What one man can do

"Our high regard for dignity is the natural source of our sense of justice," says the latest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Liu Xiaobo | Oct 12 2010 | comment  


The blanket media coverage of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波) for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China” has failed to showcase his ideas.

When he was tried last year for “inciting subversion of state power”, the prosecution cited passages from six essays Liu had published online between 2005 and 2007. Here, in the form of question and answer, MercatorNet presents key ideas from these essays. As you read his scathing and eloquent critique, it’s easy to understand why a sclerotic authoritarian regime wants to keep him out of the public eye. He is an impressive defender of human dignity.

These essays and Mr Liu’s trial documents can be found on the website of Human Rights in China, a New York-based lobby group.

What can one person do?

Regardless of how great the freedom-denying power of a regime and its institutions is, every individual should still fight to the best of his/her ability to live as a free person, that is, make every effort to live an honest life with dignity. In any society ruled by dictatorship, when those who pursue freedom publically disclose it and practice what they preach, as long as they manage to be fearless in the small details of everyday life, what they say and do in everyday life will become the fundamental force that will topple the system of enslavement.

If you believe that you possess a basic human conscience and if you heed its call, then display it and let it shine in the sunlight of public opinion, let the people see it and, especially, let the dictators see it. ~ Changing the Regime by Changing Society, 2006

Why do the Chinese people accept the leadership of the Communist Party?

I do not deny that within the CPC clique currently in power, there could be high-ranking officials who treat the people well and possess an awareness of modern politics, such as Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. When they were in office, they did make quite a few good policy decisions and took risks to advance political reform. But even when this was the case, people had to wait for their rights and benefits as if they were charities bestowed from above, not to mention that such good officials could not survive for long under the CPC system.

Let’s take 10,000 steps back: if our countrymen could come across an enlightened ruler often, or if the imperial bestowing of favors was not incidental behavior but, rather, occurred every now and then, then the national inertia of waiting for these favors, although an insult to human dignity, could be excused because of the tangible benefits received. Sadly however, our countrymen endured great suffering and endless waiting only to encounter a wise sovereign by chance or an exceedingly miserly show of mercy.

What they receive are always meager compensation and pathetic consolation that arrive too late, so why is it that they are still only capable of looking up to the crown? Moreover, throughout China’s cyclical dynastic history, every act of the vast and mighty imperial benevolence has occurred either at the beginning of a new dynasty, when everything left undone by the previous regime is taken up, or during the crisis-ridden final years of a reign, and never for the well-being of the people but out of political necessity, to consolidate or maintain political power or save the regime.

Our countrymen are still like infants who depend entirely on adult care who know only to wait for a wise ruler to appear. Can it be that Chinese people will never really grow up, that their character is forever deformed and weak, and that they are only fit to, as if predestined by the stars, pray for and accept imperial mercy on their knees? ~ Can It Be that the Chinese People Deserve Only “Party-Led Democracy”? 2006

How would you characterise the moral environment of public life in China today?

Although it still demands loyalty of its subjects, this is far more low-key and pragmatic than during the era of Maoist totalitarianism. The regime knows that since there is no way it can obtain people’s sincere support and praise, it may as well lower the loyalty standards—to a level below human conscience, and demand only cynicism from the people, who express their support and praise against their convictions. This is tantamount to encouraging and indulging the worst in human nature: lying against one’s conscience.

Degenerate imperial autocratic tradition, decadent moneyworship, and the moribund communist dictatorship have combined to evolve into the worst sort of predatory capitalism….

The very use of such pragmatic, flexible control methods, because of their thoroughly opportunistic nature, paints the doomsday picture of dictatorial politics—countless flaws in the system itself, questions of the regime’s legitimacy, and rapid erosion of its effectiveness—where the ruler and the ruled engage in expedient cooperation based on the principle of profit-before-everything.

The loyalty bought by the promise of a comfortable life has a soul that is rotten to the core. Driven by profit-making above all else, almost no officials are uncorrupted, not a single penny is clean, not a single word is honest. Therefore, all these tricks used by the CPC are stop-gap measures that dictators use to cling onto the last of their power, but there is no way they can permanently prop up this dictatorial edifice that is already showing countless cracks. ~ The Many Aspects of CPC Dictatorship, 2006

Why is its scorn for human dignity the weak point of the regime?

