Biography of Wei Jingsheng


Daring to Voice the Unspoken



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Daring to Voice the Unspoken

In the spectrum of opinions presented on Democracy Wall, Wei Jingsheng's was a distinctive voice. His writing in the original Chinese is pungent and direct, full of the irony and sharpness characteristic of the political humor in which people privately engage. Wei Jingsheng had had enough of prevarication, enough of falsehoods and muddy half-truths and he began voicing sentiments that most Chinese people had not yet allowed themselves consciously even to think. He rejected the mythology of the wise "great leader" and the "great, glorious and correct Communist Party" and instead sought to tell the truth about everything without flinching. As well as democracy and human rights, Wei wrote about political prisoners, juvenile delinquency and the roots of his own disillusionment in his Cultural Revolution experiences during this period. The statement of purpose of Exploration, the unofficial journal Wei founded in January 1979 with a group of like-minded activists who had contacted him through the telephone number he had appended to The Fifth Modernization, read, "Our explorations shall be based on realities in Chinese and world history. In other words, we do not recognize the absolute correctness of any theory from any person. All theories, including current theories and those which may soon ~ emerge, shall be the themes of our discussions as well as tools for analysis." [Garside] Written by Wei, this statement appeared on Democracy Wall on January 9,1979.



Exploration's publication statement described the magazine's guiding principles as " "freedom of speech, publication and association as provided by the Constitution." It stated that "only when the great majority of the powerless and suffering people speak out will it be possible to establish the reasons for [China's] backwardness, as well as the means to overcome it." The journal, Wei wrote, would discuss social problems "without any restrictions." The establishment of formal protest groups and journals of political criticism became a : trend in late December 1978 and early January 1979. Since it was too cold to stand for long at the 0# Wall reading posters, more people could be reached through the printed word and visitors from outside Beijing could take copies home, while activists could venture outside the city to distribute I their work, informal publications became the most popular mode of disseminating ideas. Wei went on one such trip to Tianjin to sell copies of Exploration. But, according to Marie Holzman, he was not so interested in developing an organization around his journal. Since his opinions were radical for the times, the combination of the risk involved in such organizing and the difficulty of finding people who shared his views made him disposed to keep the Exploration group small.

Holzman said Wei also wanted to focus his attention on producing the journal, not on the intragroup discussions and arguments which increasingly absorbed much of the energy of other activists. Besides himself, the initial group was composed of Yang Guang, Lu Lin and Liu Jingsheng.

Producing Exploration took an enormous amount of work. A lot of the production was done at the home of Ping Ni. Quite apart from researching and writing the articles, finding, let alone buying, such things as paper, printing ink, or the wax sheets on which the characters were written and the mimeograph machines on which most Democracy Wall publications were produced was no easy task in the China of the late 1970s. Workers' salaries barely covered basic I necessities of life, and articles like typewriters and mimeograph machines could only be purchased or used with permission. The 50 yuan Wei Jingsheng's girlfriend, Ping Ni, had saved or up for a much-needed blanket was spent on materials for the journal, and Wei sold his bicycle and his watch, as well as other personal possessions, to cover the costs of Exploration. When Wei went to meet the foreign journalists Marie Holzman introduced him to, he asked them to buy Exploration at the relatively high price of 20 yuan, two hundred times the price Chinese subscribers were asked to pay, but for them still only the price of a taxi ride in Beijing. The difference in price, he explained, was because he had no other sources of funds while the foreigners could afford to pay more. Holzman said the only person in the small Beijing press corps who objected to this was Ian Mackenzie, a Reuters correspondent who was eventually responsible for providing the authorities with substantiation for one of the principal charges finally leveled against Wei. Like a number of the Democracy Wall activists, Wei soon developed many friendships among the foreign residents of Beijing, particularly in the overseas press corps. His willingness to associate with foreigners was, needless to say, regarded with deep suspicion by government authorities, who during the xenophobic Cultural Revolution viewed any friendship with a foreigner as grounds for a Chinese citizen to be pilloried as a spy. Wei eagerly inquired about the outside world and the tactics of Soviet dissidents. "He immediately saw the usefulness of getting to know foreigners, especially journalists," Holzman remembered. "Whatever you did on the Democracy Wall, it wouldn't go very far, people saw it and that was that, whereas if you got things printed in the foreign press, then it would go round the world and come back to China."

