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Aug 08

Where in China is Xu Zhiyong?

Written by Raj on Saturday, August 8th, 2009 at 11:15 pm
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(Hat-tip to Richard on the Peking Duck for writing on this last week.)

According to reports last week, the legal school and legislator Xu Zhiyong was led away by Police sometime on the morning of Wednesday 28th August. His whereabouts still seem to be unknown – his brother said that he had been charged with tax evasion.

It is hard to see how this isn’t linked to Xu’s work in helping people the State would prefer carried on with their lives like good little citizens, rather than pursue legal recourse against some sort of injustice/embarrassing matter that officials or local/central government would prefer to see the back of. But whatever the reason, this is not good for China’s future.

Whilst the charges may not be made up, from my understanding they’re linked to the NGO he works for. Often finding it hard to get official approval for their activities, such organisations may be forced to set up as a “business”. Even though they do not seek to make profit, they technically could be expected to pay tax. That would suggest any violation would be a technical one rather than indicative of any deliberate attempt on his part to deceitfully enrich himself. The Chinese authorities have a discretion as to whether they would prosecute someone like Xu. He’s not harming anyone – indeed he performs a public service.

The New Yorker had the following observation.

Imagine, for a moment, how it might sound to turn on the news one day and hear that the head of the A.C.L.U. had vanished from his home in the predawn hours. Or, think how America might be different today if a pesky young Thurgood Marshall had been silenced using an obscure tax rule and kept out of the courts.

At around 5 A.M. on Wednesday, Chinese authorities visited the home of Xu Zhiyong, a prominent legal scholar and elected legislator in Beijing, and led him away. He has not been heard from again. Unless something changes, he is likely to stay away for a long time, with or without formal charges. Anyone with an interest in China, its economy, its place in the world, or the kind of future it will fashion, please take note: this is a big deal.

Xu might not have reached Marshall status yet, but he is as close as China gets to a public-interest icon. He teaches law at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications. He has also run the Open Constitution Initiative, a legal-aid and research organization that worked on many of China’s pathbreaking cases. He and his colleagues had investigated the Sanlu milk scandal, in which dangerous baby formula harmed children’s health, and assisted people who had been locked up by local officials in secret undeclared jails. All of those activities are emphatically consistent with the goals of the Chinese government, even if they angered the local bureaucrats who were caught in the act.

Xu has never set out to undermine one-party rule; he is enforcing rights guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution. He has enough faith in the system that he joined it: in 2003, he ran for and won a seat as a legislator in his local district assembly, one of the few independent candidates to be elected in an open, contested election. He even received the recognition, rare among activists, of being profiled last year in a Chinese newspaper. “I have taken part in politics in pursuit of a better and more civilized nation,” he said at the time. “I am determined to prove to the citizens across the country that politics should be desirable.”

His work naturally angered parts of China’s bureaucracy, and pressure on him mounted. On July 14th, the Open Constitution Initiative, also known as Gongmeng, was fined 1.42 million RMB for “tax evasion.” Then it was banned. Xu was to have had his day in court, except he was picked up before he could. Separately, a young colleague named Zhuang Lu has also been detained, and her whereabouts are unknown. It is easy to look at China’s list of high-profile detentions and rationalize them: that guy was a cowboy, or, things in China are improving, and we have to keep it in context. Sorry. Not this time. Xu is no cowboy. As a Time magazine reporter wrote, in 2007, “Xu is probably the person most committed to public service that I’ve met in China, and possibly in my whole life.” Moreover, his work is as intimately connected to the broader context of China’s economic and political future as you can get. When the U.S. and China wrapped up a round of strategic and economic talks this week, they issued a joint press release that affirmed “the importance of the rule of law to our two countries.” Hu Jintao is quoted every chance he gets—“the rule of law should let the people be the masters of the country”—talking about exactly the kind of legal professionalism that Xu stands for. Jeffrey Prescott, the deputy director of Yale’s China Law Center, which has worked with Xu and his organization since 2004, tells me:

He is doing careful, thoughtful, and important work of international caliber—not much different than what mainstream public interest lawyers and scholars do every day in the U.S. or anywhere else. Xu and his colleagues are doing research into China’s problems, making efforts to promote constructive ideas for legal reform, and helping provide legal assistance to weak and marginalized groups in society…. Any of this would make Dr. Xu an important figure. But, above all, it is his human qualities that make him truly compelling. He is someone of rare idealism, judgment, commitment to law, selfless dedication, and fundamental decency. So that makes his detention very hard to understand.

For China, and those who have given their careers to studying and negotiating with it, this is a big test. It’s not too late for Xu to be released before the full bureaucracy gets too invested in holding him, but time is limited. China deserves better than this kind of behavior. Xu—or Hu Jintao—would be the first to tell you that.

This is no man seeking to overthrow the current political system or force the Chinese Communist Party from office. This is a man who seeks to use the law as it claims it can be used, to improve things from within. Yet he has been secretly detained as if he were a terrorist. Is this what the Chinese authorities sees people who wish to rely on the law are – terrorists? I would like to think that the Chinese government did not order this, but given Xu’s profile they would still know he was not the sort of person who would deserve this harrassment and stop it.

I remember a conversation I had with a Chinese friend. I asked why, if there were so many corrupt Chinese officials, they were allowed to continue in their jobs. He laughed and said that if the Chinese government did that it wouldn’t have enough left to run the country. My friend may have been a bit too jaded, but it’s true that the real threat to China isn’t lawyers who represent families seeking justice from the State but public servants who abuse their position. So why are the Police told to waste resources chasing after people trying to counter corruption instead of focusing their attention on those at the centre of it? Why are people like this kept incommunicado, instead of being bailed? Xu is hardly a flight risk, nor are this peers.

Perhaps the answer is that it’s easier to sweep mess under the carpet than clean it up. By trying to silence people like Xu, the authorities probably hope to reduce interest in and public awareness of the sorts of matters he deals with. Is it the case that officials and government can tolerate corruption and injustice, but not large amounts of publicity/coverage?

Such an attitude is self-defeating, as those problems don’t go away. Allowing open discussion of them would lead to honesty about the scale of the problem in China and help find long-term solutions instead of simply papering over the cracks. Letting people use the law would help deter others from abusing their power in the future. By attacking people like Xu, greedy people take heart that the State will protect them indirectly because it fears bad press more than corruption. The mess under the carpet won’t shrink – it will grow in size.

This is certainly a step back for the independence of the law in China. Politicians like Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao talk big about rule of law, but their actions (or inactivity) speak volumes.


There are currently 3 comments highlighted: 45058, 45125, 45271.

117 Responses to “Where in China is Xu Zhiyong?”

  1. Wukailong Says:

    I think the decision to turn in Xu Zhiyong isn’t necessarily linked to Wen Jiabao or Hu Jintao. We can probably be quite certain that it was someone in the conservative faction, probably on a local level, that decided on the arrest. That doesn’t make it better, of course, but I believe that’s what happened.

  2. Raj Says:

    Wukailong, even assuming Wen and Hu weren’t involved in the decision to arrest Xu, given his profile and the number of causes he has become involved with, would you agree with me that the decision to arrest him is unlikely to have been taken by some low-level individual? I’m not sure that he been arrested like this in the past. If that is correct then the fact he has been able to operate in past years suggests that the arrest had to have been ordered by people higher up the chain who decided he was too much of a “threat”.

    As I said, the problem isn’t so much that Wen or Hu personally ordered this but that they keep allowing this sort of thing to happen. They’re not helpless bystanders – Hu is more powerful now than he has ever been. Yet, despite information about these detentions coming to light quickly, they don’t get people like Xu freed. So either Hu and Wen simply don’t care about rule of law and just droan on to seem modern and enlightened, or they actually agree with the detention of people like Xu.

    I believe that Hu is a conservative, which is part of the problem. Wen might be a little more of a centralist, but he’s not sticking his neck out for people like Xu either.

  3. scl Says:

    Raj wrote:
    “t is hard to see how this isn’t linked to Xu’s work in helping people the State would prefer carried on with their lives like good little citizens, rather than pursue legal recourse against some sort of injustice/embarrassing matter that officials or local/central government would prefer to see the back of…”

    Raj, are you sure that providing legal assistance for the poor and the weak against injustices brought on by some local government officials is what got Mr. Xu arrested? That would be equivalent to arresting public defenders for the poor and the disadvantaged, or arresting the lawyers for taking civil rights cases here in the U.S., and that will be indeed very bad for China’s progression! But this is probably not the reason for the arrest. Let’s review some of Xu’s actions over the years, and remember, most of these issues are quite legitimate, and probably NONE of these resulted in his arrest.

    All the cases are from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Constitution_Initiative:

    2003: Xu Zhiyong, Teng Biao, and another doctoral student from Beijing University raised the unconstitutionality of the investigation in the Sun Zhigang case; initiated a grassroots local people’s congress primary election procedure.

    2004: participated in the drafting of a proposed amendment to include “human rights” in the Constitution, submitted to the National People’s Congress; followed the Henan incident where authorities forcibly closed the HIV/AIDS orphanage known as “Home of Care and Love”; defended Yu Huafeng and Cheng Yizhong, the General Manager and Editor in Chief, respectively, of the Southern Metropolitan Daily; participated in representing the four innocent Chengde citizens who were sentenced, five times, to the death penalty; organized a symposium to discuss the legitimacy of the relocation of the Beijing Zoo

    2005: conducted research on China’s petitioning (“xinfang”) system; pushed for Local People’s Congress Delegate Reception Day; researched the local people’s congress system; began writing the 2005 Report on the Development of Human Rights in China.

    2006: completed the 2005 Report on the Development of Human Rights in China; followed the Beijing taxi price hike and reform of the management system; completed the Research Report on China’s Xinfang System; monitored the direct election of the Haidian District of Beijing Municipality Local People’s Congress; spoke out for the education rights of migrant children; wrote proposed legislative amendments to the Beijing Measures on the Administration of Dog Ownership.

    2007: assisted with the administrative suit on behalf of victims of the illegal brick kilns; followed the Zhongguancun demolition and relocation case; launched various citizen participation activities.

    2008: organized a Pro Bono Legal Aid Team to conduct public interest litigation on behalf of victims of the tainted milk scandal; promoted direct elections within the Beijing Lawyers Association.

    2009: released an investigative report into the causes of the 3.14 incident in Tibet; launched activities to promote open government information, including requesting the disclosure of three specific types of public expenditures; hosted a legal organization training workshop where legal knowledge relating to rights defense and elections was discussed; provided legal aid to Deng Yujiao, victims of “black jails”, and petitioners; launched residence committee elections and organized symposiums on Green Dam, mental disability, and many more issues; in order to guide public opinion on a path of rational development, expressed public opinion on many important issues.

    So what got him arrested? The following is probably the real reason – the Tibet and Xingjian issues. Also from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Constitution_Initiative:

    In 2009, the organization published a report criticising the Chinese government’s policy towards Tibet, alleging that propaganda is being used to mask failings in its Tibet policy, such as ethnic inequality and creating “an aristocracy of corrupt and abusive government officials”. It has been regarded as a more balanced view of the situation in Tibet and has had approval circulating through discussion websites in China, though the Chinese government has yet to comment.

    He was arrested, because he got involved in the ultra-sensitive issues of China’s national integrity. If he concentrated on individual cases, such as representing some Uyghirs or Tibetans for employment discrimination, like he did many times before in similar cases, he probably will not be arrested.

  4. DJ Says:

    scl,

    Good point. I would not be surprised if Xu’s trouble stems more from the Tibet 3.14 investigation report than his other individual cases.

    That particular report is well worth a read. A Chinese version can be found here. The ICT translated the document but the links I found are dead now and can be found here. Just scroll down a couple screens and you will see it.

  5. Wukailong Says:

    @All: It would make a lot of sense that Xu was arrested at this point for the investigation on 3.14, due to the recent riots in Xinjiang. If it’s true, then I retract my idea that it was a low-level official that decided on his detention. It might be very high up.

  6. admin Says:

    @DJ,

    The English translation is available locally.

    http://blog.foolsmountain.com/2009/06/02/an-investigative-report-into-the-social-and-economic-causes-of-the-314-incident-in-tibetan-areas/

  7. Otto Kerner Says:

    @scl

    “If he concentrated on individual cases, such as representing some Uyghirs or Tibetans for employment discrimination, like he did many times before in similar cases, he probably will not be arrested.”

    Yeah, so? It says something bad about the PRC legal system’s progression either way. I guess you could file this under “less bad”, perhaps.

  8. DJ Says:

    Admin,

    . I actually thought about searching it within FM since I figured someone could very well have translated it, but then found the ICT version and let the thought go.

  9. Uln Says:

    I agree that it must be related to the Tibet report, especially after what happened in Xinjiang. The CPC leadership is very nervous about these things, and many see the Urumqi riots as a symptom that the “separatist disease” is spreading. What I am surprised is that The WSJ and New Yorker don’t mention this, it is unlike Evan Osnos to disregard such an important detail.

    In any case, this detention is a tragedy for China. Because this is precisely the middle voice that was missing, a moderate position between the biased Chinese and Western media. The CPC has proven again that it does NOT want a balanced opinion. It does not want people to think and to ask questions. It is more confortable with a biased Western media, the more anti-China the better, because this way they can manipulate the Chinese public into defense mode and indirectly gain credibility for Xinhua. Otherwise, why go for Xu and not all the Western media that have office in Beijing and publish much harsher critics?

    The worst of all is to think that we are all playing into their game, stuck for ages in the Western vs Chinese media debate while the people that matter are quietly taken away…

  10. Raj Says:

    scl

    He was arrested, because he got involved in the ultra-sensitive issues of China’s national integrity. If he concentrated on individual cases, such as representing some Uyghirs or Tibetans for employment discrimination, like he did many times before in similar cases, he probably will not be arrested.

    You’re speculating. The Tibet report was published three months ago – why not arrest him immediately afterwards? But if you want to maintain this is about the Tibet report, would you agree that the reported charge of tax evasion is just a pretext to get rid of him?

    Moreover, does it really matter whether he was arrested because of the Tibet report or a culmination of the cases he has taken on? Whether it’s Tibetans whose religious beliefts are not treated with sufficient respect or people who are denied compensation, he is still fighting for justice on behalf of the powerless in China. You’re surely not suggesting that it’s only ok to fight for Han rights but not Tibetan rights, are you?

    Perhaps you would like to express an opinion on this arrest and what it means for the development of rule of law in China?

  11. Raj Says:

    Here’s an article from the New York Times. It’s worth remembering that other lawyers/legal campaigners have been arrested/harrassed, regardless of whether they’ve become involved with. If your work is in relation to official corruption and/or the State, you can be a target.

    Blow to Rights Campaign as China Detains Activist

    China’s nascent legal rights movement, already reeling from a crackdown on crusading lawyers, the kidnapping of defense witnesses and the shuttering of a prominent legal clinic, has been shaken by the detention of a widely respected rights defender who has been incommunicado since the police led him away from his apartment 12 days ago.

    The man who was detained, Xu Zhiyong, 36, a soft-spoken and politically shrewd legal scholar who has made a name representing migrant workers, death row inmates and the parents of babies poisoned by tainted milk, is accused of tax evasion. The charge is almost universally seen here as a cover for his true offense: angering the Communist Party leadership through his advocacy of the rule of law.

    If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison.

    “We’re all shocked by his detention, because Xu Zhiyong has always tried to avoid taking on radical and politically sensitive cases,” said Teng Biao, a colleague. “His only interest is fighting for the rights of the vulnerable and trying to enhance China’s legal system.”

    Mr. Teng helped Mr. Xu establish the Open Constitution Initiative, a six-year-old nonprofit legal center that the authorities closed last month, charging that it was improperly registered and that it failed to pay taxes.

