Chinese democracy movement

The Chinese democracy movement (simplified Chinese: 中国民主运动; traditional Chinese: 中國民主運動; pinyin: Zhōngguó mínzhǔ yùndòng), abbreviated as Minyun (simplified Chinese: 民运; traditional Chinese: 民運; pinyin: Mínyùn), refers to a series of loosely organized political movements in the People's Republic of China against the continued one-party rule by the Communist Party of China. One such movement began during the Beijing Spring in 1978 and was taken up again in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Chinese democracy movement
"Beijing Spring" On Sell
Image from the Beijing Spring, the beginning of the Chinese democracy movement.
Date1978 -
Caused byOne party rule of the Communist Party of China


The origin of the Chinese movement started in 1978, when the brief liberalization known as Beijing Spring occurred after the Cultural Revolution. The founding document of the movement is considered to be The Fifth Modernization manifesto by Wei Jingsheng, who was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for authoring the document. In it, Wei argued that political liberalization and the empowerment of the laboring masses was essential for modernization, that the Communist Party was controlled by reactionaries and that the people must struggle to overthrow the reactionaries via a long and possibly bloody fight.

Throughout the 1980s, these ideas increased in popularity among college-educated Chinese. In response to growing corruption, economic dislocation and the sense that reforms in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe were leaving China behind, the Tiananmen Square protests erupted in 1989. These protests were put down by government troops on June 4, 1989. In response, a number of pro-democracy organizations were formed by overseas Chinese student activists, and there was considerable sympathy for the movement among Westerners, who formed the China Support Network (CSN).

While the CSN was initially a go-to organization for U.S. mainstream news media (MSM) to cite, CSN and MSM parted company in a dispute over the casualty count from the June 4 massacre. MSM originally reported 3,000 dead. On June 22, 1989, Agence France-Presse referred to "the Chinese army's assault on the demonstrators in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, an operation in which U.S. intelligence sources estimated 3,000 people were killed." That casualty count, originally reported as above, was subsequently changed by the news media. CAN reported that it was in the interest of China's propaganda minister to reduce the casualty count by an order of magnitude, resulting in later reports that "hundreds" were killed at Tiananmen Square. In November, 1989, CSN editor James W. Hawkins MD wrote, "It appears as if Mr. Yuan Mu [Chinese State Council spokesman] has gotten his way and when we read reports on the AP wire we are told exactly what Mr. Mu [sic] wants us to read."

The rift between CSN and MSM plays into the history of the movement. In January, 2005, upon the death of ousted Communist Party General Secretary Zhao Ziyang, CSN raised its estimate to 3,001 dead in the Tiananmen crackdown. CSN proceeded to be critical of the MSM, and MSM proceeded to minimize, downplay, ignore or underreport movement news and China's human rights abuse.

Current situation

This could be in part the result of the Chinese government tightening its control over its people's freedom of speech, thus giving the appearance of disinterest, or as a result of the overall economic and social reforms China has undertaken in recent years. The difficulties that the Soviet Union had in converting to democracy and capitalism were used to validate the PRC's official position that slow gradual reform was a wise policy. Structurally, democracy promotion organizations in the United States such as the China Alliance for Democracy, the Federation for a Democratic China and the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars suffered from internal disputes and infighting. Much support was lost over the issues of Most Favored Nation trade status and China's entry into the World Trade Organization, which was popular both within and outside of China, but which was opposed by 79% of the American people (in a poll published by Business Week) and the overseas democracy movement.

Censorship in Mainland China is very strict, including in the Internet. The new generation finds it difficult to obtain, or are unaware of, the truth regarding several important historical events which occurred before they were born.

A generation gap began to appear between older and younger students when people born after the Cultural Revolution began entering college campuses. These students perceived the older activists as more pro-American than pro-democracy, and thus they are far more supportive of the Communist Party. The younger students also tend to be more nationalistic. Internal disputes within the movement over issues such as China's most-favored nation status in U.S. trade law crippled the movement, as did the perception by many within China that overseas dissidents such as Harry Wu and Wei Jingsheng were simply out of touch with the growing economic prosperity and decreasing political control within China.