It is worth remembering that the official Chinese equivalent of Khrushchev's secret speech, the first official criticism of Mao Zedong, came only in 1981 with a Resolution on Party History. Even then, it still found Mao's policies 70 percent correct and only 30 percent erroneous. Despite the arrest of the Gang of Four and the repudiation of the brutality and extremism of the Cultural Revolution, moves towards greater openness were still hesitant and slow, and much criticism remained off-limits. At the time the first posters appeared on Democracy Wall, public criticism of Mao was still oblique, and none of the activities centering around Democracy Wall were reported in the domestic Chinese media. In April 1979, the ability of activists, like Wei, to meet with foreigners ended, when four foreign journalists who had reported extensively on the movement were labeled "international spies" by the Beijing Public Security Bureau.

As Wei's articles had argued, the authorities still would not accept the notion of a loyal opposition. Although Deng Xiaoping had used Democracy Wall for his own purposes in the power struggle with the "Whateverists", he had no intention of legalizing such uncontrolled expression. The first clear sign of this came with the arrest in Beijing of Fu Yuehua, 32, on January 18. Fu had helped organize the ragtag "petitioners" from all over the country who had descended on Beijing after hearing of a change in the political climate seeking resolution of wrongs they had suffered at the hands of local officials. Fu herself had suffered a nervous breakdown after her charge that she was raped by the Party Secretary at her work unit was ignored. On the anniversary ofZhou Enlai's death, January 8, 1979, she had ended up leading a remarkable march through Beijing mostly composed of thousands of "sent down youth" who were protesting the fact that they could not return to their homes in the cities after being sent to work in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. They carried banners saying, "We don't want hunger" and "We want human rights and democracy." Fu was taken from her home in Beijing on January 18, but her detention for "Shelter and Investigation" (a form of "administrative detention" not requiring any criminal charge that is frequently used to detain dissidents) was not officially confirmed until early February.

When her detention became known, Wei prepared a list of questions, and armed with a tape-recorder borrowed from Marie Holzman, went to various local police stations in the city to inquire about Fu's case. "He had the knack to know what had to be done at the time," said Holzman. But such an investigation by a private citizen was an unprecedented action in 1979. The transcript of the interviews, which was published in Exploration, shows Public Security Bureau officials so completely baffled by the audacity of their interrogator, that they did not even think to refuse to answer. Short excerpts from Wei's resulting article, "Is Fu's Detention Legal?" reveal the fearless persistence that characterized Wei's inquiry. "The masses have been told: 'It is not necessary for you to understand the reasons for the detention.' The Xuanwu [District] Police Bureau has said that a so-called 'internal procedure' had been followed [in the Fu case]... Since this procedure is so internal that even a head of a police substation does not know anything about it, what then is the essential difference between applying this procedure to arrest people and wantonly arresting people? Does it mean that one may wantonly arrest people by following an 'internal procedure'? Is this a normal legal procedure? A responsible person by the name of Zhang of the Xuanwu police precinct office announced that Fu Yuehua had committed the crime of disrupting public order. He declined to give an explanation..."

Wei concluded: "Thus we believe the unreasonable arrest ofFu Yuehua carried out by the Xuanwu Police Bureau is a deliberate disruption of the legal system. Higher level judicial organs should attach importance to this serious disruption of the legal system We demand that the Beijing Municipal Court and Procurator ate deal with this case, immediately release Fu Yuehua... and take action against those criminal elements in this incident." [Seymour]

Dissidence: Fraught with Danger

From the very beginning, the police maintained close surveillance over the Democracy Wall activists, and Wei was aware that he could be jeopardizing his life by posting The Fifth Modernization. "It was the common practice," said Marie Holzman, "for poster-writers to stick their work on the Wall late at night, but the police were watching even then."

After his 1993 release, Wei told the Hong Kong paper, Ming Pao, that he had thought at the time of the great risks he was taking by participating in Democracy Wall. Both Wei's father and Ping Ni's had access to the high-level documents in which the movement was severely criticized. High-ranking officials sympathetic to the Democracy Wall activists had shared this information with them. As early as late November 1978, Deng Xiaoping had warned in a speech issued as an internal "Central Document" circulated only to high level officials that criticizing Mao or his successor Hua Guofeng by name was going too far. "The masses have their doubts on

some questions - some utterances are not in the interests of stability and unity," he reportedly said. [Garside] Such reminders of the potential risks of involvement in the democracy movement continued throughout the months Wei participated, but did not deter him. In January, the Beijing Municipal Party Committee's negative assessment of the movement was conveyed to the people of the city. One of the principal criticisms was that activists had colluded with foreigners. "Some foreigners have used money to buy big-character posters," the Party Committee charged. "Some Chinese have asked foreigners for mimeographs, some Chinese have dined in restaurants at the invitation of foreigners, and all this has impaired the state system." [Garside]

