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January 30, 2008



"Ten years ago, you could argue that this just wasn't going to happen and that any democratic transition was going to bring peace and happiness forever."

Sometimes in having these dicussion, I feel like we are not even talking the same language.

It seems to me that some people associate "DEMOCRACY" as meaning a "rejection of Communism".

That is not what democracy is. Democracy is about the power in the people.

China is already a democracy. There is no need for any "Democratic" transition. The communists toppling of KMT was a democratic movement. It had the support of the people.

Read Article 2 of China's constitution. It clearly states that all powers belong to the people.

Read the constitution further and you will find that ANYBODY in China can run for office, and can vote in elections.

Read the news about China and you will find that China holds nationwide elections every 5 years.

What more criteria must China still fulfill before it can be conferred a "Democracy"?? How else must the constitution be amended before it can be called a "Democracy" in your definition? That the Communism Party must first collapse?


Ok - a lot here to talk about & not much time to write about it.

The govt. absolutely fears the people. I saw security cameras in little used alley's everywhere.
Tiananmen Square - get real. It was not genocide, but it was not a love-in either. A close friend of mine saw maybe 10-15 bodies after the shootings.
There are over 20,000 people employed to censor the internet. And yes, I WAS Censored during my recent visit.
I would also like to add this for thought - China is more capitalistic than America will eve be, and America is more Socialistic than China ever will be. For example, where is Social Security? Medicaid? etc. If you are lucky you either retired from the state, or you bribed someone to get state retirement. Corruption is an institution upon itself in China. If you are poor and dieing in the streets of Shanghai - no one cares - just don't do it near the malls or close to the Bund.


Just another note - the person who did not know whom paid for their apartment... hmmm... state agent??? seen those trolling on the net. They seem to have learned a lot from their favorite hero - Bill Gates. F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt). As the write know.. You can either rent a nice house - cheaply, or buy one.. (Expensive). But - it is the FAMILY and EXTENDED family who help with the purchase. Also - if they where renting the house - the Govt. absolutely would not throw them out - kind of hard to be under house arrest if you don’t have a house? The owner (person renting/leasing) the house would avoid the situation – who wants to get involved with the police?


mahathir_fan: You've got to be kidding me. Not even the Chinese agree with you on this one. The Chinese constitution says a lot of things, including the freedom of speech, but do you see that being upheld? No. It is a document that sounds great and promises plenty but it isn't reality...by far.

Nationwide elections? Are you kidding me? Do you really think Hu Jintao was elected by the Chinese people?

Be that it may that the Communist Party took over China from the Republicans over 50 years ago due to sufficient popular support (or sufficient popular dissatisfaction with the Republicans), I fully grant that as some measure of the people's will. However, if you think that event in of itself or some nonsense written on a piece of paper that is never realized makes China a DEMOCRACY, then you're clearly out of your mind. Either you don't really understand the definition (much less the connotations) of "democracy" or you don't know squat about China. I didn't want to sound offensive but given how self-assured you came across to me, I reckon it is a combination of the two.

Rebecca MacKinnon

MF hangs out here quite a lot for some reason. He must be taking some really great drugs, or something.


About the Chinese constitution and laws, the Chinese government I think generally does a very good job of following the PRC constitution and the laws on the books. The trouble is that you have to read the fine print. For example Article 35 states that citizens have freedom of speech, but Article 51 states that citizens can not use their rights to threaten state interests.

However I think even with the compromises, the Chinese legal structure is a good thing because:

1) They provide some protections. For example, the police are harrassing Hu Jia's family under the provisions of the Criminal Procedures Law. They might want to detain his wife and kid in jail, but they can't because the law won't let them.

2) They also establish some norms. For example, in areas of freedom of speech, the Chinese government can argue that people are being detailed under the provisions of Chinese law on charges of subversion of public order and the socialist system. If you read the law, that's what the law says. Fine.

However there are areas of law in which the actions of local officials *are* clearly illegal (corruption, torture and extrajudicial detention), and in those areas you can actually have some cooperation with the Communist Party to enforce the law. If the Party doesn't like the law, it can change it, so if the law says no torture, that's an order from the Emperor and you can use that fact to your advantage.

A legal strategy however requires knowledge of the law, and the ability to figure out what fights you are likely to win and those that are a waste of time and energy that could be better spend elsewhere.


