“The same grand and powerful review of troops, the same celebratory “long live” shouting crowd, the same joyful singing and dancing by professional ensembles, the same earth-shattering gun salute, the same colorful fireworks . . . Everything sounds the same and familiar. It’s been reported that the government has spent hundreds of billions of yuan staging the National Day celebrations. All of these aim to demonstrate that our current leadership has taken on its predecessor’s tasks of building China and has made a grand success of it. These would be themes sages conveyed by the slogans and the colorful floats at the celebration ceremonies and propagated by the TV and newspapers: We have been marching from victory to victory during the past 50 years. Our whole history is one that has been great, glorious and correct.”
The above passage has been taken from an article “The Stormy and Somber 50 Years,” penned by Mr. Li Shenzhi, former deputy director at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, on October 1, 1999, when President Jiang Zemin presided over a grand troop review to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). In the article, Li criticized the government for wasting money and manpower on National Day celebrations. However, the Communist Party suppressed dissenting views and persisted in its old ways, refusing to jettison the troop review ceremony, an outdated and corrupt imperial habit meant to show off its military prowess.
Ten years later, on October 1, 2009, another grand celebration will be staged. Once again, the Communist Party of China has decided to hold a grand troop review ceremony as part of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, the 14th grand troop review since 1949. Once again, the Party will aim to showcase its invincibility and celebrate its history of being “great, glorious and correct.” To boost its image, the Party is willing to throw away a huge sum of money, drawn from people’s blood, sweat and tears.
The Communist Party, pursuing its philosophy of violence, continues to suppress rights defense groups and dissidents at a time when its economy is booming and the dissemination of information has already entered the internet age. In the name of “maintaining stability,” the government has devised ways to ban the discussions of sensitive issues and eliminate dissenting voices from people such as public intellectuals and lawyers, who dare to express politically sensitive views no matter how moderate and rational their views might be. The government aims to nip in the bud all unstable elements so there is only one voice in China, the voice of the totalitarian Communist Party.
Chinese authorities have always been heavy handed in their crackdown on rights defense groups and dissidents. On June 23, Dr. Liu Xiaobo, one of the key initiators of Charter 08, was officially put under arrest after being detained for over six months. He is being imprisoned at the Beijing Municipal Detention Center on charges of “suspicion of inciting subversion of state power.” On July 14, the Beijing Municipal Office of the State Administration of Taxation as well as the Beijing Local Taxation Bureau notified the Open Constitution Initiative, known in Chinese as Gongmeng (a Beijing-based non-profit group that has taken on citizen’s rights advocacy cases) of their decision to fine Gongmeng 1.42 million yuan, accusing the organization of tax evasion. On July 17, the Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau declared Gongmeng Legal Aid Center illegal and shut it down. On July 24, authorities held a hearing related to Gongmeng’s tax penalties, but Teng Biao, a key member of Gongmeng and a signatory to Charter 08, was barred from attending and confined to his home. On July 29, Xu Zhiyong, founder of Gongmeng, and Zhuang Lu, an accountant at the organization, were taken away by police. According to reports from the BBC and Chinese Human Rights Defenders, Xu Zhiyong was arrested by the Beijing People’s Procuratorate and he is now being detained at the Beijing No. 1 Detention Center.1
While Gongmeng was under attack, Huang Qi, founder of the Sichuan-based Tianwang Human Rights Center (www.64tianwang.com) was subjected to a secret trial on August 5, after being illegally detained for over a year on charges of “illegally obtaining state secrets.”The court failed to reach a verdict after three hours of deliberation. Meanwhile, on August 12, the Chengdu Municipal Intermediate Court heard the case of Tan Zuoren, an environmental activist in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. On the surface, Tan was under investigation for exposing local government corruption that had caused the collapse of school buildings during the Sichuan earthquake in May of 2008. In reality, Tan was monitored and arrested by authorities in Chengdu for his involvement in the “Global Chinese Blood Donation Drive” initiated by Wang Dan to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, as well as for his work in publicizing the potential environmental hazards to the city of Chengdu caused by the construction of a large-scale petrochemical project in Pengzhou, Sichuan. On July 29, Lu Jun, a chief coordinator of the Yirenping Center, a Beijing-based NGO which defends carriers of hepatitis B against discrimination, was under official investigation by the public security bureau for his allegedly “illegal publishing activities.” All of his anti-discrimination-related pamphlets were confiscated.