Wei Jingsheng impudently asked whether Deng Xiaoping's dining with the Japanese

emperor hadn't also impaired the state system. The poster Exploration put up in response to the . Beijing Party Committee said, "The foreign diplomats and journalists from democratic countries

show by their concern and support for our democratic movement that they are not letting down

their own people. They are promoting relations between countries Their inviting Chinese for ; conversation and meals shows they respect the Chinese people." [Garside]

As barely veiled threats proliferated in the official press later that winter, Democracy Wall journals, including Exploration, argued that their activities represented legitimate exercise of free ; speech in accordance with Article 35 of China's Constitution. They would seek to advocate on ~' behalf of those who were imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression, the journals insisted in a January joint statement. A February 12, 1979, People's Daily commentary warned, "We should impose legal sanctions on some individuals who have ulterior motives in deliberately "creating trouble." Exploration responded with an unsigned piece by Wei entitled "Responsibility for the Trouble," which countered that such "labeling" of people was reminiscent of the tactics of the Gang of Four. "If 'socialist order' is only intended to insure the power of a small number to suppress the people and ignore their demands rather than insure their democratic rights, then there is no point in the people upholding this kind of' order,' because upholding it means upholding -the people's enemy." In one of the first human rights investigations ever conducted in the People's Republic of China, Wei Jingsheng explored how the regime had treated the "enemies" it had unearthed in its ranks in an expose of China's principal prison for high-ranking political prisoners, Qincheng. (Excerpts are reprinted below.) As recently as 1993, Chinese officials have been heard to deny that this jail even existed. As mentioned above, much of the material for Wei's essay, "A Twentieth Century Bastille" (which was published in Exploration) came from the father of Wei's girlfriend, Ping Ni, who had just been released from the maximum security facility. Holzman says Wei completed the research and writing of this path-breaking piece of investigative journalism in one week.

Wei describes the location of the prison, its physical appearance, as well as the sign some distance before the gate which read (in several languages), "Foreigners Not Admitted." The prison did not appear on maps and even many local people had no idea what kind of place it was. Wei gives a detailed account of the daily regimen within, the poor food, various kinds of torture and the use of psychiatric drugs to control uncooperative prisoners. Stories of the incarceration there of various high-ranking CCP officials are also recounted, including Wang Guangmei, wife of former State Chairman Liu Shaoqi; Peng Zhen, the former Beijing Mayor; and Bo Yibo, one-time State Planning Committee Chairman. "It is quite natural for dictators to resort to barbaric measures to govern a country," Wei concluded. "Dictatorship cannot survive unless it has strong methods to suppress the people. Not only must the masses be repressed; the instruments of repression must also be aimed at any opposition in the inner circle. Even towards comrades who once fought at their side, dictators show not a bit of mercy." Such "dictators" clearly included Mao Zedong, but Wei Jingsheng did not exclude Deng Xiaoping from their ranks.

Returning from a triumphal trip to the United States where he had been embraced by human rights champion President Jimmy Carter, Deng was determined to suppress the Democracy Wall movement. On March 16, in a secret speech to senior government officials which quickly became known throughout Beijing, Deng reportedly endorsed a limited crackdown. Three days later, regulations to restrict the movement were issued in the city. "Slogans, posters, books, magazines, photographs, and other materials which oppose socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the leadership of the Communist Party, Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought are formally prohibited." [Garside] Wei .Jingsheng argued with other activists, including Liu Qing, an editor of April Fifth Forum and the convener of the liaison group the various Democracy Wall publications had set up, over his analysis of the turn events were taking. "At a March meeting of the Democracy Wall Liaison Conference," Liu Qing wrote, "Wei Jingsheng said that Deng Xiaoping had called for the suppression of us and our magazines, and he called on all of us to expose Deng's plot before he had the chance to carry it out. As I had no evidence that such a plan existed, I opposed his suggestion in the belief that the survival of the Democracy Wall should come above all else. But Wei Jingsheng insisted that the Exploration group should still act even on its own. Two days later Wei's article criticizing Deng by name- 'Do We Want Democracy or New Autocracy?'-was pasted on Democracy Wall." [Liu Qing] Although Wei did not put his name to the piece, this article (reprinted in full below) is ~. widely thought to have been the principal reason for Wei Jingsheng's arrest, which came on ,. March 29, four days after the piece had appeared in a special edition of Exploration. "Is Deng ~ Xiaoping worthy of the people's trust?" Wei asked. "We hold that the people should not give any

