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English Translation by China Change: part 1, part 2, part 3.
Xu Zhiyong’s “Talks” with Beijing’s Public Security Chief Three Weeks before His Detention (1) On Friday, July 19, a text circulated on QQ that is a record of Xu Zhiyong’s “talks” with a top official of the Beijing Public Security Bureau that occurred on June 25, 26 and 28. Its authenticity has since been confirmed by Xu’s close associates. ChinaChange.org is providing a complete translation of the text in three installments.
By Xu Zhiyong
On the three afternoons of June 25th, 26th, and 28th, I had “talks,” per appointment made by the police, with one of the heads of the Beijing Public Security Bureau in a conference room of a vacation hotel in Changping, Beijing. We argued about many issues, including democracy, rule of law, constitutionalism, CCP’s leadership, socialism, the concept of citizenship, public disclosure of officials’ assets, the petitioning system, equal education rights and more, and we each put forward our views. The other party said I had already committed multiple crimes and coercive measures would soon be taken by the authorities. He demanded that I support the Party’s leadership and cease committing crimes. I said I would be adhering to the spirit of the new citizens’ movement, but I was willing to listen to his opinions on the specific ways and methods [on how to pursue it], but if it was committing a crime to become a citizen, I was willing to pay full price for it.
The police requested the meeting the day before. The team leader of the guards outside my home told me that one of the municipal Public Security chiefs wanted to have a talk with me, and he promised that I would be able to return home that evening. I accepted it without giving the matter much thought.
It was the first time I went outside my home since April 12, the day when I was placed under house arrest. I rode with three plain clothes policemen to a small, nondescript vacation hotel east of Zhongka Orchid (中卡庄园) in northern Changping. After getting out of the car, I was searched, led to a conference room, and seated in a single chair on one side of the table. Opposite, there were two men in their fifties. One of them would be the main interlocutor who, one could tell, was someone in a high position. Let’s call him C and the other D. A young man was fiddling with a video camera.
Sitting down, I said I was Xu Zhiyong, and I asked who they were. C said, “I’m the head of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, and I opted to talk to you this way today.” I asked him why I was brought there.
C: It’s been almost three months since we took coercive measures in early April against the illegal organization of Citizen (referring to the detention, and then arrest, in April of ten citizens who demanded disclosure of officials’ wealth in Beijing – trans.). As the head of this organization, you have committed several crimes of the Criminal Law. We will soon detain you as well, and we want to hear what you have to say.
Me: Citizen is far from being an organization. Instead, it is a voluntary group of people who pursue democracy, the rule of law, freedom, justice and love, and who have been consistently advocating the nation’s progress through moderate and reasonable approaches. Our actions, whether it was a dinner gathering or calling for officials to disclose assets, were merely the exercise of citizens’ legitimate rights, and were not crimes at all. I will not change in my pursuit of the ideas of citizenship; as for our approaches, they can be discussed. We have always been reasonable and willing to listen to others’ input. Of course, if people as moderate and reasonable as me cannot escape being locked up in prison, so be it. It’s the misfortune of the Chinese people, and I will surrender myself to my destiny.
C: Are you people reasonable? You displayed banners more than a hundred times in various cities over the last few months. If we don’t stop you promptly, it will trigger social turmoil.
Me: Shouldn’t officials disclose their assets? If they do so, corruption will be curbed as a result, and we would not have to display banners to call for it. Your fear of theses actions triggering mass gatherings only indicates that asset disclosure is what the people want. Making a call for it is merely an expression and it will not cause tumult. If tumult is upon us one day, it will be because of escalation of conflict caused by privilege, corruption and the perverse stability maintenance.
C: Hasn’t our Party been actively campaigning against corruption?
Me: Isn’t that great? We are trying to help.
C: Are you people really serious about anti-corruption? If so, why can’t you see all the progress the Party has made in anti-corruption?
Me: Of course we are sincere about fighting corruption. We do what we say and vice versa. Shortly before the ten advocates were arrested, we had been discussing a bill called the Sunshine Bill. I don’t deny that the CCP is fighting corruption, but the system is the problem, and corruption is becoming more rampant despite the anti-corruption campaign. I ask you to use your reason: Over the last ten years, has corruption in China increased or decreased?
C: Which country doesn’t have corruption? Will the country rid itself of corruption if it’s governed by your model?
