Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A111-W50



Release Date: February 12, 2005



Topic: Asia Weekly Report: Wei Jingsheng Talks about Zhao ZiYang and Democracy



Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)





Asia Weekly Report: Wei Jingsheng Talks about Zhao ZiYang and Democracy



Wei Jingsheng, the Chinese democracy advocate who has been in exile for nearly eight years, thinks that the death of Zhao Ziyang will not cause a huge disturbance. The reason is that the populace suffers complete disillusionment. The people are very pragmatic. He views the Chinese Communist rulers as a power cartel motivated by their greed, in complete disregard of ideology. A younger ideology is emerging.


Wei was imprisoned for 18 years for his dissent. Since being released from Chinese jail for medical treatment in November 1997, Wei, the campaigner who has devoted his life for Chinese democracy, has insistently promoted the cause and never stopped. Wei posits that the 21st Century is the century of freedom, democracy and human rights; that freedom and democracy are an unmistakable trend of global civilization development.  Meanwhile, the Chinese people's understanding of freedom and democracy has greatly improved. The most difficult time has passed.


Wei Jingsheng flew to Taipei from the United States as an honored guest of the World League for Freedom and Democracy. In an interview with Asia Weekly, Wei expressed optimism and faith in the Chinese freedom and democratic improvement.


On the Chinese Communist's low-key treatment of its former Secretary-General Zhao ZiYang's funeral, Wei thinks it was not in proper protocol and was disrespectful. However, this treatment reflects the regime's mentality. It contradicts the illusion that Hu-Wen are potential reformers. Wei posits that when Zhao Ziyang insistently disagreed with opening fire on the demonstrators, it was his ultimate contribution to Chinese freedom and democracy. So for the remaining years in house arrest, Zhao had great remorse. At that time many in the ruling clique considered removing Deng Xiaoping to thoroughly reform the political system. Doing so may have led to the complete collapse of the Chinese Communist Party, similar to what happened in the Soviet Union. That would cause the creation of a new political system. While Zhao had the power to cause that change, he did not do so. The result was that people were slaughtered; Chinese politics turned backward. That was his remorse.


This trip was not Wei's first to Taiwan. He has many friends there. In 2001 he met one-on-one with President Chen Shuibien for 30 minutes. Wei feels that Chen is a sensitive leader. Wei advises that the issue of Taiwan's independence has to be handled very carefully, otherwise it would be dangerous. Wei thinks that President Chen agreed with him then.


Wei admits that during the last more than a decade, there have been many changes in the overseas democracy movement - some went into business and some returned to China. He thinks that the essential base is still strong. The following is the excerpt of the interview with Asia Weekly.


Q  Do you feel the funeral treatment of Zhao Ziyang was proper?

A: Zhao has been the premier of China and the Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party, both number one position in the country. His funeral treatment was not proper regardless of his 'mistakes'. For a highest leader of a country, his low-profile funeral treatment was improper etiquette.


Q: Why such treatment?

A: This treatment clearly indicates that the Hu-Wen clique is not what it initially pretended to be - a reform group. If the clique were a reform group, this funeral was the best opportunity for them to show their true colors. Apparently they did not express that intension. The reason is that this faction does not want any reform unless it is forced to. With that we can see the mindset of the clique.


Q: What is your evaluation of Zhao Ziyang?

A: The Communist regime's evaluation of Zhao is unfair. We applaud his refusal to open fire on demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Many want to reverse the Communist's verdict of Zhao. I think the reversal may have to wait for a long time. To me much overseas praise for Zhao is also overdone. His passing is a milestone - the passing of the old cadres of the Communist party who were ideologists yet mostly had bloody hands. We applaud Zhao as a man of conscience who did not do bad things at critical times.


Q:  Zhao's passing is the conclusion of a generation?