political leader unconditional trust. If he implements policies that benefit the people and if he ;, leads them to peace and prosperity, we will trust him If he implements policies that are .. detrimental to the people, and if he follows a dictatorial road and acts contrary to the interests of r~ the people, the people should oppose him." The people must be vigilant, Wei warned, lest Deng

become a dictator like Mao before him. "Does Deng Xiaoping want democracy? No, he does not. . ... He says that the spontaneous struggle for democratic rights is just an excuse to make trouble,

that it destroys the normal order and must be suppressed," Wei continued. "We believe that normal order does not mean everyone marching in lock-step. Especially in politics, only if different kinds of ideas exist can the situation be called normal." [Seymour]

In criticizing Deng Xiaoping by name, Wei crossed a crucial boundary. Besides , committing the cardinal sin of lese majeste, Wei's criticism questioned the Party's fundamental . commitment to true reform. As he clearly saw, the Party's new line of ending Mao's focus on ~ ceaseless class struggle and of instituting more pragmatic economic policies did not necessarily mean real political change. Deng Xiaoping was attempting to save the CCP, not to transform it. It would take another ten years before a substantial group of top intellectuals, including most of the . luminaries of the current Chinese democracy movement in exile, would come to this same conclusion. It is interesting to note that during this period, many foreign journalists continued to " insist on painting Deng as a secret champion of liberalism, even many years after his suppression of the Democracy Wall movement and his arrest of Wei Jingsheg However, by 1989, Wei's words were echoing strongly in the consciousness of , intellectuals, who had by then despaired of the Party's promises for meaningful political reform.

ICC Thus, when in January 1989, Fang Lizhi, then China's most outspoken advocate of democratization, wrote an open letter calling on Deng Xiaoping to mark the fortieth anniversary of the PRC's founding by releasing Wei and other political prisoners (Wei was the only one mentioned by name), he set off a chain reaction of similar letters and petitions. More than 110 prominent intellectuals in China eventually lent their names, as did a much greater number of Chinese people living overseas. This set off a stream of denunciations of Wei in the official Party controlled press. Wei had become, not only a new symbol of the Chinese democracy movement,

but a living proof of the Party's broken promises. On Trial as an Enemy of the People

"The week before Wei Jingsheng was arrested," wrote his friend Liu Qing, "he was like a

wild animal who hears the hunters moving in, seeing shadows of danger in every comer. Yet he

was very calm, and had a smile of hope for the future on his face. He came to see me often to talk about what we would do if he was arrested. The last time he came, we talked until very late and as I walked him to the night bus, we found ourselves between two vehicles, one in front and one : behind, moving at our walking pace. As he got on the bus, Wei Jingsheng said, laughing, 'So, do

you think I've been imagining things now?'"

It was as if he knew his arrest was inevitable, but yet he still could not quite believe that the authorities would take this step. Liu Qing recalls that Wei thought he would be treated leniently if arrested. With Holzman, however, Wei went so far as to discuss the possibility that if he was tried, he could be executed. He told her, "I am ready to make the sacrifice." This was no idle remark, since at the time when he was arrested, executions of political prisoners were still quite common. Yet he was adamant that his fellow Exploration editors allow him to take full responsibility for their activities, and should even testify against him if this would bring them lighter punishment. In the end, his colleagues Liu Jingsheng and Yang Guang testified against Wei at his trial. Others, not knowing of this pact accused them of having betrayed him.

On March 29 in the middle of the night, twenty or so police officers arrived at Wei's home

and took him away. This began a sweep of arrests which netted most of the movement's most outspoken activists. Ren Wanding, a founder of the China Human Rights League, was arrested a few days after Wei. On April 1, new regulations were published which said posters could only be put up in designated places and posters, journals and demonstrations which went against the Four Basic Principles were henceforth banned. (The Four Basic Principles stipulated support for the socialist road, the leadership of the CCP, Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and were later enshrined in the 1982 Constitution, which also removed rights contained in previous Chinese constitutions, including the right to strike and to put up "big-character posters.") Even the two most moderate publications, Beijing Spring and Masses Reference News, which had consistently supported Deng Xiaoping, were forced to close.