    Mr. Xu is not the first rights advocate in China to face the wrath of the authorities in recent years. Gao Zhisheng, a vocal lawyer, vanished into police custody six months ago, and Chen Guangcheng, a blind lawyer, was beaten and then jailed after exposing abuses in China’s birth-control program.

    Although rights lawyers and grass-roots social organizations have always been tightly controlled here, the pressure has intensified in recent weeks. More than 20 lawyers known for taking on politically tinged cases were effectively disbarred, and the police raided a group that works to ease discrimination against people with Hepatitis B.

    Last week, China’s justice minister gave a speech saying lawyers should above all obey the Communist Party and help foster a harmonious society. To improve discipline, the minister said, all law firms in China would be sent party liaisons to “guide their work.”

    But given Mr. Xu’s international stature and reputation for working within the law, legal scholars both in China and abroad say his prosecution suggests a new level of repression.

    “What makes his detention particularly disturbing is that he’s a special figure in so many ways,” said Paul Gewirtz, director of the China Law Center at Yale Law School, which helped Mr. Xu establish his legal center, known here by its Chinese name, Gongmeng. “He’s at the forefront of advancing the rule of law, which is something everyone agrees China needs for its ongoing development.”

    After 30 years of reform, China’s legal system is at a critical juncture. Law schools continue to pump out thousands of graduates each year, and the courts, even if imperfect, have increasingly become a forum for resolving disputes. Late last month the Supreme People’s Court announced reforms intended to markedly reduce executions.

    But as lawyers here discover, there are limits to China’s embrace of judicial reform.

    The Constitution, which includes guarantees of free speech and human rights, is unenforceable in court. Judges routinely ignore evidence, making determinations based on political considerations. And when it comes to vaguely defined offenses like “subversion of state power” or the invoking of “state secrets” laws, even the best-trained lawyers are powerless to defend the accused.

    He Weifang, a law professor and legal adviser to Gongmeng, said conservative forces in the Communist Party were increasingly wary of lawyers, who they suspect are ultimately seeking to challenge one-party rule. Their greatest fear, Mr. He said, is that advocacy lawyers and civil society organizations could one day lead a pro-democracy movement among the poor and disenfranchised citizens they represent.

    “What the authorities don’t appreciate, though, is that lawyers are leading these people to the courts, where their complaints can be resolved by rule of law,” he said. “People like Xu Zhiyong can only help the government solve some of the problems it faces.”

    According to Gongmeng, Mr. Xu is being held at the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center, although public security officials have not confirmed that he is in their custody. Peng Jian, a lawyer who is advising Gongmeng, said the authorities had imposed a $208,000 penalty for nonpayment of taxes due on funds received from Yale for cooperative research projects.

    A day after the raid on Gongmeng’s office, Mr. Xu held a news conference to say that the accusations were baseless. He described the attack on his research center as a battle between corrupt officials and society’s most vulnerable citizens. “We believe conscience will surely triumph over the evil forces,” he said.

    A week later, police officers came to his door and led him away. Another employee of the research center, Zhuang Lu, was also taken away the same day.

    Soon after graduating from Peking University law school, Mr. Xu became immersed in the case of a graphic artist who was beaten to death in 2003 in police custody in the southern city of Guangzhou. The artist, Sun Zhigang, 27, had been arrested under vagrancy laws that allowed the police to detain people for traveling outside their registered hometowns without a permit.

    Mr. Xu led a campaign to end the practice, which gained widespread media attention. A few months later, the State Council abolished the system.

    That same year Mr. Xu rose to the defense of a muckraking editor jailed in Guangzhou after his newspaper, Southern Metropolis, ran a series of articles about Mr. Sun’s death. The editor, Cheng Yizhong, said Mr. Xu helped rally lawyers and journalists, leading to his release five months later. “Only Xu had the courage to take on my case,” he said.

    More recently, he tried to prepare a challenge to black jails, the illegal holding cells that some officials use to silence persistent critics. Last year, friends say, he was roughed up several times while gathering evidence from petitioners who had come to Beijing to press their grievances to the central government.

    Raised in a Christian home in Henan Province, Mr. Xu was fond of noting his birth in a county called Minquan, which translates as “civil rights.” In an interview last year with The Economic Observer, a Chinese weekly, he said this had a profound impact on his social consciousness.

    “I strive to be a worthy Chinese citizen, a member of the group of people who promote the progress of the nation,” he said. “I want to make people believe in ideals and justice, and help them see the hope of change.”

  12. Uln Says:

    @Raj – “You’re speculating. ”

    Yes you can call it speculation, unfortunately most of what we do when we speak about Chinese government decisions is speculation, the explanation you give in the OP as well.

    I don’t disagree with the content of your original post, it could very well be that Xu has been arrested because he has upset some big shot. of course.

    But because of the reason I give above, I think it is also very possible that it is related with the Tibet report, and I was stating my surprise that nobody had thought of it before (including myself, I admit). The Tibet hypoethesis makes sense, and the 2 months delay can be explained for many reasons.

  13. Raj Says:

    Uln (12)

    I’m confused. First you say it must be down to the Tibet report, then that it’s possible. To be clear, are you convinced it’s definitely all about the report or just that it may be? I accept that it might be. I also indicated in my reply to scl that his work on the Tibet report was the same sort of work as he has done previously (representing the powerless and marginalised members of Chinese society), just done in a different format. Whether or not it was down to the report is a bit of a red herring in my view.

    I doubt that the big cheeses in Beijing thought everything he did before the Tibet report was fine and that alone was enough to get him in trouble. I think he his organisation have been in the sights of various officials and politicians for a long time, they were just thinking of a way to justify nabbing him.

    I speculated, but I also left things open rather than assert it was definitely down to his legal work (re my comment about how things seemed) and that there really had been no tax evasion.

  14. Wukailong Says:

    @Raj, Uln: Personally I think the Tibetan connection makes sense, but it is hard to know with certain in any of these cases. Anyone who has a long history of getting close to the “acceptable” limits are in danger. Do you remember China Development Brief? They were shut down last year for some reason that we can only speculate about, and while I’ve heard they’ve started up again, the website is only there as an archive:

    http://www.chinadevelopmentbrief.com/

  15. Raj Says:

    Wukailong

    One of the problems people have is that they don’t even know where the “acceptable limits” are as the State refuses to point to them. Of course the State does that intentionally to scare people away from getting involved in any case where it is involved.

    It’s so sad that in China you can get into trouble for exercising your legal rights or defending someone else’s.

  16. Uln Says:

    @Raj – Perhaps my first comment sounded a bit too definite, but in any event the construction “it must be” expresses a degree of uncertainty. I will add that, even if we don’t agree as to the most probable causes, I still think it is positive and necessary that people write about this case to give it more publicity, so thanks to you for writing.

    So who knows, it could be like you say that Xu has pissed off some big party leader with his previous research, or it could be Tibet, or it could even be a combination of both.

    There are however strong reasons to think that Tibet/Xinjiang had something to do. For the reasons I give in my first comment, and also because after the Urumqi riot this has become the number 1 worry of the government before the anniversary.

    For what it’s worth, see this NYT article with some opinons of analysts as to how Tibet/Xinjiang may be shaping high level politics in China:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/11/world/asia/11xinjiang.html?_r=1

  17. Sonia Says:

    I think we’re simplifying the issue of “who decided to arrest him”. One of the things about the current CCP is that as secretive and monstrous it appears, it’s actually quite fractured and disorganized. I could be wrong, but I doubt that people in the really top tier, ie. the Politburo, actively goes around encouraging cadres to go out and arrest dissidents. Instead, they’re probably elbows deep entertaining foreign dignitaries, and jetting everywhere to take care of emergencies. In addition to not being aware/having the time to care about dissenters, they probably don’t know exactly what to do either. To reform? To follow tradition? Which tradition? How does anyone deal with a threat (imaginary or real) to one’s power? Some slightly lower cadres lack the discipline, guts and the decision-making power to really know what’s going on and how to deal with it. On the one hand, they don’t want to upset their “reformist” superiors if they do an over-kill on punishing dissent. On the other hand, they’re hyper-sensitive to certain controversial and “banned” issues that may topple “harmony”. Another thing is that the communist officials are in general ranked by age. If you’re a veteran, you’re likely to be high up. So usually the higher up you are as an official, not only are you more secluded from reality by layers of secretaries, you’re also more secluded from reality and common-sense by time. Add to that the factional (and sometimes personal) in-fighting and general incompetency of the bureaucrats, you have a lot of “i dunno”s.

    So yeah, I think it probably had to do with the Tibet report. But the arrest took three months probably due to a mix of the Xinjiang Incident, indecision, incompetence, and lack of concrete directives from above.

    Like people have said above, the state hasn’t defined “acceptable boundaries”. Well, technically, they have defined some in terms of written laws, but they certainly haven’t defined any in terms of law enforcements and real action. But I think that even within the CCP, no one knows what official “acceptable boundaries” are, and they’re different for everyone, even top-tier officials. And that contributes to a lot of inconsistencies. In the absence of social upheaval, everyone can afford to be a little more lax. But when the world seems to explode in your face, the actual law-enforcers get nervous and start arresting anyone they can.

    Anyway, here’s something way off topic, but I was wondering if there’s going to be a post about an essay floating around the internet, supposedly written by retired Politburo member Wan Li:

    Chinese: http://www.talkskyland.com/dispbbs.asp?boardID=59&ID=81083&page=1

    English: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2009/08/senior-official-the-governing-party-needs-to-establish-fundamental-political-ethics/

    Again, apologizing for the off-topic thing. 🙂

  18. Jason Says:

    How much Yale University donated to this guy that cost this guy 200K or 1.36 million YUAN?

    I like to know if any Chinese University donated to any law firms in the US?

    To me this donation is a violation to the Chinese version of US’ Foreign Agents Registration Act:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_Agents_Registration_Act .

    The US media has demonized the Chinese govt that how horrible the govt is of taking away a guy who helps the victims of the milk scandal–plueeze!

  19. huaren Says:

    Hi scl, #3,

    Good response.

    I encourage FM’ers to link to your post where-ever else they visit in the blogsphere.

    For me personally, I am saddened that he is locked away because he seemed to be doing a lot of good work. I feel it is so unfortunate that he tries to be public about something the government deem so sensitive. I wondered in private, how far he ran with his Tibet report with other government officials. I wondered how much he was encouraged by foreign “activists” to become more confrontational.

    This is another example of a competent Chinese citizen who is sapped – blame the Chinese government – or blame those “activists” egging him on. The bottom line is he is going to likely hate the Chinese government for the rest of his life.

  20. Charles Liu Says:

    Yes, agree with Jason, huaren and scl. Sadely The PKD is willingly play a part in the Echo Chamber. Luckily FM doesn’t ban reader comment like PKD does.

    (OT: Raj, you can tell Richard that since he’s banned my comment in the Peter Guo blogpost, I am going to boycott his blog for three years as promised.)

    Our military-industrial-media-complex has yet again twisted facts and paraphrased this story to manufacture opinion and reinforce our official narrative on China. According to this article symphetic to Xu, the Chinese Internal Revenue Service announced tax evasion charge agaisnt Xu prior to the arrest:

    http://www.wjsq.com/bbs/viewthread.php?tid=340060

    “但是这样一个人现在却面临牢狱之灾。7月14号税务部门发出通知,对公盟追缴所得税和罚款共142万元。7月29号清晨,许志永被警察带走。”

    “However someone like him now faces incarceration. On 7/14 the Tax Department announced seeking back taxes and fines against GongMong (Xu’s law firm?) totaling 1,400,000RMB. On the morning of 7/29, Xu Zhiyong was taken away by police.”

    Do you think this POV will be sufficiently covered by our supposedly independent and impartial media? How about the expert China expat blogsphere?

    Or as a footnote to yet another “Human Rights Violaton” discussion?

  21. Raj Says:

    Jason

    1. You linked to the US law. Where’s the Chinese law?

    2. Xu has been charged with tax evasion, not a violation of any
    such law.

    3. Yale is a university, not the American government.

    4. The donation by Harvard is public knowledge, so where’s the violation of any such law?

    5. The State doesn’t have to prosecute. It can decide it’s not in the public interest, which this most certainly is not for the reasons I explained above – e.g. encouraging officials to abuse their position because they’ll think the State is more worried about bad press than corruption.

    +++++

    Charles

    First thing’s first, you can e-mail richard yourself.

    Do you think this POV will be covered by our supposedly independent and impartial media?

    You didn’t even bother reading the articles I linked to, did you? The first line of the AP report says that he has been accused of tax evasion. Or you could have simply googled “tax gongmeng” and got a whole raft of reports.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/18/china-shuts-legal-aid-centre

    “Its closure came two days after the Beijing tax bureau fined Gongmeng 1.4m yuan (about £125,000), saying it had not paid its taxes.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/world/asia/18china.html

    “Two days earlier, the tax authorities had fined the group about $200,000 for a delay in paying its taxes.”

    http://www.upiasia.com/Politics/2009/08/03/chinese_civil_rights_groups_under_attack/4503/

    “On July 14 the group received a notification accusing it of evading taxes to the tune of 180,000 yuan (US$26,000). Adding fines imposed by both the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau and the Beijing branch of the State Administration of Taxation, the organization has been ordered to pay more than 1.42 million yuan (US$208,000).”

    Would you like me to post every single news report on the fact Gongmeng were accused of not paying taxes? Or can you just admit that once again you have jumped to a conclusion based on stereotyping of the non-Chinese media instead of bothering to try to find out what they said?

    Or as a footnote to yet another “Human Rights Violaton” discussion?

    I thought China understood the concept of bail. What’s Xu going to do if he’s released pending a court hearing, carry on providing free legal assistance and not pay tax on it? The State should be paying him for providing a public service.

  22. Charles Liu Says:

    No, Raj, I am correct that every citation you’ve given above framed this story in terms of human rights violation. The tax evasion angle is but a footnote.

    I stand by my assessment. For example has Guardian, NYT, UPI Asia, bothered to look up the details in the tax charge? Have you? Have PKD? Or you are just echoing whatever is said?

    Your ignorance on Xu’s free legal work being taxed is proof our media isn’t covering it.

  23. Raj Says:

    Sonia, that’s an interesting post, but why do you call Xu a dissident? He’s a legislator in China!

    Also who are these “reformist superiors” you talk about? You’re not suggesting that a majority of mid-level CCP officials are pro-reform, are you? There are some of them, but from what I understand they’re a minority. The majority won’t stick their necks out for people like Xu. However, I don’t think any minor official would have arrested him without instructions from someone reasonably senior because of his notoriety. As meaningless as the position can be in China, I don’t think that legislators are arrested on junior officials’ orders.

    More generally, what do you actually think about the fact he has been arrested at all?

    I read that essay earlier today, it’s interesting. If only more people like this chap expressed their views, something might change. Wan Li was one of the good guys in Chinese politics.

  24. Raj Says:

    Charles

    So let me get this straight, you’re not just demanding the foreign media make reference to the charges of tax evasion, you’re demanding they abide by the Chinese authorities’ position and leave it there? Maybe if they actually talked to the newspapers, like the New York Times asked them to, they’d get a better voice. But if they’re going to hide in silence they can’t whine if no one believes them.

    The same applies to this arrest. A Chinese legislator and well-known pro-bono lawyer is arrested but no public statement is made. I’m not sure whether the Police have even confirmed they’re holding him. The information about the charges put to him after he was taken away came from his brother and not the authorities. But, hey, it’s the Chinese authorities and they never, ever abuse their power so let’s trust they’re doing the right thing.

    You didn’t answer my question, by the way. Why can’t Xu be bailed? If he was arrested and then released on bail there wouldn’t be such an outcry. But it’s been nearly two weeks since he was taken away. Why the secrecy?