Me: Indeed. Every country has corruption, but the difference is gargantuan. In the US, a ministerial level official taking a bribery of two million dollars would be a huge scandal, but in China, it’s nothing. To curb corruption, we need to monitor power; we must have an independent judiciary, checks and balances of powers, and free media. These are effective ways used all over the world. Asset disclosure is another recognized mechanism, so why are they so afraid to disclose?
C: With equal education rights as a pretext, you people besiege the Ministry of Education every month, causing enormous trouble for us. You were a people’s representative before, why didn’t you make appeals through legitimate channels?
Me: We have been trying everything. We wrote letters to over a thousand people’s representatives, we held discussions with many experts. But the most effective way is to petition in front of the Ministry of Education, because your system puts stability maintenance above everything else, and a gathered crowd can place the most effective pressure on you, thus pushing the Education Ministry to change its policies.
C: Beijing is already very crowded. If Beijing opens up the national entrance exams (gaokao—trans.) to everyone, then won’t students from across the country flood Beijing to take the exams?
Me: That will not happen. Gaokao-motivated immigration is due to inequality in college acceptance. Students in Beijing municipality have an advantage in college acceptance because the city deprived the children of its eight million non-hukou (residency registration—trans.) taxpayers of their gaokao rights. If the kids of the eight million new immigrants are allowed to take the gaokao in Beijing, their advantage will diminish. Then, who will want to immigrate to Beijing for the sake of taking the gaokao here? Our fight for equal education rights is not fighting for that privilege, but fighting for the same rights for all taxpayers of the city, and for the rights of millions of left-behind children to unite with their parents. On your part, you think you have maintained stability by suppressing the calls for equal education rights, but have you ever thought: Where will they go, the children of Beijing’s eight million new immigrants who have suffered discrimination and whose prospects in life are hurt? They will still come back to Beijing, because their parents live here, and Beijing is their real home. When I was on a jury in a court, I knew very well that crimes among children of immigrants were rising quickly, and it is to a large extent the result of discrimination. (Part of argument omitted here)
C: You can make reasonable recommendations about these?
Me: We have been. For years we have been promoting social progress in constructive ways.
C: Your series of articles, such as The People’s Nation (《人民的国家》), echo totally the western system, and they are anti-party and anti-socialism. Your organization has grown to several thousand people over only a few months. Your actions have already constituted a crime, actually multiple crimes.
Me: Aren’t the communist party and socialism western products? May I ask, what is socialism? If a market economy is socialist, why is democracy and the rule of law, which we are pursuing, not socialist? Does socialism necessarily exclude democracy and the rule of law? As for anti-party, it is such an extreme charge. We support what we think are the right policies, and we oppose what we think are the wrong policies. In addition, I harbor no hostility towards anyone. If the Communist Party continues to rule the country through elections, I will support it. If it’s a crime for citizens to gather for dinner, discussing current affairs, serving society, and calling for officials to disclose their wealth, then you are making any accusation you want, and you will be sentencing me however you want. I don’t care.
D, at this point, interjected at great length on how awful western countries, especially the United States, were. He said, you, Xu Zhiyong, would most likely be a traitor of the Chinese people in the future, and many online have said the same thing about you. I answered seriously, “Most likely, I love China more than you do! When you have time, you should read my essay Go Back to China (《回到中国去》) to see a Chinese’s experiences and reflections in the United States. And you, how many of you corrupt officials have sent your wealth overseas?
C: Loving the party, the country and the people is a trinity. Since you don’t love the party, how can you possibly love the country and the people?
Me: My fatherland is 5,000 years old, this party from the west is less than 100 years old, and it will not be ruling China forever. How could there be a trinity? I love China, I love the 1.3 billion people, but I don’t love the party. One of the reasons is that it has inflicted on my country too many cruelties with millions having died of hunger and the Cultural Revolution thoroughly destroying Chinese culture and the nation’s spirit. Another reason is that, the party today is too dirty. There are so many corrupt officials. They lie blatantly when they apply for party membership and they lie blatantly when they swear into it: How many of them are really devoting themselves to communism? I abhor lies; I abhor the unscrupulousness with which some pursue their desires; and I abhor someone who lies even when he or she makes a vow.
C: I would say you are a man when you dare say you don’t love the party. Given that it’s not bad that you advocate freedom, justice and love, given that your intentions are good, we hope to educate you and we hope you will love the party, give up these civic activities, make more contact with people from all walks of life, and see things more objectively.