Government response

Ideologically, the government's first reaction to the democracy movement was an effort to focus on the personal behavior of individual dissidents and argue that they were tools of foreign powers. In the mid-1990s, the government began using more effective arguments which were influenced by Chinese Neo-Conservatism and Western authors such as Edmund Burke. The main argument was that China's main priority was economic growth, and economic growth required political stability. The democracy movement was flawed because it promoted radicalism and revolution which put the gains that China had made into jeopardy. In contrast to Wei's argument that democracy was essential to economic growth, the government argued that economic growth must come before political liberalization, comparable to what happened in the Four Asian Tigers.

With regard to political dissent engendered by the movement, the government has taken a three-pronged approach. First, dissidents who are widely known in the West such as Wei Jingsheng, Fang Lizhi, and Wang Dan are deported. Although Chinese criminal law does not contain any provisions for exiling citizens, these deportations are conducted by giving the dissident a severe jail sentence and then granting medical parole. Second, the less well-known leaders of a dissident movement are identified and given severe jail sentences. Generally, the government targets a relatively small number of organizers who are crucial in coordinating a movement and who are then charged with endangering state security or revealing official secrets. Thirdly, the government attempts to address the grievances of possible supporters of the movement. This is intended to isolate the leadership of the movement, and prevent disconnected protests from combining into a general organized protest that can threaten the Communist hold on power.

Chinese socialist democracy

Chinese Communist Party leaders assert there are already elements of democracy; they dubbed the term "Chinese socialist democracy" for what they describe as a participatory representative government.

For example, in a November 23, 2002 interview, the Chinese ambassador to Egypt, Liu Xiaoming, said:

I think what we are practicing today is Chinese socialist democracy, which is represented by the National People's Congress and a broad participation of the Chinese people. In fact, in today's China, the political participation at the grassroots level is much higher than any western country you can name of. We have grassroots level democracy demonstrated by village election. The turnout is 99 percent, i.e. 99% of villagers participating in this political process to elect their village leaders, comparing with only less than 50% of participation in election process in many western countries.[1]

Modern democracy activism

Many pro-democracy supporters noted that China has successfully overcome many of the challenges to democracy in China faced during the transition from a communist to a capitalist economy, so there is no longer a need for prolonged political repression. They claim that pro-democracy forces would not necessarily stall economic growth after the transition, as the Communist Party states, and more importantly that the presence of democracy would help to check wasteful corruption and might achieve a more even distribution of wealth. Many believe that the Communist Party of China has no intention whatsoever of ever relinquishing power even if all their economic goals are ever achieved; it is said that China would have refused the WTO if the terms of entry were linked to a shift to a Western-style democracy.

Within China, most protest activity now is expressed in single-issue demonstrations, which are tolerated to a degree by the government. Some of the ideas of the movement have been incorporated in the Chinese liberal faction who tend to agree with neoconservatives that stability is important, but argue that political liberalization is essential to maintain stability. In contrast to democracy movement activists, most members of the liberal faction do not overtly call for the overthrow of the Communist Party nor do they deny the possibility of reform from within the Party. As a result, members of the liberal faction are generally enjoying more official tolerance than persons who identify themselves as members of the democracy movement.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Interview with Ambassador Liu Xiaoming On Nile TV International Archived January 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
Beijing Spring

The Beijing Spring (Chinese: 北京之春; pinyin: Běijīng zhī chūn) refers to a brief period of political liberalization in the People's Republic of China (PRC) which occurred in 1978 and 1979, right after the end of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. The name is derived from "Prague Spring", an analogous event which occurred in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

China Support Network

The China Support Network (CSN) is a U.S.-based organization promoting democracy for mainland China. CSN provides news, commentary, information and analysis on events, issues, demonstrations and government policy related to their cause. According to the organization, it supports democratic reform, human rights, and freedom in China.

The China Support Network was founded in 1989 by John Patrick Kusumi, who serves as its president. The organization opposes China's current Communist Party-led government, and has worked with Chinese student leaders who left China following the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and continues to have a working relationship with Chinese dissidents and the Chinese democracy movement in the United States.

