China Media Project Fellow Zhang Ming argues that China must learn to live with “extreme ideas”:
“Extreme” or “radical” ideas are actually things you can’t put your finger on. First of all, there is no set standard for deciding what is “extreme.” And secondly, no one can agree on exactly who gets to set that standard.
Having extreme or radical ideas is not a crime under the law. And if there is an insistence on assigning guilt on this account, other excuses must be found. In any age, a student branded as extreme or radical might suffer some form of punishment. But this punishment has no basis in the law, and can only arise when those offices wielding power become the law, using regulations as a pretext to settle scores and persecute others. This is the kind of thing we can readily see in the recollections of those who lived through the student movements of the Kuomintang era. In those years, many such evils were perpetrated by student spies and the dean’s offices of our schools ….
The comedy and the tragedy of history lies in its tendency to repeat itself. Just as sad and comical is the way we have always gone to extremes in dealing with the extreme and the radical. Only when we as a nation emerge from this morass will we truly find hope. Otherwise, we will only cower in fear, generation after generation, spinning in place.
See also Peking University’s recent proposal to offer consultations to students harbouring “radical thoughts”. The story prompted a directive from the State Council Information Office requesting that it be suppressed.