人民网北京5月7日电 （记者 崔东）2011年5月6日，英国《经济学家》读者来信版刊登了中国驻英国大使馆驳斥4月16日该刊有关艾未未评论的信函大部分内容。信函全文如下：
SIR – Your criticisms of China in the Ai Weiwei case were unwarranted, show a disrespect for our judicial sovereignty and are an attempt to interfere with our internal affairs (“China’s crackdown”, April 16th). Mr Ai, an artist, has made his comments before, through Twitter and interviews given to Western journalists, and he has travelled abroad to hold exhibitions. These activities were not restricted. Mr Ai is now under investigation for suspected economic crimes. The case is not a human-rights matter nor is it about freedom of speech, but rather it is a question of whether the rule of law should be upheld.
China is ruled by law, not by man; it is not a case of rule by a few. Over the past 30 years of reform China has achieved a great deal, not just in becoming the second-largest economy and improving the living standards of its people, but also in terms of much greater freedoms. Some people in the West assert that China only wants economic reform and not political reform. This is not true either in theory or in practice.
Progress has been made in building democracy and the rule of law. The people’s congress system and multiparty consultation and co-operation under the Communist Party now play a greater role. Democratic decision-making within the party has been strengthened and lifelong tenure of leadership positions has been abolished.
The rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens are protected by law. Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of movement and migration, free choice of employment and freedom to study overseas. They can express their views through multiple channels: China has 450m internet users and the number of religious believers exceeds 100m. The path of development a country follows depends on the circumstances of that country and should be decided by its people. China’s development has worked well and will continue despite many challenges. The attempt to create instability in China will not be supported by the Chinese people.
The differences between China and the West on democracy and human rights should be addressed through dialogue based on equality and respect. People who attack China should ask themselves just who it is that is cracking down on others, and who is creating confrontation.
China’s repressive new rulers
The vindictiveness of China’s rulers betrays their nervousness
Apr 14th 2011 | from the print edition
LIKE so much else under Heaven, repression in China has often seemed to go in cycles. Every now and then it has suited the country’s leaders to relax their steely grip on the country and allow a modicum of political liberty.
Freer criticism in the media has helped give the party a veneer of credibility. Lip-service to the law and due process has won plaudits overseas and boosted the economy at home. So a thaw would set in for a while, a “Beijing spring”. A freeze would always follow. But, until lately, in each new cycle the springs were seeming warmer and the freezes not quite so harsh. When the country was starting to liberalise, Westerners justified doing business with China on just such grounds. More economic openness would surely lead to more openness of other kinds.
The latest freeze casts this widespread hope into doubt, for three reasons. The first is the scale of the crackdown. Ai Weiwei, China’s best-known artist and dissident, who was detained at Beijing airport on April 3rd, is only the most notable figure to be caught by it. Calls on the internet for a “jasmine revolution” have prompted armed police and plain-clothes goons to descend in huge numbers on public places
Baby, it’s cold outside
Dozens have been detained and now face criminal charges in relation to these inchoate calls. Others have faced different kinds of harassment, including beatings and house arrest. But the freeze runs deeper. Since February some of the country’s top defence lawyers have vanished. Activists for villagers’ rights and the environment have faced repression. Bloggers have been rounded up. Members of a big underground (ie, non-state) church in Beijing, stopped from meeting in their usual building, were arrested as they tried to worship outside.
A second reason for doubt is the duration of the crackdown. With hindsight, it began after Tibetan riots in 2008 drew a harsh response. Since then, two events, the Beijing Olympics later that year and the Shanghai World Expo of 2010, might have served as coming-out parties for a rising China. They offered the regime the chance to show the world a more confident face. Yet both were accompanied by harsh treatment of anyone deemed likely to embarrass the government. Tens of thousands of unwashed migrant workers were forced out of Beijing for lowering the tone. Outspoken activists were kept out of sight.
Even natural disasters have triggered repression. Mr Ai’s first serious run-in with the authorities came when he attempted to account for all the schoolchildren killed during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, many as a result of corrupt building practices. Taking in all its manifestations, which include tightened internet censorship and a stifling of public debate, the latest crackdown on political dissent certainly constitutes the worst since Tiananmen Square in 1989 and its aftermath.
A third reason to doubt the notion of gradual warming lies in the method of repression. Even the post-Tiananmen crackdown had a semblance of due process. Now such pretence is out of the window. People are picked up under arbitrary detention rules and then made to disappear. Mr Ai has not been heard of since being bundled away. Violence is part of the mix. Mr Ai needed brain surgery in 2009 after being beaten up by goons. Foreign journalists are being harassed on a scale unseen since Tiananmen Square. Vaguely defined “state security” is used as a reason to round people up. For perceived “troublemakers” such as Mr Ai, the government says, “no law can protect them.”
Western observers tend to describe the crackdown as a massive overreaction to perceived threats, but it may well be that China’s rulers know better. True, no seething mass stands ready to overthrow the regime. But in a vast country, many aggrieved people, from dispossessed villagers through unemployed graduates to angry bloggers, resent the state. The government is quite capable of handling each of these groups separately. But were those with grievances ever to coalesce, especially if the growth slows—as it will sooner rather than later (see article)—they would represent a potent force.
The view from Beijing, thus, is different to the view from abroad. Whereas the outside world regards China’s rulers as all-powerful, the rulers themselves detect threats at every turn. The roots of this repression lie not in the leaders’ overweening confidence but in their nervousness. Their response to threats is to threaten others.
Imminent political change may also play a part. Next year a crucial party congress will anoint a new generation of leaders, led by Xi Jinping, now the country’s vice-president, to take over the running of the country. Repression is the job of China’s powerful “security state”—the regular and secret police. Sensing rudderlessness at the top, it may be particularly inclined to flex its muscles now.
The fear of hanging separately
Many of China’s new leaders come from the “princeling” class, an aristocracy of families with revolutionary credentials from the days of Mao Zedong (see article). Some have lucrative positions which give them a financial interest in tighter party control over both the economy and society. Others use their ideological pedigrees to advocate a neo-Maoist approach, which includes scant regard for the law. There is plenty of resentment within the system at the growing power of this aristocracy, and repression can be used to defang opposition. A nastier China is the result.
In the short term at least, these troubling developments undermine the comforting idea that economic openness necessarily leads to the political sort. All the more reason, then, for the West to hold China to account. America and the European Union are right strongly to condemn Mr Ai’s detention, though it would have been better had they taken a stand sooner. Speaking out might just help constrain the regime’s behaviour. It will certainly give succour to those in China working bravely to create a better future.