Why China's Propaganda Minister Should Resign

A commentary by Bao Tong
2013-04-18
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china-liu-yunshan-march-2013.jpg Li Keqiang (L), Liu Yunshan (C) and Zhang Gaoli (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 3, 2013.
AFP

On April 6, netizen "Red Clothes Uncle" Li Lei created a song and sang it in a video. It was deleted on the same day of posting.

Who has the right to delete someone else's content right across the country? Probably only Politburo standing committee member and secretary general Liu Yunshan, and the Internet police, who are led by him. If my guess proves inaccurate, please would Mr. Liu or others familiar with the situation let me know, so that I can correct it.

Mr. Li's lyrics went like this: "The China dream isn't one of dictatorship, or authoritarian government, or of corrupt officials. It's not a dream of the rich and powerful, nor of censorship, or mafia-style enforcement squads. It's not a dream of deletion, or forced evictions."

Mr. Liu has the right not to dream this dream of Mr. Li's. He has the right to independent thought, and the right not to dream a dream of the people, of their enrichment, of democracy, or of constitutional government, freedom and elections. He has the right to dream what he likes, even if that is a dream of dictatorship, authoritarian government, official corruption, or of the rich and powerful, of mafia-style enforcement gangs and forced evictions. He has the right to dream of censorship and deletion [of online material]. If he wanted to research it further, he could write an article titled "On the legal basis and roots in class struggle of Party censorship and deletion of Internet material." But, neither he, nor the team of censorship officials he leads, has the right to shut down Li Lei's dream.

According to Clause 33 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the rights of Mr. Li and Mr. Liu are equal to each other. Such is the principle of equality before the law. This is common knowledge. If Mr. Liu doesn't understand it, he should hurry to the nearest law firm and enquire about it. I imagine it won't be hard to get the right answer there.

So, if Mr. Liu can't accept the dreams of others, he has the right to: 1. talk about his own dream; 2. criticize the dreams of others; or 3. file a lawsuit at a court of law, if he believes someone has infringed his personal rights, or that this is in the public interest. The problem is that he has done none of these things, which are legal courses of action. Instead, he has illegally violated Mr. Li's rights, by deleting his "China dream."

But Mr. Liu is so emboldened by the crown he wears as a Politburo standing committee member and as their secretary general ... Can those who wear this crown do whatever they want? Mr. Liu can't be ignorant of his own Party, and should abide the Party's constitution, which states that the Party must act within the limits of the law and of the Constitution. If he isn't a legal illiterate, he should also know about Article 5 of the Constitution, which states: "All political parties must abide by the Constitution and the law, and all violations of the Constitution and the law must be investigated." Those who wear the crown [of high office] mustn't be allowed to violate the political rights of ordinary citizens under the aegis of the "collective presidency," not to mention destroy the discipline and image of the Chinese Communist Party.

So how can president Xi Jinping, the creator of the concept of "the China dream," help Mr. Liu out? I can't help him. President Xi said very clearly that "in the final analysis, the China dream is the dream of the people."  President Xi called on Chinese citizens to express their views, to put forward their heart's desires in the form of a dream, and to do everything to promote China's social progress. Mr. Li has produced his dream in response to this call from President Xi, on the back of this positive energy. So what is the problem? The scary thing is, we don't know what raw nerve he touched with Mr. Liu, that he needed to delete it.

Of course, we can't rule out the possibility that the 50 Cent Army, over which Mr. Liu presides, acted without his knowledge. Perhaps Mr. Liu didn't know this was happening at the time, but if so, he still hasn't corrected it to this day. Does he actually do any work? What use does a country have for officials who do nothing? Secondly, let's just say the 50 Cent Army has been deleting stuff willy-nilly, does that mean Liu has no responsibility for their actions? I think that the Chinese people will never enjoy freedom of speech and publication for as long as Liu Yunshan is in power. Liu Yunshan should resign.

Reports said that Mr. Liu made an important statement on April 8 regarding the China dream. He said: "I want to expand education about the China dream into classrooms and curricula at every level, so as to build a good moral and ideological political education among young people. I want it to penetrate campus culture, teaching materials, lectures and into the minds of students." This rather runs counter to the notion that the China dream, in the final analysis, is a dream of her people.

When President Xi is barely done calling on everyone to dream the China dream, and when only a handful of the 1.3 billion population has actually spoken out about their dream, Mr. Liu has shut it down as soon as Mr. Li opened his mouth.

Standing committee member Liu has resolved to put goodness knows what content, possibly content only known to Liu Yunshan, "into the thoughts of minors, into ... teaching materials, into the classroom, and into the minds of students." As 64 years of practical experience and painful lessons under Mao Zedong taught us, this sort of vagueness, coupled with huge determination, is, I am totally sure, the way to turn a good thing into a bad thing, and to turn construction into widespread disaster. If Mr. Liu doesn't have the guts for it, then perhaps the disaster may only be a small one. If he becomes any more powerful, it will surely be on a massive scale.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.

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