Chinese Activists Test New Leader and Are Crushed

Discussion in 'China' started by Yusuf, Jan 16, 2014.

  1. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    BEIJING — The 20 or so activists gathered at an isolated guesthouse on the outskirts of the capital, leaving their cellphones behind to avoid detection by the police. China’s first leadership change in a decade was fast approaching, and the group saw an opening for a movement to fight injustice and official corruption.

    That day, in May 2012, they began work on a plan to expand the New Citizens Movement, an ambitious campaign for transparency and fairness that would eventually draw as many as 5,000 supporters, inspire street protests across the country and provide the first major test to help gauge the new leadership’s tolerance for grass-roots political activism.

    They were heartened when China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, came to power that November, vowing to stamp out corruption, promote judicial fairness and respect the Constitution, goals tantalizingly close to their own.

    Now, 14 months later, their ideals have collided with a harsh reality.

    Liu Ping is among those who have been jailed in China recently for their activism.
    About 20 people associated with the group have been detained. Three members have been tried and await judgment. And the rights lawyer who organized the guesthouse meeting, Xu Zhiyong, was indicted last month for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order” and faces almost certain conviction.

    The crushing of the New Citizens Movement is just one stark example of the new leadership’s refusal to countenance any stirrings of opposition.

    Since Mr. Xi assumed control, the Communist Party has used the state news media to denounce perceived ideological threats, sought to rid the Internet of politically unwelcome rumors and opinion, and tried to silence rights lawyers and muckraking journalists. Wen Yunchao, a Chinese rights activist studying at Columbia University, estimates that 160 activists have been arrested over the past year, not counting the Tibetans and Uighurs detained on separatism-related charges.

    These events have largely flown under the radar, drawing little notice at home or abroad and only muted international protest. But taken together, they amount to a sweeping crackdown that experts say is broader and more concerted than other recent assaults on dissent.

    “The new leadership has been much more systematic and strategic about how it cracks down,” said Maya Wang, a researcher in Hong Kong for Human Rights Watch, noting simultaneous efforts to rein in traditional news media and online commentary and stamp out even the smallest street rallies. “The government is basically sending a signal in dealing with these people that it has the upper hand.”

    Mr. Xu, 40, is hardly a radical firebrand. As a young lawyer, he earned a national reputation for forging social change on the edges of the system. In 2003, he won a seat as an independent candidate on a district People’s Congress, a council stacked with party-appointed officials. Photogenic and articulate, he was celebrated by the domestic news media and appeared on the cover of the Chinese edition of Esquire magazine.

    He emerged as a dogged legal activist during a popular backlash against the practice of forcibly relocating people without proper residence permits. In 2003, after the fatal police beating of a young designer in the southern city of Guangzhou, Mr. Xu and two other legal scholars publicized a petition to the government demanding an end to the system. To their surprise, Wen Jiabao, then prime minister, abolished it months after assuming office in 2003.

    That case and others crystallized into an approach to activism combining litigation and government appeals on specific cases with public lobbying in the media and the rapidly expanding Internet. Mr. Xu and his colleagues took up the cases of death-row prisoners, parents of children poisoned by adulterated milk powder and a woman raped by officials. The movement came to be called “rights defense,” or weiquan in Chinese.

    “You could think of the weiquan rights defense movement as an unintended consequence of legal reforms and the spread of the Internet,” said Eva Pils, an associate law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “They allowed the genie to come out of the bottle.”

    But the movement soon drew official hostility. The police, courts and the party-run body that oversees lawyers prevented them from taking sensitive cases, refused to allow their suits to move forward or revoked their law licenses. In 2009, the government shut Mr. Xu’s advocacy and research organization, the Open Constitution Initiative, and arrested him on tax evasion charges. After a public uproar, he was released on bail and the matter was dropped.

    Rather than subdue the movement, the pressure convinced many activists to shift away from the increasingly fruitless battles in party-run courts and toward broader and more public campaigning for political change.

    Chinese citizens were increasingly aware of their legal rights, and willing to challenge the government to assert them. The Internet, especially social media, magnified public awareness of abuses.

    Mr. Xu and other activists decided it was time to advance their ambitions through a more cohesive effort. In 2012, they created the New Citizens Movement and issued a manifesto, urging supporters to adopt its ideals and symbol — a distinctive blue and white logo declaring “Citizen” — and to form groups that would meet regularly.

    “This is a political movement whereby this ancient nation bids ultimate farewell to autocracy and completes the civilized transition to constitutional government,” Mr. Xu wrote that May.