Me: Thank you for reminding me. I will do my best to be objective and reasonable. I examine social ills, but I also watch CCTV’s evening news. I am willing to take advice on specific activities that might not be perfectly without fault. Some actions might have been too rash, and we can stop for now. All these can be discussed, but don’t say anything about committing crimes.
C: I know I will not be able to change your views easily. I have read your files. You have been consistent like a pin for all these years, and your position has been there and has never moved. We’ll continue next time. What is a good time for you, tomorrow afternoon, or the afternoon of the day after tomorrow?
Me: Tomorrow will be fine.
Around 7 pm, I was taken back home, still under strict house arrest.
I had to take seriously the other party’s warning about pending coercive measures. I wrote a letter to friends before I left home:
I am still harboring optimistic expectations. I have been trying to tell them that this group of people who call themselves Citizens are reasonable and moderate idealists who work toward freedom, justice and love in China, and that the Communist Party should tolerate the existence of these healthy forces and tolerate political diversity.
At the same time, I am prepared for the worst. If I am taken to a detention center as soon as I leave home this afternoon, I will be at ease with the prospect of ten years in prison. I told them in yesterday’s conversation that, if this happens, it would be my destiny personally but would also be a tragedy for the Chinese nation. If things deteriorate today, I will tell them that they are on the wrong side of history by trying the conscience of a people. It will be my glory to be locked in prison for wanting to be a citizen [with full civil rights]. Despite everything, I believe progress has been made in our time, that the new citizens’ movement is the correct path, that no one will be able to stop us from promoting civil responsibility in a totalitarian society, that the new citizens’ movement is both critical and constructive, and that the movement will push the country to change, not only ending the dictatorship but also by building a beautiful China where freedom, justice and love prevail.
The “talks” resumed in the same location after 2 pm.
C: Yesterday I proposed a few points for you to consider, but really, there are only two main points: Support the Party’s guidelines and policies, if you don’t like the wording “love the Party;” cease illegal and criminal activities. What are your thoughts?
Me: I have no particular thoughts. I maintain my position in being a citizen. I support the Party’s policies when they are right, and criticize them when they are wrong. As for ceasing activities, we are determined to do what citizens do, and you and I should all become citizens. Of course, if our actions are inappropriate somehow, we can suspend them, and we are willing to listen.
C: You must understand that you will soon be taken into custody.
Me: I am willing to pay whatever price to promote the progress of the human race! If we talk about the laws, lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜) and the others (activists who were arrested in April—trans.) are completely innocent. If you don’t respect the law, then you can convict me at any time. But to try the conscience of a people, you nail yourselves to history’s “pole of shame!”
C: I don’t doubt your willingness to make sacrifices, but I hope things will move in a better direction.
Me: I also hope things will turn out better. Of course I want to be free so I can do more for society, but I must also stand up for what I believe.
C: Your ideals are very good, but you have to consider how viable they are. You must have been pretty frustrated, because you have been facing more and more obstacles in recent years.
Me: Indeed it’s been more and more difficult, but I’m completely at ease with myself. When I have my freedom, I do my best to serve society. When I’m confined at home illegally, I read and write. Even when I’m detained illegally in a hotel room, I can still reflect on my religious feelings. It appears that, in recent years, I have moved farther away from the system, but the real reason is that the system is moving farther and farther away from the people.
C: The way you look at things is too lopsided, and you see the country as all dark. Look at Iraq, Lybia, and countries that were taken advantage of by the west, and see how pitiful their outcomes have been. In our country, consider how fast the economy is developing, and that’s all because of to the good leadership of the Party. (Omission)
Me: I have never seen China as all dark. Instead, I clearly see the economic progress, the awakening of our better nature, and the emergence of diverse social thought over the last 30 years. In a way, we all see the world through our own prejudices, and, as such, we all make some sense but not all sense. Therefore, don’t be too quick to tell others they are wrong, and more important, don’t be too quick to claim we ourselves are the only ones who are correct. My perspective is certainly not without fault, but I try to be objective, for example, I watch CCTV Evening News often. On the other hand, you might be more lopsided than I am, because too much of your information came from the official discourse of the system, to the point that you are moving ever farther away from the public in your views. For example, one year in Haidian District’s Congress of People’s Representatives, we talked about someone who self-immolated to protest forced demolitions. Almost all the officials regarded him as someone who was recalcitrant, but the rest of us all in all stood on the side of the self-immolator. The confrontation of values between the government and the people has grown so serious that the death of a girl, who supposedly jumped off a building such as in the Jing Wen incident (京温事件), can trigger massive protests.
