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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Open Forum With Chinese Dissident Yang Jianli

June 26, 2008

A question and answer session with famous Chinese dissident Yang Jianli
The Epoch Times
June 24, 2008

At a forum on the 19th anniversary of the June 4 Tiananmen Massacre,
held at North Central College, Naperville, Illinois, famous Chinese
dissident Yang Jianli gave a speech and took questions from the audience.

Yang was among the Tiananmen Square activists of 1989, and was later
jailed for his political activities. He holds a Ph.D in political
economy from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in mathematics from UC Berkeley.

He is currently the President of the Foundation for China in 21st
Century, a non-profit think tank working for constitutional democracy
in China. He has given expert testimony to the United States Congress
and is now a US permanent resident. The following is an excerpt from
his question-and-answer session on June 4, 2008.

Question from audience: There seems to be many factions, or groups,
of overseas democracy activists. It seems that they have offset each
other's efforts. Dr. Yang, what have you observed in this regard? My
second question: how can people in different parts of the world
support your effort, the Gongmin Walk (Citizen Walk)?

Yang Jianli: Yes, splits among the pro-democracy groups overseas are
indeed a reality. Those of us in the groups need to pay attention to
this problem and figure out how to resolve it. But I've been in (the
movement) for twenty years have not come up with a good solution.

The splits are caused by many different things. One is that
reactionary activists are by nature hard to unify—their personalities
are quite unique. These people are brave enough to stand up to a
regime as brutal as the Chinese government, so often they would not
listen to those with differing opinions. This phenomenon does not
exist solely within the Chinese pro-democracy activists.

The second reason is that people who have lived in Chinese society,
as you all know, have been subjected to the Communist style of
education. Since we were little we were taught to tell lies and
engage in class struggle. Yesterday I was (being interviewed) on a
call-in show on Radio Free Asia. One of the callers mentioned that
June 1st is Children's Day in China. Many children will be tying red
handkerchiefs on their necks and swearing allegiance to the Communist
Youth League. They'll swear loyalty to the leaders of the Party and
to become the future stewardesses of communism.

June 1st is Children's Day in China. Many children will be swearing
allegiance to the Communist Youth League. But these kids don't know
what communism is. But they do know one thing: that there are
benefits to taking the oath; at least they know that if they don't,
they will be discriminated against.

But these kids don't know what communism is, what it has brought to
humanity, or whether it's a good thing or a bad thing. But they do
know one thing: that there are benefits to taking the oath; at least
they know that if they don't, they will be discriminated against. So
growing up in China, we were taught the benefits of telling lies.

Pro-democracy activists not only need to fight against the control of
the Chinese Communist Party, but also against the cultural things
that communist education has left in our veins. The latter is much
harder than the former. It's like having to remake yourself—it's
extremely difficult. It's like we often say, we grew up drinking wolves' milk.

Another reason is that activists sometimes doubt whether there's a
future for the movement. I think we need to take a wider look at the
movement. It's not a moral issue, that activists have to take higher
moral ground than the communist party. The key is that our
goal—democracy—is consistent with human nature and with the trend of
world development. That is where its life force lies.

No matter how many disagreements activists may have, the movement
continues forward. When I came out of prison I suddenly found so many
pro-democracy activists that I had never heard of before. I am of the
earlier generation of activists. I knew all my colleagues' names, but
when I left prison I found myself among fresh faces. Sure, there are
many aspects of the movement that are not satisfactory, but because
our goal is good, we will find a way to resolve the problems within
the movement.

Regarding the Gongmin Power (Citizen Power): Gongmin Power is an
experiment of mine and my friends' to try and unify the movement. I
don't mean to say that all the movement should unite under me. In
prison I endlessly pondered about how to organize. The Chinese
communist party has "three magic weapons": party building, rule by
force, and unified front.

The Party most fear that we organize. The old way of organizing
doesn't work anymore: establish a party, appoint a chairman. Then
this new party discovers that it doesn't grow; instead it starts to
shrink. There's no capacity for others' input and it does not allow
for others to share your resources. The way the Party taught you to
organize—the stuff they put in the textbooks—are false. They didn't
teach you how really to organize.

So Gongmin Power is at once an organization and a concept; whoever
agrees with it is a member. I encourage each member to add to the
meaning. The key is not in the leader; nobody buys a company's
products because they like their CEO.