A:  Yes. I thoroughly understand this generation. My father was like that. They caused unspeakable suffering among the people: this movement, that campaign, etc. in addition to the devastation of the economy, starvation and killings. Their initial motivation was not bad. They thought that ideology would build a strong China for people to have good lives. But the results made them greatly disappointed, including Zhao. However, their thought was confined to that box. So it leaves us to clean up the mess.


Q: So the idealism of Communism passed away with Zhao?

A: Currently in the Chinese Communist Party structure whether you believe in Communism or not isn't important. What is important is to use the Communist trademark to satisfy your greed. It is purely a cartel of greed. There is neither ideology nor conscience. This is the ultimate transformation of the Chinese Communist Party.


Q: In this logic, there is no idealism, only pragmatism?

A: That is the essential reality in China. When we discuss China, we must stand on this reality. The Hu-Wen clique will not make any changes unless they see their own benefit in the change. Now the Communist Party had no ideology, only greed.


Q: There is no hope for China?

A: Now the younger generation and generations have a new ideology. It is the ideology of freedom and democracy. This movement is coming on very strongly. In it China still has hope. The Chinese are not a backward people.


Q: Is there similarity between now and June 4, 1989? Would there be a repeat of that?

A: There is a great difference between now and June 4. The June 4 and April 5 movements were volatile, petition movements. A petition movement has one assumption: that there is hope in the Party - that the Party can be persuaded. However, especially after the Tiananmen Massacre, the people's disillusionment is complete. So why bother with petition? Please note that in the past one and a half decades, whether in protest or "challenging" movement, confrontations have become increasingly more violent. The people lost their hope for gain by petitioning. So I think there will not be a likelihood of any large scale petitioning movement.


Q: So there are no more idealistic students and workers?

A: There are idealistic students, workers and farmers. But they are not talking about idealism anymore. That is a waste of time. They realize that it is useless to talk idealism with the Communists. They have no common ground. The Communists are only interested in their own benefit, not yours.


A: Will there be a transformation? In the beginning, the student movement was not that large in scale. Later there was an expansion.

Q: Yes. An expansion is what worries the Communists. The Communists only care about the stability of their control. That is normal for all rulers. Now the Chinese social conflicts have progressed to such a stage that the only reality is benefit. The benefit conflict has been sharpening. In the economic progress of the last 20 or so years, a huge portion of the populace has not enjoyed any benefit. There is a huge dissatisfaction when people do not feel they are getting a fair share even one claims that they had food to eat.


Q: So is there any crisis?

A: When the people still have a residue illusion, they use a low-key idealistic approach. These approaches were used in June 4, 1989 and April 5, 1976, which even the Communists can't refute. An idealist approach can rapidly expand the mobilization into a large-scale protest movement. That is still a petition movement driven by the benefit motive. Zhao's death did not have too much effect on the benefit motive. Therefore it can't mobilize a large number of people.


Q: How would you memorialize Zhao?

A: Because of your questioning, I share with you my evaluation of him. Here is a very realistic approach. I'm sure Zhao would also want it this way. The older generation of communists certainly does not want material wealth. What they want is an honest evaluation, a legacy. He endured great pressure against the order of firing on the demonstration. His refusal was his taking responsibility to the people and their lives very seriously. The people's honest evaluation is the greatest memorial to him.


Q: In the years you have been in the U.S. what have you been doing to fulfill your own idealism?

A: There are two elements:

1. By taking advantage of the more comprehensive information and observations, I am supplying the Chinese people with better suggestions and proposals to enhance the building of a better political system.  I can help the Chinese mature gradually, and establish a good foundation for the future democratic system.

2. I have continued to advocate criticism of the totalitarian system and thus generate pressure against it.


This pressure has two purposes:

1. Increasing international pressure directly affects their own benefit thus they truly care about and will response to it;

2. Supporting the democratic struggle of the people in China. To them it is a form of protection, enabling the writers in China to be a bit bolder in their opinions, and such.  Where does the improvement in rights come from? Without pressure the Communists would not give up anything. So we have to push and give pressure to help our Chinese fellows for more rights and space.


