Monday, October 11, 2010

The next step for China’s democracy

For the last two days, I was in ecstasy. The Nobel peace prize was awarded to a Chinese dissident in jail. The hard struggle for democracy in China is finally recognized by the outside world. This tells remarkable power of information, of persistent fight for an ideal and of good-hearted people around the world who step up and support each other. I was also very happy with the positive response from people inside China, where joyful words and excitement can be felt in every place that is allowed. The Chinese people identified with student movement during Tiananmen Square protest and they are proud that Liu receives this internationally recognized prize.

However, today I get sobered. I observed that new blogs on Chinese websites regarding Nobel peace prize were taken down after a short time. I noticed that all major newspaper and websites are still silent on this issue. Liu Xiaobo’s wife is under house arrest, and several people who celebrated this event were detained for up to 8 days. There is no due legal process. There is no freedom of expression. There is only wanton police force and repression. The government essentially controls all media outlet including all websites, and all the links to outside world. How can any change happen? How can a democratic movement take shape in this harsh environment?

A successful democratic movement requires a party, or at least a strong organization. In South Africa, it was the National Party that led the charge against the existing system. In Poland, it was the Union. Without a strong organization, all the social forces are scattered around and efforts are dissipated. Today, China does not have a strong opposition party or organization. Liu Xiaobo was able to collect only 303 signatures for Charter 08. In addition, those who signed this document are intellectuals: writers, lawyers or educators. They are not real political organizers. A movement needs energetic mass and people who devotes to ground-level work to organize people together. We need also young people and passionate advocates to join this force.

The communist party, with its vast network and control of social resources, is a formidable power in China. However, they are also very fragile. Public opinion, if allowed to express on the web, can turn around a verdict, or even force the ousting of local officials. The internet has thus become a battleground for public opinion and basic facts. Given that the Chinese government is moving on the direction for a small portion of population against majority of people, it has to resort to lies and repression to maintain the governance. Thus the government will maintain tight control on the Internet, the cell phone network, or anything that disseminates information to the mass.

The battle of information will continue. The breakthrough for the democratic movement will come when the information can no longer be blockaded by the government, and truth can reach people in a short time.

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