The CCP fears that we unify. So they will often say, "Oh this person
is especially close with Falun Gong; that person is close with the
Dalai Lama." That is to say that we cannot associate with each other.
The best thing we can do overseas is to unite.

Also, the CCP fears that we unify. So they will often say, "Oh this
person is especially close with Falun Gong; that person is close with
the Dalai Lama." That is to say that we cannot associate with each
other. Please don't fall into that trap. The best thing we can do
overseas is to unite.

All those who fight for human rights -- Tibetans, Uighurs, Taiwanese,
the people of Hong Kong and Macau, mainland Han Chinese, Christians,
Falun Gong practitioners—we must all unite. Then we will have power.
Not one person's success will come before the success of the cause.

Q: The CCP used the Sichuan earthquake as a PR tool, focusing all the
media on how tragic the situation is, invoking the word "patriotism"
to shield them from criticism on their persecution of various groups.
They seem to be using the same tactic overseas. How should we respond?

YJ: That is a good question. Dictatorships have a characteristic:
They can mobilize large amounts of resources in a short amount of
time. In times of crisis or while undertaking a large construction
project, they can show their power very quickly.

Shortly after I got out of prison, news surfaced of slave labor in a
brick factory in Shanxi province. A reporter told me that the Chinese
government had already issued an order to media: report only on the
rescue of victims, not on how the incident came to be. If you look at
the footage from the Sichuan earthquake, all you see is that of rescue.

A natural disaster is a natural disaster; I don't believe that the
CCP could have caused that. The number of people they could have
saved after the fact cannot be compared with the deaths they could
have prevented. The collapse of so many school buildings is the most
obvious example. Suppressing earthquake warnings is another.

The CCP has a commonly used media tactic: turn the perpetrators into
heroes as quickly as possible. Get as much footage of them and they
turn into heroes; everyone should be thankful to them. But the effect
is all short-term. Why? After this earthquake we saw some good signs:
First, the people mobilized to save themselves and each other.

In past crises, it was always the government who organized help. And
some reporters broke through the central authority's regulations to
give a true picture of what happened. We could say that the one good
thing that resulted from this tragedy is that citizen-based society
is maturing in China.

When the Chinese government sees this phenomenon they take note. They
must consider what effect the earthquake has on it. Does it open up
the media or not? The CCP does not have an operating creed; it
operates different by basis of the situation—it's very practical.

I'll give you an example: a Chinese professor Guo Quan wrote two
articles after the earthquake happened. One is about the government's
suppression of earthquake warnings, and the other asking the
government to examine whether the tremors damaged nuclear infrastructure.

Very quickly, he was taken away and held for ten days. After he was
released I gave him a call. He said, "They didn't ask me anything
about the articles, but drilled me daily trying to find out who was
in my organization." So that goes to show that the CCP is worried
that someone had formed an organization in the wake of the
earthquake. On one hand China's democratic society is maturing; on
the other, the CCP is getting anxious.

I have spoken to many American mayors, encouraging them to ask people
to donate. And at the same time, we need to exercise our monitoring
power as citizens to make sure the Chinese government does not
embezzle those donated funds. We know how the Chinese government is.
How much of taxpayers' money do they normally embezzle, not to
mention donated funds?

Now I return to your question of nationalism. The CCP's idea of
nationalism is rather strange. It too is an idea that they put to
practical use. The communist ideology in its true form is no longer
alive. So it's left a vacuum. The CCP uses nationalism to fill that
vacuum. They figure, while it cannot control people, it can influence
their thinking.

But the CCP cannot continue to use nationalism indefinitely because
their lifeline is the economy, because if their economy is not
growing, they lose legitimacy. So they cannot use nationalism too
much; if they do, they could jeopardize their relationship with
Westerners and thus their economic growth. That is why their policy
is at times tight and at times more relaxed; it's completely
utilitarian. This tactic is called government using nationalism.

Another is called folk use of nationalism: when the government tells
them to get angry, the people get angry. When the government says
stop, they are no longer angry. 'Oh, the French are so awful," the
government would say. The people take to the streets. And then the
government says, "We should save our energy to build the state. This
anger is destroying our international relationships." The people cool down.

The third kind of nationalism is genuine nationalism. The people
truly want China to be strong and glorious. They sometimes desire
human rights and democracy, but as a means to economic prosperity.

The final, and healthiest kind of nationalism is human rights
nationalism. These are people who hope that China as a nation will be
respected as a result of Chinese people successfully fight to gain
personal dignity and the freedom to make use of their potential.

