Wang Xizhe is an active US-based Chinese dissident who’s spent many years in opposition to the Communist government. He is co-chairman and founder of the China Democracy Party. Wang is rarely mentioned in the English press in the West, although he’s very well known in the Chinese community. Many believe this is because he’s allegedly refused to accept financing from American and Taiwanese “sources”, in contrast to other more famous dissidents (at least to the West) like Wang Dan, Wei Jingsheng, Yang Jianli accused of doing precisely that.
Wang Xizhe continues to publish regularly, including this essay issued a few days ago, in which he criticizes Hong Kong pro-democracy activists who protested the Olympic torch.
The original Chinese version can be found here. It is a follow-on to an earlier essay in which he called on Hong Kong democracy activists to not protest the Olympic Torch.
This year’s 64 candle light vigil: a test for the Alliance – Wang Xizhe
Politicians, political movements and “opposition figures” are very different things. Some people can never distinguish between the two clearly.
“Opposition figures” only needs to be responsible to their positions and ideas. Who cares if there are ten million people who stand against me, even if I’m the only person who holds this opinion, I’m still willing to stand out and loudly proclaim my voice to the other 9999999 people… and they don’t need to consider any consequences. Live or die, glory or failure, I am myself. Recently, Miss Wang in the United States (Grace Wang) and Miss Chen in Hong Kong (Chen Qiaowen) was filled with this courage, and they deserve our affirmation.
But politicians and political movements are different. A politician must be responsible to the political movements fundamental goal, and he must be responsible for acquiring support and understanding from the vast majority of people in order to achieve this goal. Therefore, he must align himself with the interests, wishes, and emotions of these masses. This is an especially firm requirement for those who label themselves the “democratic movement”.
After Tibetan independence riots led to violent interruptions of the Olympic torch relay around the world, old Wang (the author) wrote a letter to Szeto Wah, saying that I hoped the Alliance wouldn’t go down this road, that even normal protests shouldn’t be held. The protest should instead be held over until tomorrow, at the offices of the Alliance, or Victoria Park. But this time, in contrast, the Alliance leadership should lead a team in welcoming the Olympic Torch right to the center of the Hong Kong celebration, and celebrate alongside the people. They should let the Hong Kong people see that when it comes to the issue of “patriotism”, the “Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China” (full name for the Alliance) is fully aligned with average Hong Kong citizens in terms of their desires and feelings. This way, on the eve of June Fourth, Hong Kong citizens will still rise up and follow the Alliance to Victoria Park, and participate in the candle-lit vigil. Maybe, the numbers participating will even increase from recent years. This way, they will understand that the Alliance knows how to separate these things: loving the country is loving the country, while resisting dictatorship is resisting dictatorship. And even the act of resisting dictatorship is really an issue of loving the country.
But it appears the Alliance leadership didn’t hear Xizhe’s opinion. And what happened? They “separated from the masses”, their support base (脱离基本群众). We saw the Alliance’s team of a few people, fully surrounded by an angry ocean of ordinary Hong Kong citizens. They faced the most heated head-on confrontation they’ve ever faced in 19 years. The people cursing them aren’t necessarily 维园阿伯 (derogatory labels for older nationalists accused of always supporting the Chinese government), but very likely were their support base yesterday. This put confusion on the faces of Ho Chunyan and Lee Cheuk Yan et al, and they couldn’t help but express their surprise: “this has been our most difficult protest”; “the other voices were full of hostility” … “we knew that protests wouldn’t be welcome.”
The long-proud Alliance apparently didn’t understand that political movements can only subtly guide action based on current trends; they also forgot that they can not directly conflict with the desires of a great majority pf the people. Should they reconsider their actions? Absolutely, but I think it’s too late. From this day forward, the Alliance’s momentum is gone, and from here on out, they will quickly slide down-hill into marginalization and eventual elimination.
The June Fourth vigil that will be here in a few days will be the Alliance’s test. How many people will continue to support them? In past years, 20,000-30,000 people would crowd into Victoria Park for the Alliance’s annual vigil, a sea of torches, hearts continuing to hope. After 18 years, that’s not easy! This has always been the Alliance’s basic “turf”, basic support. But after the giant mistake this time, how many will be left? 2/3rds of the usual amount? A half? There’s only a month left until the test, and I can’t be optimistic.
Even Lingfeng (Taiwan-based dissident) recently decided he needed to restudy Mao’s writings. And this sentence from Mao really does have meaning at a time like this: “If you’re on the right path, if you don’t have people you can have people, if you don’t have guns you can get guns. If you’re on the wrong path, even if you have people and guns, you will lose them.”
May 7th, 2008.