The China Support Network has described the People's Republic of China as "a dysfunctional country" and the Communist Party of China as "the world's most murderous system", [1] and alleges that the Chinese government supports terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda. [2]

CSN criticized the plan of Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church to remove its embassy from Taiwan in an effort to improve ties with the government of the People's Republic of China and its Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. [3]

CSN launched the "Freedom First, Olympics Second Coalition" (FFOSC) in support of a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics in China. Members of the FFOSC include the Montagnard Foundation, Free China Movement and Dictator Watch. [4]

Democracy Wall

During the November 1978 to December 1979, thousands of people put up "big character posters" on a long brick wall of Xidan Street, Xicheng District of Beijing, to protest about the political and social issues of China. Under acquiescence of the Chinese government, other kinds of protest activities, such as unofficial journals, petitions, and demonstrations, were also soon spreading out in major cities of China. This movement can be seen as the beginning of the Chinese Democracy Movement. It is also known as the "Democracy Wall Movement" . This short period of political liberation was known as the "Beijing Spring".

Fei Ye

Fei Ye (Chinese: 菲野; born 1962) is a Chinese poet who was also involved in the Chinese democracy movement. Although often associated with the Misty Poets, he considers himself of a younger generation and dismisses the label. Fei has published four underground books of poetry and translated two books of Russian poetry, including the work of Osip Mandelstam. He lives in the United States after being exiled from China.

Hu Jia (activist)

Hu Jia (Chinese: 胡佳; pinyin: Hú Jiā; born July 25, 1973, in Beijing) is a Chinese civil rights activist and noted critic of Communist Party of China. His work has focused on the Chinese democracy movement, Chinese environmentalist movement, and HIV/AIDS in the People's Republic of China. Hu is the director of June Fourth Heritage & Culture Association, and he has been involved with AIDS advocacy as the executive director of the Beijing Aizhixing Institute of Health Education and as one of the founders of the non-governmental organization Loving Source. He has also been involved in work to protect the endangered Tibetan antelope. For his activism, Hu has received awards from several European bodies, such as the Paris City Council and the European Parliament, which awarded its Human Rights prize to him in December 2008.On December 27, 2007, Hu was detained as part of a crackdown on dissents during the Christmas holiday season. Reporters Without Borders said that "The political police have taken advantage of the international community's focus on Pakistan to arrest one of the foremost representatives of the peaceful struggle for free expression in China." The decision to take him into custody was made after peasant leaders in several Chinese provinces issued a manifesto demanding broader land rights for peasants whose property had been confiscated for development. On April 3, 2008, he was sentenced to 3.5 years in jail. Hu pleaded not guilty on charges of "inciting subversion of state power" at his trial in March 2008. His trial and detention garnered international attention, and Hu was described as a political prisoner, and was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He was released on June 26, 2011.

Hu Yaobang

Hu Yaobang (20 November 1915 – 15 April 1989) was a high-ranking official of the People's Republic of China. He held the top office of the Communist Party of China from 1981 to 1987, first as Chairman from 1981 to 1982, then as General Secretary from 1982 to 1987. Hu joined the Chinese Communist Party in the 1930s, and rose to prominence as a comrade of Deng Xiaoping. During the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), Hu was purged, recalled, and purged again by Mao Zedong.

After Deng rose to power, following the death of Mao Zedong, Hu was promoted to a series of high political positions. Throughout the 1980s Hu pursued a series of economic and political reforms under the direction of Deng. Hu's political and economic reforms made him the enemy of several powerful Party elders, who opposed free market reforms and attempts to make China's government more transparent. When widespread student protests occurred across China in 1987, Hu's political opponents successfully blamed Hu for the disruptions, claiming that Hu's "laxness" and "bourgeois liberalization" had either led to, or worsened, the protests. Hu was forced to resign as Party general secretary in 1987, but was allowed to retain a seat in the Politburo.

Hu's position as Party general secretary was taken by Zhao Ziyang, who continued many of Hu's economic and political reforms. A day after Hu's death, in 1989, a small-scale demonstration commemorated him and demanded that the government reassess his legacy. A week later, the day before Hu's funeral, some 100,000 students marched on Tiananmen Square, leading to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests which was a part of the Chinese Democracy Movement. Following the government's violent suppression of the 1989 protests, the Chinese government censored the details of Hu's life within mainland China, but it officially rehabilitated his image and lifted its censorship restrictions on the 90th anniversary of Hu's birth, in 2005.

