Former Top Chinese Aide Calls for Civil Rights

Bao Tong. Photo: AFP/Robyn Beck

HONG KONG—A former top aide in China’s Communist Party under house arrest at his Beijing home since the 1989 pro-democracy movement has called on Beijing to uphold civil rights and let go of one-party rule.

In an essay broadcast Wednesday by RFA’s Mandarin service, Bao Tong, former aide to the late disgraced Party boss Zhao Ziyang, took as his theme the “harmonious society” pledged by the current leadership under President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

“China is the biggest corrupt regime in the world. The administration is corrupt, the markets are corrupt, its culture is corrupt, and that corruption has taken away the voice of public opinion,” Bao wrote.

“The environment continues to be degraded through corruption, and morality is perishing in the morass too.”

One one side were the residents, lawyers, and reporters who were trying to protect civil rights and the Constitution. On the other were those in charge of Party, government, army, and police, who trampled on the Constitution, on civil rights and destroyed a harmonious society.

He said the current slogan of a “harmonious society” was an attempt by Party leaders to address deep-running unrest in China caused by rampant official corruption and a growing gap between rich and poor.

“At the time Mao Zedong was trying to establish socialism in China, everyone was utterly poor. Now, when the have-nots are having trouble sustaining a basic existence, the haves are all getting rich. The dogs and chickens have gone to heaven,” Bao said.

“It’s even better than in the days of Pangu, who cleaved the separation between heaven and earth...Under the leadership of the Party, under socialism with Chinese characteristics, we now have the world’s largest gap between rich and poor, and a bunch of tycoons-in-training...Out of a once-poor nation, one in every 300 Chinese is a multimillionaire.”

He cited China’s Gini coefficient, an international measurement of wealth discrepancy, which at 0.45 is running higher than the accepted danger level for social stability.

Standoffs criticized

He slammed the inability of the Party to supervise itself, which he said has led inevitably to less social harmony, not more.

Bao also criticized Beijing for failing to make any official statement about standoffs between local residents and officials in the southern province of Guangdong, in Taishi village and Dongzhou.

“In the incident which took place in Dongzhou, near Shanwei, residents, lawyers, and journalists attempted to exercise their rights to appeal, to exercise supervision, to represent themselves and to hold elections, peacefully and legally. They were violently suppressed by the local Party committee and government, beaten, detained, arrested, and even shot dead,” Bao said.

“One one side were the residents, lawyers, and reporters who were trying to protect civil rights and the Constitution. On the other were those in charge of Party, government, army, and police, who trampled on the Constitution, on civil rights, and destroyed a harmonious society.”

“Can it be possible that this is the harmonious society that our central Party leadership wants to build? So far they have said nothing on the subject.” Bao said it was impossible for the Party to represent everybody.

“According to Jiang Zemin, the Party represents the broadest masses of the Chinese people. One party to represent 1.4 billion people. It must represent the workers, the rich, the poor, and the rebels. It must represent the those who seek to unify the has to divide represent everything all at once, be both the Alpha and the Omega.”

He pointed to the jailing recently of a number of top lawyers and civil rights activists.

“Since we entered the 21st century, on the eve of the next Party Congress, there are a great many cases, including that of Fu Xiancai, Chen Guangcheng, Guo Feixiong, Gao Zhisheng, and Guo Qizhen, that have all been brought because the defendants attempted to establish a harmonious society,” he said.

He said basic perceptions of common problems—China saw 87,000 mass protests in 2005, an average of one every five minutes—were very different.

“The weaker masses are angry because they are suffering at the hands of a rapacious government. Government bigwigs aren’t happy because the masses won’t do as they’re told and cause chaos. Ordinary people think that the government caused the problems in the first place. Those in power believe that the people are just being disruptive and playing up.”

“Mao Zedong would have said that the deciding word should be this: ‘It is reasonable to rebel! We should smash the landlords and divide up the land!’ Deng Xiaoping would have said: ‘Stability before all else! Continue the suppression!’”

But Bao said neither view was appropriate to China in the 21st century. “Either way, they both espouse a philosophy of struggle,” he commented.

Rich vs. poor

Instead, proper elections, clear property rights, and freedom of speech would alleviate the problem of corruption, he suggested.

“Clear property rights would enable ordinary people to live and work in peace. But while property rights in China sound good, they are somewhat hazy. Nobody can really penetrate their secrets. For example, the difference between state-owned and publicly owned. Or between privately owned and non-government. It’s the equivalent of the fuzziness between Party and State,” he said.

Bao wrote: “In upholding the one-party authoritarian system, the Communist Party has done everything to preserve all that is out of harmony in Chinese society. Why has corruption become so foolproof and fearless? Because ever since June 4, 1989, the forces of democracy have been severely repressed, and any power to do anything about the problem rests firmly in the hands of the Party itself."

"Why has the conflict between rich and poor gotten so acute? Because the one-party authoritarian system controls the markets and has a monopoly on the allocation of resources, information, big opportunity, all major moves and decisions.”

“Why have elections in China become non-elections, which cannot be contested? Because under the single-handed control of the one-party system, they have lost the hopes and confidence of the people.”

“Why do Chinese people lack the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association? Because the one-party authoritarian system destroys liberty, because freedom is an even greater force than political power which has been snatched by the barrel of a gun,” Bao wrote.

Extracts from an original essay in Chinese by Bao Tong. RFA Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated and edited for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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