  25. Charles Liu Says:

    Not a all Raj, I’m saying there should be some sort of balance in reporting. I am as ignorant as you are about the bail, as I am not from mainland China. Announcement on Xu’s tax evasion charge was made on 7/14.

    Here’s more details on the tax charge from the China Charity Information Center (again sympathetic to Xu). IMHO stuff like this absolutely will not be covered by the like of NYT:

    http://www.donation.gov.cn/jsp/preview1.jsp?ColumnID=49&TID=20090729171733803586782

    – There was a two-month investgaton by the tax authority that concluded Xu’s organization (an incorporated business still in the process of obtaining non-profit status) evaded tax.

    – GongMong’s questionable income came from Yale University and another business, totaling over 1,100,000RMB. No income tax, business tax, district improvement tax, ect., were paid.

    – According to law fine could be between 50% and 500%, and tax authority sought the upper limit.

    – Xu has admitted to operational deficiency, and lack of tax knowlege. Xu also blamed the accountancy they hired, and have cooperated with the authority.

    – Xu’s accountancy indicated local taxes due were not paid, and they have since paid it. They contend some charges from central government is debatable(income from donation should exclude expense or not).

    – NGO’s non-profit designation by law requires sponsorship, and GongMong, as with most grassroot organization, have skirted this requirement by incorporating as for-profit NGO.

    This story is a lot more nuianced than simple “human rights”, “Tibet”, but somehow I don’t think our media is interested in framing this story factually, accurately.

  26. Raj Says:

    Charles, he was arrested nearly two weeks ago. How long is a weekend in China – 14 days?

    As for the nature of his organisation, Gongmeng has been open since 2003. It’s been allowed to operate like this for over half a decade. So, what, I’m expected to believe that the authorities didn’t realise it existed until recently? They knew enough about it to shut down its website in 2004.

    If these charges aren’t about shutting Xu and his co-workers up, why charge him at all? He provides an invaluable service. He should be receiving a State subsidy and/or should have had his organisation granted tax-free status anyway.

    He is also an excellent international ambassador to boost China’s reputation, because any Chinese diplomat can point to him and say “hey, here’s a guy who defends people even against the State – it goes to show we’re not as bad as you might think we are”. So why the hell would want to arrest him, charge and detain him without bail for tax evasion, regardless of whether he/his colleagues broke Chinese tax law? Anyone with half a brain would have let this slide, or ensured he worked with tax free status as I suggested above.

    So if I am not to believe that this really is down to his work annoying one too many big cheeses in the Chinese political system, the only other plausible reason for this all happening is that Chinese officialdom is populated by significant numbers of brain-dead fools, both those who make these decisions and those in a supervisory position who do not immediately jump in and put a stop to the lunacy.

    This article has a detailed discussion of the organisation and that of other NGOs in China.

    It began with a tax notice for $200,000. Three days later, on July 17, officials raided the group’s Beijing office and seized its computers. Then, just before dawn on July 29, police detained its founder, Xu Zhiyong at his home.

    On the same day, government officials went to the office of Yi Ren Ping, another nongovernmental organization, and confiscated copies of its newsletter on the grounds that it didn’t have a publishing license.

    Taken together, the raids appear part of a tightening of controls on critical voices in the run-up to Oct. 1, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The two NGOs are among a growing number here using the law to hold authorities to account on issues such as food safety, patient rights, and illegal detention.

    But they share another common thread: Both received grants from American and other foreign donors. The tax fine for Open Constitution Initiative, the group headed by Mr. Xu, was assessed largely on a donation from Yale Law School. Xu, a lawyer and elected legislator, is being detained on suspicion of tax evasion, according to an OCI official.

    The harassment of these and other foreign-funded NGOs in Beijing has raised fears of a Russian-style squeeze on civil society. Since 2006, Russia has stripped the tax-free status of many foreign foundations and forced NGOs to report their activities in exhaustive detail, while accusing foreign-funded human rights groups of being Trojan horses for Western powers. It recently amended its NGO law, easing some of these controls.

    An alternate view in Beijing is that the groups targeted had pushed too aggressively into forbidden political zones, setting off a reaction. NGO workers and experts on civil society say the investigations into taxes and licenses are a smokescreen for a clampdown on legal activism, including the recent disbarring of 20 civil rights lawyers in Beijing.

    “It’s what you do with the money that matters,” says a researcher on Chinese NGOs, who declined to be named. He says investigations into foreign funding provide a “post hoc excuse” for authorities.

    Because of the difficulty of registering as nonprofits, many Chinese NGOs are listed as businesses. That makes them liable for potentially crippling tax demands, says Wan Yanhai, who runs an HIV/AIDS advocacy group in Beijing.

    “This is a big issue. If there is a similar action [as OCI’s tax case] against us, we could be fined tens of millions of yuan,” he says.

    Mr. Wan and other activists say that soliciting foreign funds is routine for many NGOs in China. Some government officials are supportive as they also benefit from funding for public programs from the same foreign donors. And they tend to overlook the fact that foreign-funded NGOs were registered as businesses, say activists.

    A crackdown on this practice – and the risk of a backdated tax bill – would be chilling, says Sara Davis, executive director of Asia Catalyst, a New York-based nonprofit that provides technical support to civil society groups in China.

    “It’s a tough situation. For most grass-roots groups working on humanitarian and civil rights issues in China, there’s no domestic funding. They’re also not allowed to register as NGOs. That leaves very little option except to go to foreign donors,” she says.

    Another dilemma for activists is that foreign donors often want to fund projects that rub against the grain in China, such as research into last year’s riots in Tibet, which inflamed foreign opinion. In a recent report, OCI said the official explanation that the Dalai Lama had fomented the unrest ignored the government’s own repressive actions in Tibet.

    It also took up the cause of families suing companies that sold contaminated milk powder last year, until the practice was exposed. China’s government has tried to draw a line under the scandal by paying compensation to those that agree not to bring lawsuits against manufacturers.

    An official at an overseas grant-making organization, who requested anonymity, says informal agreements with tax authorities on giving money to Chinese recipients may now be in doubt. But he and others in the NGO field say it’s too soon to say if a broader crackdown is underway and, if so, whether foreign funding would be squeezed.

    On the day of his arrest, Xu was due to prepare his defense in the tax case. The next day, a municipal tax bureau found against OCI, which had argued that the money from Yale and another private donor had already been declared.

    Jeffrey Prescott, deputy director of Yale’s China Law Center, says he was disturbed by the detention of Xu, a former visiting scholar at Yale, and its implications for lawyers working with marginalized groups. He says Yale also supported government-run programs in China, including research on legal reform with state universities.

    “Obviously these issues can be sensitive in China. But if you look at what [OCI] is doing, it’s pretty mainstream public interest law,” he says.

  27. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, your Christian Science Monitory citations just keep piling on the other ones, demonstrating our media is not interested in covering the fact Xu did evade tax.

    Did they talk about the fact Xu organization is a for-profit LLC and are subject to applicable tax laws? “mainstream public interest law” doesn’t mean they can ignor taxes.

    If I don’t pay taxes on millions, I gaurantee you the IRS will go after me. Then can I claim I am oppressed, and they are going after me because of my political view?

  28. Sonia Says:

    @Raj

    I didn’t mean to say that Xu was a dissident in the way that someone protesting against the government is a dissident. Perhaps that’s the wrong word. I meant in a more general sense as “someone who wants to change the system against its natural inertia”. I guess I should have used a broader term. Sorry about that.

    As for “reformist” superiors, I had specifically put that in quotes. People generally associate the current leadership with somewhat a more reformist mindset than previous administrations. Now just how many people are serious reformers, and to what extent they want to reform, is a something we can only speculate about. But it’s something that I think lower cadres are just as speculative about as the rest of us. That’s the thing. Nobody knows exactly what the Politburo is thinking, so everybody walks on eggshells around their policies and guidelines.

    But I am of the opinion that in general, the highest-level cadres are slightly less worried about their necks, and thus can afford to be more pro-reform, than lower cadres.

    Of course I don’t think that any random minor official would have arrested him. Likely they may not have even heard of him. But the CCP isn’t just made up of major and minor officials, there’s a huge hierarchy, and anyone in between, who’s a bit paranoid about what Xu insinuates, or what superiors will think of Xu, can order the arrest. As for how high up the order came…well that’s also speculation.

    I am however a bit doubtful that the command came from REALLY high up, because it just seems unlikely. There are some personal reasons for these doubts, so they may not be justifiable for the rest of you. But that’s just my gut feeling, so you can completely disregard me on that one.

    As for how I see Xu’s actual disappearance, I am very disturbed by it. It’s definitely unacceptable that a person just vanishes regardless of whether he is arrested, murdered, assassinated, kidnapped, ran away, has committed a crime or has been framed for a crime. It’s just unacceptable that anyone can vanish period. Specifically for Xu’s case, I really admired his and GongMeng’s efforts in doing their own research in Tibet and trying to form an independent view, and I also admire their bravery and hard work in an environment that is not politically friendly. I am very disappointed with the government’s decision to shut down the organization, because it was completely unwarranted. Tax evasion may or may not be fabricated. I don’t know and wouldn’t know unless I’m the persons handling the transaction. If it is true, even if it is used by the government to harass GM, appropriate consequences are warranted. But, I don’t think that shutting down GM, and the possible arrests of people associated with GM, are appropriate consequences even if the tax-evasion was true…does that make sense?

    Anyway, I will withhold my final opinion until more information is available. And I hope that more information and transparency will be available soon.

  29. Jason Says:

    @ Raj: Why can’t Xu be bailed? If he was arrested and then released on bail there wouldn’t be such an outcry.

    Maybe Xu doesn’t have the bailed money. I pretty sure Chinese police seized on his donations from Yale by now.

    Maybe that’s why he was taken away but of course playing the old human rights card is your forte.

  30. Charles Liu Says:

    Sonia, Xu didn’t just “disappear”, charges against him was announced weeks in advance, and his arrest was public, at his office in front of his co-workers.

    Do you think our media will report the fact media outlets in China has been supportive of Xu? Here’s an article from Farmer’s Daily (a communist mouth piece):

    http://www.farmer.com.cn/gd/bxht/200907/t20090721_468312.htm – “GongMong’s predictment is woe for our society”

  31. Raj Says:

    Charles, he is alleged to have evaded tax. Why are you assuming he’s guilty before he’s even appeared in court?

    But let’s just assume for a moment that tax should have been paid and it wasn’t. As I said, why does that require he be treated this way? Every day in every country, people are not prosecuted out of public interest. Is China an exception to that rule? Has there never been a case where someone was not prosecuted out of public interest?

    There are hordes of crooks in China who do a lot more than not pay their taxes. Is pursuing a public rights lawyer the best use of State resources?

    Given China’s terrible profile in so many countries on matters like human rights, is it really in China’s best interests to prosecute someone who was in many ways a standard-bearer for people who wanted to argue that China was changing and allowing lawyers to take on cases even when the other party was the State?

    The answer is that China can drop pointless prosecutions in the public interest, it should focus its efforts on the real crooks and it certainly does damage China’s image internationally by treating a person like Xu in this way. So either the officials who passed the orders to the Police are complete morons and should be fired for incompetency right after Xu is freed and all charges dropped, or they were under strict instructions from their superiors to do it – who would also be idiots and should be out of a job.

    You also still haven’t told me why he needs to be secretly held for 14 days. Come on, you originally said he couldn’t be bailed because he was arrested over the weekend then you changed your post. He was arrested on a Tuesday. You don’t have to be from China to know that you can be bailed in less than two weeks. At least I know that, and I’m just a stupid foreigner who “doesn’t understand China” according to many of the trolls here on FM.

    You could at least acknowledge that the lack of bail undermines the argument that this is an innocent arrest.

    You’d be prosecuted by the IRS because in the US you can register as a NGO and get tax-relief status without having to avoid doing anything to annoy the US government.

    If Xu didn’t disappear, which Police station was he taken to after being arrested? When did the Police confirm they had him in their custody? Why did they wait two weeks until they arrested him? Did they explain at the time why they were arresting him? Even the Police aren’t allowed to pull someone off the street without comment.

    Why do you believe Xu was charged in mid July? I believe the fine was levied against the organisation and it was closed down. I’m not sure anyone was charged at that time. Chinadaily mentioned the fine and Gongmeng being shut down but didn’t say anything about charges against Xu or anyone else.

    +++++

    Jason, did the authorities take all his personal money away even before he’s been taken to court, let alone convicted?

    Even if they did, could you tell me when the bail hearing was or what bail was set at? It doesn’t have to be set at a high figure. Indeed a suspect can be released without bail.

  32. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, Xu didn’t disappear. According to Financial Times Xu is currently held at Beijing Detention Center in DoGeZuan:

    http://www.ftchinese.com/story.php?storyid=001027992

    Um, Xu said his organization made financial mistakes (not intentionally), and is cooperating with the authority.

  33. Raj Says:

    Charles, you still haven’t been reading those articles I posted, have you? The NYT article said:

    “According to Gongmeng, Mr. Xu is being held at the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center, although public security officials have not confirmed that he is in their custody.”

    The issue is what happened immediately after he was arrested. The article you provided was only published on 6th, which is still a week and a half after he was taken away. When did this information come to light and how did it come to light – i.e. did the authorities make the statement or did one of Xu’s colleagues/friends find it out through their contacts? Have the authorities even confirmed they’re holding him?

    You asked whether it will be reported that the Chinese media is supportive of Xu. Which major Chinese newspapers have reported his arrest and called for him to be released? I’d be interested to read their articles. Anything from Chinadaily or People’s Daily, for example?

    By the way, please respond to the other points I raised in post # 31 about the reasons for not prosecuting. Thanks.

  34. Raj Says:

    Sonia

    Thanks for your post (28). I understand what you mean – perhaps the authorities see him as a dissident, though of course they shouldn’t.

    Your thoughts do make sense, and I agree that even if there was tax evasion it really wasn’t worth GM being closed down and Xu being arrested. That’s something I’ve made very clear in some of my comments to this blog entry.

    I’d love to see someone wade in and clear this whole mess up. It can still be done. I’m really hope that my fears he’ll be prosecuted and chucked in jail/banned from practicing law again are unfounded.

  35. Sonia Says:

    Sorry. Arrested, not disappeared. I concede on that.

    As for whether “our” media will report whether Chinese media is sympathetic or not…I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything here at any rate. I agree that media’s biased.

    But I do hope that the proceedings will become more transparent.

  36. Sonia Says:

    @Raj,

    What do you mean by “someone wade in and clear this whole mess up”?

    Here’s sort of the dilemma I see. For some CCP officials, who are less scrupulous and more paranoid, they are not above abusing their powers and manipulating circumstances to arrest people like Xu. Now that he is arrested however, for other CCP officials, who are slightly more scrupulous and less paranoid, they are unwilling to abuse their powers to save him.

    Hopefully, the situation can be resolved within a legal context, without any individual needing to swoop in save the day. Unfortunately, China is yet a “rule by man” rather than “rule by law” kind of place, despite everything legislation and official documents say. Which means that in order for problems to be solved, you need the wise and benign emperor who is both omniscient and omnipotent. But in principle, that is authoritarian and abusive of power in and of itself.

    I hope that China will in the near future develop a framework in which both government officials and independent legislators can resolve issues according to laws and transparent investigations, instead of having to rely on “have my secretary call his secretary”-tactics. I don’t think it will happen as quickly as I like, but let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  37. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, Here’s FT’s reporting on Xu’s arrest on 7/31:

    http://www.ftchinese.com/story.php?storyid=001027894

    And it mentioned a different district gongan office near Xu denied arresting Xu.