"One of Wei's friends raced to my house a few months after the arrest to tell me that Wei Jingsheng had requested that I act as his defense lawyer," Liu Qing wrote. "At that time, the Criminal Code had not yet come into force. When I requested that a court official inform us of the charges against Wei and the regulations under which he was to be tried, I was told angrily that such a request was 'an insult to the Chinese legal system.' In any event, we were not even told when Wei's trial was to begin."

In the end, when he went on trial on October 16, 1979, on charges of divulging military secrets to a foreigner and of conducting "counterrevolutionary propaganda and incitement" aimed at overthrowing the socialist system, Wei conducted his own defense. The prosecution called him "a lackey of Vietnam" for allegedly passing information about China's "defensive counterattack" to a foreign journalist. "Rule by socialist law is the embodiment of the will of the proletariat and the numerous laboring people. For this reason each citizen's freedom of speech must adhere to the Four Basic Principles," the prosecution argued. "There exists no freedom to violate them but

only the freedom to uphold them If we allow freedom for such a tiny minority as [Wei Jingsheng's] to spread unchecked as it pleases, the larger number of the population run the risk of losing their own freedoms Not only do we refuse to recognize those freedoms which the accused desires, we will even suppress them with the utmost vigor." [SPEARHead] The charge that Wei had passed military secrets to a foreigner was based on a conversation he had on February 20 with Ian Mackenzie, then Reuters correspondent in Beijing. Mackenzie's interpreter, a Chinese-American called Kuo Li, had made a tape of the conversation in which Wei told Mackenzie about China's first moves in the upcoming war against Vietnam, including which generals would be leading the Chinese offensive, how many troops were being mobilized for the attack, and casualty figures during the first days of combat. Acording to Liu Qing, this information had already been circulating widely in Beijing, and was known by most of the Democracy Wall activists. Furthermore, several sources report that Mackenzie actually checked with the Chinese Foreign Ministry before publishing the information Wei Jingsheng had given him to ask if it had any objections. Tellingly, Mackenzie was not expelled or criticized for the reports he filed. Under great pressure, Kuo Li finally handed over the tape of Wei's conversation to the authorities. The tape was a crucial piece of evidence at Wei's trial and has been cited whenever government authorities have sought to defend his imprisonment. After ~ ; intellectuals in China began calling for Wei's release in the spring of 1989, portions of the ~ transcript were even published in Chinese newspapers.

On October 16, Wei appeared in the court wearing prison uniform and with his head shaved. Since verdicts in such cases are always decided in advance, the accused is normally presumed guilty before the trial has even begun. Wei was defiant, and refuted the charges against him point by point in a ringing defense of his ideas and actions. On the first charge of leaking confidential military information, under questioning from the judge Wei said that he had heard the information he had given Mackenzie from many different individuals. His actions could not be considered criminal, he said, conceding that "from the point of view of traditional customs in our country it wasn't really proper to discuss such matters, not at that particular time, at least." "Since it is the duty of all citizens to keep national secrets [according to the Constitution], this presupposes that the citizens know in the first place what the secrets are that they are supposed to keep. That is to say, secrets must be recognizable from the outset as a piece of classified information," Wei argued in his defense statement. "Never once in the period that followed the outbreak of the Sino-Vietnamese War did I come into contact with anything whatsoever marked 3 as a classified secret: Thus, there is no question of furnishing anyone with anything that can be I described as secret In the terms of the legal definition Once the Sino-Vietnamese War broke out, it became a major issue of common concern to both the people of our own nation and those in foreign countries. Thus, inevitably, I couldn't help discussing this aspect of the national situation ~ in my talks with foreign journalists and diplomats during this period." [SPEARHead]

Wel began by arguing that all his writings were revolutionary in the original sense of the word. "The term 'revolutionary' entails following a course of action whereby one moves with the current of

historical development, and strives to remove all that is old and conservative which blocks and

impedes the flow of history," declared Wei. "Revolution is the struggle of new phenomena against old. to attach the label of 'perpetual revolution' to the will and ambition of those currently in power is tantamount to stifling all other diversity of thought." Then he proceeded by asserting that criticism was vital if China's polity was to develop. "Criticism may not be beautiful or pleasant to hear, nor can it always be completely accurate," he continued. "If one insists on criticism being pleasant to hear and demands its absolute accuracy on pain of punishment, this is as good as forbidding criticism and banning reforms altogether."[SPEARHead]

