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A Battle to Preserve Human Conscience and Dignity

Posted by on 2010/01/13. Filed under Opinions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

By Liang Jing
Jan 13, 2010 – 6:29:22 AM

Hu Jintao’s shameless sentencing of Liu Xiaobo to a heavy sentence of 11 years in prison went well beyond what the vast majority of Chinese people see as reasonable. Despite being in the interests of the CCP party-state, this political decision was distinctly thuggish and totally lacking in savvy. Hu nonetheless made the move, not only to show his political opponents who wields the sceptre, but also staging a collective humiliation of all who disdain his philosophy of servility. I felt on learning of Liu’s heavy sentence as if I were watching some local bully publicly rape a peasant girl in broad daylight, then look around to see if anyone dared express a grievance.

For a time in the 1990s, the CCP regime, under huge moral pressure at home and abroad, showed some scruples when persecuting well-known intellectuals. The arbitrariness and unreasonable severity seen in the recent trial and sentencing of Liu Xiaobo send an important message, namely that the highest authorities of the CCP see themselves as so strong they no longer care about their international image, and even strike a deliberate pose of “I’m a thug, who do I fear?”

No Chinese intellectuals either on the left or the right, can misapprehend the message sent by the severe sentence imposed on Liu by Hu Jintao. It has nothing to do political views, and has even less to do with ideological tendency, because apart from self-interest, the CCP regime is devoid of serious doctrines or views. Nor has the sentence anything to with stability of the regime, because Hu Jintao is clear that the Party’s state apparatus is unprecedentedly powerful, and mere scholars like Liu Xiaobo can pose no threat to it.

In today’s China in which a cynical and servile philosophy has become very popular, Hu Jintao’s outrageous trial and sentencing of Liu Xiaobo is nothing more than the spiritual intimidation and siege of those intellectuals who still seek to defend the human conscience and dignity under the rule of the CCP.

Liu Xiaobo once asked: “Can it be that Chinese people today, over a century after abolishing rituals of abasement before the imperial power, still abase themselves, finding all sorts of reasons to defend their kneeling position? Does merely granting modest prosperity and allowing the rich to join the party require them to kneel in tribute to the dictator’s might and grace?! ” A heavy sentence was Hu’s unmistakable reply to Liu. [1] 。

Facing Hu’s shameless intimidation, what can intellectuals living under the menace of the CCP do? How is tyranny to be protested, human conscience and dignity to be defended, how are people to be encouraged not to give up belief in conscience and justice? A major reason for Hu Jintao daring to spiritually intimidate and suppress intellectuals is that the CCP not only controls all media, but can as well deprive socially respected intellectuals of any livelihood. Chinese intellectuals are still faced with the moral dilemma Ye Ting described more than 60 years ago: “The door for humans is locked, the hole for dogs is opened.”

The challenge for Chinese intellectuals is how are they to transmit their collective voice while under close surveillance with no place to hide? This not only requires courage, but also takes wisdom. Well-known literary and art critic Cui Weiping realised that at this critical moment, one person’s moral courage and wisdom can support the moral courage and hope of millions. Her private blog has been on-line since before New Year’s Day up to last weekend. She released interviews with over 90 well-known scholars and cultural figures regarding Liu Xiaobo’s sentence under the heading of “We Won’t Give Up.” Differing as to status and position, with very few exceptions, they clearly but firmly expressed opposition to the Party’s reactionary policy in penalising free speech.[2]

In my view, this collective saying “no” to Hu Jintao by China’s intellectual and cultural elite, is no political game, but a battle to preserve human conscience and dignity. They have drawn a clear moral baseline for the CCP that won’t allow free speech to be penalised, and told those in power that in their handling of Liu Xiaobo they have crossed it. In its significance for China’s progress toward political civilisation, this collective gesture transcends “Charter 08,” because among the cultural elite taking part in collectively saying “no” to the Party, there are many who don’t agree with Liu and his Charter— even some who oppose him. All, however, stand together on the fundamental issue of opposing the Party’s “penalizing speech” and its philosophy of servility.

What should China’s future be like? How is reform to be undertaken? These issues are intrinsically open to debate. As long as it has a sufficient number of people who refuse to be servile, to abandon human conscience and dignity, China still has hope. But Hu Jintao and his associates have completely different views on this fundamental issue; only if everyone accepts servility, they insist, will the world be at peace. China’s intellectuals have collectively notified Hu and his ilk that if they do not give up their dream of enslaving China’s people, then 11 years will be, rather than Liu Xiaobo’s sentence, the term remaining to the Party.

* Liang Jing, “Yichang weihu rende liangzhi yu zunyan de baowei zhan” [A battle to preserve human conscience and dignity], Xin shiji, 12 January 2010 [梁京: “一场维护人的良知与尊严的保卫战”,新世纪,2010年1月 12日 (here) http://www.ncn.org/view.php?id=77133&charset=GB2312

[1] n.a., “Liu Xiaobo yanlun xuanji” [Collected speeches of Liu Xiaobo], Xin shiji xinwen wang, 12 January 2010 [佚名:“刘晓波言论选辑”, 新世纪新闻网,2010年1月 12日 ( here).].

[2] Cui Weiping, “Yu youren duihua” [Conversations with a friend], , 12 January 2010 [崔卫平:“与友人对话”, 2010年1月 12日 ( here).].

(Translator: see also Cui Weiping, “Women bu fangqi” [We won’t give up], 5 January 2010 [崔卫平: “我们不放弃”, 2010年1月 5日 ( here).].)

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