Liu Dejun

Liu Dejun (Chinese: 刘德军) was born in 1976 in the province of Hubei. He is an activist and dissident in the People's Republic of China. His work has focused on the Chinese democracy movement, Chinese Human rights Movement. Liu is now a scholar of the program Writers in Exile in Germany and living in Nuremberg. In 2007, he founded the Labour Legal Aid Association in Guangdong Province to help the Chinese labours. He's involved in a large number of human rights cases and reported these cases on an internet website Boxun, and his Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, but all of his blogs in China were deleted by the Chinese Authority. Now he has created a new blog which bases on Germany.

Because of his activities, Liu was arrested many times. In 28.12.2008 he was arrested and tortured by Guangdong police, because he sent out flyers of democracy with Li Tie, Yang yong and other activists. In 2010, when he was investigating the case of Qian Yunhui, he was arrested twice by around 20 heavily armed policemen from Huang Wei's home. In 2010, because of supporting Chinese activist Ni Yulan, Liu was arrest and tortured by Beijing security service in middle of the night and was thrown in the mountains in the countryside of Beijing. The famous artist Ai Weiwei made a documentary about these events.On February 27, 2011, Liu was kidnapped by the security service of Chinese central government in Beijing and brought in to four secret trial bases. His clothes were forced to be taken off, he was punched many times, shocked with an electric baton, deprived of food, and deprived of blankets at nights.In 2013, Liu came to Brussels and then Ireland with the help of Frontlinedefenders, one Human Rights organisation. After three months, Liu got the scholarship of Writer in Exile, then he have been living in Nuremberg and works still for Democracy and Human Rights for China.Since October 2015, Liu is studying in Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg.

Michael Ryan (poet)

Michael Ryan (born 1946 in St. Louis) has been teaching creative writing and literature at University of California, Irvine since 1990.

Midnight Special Bookstore

The Midnight Special Bookstore was an independent bookstore in southern California. It catered to a leftist clientele. Its merchandise and events emphasized current events such as the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Chinese democracy movement and U.S. intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pro-democracy camp (Macau)

The pro-democracy camp or pan-democracy camp (Chinese: 民主派 or 泛民主派; Portuguese: acampamento pró democracia) refer to the politicians and social activists in Macau who support increased democracy and may work together in areas of common interest or by not fielding candidates against one another in elections.

Democratic activists are usually critical of the post-1999 Macanese government and the People's Republic of China's authoritarian government, which they say does not properly represent the will of the people. Its supporters also advocate a faster pace of democratization and implementation of universal and equal suffrage. The Pan-democracy camp is aligned with and similar to, but distinct from, the Chinese democracy movement.

Members of the camp represent a very broad social and political demographic, from the working class to the middle class and professionals. Opposite to the pan-democracy camp is the pro-establishment camp, whose members are perceived to be supportive of the central government of China.

Qincheng Prison

Qincheng Prison is a maximum-security prison located in the Changping District, Beijing in the People's Republic of China, near Xiaotangshan. The prison was built in 1958 with aid from the Soviet Union and it is the only prison belonging to China's Ministry of Public Security. The Ministry of Justice operates other prisons.

Political prisoners have been incarcerated in Qincheng, among them participants in the Chinese democracy movement and Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. Famous former inmates include Li Rui, Jiang Qing, Yuan Geng, Bao Tong, Dai Qing, as well as Tibetan figures such as the 10th Panchen Lama Choekyi Gyaltsen, and Phuntsok Wangyal. Other inmates included many communist cadres who struggled during the Cultural Revolution, such as Bo Yibo, Peng Zhen, Liu Xiaobo, Israel Epstein, Sidney Rittenberg and David Crook. More recently, high-ranking officials accused of corruption such as Chen Xitong, Chen Liangyu, and Bo Xilai were also imprisoned here.