    BTW, I am just as ignorant as you are on why Xu was prosecuted. Should the law slide for your friend or people you like? That’s not very objective is it?

    Please see the article in comment 25 from gov.cn domain. China Charity Information Center seem sympathetic to Xu, as the article points out grassroot NGO existing by incorporating is a grey area, and financial responsibility is part of it – they do non-profit work but exist as for-profit entities.

    This really speak to what others have pointed out – Xu’s arrest is not from the top, as opinions from various government agencies are fractured.

    Here’s another article, from China Social Sciences Research Center, reported by China Financial Times:

    http://www.jjxww.com/html/show.aspx?id=151802&cid=133

    – advocate wider grantng of non-profit status for civic organizations
    – non-profit status for charitable organization is a form of government support
    – there’s excess demand for charitable services

    The agency called for senior services charitables (90% grassroot, most cash strapped) to receive non-profit status.

    The Chinese blogsphere and media is not framing this story as human rights violation or sensitivity over Tibet, but somehow our media is picking it up as such.

  38. Steve Says:

    Several of you have mentioned bail in China and I realized that I have never heard of anyone posting bail there. Does bail exist in China? Does anyone have a first hand account of someone being able to post bail? To be honest, I never thought about it before now.

  39. admin Says:

    @Steve,

    Yes, bail does exist in China ( isn’t exactly the same as bail in the US), please see the example below.

    “Your Mother Is Calling You Home for Dinner”: Netizens Turn Latest Catchphrase into Rights Campaign
    http://www.crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class10/200908/20090805064419_16636.html

    On July 22, netizen “Anti” (安替) sent a postcard to fellow netizen Guo Baofeng (郭宝锋, aka “Amoiist”), a blogger from Fujian Province recently detained for posting messages of support online for another detained blogger-activist. The postcard reads, “Guo Baofeng, Your Mother Is Calling You Home for Dinner”. The next day, another netizen, “Beifeng” (北风) , used Twitter to call on fellow netizens to follow Anti’s example and send Guo postcards with exactly the same phrase on them. By the end of July 23, 127 netizens had signed up to send postcards to Guo and alerted their friends about it by posting the same phrase on their Twitter and other microblogging websites. On July 31, Guo was released on bail.

  40. Uln Says:

    @Charles –

    I have to agree with you that, in the context of the Chinese system, this kind of arrest-disappearance can be considered “normal”. I remember for example the case last year of more powerful people like millionaire Huang Guanyu, who was accused of manipulating the markets. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article5221230.ece

    So in theory yes, there IS a possibility that he was actually arrested for tax evasion, and that he is just given the normal treatment (although the fine seems extremely harsh for this case).

    But frankly speaking, in the context of the recent events, with so many people arrested for writing about key political issues, I think the suspicions of Raj and of the Western press are more than justified. The links and explanations you provide don’t really work to counter these suspicions.

    Note that whether it is because of Tibet or because of Sanlu or any other case that Xu Zhiyong worked in, this doesn’t change anything to the suspicions stated in OP:

    “Perhaps the answer is that it’s easier to sweep mess under the carpet than clean it up. By trying to silence people like Xu, the authorities probably hope to reduce interest in and public awareness of the sorts of matters he deals with.”

  41. Wukailong Says:

    The tax evasion issue:

    1. Almost everyone with a larger-than-average salary in China does “legal tax evasion”, which is a system where the company holds part of your salary and pays it back to you as “living costs” (or what legal terms they have for it) in exchange for you handing in bills proving a certain amount of meals, rent, telephone costs or whatever your contract says, every month. I’ve always wondered how legal this really is. It certainly is pervasive, but it could be a gray case. If all companies that were in doubt would be questioned, I’m sure economic development would basically stop.

    2. The tax system isn’t fully developed. Tax declaration forms began appearing in 2007, at least in Beijing, and they’re very simple (not as complex as your system, Charles! 😉 ). Authorities are working on improving the system so they know better where the money is going.

    3. NGO:s need to register with the government. If the registration attempt is turned down, it’s common that the organization in question registers as a company (one very famous NGO here has done exactly that – no names). If it doesn’t anger the government, it can probably go on with its business and nobody cares about whether it follows the tax laws or not.

    I strongly believe the tax evasion has been brought up to silence Gongmeng. It’s a bit like when US authorities wants to indict someone without clear charges, and bring up something like “lying to a federal officer.”

  42. CS Says:

    @ Raj

    You asked (33) about media coverage. This is from Global Times (Peoples Daily) coverage Aug 7:

    “The government is keeping a special eye on such groups because they are tending to challenge the authority through extreme means and undermine stability,” Wang Sixin, a law professor in Beijing, told the Global Times. “The government often resorts to legal means to regulate such groups. Many countries do the same.”
    The group’s shutdown made headlines in the New York Times on July 19. However, the incident has met with an indifferent response in China.
    “The group might be one which promotes charity work. But why does it matter to me?” said Tang Liang, a Beijing resident. “What I’m concerned about is how to get a job and if I can afford to buy an apartment.”
    And domestic media reports on Gongmeng in China are rather sparse, the Global Times learned’

    I’m not sure what to make of the report, and I get the feeling that Peoples Daily is uncertain too. Certainly the headline ‘Chinese citizens indifferent to shutdown of NGO Gongmeng ‘ is a bit bizarre.

    http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2009-08/455329.html

  43. Steve Says:

    @ Wukailong #41: Is that what is referred to as the “allowance” system? I’ve had friends tell me they get a transportation allowance, food allowance, clothing allowance, etc. One friend told me she knew someone working in a bank that had six allowances. I never understood the significance of that system; I just figured it was a cultural thing to pay it as an allowance rather than just increase the salary. Thanks for that explanation.

    Thanks, admin, for the explanation of bail. Reading this thread, I looked back and realized that when I had heard stories of foreigners who were arrested for some reason, they were never allowed to post bail. I guessed it was either nonexistent or rare. I didn’t want to assume that bail existed in China until someone could verify it.

  44. Wukailong Says:

    @Steve (#43): Allowance was the word I was looking for! 🙂 Yeah, that’s the thing. For example, I have food allowance and rent allowance. My Chinese colleagues have allowances for telephone calls, as well as a sort of pension that can also be used for house loans (共计金). I heard last year that there will be a progressive tax scale in China like any Western country, but by keeping the allowance part large and the basic salary low, companies can keep their costs down at the expense of more paperwork.

  45. Uln Says:

    @CS – Thanks for that link. That article must be the heigh of journalistic cynicism, and the conclusion is simply chilling: “The indifference shows many people are clearly utilitarian in thinking”.

    What the GTimes is saying is, well, since most of the people don’t know or don’t care (because we make sure we don’t put this on TV) then it is OK to arrest this lawyer, economic development is the only thing we have to care about anyway.

    There is a very dangerous fallacy contained here that we are seeing more and more in this forum and in China in general: “the most important is to draw people out of poverty, therefore we shouldn’t care about any other aspects, such as human rights, injustice, etc.”

    Well no. While we might agree that economic development is the most important task and also the biggest success of the party, this is not the same as to say that it can override all the basic principles. Quite apart from the dishonor of selling your soul for a bowl of rice (which is valid in any culture, in spite of 以食为天 ) there is also the problem that lack of values can destroy a society, and undermine economic development in the long term. Pushed to the extreme, it is no different from the social phenomenon that allowed the rise of the Nazis in the 30s.

    Back to the Xu: coverage in official media is almost inexistent. I had been searching in the Xinhua news but there is no mention of Xu’s case. In the Chinese press they mention it only in Sina, Sohu and the online news. The more liberal blogs I usually check in Chinese have been writing about this from the beggining, but admittedly it is not a hot subject in the Chinese internet. Not really surprising either, the arrest of a lawyer is not something that most people feel as an important problem, especially if they don’t have the details.

  46. Allen Says:

    @Uln #45,

    You wrote:

    There is a very dangerous fallacy contained here that we are seeing more and more in this forum and in China in general: “the most important is to draw people out of poverty, therefore we shouldn’t care about any other aspects, such as human rights, injustice, etc.”

    Well no. While we might agree that economic development is the most important task and also the biggest success of the party, this is not the same as to say that it can override all the basic principles. Quite apart from the dishonor of selling your soul for a bowl of rice (which is valid in any culture, in spite of 以食为天 ) there is also the problem that lack of values can destroy a society, and undermine economic development in the long term. Pushed to the extreme, it is no different from the social phenomenon that allowed the rise of the Nazis in the 30s.

    Should I venture then – that a democratic society with freedom of speech, multi-party rule, checks and balances, legal institutions, special interests, large middle large class (consumer class), an entrenched lawyer profession, etc. – this is the society has soul, that holds basic principles, that represent basic humanity?

    If you ask a devout Christian or Muslim – not a human rights ideologue – what their idea of a “soulful” society that has not bargained with the devil is – they probably have other ideas.

    What is so dangerous about human rights ideologues is that like the Nazis of the 30s, they brand their own version of a religion that they want to stuff down the throat of the rest of the world…

  47. Allen Says:

    @Raj #31,

    You wrote:

    As I said, why does that require he be treated this way? Every day in every country, people are not prosecuted out of public interest. Is China an exception to that rule? Has there never been a case where someone was not prosecuted out of public interest?

    There are hordes of crooks in China who do a lot more than not pay their taxes. Is pursuing a public rights lawyer the best use of State resources?

    Given China’s terrible profile in so many countries on matters like human rights, is it really in China’s best interests to prosecute someone who was in many ways a standard-bearer for people who wanted to argue that China was changing and allowing lawyers to take on cases even when the other party was the State?

    Here is my short take: let’s assume that Xu was not arrested randomly as a tax evader – and that tax evasion was but a pretext to arrest him on some other issues. Let’s even assume that the reason Xu got arrested was for political reasons.

    Even for these reasons, I don’t see anything wrong about arresting Xu. The government’s responsibility to the people of China – not to the people who wanted to argue that China was changing and allowing lawyers to take on cases even when the other party was the State – for whom Xu is – according to you – a standard bearer.

    Now – the interesting thing for me in this case is to find out the true reason (assuming there is an ulterior motive) for Xu’s arrest. If so – is the motive good (i.e. to protect society / preserve national security) or bad (i.e. to protect the behind of some corrupt official)?

  48. Wukailong Says:

    According to this report by Singaporean newspaper Lianhe Zaobao (which quotes Boxun, so take this with a grain of salt), the closing down of Gongmeng is part of a wider crackdown on NGO:s deemed subversive:

    http://www.zaobao.com/zg/zg090805_006.shtml

    Translation of the introduction (sorry it if sounds awkward):

    “The famous Chinese right-protecting lawyer and creator of the Beijing-based NGO Gongmeng, Xu Zhiyong, was carried away by police today on allegations of “tax evasion.” Local Chinese media holds that the arrest of Xu Zhiyong is a warning from the government to a number of NGO:s not to cause problems for the authorities at the outset of the fourth plenary meeting for the 17th National Congress and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC.

    After Xu Zhiyong’s Gongmeng was abolished, according to the Boxun network, the “Yirenping” center of Beijing, Aizhixing Research Center, Love without borders, Mister De Research Center, the Friends of Work[ers] and other NGO:s were also cracked down upon, and the main thrust were at the ones with foreign funding.”

  49. Uln Says:

    @46 – It is not about democracies being perfect (it was indeed a democracy that voted for Hitler). Actually I am not writing about democracy at all, I didnt even mention the word in my post.

    No, you are not getting it. I am writing about having the basic principles of justice and equality that are, with slight differences, similar in all human cultures. And I am saying that no society, whether it is democratic or not, should give up its basic principles for a given practical objective, even less for an economic objective.

    – Re human rights ideologue: I am not an ideologue at all, I just believe in justice and equality.

    – Re soul. When I say soul it is just a metaphore and obviously I am not using it in the strict Christian or Muslim sense of the word. In any case, I don’t want to ask any devout religious person, I am against mixing religion with politics.

  50. Uln Says:

    @Allen – Re your ultra-conservative comment in #47: “Let’s even assume that the reason Xu got arrested was because his work touched on some sensitive issues that gov’t officials deemed to be a danger to the nation and/or society. Even for these reasons, I don’t see anything wrong about arresting Xu.”

    Well the problem is that with this reasoning, if government officials DEEM someone to be a danger for the nation, then they can arrest whoever they want for any reason they want, and just explain that they “deemed”. And since it is the same officials who govern, and who deem, and who make the law, then these officials are clearly above the law. Which is in my opinion one of the main problems in the Chinese system.

    I am trying to find some common grounds between us but it is simply impossible. Sorry, I will refrain from replying directly to your posts because I think we are wasting everyones time.

  51. CS Says:

    @Allen (47). You wrote:
    Now – the interesting thing for me in this case is to find out the true reason (assuming there is an ulterior motive) for Xu’s arrest. If so – is the motive good (i.e. to protect society / preserve national security) or bad (i.e. to protect the behind of some corrupt official)?

    …and how will you find out the true reason? How about by an open trial with both sides rehearsing arguments in public – or could that threaten national security?

    (…and what on earth makes you think that your options are mutually exclusive? Many a behind has been protected in the name of society/security.)

    I think the quote I pulled from the Global Times report is pretty telling:

    “The government is keeping a special eye on such groups because they are tending to challenge the authority through extreme means and undermine stability,” Wang Sixin, a law professor in Beijing, told the Global Times. “The government often resorts to legal means to regulate such groups.’

    Err… Gongmeng’s ‘extreme means’ are strictly legal means. If legal means undermine stability, then the government is doing the undermining.

  52. Raj Says:

    Charles

    The Financial Times is not a Chinese newspaper – it’s British. I’m talking about Chinese newspapers on sale on Chinese street corners, in corner shops, etc, not just available for guests at a few luxury hotels. CS’ report (thanks for that) suggests that domestic reports on what has been happening with Gongmeng are few and far between. There was a Global Times report published in the English version of People’s Daily several hours ago – what about the Chinese version? Sometimes they’ll publish certain stories in one language but not the other. What about other mainsteam Chinese newspapers?

    You were complaining that the US/UK newspapers were reporting this as being about human rights when the Chinese newspapers were not. Yet the only such report I’ve seen is from the Global Times and that reports the allegation this is about Gongmeng’s legal/human rights work, that the charges may have been brought out of “revenge” for Gongmeng’s legal activities.

    Revenge

    Lu suspected the incident was an act of revenge on the center by someone offended by what they did.

    “Wealthy and powerful people have increased dramatically in the last few years without being restricted properly,” he said. “They have intensified attacks and retaliation on NGOs providing legal aid.”

    His concern is shared by Guo Jianmei, a lawyer who has been working for the public interest for 14 years. She considered public interest lawyers as people with lofty ideals, high moral standards and a great sense of social responsibility. The challenges, risks and pressure they face are beyond the imagination of people in other professions, according to her.

    You’re ignoring my point about why there should be no prosecution. It isn’t because Xu is anyone’s friend, it’s because he provides an invaluable public service to China, both domestically and internationally, and has done nothing to harm anyone. His arrest has damaged China’s image, will hurt the provision of legal services to those most in need and reassure corrupt businesspersons and officials.

    As Wukailong says, huge numbers of Chinese people commit tax evasion. I also mentioned in my original post a discussion I had with a friend about why the State doesn’t stamp out corruption, because to do so it would not have enough officials left to run the country. The Chinese authorities already make exceptions to keep things running, so there is no reason why they could not leave Xu alone. Furthermore, this problem could all be resolved by a bureaucratic exercise, namely writing off the tax he supposedly owes and giving Gongmeng charitable status.

    The reason the State won’t leave Xu alone is that it is punishing him for his legal activities and wants to shut Gongmeng down, but is too ashamed to admit that.