The CCP exercises two types of control: control by fear and control
by lies. Fear is very effective. When the guns sound, nobody dares to
speak. The fear lies as deep as people's blood and so broad that it
reaches the United States.

Q: I want to thank you and everyone for coming to this memorial
today. I have a friend who was going to come with me, but today he
called me three times saying that he really is too scared to attend.
He is afraid that the CCP would remember him and prevent him from
traveling to China. I told him there's nothing to worry about but he
refused to come. The fear is so strong. What should I do?

YJ: The CCP exercises two types of control: control by fear and
control by lies. Fear is very effective. When the guns sound, nobody
dares to speak. The fear lies as deep as people's blood and so broad
that it reaches the United States. When I was lecturing at Harvard I
talked about three types of fear. When I was done, a Chinese student
stood up and said, "I have no fear." I said, "Alright, good. Are
there are specific things about the Chinese government that you find
unsatisfactory? Let's critique it together." He refused.

Clearly he was afraid. But I don't think this person was lying about
not having fear -- he himself does not know it; it's deep in his blood.

When you visit Beijing, you will see that people live seemingly
carefree lives, but they know what they can and cannot say. They say
they have no fear but they know there's a line they cannot cross.

This phenomenon does not only exist in Chinese people but in
Americans as well. It's hard to get China scholars to talk—they are
very friendly with the CCP because they need to obtain research
permission from them. Others need to establish close relationships
with Chinese communist officials to get insider information for their
books. Or they find prestige in meeting with such officials. I asked
one professor why he is afraid to tell the truth about China. He
said, "Well we still need to go to China!" Isn't that fear?
Businessmen are afraid that they will lose business in China.

The third type of fear is self-enforced fear. The CCP often does not
know how much leeway to give you. So sometimes when you get scared
you will draw a boundary for yourself. How do we break through this
type of fear? We need brave people and we need to encourage these
people. We in the West do not face the threats but we need to support
those in China who stand up.

Many, like the human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, were criticized for
being too extreme. But I don't think so. I think, you can't judge
people's actions in the style of political analysts because often
these people's motives are not political, but rather an act of
breaking through the fear. Doing so naturally expands the boundaries
of freedom. Of course some people want to be more measured in their
actions and that's fine too—it's all deserving of support.

Here overseas we can push our local representatives to pass some
foreign policy that benefits China.

Someone gave the CCP the idea to "buy stability with money." The idea
is that people need to be bought so they don't say negative things
about the government. Since then the salary of professors grew a lot.

Q: You made a comparison between June 4th and the Sichuan earthquake
--that if the outcome of June 4th was that the CCP reformed, the
earthquake may have resulted in fewer unnecessary deaths. But I'd
like to draw a different relationship between the two events. I
remember that after June 4th, everyone was on the students' side. If
you stood out to speak for the CCP you would have been shunned. But
today, for example, a student by the name of Wang Qianyuan stood out
and said some fair, neutral words. And for that many people
threatened her. It seems the CCP has used Tibet and the earthquake to
rally more support.

YJ: In recent Chinese history, the two people who knew the
characteristics of Chinese people best were Mao Zedong and Deng
Xiaoping. Deng Xiaoping knew that a lot of people opposed the
government because they did not have alternative means to support
themselves. At the time students weren't allowed to date or wear nice
clothes in school. There was no room to operate outside of communist
strictures. The pressure was on the government and so the only way to
relieve that pressure was through corruption—let the people make
money any way they can, as long as they don't oppose the government.

Since then, the democratic movement took a turn. A lot of our friends
left us one by one to join the swelling economic tide.

Also, at the time someone gave the CCP the idea to "buy stability
with money." The idea is that people need to be bought so they don't
say negative things about the government. Since then the salary of
professors grew a lot. A professor at a good university in China
makes tens or even over a hundred times more than a construction
worker. You can't find that in any other country.

The communist party's glory is short-lived. Why? It faces several
problems: When the world's focus is no longer on the earthquake, the
CCP's leaders will no longer be interested. Second, it hasn't changed
its administrative system and will surely make mistakes in handling
with such large amounts of relief funds. Third, nearly 100,000 people
have lost their family. Many mothers who have lost their children
have organized.

Back in 1989 nobody wanted to overthrow the government. The students
were asking for reform, to gain official recognition, to bring to
justice some particularly corrupt officials -- that's all -- and even
that was not met. But now officials have told me that if any change
happens, it won't be a reform; it will be a revolution.
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