At the same time, according to Radio Free Asia, the Suqian (Jiangsu Province) Intermediate Court put Guo Quan on trial on August 7. Guo was chairman of the New People’s Party of China and a former associate professor at the Nanjing Normal University. He was arrested on charges of “suspicion of subverting state authority” and had been detained since last November. According to an August 18 report on canyu.org, Mo Zhixu, a Beijing-based writer and a signatory to Charter 08, had learned about the National Day parade rehearsal which was to take place on the early morning of August 19.Authorities immediately monitored his activities and put him under house arrest on August 18. Police warned him not to step out of his house.
Since July, Tecn.cn and fanfou.com, two blogs that constantly featured discussions of democracy and freedom, have been suppressed and shut down. Overseas blogs, twitter, and Facebook have been screened and web users cannot properly surf or read them (even if they can access them sometimes). Overseas media sites, such as Ming Pao, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Apple Daily, and Asiaweek have been completely blocked. Blogs by activist lawyers, artists and writers such as Liu Yuan, Ai Weiwei, Ruan Yunfei, and the writer of this article have been shut down or blocked. The severity of government censorship has far exceeded that of last year, when the Olympic Games were held.
As Beijing started the countdown to the National Day Celebration, authorities there have been emphasizing the importance that “stability trumps other priorities.” According to a Xinhua News Agency story on June 23, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau held a mobilization and pledge meeting attended by more than 3,000 representatives, such as detectives, public security officers and special patrol agents from various law enforcement units. The meeting organizers claimed that “several public security initiatives were unveiled at the pledge and mobilization meeting to safeguard the 60th anniversary celebration in Beijing.”
China News Service reported that June 23marked the start of the 100-day countdown to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. The Beijing Municipal Public Transportation Department reactivated some of the public security measures that were implemented during the Olympic Games. According to the news report, the level of security checks at subway stations had been downgraded from “checking all bags” to “check big bags and sample check smaller ones” after the Olympic Games were over. However, on June 26, a set of new regulations, Management Measures for the Safe Operation of Beijing's Urban Track Transportation issued by the Beijing Mayor Guo Jinlong, became effective. The Measures require that all residents entering the urban transportation system be subject to the “bag check” rule. The government has also boosted security measures at the new No. 4 subway line, which becomes operational in September. Two public security branches have been set up along the No.4 subway line.
Meanwhile, a new type of patrol system, “Model S Electronic Patrol Gear,” has been put into use at 36 public transportation hubs throughout Beijing since the end of May. This type of patrol gear enables security staff to arrange patrol systems scientifically by setting up reasonable patrol routes, patrol intervals and patrol targets. Security officers would also carry the gear to conduct electronic “carding” surveillances. Cai Changjun, an expert on anti-terrorist tactics, adjunct professor at the National Defense University, and professor at the Special Armed Police Academy, was quoted as saying that the political significance of the 60th anniversary celebrations would outweigh the celebratory activities themselves. The celebrations will span a much shorter time than the Olympic Games, but activities such as the review of troops will take place in the open, rather than in closed venues. Therefore, security for the celebrations will be more challenging than that for the Olympic Games.
On August 5, Outlook Weekly reported that Beijing had launched a series of security drills dubbed “Operation Forbidden City.” Police practiced some targeted and simulated anti-terrorism exercises, such as hostage rescue operations, as well as detonation of bomb devices. At the national level, several anti-terrorist exercises, such as the one dubbed “Great Wall No. 6,”were successfully conducted. Guo pointed out that the 60th anniversary celebrations will present an opportunity to review the strengths and preparedness of the security forces in the capital city. During National Day celebrations, Beijing will become a city with the strongest police forces and the highest safety indices. The city would hope to set a new record in public security management. Wang Anshun, deputy Party secretary of Beijing and secretary of the city’s Politics and Law Committee, said to Outlook Weekly: Authorities will apply their successful experience in running the security operations for the Olympic Games to the 60th anniversary celebrations, and improve their current security plan by adding more details. Wang said all types of security measures will be strictly enforced to ensure the ultimate safety of the celebrations.