The prison is located at the eastern foothill of Yanshan, facing the North China Plain in the east, north and south. The plain is where Qincheng Farm (simplified Chinese: 秦城农场; traditional Chinese: 秦城農場; pinyin: Qínchéng Nóngchǎng) is located, which is part of the prison.

Quelling the People

Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement is a history book which investigates the conflict between the Chinese democracy movement in Beijing, China and the communist-ruled Chinese state's People's Liberation Army, culminating in the confrontation between the citizens of Beijing and the People's Liberation Army at Tiananmen Square in June 1989.The book is written by Timothy Brook, a distinguished Canadian historian who specializes in the study of China (Sinology).

Vietnamese democracy movement

The term "Vietnamese democracy movement" comprises any of various isolated efforts to seek democratic reforms in Vietnam. There is not a major movement in Vietnam to reform the current political system. Opposition to governance has been characterised by sporadic calls for reform by minor groups and rare, small protests.

Wang Bingzhang (dissident)

Wang Bingzhang (Chinese: 王炳章; pinyin: Wáng Bǐngzhāng; born February 6, 1948 ("Yinli" / Chinese Lunar Calendar date was December 30, 1947)) is a political activist and founder of two Chinese pro-democracy movements. He is considered a political prisoner of China.

Wang Dan (dissident)

Wang Dan (born February 26, 1969) is a leader of the Chinese democracy movement and was one of the most visible student leaders in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, and from August 2009 to February 2010, Wang taught cross-strait history at Taiwan's National Chengchi University, as a visiting scholar. He then taught at National Tsing Hua University until 2015.Besides conducting research on related topics, Wang is still active in promoting democracy and freedom for China. Based in the United States, he travels the world to garner support from Overseas Chinese communities as well as from the public at large.

He is a friend of fellow activists Wang Juntao and Liu Gang.

Wei Jingsheng

Wei Jingsheng (Chinese: 魏京生; pinyin: Wèi Jīngshēng; born 20 May 1950, Beijing) is a Chinese human rights activist known for his involvement in the Chinese democracy movement. He is most prominent for having authored the essay, "The Fifth Modernization", which was posted on the Democracy Wall in Beijing in 1978. Due to the manifesto, Wei was arrested and convicted of "counter-revolutionary" activities, and was detained as a political prisoner from 1979–93. Released briefly in 1993, Wei continued with his dissident activities by speaking to visiting journalists, and was imprisoned again from 1994–97, spending a total of 18 years in different prisons. He was deported to the United States on 16 November 1997, on medical parole. Still a Chinese citizen, in 1998 Wei established the Wei Jingsheng Foundation in New York City (now based in Washington D.C.) whose stated aim is to work to improve human rights and democratization in China.

World Journal

World Journal (Chinese: 世界日報; pinyin: Shìjiè Rìbào) is a daily Chinese language broadsheet newspaper published in North America. It is the largest Chinese language newspaper in the United States and one of the largest Chinese language newspapers outside of China, with a daily circulation of 350,000. The newspaper is headquartered in the College Point neighborhood of Queens in New York City.World Journal is published in major cities in the United States with large overseas Chinese populations including New York as well as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. The publication is widely sold in many Chinatowns and major suburbs. Subscription is available in the United States and Canada.

Xinyu Zhang

Xinyu Zhang (born 5 March 1955 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia) is a Chinese computer software engineer. He was a teacher at Inner Mongolia Normal University. He served as a leader of the CIMS Research Office of the Guangzhou City Productivity Center, general manager of the He-Yi Digital Technology Co., Ltd. Tianjin, led foreign experts in computer science of Ningbo University of Technology and Chairman of the NinBo Tian Mei Technology Co.. He was involved in December 1986 China democracy movement and June 4 1989 China democracy movement.

Zhang Hongbao

Zhang Hongbao (simplified Chinese: 张宏堡; traditional Chinese: 張宏堡) (5 January 1954 in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China, – 31 July 2006, Arizona, USA) was the founder and spiritual leader of Zhong Gong, a qigong-based system of practices and beliefs. He was also a wealthy businessman, and a self-proclaimed leader of the Chinese democracy movement.

He died in a motor vehicle accident in Arizona in July 2006. After his death, no significant activity by Zhong Gong has been reported.

Chinesedemocracy movements


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