Myanmar's Election Sparks Online Calls for Elections in China

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, June 11, 2015
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, June 11, 2015

As Myanmar awaits the final results of the weekend's landmark elections in which the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) has claimed a huge victory, the process has been closely watched in China, sparking calls for similar reforms on social media.

Sun Liping, professor of sociology at Beijing's presitigious Tsinghua University, hit out at the official view of the ruling Chinese Communist Party that democratic politics aren't suitable for China, saying: "Actually, democracy is a normal way for a normal society to behave."

"It is a way of life that allows for human nature," Sun wrote in a post to the Twitter-like service Sina Weibo on Tuesday. "Just because the grown-ups told the kids in the past not to talk and eat at the same time, doesn't mean that talking and eating are incompatible."

The tweet, which was retweeted more than 2,000 times within a few minutes, also garnered hundreds of comments from netizens, many of them supportive.

"That's right. Democracy is a normal way of life," wrote user @yueguangrushuichihui, while @yishengyihui added: "All we can say is that they have cleverer politicians in Myanmar."

"I have never hoped for democracy to the extent that they have it in Taiwan," @wohuibeimingshengong wrote. "I just wish that they would implement the system of People's Congress representatives for real, and enable judicial independence."

Xi dashes democracy hopes

But some stuck to the party line, while others thought democracy an unlikely outcome for China under the presidency of Xi Jinping, known online by his nickname 'dumpling' after he once ate in a Beijing dumpling restaurant alongside ordinary people.

"Dumpling's wife is about to direct a production of 'The White-Haired Girl,' and you still hope for democracy?" user @guoji-zhang wrote, in a reference to one of the Revolutionary Model Operas, the only public performances allowed during the political turmoil of the Mao-era Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Equally skeptical, user @bobopupu commented: "You think casting a vote makes a democracy? Would you even know who to vote for?"

User @haizeiniuV added: "The only purpose of a dictatorship is to grant special power to certain interest groups ... Anyone who supports dictatorship is either a member of those interest groups, blind or a half-wit."

Meanwhile, user @yangguanxiadexiaowoniuA appeared to question the official line. "Don't try to walk before you can crawl, and don't try to run before you can walk ... Why do they think we haven't the wits for it?"

The NLD said on Tuesday that it is on track to take more than two-thirds of available seats in parliament, enough to form the first democratically elected government in Myanmar since the early 1960s.

The NLD expects to win 250 of the 330 seats not occupied by the military in the lower house of parliament, where a quarter of the seats are reserved for army figures.

Beijing-based author and rights activist Li Hongyu said the only reason Chinese people can't take part in similar elections is the determination of the Communist Party not to lose its stranglehold on power in the one-party state.

"These special interest groups are unwilling to give up their special powers and privileges, and that's the reason there are no general elections in China," Li said.

"Everyone is waiting for those special interest groups to fall from power."

He said a country that has successfully provided compulsory primary education to all its citizens already has the prerequisites for a democratic system.

"As soon as people wake up to that fact, nothing on earth will be able to control them," Li said.

Constitutionalism advocate in jail

He said Xi's administration has launched a merciless attack on anyone who openly supports constitutional government, but that many pro-democracy activists still hope that the sheer speed of Internet communications could carry the day for them.

"We don't necessarily need an Aung San Suu Kyi, or even a Liu Xiaobo," Li said in a reference to the 2010 Nobel peace laureate, who was jailed for advocating constitutionalism in China. "What is hopeful is the sheer speed with which information travels online, and the people are waking up very fast now, which is something that Xi Jinping didn't foresee."

Retired Shandong University professor and veteran rights activist Sun Wenguang welcomed the election.

"I am happy that the people of Myanmar have been able to take part in a genuine election," Sun told RFA. "I think that if they had a general election in China, the result would be pretty much the same."

Coverage in China's official media of the Myanmar elections has been straightforward, but with a notable absence of opinion articles and editorials.

Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei welcomed the peaceful election process on Monday.

"As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China supports Myanmar in all political agenda after the election in accordance with law so as to realize national stability and long-term development," Hong told a regular news briefing in Beijing.

And the nationalist tabloid Global Times, which has close ties to the Communist Party, quoted southeast Asian studies expert Zhang Guotu as saying that the election result should have no negative impact on bilateral ties.

"Suu Kyi's friendly attitude to China has been demonstrated since she visited China in June," the paper quoted Zhang as saying.

Reported by Xin Lin for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wei Ling and Ho Shan for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





More Listening Options

View Full Site