Why Must China's Communist Party Eradicate Dissent?

By Yu Ying-shih
Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
Zeng Feiyang, director of the Panyu Workers' Center near the provincial capital Guangzhou, May 20, 2014.
Zeng Feiyang, director of the Panyu Workers' Center near the provincial capital Guangzhou, May 20, 2014.
Photo courtesy of Zeng Feiyang

Today I want to talk about the Chinese Communist Party's suppression of dissidents, which is more complete than at any other time in history.

I think we are in the final phase of what I call the eradication of dissidents.

Why is this?

On Dec. 6, the New York Times reported on the detention of around a dozen people in Guangzhou, all of whom were members of independent labor groups, rather than official ones.

We know that the party doesn't allow people to organize their own trade unions.

But in the years since economic reforms began, especially in the last decade or so, workers have begun to organize themselves to fight for better wages and other benefits.

So these organizations do exist, and they often carry out strikes, which are often suppressed by the authorities. However, we don't hear much about them, because they are rarely reported.

After decades of these sorts of activities, the working class are still dissatisfied with their lot.

Not backing workers

The one-party communist government is not on their side. It claims to represent the working class, but instead it helps out capitalists, investors, people with money.

One of these unofficial groups is called the Panyu Workers' Group, and its leader is a man called Zeng Feiyang.

There are a number of prominent figures around him, one of whom is a woman called Zhu Xiaomei.

Two other people were detained at the same time as them: a man called He Xiaobo, who runs the Nanfeiyan group, which helps workers in Foshan, in particular, workers who have suffered injuries in the workplace.

These organizations have been instrumental in a lot of disputes lately, probably because a lot of factories are closing under the economic slowdown presided over by the Communist Party.

They are being detained because they threaten the precious "stability" of party rule.

The Communist Party can't reconcile its own actions, because it should be on the side of the workers, and help them.

Now, things are topsy-turvy, and the vanguard of the proletariat, the political force of the working class, has set itself on the other side.

The important thing to remember here is that this is the first time we have had large-scale arrests of people from organizations that assist workers.

A couple of the individuals involved in these organizations have been detained before, but this didn't really come to public attention.

But this crackdown is a very big one, and it has been conducted openly.

Magna Carta fears

The Communist Party is now in the final stages of its suppression of dissent.

In Western constitutional democracies, we can say that Wu Hailong is a liar when he stands up in Geneva at the United Nations and tells us that China will continue to uphold human rights.

Actually, the Chinese Communist Party is is the biggest enemy of Western-style constitutional democracy, because it would destroy the political world of the party.

That's why it was a big deal when the English Magna Carta, a document signed in 1215, exactly 800 years ago this year, was exhibited in China last summer.

It has been a golden year for Sino-British relations. After [the Magna Carta], Chinese President Xi Jinping received a lavish reception during his state visit to the U.K., where he got the go-ahead for huge investments.

So the British thought they'd do something good for China, and bring the Magna Carta there [on its world tour].

One of the stops on that tour was Renmin University [in Beijing]. In the end, approval wasn't given, and the exhibit was relegated to a small room in the British Embassy for viewing by visitors.

That should show you how much they fear Western constitutional democracy.

We won't be able to understand why a regime oppresses dissent among its people and its leaders until we understand that fear.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie.

Yu Ying-shih is a Chinese-American historian and Sinologist and advocate of a new form of Confucianism. He has held professorial posts at Harvard and Yale, and is currently Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton.





More Listening Options

View Full Site