Excerpts from "My Letter to Jiang Zemin and Li Peng Written on June 15, 1991" published in United Daily, November 1993

by Wei Jingsheng

The CCP Holds the Same View As the Nazis on Human Rights

Lately, the human rights issue has become a much talked about topic and the CCP tone seems to have softened somewhat. Allegedly it even claims that it intends to "study human rights theories and problems in order to deal with peaceful evolution by hostile forces." This claim shows that basic theories of the CCP do not cover the issue of human rights and that people are no more than tools for production and struggle within this theoretical framework. Tools naturally do not have any rights. All they have is the "right" to be used and be docile. When "peaceful evolution by hostile forces" comes into the picture and the tools are likely to be docile and useful no more, then it becomes necessary to find out from other angles how they can be made docile again. At least this is the stand and attitude shown by your Party publications.

As for your many proclamations on diplomatic occasions, we have learned from experience and the theories of your Party that they cannot be taken at face value. Consider these views to be the futile and worthless thoughts of a heretic. I, a former tool whom you now regard as no longer docile and a leading dissident who has been branded as a "human rights vanguard," have never been incited or instigated by "human rights diplomacy employed by hostile countries or hostile forces" and have not even been in touch with modem human rights work in the West. The only information on human rights that I have access to comes from your Party's publications. The only thing that I know for sure is that your Party stubbornly holds the same views as the Nazis on human rights, which explains why you gnash your teeth every time someone talks about human rights and are so eager to put them out of harm's way.

The Tibet problem (after the founding of the People's Republic) did not stem from the "ambitions of imperialist forces" and human rights diplomacy. It is true that serious human rights problems, and even racial discrimination, have occurred in that region during the past 40 years and imperialist aggression did indeed occur (several decades ago), but this all happened before human rights diplomacy came on to the scene. Since the imperialists had already left India by then, what ambitions would they have for Tibet which they had never even colonized in the first place? For all these problems, the causes lay within, particularly in the theories and practices of your Party. Do not say the crow is blacker when you yourself are black. Neither the South African racists, nor the Ku Klux Klan, nor feudal serfdom in old Tibet can prove that you have the right to ignore human rights, or prove that you have a good human rights record.

But what is the use of saying all this nonsense anyway? Let us take a serious look at human rights theories and practices, how they stand in relation to socialism and, in particular, why Marxist societies often turn out to be political structures that do not respect human rights. These questions are matters of primary importance for modem China. They seem very far removed from us but actually they are very close to home; they appear to be merely principles but they are very concrete. They are the principal cause of the many concrete problems confronting Chinese society; they are also problems about which fallacies abound and are most confusing. It will take concerted efforts by all to clarify these human rights theories and activities. I can only talk on the basis of reliable information which I have read in publications put out by your Party. The lack of thoroughness is inevitable.

The Communist Theory Protects Oppressors

Fallacy one: Human rights are the internal affairs of a country and foreign governments and organizations have no right to interfere.

Internal affairs are matters to be decided by the government of the country concerned. If human rights issues are the internal affairs of a country and the government decides not to respect human rights, would human rights cease to be a problem? Rights that a government does not recognize as human rights naturally cannot be considered human rights issues. In other words, they are merely questions of internal legislation and jurisdiction and questions not stipulated in law are questions which do not exist. Your Party obviously believes in this kind of theory, which also happens to be the theory upheld by Hitler, the South African racists and the emperors in feudal times. According to this kind of theory, it is both legal and reasonable to ignore and infringe upon human rights, while democratic revolutions, socialist revolutions, revolutions for national independence and the like in various countries are all illegal and unreasonable.

The laws of feudal emperors and Hitler did not protect human rights, and law is the yardstick for judging right and wrong in the kind of theory that you champion. In your own words, you are "using law to unify people's thinking." Thus, according to your "Marxist" theory, revolutions and struggles for freedom, human rights and independence, and in opposition to feudalism, colonialism, racism, oppression and exploitation, are unreasonable and reactionary. At this point, you should be able to tell what kind of theory yours is! Surely it is not too off the mark to call it a reactionary theory which protects the exploiters and oppressors.

Human Rights are Objective Truths

Fallacy Two: Human rights have different standards. Different standards apply to different countries, nations, cultural traditions and social systems and people should be content with the human rights standards stipulated in the laws of their country.