D: In the Jing Wen incident, there were a few bad people who incited the masses to go to the streets. I have evidence.
Me: See, that’s the path you always go down, how pathetic. Every time something happens, you say it’s the work of a few bad people. How could a few people incite big unrest like that? Have you ever thought why so many people don’t believe your official conclusions? Because you have lied too much about too many things, you are too corrupt, too unjust, and there has been a buildup of too much resentment. I remember armed police patrolling a grand night bazaar a few years ago when I was traveling in Xinjiang. Is that a normal society? You always say it’s only a few bad people, but the more bad people you arrest, the more bad people there are, why?
D: You are too one-sided. Take demolition and relocation for example. You only see isolated individuals who complain about low compensation, and you don’t see those who look forward to it. I know that many people are very happy about it. (Omission).
Me: Indeed there were people who were content, like residents in Qianmen Avenue (前门大街). But more people, even though they have not self-immolated to protest, have harbored resentment. The biggest problem in Beijing’s demolition and relocation projects is unfairness. The government sets an absurd compensation scale, like RMB 8,000 per square meter while, in the same location, the real estate price is RMB 40,000 to 50,000 per square meter. Those who have connections and power, or those who are willing to die to have a fight, would become “nail households” and demand astronomical compensation, while people without power and connections have no choice but to submit. The worst is in the rural parts of Beijing where one square meter of land is compensated with one square meter of apartment several kilometers away. Would you be happy with a deal like that? We don’t simply represent one side. Instead, we considered floor area ratio and proposed an objective and reasonable standard based on the principle that the developer, the original residents and the government share the increased value of the land. For example, one square meter of single house (平房) should be compensated with 1.7 square meters of apartment in a nearby location. But the officials rejected our recommendations. Over the last decade, several million rural Beijingers have been hurt by forced demolition and relocation. To our regret, such injury is still going on.
C: We are a country with a big population but limited resources. It needs a process to develop. You are very bright, and you should put your energy into contributing ideas to help the government, not to create trouble.
Me: We are not trouble makers. We tried to help solve problems when they emerged. And I have also been making proposals aimed at optimization. Take the population issue for example. Both Beijing and Tokyo sit on a plain about 6,000 square kilometers in size. Tokyo has a population of 35 million and manages to be orderly, while Beijing is crammed everywhere you turn with a population of 22 million. The problem is that the government, thinking too narrowly with its mindset of a planned economy, always wants to control the population in Beijing, resulting in short-sightedness in planning and lagging in garbage processing and education facilities. Beijing should have long planned the city based on the need of a population of 35 million. Take trash disposal for another example. (Omission).
C: You use petitioners to display banners, but what they want is to solve their specific problems, can you help them solve their problems? Is asset disclosure their demand?
Me: We try our best to help the disempowered, but it’s true that what we can do to help them is very limited. We appealed a case in Chengde for nine years and it went nowhere. What we can do, mainly, is to provide advice, and in the winter, we send them some coats and comforters for emergency relief. As for calling for officials to disclose assets, of course they did that voluntarily. They are victims of privilege and corruption. They sincerely hope for asset declaration and they very much want to do something for society to progress.
C: You people listed the black jails and you denigrated the government. The petitioning problem is such a complicated process that it needs time to solve. It’s not as simple as you imagine. (Omission).
Me: Illegally limiting citizens’ freedom of movement is a serious violation of the law and a crime. It is the black jails that are denigrating the image of the country. There is no solution in the current system. Every country has people petitioning, but only in China has it become a serious social issue, a headache for stability maintenance. The root of it is the unjust power system. The current system is top down in which officials only answer to their superiors but not to the people they govern. An official does not care about the appeals of ordinary people; only when some of these appeals reach his superiors and the latter orders him to solve them, will he start paying attention. It’s like this all over China. As a result, millions of people travel to Beijing every year to petition. If everywhere the local governments solved problems in their jurisdictions, there probably would be only a few hundred cases that would come to Beijing, and the State Bureau of Letters and Calls could form a task force to solve each one of them. Now that there are about 10 million cases, no government entity can solve them. The question again is, what system will be able to reduce such large scale petitioning. If voters directly choose officials on each level and the positions are determined by votes, then officials will do their best to discuss the problems his constituents have and solve them as promptly as possible without his superiors having to ask him. We pursue a democracy, not because we want to emulate the west or the east, but because it is a system that can solve our own problems.
