Birthday Gala Suppresses Dissent

China holds lavish celebrations to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party.

Share on WhatsApp
Share on WhatsApp
ccpanniversary-305.jpg Chinese students mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of Communist Party in Chongqing, July 1, 2011.

China's ruling Communist Party celebrated its 90th anniversary on Friday amid mass revolutionary song contests, live television galas, and huge expenditure on flower beds, sculptures, and fountains.

But netizens and political activists said the Party continued to suppress calls for political reform and greater accountability, jailing anyone who tried to oppose its rule and silencing public dissent in the name of "public harmony."

As more than 100,000 contestants took part in competitions to render the revolutionary songs of the Mao era, cinemas got ready to screen a revolutionary blockbuster propaganda movie which is expected to generate 800 million yuan (U.S. $123.8 million) at the box office this summer.

But Beijing-based opposition activist He Depu said he, together with all the fellow activists he knows, were under tight surveillance for the duration of the anniversary celebrations.

"We are all under guard here," He said. "Two national security police began watching me [on Wednesday], sitting downstairs."

"If I have to go and do something they come with me ... I have to go in their car. I'm not allowed to go out by myself," he said.

He said the restrictions were directly linked to the Party's 90th anniversary.

"It's the Party's 90th birthday, and they're afraid I'll get in their way," He said, adding that his residential neighborhood had held a cultural and arts performance on Wednesday in honor of the anniversary.

"They were all singing revolutionary songs," he said.

Propaganda slammed

Many Chinese netizens have slammed the amount of official propaganda surrounding the celebrations, with some penning an open letter to the Chinese Communist Party asking it to stop sending out the same old message, because it was harming the government's image.

Letter author Zhao Shilin, a professor at the China Minorities University in Beijing, called on the Party to remember that its power as a political party had been given to it by the people.

But online satire of the anniversary was rife, including a spoof video hitting out at the order to cinemas to screen propaganda history movie "Beginning of the Great Revival" to coincide with the anniversary.

The welter of criticism earned China's netizens a public slap on the wrist in one official newspaper.

"The bitterness and anger currently spreading online has drawn concern from many people," wrote two Party-backed academics in an editorial in the Global Times.

"People are still more willing to slam the government for, mostly, no reason," it said.

"When such attitudes perfectly matched the morbid psychology of the society, those irritable 'opinion leaders' were hailed as 'heroes' by the public," said the article, signed by "a professor and a PhD candidate at the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC."

"No government on the planet would give a green light to this," the article said.

'A monopoly on resources'

Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang said the Party seemed to have spent lavishly on celebrations up and down the country.

"As the ruling Party, they have a monopoly on all resources," Sun said. "They also control the media, the arts, and cultural industries, as well as the right of leadership."

"They are celebrating the birthday of their own monopoly on power and the plunder of the country's resources," Sun said.

China still bans any meaningful political opposition, handing lengthy jail terms to anyone setting up a political party and striking non-Party candidates from local election lists.

The wife of Xie Fulin, an activist sentenced last year to six years' imprisonment for his involvement in the China Pan-blue Alliance party, said she recently visited him in jail.

"They have even stepped up surveillance over him in there," Jin Yan said on Thursday. "They will only let one person visit him and it has to be a family member. They won't let a second person in."

"It was only this visit that they started doing this."

A turbulent history

The Chinese Communist Party emerged in the 1920s out of a small group of intellectuals, going on to fight against the Japanese, and forcing out the Nationalist KMT government of Chiang Kai-shek to found the People's Republic in 1949.

As well as lavish parties, flower displays, and revolutionary song concerts up and down the country, local news reports suggested China's first aircraft carrier was scheduled to begin sea trials on Friday.

However, the millions of deaths in the famine of the Great Leap Forward (1959-1960) and the widespread political turmoil, deaths, and persecution of the Anti-Rightist Campaigns of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) receive scant mention in official accounts of the Party's history in print or on-screen this year.

Deng Xiaoping's economic reform launched an economic boom following the death of supreme leader Mao Zedong in 1976, but repeated calls for political reform and democratization have been violently suppressed or ignored.

China now sees thousands of mass protests and riots around the country every year, sparked by complaints of official corruption, and abuse of power, manifesting in forced evictions and land grabs, illegal detention and harassment, and a growing gap between rich and poor.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


Add your comment by filling out the form below in plain text. Comments are approved by a moderator and can be edited in accordance with RFAs Terms of Use. Comments will not appear in real time. RFA is not responsible for the content of the postings. Please, be respectful of others' point of view and stick to the facts.