Please Use Civilization To Convince Us
This is a translation of an open letter from Lung Ying-tai to Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Please Use Civilization To Convince Us -- An Open Letter To Mr. Hu Jintao (see Chinese original)
In January 2006, Kuomintang chairman Mr. Ma Ying-jeou gave a speech to encourage his Kuomintang Youth League members and told this joke: "I hope that the Kuomintang Youth League can produce a Hu Jintao some day."
I believe that this is the most ill-considered joke that he had made in his entire political career.
Mr. Ma Ying-jeou may have thought simply that "Hu Jintao" is a national leader who came through the China Youth League system. But for him to say something like that, it showed that he has not thought carefully about just what kind of system the China Youth League is? Just what is the principle by which the country led by this leader is run? What is the basis of his power? What is the legitimacy? What is the meaning represented by the name "Hu Jintao" who holds political power in China at the start of the 21st century?
It definitely represented a high economic growth figure that astonishes the world and makes the people proud. At the same time, in a rating of political freedom, China was ranked in 177th place. You can say that this standard was set up by "western rightists" and did not fit the Chinese national conditions. Fine, let us use a socialist standard. Pursuing equal distribution of resources (or lack of), whether it is wealth (or poverty), should be a core leftist value, right? In terms of wealth inequality, the Gini index for China is over 0.4, closing on 0.45 which is at the threshold for social chaos. Underneath this index, so many people have too much to spend and so many people with nothing have to toil hard to live.
That is to say, the name "Hu Jintao" is still a countercurrent in the history so far for the 21st century: in the tide to seek democracy, it still concentrated power within a dictatorship; in the trend to pursue equality, it still has serious wealth inequality.
When you first assumed office, people had great expectations for you. As a person of the new century, your ideas and vision would be deeper and broader than your predecessors. The spirit of combat and force when the Communist Party had the revolution to seize power should be silently replaced by humanistic concern and cultural nurturing. But it has been two years now, and what did we observe?
The reason that I am is writing this letter is because a concrete matter occurred yesterday: The Freezing Point Weekly magazine of China Youth Daily which belongs to the China Youth League was ordered to cease publication this evening.
Previously, the courageously outspoken Southern Daily which expressed the voices of the people had its chief editor replaced and has now become a hesitant newspaper. The editor-in-chief of Southern Metropolis Daily was removed and punished. The refreshing and invigorating Beijing News was suddenly re-organized. One after another courageous and effective media entity was silenced. All this occurred during your term. As a member of the China Youth League, you must be aware of the position of Freezing Point: it is the only live horse left with a croaking voice when ten thousand other horses are silent.
On this day (January 24), even this one remaining throat was cut. Prior to the Freezing Point editors receiving formal notice about the "throat-cutting," all words connected to Freezing Point were already erased from the Internet.
Under your leadership, the efficiency of the Internet police is astonishing.
The fact that the 'sentence' was carried out today is for reasons that everybody knew: this is just before the Spring Festival and people have left their work posts and are getting ready to return home. The newspapers are reporting on the entertainment and creating warmth; the television is showing the gala performance shows to create happiness. To choose this day to cut the lone surviving throat in China means that the sound of the dripping blood would be covered by the universal sounds of celebration everywhere. The executioner sneaks away. After the New Year, there is no trace left. The efficiency of the Internet police and the manipulation of modern media are your 21st century style of ruling.
The Internet police moved fast because they were afraid of letting their own people know. They worked with precise timing because they were afraid to let the international media find out. When they sneak in to implement and they spend so much effort to hide things, they show the guilt and fear felt by the government. But can you please tell this perplexed Taiwan citizen: Why is this "peacefully emergent" and capable government having so much guilt and fear?
The shutdown of Freezing Point is actually not surprising to people. People have been waiting for that already, just as a fatalist is always waiting for the midnight knock on the door. I found out that with so many disasters and so much oppression, very few people on the mainland believe that good things last, dreams come true or justice is rendered. When Lung Yingtai's "The Taiwan That You May Not Know" was published, there were already Internet speculations everywhere about Freezing Point being shut down. Today, the knock on the door has come. So how "brave" did Freezing Point have to be for the Chinese Communist Party to use these dark methods against it?
The reason for shutting down Freezing Point is an essay in which Guangzhou Zhongshan University's Mr. Yuan Weishi discussed history and textbooks. Because it "opposed mainstream ideology ... attacked socialism, attacked the leadership by the party." Just what was in this essay by Mr. Yuan Weishi that drew the penalty of 'destroying' the magazine?
I have read this essay seriously. Yuan Weishi used detailed historical evidence to explain that there are numerous errors in the current middle-school history textbooks, including serious irrational ideological promotions. Take the case of the Boxers. The textbook describes the Boxers as national heroes, glorifies their attacks on foreigners and completely fails to mention their brutality, ignorance, irrationality and anti-modern-civilization as well as the harm and shame that they brought to the country. In summary, the textbook teaches the next generation that "1. The current Chinese culture is superior and unmatched. 2. Outside culture is evil and corrodes the purity of the existing culture. 3. We should or could use political power or the dictatorship of the mob to violently erase all the evil in the field of cultural thinking. To use these kinds of logic in order to quietly exert a subtle influence on our children is an unforgivable harm no matter what the objective intent was."
