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June 4 dissident urges China's youth to embrace democracy

2019/05/04 17:13:32

Wang Dan (王丹), a former Chinese student leader turned democracy activist

Taipei, May 4 (CNA) Wang Dan (王丹), one of the most well-known Chinese student leaders in the 1989 pro-democracy protests on Tiananmen Square, has urged China's youth to seek a system that is rooted in Chinese traditions and yet conducive to the development of constitutional democracy on the mainland.

The Beijing-born dissident made the call in a recent interview with CNA ahead of the 100th anniversary of China's May Fourth Movement, which sparked Chinese youth's activism to strengthen and improve their country at a time when it was weak and taken advantage of by foreign powers.

Wang warned that the idea of restoring monarchy is once again on the rise in China, as evident by a move last year by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to revise the constitution to allow himself to remain in power indefinitely.

While reflecting on the May Fourth Movement, the younger generation should take the opportunity to find a system that is rooted in Chinese traditions and conducive to constitutional democracy, he said.

Such a system can serve as the cultural basis for the development of China's democracy and therefore prevent the revival of a monarchy, Wang said.

The May Fourth Movement started with a student-led march in Beijing on May 4, 1919 in protest against foreign powers exerting control over parts of China and the weak Chinese government at the time.

The march sparked nation-wide protests and marked an upsurge in Chinese nationalism and a move towards political activism by ordinary people rather than just intellectual elites.

A century later, concerned that the Communist Party of China was becoming more authoritarian, exiled Chinese dissidents, including Wang himself, launched a new cultural movement in April this year against Xi's ambition to become "the new emperor of China in the 21st century."

During a ceremony held in Beijing Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, Xi described the popular uprising as a show of patriotism and love for the party, while steering clear of the values of democracy and freedom, the core spirit of the movement.

Wang, now 50, said that given the current climate in China, it was not prudent to directly promote the ideas of democracy in the country, so Chinese dissidents, including himself, have been reaching out to Chinese nationals living abroad, especially young immigrants.

Through publicizing articles, conducting interviews, holding seminars and posting on social media, overseas dissidents try to guide the discussion of democracy-related topics with young overseas Chinese, he said.

Wang said he believes that although Chinese youth have a remote memory of the 1989 student-led demonstration demanding democratic reforms and subsequent violent crackdown on protesters on June 4, they have their own dissatisfaction against the government.

This was especially so after Xi revised the constitution and tried to become the emperor, Wang said, adding that many young people were shocked and dissatisfied with the development.

Wang said that if the authorities allowed certain room for people to express their opinion, the intensity of resistance to the government would be lower.

However, he said, the Communist Party of China (CPC) was now seeking to eliminate all resistance, which was adverse to the party as that could cause dissent to become extreme.

As Chinese young people are not allowed to express their dissatisfaction, they will explode with discontent if the current situation in China changes, Wang said.

Wang said the CPC may be aware of these issues, but it believes it has no choice but to tighten control over its people, otherwise, the idea of social liberalization will become popular.

At the same time, China is facing a decline in economic growth, he said.

Therefore, there will be more and more contradictions within the CPC and the society, coupled with the constant occurrence of social unrests, which could mean a new political scene might emerge, Wang said, without elaborating.

(By Miao Zong-han and Chung Yu-chen)