Li Ao's YZZK Interview
With respect to Li Ao's three speeches -- Li Ao's Speech At Beijing University, Li Ao's Speech At Tsinghua University and Li Ao's Speech At Fudan University -- there has been a lot of speculation as to whether he had been muzzled on politically sensitive subjects. The evidence in inconclusive, as in The Mystery of Li Ao's Tsinghua University Speech, in the sense that Li Ao and his daughter may have hinted at pressure but the circumstances are unclear.
However, this particular YZZK (October 2, 2005 issue; no online link) interview may clear up a lot of things. The difference is this -- the interview was conducted BEFORE he set out to China. To the extent that he ended up saying the same things in China, then it will put the conspiracy theory to bed. Indeed, if the whole four-page interview was carefully read, one can find much that was in fact used. If anything, the interview is better written and more coherent, whereas the speech transcribers were clearly having a great deal of difficulty.
Did Li Ao say something in the interview but omit it in the speech? Yes, it was about what exactly happened in the June 4 incident. He led up to it in the Beijing University speech with precedents, but he did not get into the details. However, what he said in the interview was in fact a rousing defense of the Chinese government.
Here is my translation of some excerpts:
Li: At Beijing University, the theme will be The Chinese People Expresses His Position ... That is to say, how shall we live with the Communist Party? This is the key of what I want to discuss with the Beijing University students. In the past, people like Liu Bang and Xiang Yu opposed the government. The First Emperor of Qin had the spears but the people also had spears on their side. Today, if you oppose the government, they will bring out the tanks and set up the machine guns. You have no chance of succeeding. Do you want to oppose the government? Do the people want a revolution?
I, Li Ao, paid the price when I opposed the government. My method was to use speech to oppose you. You cannot shoot me. If you want to jail me, you can jail me. I did it. Are you people willing to pay my price? I opposed the government by going to jail. To a certain degree, I was successful . The government team was brought down.
Li: In the person of the former director of the Political and Warfare Headquarter, Hsu Linong. Back then, he was responsible for investigating and banning my books. He apologized to me later. It also happened to James Soong. They both lost and I won. The system in the Kuomintang era for controlling speech is no more.
Q: Will you advocate freedom of speech with the Beijing University students?
Li: What have I just told you? Are you willing to pay the price? Fine, I will talk about June 4. I can't talk about June 4? I'll talk about June 4. Right now, many people are saying that they want to vindicate June 4. Vindicate what? Which part of June 4 do you want to vindicate? On the night of June 3, the order was issued that the military should take no action before 11 o'clock. By 11 o'clock, some soldiers were killed already. They were killed by the people.
Q: Who said so?
Li: The photographs are out there. How could you say no? June 4 cannot be talked about. You look at the essays of Deng Xiaoping. There is one essay in which he addressed the soldiers of the People's Liberation Army. He said that when the riot occurred, our tanks did not come out; when we were assaulted, we did not retaliate; when we were harangued, we said nothing; quite a few PLA soldiers died. That was why there was that photograph with the man in the white shirt blocking the tank. Did the tank roll him over? No. The tank stopped. Didn't it? Vindicate what? Vindicate those PLA solders who were killed?
Q: Are you interpreting June 4 from the viewpoint of the Chinese Communist Party Central?
Li: Let me tell you. In 1932, there was a bonus march in the United States. Why? After the First World War, the United States told those soldiers who returned from the war that they were still young and they wanted to pay them their bonuses in 1945 when they need the money in their old age. But the Great Depression occurred in 1932. The WWI veterans wanted their money then and not 1945. They came down to the Washington Mall and set up tents. President Hoover asked the Army Chief of Staff General MacArthur to disperse the people. He had a lieutenant general named Patton who commanded a lieutenant named Eisenhower to do the bloody deed. Let me tell you why. Who taught the art of shooting people when the plaza of the central government is taken over? It was learned from the Americans.
During the era of the northern warlords, people decided to go out to surround the home of Duan Qirui. They set off from Tienanmen Square and Duan ordered the shooting. This was how the 318 tragedy came out. When any ruler was forced by you to shoot, he will shoot. Besides, it is the Communists. We must fight the Communists with smarter techniques.