Mr. Jintao, it is not that I don't know that the Chinese Communist Party has glorified the First Emperor of Qin, Daozhi, the Celestial Kingdom of Peace and the Boxers in a historical lineage to firm up its own power base. It is not that I don't know that every political power must try to construct a myth and totem for its founding. You must also understand the intent of the Democratic Progressive Party. But if the myth contains elements of xenophobia, then this is a danger that must be dealt with. In the 21st century, borders virtually don't exist anymore and the globe is becoming more of a closely knit village. Since we depend on each other, we must share all our sorrows and worries. Why did China bid so hard for the Olympics and the World Expo? The intention was to do the utmost to promote a new image for China: you take a look, China is a magnificent large country that can develop, love world peace and assume international responsibility!
This is the image being sold to the outside world, but you go inside, close the door and teach the next generation about "the supremacy of Chinese culture," "all foreign culture is evil" and Boxer philosophy, then could you please tell me: Which is the real China? Can the Secretary General tell it to the international community loudly and openly?
Yuan Weishi said that textbooks cannot disregard historical facts, cannot praise violence and cannot lead the next generation to admire themselves while hating foreigners. This type of knowledge, Mr. Jintao, is known as "common knowledge" over where we are. In Beijing, this was being accused of the crime of being contrary to "mainstream ideological formation." Can you please to this Taiwan citizen just what your mainstream ideological formation is?
Let us not mind how mainland intellectuals and ordinary civilian readers think about the Freezing Point affair, but I am quite willing to share with you just what a Taiwan intellectual such as myself feel. You can use your judgment to decide if someone like Lung Yingtai has representativeness and influence in Taiwan.
I have profound and heavy feelings for mainland China, because it is our destiny, blood ties, historical tradition, language and culture. Growing up in Taiwan, at the same time when I have this sentimental line of "home country self-identification," I also have a parallel and equally important line that I will hold -- that is, respect for human life and insistence of humanitarianism. From the respect and the insistence emanate other basic values: independence of character, the spirit of freedom, the rejection of wealth inequality, rejection of national violence, distrust of the rulers, respect for knowledge, sympathy for common citizens, tolerance of dissent, contempt for lies, ...
This is what I call the rational line for "value self-identification." When the emotional line of "home country self-identification" clashes with the rational line for "value self-identification," what will I do? Without hesitation, I will choose the later. Twenty years ago, I wrote <<Wild Fire>> to oppose the "home country" represented by the Kuomintang; when Lee Teng-hui ruled, I wrote to criticize his hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness; when Chen Shui-bian was unfair and unjust, I was forced to resist with my pen. If you don't know whether I was for "unification" or "independence", then you can try this: Taiwan or mainland, whichever fits my "value self-identification" will be my "home country." Whichever violates my "value self-identification" I will leave, reject and oppose. If both sides fit my "value self-identification," then we can start talking about unification. So am I pro-unification or pro-independence?
Looking at today's Freezing Point affair with this value structure, what do you think a Taiwan person like me would see?
I see that this "home country" for which I have profound and heavy emotions is a country which tramples upon my "value self-identification":
It treats truth as lies and lies and truths, and it has systematized the reversal process.
It treats independent intellectuals as slaves, it treats the enslaved intellectuals as servants, it lets the servant take charge by handing him the whip, cane and keys.
It has one face for the western world, a different face for Japan, a different face for Taiwan and yet another different face when looking at itself.
It has one standard when facing someone else's history, and when its own history is in error, it won't even face it. Instead, it chooses to turn its back on its own history.
It embraces myths, it creates false stories, it is afraid of the truth. Obviously it is most afraid of itself.
Would you like me to continue speaking?
What I really want to say, Mr. Jintao, is that as a Taiwan person, I don't care if Tuantuan and Yuanyuan come to Taipei or not, even though the panda bears are so lovely as to make people melt. But a Taiwan person like myself cares about the status of Freezing Point, just like many many Hong Kong persons care about the status of the arrested reporter Ching Cheong. If the "value self-identification" of China is interpreted and executed by a bunch of slave servants holding whips, canes and keys and if independent character and the spirit of freedom are attacked, disciplined and monitored, please ask just where is the starting point for us to talk about unification? There are conditions behind my emotions for China. There are many others who deeply love the earth of China without condition, but what can you offer them to talk about unification such that they won't be scorned and cursed by others?
The important point is not Tuantuan and Yuanyuan, do you know that? The important point was never about the Democratic Progressive Party, do you understand?
The important point was about a tiny but concrete matter such as Freezing Point. I understand that you may not even know about the shutdown of Freezing Point, but you will end up bearing all the responsibility. Simply stated, Mr. Jintao, whether you allow the media to be independent, what attitude you adopt towards your own history, how you deal with the people ... every little decision is tied to the word "civilization." We have been through barbarity already, so we have to care about civilization.
Please use civilization to convince me. I am willing to listen in earnest.
January 24, 2006.