Friday, June 02, 2017

The Lecturing State: Congressional-Executive Commission on China Statement on the 28th Anniversary of the Events of 1989

 The Congressional-Executive Commission on China was created by the U.S. Congress in 2000 "with the legislative mandate to monitor human rights and the development of the rule of law in China, and to submit an annual report to the President and the Congress. The Commission consists of nine Senators, nine Members of the House of Representatives, and five senior Administration officials appointed by the President." (CECC About). The CECC FAQs provide useful information about the CECC. See CECC Frequently Asked Questions. They have developed positions on a number of issues: Access to Justice; Civil Society;Commercial Rule of Law; Criminal Justice; Developments in Hong Kong and Macau ; The Environment ; Ethnic Minority Rights;Freedom of Expression; Freedom of Religion ; Freedom of Residence and Movement ; Human Trafficking ; Institutions of Democratic Governance ; North Korean Refugees in China; Population Planning ; Public Health ; Status of Women ; Tibet ; Worker Rights ; and Xinjiang.

CECC tends to serve as an excellent barometer of the thinking of political and academic elites in the United States about issues touching on China and the official American line developed in connection with those issues. As such it is an important source of information about the way official and academic sectors think about China. As one can imagine, many of the positions of the CECC are critical of current Chinese policies and institutions (see, e.g., here, here, here here, here, here, here here, and here).

Since 1989, June has always been a propitious month for U.S. efforts to seek advantage over China in their mutual competition for authority and influence in global markets for law, culture, politics and economics. Just as the Chinese have tended to use the endlessly unresolved issues around the Japanese occupation of China through the end of the Second World War as objects of statecraft against Japanese influence in Asia and to further Chinese interests in the region, so the United States can use the events of 1989 against Chinese ambitions abroad and to inject American views of global consensus into China.  The weapon of choice in both instances is the public lecture--projected broadly to mass audiences internally and abroad. Both the Chinese and the Americans have become quite good at this craft.

It is always interesting to watch states lecture each other.  The impulse is usually driven by three distinct objectives. The first is to play to internal constituencies.  The second is to play to an international audience. The third, and perhaps least functionally important, is to actually engage in effective communication with the state to which the lecture is directed.  The first is meant to serve as a self referencing confirmation of the legitimacy of internal political ideology applied outward. The second is meant to project that internal ideology outward as a means of forming global factions to augment leverage.  And the third is meant to project now more or less internationalized standards into the target state. All states engage in this cross border lecturing.  Indeed, in an age of mass democracy ideology and the critical role of popular or mass mobilization (what elites now fear as populism in Western democratic states), such lecturing is as critical element of statecraft, and of multilateral action.  Its value, of course, lies in the ability of those who use it to mask its character and to manage opinion in the desired direction.

It is with this in mind that one might read the annual remembrance by the CECC of the events that occurred in and around China that culminated in 1989. Whatever one's views on the matter, the CECC's statement provides an important window on U.S. policy approaches as well as providing a means to gauge the effectiveness of this approach to advance U.S. interests internally and abroad. To that end--the focus on transparency as a principle of governance is most interesting, especially as it is then embedded in specific American objectives.

CECC Marks 28th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre
with Bipartisan Congressional Letter To Chinese President Xi Jinping

CECC Commissioners Say Transparency About 1989 Events a “Vital Concern”
for Those Seeking More Productive U.S.-China Relations

Press Contact:  Scott Flipse (202) 226-3777

June 1, 2017

(Washington, DC)—A bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to lift restrictions on public discussion of the Tiananmen protests and their violent suppression and to release individuals detained for commemorating the June 4 anniversary and human rights lawyers detained in the “709” crackdown. 

In the letter, Commissioners expressed their belief that “greater transparency, adherence to international standards, and the development of the rule of law are the keys to advancing a range of mutual bilateral interests from fighting corruption to building investor confidence, from ensuring cybersecurity to maintaining stability and security in the Pacific…an honest accounting of the events of 1989 will reap domestic and global benefits for the Chinese government and the Chinese people.”  Signed letter can be viewed here. Text of letter below.

Joining Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith, respectively the CECC’s Chair and Cochair, in signing the letter were Commissioners Senators Jeff Merkley and Tom Cotton and Representatives Timothy Walz, Robert Pittenger, Randy Hultgren, and Marcy Kaptur.   