  53. wuming Says:

    Here is a Chinese newspaper’s report on the issue:
    http://globaltimes.cn/www/english/top-news/2009-08/456249.html
    Global Times is the tabloid version of People’s Daily. It enjoys much wider readership than People’s Daily. It’s English version is very very interesting. Somewhat open, blunt and very fast in reacting to most of the hot issues that concerns China.

  54. Raj Says:

    wuming, that’s the article I mentioned appeared on the People’s Daily website. Is it in Chinese too? As I mentioned before, it’s not unusual for newspapers that publish in English and Chinese to run articles only in one language.

    ++++

    CS (51)

    You’re right. We have to remember that Gongmeng’s legal activities were, well, legal. If the government doesn’t want lawyers representing people who are in dispute with the State they should have the cojones to try to change the law such that those people cannot have legal representation, must have State-appointed lawyers or simply cannot sue in the first place. If they are too scared to admit they want that to happen, allow the lawyers to act without harrassment.

    Don’t have this nonsense where people are officially given rights but not allowed to use them!

  55. Raj Says:

    Allen (47)

    Here is my short take: let’s assume that Xu was not arrested randomly as a tax evader – and that tax evasion was but a pretext to arrest him on some other issues. Let’s even assume that the reason Xu got arrested was for political reasons.

    Even for these reasons, I don’t see anything wrong about arresting Xu. The government’s responsibility to the people of China – not to the people who wanted to argue that China was changing and allowing lawyers to take on cases even when the other party was the State – for whom Xu is – according to you – a standard bearer.

    That is, pardon me for saying it, a naive position to take. You rather seem to be implying that if the authorities do something then because it is the authorities doing it, it’s fine. If that isn’t what you mean, feel free to clarify. If you stand by it then I can’t agree with you at all. How would you like it if it was a member of your family who was being persecuted despite the fact they hadn’t broken the law or only because an official was bitter about something good they’d done?

    The Chinese government does have a responsibility to the people of China, and it is because of this that it should not have allowed the arrest to take place. Xu’s work benefits ordinary Chinese people and by being able to operate raised the profile of the country internationally, as I explained in more than one comment. His arrest only serves to benefit corrupt members of Chinese society who will take strength from the fact that, as it will appear to them, the authorities will prefer to crack down on people who seek to challenge their corrupt activities, instead of arresting them (the corrupt people). Therefore the Chinese government has failed in carrying out its responsibilities towards the general public in regards to its handling so far of this matter.

    There’s an open letter that was published in Ming Pao Daily recently (translated here). It’s just the view of one teenager, but it shows how she feels the Chinese government has failed in its responsibilities.

  56. Steve Says:

    @ Allen & Raj: From what you both have written, it seems to me that Raj wants China to enforce rule by law while Allen is comfortable with rule by fiat. Is that correct?

  57. Raj Says:

    Steve

    What I want is no different from what Wen Jiabao promised last year.

    “We will build a socialist country under the rule of law and run state and social affairs according to law.”

    I doubt anyone here thinks that Wen should go back on his word, or that it’s ok for him to lie to China and the world about the Politburo’s real intentions. This isn’t a new idea either. The CCP has harkened on about rule of law for some time now, yet it’s always in the future for some reason….

  58. bluetiger Says:

    Uln#50, CS#51,
    Nice one!

    This is disturbing news. Not sure how much of an impact it will have on the growing civil society (my reading of various articles indicate a lot are registered as businesses…and many closely work with local gov, or are left alone as they take on work that the gov are unwilling or unable to undertake, and many have substantial foreign aids).
    (some articles of interest: Xin Zhang and Richard Baum., 2004, Civil Society and the Anatomy of a Rural NGO, The China Journal; Guobin Yang, 2005, Environmental NGOs and Institutional Dynamics in China, The China Quarterly; or even Tony Saich, 2000, Negotiating the State: The Development of Social Organizations in China, The China Quarterly)
    I’m sure there are many other articles of interest. Some of these focus on different aspects of civil society in China. If I remember correctly, the first article discusses a specific NGO doing great work in rural China.

    I’m sure many of you have read Rebecca MacKinnon’s piece, quoting Prof Jerome A. Cohen. Interesting point about the recent events – that they’re not related to the Party becoming overly sensitive about the 60th yr anniversary – possibly a scarier thought…

    http://rconversation.blogs.com/rconversation/2009/08/dark-days-for-chinas-liberals.html

    Hopefully he’s wrong and the top leaders’ commitment to rule of law (better if the Party is not above the law…) is still there. But at least the piece made me stop and think.

    If this year is the 60th anniversary, then next year will be the Expo or whatever it’s called, and the Asia Games. Then the usual annual anniversary (freeing the serf day, 6.4, now 7.5, etc, etc. It really becomes neverending.

    And my thought on stamping out corruption. I think many do see it as huge problem and are working towards reducing corruption. The issue is that the corruption probably goes to the very top of the Party through family members, or subordinates, etc, which are likely used by rival factions to keep the others in check. Not saying this is a China-specific issue. Corruption likely exists everywhere and through history. But the scale of things seem amazing and the lack of a genuine institutional framework for check and balances likely distort the problem (main thing may be to bring the Party under the rule of law, not above it).
    Just some thoughts…

  59. Allen Says:

    @Uln #50, CS #51, Raj #55, Steve #56,

    Steve wrote – and I think echoes what others have written –

    @ Allen & Raj: From what you both have written, it seems to me that Raj wants China to enforce rule by law while Allen is comfortable with rule by fiat. Is that correct?

    I suppose it is strictly correct, but it misses some things.

    There are two issues – I like to call them substantive and procedural.

    I focused on substantive issues – in this case, for the good of the country, a person could be arrested for the good of the many simply because that’s right of the many.

    Can we even agree on that? I am not so sure. Others seem to like to focus on procedure. Let’s air things out in the open … and see … the government can’t be trusted.

    In general – I trust the government to do what it will. This does not mean giving the gov’t a free reign. Yes, if the people trust the government too much, some individual liberty will be compromised. And that is a real problem. But this is not a blank check in reality. Even under today’s alleged stifling atmosphere, many government officials have been exposed. And everyone in China know that the biggest challenge to CCP’s long term legitimacy is cleaning up corruption. The CCP will further be kept in check with people keeping an eye out on the government for how it’s handling the big issues also – how stable is the society, is the environment being cleaned up, are people’s living standards improving, are people getting access to good education, etc., etc.

    I have nothing against transparency, checks and balances, rule of law, etc., but to suggest them as blanket solution without taking into unique circumstances of China today is like the U.S. shoveling democracy down the Middle East.

    Take human rights lawyers like Xu. Should they be allowed to run rampant? Do you know how well developed the judiciary is in China? Many judges are not trained legal professionals, they were ex military officers (given a judiciary role in their retirement). It takes time to develop the judiciary. There are many fissures (class, ethnicity, etc.) in a developing society like China. People are stampeding toward upward mobility at a time of great change. Many injustices (from the perspective of someone sitting comfortably in the developed world) exist. We all know that. The key goal is get China’s economy to a threshold level of development – pass this age of the wild wild west.

    What’s the point of having unrestrained lawyers running around – fanning fear, hatred, jealousy, etc.? Will they be a tool for justice – or something else in this system?

    For now, I still vote for the stability of a powerful government. In ten years, who knows. Things change so fast in China, having an ideology is really not useful. So we’ll just have to see.

  60. Sonia Says:

    @Allen

    I think that, like you, I am utilitarian in some aspects as well.

    But the problem is what exactly “good for many”.

    I generally trust that many people in the government WANT to do “good for many”. Unfortunately, many events we can’t judge until after the fact, and many events we can’t fairly judge ever, so I doubt that your idea of “good for many” is the same as my “good for many” or the government’s “good for many”. And it’d be hard for any individual or party to convince anyone else that their version of “good for many” is necessarily the best.

    I’m not going to conclude that the government is naturally wrong or right, or that Xu is good or bad here. And I would warn you against doing so prematurely. The problem is that we don’t know anything. We don’t know whether the government or Xu or both has been playing dirty. And that lack of info makes me a bit uneasy. From what I understand, Xu has been pretty careful to work within the system. But you’re right, maybe there’s something we don’t know. And if there is something we don’t know, then there’d better be a pretty damned good reason that we don’t know it.

    I also dislike tasteless finger-pointing at the CCP, but I think that we should question decisions made by any authority figure on principle. Not as blind criticism, and not because authority is inherently bad, but simply to compensate (even if we risk overcompensating) for the fact that it’s often too easy to blindly follow. For me, it’s not operating on the assumption that the CCP is bad, but on the assumption that the CCP, like any other organization, is capable of making mistakes.

    I also vote for the stability of a powerful government, but I think in order for a powerful government to be truly powerful, it needs to operate under a legitimate framework. If it is perceived to contradict itself, in terms of its own promises, constitution, and laws, then it threatens and undermines its own legitimacy. I hope the CCP can realize that.

    I recommend you to the links in my post 17. I don’t know whether the author is really Wan Li, or whether the specific events in the essay are confirmed. But I think the philosophy is sharp and point-on.

    I don’t deny that from a utilitarian standpoint, sometimes human-rights can take a backseat to national-security. But the problem is, who makes that determination? Who is to say that China is really vulnerable to hate-mongers right now? I don’t deny that sometimes, so called activists are very hateful. But are they really China’s top priority right now? After 60 years of rule, is the CCP correct in feeling so threatened? Is it necessary that certain officials are constantly hyper-sensitive?

    I’m not saying that the answer to these questions are “no”. I just doubt that they must be “yes” simply because certain CCP-cadres feel that way.

    Even if the answer is “yes”, I sometimes doubt the effectiveness of certain methods. For example, although the state media has large influence over what people know and think, I think the propaganda arm is often unproductive, and sometimes counter-productive in directing the way people feel.

    In that case, when we can clearly see that gov’t methods are not effective, should we still trust that the government know what it’s doing?

    I don’t think it’s bad policy to trust the motivation of the government. But if you are truly utilitarian, then I think you should always be on the watch-out for the competency of the government. If there are certain things that we think we may have suggestions for, shouldn’t we speak out, through any means possible? Even if we are ignored, or even if we are wrong, isn’t it our duty as responsible citizens to advise? Or should we keep quiet and trust that the government knows best?

    I think that it’s true that China needs time to develop…many things. And I am willing to give China that time. And I am not going to complain that China is not developing fast enough. But I maintain that what China needs to develop is not ONLY time. That in that time, what China needs to adjust to is exactly the kind of people like Xu, who brings up issues, whether they are news-worthy or not, within a legal-framework. I can live with the fact that China is not yet developed. And I can live with the fact that China will not be developed for ten years, fifty years, a hundred years. But I don’t think I can live with the fact that China will not develop for infinite years.

    What bothers me is not that China is doing something I think is “wrong”. What bothers me is that people are making excuses for it. China isn’t developed today does not equal China isn’t developing today. China can’t change overnight doesn’t mean that China can stagnate for twenty years and then change overnight twenty years later.

    I think that the arrest of Xu, while unfortunate, was not unexpected. However, just because of that, we shouldn’t say that it was justified, or that oh-well-what-can-you-do. I think that it can be transformed into an opportunity to hopefully witness that little bit of change in China that gives us hope that the time “we give China to develop” is not being wasted.

  61. huaren Says:

    Hi Guys,

    Please refer to Wukailong’s post #48. To me, that’s the most plausible – the government cracking down on foreign funded NGO’s. Obviously Xu is the most “important” one for the “human rights” folks outside China and thus all the excitement around him.

    According to that article linked by Wukailong, it was reported “was carried away by police today…” So, if the Singapore paper knows about it . . . so my question for Raj is why do you accuse the Chinese government Xu was taken away in “secret.” Can you explain? I hope it is not because you can’t read Chinese. 🙂

    Hi Allen, Uln, CS, Steve, Raj, etc.
    On your exchanges . . . don’t forget that the Chinese government have openly stated it is China’s goal to work towards a more law based society, etc.. I don’t think you find much disagreement on this front from the “pro-China” side.

    Uln’s comments about “the basic principles of justice and equality” – look, I detest ideology. But on this, I’d freak out if you are the judge, regardless of how godly you and I think you are. 🙂 I believe there are practical limits. Uln – you can simply pack up and leave China, so the stake is not the same.

    The issue that Raj/Uln brings up is really on how “fast” and the priority I think – otherwise this is a weird debate to me.

    I know “human rights” activists strategy is to hope to “stink” the Chinese government so much such that the population would jump on their band-wagon. My view about that strategy is that, instead, it strengthens the Chinese people’s support for the government and all of its policies.

    Frankly, I agree economic development comes first. Everything else – you try to do the best you can and they improve over time.

    The “human rights” activist will move on to some other country or do something else some day, and it is the Chinese government and the Chinese people who have to carry on with their society. That fact alone cannot be trumped.

    So I think it is a good thing that the Chinese government crack down on foreign funded “NGO’s.”

    I agree that the U.S. has lots of foreign funded NGO’s, but that is to the detriment of American citizen’s interest.

  62. Charles Liu Says:

    Sonia, “What bothers me is not that China is doing something I think is “wrong”.”

    What do you think is wrong? Wen Jaibao is involved in this? Some other big wig? Where’s the evidence?

    Or that Xu should not have created a for-profit NGO, then neglect to account for the fiduciary responsibility? Even if this is done as accused, does Xu bear some responsibility for creating this pretext? Also is there evidence the arrest is actually tied to the Tibet or milk powder stuff, not the fact they’ve garnered notoriety from all their work, thus drawing attention and scrutiny to themselves?

    Are you certain if GongMong paid taxes on what Yale gave them, that he’d be jailed some other way? Remember they’ve existed for many years doing the same thing, and Xu has done this on top of a political career in addition to his teaching post.

  63. rolf Says:

    Massively off-topic post deleted. Use the open thread for conspiracy stuff like that.

  64. huaren Says:

    Hi rolf, #63,

    I hear what you are saying. But I think the forces supporting normalization is way bigger.

    If those forces are strong enough, would the U.S. still allow Intel to build plants in China? Have you seen the trade volume between the U.S. and China over the last decade? The U.S. is also trying to expand IMF to accommodate China better. At a strategic level, I think the really big steps toward normalization has been happening.

    You also read about more frequent military contacts between the two countries.

    Look at how comprehensive the exchanges are between the two countries on all fronts. These will have systematic effect and those elements you talk about will become more fringe over time.

  65. Sonia Says:

    @Charles Liu

    Please don’t associate me with comments I haven’t made. In fact, in many ways, I am on “your side”, if there is indeed a “your side” to this issue.

    1) No, I don’t think there’s a “big wig” involved in this. And if there is, I have no evidence of it. I have never claimed that Wen Jiabao or anyone else is personally involved in this, and I am against making groundless speculations like this sound like facts.
    2) If Xu has indeed evaded taxes, then there is no question that he needs to face up to the consequences. But even if he committed a crime, there still needs to be a fair investigation to confirm that he did.
    3) I’m not certain about much of anything. But I speculate, and I’m not stating this as fact, that certain current events have made the political atmosphere a little more nervous and paranoid, which is at least a part of the reason that GongMeng was shut down.

    In the phrase that you quoted, the “wrong” was hypothetical and broad, and thus in quotes. What I was addressing was the general sentiment that because China should be allowed time to change, that inaction is the the correct course. I liken this to the development of a child. When children are young, we can excuse them for not understanding the consequences of their actions, we can excuse them for being young. But that doesn’t equate to non-education. It doesn’t mean that when children make mistakes you should just smile and say to yourself, “well, when they’re older, they’ll learn”. We shouldn’t wait till the kid is 25, and then expect them to be an adult overnight. Nation-building, just like growing up, is a process, and processes require more than just the passage of time.