Wei found in the prosecution's charges the very essence of the attitudes that he believed

had enslaved China under the Gang of Four. "Those who forbid the critical treatment of Marxism

are engaged in the very process of transforming Marxism into a religious faith itself," he said,

pointing out that a truly Marxist approach required critical thinking. "Any man has the right to believe and adhere to the theories he holds to be correct, but he should not use legally-binding stipulations to impose on others the theories in which he has faith, since this interferes with the liberties of his fellow men." [SPEARHead]

Finally, Wei claimed that all his activities had been a legitimate exercise of his constitutional right to

freedom of expression. He believed, he said, in a democratic socialism not the "Soviet.-style of dictatorial socialism." However, he insisted that this theoretical , . disagreement dId not mean that he had Intended to overthrow the government, the Party, or .. socialism. "In the cause of our magazine Exploration, we never once joined with any conspiratorial organization nor did we ever take part in the activities of any violent organization, “he said. "Exploration was on sale to the public as a publication designed to explore and probe theoretical problems When people ask us if we were ever prepared to participate in armed struggle, or carry out actions aimed at the overthrow of the government, I have already given a precise answer to such a question. I recognize legitimate propaganda and the democratic movement as the indispensable means to foster democratic government. Only when this has been understood by the majority will democratic government gradually come into being." [SPEARHead]

Since he had refused to plead guilty, the prosecution had called for a "severe" sentence for Wei. There was never any chance, of course, that he would not be convicted as charged. According to Garside, two and a half hours before the trial ended, Xinhua News Agency had already issued a report calling Wei a "counterrevolutionary." "When the members of the hand- picked audience at the 'public trial' came out for their lunch break on the second day of the proceedings," wrote Liu Qing, who was waiting outside the court house along with a number of other Democracy Wall activists, "they were relaxed and smiling. A journalist friend who had a pass - and gave us the tapes from which the transcript of the trial was made - said Wei Jingsheng had made a rousing speech in his own defense. After five o'clock, when they came out again, the mood was completely different. People looked depressed and there was a heavy, dead silence. All refused to answer our questions about the outcome of the trial. Then a shout came from somewhere the sentence was 15 years. We were in shock - no one imagined that the sentence would be so heavy."

The shock was felt not only in Beijing; protests against the sentence were heard around the

world. Andrei Sakharov appealed for Wei in a telegram addressed "with deep respect" to Premier Hua Guofeng: "I ask you to use your influence to review the sentence of Wei Jingsheng, who was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for an open statement in support of the principles of democracy," Sakharov wrote. "Such an act of justice would assist the authority of the PRC and international trust." Democracy Wall activists spoke out vigorously against the sentence. A poster penned by" An Upright Person" pointed out that Marx had written volumes condemning capitalism, yet had failed to topple it, while Wei's oeuvre was minuscule in comparison. "Are the new articles by Wei really more powerful than the works of Marx?" the writer asked. According to evidence presented at Wei's trial, a total of 2,900 copies of Exploration had been sold. And within days, Wei's fellow activists were circulating transcripts of his trial in the capital. April Fifth Forum even had the temerity to publish it in full, which led to the arrest of several people, including Wei's friend Liu Qing.

The Chinese press generally applauded the verdict, and many older dissidents who were

just being rehabilitated as Wei was arrested did not utter so much as a word of protest. Several now express regret about their silence. Former People 's Daily journalist Liu Binyan, now a prominent figure in the dissident movement, has said that at the time he thought Wei's views were too extreme, and so did not feel sympathetic to his plight. One of the few exceptions was Guo Luoji, a philosophy professor at Beijing University who wrote an article which appeared in People's Daily just after Wei was sentenced. The piece, which was entitled "We Should be Able to Discuss Political Questions," did not mention Wei by name, but the object of his criticism was so clear that within a year, Guo had been sent out of Beijing in disgrace. Several sources claim that Wei's arrest, sentence and conditions of imprisonment were decided personally by Deng Xiaoping. Indeed, in early 1987, when advocating a forceful suppression of the student demonstrations which had begun in late 1986, Deng is reported to have said: "We put Wei Jingsheng behind bars, didn't we? Did that damage China's reputation? We ~ haven't released him, but China's image has not been tarnished; in fact our reputation improves

day by day."


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