Republic of China is even further removed from the ideals of a republic than the Republic of China was before our so-called "liberation." Back then when all of China was the ROC, its ruling party, the KMT, was not omnipotent. Now, the one-party rule of the Communist Party has become much more all-encompassing. Under the CCP, elections provide only one candidate, and executive, legislative and judiciary branches all submit to the Communist Party. Entire social institutions, establishments and industries are mere instruments and extensions of the party. All media organizations must toe a defined party line. Though freedom of thought, religion, expression, publishing, assembly, and organization, and the right to protest and hold demonstrations are unequivocally protected by the constitution; in reality, imprisonment for thoughts, religion and political beliefs is commonplace. Any citizen of any profession - scientist, artist, writer, lawyer, entrepreneur, politician, soldier or any common person - who has an independent mind and a love of freedom will inevitably feel suffocated. And if you are deemed "hostile" or "suspect," all of your activities will be subjected to surveillance by the party-state .

Liu Xiaobo and I got to know each other under the party-state's constant surveillance. He and his wife Liu Xia twice attempted to visit me at my home; once about ten years ago, and once in the fall of 2007. In both instances they were blocked by police supposedly exercising "rule of law." Since the authorities blocked these two citizens from being  guests in my home, the three of us went out to a tea house. The police allowed this in all their magnanimity, and then sat surrounding us, some closer, some farther, and watched. Going out for tea once or twice a month became a habit for us, and we continued thus for more than a year. Then in 2008, Liu Xiaobo was "legally" taken away. As he could no longer come for tea, Liu Xia came alone. After October 8th of this year, when the announcement came that Liu Xiaobo was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xia and I have been forbidden to have tea together, "according to the law." In fact, our personal freedoms have been taken away by an authority that is constantly "improving" the art of governance according to "rules" that have never been revealed to anyone. But I really hate bringing up such trivial matters when, compared to the time when some 40 million people were starved to death, we seem indeed to be living in the best of times for human rights under the People's Republic of China, even though this is a republic without an elected government or the proper institutions of a republic.

The breakthrough of Charter ‘08

With countless examples of violence in exchange for violence in the past as well as the present, the drafters of Charter 08 ( ref: Charter 08, a plea for human rights in China | complete text), have learned that violence cannot build a modern civilized society. In order for the idea of basic rights to take root in China, the only way is the path of reason and peace. There is no other way. We do not agree with "power from the barrel of a gun," blessed by Mao as a universal truth. We are willing to observe the principles of peaceful, non-violent and legitimate struggle for a very simple reason: using uncivilized means cannot achieve civilized ends.

Liu Xiaobo's aim in partaking in the drafting of Charter 08 was to promote human rights, and his way was non-violent struggle. "Rights for all, through peaceful means": this is the purpose of Charter 08 and we believe it is the only way to a modern and civilized society in China. We are grateful to the Nobel committee for rewarding this year's Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo. It is a heartwarming blessing from afar for this nation with one fifth of the world's population.

Indeed, our belief is not the belief of all. Some believe they need only pay lip service to opposing special privileges, while actually maintaining these privileges for those "made of special material." We believe, on the contrary, that we must take action to abolish these privileges in real terms, to realize Article 2 of the Chinese constitution: "All citizens of the People's Republic of China are equal before the law." We promote basic rights for all Chinese: rich or poor, Han or other ethnicity, official or common citizen. A society is never a homogenous entity. By nature, there will be distinct interest groups. There may be a few "men made of special materials," but there are definitely many common men made of non-special materials. Whether strong or weak, all must have their basic rights respected.

Mao Zedong created "Six Standards," Deng Xiaoping established "Four Cardinal Principles," and their successor announced "Three Represents." These ideologies that come in sixes, fours or threes may be right or wrong, and naturally there will be people who agree, disagree or are vehemently opposed. There will always be those who are left, right or neutral. All should have equal rights. Farmers forced off their lands and urban residents forced out of their homes should be given their basic rights. Victims of past injustices and those subjected to "reform through labor" (laogai) by police through extra-judicial means should be given their basic rights. People suspected of being in "prostitution or criminal gangs" should be given their basic rights. Party members under internal investigation for corruption should be allowed their basic rights. Convicted prisoners should also have their rights respected: there should be no disappearances, torture or unlawful implications. Even the "Gang of Four" should have been allowed the same rights, including the right to petition and reveal open or secret directives from Mao Zedong to reveal the extent of their responsibilities. Judges and prosecutors should not be allowed to prohibit a person from defending himself in court in their attempt to maintain the party's glorious image. 

Some people have accused Liu Xiaobo and the rest of us who have signed Charter 08 of "subverting the People's Republic of China." But what is a republic? A republic is a form of government that puts the political rights of its citizens above all others, as defined in Article 2 of the Chinese constitution. This is also the purpose of Charter 08. We are resolved to protect the republic, not to subvert her.

Mao and Deng, the “subversive” emperors of the republic

There are indeed people who have subverted the People's Republic of China, and at least two quite famously. First is Mao Zedong who boasted of being "bound by no laws or heavenly constraints." The system he created concentrated all the power in the hands of the Party which he led, leaving nothing for the people but the right to obey. Another is Deng Xiaoping who initiated and led the Tiananmen crackdown. The system he set up was: "When Mao was the leader, he was the state; when I am the leader, I am the state; and in the future, my successor will be the state." "All power belongs to the people" - the guarantee of rights for over a billion people - was made entirely meaningless. This is the Chinese model and the Chinese system.  If this can be called a republic , it is not the kind of republic that is universally recognized, but rather a "republic with Chinese characteristics." No one in their right mind can count the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Massacre as products of republicanism. Therefore, it is evident that the People's Republic of China has long ago been subverted by Mao and Deng, denying others any chance of subverting her.

Nobel peace prize for Liu Xiaobo, who has no “enemies”

Liu Xiaobo was convicted of a "crime" "according to the law" for attempting to save the republic after its principles and ideals had been stripped away. That is all.

Some people have thereby deemed the act of saving the republic "subverting the Communist Party." However, the Party Charter states that "the Communist Party must conduct its activities within the boundaries of the constitution and the law." In other words, the power of the Communist Party should be limited in order to safeguard the ideals of the republic and the constitution and to thwart party corruption and degeneration. Limiting the power of the party was a self-disciplinary aim of the party itself.  How could it be deemed "subversion" to demand that the Communist Party honestly and concretely realize its own charter? Those who aim such accusations against Charter 08 must have no knowledge of the Party Charter (or the original ideals of the 1911 Revolution). One might look upon such people with pity for their ignorance, but one should never take them seriously.

Rights for all, through peaceful means. This belief itself determines that we have no enemy (and can never be one), not in our sights nor in our hearts. The constitution does not allow for subdivisions of citizenship. That means there should be no division between the people and some "enemy", and no extra-judicial "struggle and strike" against anyone.

Liu Xiaobo has been branded "an enemy of the state." Even so, at his trial he declared: "I have no enemy." What could he have meant by this? He was declaring that he totally rejects the antiquated thinking of Mao and Deng that divides the country into "people" versus "enemy". Liu is declaring that "all citizens of the People's Republic of China are equal before the law."

What Liu Xiaobo represents is not hatred, but the hope of realizing rights for all through peaceful means. Even though we are currently living under clouds of hostility, I still believe that those who have suffered and all Chinese people will eventually see a brighter day of rights and peace.

Only a country that protects the right of all its citizens can be trusted to be truly responsible for the protection of world peace.

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