Yang Huanning, executive vice-minister of Public Security claimed that the celebrations, including the grand troop review ceremony, the evening firework displays, the exhibit to showcase the accomplishment of new China as well as other celebratory activities for residents in the parks, are unprecedented in scale. There will be tremendous challenges in managing a complex system of public transportation. The National Day celebrations will involve a large number of participants, a large number of venues, long and complex routes as well as a wide section of society. There will be no precedent to follow.
At the same time, there has been a marked increase in social risks caused by the current international financial crisis. Maintaining stability has become a complex task. Ensuring the ultimate safety of National Day celebrations will be another important test and arduous challenge for the Beijing government in the post Olympic era. Ma Zhenchuan, director of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau said that the city government has drafted comprehensive plans and scenarios and will conduct all sorts of joint testing and exercises to safeguard the city and to ensure that events go peacefully and successfully. However, so far, none of these plans have been made public. There is no transparency in the decision making process.
On July 15, the Beijing-based Beijing Times reported that police have solved 1,519 criminal cases, arrested 1,095 suspects, and broken up 51 criminal rings in the first ten days of launching “Operation Thunder,” which started on July 1 and was to last 60 days.“Operation Thunder” was a code name for one of the security measures that was implemented before the Olympic Games. The Beijing municipal government reactivated the program this year. As part of “Operation Thunder,” the government started a program in July and August to search and confiscate guns and knives, combat the underworld, eradicate vice, and bring order [to society]. Police had also enhanced its work in investigating and solving some important and politically sensitive criminal cases and stepped up crackdowns on criminal activities related to public order, such as cases involving guns and explosives, murder, kidnapping, robberies, organized crime and serial crimes. The goal was to ensure the overall stable situation of law and order in Beijing and ensure that the rate of criminal cases, especially the eight categories of serious criminal cases including murder and kidnapping, is kept lower than during the Olympic Games last year. Based on an August 7 Singapore United Morning Post report, police in Beijing have begun, starting August 6, a 70-day security check on companies that manufacture hazardous materials. At the same time, police are offering cash rewards of up to 5,000 yuan to residents who can provide tips and report cases involving guns, explosives, knives and other weapons.
Since March this year, the government has started searching and confiscating guns, explosives and other weapons. So far, police have confiscated 176 illegally obtained guns, 300 simulated guns, as well as 1,100 controlled knives. These dangerous weapons will be destroyed. An August 7 report in the Legal Evening News said that police in Beijing claimed they have solved 33,000 criminal cases of all types and have broken up 1,300 criminal rings. At the same time, plainclothes policemen have been patrolling sensitive locations such as Tiananmen Square and areas around Zhongnanhai, using high technology equipment and vast manpower to monitor the venues from all angles to ensure that the review of the troops will go smoothly without any interruptions or sabotage.
On June 18, the Peninsula Morning Post reported: “Public security bureaus, the procuratorial agencies, and the courts, have joined up to punish abnormal and illegal petition activities.”The right to petition, protected by the Chinese constitution and relevant laws, is interpreted by the government as an “abnormal illegal petition activity.” That specifically refers to petitioners who, according to the government, have violated the Regulations on Letters and Visits promulgated by the State Council by showing up in Tiananmen Square, at foreign embassies, offices at different levels of government and at non-designated public venues to express their petitions in different forms as well as to take action endangering public safety and causing disruption of public order. At the moment, Tiananmen Square is under constant high technology surveillance. Based on an August 6 story in the Southern Weekend, Li Xinxin, a petitioner from Anhui Province, was detained by police when she walked around Tiananmen Square on August 4. She was transferred to the Beijing Office of Letters and Visits set up by the Anhui provincial government. At Juyuan Hotel, which serves as a detention center for Anhui petitioners, Li was raped by a guard.
