Wei Jingsheng Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

The Political Education of a Chinese Dissident: Conversation with Wei Jingsheng, Human Rights Activist; 11/18/98 by Harry Kreisler
Photo by Jane Scherr

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China and the Future of Democracy

How will democracy come to China?

I think there are two reasons. Democracy is most suitable to human nature, and it's the most acceptible, humane system for all people. So, sooner or later, it will take root in China. The other way, is that right now, about 99 percent of Chinese want a democratic system or a form of democratic system. So what's left for us to do is to organize people and demand a more democratic system. Wei Jingsheng at Berkeley, November 1998 Then it will appear very quickly in China.

Should foreign governments pressure the Chinese government to move toward democracy?

Yes, actually I think that's the only way that the communist government will release its power. Negotiating with very powerful rulers does not work; you have to force them to relinquish their control. No matter whether it comes from the Chinese people or from foreign governments, we have to put tremendous pressure on the Chinese government.

Does the United States have a special role in this process?

I believe the United States is the most important country in the world. If the U.S. isn't willing to put pressure on the communist government, then half of the pressure is off the Communist Party. So the United States' stance is extremely important. Moreover, the U.S. government should put pressure on the communists to pay attention to how they use their power; this kind of approach is in line with U.S. interests and also U.S. business interests in China.

Now that you've been in the United States for a while, do you have a different view of what makes U.S. foreign policy work for democracy in China?

Foremost is America's attitude. The White House, at least in the past year, has had the wrong attitude, which has only made the Communist Party more relaxed and under less pressure. This year, China's human rights record has worsened very rapidly. Just three days ago, they arrested and deported a foreign journalist for no other reason than that his contact with my family was deemed too close and too frequent. Wei Jingsheng So they forced him to leave the country. It is Clinton's relaxed, weak stance that has caused harm to the U.S. media and major newspapers. Also, large news organizations that want to hold international meetings in China are being refused entry into China by the communist government.

But, practically, Clinton's attitude has also hurt Americans' freedom of speech and Americans' interests. So, this is no longer just an issue of China's human rights; it's also about Americans' rights in China and thus should be of great concern to all people. Also, Chinese in America have suffered intimidation and censure. I feel these problems are no longer one certain country's problems, but are of international human concern. For example, even here at Berkeley, the Chinese Students' Association was going to arrange a meeting and invited me to speak. However, because the Chinese Consulate put pressure on them, they could not hold the meeting. This is how Chinese control has penetrated into America's internal affairs, without your even noticing.

Do you think that we Americans are too obsessed with the potential of the Chinese market and forget the relationship between the market and democracy that you so vividly described in "The Fifth Modernization"?

Well, first of all, the problem is that Americans have always believed wrongly that there is an enormous, attractive market in China. This is a lie created by American businessmen to deceive the American people. Why did they do this? Deng Xiaoping once said, "Let's let all the Western capitalists come and invest in China. Once they've invested, they'll have to side with us." But behind this was something he didn't say: "If they don't side with us, we can always confiscate their property." This represented the biggest threat to these capitalists.

What do you think the Chinese government fears the most?

What the communists fear most is the Chinese people's understanding where their interests are and where their power lies. Once the people understand this and unite, the government won't be able to oppress them.

Next page: Conclusion

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