The Commissioners also said in the letter that they were “gravely troubled” by the nationwide campaign targeting Chinese human rights lawyers and rights advocates that started in July 2015 and asked the Chinese President to unconditionally release those still detained and investigate reports of torture, including the forced ingestion of “unknown substances with adverse psychological and physical effects.” 

Among others, the Commissioners urged the release of Tang Jingling, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, Wu Gan, Guo Feixiong (Yang Maodong) and Su Changlan.  These, and other prisoners of conscience cases, are featured as part of the CECC’s #FreeChinasHeroes initiative.

CECC Releases New Analysis on the Suppression of Wukan Village Protests: The analysis concludes that official corruption and lack of effective redress mechanisms lay at the heart of the protests in Wukan, China’s “Democracy Village” in Guangdong province, and the location of repeated demonstrations over government land grabs since 2011. Chinese officials’ suppression of Wukan village in 2016 has dampened observers’ previous hopes for grassroots democratic reforms and legitimate public participation in China.   

Text of the Commissioner’s Letter:

June 1, 2017

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China

Dear President Xi:

We write as members of the bipartisan U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) on the 28th anniversary of the violent suppression of nationwide demonstrations in support of democratic reform in China that took place in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and other cities in China in the spring of 1989.  

We solemnly commemorate the Tiananmen massacre each year in the U.S. Congress because of the lives lost and persons permanently injured, because of the profound impact the event has had on U.S.-China relations, because so many former student leaders have made important and lasting contributions to global understanding of China, and because the Chinese people themselves are unable to mark this event.

The ongoing prohibition of public and online discussion of what transpired in the spring and summer of 1989 has done more to negatively shape global perceptions of the Chinese government than anything else in your country’s recent history.  Open information about the Tiananmen massacre and its aftermath is crucial for Chinese citizens, and is a vital concern to those of us seeking more productive U.S.-China relations. 

We respectively ask that your government allow uncensored, public discussions of the Tiananmen protests and to end retaliation against those, like the Tiananmen Mothers, seeking information about family members who died or disappeared on or after June 3 and 4, 1989.

We remain concerned about those who are imprisoned, detained, or held under other types of official restrictions in connection with their attempts to commemorate the Tiananmen protests, including Yu Shiwen who took part in the protests in 1989 and is now reportedly in poor health due to a stroke he had in detention, and others such as Tang Jingling, Chen Yunfei, Chen Xi (Chen Youcai), Liu Shaoming, Xu Zhiqiang (Sheng Guan), and Yuan Xinting (Yuan Chaoyang).  We have been seeking the release of these individuals for the past three years, and we respectfully ask that they be unconditionally released to demonstrate your government’s commitment to transparency about the history of the Tiananmen protests.  We also urge the release of Fu Hailu, Luo Fuyu, Zhang Juanyong, and Chen Bing, who were detained in 2016 in connection with the production of satirical liquor bottles meant to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen protests.  

We are also gravely troubled by the sweeping, nationwide campaign—the “709 Crackdown”—that targeted Chinese rights lawyers and rights advocates starting on July 9, 2015.  The reports of torture in detention, forced disappearances, and public confessions are particularly troubling as are the intimidation and illegal detentions faced by family members.  We ask that Jiang Tianyong, Wang Quanzhang, Zhou Shifeng, Gou Hongguo (Ge Ping), Zhai Yanmin, and Wu Gan be unconditionally released and that you investigate reports of torture, particularly reports indicating that those detained were forced to ingest large amounts of unknown substances with adverse psychological and physical effects. The ongoing campaign to imprison, torture, and disbar human rights lawyers undermines your public commitments to develop the rule of law in China. Moreover, we urge you to release Guo Feixiong (Yang Maodong), Hu Shigen, Xie Wenfei, Su Changlan, Huang Qi, Liu Feiyue, and others detained or imprisoned for their rights advocacy. 

We make the above requests respectfully in the spirit of improving U.S.-China relations.  We firmly believe that greater transparency, adherence to international standards, and the development of the rule of law are the keys to advancing a range of mutual bilateral interests from fighting corruption to building investor confidence, from ensuring cybersecurity to maintaining stability and security in the Pacific. We believe an honest accounting of the events of 1989 will reap domestic and global benefits for the Chinese government and the Chinese people.

We thank you for considering our request.

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