If such a theory is tenable, then all human rights conditions are reasonable and there should not be any "human rights problems." What then is the use of talking about "international cooperation on human rights," "condemning so-and-so for gross human rights violations," "resolutely imposing sanctions against so-and-so's apartheid," and what not? Yours is a sovereign state but so are other states. Your human rights standards are "stipulated by law and represent the will of the government" but is this not also true of other countries? In your country, human rights conditions are the result of "cultural traditions, the social system, and historical changes." Do you think that in other countries they just fell out of the sky? Your "internal affairs' brook no interference; do you think other countries would welcome your interference in their "internal affairs"? All this goes to show that "the theory of different standards" does not hold water because you have no way of proving that your laws and policies are of a reasonable standard while those of others are not. In order to prove that yours are reasonable, you have to cite more objective standards.

We can also see that although the safeguarding of human rights and basic freedoms depends on legislation and policy enforcement on the part of sovereign states, human rights themselves have objective standards which cannot be subjected to legislation and cannot be changed by the will of the government. "Human rights issues" involve how the government protects and respects the rights of individuals, not how reasonable the government is in its actions. These "issues" have to do with how to protect the relatively weak rights of individuals under the relatively strong organs of power. They are common objective standards which apply to all governments and all individuals and no one is entitled to special standards. Like objective existence and objective laws, they are objective truths. That was why Rousseau called them "natural rights."

These "natural rights" are not "protected by heaven' as your bootlicking hack writers try to argue but are "rights with which every person is born." They are things that we fight for as a matter of course and we do not have to be taught by "hostile countries and hostile forces" to do so. They are the basic laws and basic rights of life, just like eating and having sex. In other words, they are instinctive. That is what "natural" means. It is abominable sophistry to try to argue that people can do without food because some people have nothing to eat, that people do not need sex because there are widows and bachelors around, that people do not need human rights and can adapt to animal existence because there are people who consciously act in a servile matter, and that there are no objective human rights standards because of the existence of autocratic societies of enslavement.

Human Rights Are Independent of Man's Will

It is precisely because human rights are independent of the will of the government, and even independent of the will of all mankind, that people fight for their realization and expansion as a matter of course and without prior agreement, gradually coming to the realization that the more widespread and reliable protection of human rights is, the more their human rights are protected. Just as man's understanding of objective truths and objective laws is a deepening process, man's understanding and comprehension of human rights is also a deepening process. Just as man's grasp and utilization of objective laws is a progressive process, man's protection of the theory and practice of human rights is also a progressive process. Thus, it is a plausible excuse to say that our theories and practices in this regard are still backward and that human rights have different conditions in different countries and nations under different cultural conditions and social systems.

However, the presence of different conditions and views cannot be taken as an excuse to violate and disregard human rights, to prove that laws enacted through man's will can override objective truths, or to prove that laws that violate human rights are reasonable. This doctrine which preaches the supremacy of law is just another form of fascism. To them, the law is not the servant of the people's will or the embodiment of objective truths but quite the other way round: the people and truths have become the servants of the absolute law and its enforcing agents. Not only the people but also objective truths, are subordinated to the ruler's will, expressed in the name of the law and the state.

Human Rights Are More Important Than Law

This (the doctrine of the supremacy of law) is not a theory of human progress but a feudal ideology strongly attacked by Marx and others. Some of the fascist and quasi-fascist systems in Europe and Japan in the past and in some Third World countries are based on this kind of feudal or pre-feudal cultural tradition. Chinese people as a whole find the fascist soil of this "doctrine of the supremacy of law" quite unacceptable. Most Chinese people judge whether a person is right or wrong on the basis of whether or not he or she abides by the law. However, they also look at whether or not the law protects and serves the people in judging whether or not the law is right. They take particular care in judging their law enforcement agents. There is no place for the "doctrine of supremacy of the law. " When there is conflict between the people and the law, they are in favor of putting the people first.

This sounds like the "human rights theory" since the time of Rousseau. It is the essence of the humanistic tradition, namely democracy, in traditional Chinese culture. It has struck deep roots in people's hearts for over 2,000 years and there is no way to push it back to the feudal or pre-feudal ideology of the "doctrine of the supremacy of law." What is really important now is not so much counteracting the effects of the "doctrine of the supremacy of law" as finding out how political and administrative organs can be made to show more respect, and provide more protection, for human rights. This is in keeping with the wishes of the times and of the people and will save your Party and you yourself from being wiped out. In the face of the crushing tide of history, one must go along with it or perish. This is true at all times and in all countries.