Q: Do you think that is effective?

A: International pressure can do a great deal. South Africa is a good example.  The whole Soviet Union collapsed. One can hardly see the effects of long-term constant international pressure day by day. But in the end it will be a great result of achievement. The international pressure protects the opposition voices in China, causing gradual social and political structural changes.


Q: Overseas Chinese democrats give the impression of disunity. Is that correct?

A: Disunity has always existed. It was not noticed in earlier times because all were focused on the big items - criticizing the Chinese Communists. This effort still goes on albeit apparently more unified and noticed by the international community through those who continue our effort and receive recognition. However, people have habits. Situations change. One who was a famous person decades ago does not necessarily maintain the same status. People change. Many democrats changed. Some of them are no longer democrats even by their own admission. Another's impression of these people may not change, leading to false identification and assumptions. In reality, democracy appears to be fuzzy and hard to define while it has a firm and stable foundation. Totalitarianism is just the opposite - it looks firm and stable but is actually chaotic.


Q: How are you connected with the overseas democrats?

A: Frequent contacts are with those who are still working for democracy. Not many of them are well known. I also connect with Yan Jiaqi, Liu Bingyan, etc. They are up in age and can't work too hard on details. Some people went into business, some even returned to China. I respect their free choice. Naturally I don't want to cause them trouble so there is no more contact with them.


Q: How much effect do you have on the movement?

A: I frequently participate in the Call-In programs of radio stations. There are many calls from China. The staff of Voice of America was greatly surprised. The level of sophistication of people inside China exceeds some of us. I think that is the result of our persistently and consistently talking every day, year in and year out. The Internet discussions now are greatly different from those during June 4, 1989. I constantly tell our people not to be discouraged. The most important point is our sacrifice overseas during the most difficult times. It is important to be willing to pay a great personal price without the expectation of any personal return.  It is a sacrificial offering.  However, many rather to give up all these in order to make money. In the early times, there were people working for the Chinese democracy movement in expectation of getting a higher position in the government on returning to China. They even fought over this or that position, and naturally have become disappointed after all these years.


Q: Besides promoting Chinese democracy, do you work on other tasks to subsidize yourself?

A: I have my work being a commentator to support myself. It has not been easy depending on donations that are becoming less. There are always conditions attached in grants. This conundrum is universally true. So a hotly debated issue for Chinese democracy advocates is how to maintain our independence without sacrificing our stand and yet receive this money. It is not easy to escape the expectations and requirements, especially for money from the other governments. Some of us argued to take that money. What do you expect after all? You are expected to pay back in another form if you receive the funds. That is the "fair game". In fact the conditions attached are usually the price we pay - our independence. Ultimately our fellows end up agreeing to my stand -- we would rather face more hardship than accept money that requires compromising our principles. Our stand is to preserve independence for the Chinese democratic movement, as well as for the independence of a democratic China.



(Translation credit: Robert T. Huang.  The Wei Jingsheng Foundation is responsible for the accuracy of this version of the English translation.)





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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A111-W50



Release Date: February 12, 2005



Topic: Asia Weekly Report: Wei Jingsheng Talks about Zhao ZiYang and Democracy





















































通過你這種方式,對中國民主化有多大程度上推動?我經常參加國外電台的「叩應」(CALL IN)節目,國內人直接打電話,連美國之音的編輯都發現,現在國內百姓真的不得了,那水平比我們還高了。我就說,這就是我們天天講,年年講的效果。看網上的百姓評論和六四時也大不一樣了。我經常也鼓勵我們自己人,不要灰心,就這麼做,就是有成績.當然,很重要的一點,因為海外處於很艱苦的狀況,都是大家在做奉獻,甚至要自己掏錢去做工作,我特別強調一點就是奉獻精神,不要老是很功利的,好象我們現在做了點什麼,將來回國就如何如何.早期的民運就有這種錯誤,總是開大會封官,將來回去你是什麼部部長,你只能當副部長了,為了這個還要吵架.











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