    A lot of people accuse people like Xu, or other more extreme activists, for wanting China to change over night when we should give China more time. Sometimes these accusations are right. But I don’t think that China will change over time if there aren’t at least a handful of people who are trying to make it change, overnight or not. I dislike “activists” whose only activities are seemingly to spew hatred because I think they are ineffective and counter-productive. Unfortunately, the majority of “activists” that the are public are indeed hate-spewers. But from what I’ve seen, Xu seems to be of a different ilk.

    As for the specifics of this case, I’m not concluding that either the government of Xu is wrong or bad or anything. But there are definitely a lot of questions in this case ranging from the crime, to the treatment, to the motivations, to the legal procedures, etc. Again, I’m saying that there are many things I don’t know, and I would like to know. Perhaps not all questions and not all speculations have credence, but due to the nature and publicity of this case, perhaps we should carefully consider all of them anyway.

    For some, perhaps transparency means a confirmation that the CCP is bad. But for me personally, it would hopefully confirm that the CCP, a party that my grandparents spent their entire lives building and believing in, is good, and will become better, and that it is deserving of the blood sweat and tears that really awesome people poured into it.

  66. huaren Says:

    Hi Sonia, #65,

    I see the rapid training of legal professionals in China is like this kid building up his muscles. Some would argue the insane amount of laws codified in China in the last few decades is this poor kid trying to cram too much into his brain.

    I think Charles is simply upset (like many other FM’ers) at those making accusations this early in the game and despite some evidence contrary.

  67. Allen Says:

    @Sonia #60,

    Nice post. Thanks.

  68. Raj Says:

    huaren (61)

    so my question for Raj is why do you accuse the Chinese government Xu was taken away in “secret.” Can you explain? I hope it is not because you can’t read Chinese.

    The article (48) was published on 5th August. Xu was taken away on 28th July. That’s a gap of over a week. So, this is very simple, Xu may have been taken away secretly on 28th but his whereabouts were discovered subsequently. Just because secrets are sometimes uncovered does not mean they were not secrets at the time.

    Please let me know if you find that too hard to understand. 🙂

    I know “human rights” activists strategy is to hope to “stink” the Chinese government so much such that the population would jump on their band-wagon.

    Your accusation of Xu is based purely on your prejudice and not backed up by any facts. Every report on Xu says that he is not seeking to get anyone to jump on any bandwagon. He is trying to help ordinary Chinese people who have come into trouble through no fault of their own within Chinese law. The fact you dismiss these services show you care little for those people that need help the most.

    So I think it is a good thing that the Chinese government crack down on foreign funded “NGO’s.”

    Then why doesn’t it ban any donation by non-Chinese sources? It is legal in China, otherwise there wouldn’t be a demand for tax on the donation. If it’s legal to receive foreign donations you shouldn’t be punished just because you get one.

    Also, it’s worth noting that over 50 other lawyers who work in similar areas to Xu were disbarred in the last year. Did they all receive foreign donations, or was it really that the authorities were tired of them using the law to fight for justice?

  69. Charles Liu Says:

    Raj, you don’t get it do you? The tax is not on foreign donation, but the fact Xu registered GongMong as for-profit entity and income tax is applicable according to law.

    BTW, China does have laws similiar to our Foreign Agent Registraton Act, but that’s not what is applied here. What’s applied is simple business tax law.

    There’s no indication Xu is being punished for receiving foreign donation. This article offered an alternative explination for the GongMong case:

    http://www.ccvic.com/news/zixun/pinglun/tuijian/2009/811/811843167953C8B7C417J2AE.shtml

    “The question is, this mistake is intentional tax evasion, or unintentional underpayment.

    Although legal experts pointed out, there’s fundamental difference between the two, but according to 2001 revision of “PRC Tax Collection Managment Law”, using legislative finding from 1992, abandoned Interior Ministry’s “PRC Tax Collection Management Temporary Rule” and it’s definition of “underpayment” from 1986. This lack of “underpayment” legal notion, in practice combined “evasion” and “underpayment” for the Procuratorate, since they are indistinguishable.”

    The Chinese media, official opinions, and blogsphere all have strong inclination that Xu’s case is about the gray area and pitfalls for grass root organization in general, but leave it to the expat blogsphere and our media Echo Chamber to ignore any facts that moderate issues and don’t demonize China.

  70. Raj Says:

    Allen (59)

    Take human rights lawyers like Xu. Should they be allowed to run rampant?

    How is operating within the law and representing people who need to be represented “running rampant”? Are you suggesting that if someone needs to bring a case against the State or defend a case brought by the State, they should not have legal representation or just a puppet lawyer who will plead guilty/drop the case?

    Now, why do I think that if it was you who got into trouble through your own fault or not, you’d be screaming for a lawyer who would independently represent your case?

    Do you know how well developed the judiciary is in China? Many judges are not trained legal professionals, they were ex military officers (given a judiciary role in their retirement). It takes time to develop the judiciary.

    That’s a nonsense excuse. If there are not enough trained judges, the incompetant ones should be fired to make way for new ones. If there are not enough replacements, the courts without judges should be closed and not hear any cases, including ones brought by the State.

    If the court is open for business it should be able to deal with any case brought before it within the law. If the court is just going to side with the State in every case, abolish the puppet institution and just have rule by officials. The effect would be the same and it would save money! 😛

    The key goal is get China’s economy to a threshold level of development – pass this age of the wild wild west.

    Yes, and how are you going to get rid of the corruption that makes parts of China like the Wild West by going after people like Xu who challenge corruption on a regular basis? The central government can’t be everywhere at once, and it even admits that by encouraging people to inform confidentially.

    When someone like Xu with a big profile gets locked up, the corrupt members of Chinese society celebrate because they believe that whatever the central government says, it’s actually more worried about bad public relations than corruption. It doesn’t matter whether the central government doesn’t mean for that to happen, those corrupt people will carry on their corrupt activities with even more enthusiasm than before. If you want China to get better, you have to allow ordinary people to challenge corruption through the meagre legal means they have at their disposal.

    What’s the point of having unrestrained lawyers running around – fanning fear, hatred, jealousy, etc.?

    When did Xu run around fanning fear, hatred, jealousy, etc? You have made some serious allegations, so I hope you will back them up with specific examples.

    For now, I still vote for the stability of a powerful government.

    Allen, remind me, do you live in China? Because it would be awfully easy for you to say if you didn’t live in China and couldn’t personally experience the down-side of a “powerful” Chinese government.

  71. huaren Says:

    Hi Raj, #68,

    Hmm, did you read Charles Liu’s post #30?

    Regarding Xu, I would never call him a “human rights” activist with the quotation marks. For the work he has done prior to the 3.14 report, I would call him a real human rights advocate – without the quote. The “human rights” activist I mentioned in my previous post are those who proclaim to care but don’t.

    (I guess I am sorry for not making it clear, but also don’t put words in my mouth.)

    Okay, I should elaborate about my view on the foreign funded NGO’s. When it is foreign funded and the Chinese government deem such NGO are bad for Chinese society, I think it makes perfect sense for them to shut such NGO’s down.

    I think if you dig just slightly, you’d find tons of Xu’s within the Chinese border who probably have done lot more for the human rights of ordinary citizens. Ah, wait a minute, they don’t call themselves “human rights” activists do they, and perhaps they are not your type? 🙂

  72. huaren Says:

    Hi Raj,

    I should say, you deserve some kudos for sticking to your views.

    Maybe Allen had said something to this effect in the past – as long as it stimulates discussions and allows different views to be aired, everyone can decide for themselves – and its all gooder than not.

  73. bluetiger Says:

    I attended a seminar last year by a Chinese academic researcher of civil society who gave some interesting stats on NGOs in China.

    – At the end of 2007, registered NGOs numbered 381,000.

    But she added that scholars think the actual number is around 1,000,000, with even some scholars estimating it is over 3,000,000!

    I don’t think unregistered equates to registering as businesses as they could be student organisations affiliated with universities, website forums, etc, but some of these must be set up as businesses.

    But I don’t think it’s a simple case of
    registered NGO good
    unregistered NGO bad

    If you read some academic articles, you will find that many e.g. environmental NGOs have been receiving foreign funding. In many cases, the government would be encouraging this.
    So I don’t think it’s a simple case of
    domestic funding good
    foreign funding bad

    Guobin Yang’s article (though very old stats used) show some environmental NGOs would be receiving e.g. 50% or 85% of its funding from foreign donors (gov, International NGOs, etc).

    Xin Zhang and Richard Baum focuses on a small NGO that works on poverty alleviation and social welfare. Most of its funding had come from international philanthropic orgs or foreign embassies in China. In one year, these made up 54% and 44% of total funding respectively.

    I have a hard time understanding how these cases can be a bad thing or are they also part of the Western consipracy to undermine China?

  74. Charles Liu Says:

    If anyone’s into conspiracy theory, how about GongMong exposing imported milk powder six months ago?

    http://www.farmer.com.cn/news/jsbd/200902/t20090224_426061.htm

    “Excluding Dumex, including Abott, Mead Johnson, Wyeth and other imported formula also had cases of kidney stone. Some victim’s family started posting on website and QQ groups last September.

    除了多美滋,包括雅培、美赞臣、惠氏等国外奶粉食用者中均有结石案例产生,一些受害者家属早在去年9月就开始在网络上发帖子并组织QQ群进行联系。

    “Right now, we have letters seeking help from parents who’s infant suffering from kidney stone after drinking Wyeth formula.” GongMong volunteer legal aid Lin Zhen tells reporter.

    “目前,我们手中也接到称因喝惠氏婴儿奶粉患上结石的宝宝家属求助信。”公盟志愿律师团个案助理林峥对《中国经营报》记者表示。”

    Hmmm, strange, as I have not heard about this from our media, who was so hot on the Sanlu formula story.

    Food safety inspection has shown Dumex formula does not have Melamine, however Dumex kidney stone victim group have complied a list of 200 infants:

    http://www.bing.com/search?q=%E5%A4%9A%E7%BE%8E%E6%BB%8B%E7%BB%93%E7%9F%B3%E6%82%A3%E5%84%BF&FORM=SOLTDF&pc=SOLTDF&src=IE-SearchBox

  75. Wukailong Says:

    @huaren and Raj: Sorry, I made a mistake in the translation. It doesn’t say “today” but rather “recently” or “the last couple of days” (近日). I hope it solves that issue… It was unclear in the beginning (and even a Baidu article said his whereabouts were unknown) but now it’s open that he’s arrested.

  76. Wukailong Says:

    @Charles and others: This is slightly off-topic, but China has recently passed tougher laws on food safety, as well as a description on how these laws should be enforced (《食品安全法》 and 《食品安全法实施条例》, respectively). This isn’t just based on the Sanlu milk scandal, but a lengthy process that began many years ago when the government temporarily backed off on a decision to allow genetically modified rice. I mention this because Gongmeng was mentioned above in conjunction with food safety issues.

    The law in its entirety (Chinese):

    http://www.gov.cn/flfg/2009-02/28/content_1246367.htm

    On the description on how to enforce the new law:

    http://finance.sina.com.cn/roll/20090811/10463004129.shtml

    Food safety is a big thing in China, perhaps one of the main areas where ordinary people and NGO:s are very active. It’s also a relatively safe area for “right-protecting lawyers” (维权律师).

  77. huaren Says:

    Hi bluetiger, #73,

    “I have a hard time understanding how these cases can be a bad thing or are they also part of the Western consipracy to undermine China?”

    I agree with you. I think China is indeed receiving tons of help from foreigners. I would also add China Hope Project to your list too. (http://www.china.org.cn/english/features/poverty/95783.htm) I personally donate to it. There are tons of good NGO’s in China. In my comment #61, I meant to say those the Chinese government deem unhelpful should be cracked down – not all foreign funded NGO’s.

    Hi Wukailong, #75
    Thx for clarifying.

  78. Raj Says:

    bluetiger (73)

    Thanks for explaining to our members that there are a large number of NGOs in China (far more than are registered) that are forced to find alternate ways of existing. It’s not as simple as they could register if they wanted to. The article I posted at comment 26 goes into the difficulty organisations face in registering.

    Do not worry, neither Xu and Gongmeng nor his peers are part of any conspiracy. Allegations that they are will not have any facts to back them up, other than guilt by association – they receive money from overseas, ergo they are part of the evil foreign conspiracy. It’s just scaremongering, playing on some people’s suspicion of foreigners.

    Think about it, let’s talk about the donation from Yale university to Gongmeng. Chinese students go to Yale, as far as I know. Would the Chinese government let them if it was part of an international conspiracy against China? I don’t think so.

  79. Raj Says:

    huaren (71)

    Hmm, did you read Charles Liu’s post #30?

    Did you read my post (31) in reply?

    For the work he has done prior to the 3.14 report, I would call him a real human rights advocate

    So what, as soon as he worked on the report he wasn’t a “real” human rights advovate?

    Okay, I should elaborate about my view on the foreign funded NGO’s. When it is foreign funded and the Chinese government deem such NGO are bad for Chinese society, I think it makes perfect sense for them to shut such NGO’s down.

    What does foreign funding have to do with anything? It’s legal in China.

    Can you tell me why Gongmeng and Xu are bad for Chinese society and why the actions taken against them will not hurt China for the reasons I gave in posts 55 & 70?

    Also, are you saying the Chinese government is behind the closure of Gongmeng and Xu’s arrest? Because people like Charles are denying they have anything to do with it and that it’s just because they didn’t pay their taxes. Which is it in your view?

    I think if you dig just slightly, you’d find tons of Xu’s within the Chinese border who probably have done lot more for the human rights of ordinary citizens.

    A lot more than who? You and me, sure. Xu, I doubt it. Perhaps you can provide specifics.

    Ah, wait a minute, they don’t call themselves “human rights” activists do they, and perhaps they are not your type?

    Don’t make silly comments like that, please. It’s very boring.

  80. Allen Says:

    @Raj #70,

    Allen wrote in #59:

    Take human rights lawyers like Xu. Should they be allowed to run rampant? Do you know how well developed the judiciary is in China? Many judges are not trained legal professionals, they were ex military officers (given a judiciary role in their retirement). It takes time to develop the judiciary. There are many fissures (class, ethnicity, etc.) in a developing society like China. People are stampeding toward upward mobility at a time of great change. Many injustices (from the perspective of someone sitting comfortably in the developed world) exist. We all know that. The key goal is get China’s economy to a threshold level of development – pass this age of the wild wild west.

    What’s the point of having unrestrained lawyers running around – fanning fear, hatred, jealousy, etc.? Will they be a tool for justice – or something else in this system?

    For now, I still vote for the stability of a powerful government. In ten years, who knows. Things change so fast in China, having an ideology is really not useful. So we’ll just have to see.

    You wrote in #70:

    Allen, remind me, do you live in China? Because it would be awfully easy for you to say if you didn’t live in China and couldn’t personally experience the down-side of a “powerful” Chinese government.

    Raj – I think I understand where you are coming from. But in light of our many recent discussions of what is a red herring and what is not, what is relevant and what is not … and many accusations (mostly by our Western friends here) that many arguments put forth here is non sequitur or argumentum ad hominem etc., etc., I wonder if what you wrote can be characterized as argumentum ad hominem.

    Again … I rather not characterize it as one … but if I apply the standards that many seem to want to apply, I can definitely characterize this as one.

    I am bringing this up only so people can see the fallacy in their positions and stop lecturing too much about logic / rhetorical devices …

    Rather than attacking people for being illogical, people should reserve such calls for truly egregious comments since I think too much of such “logical” policing hampers rather than facilitates discussion.

  81. huaren Says:

    Hi Raj, #79,

    Okay, I spent the last 10 minutes on a reply. But I realize it is not constructive. So, last words are yours. 🙂

  82. bluetiger Says:

    Raj (70),
    Thanks but the actual work was done by the researcher at Beida (not sure I would want to provide the name – you just never know…esp given China’s state secret law…).

