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Message from the Executive Director

October 21, 2009

On October 1, 2009, the People’s Republic of China turns 60 years old. In Chinese tradition, the cycle of 60 years, called jiazi (甲子), is viewed as an important milestone. The Chinese leaders are sparing no effort to prepare a grand celebration of the 60th anniversary of the founding of “New China,” which they call “an immortal accomplishment” (“不朽的功绩”).Yang Huanning, deputy executive minister of Public Security, trumpeted that celebratory activities—from the military parade in Tiananmen Square to the mass pageant involving 200,000 people to the fireworks—would be unprecedented in scale. The authorities also announced no less than 50 official slogans for the occasion. This issue of the China Rights Forum looks at what this “New China” has meant for its people beyond the slogans.

Section one, “Looking Back, Looking Forward,” opens with an essay by Zan Aizong juxtaposing the message of the regime’s strength and success projected by the extravaganza against a deep insecurity reflected in the intensified crackdowns and security measures in Beijing. He Qinglian argues that the economic reform policy over the past 30 years has been designed to benefit government and officials at the expense of the people. Wang Lixiong presents an anatomy of China’s ethnic strife: that the Chinese government’s oppressive and divisive policy in ethnic minority areas has in fact produced the ethnic conflict that dangerously undermines its political control. In a roundtable discussion of Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang moderated by Andrew Nathan, Bao Pu, one of the book’s editors, Gao Wenqian, Hu Ping, He Qinglian, and Xia Ming reexamine Zhao’s role at a pivotal time of China’s reform era. Chen Ziming, looking toward a democratic future for China, examines the different types of structural mechanisms required for a more open Chinese political system.

In the “Shifting Culture” section, Gao Wenqian and Regina Hackett view propaganda art from the Mao era through the lenses of personal experience and art criticism, respectively. Zhao Yan recounts the six-decade roller coaster history of the Chinese press as official propaganda tool and views technology as its likely liberator. In a conversation about art in China, poet/artist Yan Li and artist Zhang Hongtu caution that a culture in which individual expression is stifled risks the erosion of its core values. Christine Loh reflects on her changing relationship with China and explores the role that Hong Kong can play in the political transformation of China. Moving into the blogosphere, the selection of postings by Chinese bloggers demonstrates that significant information control and censorship has failed to intimidate or silence these critical voices.

A vibrant, generous, and tolerant social space is a necessary foundation for building a truly harmonious “new” China. Readers will notice that in this issue we are featuring a number of roundtable discussions and conversation pieces, including a conversation between a Han Chinese and a Tibetan about June Fourth and Chinese policy in Tibet. By organizing and publishing these diverse exchanges, HRIC hopes to contribute to building that foundation.

Sharon Hom
Executive Director, Human Rights in China

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