Secret China interviews Jiao Guobiao

(Secret China)  Secret China Interviews Jiao Guobiao: It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak up.  November 19, 2004.


Jiao: I was born in November 1963.  My family origin is in Jie County, Henan province.  Jie as in the famous saying about the person named Jie who worries about the sky falling down.  I graduated from Henan University.  Afterwards, I entered graduate school and then I taught for a few years.  I then went to the People's University for a doctorate in journalism.  After getting my doctorate, I went to work at the China Culture Daily as an editor.

Reporter: China Culture Daily?

Jiao: And then I became a teacher at Beijing University.  Ever since I was a graduate student, I have been publishing.  At first, I was basically publishing academic articles, which are like essays but not long dissertations.  They are usually shorter, such as a few hundred words, or a couple of thousand.  Occasionally, they can run into several thousand words, like the essay "Shanghai ..." that I wrote this year.  Basically, I wrote for newspapers, television news programs and general interest sections.  After I got my doctorate in journalism, I began to write news commentaries, and this eventually touched upon current political problems.  Then I started writing about organizational systems, which ultimately led to <<Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department>>.  I had no control over the situation at that time.  I began to be interviewed by foreign reporters and I made friends outside of the country.  For me, it was like being placed into a weightless situation all of a sudden.  This was quite abnormal.  It happened all of a sudden, so I was a bit lost and disoriented.  There was a feeling of weightlessness.  But if I were to keep silent and break contact with the outside world out of fear about what I might say about current political issues, it would be wrong.  I should not have to be afraid.  Today, intellectuals should not have to live in fear, especially about ideological consciousness.  I feel that as long as you are not a law-breaking citizen, you should not have to fear.  In the so-called democratic society today in an era of democracy, a person should be worried only about breaking the law or being mugged on the street.  I don't think that one should be afraid about anything else.  Based upon that kind of thinking, I feel that I should be able to talk to reporters, or attend pubilc functions.  That should not be a problem, so this is where I am today.

Reporter:  Before you published <<Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department>>, did you ever thought that so many unimaginable things could happen?

Jiao:  It was totally unexpected.  At the time, I imagine that there would be trouble coming from the Central Propaganda Department, or from the National Security Bureau.  But I did not imagine that there would be such a huge international reaction.  By contrast, I have not encountered any reactions from the Central Propaganda Department or the National Security Bureau.  I did not think this would happen.  Perhaps I did not encounter any reactions because of official pressure.  I think ... one way ... that is to say, what I expressed might have struck a chord with them in certain areas.

Reporter:  So far, it was only at the university ...

Jiao:  The university leadership.  From the way that they manage us, it should be considered a relatively low-quality type of management.  This is not a question about quality level.  It is more properly considered a form of neglect.  They tend to run business as usual and also based upon feelings instead of following the law.  I think they are still stuck in that mode.  I feel that this is an appropriate assessment.  I don't think I broke the law.  I did not breach national security.  For that reason, there was no reason for the National Security Bureau to step in.  I wrote about the organizational problems of the Central Propaganda Bureau, and I listed their faults, so they were embarrassed to see me and would rather not discuss the problems with me.  I feel that if they were an open-minded organization, they would have sought me out to discuss the problems instead of being so estranged.  Only after I went overseas to the United States did I feel that Chinese people are so isolated from each other.  Consider the various forces of Chinese people overseas: our Chinese embassy have to deal with various forces, such as those related to the democratic movement, the Falun Gong problem, the ethnic problem, the Taiwan problem and so on.  I don't think they are doing enough.  I don't think they are performing their host role.  I think they should be doing that, but they are not.  So when I ask about some situations, they feel alienated from each other.  Some of these forces may be clandestine, so they are just watching each other.  Even if they are not watching each other, it is a similar type of wary relationship.  I don't think this is a healthy system.  If I were the Chinese ambassador in New York City, I would have invited all Chinese to come over on a regular basis in order to communicate, including overseas exiles, those who can't return home and their relatives.  What did the relatives do?  Right or not?  There is no exile punishment within our laws.  I feel that the Chinese ambassador should put these problems on the table, and discuss these things in an open reception.  Right now, I don't think they have acted in accordance with the duties of the legal representatives of China.  I hope that they can improve their mode and their thinking in these areas.

Reporter:  I feel ... I feel that you are a very brave representative figure in the country.

Jiao:  I can't say that I am a representative.  After all, this is only about my individual actions.  But I think that I am willing to speak out, and there are too few people in the country who are willing to speak out.  So it makes me look as if I am speaking out.  Some friends say that it is not that Jiao Guobiao is doing too much -- it is just that others are doing too little.

Reporter:  One can say that.