    There’s an awful lot of people doing good in China and that can only be a good thing.

    I just hope recent events will not/have not dampened the enthusiasm of ordinary folks simply lending a hand.

    Re conspiracy, I just hope many will see things as clearly as you seem able to!

    cheers

  83. Charles Liu Says:

    bluetiger @ 82, just to alleviate your unfound fear, the statistics you mentioned is widely quoted inside China. For example the donation.gov.cn article cited in comment 25.

    “有研究者称,中国的NGO已达到300万家,而截至去年底,全国经民政部门登记在册的民间组织仅约40万,这意味着,绝大多数的非政府组织在“编外”生存,公盟正是在这样的背景下于工商注册而成。

    公司化生存的非营利组织不只是公盟,公众和媒体熟知的很多非营利机构都是这样。”

    “Researchers say, China has 3,000,000 NGOs. However as of end of last year, civic organization registered with Cilvil Affairs Ministry numbered only 400,000. Meaning, most of the NGOs exists “beyond registration”, GongMong registered as a business entity under such circumstances.

    GongMong is not the only non-profit existing by incorporating, many well-known non-profits are the same.”

  84. Steve Says:

    @ Raj & Allen: I can see both sides here but I did think Raj’s comment to Allen was hitting below the belt. Allen doesn’t live in China but he has visited there regularly, so I think his views are legitimate and certainly as legitimate as Raj’s. Because he is Taiwanese American, he understands Chinese culture well and speaks the language fluently. All this means his time in China should have been very insightful, as compared to someone like myself who would need longer to penetrate the cultural veil.

    In order to completely understand every issue concerning China, we’d all have to be one part native born Chinese, another part ABC, another part completely non-Chinese, another part businessman in both China and the West, another part lawyer in both China and the West, etc. No one can be all those parts; that’s why we come to FM where everything I’ve mentioned is represented by one or many here. That’s a GREAT advantage, as long as we listen to each other. Sometimes there is no common ground but sometimes there IS common ground and a certain enlightenment.

    That’s why I asked the question earlier about law vs. fiat. I wasn’t making a value judgment; I was trying to understand each side’s position. In my opinion, currently China has laws but rules by Party fiat. This is not unusual in a one party system; in fact, it’s normal. Bureaucracies want to have control and this is a way for them to exercise control. As long as the system is such where everyone can be picked up for one reason or another, rule by fiat allows for more control. Unfortunately it also allows for more abuse.

    Sonia’s link was really eye opening. Here’s a very senior cadre who has quite progressive ideas. I don’t think his opinion can be ignored, though I’m sure others in his position have differing opinions. The key point he seems to make is that the Party isn’t a child, it’s been in power for 60 years and that is enough time to be mature and not use the “we need more time” reasoning. “Eventually” can always be put off by politicians. How many times do you see here in the States where a political party in power will pass legislation where all the benefits accrue immediately (how convenient) but all the difficult choices are made after the politicians retire (how very convenient)? You see it all the time. That is why legislatures and administrations have to accomplish their major goals early in their terms when they have a fresh mandate.

    One party rule isn’t bound by those restrictions so there is really no reason to wait on progressive improvements. In fact, the longer the administration is in power, the more it can accomplish since the leader acquires more power the longer he is in office. Wholesale change isn’t a good idea but incremental change is certainly possible. The pace of that change can be argued but whether you are for or against change, change in China is going to happen. The country is too dynamic for it not to happen.

    Allen, you seem to be implying that illogical statements are ok. Is that correct? For me, overly legal interpretations are suspect because the Chinese system is so different from other legal systems and is in fact not very legalistic, while I think my own country is TOO legalistic! However, illogical statements are illogical in any language or culture so I’m not quite following your “logic” there. 😛

    I don’t know much about Xu Zhiyong so I can’t comment on his situation. All I know is what everyone else has written and those opinions have been all over the place.

  85. Allen Says:

    @Steve #84,

    You wrote:

    Allen, you seem to be implying that illogical statements are ok. Is that correct?

    No … I am not condoning people making illogical statements, but I am asking people to make an effort to try to understand why someone is making a statement – rather than taking the easier path (some times) of merely accusing another of being illogical.

    Statements sometimes look illogical because our worldview / premises / assumptions are so different from each other … not because one or another is being irrational.

    My personal goal is to clarify and articulate where possible. Even if someone makes what I see as a logical no no, I want to get behind the logical no no to see what he really is saying. (easier said than done, I know…)

  86. Steve Says:

    @ Allen #85: That seems fair; I’ll try my best to comply.

  87. CS Says:

    (Reuters) – A famous Chinese artist was roughed up and reporters and witnesses detained on Wednesday, the first day of the trial of a Chinese activist who investigated the death toll from last year’s devastating Sichuan earthquake.

    Tan Zuoren is formally accused of defaming the Communist Party in emailed comments about 1989’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Tiananmen square. His trial in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, adjourned without a verdict on Wednesday, said his lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang.

    Tan’s supporters and Amnesty International say he was detained because he planned to issue an independent report on the collapse of school buildings during the Sichuan earthquake, in which more than 80,000 people died.

    Contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, who travelled to Chengdu to testify, said he and 10 other volunteers were woken by police entering their hotel rooms before dawn on Wednesday, beaten up and prevented from leaving until after the trial adjourned.

    “If they act this way to us witnesses, how must they be to local people, people without a voice?” Ai told Reuters from the airport, as he prepared to return to Beijing.

    “They were like gangs in a movie, they could do whatever they wanted. It was very scary.”

    Tan’s trial began a week after another earthquake activist, Huang Qi, was tried on state secrets charges in Chengdu. Huang’s verdict has not yet been issued.

  88. Wukailong Says:

    @CS: I think that report belongs to the open thread, though I also understand the connections to the topic at hand.

    @Allen, Steve: I don’t want to point fingers here, but I agree too that Raj’s comment about Allen’s whereabouts was unnecessary and, in fact, a red herring. Certainly our backgrounds influence our thinking, but I want to think it’s not absolute – otherwise I would waste my time here! 😉

    Sometimes the same claims or arguments might be done from completely different angles. Take rule of law, for example. There might be, as Allen says, cases where people talk about “rule of law” because they’re used to the concept and think it works great at home, so it ought to work great in China. But there is also a case (part of the national discourse) that China needs to get “rule of law” because of the current arbitrariness of law enforcement, that it is important to make the party work under a constitutional framework, that it’s better to have agreed upon frameworks so local businesses can thrive etc. In the book Gongjian (攻坚) there is a point made about why the legal system needs to be made to work more like formally capitalist societies – it removes obstacles to economic reform.

    Also, I like the point about trying to understand why somebody thinks a certain way. I’m not sure how common it is that people (including me) really do that, though…

  89. bluetiger Says:

    Charles Liu (83),

    Thanks very much for posting the portion about the NGO numbers and a translation.

    My Chinese reading ability is reasonably good but slow, and my eyes tend to wonder about quite quickly…
    It’s quite painful when the characters are all hanzi…a bit different from Japanese where we can breath easier every few characters as it’s going to be hiragana/katakana…maybe that’s just me though.

    thanks

  90. rolf Says:

    Zhiyong’s detention was also covered at length by China Geeks, AP, China Esquire blog, TIME’s China Blog, CDT, Asia Sentinel, The Peking Duck, and Evan ………..

    Rebecca MacKin… August 11, 2009

    http://china.blogs.time.com/2009/08/10/what-xu-zhiyong-stands-for/#comments

  91. Allen Says:

    @WKL #88,

    Very good point about rule of law. You are definitely right about two very different contexts under which we can discuss “rule of law” – and I think should be the latter context we should focus on more.

  92. Raj Says:

    Allen

    I didn’t mean to imply your view isn’t important or counts for less, but I get annoyed with the way you often seem to almost casually justify a very powerful State that often uses its power arbitrarily to crack down on people like Xu. I can’t easily remember you expressing sympathy for people who honestly try to work for the benefit of China, or you make it seem like they never face any unfair treatment from the government.

    Like the way you went on about how lawyers running around scaring people can’t be good. Ok fine, but how is Xu even doing that? You talk about red herrings, but I’d say it’s a red herring to raise a scenario that doesn’t seem to apply to the person/organisation in question. If you do think it applies, you really should explain how they apply to Xu and/or Gongmeng.

    So could you please address those points/questions I made in post # 70? I might be able to understand you better that way.

    Steve

    As much as I like to hear progressive comments from members of the CCP, why does anyone who can make a difference have to listen to that guy? He might be immune from being placed under house arrest at the drop of a hat, but just because he used to be a bigwig doesn’t mean he has much influence anymore.

  93. Steve Says:

    @ Allen & Wukailong: I agree with your emphasis on the latter context yet I also see a potential problem with it. Currently, the bureaucracy enjoys rule by fiat with Party decisions supreme. If China moves to a Chinese style rule of law with an independent judiciary, wouldn’t the Party bureaucracy be giving up an element of its power and with it, control? Who would give that up voluntarily? Wouldn’t the usual reasons of stability and Party control cause it to be endlessly delayed?

    This conundrum seems to apply to all single party governments, including democratic ones like Japan. When the party in power has a “permanent” majority, the bureaucracy never seems to reform and corruption grows. It also happened when the US Congress was run by Democrats for 40 straight years, and later with Republicans in just 12 years. So far, corruption reform in China has been narrowly rather than broadly focused and usually spurred on for political reasons. The Party has concentrated on economic reform and international trade, with admirable results. But even with total Party control, the messages still aren’t consistent; witness the recent situation regarding Rio Tinto.

    How does a government reform when it has no incentive to do so? Why should a solidly entrenched bureaucracy promote losing power and control? Looking back throughout history, I can’t think of any one party government has ever been able to overcome these odds. If China can do so, all power to them but I wonder how that will be accomplished. How do you reform a legal system when those reforms give less power to the party doing the reforming? If the Party loses ultimate power, won’t that create fissures in the Party itself and push the country towards a multiparty system? Isn’t that what caused the former Soviet Union to fall apart? Is it a good idea to attempt this under the present economic circumstances?

    @ Raj: The fact is they don’t, and for the reasons I’ve outlined above. My guess is that they’ll listen to him and then continue to come up with reasons for delay.

  94. Uln Says:

    Blogger Wang Jianshuo knows Xu personally and is posting a series of posts on him. It will be interesting to see what he writes. First post here:

    http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20090813_the_significance_of_xu_zhiyong.htm

  95. Wukailong Says:

    @Steve (#93): I agree with the difficulties. Basically, what you’re saying is that there is no interest from the party’s point of view to reform, because it would require it to give up parts of its power; phrased another way, there is no pressure on the party to change its behavior like you would find in multi-party systems where there is open competition.

    However, I think there are pressures on the party, like:

    * It needs to keep basic popularity among the people, and to do that it must keep the economy going. Beginning during the last decade, it’s also expected more and more to provide services.
    * It needs to get even more foreign investments by creating a good business climate
    * It needs to solve outstanding social issues that might otherwise create large-scale disturbances
    * It wants (perhaps rather than needs) to be seen like a responsible government on the international stage.

    I think all these external and internal factors necessitate change on the party’s behalf. The problem, of course, is whether they will be able to meet the challenges in an innovative way, or drag their feet along hoping it will basically sort itself out. To me it looks like they are being proactive in many areas.

    That’s what the optimistic part of me is saying. The pessimistic part of me looks at Sweden and the long period of dominant-party system we experienced (basically, the Social Democrats ruled for decades, like in Singapore, though with a vocal opposition) and some of the interest conflicts that created – only some years ago, the issue that the government privately decides on staffing of state companies was brought up. What changed the situation in Sweden wasn’t democracy so much as the end of the Cold War, and the rise of the IT industry. Still, being a democracy certainly helped.

    Still, I’m optimistic that the external pressures will be enough for the CCP to create a more law-based system.

  96. huaren Says:

    Hi Steve, Allen, Wukailong,

    I tend to be optimistic as well and want to endorse what Wukailong said in #95:

    One example: For a real-estate market to function, you need property rights, a recorders office, banks, etc.. This industry necessitates the appropriate laws in place. No doubt there will be disputes between home owners and all the other players in the industry. Therefore, the court system and the legal staff will need to be in place to support this industry as well.

    I wouldn’t even characterize this as “pressure” on the party to “change.” It is changing because society demands it and the party has no reason to hamper it.

    Now you multiply this by how ever many industries there are, and the impact is systematic and huge – takes time if your history of the world is 50 years – happening too fast if you view history with 2000+ years.

    On Steve’s point about a single party playing above the law – I can see how power can be abused. In a two party system like that of the U.S., there are tons of problems too. The fighting between the two cripples the country, and the population get so polarized. Neither of these negatives are automatic.

    So, to me, how good a society can be is not necessarily how many parties you have. Also, when you are the top dog, arrogance comes in. That probably has the most drag regardless of how many parties too.

  97. rolf Says:

    Massively off-topic post deleted. Use the open thread for conspiracy stuff like that.

  98. Raj Says:

    Wukailong (95)

    I wouldn’t be too hard on the Swedish system. Although one party monopolising power for so long isn’t good, it was more down to people being satisfied with the incumbant party. You didn’t have what you find in Singapore, where criticism of the government gets you sued, bankrupted and banned from election, right?

    At the moment I think the most effective pressure for change is going to come from within the the Communist Party because criticism from the people is disjointed and quickly broken up by the authorities before it can reach critical mass. There are still people in the CCP who think political reform that could put China on the road democracy is good, not bad. But they don’t seem to have the power or the will to use what influence they have to make things move in that direction.

    Of course external pressure can help the reformists press their case and win over those in the middle (the “pragmatists” who will back whoever they think is likely to win). So I think it’s important for ordinary people to not give up and make the case for change. That means taking on those cases which the State would prefer didn’t progress and complain if those lawyers, like Xu, are treated poorly because they’re brave enough to use the law to their advantages.

  99. Raj Says:

    Uln, thanks for the link to Wang Jianshuo’s blog. He’s got some more great entries. Here’s one on the NGO system in China.

    http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20090814_ngo_as_a_company_in_china.htm

    NGO as a Company in China

    This is a series called The Significance of Xu Zhiyong.

    Survival of NGO

    Although the Constitution allows people to organize groups, the reality is not easy.

    Today, it is allowed for people to form group FOR profit. This was a significant move since the opening up and reform policy. I won’t say it is an advancement at that time because the huge draw back happened in 1950s that the rights people enjoyed since 1000 years ago were taken away. However, although we take it for granted today, to form a COMPANY to do business was not taken for granted.

    There are many organizations that were setup not for a profit. It is very hard to set it up today. I know many NGO organization, and I am personally involved in some. It is almost impossible to get register with the Internal Affairs Bureau. I tried to setup Coffee Bean Club to help students to get access to successful people, but it was not possible to register, so my choice, and many other NGO’s choice was to stay unregistered. Regarding my particular case, I tried to call it foundation at the very beginning, but I was told that I need to have at least 10 million RMB to setup that (even though you have the money, it is hard to do it).

    Unregistered Organizations

    To have many organizations unregistered is not a good thing for all the parties. For the founders of the organization, since it is not legally recognized, it is very vulnerable, not just to the government inspection, but to all type of criminals. For example, they have to use personal account to store organization money ($#%#!), and they cannot hire people, and they cannot do anything outside the power of several individual. For volunteer organizations, it may be OK, but there is no growth. For the government, it is not good since they cannot provide services, and cannot take their duty to make sure everything is fine. For others the organization is interacting with, it is the same to deal with a gangster organization – no protection.