In comparison with the Olympics, the 60th anniversary celebrations carry more political significance. Therefore, public security on National Day could be more challenging. Authorities in Beijing call the proponents of independence for Xinjiang and Tibet as well as those who are discontented with society, “hostile forces within and outside China,” claiming that these hostile forces could create incidents during National Day celebrations. At present, the situation in Xinjiang has been quite unstable. The July 5 riot in Urumqi led to the injuries of 1,700 people and 197 deaths. Reportedly, authorities in Xinjiang had received warnings before the riot, but did not take the warnings seriously and failed to respond with cautionary measures. To prevent similar mishaps, authorities in Beijing have strengthened their police force. Despite the fact that National Day celebrations are shorter than the Olympic Games, most activities, including the review of troops will take place in the open, not in closed venues. Therefore, police will face similar or greater challenges. The public security agencies will safeguard the events at all cost and be accountable to the Party Central Committee.
Even though authorities in Beijing have taken all sorts of measures to safeguard stability, incidents involving citizens fighting for civil rights have not ceased. There have been extensive reports of these incidents in the Chinese and overseas media. For example, the mysterious death of a chef in Shishou, Hunan Province; the killing of a lecherous government official by Deng Yujiao in Badong, Hubei Province; workers at Tonghua Steel and Iron Manufacturing Plant in Jilin Province staged a protest and beat to death the general manager of a private enterprise which had purchased their plant; and in Beijing, local governments set up detention centers at privately owned hotels and a female petitioner from Anhui Province had reportedly been raped. These sensitive cases have caused a grave sense of insecurity for the Chinese government. Under such circumstances, the government has not gone to the source of the problems. Instead, they monitor and punish civil rights activists and petitioners. On the one hand, they crack down on public interest organizations such as Gongmeng and Yirenping, and arrest human rights activists and dissidents to prevent any alliances among intellectuals, petitioners, and grassroot rights advocacy organizations. Whenever there are signs that human rights activists and dissidents are getting involved in any events or programs, the government will be out to suppress them at all cost. On the other hand, local governments collaborate with members of the underworld to imprison petitioners and use all means, including force, to intercept their visits to government offices.
In October 2008, the Communist Party formed a National Day Troop Review Leadership Group. Soon after that, preparations for the 60th anniversary celebrations were under way with great intensity. A key feature of the celebrations will be the ceremony to review the People’s Liberation Army to “showcase new weaponry and intimidate hostile forces.”2 The weapons that have attracted the most attention and are expected to appear at the ceremony include: F10 Chinese fighter jets, new types of tanks, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. At the same time, people are also expected to view tanks, combat vehicles, armored personnel carriers, artillery, various types of missiles, as well as fighter aircraft, ground attack aircraft, bombers and helicopters. On July 6, the Tianjin version of the People’s Daily website quoted a statement by Guo Shijun, director of the Hong Qi (Red Flag) Division at the First Automobile Works. The statement read, “The Red Flag’s HQE vehicle has been designated as the official vehicle for the 2009 National Day troop review ceremony to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC. Our beloved Chairman Hu [Jintao] will ride the vehicle to review troops at this grand 60th anniversary ceremony.”3 The cost for being chosen as the designated vehicle for the ceremony has exceeded 3 million yuan. In December of 2008, Yanhuang Chunqiu (Chronicles of History) magazine, a Communist Party internal publication, carried an editorial which said: “The Grand Review of Armies is a game favored by totalitarian and dictatorial governments. It is a crude practice that does not fit with modern political civilization.”4
However, Chinese authorities refuse to heed the advice and continue to advocate their military might in the name of “peaceful revival.” On January 20, 2009, the BBC reported that Chinese authorities had confirmed the grand review of troops at the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the PRC. New types of weapons will be shown at the ceremony. Cai Huailie, deputy director of Strategic Planning at the Combat Operations Command of the People’s Liberation Army General Staff Department pointed out: the National Day troop review ceremony will be a key component of the grand 60th anniversary celebrations. The main purpose of the troop review ceremony is to showcase the accomplishment in national defense and army construction during the past 30 years of reform and demonstrate China’s determination to maintain peace and stability in the region and the world. Cai also disclosed that the armies involved in the review will encompass land, sea and air forces, the Second Artillery Unit, the armed police, militias and army reserves. Some new types of weaponry will also be displayed.