C: Have you not seen that more than 90% of the masses support the leadership of the Party? Hasn’t there been progress in the past 30 years?
Me: I don’t know how you get this number of 90%. I have always acknowledged the progress of the last 30 years. But I also clearly see huge problems. Social injustice persists; government and the people oppose one another. China will have to continue to reform, to reform politically, to become a great nation. Today, China is second in the world in GDP, but remember that China was also second in the world in GDP 100 years ago, not to mention that most of the developing countries in the world today are also developing quickly. China’s problems are not minor ones, and corruption is not a few isolated cases. We want to acknowledge the country’s progress, but you also have to realize the seriousness of its problems. I hope we have consensus, that is, we are all citizens of China, none of us want to see the country in turmoil, and we all pursue a beautiful China with democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice.
Me: When are you going to free those nine people? (referring to nine of the ten arrested in April for demanding publicly declaration of officials’ assets, one is on bail pending trial – trans.)
C: It will depend on how you see the issue.
Me: I have said before that, in terms of specific actions, we could make concessions. If they are too premature, we can stop because we need to consider the extent to which you can accept and the extent to which the society can accept.
C: All the same, it will have to go through the legal process. You are not negotiating with us. You have committed crimes and you will soon be taken into custody.
C: Another four hours have passed. We have talked twice. With regard to loving the party and ceasing the activities, write down your thoughts, all right?
Me: I don’t see the point of writing it down. I have said everything.
C: Well, it’s better to have it in writing. Let me take a look when you’re done.
Around 7 pm, I was sent home.
I wrote down my thoughts about the ideas and actions of being a citizen. After sharing the result with a few friends, I revised it as My Civic Ideals (see below). I was saddened thinking that I might not be returning home for years. In my prayer appeared the following sentence: “I am grateful that God give me forty years of life, experience and happiness. I love the human race, for that love, I’m willing to face death.” I became completely calm. (A close associate of Xu Zhiyong told me that he is not an adherent of any specific religion, but embraces a more general deism. – trans.)
Around three o’clock in the afternoon, I arrived at the same location. C hadn’t arrived, and D asked, “The thing we asked you to write, what are the main points?”
Me: My ideals as a true citizen are to stay reasonable and constructive, and pursue freedom, justice and love. Our methods can be discussed, and we will try our best to take action within the constitutional and legal framework.
D: What do you mean “try our best?” You must take actions within the legal framework. (Omission)
Me: “Try our best” is to try to do so, but conscience is higher than law.
D: The things you have done – they disrupt the social order, and you have done them for your personal purpose……
Me: (I interrupted him, stating slowly and loudly) The only purpose of my life is freedom — justice and – love!
C: I have read what you have written about your ideals as a citizen. You have shown no intention to admit your guilt and surrender yourself to the law. And you still talk about the same things. Your write-up should have included at least three points: Number one, you support the party’s guidelines and policies. Number two, you admit your guilt and surrender yourself to the law. Number three, you avow that you will not go back on your word. When you are done, we can get it in the media to disseminate.
Me: Pardon me, the promises you want me to make are unrealistic. You will have to understand that Xu Zhiyong will never sell out his conscience and his beliefs. Not at any time, never, should you expect me to give up my dignity, not a bit. I am not a radical person. I can consult with you but I have my bottom line, and I am willing to pay any price for my beliefs.
C: Based on these articles of yours, you don’t support the party’s leadership, you are anti-party.
C: You are against socialism.
Me: What is socialism, may I ask you? The fundamental attributes of scientific socialism are a planned economy and public ownership, and you have long been opposing it. Socialism cannot be separated from democracy; one-party rule is completely detrimental to socialism, so you are against socialism as well. We pursue democracy, rule of law, fairness and justice, and these pursuits are not contradictory to the original ideals of socialism. In all likelihood, I am more of a socialist than you are.
C: You oppose the socialist system. For example, in your open letter (a partial translation by ChinaChang.org), you brazenly reject the system of the Congress of People’s Representatives.