I know it seems like the "Chinese government is shooting themselves in the foot by behaving this way," and many informed observers would agree with this.

But just to point out an alternative way of seeing, one that the Chinese party-state seems to favor: 杀一儆百 -- Execute one as a warning to one hundred.

As becomes clear from closely following the Hu Jia case, this is the strategy Beijing chose, and I think that at this point it is quite impossible to assess which strategy, in terms of desired outcome(creating "harmony" through silencing dissent), is the "more successful" one.

Much depends on the scale of national and international, online and offline, reactions, and if those reactions die down soon (which, in a world ruled by 60-second sound-byte type attention spans, seems likely), then I think the Chinese government is not quite as stupid as it appears.


"The Chinese constitution says a lot of things, including the freedom of speech, but do you see that being upheld? No."

Yes, except in cases where speech is used for the purpose of unlawful overthrowing the government. Freedom of speech is not protected in this case, in accordance with Article 1 of the constitution. This is normal practice in any country including the US.

The US constitution also says a lot of things, including freedom of speech. Do you see that being upheld in cases when used to overthrow the government? No. See Gitlow vs New York:

Gitlow v. New York was also important for defining the scope of the First Amendment's protection of free speech following the period of the "Red Scare," in which Communists and Socialist Party members were routinely convicted for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and Sedition Act of 1918. Gitlow, a Socialist, had been convicted of criminal anarchy after publishing a "Left Wing Manifesto." The Court upheld his conviction on the basis that the government may suppress or punish speech when it directly advocates the unlawful overthrowing of the government.


There is a sort of attitude I've seen among human rights activists about how stupid and short-sighted the Chinese government is, but if they are so stupid and short-sighted, how come they are still in power?

The cynic in me thinks that the Chinese government is tossing all of the dissidents it can in jail now, so that they will be in jail and hence invisible during the Olympics.

Day one of the Olympics, New York Times writes an article about all of the dissidents in jail, but because they are in jail, you don't have a human face. Day two. dissidents are still in jail. Day three. The dissidents are *still* in jail. Day four, the dissidents are *still* in jail. Ho hum.... No pictures. No front page story.

By contrast if you have them roaming the streets, they'll start some demonstration and you'll get some really nice and dramatic pictures of the police carting someone away "FREE HU JIA!!!!!" By contrast if you have a thousand people in jail, they are all statistics and you don't get nice pictures, and you might not even get an article since you talked about that three months ago.

One of the things that I think that the Communist Party unfortunately learned from the color revolutions is that governments that let people demonstrate soon found themselves looking at situations that they could not control, whereas government that stomped on small demonstrations hard, tended to stay in power. Recent events in Pakistan and Burma seem to confirm this.

Being cynical, Let me propose a scenario. The Chinese government goes through and figures out how might be a real embarassment to the regime now, and tosses them in jail. During the Olympics there will be demonstrations by all sorts of people who really don't have that much following, and the government will let those go in order to show "tolerance." Then after the Olympics all of the dissidents that got picked up in get released, so you suddenly have these nice stories about how liberal the Chinese government has become.

One thing I find really interesting.....

Under Articles 124, 126, 127, and 138 of the Criminal Procedure Law, Chinese prosecutors at the provincial level can keep someone in detention for eight and a half months before they are required to bring the defendant before a judge for trial.

So if someone was detained recently, that keeps them out of circulation until after the Olympics. Which explains the flurry of recent detentions, the police are couldn't detain people earlier without being forced to release them before the Olympics, and Chinese judges have actually been from time to time impartial and independent.

So if this is what is going on, it means that the police are doing what they are doing because of legal restrictions and that most everyone detained will be out after the Olympics.

Glass half empty. Glass half full.


"Nationwide elections? Are you kidding me? Do you really think Hu Jintao was elected by the Chinese people?"

I hope you can do some google before asking this question becuase I seem to have to repeat this many times.

Elections are held every 5 years in China. Google or check the CIA world fact book for confirmation.

Hu Jin Tao is not elected by the Chinese people for a good reason. According to the constitution, the President subordinates to the National People Congress. The NPC have complete control over the President, can recall the President, sack him, etc. etc. at any time. Therefore it is the NPC that elects him to his post, not the people. In other works, he works for the NPC, and only indirectly for the people. The NPC in turn works for the people.

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