The troop review ceremony held by this totalitarian government is not paid for by the Communist Party. Neither is it covered by dues collected from the Communist Party members. The government is squandering resources squeezed from the people. Another Yanhuang Chunqiu article criticized the decision by saying that it is not the appropriate time to hold such a grand troop review. “The ceremony, which will consume a huge amount of resources, pursues form rather than substance control of the Central Military Commission. He suggested resuming the troop review ceremony. In 1984, on the 35th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, a grand troop review ceremony was held, the first since the Party’s new decision to resume the practice. Deng Xiaoping, fully dressed in army uniform, reviewed the troops like an emperor. The 2009 troop review ceremony has been hailed by the Party’s propaganda machine as the first one in this new century, or “the 14th grand troop review ceremony in history.” Both Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zeming had reviewed troops after they took power. If Hu Jintao does not follow this tradition, he will not have another chance to review troops during his reign. This is because he cannot afford to wait for another ten years, until the 70th anniversary comes along.
This year is filled with politically sensitive events. In addition to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the PRC, it also marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s defection, the 30th anniversary of the Democracy Wall movement, the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, and the 10th anniversary of the suppression of the Falun Gong movement. At the same time, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. The hatred for the rich and for corrupt officials has flared up like raging fires on a pile of dry grass. Society is being torn by social conflicts and the economic crisis is affecting every citizen. The Hu-Wen administration has not had the guts to cancel the ceremony. Despite the claims that the troop review ceremony will be conducted in a frugal way, it is still a waste of financial resources and manpower. According to an August 5 report by Xinhua News Agency, China spent 300 billion yuan on the Olympic Games last year. The National Day celebration will add another big bill, which the government refuses to disclose.
The author of this article believes that the decision by Zhongnanhai to review troops and “intimidate hostile forces” is not a good idea. It will not add merits to the Hu-Wen New Deal. Recently, the State Council has announced a 4 trillion yuan investment program to generate domestic demand and rejuvenate the economy. Local governments have also invested 18 trillion yuan to correspond with the central government’s move. Neither the central government, nor the local governments, have that much cash in hand. If the IOUs do not get paid, this “dilapidated building” of the Communist Party will continue to rot and end up collapsing. On top of this stimulus investment deal, rampant corruption within the Party and the propensity by government officials, big and small, to waste public resources, will also add to the woe. The 60th anniversary celebrations could trigger large-scale protests among the masses. The so-called “hostile forces” that the Party tries to intimidate are mere imaginary enemies. The real enemy is the Communist Party itself. The systematic corruption will lead to its own decay and collapse.
On October 1, sixty years ago, Mao Zedong, the “founding emperor,” stood on top of the Tiananmen Gate Tower and declared that “The Chinese people have stood up.”The people who had actually stood up were the 70 million Communist Party members. The future fate of the rest of the 1.3 billion people would prove to be tightly controlled by the Party. On the same day 25 years ago, the second generation emperor Deng Xiaoping claimed to have developed the Chinese economy and lifted the Chinese people out of poverty. However, about 90 percent of the billionaires were princelings and their interest groups. On the same day ten years ago, the third generation emperor Jiang Zemin presided over another grand review of troops. He ordered all propaganda machines to exaggerate the country’s strength and its international influence in full force. The reality proved to be the opposite and Jiang ignored the needs of the people. Today, Hu Jintao, the child emperor designated by Deng Xiaoping, will preside over the same grand troop review ceremony, face the same “long live” shouting crowd and watch the same colorful fireworks. Such luxury, such showoff of military prowess, such a way to show to the international community the rise of a major power!