If you want to have a revolution, there is no chance. Free speech? I, Li Ao, took that lead. If you want to succeed, you must use intelligent methods to make them succumb. The method of forcing them to shoot is used by only stupid opponents.
Deng Xiaoping said that our next generation will be smarter than us. Today, the Communists are smarter than their previous generation, and they don't fight among themselves anymore. The people ought to use their intelligence to fight for their power and rights.
Q. What is an intelligent method?
Li: Aren't we fighting for liberalism? Since the seventeenth century, liberalism has always been looking for practical results. But nothing can surpass the Constitution of the People's Republic of China. You take a look -- the Constitution has freedom of speech, freedom to publish, freedom of movement, freedom to strike ... it promises more than any other place. Who needs liberalism? I would rather that you follow the Constitution. I don't want liberalism just like I don't want Communism. I don't want lies anymore. I just want practical things. Can you say that I am wrong in wanting the Constitution to be implemented?
When I was locked up as a political prisoner in Taiwan, I encountered a middle-school student. I said, "Kid, how come you are a political prisoner?" He said, "I am a born revolutionary." I said, "Which revolution?" He said, "I organized a political party." I asked, "Why did you form a political party?" He said that he read in the civics textbook about Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of China on the people having the right to form parties. He said, "I thought it was for real." (laughs) Is the freedom in the People's Republic of China true or false for us?
Q: Do you think that it is real?
Li: If I treat it as real, then it is real. I am talking about liberalism, but you would say that I am advocating anti-revolutionary ideas. So I won't talk liberalism with you. I want to talk about the practical implementation of the Constitution. All the ideals of liberalism are realized in the Constitution. The English poetess Elizabeth Browning said: "How do I love thee? Let me count the list. I love your eyebrows, I love your nose, and so on. " This love is concrete and it is not empty. The Constitution is like that too. Every freedom is itemized. I don't want to talk about liberalism. You can have that liberalism.
Q: Would this be too much for the Chinese Communists?
Li: I want to stir them up. They think that Li Ao won't speak up. I have done this all my life. I'll show them.
Q: You must mentioned the example of the bloody incident in Washington DC. The problem is that the number of casualties does not compare to that in the June 4 incident.
Li: What does it mean to the Communists who have killed innumerable people. From the three-anti and five-anti campaigns, the Chinese Communists have killed innumerable people. A few people were killed in the Tiananmen Square incident, but you are screaming. It is more serious for the Americans to have killed its people, because America is a free and democratic country which protects human rights. Someone said, "Why didn't they use water cannons?" I tell you why they did not use water cannons. After Wuer Kaxi's clothes are dried, he will come back the next day. (laughs) The effective period for a shooting is ten years. It has been 16 years since June 4. Please! When the masses oppose the government and force it to shoot, it means that your method of opposition is problematic.
Q: Do you approve of this method of suppression?
Li: I do not approve of this method of suppression. I oppose the method of opposition. This is why I am cunning. I am not saying that it was right to shoot. I am saying that it was stupid to force them to shoot. We have smarter ways of solving this problem.
Ever since the reforms, the Communist Party will not engage in this type of battle to the death. The times have changed, and it will be solved after all these revolutionary maniacs have died off. I dare to speak this deeply. Both sides can object to me. Neither side likes me, but I am telling you the truth in person. I am a single warrior on a single horse with a single spear.
I have gone to the extreme in terms of freedom of speech. None of them will do more than me. What does that prove? It is really safe. For example, Hsu Linong told me that he banned so many books of mine but it has now been proven that even if they had not been banned, the country wass not finished. (laughs) Freedom of speech is the mouth of a volcano. The more open it is, the less dangerous it is.
When Sweden permitted adult movies, the number of rapes decreased by 14% and the number of peeping tom incidents decreased by 80%. In the eyes of the moralists, adult movies corrupt people. But when you let the volcano blow, it is actually safer. Freedom of speech brings security, and it is not a bad thing for your government.