Jiao:  Actually, it is no big deal.  I feel that this is just commonsense.  For example, we can talk about how people deal with other people in the context of the various forces in New York City.  I feel that this is an ordinary problem.  In Chinese tradition, there is an alienation in small peasant communities.  For example, even as children, we knew which families don't get along with each other, or who got into a fight with whom.  This kind of tradition with respect to managing interpersonal relationships is being brought into the diplomatic and political circles in the contemporary world.  This is a very unwise and backwards mode.

Reporter:  In China, it is as you said, other people are doing too little.  But this is due to the environment which has been under the same system for several decades.  Intentionally or otherwise, this is the environment that exists in China.  So what about those who are willing to speak out?  Do you know them?  How are they doing now ...?

Jiao:  I know ... I should say that I broke into that circle.  For example, there were several student movements.  Before 1989, the various people in the student movements were not known to me.  I don't mix with them.  I only got to know some of them recently, such as Liu Xiaobo, Qian ... and also ... I can't really name anyone inside China.  I should say that I only found out about these democratic movement people only after coming to the United States.  I was a good and obedient boy back then, and I didn't know about those things.  I only know about them now.  As for these famous people, I don't even know the names.

Reporter:  What about Yu Jie?

Jiao:  We have known each other for some time.  He is younger than me by ten years  We have known each other for a long time.  We communicate, but not too frequently.  I will have to say that I admire Yu Jie.  He is younger than me, but he is very mature about these matters.

Reporter:  Inside China, what can those people who speak out do?  In reality, you are one of the leaders.  Do you have a sense of mission?

Jiao:  That is to say, people should not have to live in fear or feel oppressed to the point of being afraid to say things.  Not many people are aware of that.

Reporter:  Right.

Jiao:  They may feel the oppression, but they don't know how it came about or whether this is right or wrong.  They have become used to it.

Reporter:  Right.

Jiao:  Until we get out of it.  If someone moves into that environment, it would definitely be hard to adjust to.  As to how we can move people out of the dark shadows inside China, that is a problem that needs to be considered.

I feel this will be a slow change.  I think that it is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak out, just as it is the responsibility of the farmer to plant the earth.  Of course, when the farmer observes something unjust, he should speak out too.  Intellectuals should speak out because they exist in the framework of rationality and law, and they can use a peaceful and not ... that it to say, they work within the channel of the law in a constructive way.  I say constructive, but it can sometimes be earth-shattering.  What I mean is that I don't have any enemies.  What I say is expressed in a straightforward way.  My words are as innocent as those of children.  When I speak my mind, there is no hatred.  In <<Declaration of the Campaign against The Central Propaganda Department>>, I might have used some tough words, but I don't feel any hatred.  I was shocked at some things, but I don't have anything shocking to say on other things.  I feel this may be approached in many ways ... I did not use any guile, and I did not do anything improper.  I feel that one must be honest and sincere, although sometimes honesty and sincerity leads to bad consequences ... but at the least, we should be honest and sincere when we speak.  I am not saying that other people are dishonest or that they communicate improperly.  That is not the case.  The people who have been arrested.  Strictly speaking, the people who exercised their free speech, including Du Daobin ... I have not read their writings and I don't know what they wrote about.  But I think that the government ... I feel that they ought to be more tolerant.  After all, this is an important moment in the history of a so-called free-speech civilization, so they should be more tolerant.  That is to say, although there are many laws on these issues over the past twenty to thirty years, there is still a lot to do insofar was freedom of speech is concerned ... their consideration is not so much whether this is right or wrong according to the law, they are only looking at whether this is threatening to them.

Reporter:  If China continues to develop this way, I think ... I saw that at the Washington DC forum, someone raised the question of Jiang Zemin and Falun Gong.  These are two sensitive problems.  How do you look at that?  Because as far as I know, Falun Gong cannot hire a lawyer according to the regulations.

Jiao: They won't permit it in China.  But it should be possible overseas.

Reporter:  But there is no impact from outside the country.  They have notified all the lawyers that anyone who takes on the Falun Gong case may even lose their licenses to practice law.  That is why the lawyers ...

Jiao:  If they issued a document like that, it will only increase their shame in history.  They have interfered with the judicial system, and that will only increase their shame in history.  I don't think that there is any purpose.  That is to say, if I had been wronged, then according to the notion of law, I should be able to ask for justice.  About the suppression of Falun Gong -- no matter if this was an oppression of Falun Gong or just an administrative procedure applied to Falun Gong -- the Falun Gong side should have the right to hire a lawyer to file an appeal.  This would seem to me to be normal.

There are some rights defenders, and they are present in many places.  There are many people who are fighting for rights all over the country.  When the lawyers attempt to speak for them, they are locked up by very unlawful means.  I think that the people of China know whether this is right or not.