    The new leader’s promises about corruption and fairness were not the only signs that bolstered the movement’s resolve. Mr. Xi also downgraded the post of domestic security chief, suggesting to some that the police would have to pay more heed to legal restraints.

    The party’s initially mild response to a protest over censorship at the Southern Weekend newspaper in early 2013 also fed expectations that the government would tolerate more concerted activism, said Chen Min, a former editor at the paper.

    “The impression left with some people was that there would be more space for street-level, organized rights defense, even if there would always be risks and setbacks,” said Mr. Chen, who is better known by the pen name Xiao Shu.

    Supporters also saw an advantage in the movement’s lack of clearly defined leadership, which they feared would provoke a government ban. Meetings were informal, often over dinners at restaurants.

    Mr. Xu “believed in the power of the people to make a change,” said Guo Yushan, a reform-minded scholar. “He thought he would succeed, and that once he stepped out, others would follow him.”

    In early 2013, supporters organized public demonstrations on the streets of Chinese cities. Some wore T-shirts and pins with the movement insignia and its slogan “Freedom, Justice, Love.” They posted pictures of their rallies online.

    As awareness of the group spread, it began drawing grass-roots activists like Liu Ping, a former steel mill worker from China’s southeast Jiangxi Province.

    Ms. Liu and two others remain jailed as they await sentencing for illegal assembly and other charges, but in a telephone interview, her daughter, Liao Minyue, said Ms. Liu’s activism was initially spurred by unpaid wages and the beating of a relative. “Over time, she became interested in other people’s problems, she became more involved and more aware, and she saw the New Citizens Movement as way of realizing her ideals,” Ms. Liao said.

    The Communist Party has partly endorsed some of the changes demanded by rights advocates, like ending re-education through labor, a form of imprisonment without trial. But behind the scenes, Mr. Chen and others said, the gatherings fed leaders’ fears that the growing clamor for reform could crystallize into a threat to the party’s authority.

    During secretive meetings last spring, security and propaganda officials concluded that they had to take a tough line, Mr. Chen said. In April, the leadership approved an internal directive identifying seven ideological threats, including rights defense activists and civil society advocates.

    The detentions appear to have effectively stymied the movement. In addition to a core of longtime activists, the authorities in October arrested Wang Gongquan, a wealthy venture capitalist who supported the group.

    In their indictment, prosecutors described Mr. Xu as the “ringleader” of several of the 2013 protests. On Monday, as he sat in a Beijing jail, his wife gave birth to a daughter.

    “This time, I think Xu is going to prison, and not for a short time,” said Mr. Guo, the scholar. “Xi needs to put on a big show. He feels confident right now. He needs to show people who’s boss.”
  3. redragon

    redragon Regular Member

    Sep 20, 2009
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    Nytimes is bias, and publish only selected information to mislead people, I don't trust in at all. There is no report on chinese media, so the NYT reports are fake again. :)
  4. Srinivas_K

    Srinivas_K Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 17, 2009
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    There are numerous rebellions and protests that are crushed each year by CCP.
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    All this liberalism that has or so called emerged or said to be emerging, is totally dangerous for a totalitarian regime like China

    The Chinese Govt has to control this dangerous trend or else China will erupt.

    China erupting will not only be dangerous for China, but also for the neighbouring nations since the effect will have a serious effect on their economy.
  6. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 14, 2009
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    No, I believe that it could be real! After all, they need to claim their expenses from their american sponsors. So it is far more important to let americans know rather than those potential Chinese "new citizens".
  7. nimo_cn

    nimo_cn Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 18, 2009
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    nytimes is getting hysterical after it invented a story about Wen's family and got banned in China for publishing that.

    Sent from my HUAWEI T8951 using Tapatalk 2
  8. hbogyt

    hbogyt Regular Member

    Jun 9, 2009
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    Dumb arse activists thinking they're the shit. Real change is driven by powerful people. You don't screw around without power.
  9. no smoking

    no smoking Senior Member Senior Member

    Aug 14, 2009
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    Who said they want some "real change"? They don't give a shit about Chinese public!
    Democratic activity is a business to them. They are making a big money from this gold mine. There was a story about these pro-democratic activists. Around 2007, some Chinese activists organised a rally within China and 10 of 11 were put in jail except the master mind. When Mr Master mind got back to USA, he tried to get a pay check from Americans for the work he has done. Then he was told there were already at least 36 fund applications for the same work.

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