Whether it’s the everlasting practice of non-violent resistance, or the prediction that the liberal system will be the End of History, [political theories] ultimately appeal to the spiritual aspect of human nature. Humans exist not only physically, but also spiritually, possessing a moral sense, the core of which is the dignity of being human. Our high regard for dignity is the natural source of our sense of justice.

When a system or a country allows everyone to live with dignity, it can gain spontaneous approval from the people, which is how St Thomas Aquinas understood political virtue: virtuous good governance lies not only in maintaining order, but [even] more in establishing human dignity. [If it acts] otherwise, [a government] will provoke various forms of resistance, with conscientious objection among the principal forms.

The reason why the liberal system can gradually replace dictatorship, and the end of the Cold War can be seen as the End of History, lies in the fact that the former [liberal system] acknowledges and respects human dignity, while the latter [dictatorship] does not recognize human dignity and discredits it by dragging it in the dust.

The greatness of non-violent resistance is that even as man is faced with forceful tyranny and the resulting suffering, the victim responds to hate with love, to prejudice with tolerance, to arrogance with humility, to humiliation with dignity, and to violence with reason. That is, the victim, with love that is humble and dignified, takes the initiative to invite the victimizer to return to the rules of reason, peace, and compassion, thereby transcending the vicious cycle of “replacing one tyranny with another.” ~ Changing the Regime by Changing Society, 2006

Won’t China disintegrate without the guiding hand of the Communist Party?

In China’s modern and contemporary history, amid frequent internal power changes, only the “family-based regimes” or “party-based regimes” withered away, but not the nation itself. When Dr Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai joined forces to topple the Qing Dynasty, what they in the end achieved was to replace the traditional “family-based regime” with the “party-based regime” of the Kuomintang (KMT). When Mao Zedong and his Communist Party of China (CPC) defeated the KMT regime represented by Chiang Kai-shek, they merely replaced the KMT party rule with the CPC party rule, which was just a dynastic change within a country and did not at all involve the transfer of Chinese sovereignty.

In other words, the CPC has been in power for only 50 years, but Chinese history has stretched unbroken for five thousand years; what the CPC overthrew was merely the “KMT regime,” not China, the “nation.” Therefore, when the CPC seized political power in 1949, it merely established yet another “new regime,” which had nothing to do with “establishing a nation”; Mao Zedong was merely the “father of a new regime,” not the “father of new China.”

The current CPC may be the world’s largest political party, but compared to the 1.3 billion people in China, its 60 some million members are no more than a small minority, so how can it so shamelessly boast that it “represents the people and the nation”? The reason the CPC regards itself to be the natural representative of “the country, the nation, and the people” is not at all because it truly has “the mandate of Heaven to carry out justice,” but because it wants to maintain its dictatorial power and protect its vested interests.

All dictatorships like to proclaim patriotism but dictatorial patriotism is just an excuse to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on its people. The official patriotism advocated by the CPC dictatorship is an institutionalized fallacy of “substituting the party for the nation.” The essence of this patriotism is to demand that the people love the dictatorial regime, the dictatorial party, and the dictators. It usurps patriotism in order to inflict disasters on the nation and calamities on the people. ~ The CPC’s Dictatorial Patriotism, 2005

Does your struggle for democracy in China have any significance for the rest of the world?

To eliminate the negative effects of the sudden rise of dictatorial communist China on world civilization, we must help the world’s largest dictatorship transform into a free and democratic country as soon as possible. In the great cause of global democratization, China is a key link: if China is in the game, then the game is on for everyone.

Therefore, whether to let the CPC dictatorship, which has taken more than one billion people hostage, continue to degrade human civilization, or to rescue the worlds largest hostage population from enslavement, is not only a matter of vital importance for the Chinese people themselves, but also a matter of vital importance for all free nations.

Were China to become a free country, its value to human civilization would be incalculable. It would inevitably follow in the wake of the global collapse of the Soviet Eastern European totalitarian empire to bring about another global avalanche among the remaining dictatorial systems. It would be difficult for dictatorial regimes such as North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba, and Vietnam to continue, and those Middle Eastern countries with firmly entrenched dictatorial systems would also suffer a great blow. ~ The Negative Effects of the Rise of Dictatorship on World Democratization, 2006

Copyright © Liu Xiaobo . Published by MercatorNet.com. You may download and print extracts from this article for your own personal and non-commercial use only. Contact us if you wish to discuss republication.

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