Reporter:  This ... when you say defending rights, what do you mean?

Jiao:  Overseas.  Labor strikes.  Evictees.  Forced evictions.  There may have been an original stated compensation amount for each house.  Afterwards, nobody knows where the money went.  Lots of people are not happy with that.  If it is just one or two people, then this is just some problems with certain individuals.  But it has been happening to so many people.  Given that such information does not circulate easily around the country, it is still happening in many places.  This is not something organized by anyone.  This is something that is occurring in this environment.  There are also retirees and peasants.  Far too many cases.  Recently, the problems involve large number of masses.  These incidents may be occurring quite frequently, but we don't know.

Morally speaking, I think I support their activities to defend people's rights.  But I think the government should be facilitating things instead of clamping down.  They should figure out the source of the problem and determine the nature of the problem.  No matter what it is, the government should facilitate the resolution of the problem.  They should not be setting a warning to others ("killing the chicken to show the monkey") by arresting a few trouble-making leaders.  Actually, these leaders appear only because of bad government policies.  Right or not?  My view is that the matters should be resolved, as opposed to being suppressed.  If they beat people and cause deaths, compensation should be offered in the name of the country.  They should not ... From the viewpoint of the government, they are just building up years of dissatisfaction without any appropriate accounting.  During the American Civil War, there were so many deaths, but who was held accountable?  General Lee of the South is still a hero in the United States, so there is no need to worry about how to handle these matters.  Morally speaking, I support their defense actions and I oppose all attempts to suppress them.  Everything should be based upon the law.  It is disgusting to always hint at overseas connections whenever something bad happens.  A country has exiled its own citizens to the outside by not affording them a safe place inside, and then they slander and insult these people.  This is shameful.  Are there outsiders interfering with internal affairs of the United States?  Are there Americans subverting the American government from China?  This is very shameful.  This assertion is really shameful.

Reporter:  We can see that the Chinese citizens react to world events in ways that are different from other people, sometimes very significantly so.  For example, you may not be aware of it, but some people were applauding the 911 incident from this side ... I don't know what you think.  At the minimum, this was a tragic event from the humanitarian viewpoint.

Jiao:  First of all, the Chinese people no longer have any humanitarian values to a certain extent.  Most people in China -- or at least in the eyes of a large number of people -- people don't count for much.  It has been a long time since people don't treat each other as humans.  What is so big deal about dead people?  Shaming people, insulting people, disrespecting people; that is how it is in China.  If Chinese people die, it is no big deal.  If Americans die, it means even less.  That is why I say the Chinese people don't treat other Chinese as humans, by tradition.

Some time ago, I wrote an article titled Qingguonu ("Qing nation's slave").  Qing as in the Qing dynasty.  The Japanese calls us China pigs, and we think the Japanese are insulting us.  I said it was not an insult because you are a China pig.  In China, the Chinese lived like pigs.  In the old society, we say that people eat what the pigs and dogs eat and they wear tattered rags.  Aren't they just like pigs and dogs?  Are you slaves under the Qing dynasty?  Can you say that you were your own master?

In China, humanistic values and humanitarianism have fallen away for too long.  Why was there such an explosion of feelings with the incident in America?  For too long, the media demonized America.  Why do they demonize America?  Because America is the most democratic of all countries and it will combat dictators everywhere.  All the totalitarian governments of the world control their own media and they are hostile towards America because it is their biggest enemy.

At the moment, the United States appears to be the worst country according to the developing countries.  But you can see that the facts are that, among all the major nations of the world, no other country gives more to weak countries and weak peoples in terms of support and sympathy.  Each year, the United States uses its own taxpayers' money to support human rights in many countries, in order to make those countries with terrible human rights record to improve the human rights situation by means of either the stick and/or the carrot.  The stick and the carrot are bought with money, and the people who wield the stick are hired with money.  

The carrot and the stick for the world policeman is a negative term for China, but I think that this is the highest term of praise for the United States.  Why?  Because the Chinese hate police.  The police are like pests to the Chinese people, just like pests which eat plants.  The police are supposed to maintain safety in society, but while they do that, they also trample on the rights of the common Chinese people.  Therefore, the word police has negative connotations in China.  Although the world police is engaged in just actions, but as soon as the United States is referred to as the world police, people dislike them on account of the special environment in China.  

Most Chinese people are not thinkers.  They are engaged in other types of professions, so they accept the superficial presentations given by the media.  If the media approve, they approve; if the media disapprove, they disapprove.  Furthermore, the professional thinkers in China did not do their job well so that there are still many ignorant people in China.  When 911 occurred in the United States, they applauded.  When the Challenger space shuttle exploded, or the American embassy got bombed, or the USS Cole got attacked, they applauded and this became a sad phenomenon, just a little better than civil terrorism.  This is just one step short of terrorism itself, but the extent of the evil almost catches up to bin Laden.  This is how it was.