Feeding The People As Would A Slave Owner

Fallacy Five: "We manage to feed one billion Chinese people and we have met the food and clothing needs of one billion people" and "this is the greatest human right."

If "feeding the people" and keeping them from starving or freezing to death is "the greatest respect for human rights," then the feudal lords and slave owners were truly the ones who "fed the people." At least the existence of slaves and serfs who were kept from starving or freezing to death could prove that the slave owners had "protected the greatest human right" as you have done. The Nazi concentration camps were also responsible for "feeding' the Jews and other "inferior races" in captivity and keeping them from starving or freezing to death. At least the holocaust survivors, like common Chinese folk who survived numerous brutal and barbaric movements and "mistakes" by the Communist Party, could prove that Nazi racism was "the greatest human right." If this is your concept of human rights, then it is an anti-human rights concept similar to that held by the slave owners and Nazis and is something that goes against the perception of value that respects the dignity and rights of every individual.

Is this the concept of human rights under communism, and under Marxism which forms a branch of communism? In my opinion, no Marxist since the time of Marx would openly admit that it is. With the exception of a small number of silly pigs "outside their sty" who do not really know what they are talking about, the majority of genuine or self-proclaimed Marxists would, either sincerely or out of their need to hide, deny that they believe in an anti-human rights concept that goes against the interests of mankind. The thing is, not only Marxism but every ideology that advocates "reliance on violence and all means both fair or foul" when the "interests of all mankind or of all the people within a certain scope" are at stake, all turn a blind eye to human beings and believe in doctrines that go against human rights and values. Nazism, fascism, anarchism and all brands of modem terrorism have "basic principles' in contravention of human rights incorporated in their theories and practices.

You say that "we manage to feed 1 billion people" when you are living off the labor of the people and you say "we have met their food and clothing needs" when it is the people who have solved the problem of food and clothing themselves through their own wisdom, resourcefulness and arduous labor under extremely difficult circumstances as well as exploitation and oppression by Party ruffians and bureaucrats. Do you not feel that you sound too much like the slave owner? Between the anarchist slogan of "take back all the fruits of labor" and the slave owner's tone, there is "a thread that runs through all" and which serves as a balance and link, and that is your doctrines: "Once one has power one has everything," "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun," [Both are quotations from Mao Zedong] together with Marxism and the doctrine of the supremacy of violence which preaches the seizure and maintenance of a totalitarian regime through violence.

Unrestrained Reliance on Violence in Governing

Of course, what is referred to here is Marxism revised by "democratic centralism," and "totalitarian democracy," not primitive or "genuine" Marxism. That pedantic doctrine which straddles two different concepts can hardly exist in reality. In reality, what we have are two camps which have sprung up from the idea of "from each according to his needs" preached in Marxist "classics," namely "Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought" of the East and "Marxism of the West." According to Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong and their comrades in arms, the "gist and core" of this eastern concept is that they can, in an unscrupulous and unrestrained way, "rely on violence to seize and maintain political power.

The Use of Violence Becomes Natural

Society, in dealing with the depredations of unprincipled violence, sometimes has no option but to adopt the conditional and limited use of violence. However, there is a need to constantly guard against the indiscriminate use of violence by the government in power and by its officials. Such violence presents a danger to the rights and freedoms, that is the human rights, of the society itself and its members. A basic standard for assessing whether or not a civilization or society is advanced is whether or not a stable and ordered situation exists based on the preconditions of maximum protection of freedom and the minimum use of violence. (The goal of Marx and his comrades was similar to this, or it can be said to have been this goal taken to the extreme.) This is not your "stability," which has no preconditions and is "highly abstract" but without any real content. According to your highly abstract historical standards, those places where there are slave owners to whom everyone is obedient and obsequious seem to be closest to your ideal. This is because in these places, silence reigns and they are much quieter than the wrangling and noisy democratic societies. Is not this how your newspapers criticize democratic societies?