    The line between good people doing illegal stuff (unregistered NGO) and bad people doing bad things (like criminal groups) is blurred.

    Registered Organization

    Since the road for unregistered organization is so hard, many people just register as a company – a for profit company. This is actually the only workaround I can think of. In practices, I know many of my friends doing good things using a company. There is a small issue of registering as a company – every dollar coming into the company is subject to 5% of tax, and there are all kinds of taxes related to it. Well. It does not bother most of people since this is the only choice. They pay tax!

    Besides NGO, and companies, just FYI, there is no single “party” registered since 1949, although the Constitution gave people the right to do so.

    NGO as a Company

    Gongmeng’s situation is like many NGOs in China, although most NGO is not registered at all.

    In the Gongmeng’s case, the government accuses GM for tax evasion for a donation not confirmed by Yale University is the typical risk NGO as a company faces. In theory, most of the organizations involved in Sichuan earthquake the last year are very vulnerable to this claim. If the any of the government officials want, they can legally investigate and punish most of the organizations involved in the Sichuan help. As far as I know, most of the organizations just transfer the money directly to the people who need help. If they got 100 RMB, they gave out 100 RMB. “Hey guys! You didn’t pay the tax!”

    The interesting point of the Xu Zhiyong and GM’s case was, on the company identity, they are charged for not paying tax (maybe one of the very few thing you can punish a company), and on the NGO side, they are charged for not being registered at Internal Affair Bureau. The traditional Chinese saying is: “If you want to charge someone, excuse is not a problem”.

    A Bad System

    In a good system, you can be legally compliant if you do the good thing. In current China, the problem is, you just cannot follow all the rules since the rules are not feasible. See my comment to what my friend said: I will follow all the rules. When following the laws is mission impossible, that brings chaos to the society.

  100. Steve Says:

    @ huaren, Allen & Wukailong: You all are looking at the big picture for China which is the correct viewpoint to have and one I share. However, I’m looking at this from the narrow viewpoint of a bureaucratic official. It doesn’t matter what country that official lives in, the reaction is going to be the same, i.e., don’t tread on my turf. So while the central authority might be proactive, the local one is reactive and protective. Because the bureaucrat is also the official, that’s where my pessimism comes from.

    If we look at recent events, we can see where the bureaucrat has been superseded by central authority. In the Rio Tinto arrests, the original charge of stealing state secrets has been scaled back to industrial espionage but only after international pressure that could affect future business opportunities. The original decision was fiat based and the subsequent change was also fiat based. In other words, the bureaucracy made an adjustment to its decision not based on law but on changing circumstances.

    The other example is the Green Dam situation. The government not only backed off the requirement but announced that the original decision was “poorly written”. Again, a decision by fiat was scaled back to include only educational institutions and internet cafes but this was based not on law but on international and internal pressure, so once again by fiat. Rather than being proactive in terms of the law, it is reactive in terms of pressure on the bureaucracy.

    The bureaucracy takes credit for the economic miracle and feels the only way the economy can continue to grow is with their guidance using decisions made by fiat. This is similar to the Japanese bureaucracy during the “bubbling years”, especially MITI, who felt it was their wise decisions that led to such growth. When the economy stagnated in Japan, MITI was unwilling to give up that decision-making power and because there was no change in party administration, no pressure or mandate for them to do so. I can see the same thing happening in China though I would not want it to happen, so I guess I feel more pessimistic in this one area than you all might.

    Wukailong, everything you mention can be “solved” by rule of law or decisions made by fiat. The current bureaucracy feels that decisions by fiat will be swifter, cleaner and more efficient than rule of law, and will point to “messy” western systems as proof. Are you saying that decisions by fiat can be made compatible with rule by law? I think the two systems are inherently incompatible.

    Remember, most of these bureaucrats graduated from some of the best universities in their respective countries and feel they are inherently superior to others around them. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, they all feels the same way.

    huaren, when you mentioned real estate, I thought about a friend of mine whose parents had lived for generations in the Bund area of Shanghai, as her grandfather owned a large shipping company in the old days. For the upcoming World Expo, her family and thousands like them were moved from those buildings over to Pudong so they could be torn down for a Fair that will last one summer and be over. What were their property rights? Zero. It was decision by fiat; in this case, city fiat.

    Hopefully the new homeowners will have greater property rights than the old so this can be an incremental change, but will the ability of a city to condemn any property it wishes by fiat be removed? Who decides the greater public good? The ability to condemn property is allowed in all governments but that ability is easily abused, even within a legal system. How can change be effected in China in this area?

    I agree with you that having a multiparty system does not guarantee progress or innovation, especially if the parties are evenly matched. But even within multiparty systems it is possible to have one party rule. I live in California and we’ve had Democrats running the state legislature since forever because of blatant gerrymandering. Until that changes, the voters don’t have much say in how things are run since they can’t change a permanent majority. What happens? Just look at our fiscal mess.

    “Arrogance” is the perfect description. Our California Democrats are arrogant, the Democrats who ran Congress for 40 years were arrogant, the Republicans became arrogant after about 6 years of being in charge (they thought they had a permanent majority), the Japanese bureaucracy is still arrogant and I’d say there’s a lot of arrogance in the Chinese bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it seems time + power = arrogance.

  101. rolf Says:

    Rolf, sorry but this thread is not about CIA funding conspiracies. You are welcome to discuss the CIA on the open thread to your heart’s content.

  102. huaren Says:

    Hi Steve, #100,

    I think I understand your perspective about the bureaucratic official. I think we all agree the importance of a law based society where no one, including the government is above the law. Living in the USA, I see in general the positives of a “balanced and checked” system to ensure power is not blatantly abused by any segment of society.

    Also, I don’t think there is question China is not changing. As of late, you probably have heard about the citizens “right to know” policy for all branches of the government. This is obviously a reform. I thought there’s been lots of envy by American politicians of China’s efficiency! 🙂

    Regarding your Shanghai friend’s family having to leave the Bund area to Pudong – I would agree the government perhaps is heavy-handed. You are unlikely to hear the other side of the story, I bet. Anyways, I know this is an acknowledged problem within China. But I think this is a very big difference in view between Chinese and the “West” – on priorities between the individual vs. society. Impossible to assign morality I think.

    And, lastly, lots of fiat everywhere if you look hard enough. 🙂

  103. huaren Says:

    Hi rolf, #101,

    I know admin’s preference for all FM editors is to not delete comments. His preference is that the most done is to collapse the comment.

  104. admin Says:

    @huaren,

    Thanks for explaining.

    @Rolf,

    Your contribution is always appreciated. As you are aware, FM is a collaborative blog. A thread author has the leeway to decide whether to delete a comment or not. In your case, the reason for deletion is stated as off topic, which you don’t seem to agree. If so, please send me an email to state your reasons and I will discuss with our team to see if the deletion is unfair. Thanks.

  105. Steve Says:

    Xu Zhiyong was released today.

  106. Jason Says:

    I was indeed right on my #27 of this thread that Xu didn’t not have the bail hence he was bought to the Beijing #1 detention facility. And the Western media claim that he disappears is sickening!

    As the article points out that the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications bail their professor out.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090824/ap_on_re_as/as_china_activist_lawyer

    I just cannot believe that Western media and these Anti-Chinese detractors would take this as a human right issue and obstruction to justice. And this not have to do with the anniversary of PRC.

    This is a tax evasion issue and the Western media is using propaganda to diminish Gongmeng and Xu’s crime.

  107. Raj Says:

    Jason

    And the Western media claim that he disappears is sickening!

    Why? I may be wrong, but I believe that Xu’s lawyer/representative stated that no one was told about where he was being at the time. So he did disappear, until his colleagues found out themselves where he had been taken.

    As the article points out that the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications bail their professor out.

    So let me see, you’re arguing that it took about a month to decide they wanted to bail him and then filed the application? Or maybe that after a number of weeks detention whoever made the decision said that he could be bailed?

    This is a tax evasion issue

    Uhuh, so the fact Gongmeng has been established for over half a decade and able to operate without any official complaints on its tax status isn’t reflective of anything. And that it’s usual to allow organisations to operate and then suddenly close them down without any opportunity to settle the matter or even notify them that they need to start paying tax. Sort of “one strike and you’re out”?

    If that’s the case I wouldn’t want to run a business in China.

    Anti-Chinese detractors

    Actually I think the anti-China people are those trying to damage Xu’s reputation because they prefer stability for their personal interests than the powerless in China having someone standing up for them. They are also anti-China because they’re supporting action that has damaged China’s standing in the international community.

  108. wuming Says:

    “… suddenly close them down without any opportunity to settle the matter or even notify them that they need to start paying tax. Sort of “one strike and you’re out”? …”

    If you quote from baseball parlance, you must be familiar with another American institution — IRS, with its presumption of guilt and other peculiar modi operandi.

  109. Wukailong Says:

    @Jason: Baidu actually said he had disappeared (下落不明), so it wasn’t only the Western media. Also, do you think you can tell me how you know these things (it has nothing to do with the 60th anniversary, it’s really only a tax evasion issue etc)?

  110. Raj Says:

    wuming, not being American I wouldn’t be familiar with the IRS. I have never held out the IRS as being a paragon of taxation virtue, and more importantly this is not a blog on America (nor a blog entry on the American tax system). So I would ask that you stay on topic in line with the FM conduct rules and not make off-topic comments, thanks.

    Wukailong, good point.

  111. wuming Says:

    Raj,

    Let me connect the dots for you:

    By quoting “one strike and you’re out”, you expected readers to be familiar either with baseball or with the “War on Drugs”, both uniquely American institutions

    IRS is another American institution, with its laws distinctly different from other branches of American civil/criminal laws. The tax codes are often used as a convenient way to prosecute crimes in other fields (political corruption, mafia, prostitution, etc.)

    Such applications of laws in places other than China (certainly not just US either) provided a context, though not justification for what happened in this case.

    Lastly, let me stray off the topics as you did above. While being a strong advocate of free speech, you seemed oddly intolerant of any challenge to your opinion. As another cliche goes, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen (though I would hardly call this heat.)

  112. Jason Says:

    @ Wukailong

    I want to see that Baidu article that states Xu is (下落不明).

    http://baike.baidu.com/view/1669218.htm

    Many Western article (ie that yahoo article I stated above) argues that those arrests is to silence the defectors for the October’s 60th anniversary of the PRC but this is plain wrong.

  113. Shane9219 Says:

    自由主义的中国化及其在中国的前途

    郑永年

    “自由主义站在权威对立面

      很多人经常把从近代以来的中国自由主义发展不起来的原因归之于官方的控制。这当然是其中一个重要因素。但问题是,官方控制自由主义的主要原因是因为自由主义总是站在官方的对立面。当自由主义和官方政策处于直接对立面的时候,冲突不可避免。在这样的直接冲突中,失败的总是自由主义者。西方的自由主义很好地处理了与现实权威的关系,但中国的自由主义总是站在权威的对立面。

      从反思的角度,中国自由主义的困境更多地是来自自由主义者本身所做的选择。人们不用去谈论久远的过去,就拿改革开放以来的自由主义来说吧。自改革开放以来,经济自由主义不仅仅是主流理论,而且更是主流政策话语。公平地说,在从计划经济到市场经济的转变过程中,经济自由主义扮演了一个极其重要的角色。但不幸的是,后来新自由主义逐渐占据主导地位,甚至演变成具有原教旨主义特点的理论和政策话语,赤裸裸地为各种利益说话,而把基本的社会正义排挤出自由主义体系。

      政治自由主义的情况甚至更坏。如果说经济自由主义对中国的理论和政策发生了很大的影响,那么这并没有发生在政治自由主义那里。客观地说,政治自由主义从来就没有超越西方教科书的水平,西方话语如“三权分立”和“多党制”也是中国自由主义者的核心关键词。不仅现存体制拒绝这些话语,社会也已经不再对此感到多大的兴趣了。  

    自由主义拒绝中国化

      但是,自由主义在中国不能生根的最主要的原因就是自由主义一直拒绝中国化。作为一种思想体系,自由主义从西方输入。中国人尽管已经高调谈论自由主义一个多世纪了,但根本就没有产生过中国本身的自由主义。“五四运动”期间流入中国的诸多主义中,只有马克思主义、社会主义和民族主义得到生存和发展。这不仅仅是因为这些主义符合时代的需要,也是因为中国的政治人物对这些主义加以中国化的努力。在“五四运动”之后的很长历史时期里,自由主义只是作为一种纯思想意识而存在。中国社会没有工业化和城市化,缺失中产阶级,就是说,自由主义没有客观的社会经济基础。但如上所说,现在的情况则不一样了,存在着很多有利于自由主义产生和发展的因素。在这样的条件下,自由主义再拒绝中国化几乎就是选择自我毁灭。

      很多人盲目崇拜自由主义是因为的确不理解西方自由主义的本质,自由主义的教科书仍然对他们具有非常大的吸引力。而另外一些人不愿意自由主义的中国化则是有其他的原因。他们把西方的自由主义赋予高度的道德色彩,他们似乎要坚守这个道德高地。

      拒绝中国化就产生了诸多自由主义难以消化的消极后果。首先是和中国本身的传统意识发生冲突。除了全盘否认中国数千年的传统之外,自由主义者从来没有想过把自己和传统联系起来。这一点上,自由主义和革命者并没有任何分别。其次是和官方的话语发生冲突。但最重要的是,因为不能中国化,自由主义就解释不了中国的现实,无论是积极的还是消极的方面。这些因素使得自由主义对社会没有任何吸引力。自由主义者没有能力证明自由主义所提供的建国蓝图要比其他的主义会更好。这样,边缘化就不可避免。

      在西方,自由主义本来就是一种开放的知识和思想体系,与其它体系相比较,自由主义的包容性最强。但到了中国自由主义者那里,自由主义就变成了最僵硬的教条。

      自由主义如果要在中国生存和发展,没有他途,只有中国化。中国革命成功靠的是毛泽东一代革命家花了极大的精力把马克思主义中国化。“五四运动”之后,中国一代又一代政治人物开始寻找革命和建设的道路。孙中山先生先是想用西方自由主义来救中国,实行民主、宪政和多党政治,但以失败告终。直到孙中山转向了马克思列宁主义,他所进行的国民革命才出现了希望。但毛泽东领导的革命较之国民革命更为彻底,这和毛泽东把马克思主义中国化分不开。这一过程是毛泽东结合中国革命的实践化了数十年的努力才完成的。马克思主义的中国化也影响了建国后的政治经济进程。尽管中国也学习苏联的计划经济模式,但并没有完全照抄,这把中国和前苏联模式区分开来。当然,今天人们所看到的结局也不一样。 ”

    http://www.zaobao.com/special/forum/pages7/forum_zp090811.shtml

  114. Wukailong Says:

    @Jason: I can’t find the Baidu article, but it appeared just after he was arrested. Obviously, at the time nobody really knew.

    “Many Western article (ie that yahoo article I stated above) argues that those arrests is to silence the defectors for the October’s 60th anniversary of the PRC but this is plain wrong.”

    But how do you know this?

  115. Wukailong Says:

    @Jason: As another example: I think you live in the US, since most people commenting here do (I don’t). Would you say that it’s obvious beyond doubt that the war in Iraq was really for disarming Saddam and liberating the Iraqi people, and not a war of aggression for resource and power reasons, like much of the European press was saying?

    I guess in the end we can only guess.

  116. Jason Says:

    @Wukailong

    Republican’s thinking: disarming Saddam and liberating the Iraqi people

    Democrat’s thinking: war of aggression for resource and power reasons

    But now the Democrats and Obama is doing the same for Afghanistan as Bush did to Iraq.

  117. Wukailong Says:

    @Jason: “But now the Democrats and Obama is doing the same for Afghanistan as Bush did to Iraq.”

    I second that.

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