Reporter:  When the national media reports on something, they have a tendency to steer people along.  This is very different from the way foreign media report.  Take the war in Iraq for example.  The foreign media have some opposition voices, and their reports encompass all angles because their media are relatively more independent.  But the Chinese media were more selective in their reporting.  They select those news reports that are consistent their preferred thinking, especially those that fan national emotions.  On the 911 event, they tend to fan nationalistic emotions to further their own goals or to attack those that they oppose.  To a certain extent, the Chinese people were being manipulated.

Jiao:  The media workers of China, from the student to the newspaper editors, receive as their first educational lesson the foremost importance of politics.  This is the most important part of the theory of journalism.  China does not know anything about objectivity.  The Chinese people deny the existence of objectivity.  The teaching of journalism denies objectivity.  This is the root of all evil.  In this theory of theirs, there is no objectivity in the world.  There are only things that I use, and it is all about my interests.  To them, there is no fairness and never mind morality and ethics.  Objective fairness should be a minimal requirement.

Reporter:  Ever since we were young, we were taught about political positions.  Have things changed since?

Jiao:  Up to now, there has not been any change.

Reporter:  Are the people in China aware of the news censorship and control?  Or are they aware but too afraid to say anything?

Jiao:  Both situations exist.  Some don't dare speak up, and others are not aware.

Reporter:  Privately?

Jiao:  When you sit down for a meal, anyone can criticize anything.  This was not possible before, but you still can't publish it.  In the Mao Zedong era, anyone who criticizes Mao is marching down the road to death.  But it is still not possible to express public opinions today.

Reporter:  It is easier on the Internet.

Jiao:  It is not easy on the Internet either.  The technology enables one to break through many barriers.  But you look at how hard they work to control the Internet.  It is the same there.

Reporter.  It seems that they have spent a lot of money on censoring the Internet.

Jiao:  Yes.  They spend hundreds of millions on the Golden Shield project to build an Internet firewall.

Reporter:  Is there a rational path towards which Chinese media are heading?  How do we get to an ideal situation?

Jiao:  Ideal situations already exist in the United Kingdom, the United States, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  Are they not ideal situations already?  To obtain a publishing company, all you have to do is to apply to start a company and then you can legally publish and distribute.

Reporter:  Are there difficulties with legalization?  For example, freedom to associate with each other and to demonstrate in public.  Are they practical?

Jiao:  Actually, all our rights have been written down on paper already.  It is just that they have not been realized.  We spent one hundred years to obtain those rights on paper.  We may have to spend another hundred years to get them realized.

Reporter:  I think this may be related to how hard people work for it.

Jiao:  Yes.  The rights on paper were won through the sacrifices of many people.  Some people made a lot of noise, and some people were beaten.

Reporter:  Are you prepared to be beaten?

Jiao:  I don't think I will be.  But if I have to be beaten, I will just have to bear it.

Reporter:  You are brave.

Jiao:  I don't think I will be physically assaulted.  I think if someone with a doctorate still has to be physically beaten, then there is really no hope.  I think there are many different forces which are trying to fight for freedom of speech.  The Chinese government should change itself to become more humane.  China is a big country with a long-lasting civilization.  They should not be as stupid as a country such as North Korea, because that would be disgraceful and venal.  When I say humanization, I include those overseas exiles.  The term exiles should be banished by law, and there should not be any exiles.  The fact is that many people such as Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan went straight from the jail to the airplane.

Reporter:  There is no real rule of law inside China.  The law is invoked only when necessary in order to oppress the people.  For example, they invented a special law against the Falun Gong without any true legal basis.  Based purely on a regulation about religious cults, some officials began to offer liberal interpretations.

Jiao:  These problems have been going back and forth for a while.  For example, the problem of Falun Gong could not even be spoken about several years ago.  For now, no matter in China or overseas, there have been many changes.  I have been overseas the last few days, and I have met many people not affiliated with Falun Gong.  They seem positive about Falun Gong, because Falun Gong is self-restrained: for the past few years, they are resisting while still adhereing to their own principles without resorting to extreme actions.  I didn't hear any condemnations of Falun Gong.  People say that they keep the traditional virtues of the Chinese people.  I can feel those sentiments.  In China, I have corresponded with people on these topics.  Things have been going back and forth for a few years, and opinions have been shifting.  Someone has to bring up the subject again to discuss this in a rational way.  Everyone should be rational and overcome the divisions to solve the problem.

Reporter:  Due to time constraints, our interview has to end  Thank you for accepting our interview.

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