The Supremacy of Violence Aggravates Suffering

In the "Han language cultural circle" which is still today the world's largest cultural circle, since "benevolence and righteousness" and other concepts which occupy the leading position in its political culture play the same role as "universal fraternity" plays in religion, not only has it become the only exception in not excluding "pagan culture" but it is the only cultural system under an agriculture and pastoral economy which does not need to be held together by religion. However, it has been unable to prevent itself from being harmed by the "new religion" constituted by the idea of the supremacy of violence.

China's inability to attain stability has its roots in this. This is because at a time when China is jumping from an agricultural and pastoral economy into the modem industrial and information age, its traditional spiritual bond constituted by "benevolence, righteousness and propriety" has been destroyed, yet it has not accepted the spiritual bond of the age of industrial democracy constituted by "human rights, freedom and equality." Its wise ideological and cultural traditions likewise have no way to establish any spiritual bond of "universal fraternity and equality" which is religious and based on superstition. Society is thus naturally in a nihilistic and chaotic state. Your doctrine of general hatred which opposes tradition and makes violence supreme can only add fuel to the fire and bring greater chaos and suffering to society. It is because of this that I say that the human rights issue is truly one of the basic issues in determining whether or not a country can enjoy long-lasting peace and prosperity.

Violating Human Rights, Sophistry and Shifting Blame

Fallacy Six: "Looking after the interests of the majority of people is our major point of departure on the issue of human rights."

On the surface, these words sound fine, but in fact there are often things which need to be examined beneath the surface. When talking about the rights which every person should enjoy, the claim that "the majority is the point of departure" is an act of subject-changing sophistry and excuse-making as a result of being faced with a situation which one cannot deny but in which one is unwilling to admit fault. This is because even if we talk about "large-scale violations of human rights," it refers to the violation of the rights belonging to every individual, the violation of individuals' internal affairs. It does not refer to a contentious article which may or may not belong to a particular individual and does not refer to public things in the political, economic, or environmental domains. They are expressed by other concepts. Rather, it refers to rights which should belong to every individual. This has nothing to do with "the majority" and "the majority" has no right to abrogate the basic right to freedom of "a small minority." Although the things included in various concepts can be duplicated and can overlap, we cannot thus say that chemistry equals physics, that energy equals transport, that grain equals smelly nightsoil, and so on. This is the same sort of sophistry as using "the majority" as an excuse to confuse the issue of the human rights which belong to every individual.

Perhaps these words indicate that in our country's society, there exists a "majority" which enjoys rights and a "small minority" which does not enjoy basic rights. Who then is this majority and who is the small minority? Do we have to redraw class divisions? Or are some minority nationalities going to serve as the antithesis, as was the case in the 1950s and 1960s? Regardless, juggling with terms such as "the majority" on the question of basic human rights proves that this society is an unequal one and that the constitution and laws which talk of "all persons being equal" are just waste paper. This then produces a dilemma. Either the constitution and the laws have been cleverly juggled by people so that some of the people enjoy full rights and others do not, or enjoy lesser rights, and the surface and the contents of the laws and the constitution are different or perhaps are even without any substance; or else, some people have usurped the rights which should belong to every person rather than to only some of the people and there has been a large-scale violation of human rights. Which of the two situations do you think is the most likely? Or do both exist together?

South Africa is a country in which a small number of white people violate the rights of the majority of the people, including some white people. This certainly cannot be tolerated and it is certainly valid to openly attack such abuses. However, people of your own age should remember that the Nazis and some "socialist comrades" who were not Nazis used the pretext of -the majority" to eliminate the "inferior races"- the Jews, the Tartars, and the blacks. Is it the case that because some persons constituted "the majority" in the Soviet Union, the United States and Germany, they had the right to violate the rights and freedoms of other people? Was it the case that because such violations did not violate the laws of these countries at that time, and were tolerated, supported and participated in by the governments, that they were reasonable and should not have been denounced, as "it is not permissible to interfere in internal affairs"? While the violation of human rights based on race and national differences is obviously a barbarous act, is not the violation of human rights within a single race or nation based on artificial differences or even with no basis at all, even more barbarous and even more intolerable? Further, you do not allow outsiders to "make intrusive comments," instead requiring them to give full support and assistance because otherwise they will be accused of "hegemonic interference in internal affairs." It goes without saying what sort of image such high-handedness presents. If the people allow the power holders, in the peoples' name, to violate and ignore the rights of some of the people then, at the same time, they are giving the power holders the power to violate the rights of all the people. This is especially so in a society where there are no racial or cultural differences.