Me: The National People’s Congress is the country’s highest organ of power, do you believe that? The highest organ of power is subject to the leadership of the party? Aren’t you disgusted by that flagrant and dirty lie? If a country’s basic political system is such a hypocritical lie, how do you hope for an honest society? Fundamentally speaking, the politics we pursue is truthfulness, bidding goodbye to dishonesty and living an honest and truthful life.
C: You sound really pretty, but you are in fact a political swindler.
Me: (Sorry, I was angered) If you haven’t met me, perhaps you would hear how calculating and foxy Xu Zhiyong is, so on and so forth. But you and I have talked for two afternoons. Look into my eyes and put your hands on your conscience, do you think Xu Zhiyong is a swindler? Political hooligans and swindlers are the people I detest the most. I am not like them at all, those who do not need a draft when churning out lies.
C: What I am saying is that, you have your political purposes but you got parents without Beijing household registration to campaign for fair education. Did you tell them your political purposes?
Me: My political purposes are very clear and I have never hidden them from anyone: for a beautiful China where freedom, justice and love prevail. To fight for equal education rights is to fight for justice, for love, and it is part of the ideal of being a citizen. The campaign for equal education rights is for the children, and once it succeeds, it ceases. Serving society is a citizen’s responsibility, and I don’t have to talk about that lofty political vision with them every day, but I have never hidden it from anyone.
C: You are anti-party but you wouldn’t dare to admit it, nor would you dare to take the responsibility for it.
Me: You are so perverse! What is there that I am afraid to take responsibility for? For what I believe, you can take me away right now. Haven’t you told me that I have committed several crimes? As a citizen with reason, I do not oppose for the sake of opposing; our goal is true democracy, not just overthrowing and beating down. Freedom, justice and love, these are my beliefs. I’m a simple man, and I do not conspire behind the banner of idealism. It’s an insult when you say the goal of my life is to seek power and status. I don’t pursue anything for myself; I live for my sense of mission.
C: Li Yiping’s (李一平) Strategy for Regime Change (《变局策》) has clearly summed up what you have been doing, that is, to overthrow the socialist system. But you wouldn’t dare admit it.
Me: Their ideas are very different from ours. I have already written an article to clarify. What we do is to encourage everyone to do what a citizen does and to pursue freedom, justice and love, and to seek real democracy and the rule of law. We welcome any party as long as it is elected by the people. I have stated this position many times. There is nothing that I believe but would not dare to admit. Don’t think everyone else is like you, who make dark assumptions about others.
(Long silence. )
C: Why aren’t you talking anymore? I can tell you are having complicated feelings.
Me: No, not at all. I am thinking: how could your mind be so distorted as to imagine that Xu Zhiyong is a swindler? In your imagination, everyone is a conspirer who says one thing and does another. Is this your idea of politics? How terrible such a society is, and I am sad for the human race. I detest nothing more than political hooligans and swindlers who have no moral scruples whatsoever. The mission of my life is to change this.
C: You must know that what you have done constitutes crimes, and you will be subjected to coercive measures.
Me: I am willing to pay any price for my beliefs, and a decade more in prison will be my glory.
C: Of course, taking coercive measures is for the sake of education.
Me: No, that will be impossible. If I am arrested, I will speak only in the court. Otherwise, I will be completely silent. I am willing to be silent for a decade.
C: In 2009, you only admitted mistakes and you refused to admit your guilt. We let you go that time, but you are still unrepentant.
Me: I wasn’t completely ready in 2009. You (plural) said, if I got out, there would be room for me to do things. So I admitted mistakes to meet you half way. Right now I can still talk to you, but if I am again arrested, there will be no way that I will compromise.
C: Do not be so absolute.
Me: Positively absolute. There will be no room. Do you want to know what I prayed last night? I love the human race, for that love, I am willing to face death.
C: You are too stubborn. If you continue down this path, you will bring to the country disasters that are far more catastrophic than robberies and murders.
Me: No, I am not someone who seeks power and selfish gain without scruples. We are builders with reason. Every step of progress we make will bring to the country not disasters, but light and hope. Disasters are in the making, and you (plural) are the makers of them. All of our efforts are aimed at reducing unfairness, anger and calamity, and mitigating the price ordinary people will pay in the social transformation that will inevitably occur.
C: You are such a hard-to-pick bone.