The General Secretary of the Communist Party is not elected by members of the Communist Party. The same is true for the President of China, who is not elected by the citizens of the country. Since it came to power in 1949, the Communist Party monopolized power and rejected democratic rule, rejected the use of referenda and the practices of an independent judiciary and the nationalization of the army. Therefore, the party lacks legitimacy. Judging from the disintegration and collapse of communist parties in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, one can see that the Chinese Communist Party faces a similar power crisis.
Su Xiaohe, a columnist for the Southern Metropolis Daily, pointed out in a blog that China under the Communist rule had become a “republic of accidents.”6 He said: “Our country has been plagued with all sorts of industrial accidents each year. Every now and then, a coalmine collapses. The trains collide when passengers are sound asleep. A game of fireworks sets the skyscrapers on fire. An earthquake topples flimsy school buildings. If we examine this era, we will see that coalminers, whose faces are covered with coal dust, are the first to perish in the coalmines and children attending classes in schools are the first to be buried in debris. When these accidents happen, one after another, we shed tears first and then become outraged. What follows is numbness and forgetfulness. I always wonder why these accidents happen so frequently, one after the other. Each time an accident happens, our reaction stops only at the superficial stage of grief. What puzzles me the most is that, following each accident, the instructions from our senior leaders are spread all over the country. However, the reality is that new accidents arrive in big strides while the previous instructions issued by the senior leaders are still ringing in our ears.”
In such a “republic of accidents,” the leadership not only creates man-made disasters in the economic arena, but even more in the areas of politics and human rights. Before the 60th anniversary grand troop review ceremony, the government has started to persecute rights defenders and dissidents. Their actions will no doubt radicalize reformists and moderates within the system, causing them to lose more confidence in the ruling Party and the government. Fan Yafeng, an expert in constitutional politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes that if a rapid power crisis occurs, the Communist Party should blame itself because of its incorrect strategies.Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, two enlightened leaders, should take full responsibility and act like real statesmen. They should shoulder the historical responsibility of bringing about progress in democracy and the rule of law to China. China should follow the historical trend and march toward a democratic society ruled by law that protects citizens’ rights. This historical trend is irreversible. We hope that the Hu-Wen leadership can seize this historical opportunity, stop the troop review ceremony and stand on the side of democracy. Only by doing this can the Chinese Communist Party overcome the power crisis caused by its lack of legitimacy.
Translated by Wen Huang
1. For more information on Xu Zhiyong, see Human Rights in China, “Gongmeng Officially Shut Down, Founder Formally Arrested,” August 18, 2009, http://www.hrichina.org/public/contents/171865. He was released from detention on August 23, 2009.^
2. “Guoqing yuebing zhanshi xin wuqi weishi didui shili” [国庆阅兵将展示新武器威慑敌对势力], China Youth Daily [中国青年报], June 16, 2009, http://news.ycwb.com/2009-06/13/content_2158862.htm. ^
3. “Zhongguo jiang juxing Guoqing 60 zhou nian yuebing” [中国将举行国庆60周年阅兵], Xinhua News Agency [新华社], January 20, 2009, http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2009-01/20/content_10688814.htm. ^
4. Zhi Xiaomin, Ding Dong, and Zhao Cheng [智效民、丁东及赵诚], “Guoqing yishi chuangxin manbi” [国庆仪式创新漫笔], Yanhuang Chunqiu [炎黄春秋], no. 12, 2008, http://www.yhcqw.com/html/yjy/2008/127/08127184330GGDF3722IFK48J5G76GF59D.html. ^
5. “Guoqing yuebing zhanshi xin wuqi weishi didui shili” [国庆阅兵将展示新武器威慑敌对势力], China Youth Daily [中国青年报], June 16, 2009, http://news.ycwb.com/2009-06/13/content_2158862.htm. ^
6. Su Xiaohe [苏小和], “Ping ‘shigu gongheguo’: gaobie toutong yitou jiaotong yijiao” [评《事故共和国》：告别头痛医头脚痛医脚], Southern Metropolis Daily [南方都市报], March 17, 2009. http://book.ifeng.com/psl/dzsp/200903/0317_3553_1064916.shtml. ^