Me: Pardon me, do not think this way. Do not think you haven’t done a good job convincing me. You ought to understand that there are believers in this world who are willing to pay any price. I may not be able to convince you that there are such pure idealists in China, but I will use my entire life to prove that politics does not have to be unscrupulous, does not have to be treacherous, does not have to be a wilderness of the gangs or a jungle where ruthlessness rules. Politics can be beautiful.
C: It’s 6 o’clock again. Let’s continue another time.
Me: No more need for talks, unless you want to have a personal conversation with me about life, religion and other private issues.
We bid goodbye amiably. C gave me a few copies of study materials for the 18th Party’s Congress.
I don’t know how long I will be confined. For freedom, justice and love, it doesn’t matter anymore. At home, looking outside the windows, the world is both real and illusory, life is an experience without grudges or regrets, and love alone is real.
Citizen Xu Zhiyong, June 30, 2013
My Ideals as a Citizen
(This is Xu Zhiyong’s writeup of his thoughts requested by his interlocutor at the end of their conversation on June 26.)
To advocate that everyone be a citizen is to pursue real democracy, the rule of law, fairness, justice, and to seek a society where freedom, justice and love prevail. The people who made up the group called Citizen are not an “organization,” but a voluntary alliance of Chinese who pursue the dream of being a citizen. Everyone can regard himself or herself as a citizen, and join others to promote social progress.
The guiding beliefs of citizenship include freedom, justice and love. In the ideas and speech of citizens, there are no concepts such as “overthrowing,” “beating down,” and “enemy.” We oppose hostility and hatred, and try to resolve them. We hope China will transition, with minimal price, to a democratic and constitutional government, thus realizing the dream of democracy and liberty fought for by generations of courageous and idealistic Chinese. This is my conviction.
I am not a member of the Communist Party. But as a moderate and reasonable citizen, I respect the historical reality that the CCP is currently ruling China, and after all, social transformation needs order. But the CCP has the responsibility to make good on the promise of the “People’s Republic.” For the people to be the masters of the country means the people must have the real right to choose. I am happy to see any political party, by direct, free and fair elections, becoming the ruling party. I sincerely hope that the CCP will emulate the Nationalist Party [in Taiwan], doing away with the dictatorial ideas that see all dissenting voices as enemies, sincerely respecting the will of the people, and returning power to the people. The communists must follow the global trend on the one hand, and answer those Chinese who have made the ultimate sacrifice over more than one hundred years to pursue democracy and liberty on the other.
My ideals are not all that contrary to the original socialist ideals. For socialism to pursue fairness and justice, it has to have democracy and the rule of law. For socialism to develop productivity, it must have a market economy. Socialism is not the same as one-party dictatorship, a planned economy and collective ownership. There are varieties of socialism. Between 1949 and 1978, China implemented a planned economy and collective ownership, or the so-called “scientific socialism.” Since 1978, China implemented privatization of property and a market economy, and it is precisely these “capitalist practices” condemned during the Cultural Revolution that have spurred China’s economic development over the last 30 years. But in the end, whatever –ism is not important; what’s important is to solve the country’s problems and bring freedom and democracy to the country.
We want to behave like real citizens who enjoy the universal rights provided for by the Constitution, and we want to promote social progress in rational and constructive manners. If it is committing a crime to want to become a real citizen and to seek freedom, justice and love, then I am willing to pay the full price for such a “crime” – it is something I will be forever proud of.
Of course, it is possible that some of my approaches might have been inappropriate in my actions as a citizen, and I am willing to listen to anyone in order to better realize my ideals. I will try to advocate the ideas of freedom, justice and love. I hope everyone will adhere to moderation and reason, taking into consideration of the viability of our actions and carry out actions within the framework of the constitution and the law.
The people under the banner of Citizen are advocates for, and builders of, democracy and constitutionalism, not creators of social turmoil. Anger over privilege and corruption is the source of social instability, and the trigger often is a sudden and unforeseeable incident. We are a group of responsible citizens who love China and want to improve her. If such a group of people, moderate with reason, cannot be tolerated, desperate violence will lead the entire Chinese people to tragedies. I hope the ruling party will make a concrete effort to submit to the trend of civilization, and push China to transition to democracy and constitutionalism of its own accord. That will be a blessing for the Chinese people.
Citizen Xu Zhiyong, June 28, 2013