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Early Days of the Democracy Wall
Date: 4/23/2007 12:01:56 PM Sender: Liu Jingsheng
Early Days of the Democracy Wall
-- a bit of an indelible memory (1)

-- Liu Jingsheng

I previously tried to record in writing all in my memory, but I lost
all wrote during the two times when I was arrested.  The human mind is
indeed miraculous; it can hold decades of worth of memories, but over
time this memory does become:  fragmented, intermittent, blurred,
broken up.  And just because of this, I am only tardily unwilling to
set down my "memory" pen, I fear the mistakes of my recollection will
lead to disputes and be called in question.

In 1978 at Xidan Democracy Wall, I paced back and forth for long time
while I compared and reflected, in the end I chose Wei Jingsheng.  Back
then, I was young and stubborn, I was extremely disgusted what was
emphasized at the inaugural introductions by the publications such as
May Fourth Forum, Beijing Spring, and Enlightening, when they
stressing "Persist with Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought." The
Human Rights League organization was a mess and I was tired of their
quarrels.  I was young; my head was full of fantasy.  I persisted, that
I could not accept anyone else's flaws.  I thought revolutionaries were
all like this created ideal heroine "JiangJie", you must be: brave,
dedicated, and perfect without flaw.  I didn't consider moving
gradually, I paid no heed of danger, and I did not know "skillful
social dealings".   For this reason, I could not understand why so many
non-government publications seemed identical to Communist Party's paper
saying we should "Persist with Marxism-Leninism;" and I could not
understand why disputes lead to break-ups.  Human matters, are just
that strange, the passion that sprouts, and my immaturity, in the end
made me a decisions without looking back, of which I should be proud
for the rest of my life.

Now, people often ask me:  there is a saying, if Wei Jingsheng had not
been so radical, the democracy wall would have stuck around even
longer. What do you think?

My response:  in different eras right and wrong can be exchanged.  At
that time, discontent was already pervasive, but the discontent at that
time was against the agents of the system rather than the actual
system.  Decades of the Communists’ propaganda and mis-education had
already set people's thinking; the room for thought had been narrowed.  
They were only willing to consider the appearance and did not dare to
ponder or question what was behind such matters.  Of course, some
people could see:  discontent in society was only the manifestation,
behind that surface there were underlying causes, and these "underlying
causes" were definitely related to the political system.  These people
were indeed doing outstanding thinking beyond the average folks, but it
takes courage to make your ideas known to the public.  Only paying
attention to the surface discontent is just complaining, when
discontent does not rise to a higher lever it is meaningless.   Are we
complaining along with the people or are we pointing out the reasons of
the problems?

Wei Jingsheng chose the later, he believed that those who have awakened
have an obligation to inform others about the truth; inform others that
the truth of the Chinese Communist Party is not "the truth to the whole
world."  As for how long the democracy wall would last, I believe it
depended on whether the rulers felt the "class enemies" have fully
revealed themselves.  Mao Zedong was like this, Liu Shaoqi was like
this, Deng Xiaoping was like this too; yet there is a slight
difference:  Deng Xiaoping cunningly used "class enemies" to defeat his
political adversary.  When Deng Xiaoping felt that the "class enemy"
was no longer of any use, the "class enemy" had to be eliminated.  Wei
Jingsheng was sent to jail, Ren Wanding, Liu Qing, Xu Wenli all could
not escape this destination.  Our will cannot decide policy of these
rulers, having Wei Jingsheng bear that responsibility of fall of
Democracy Wall is nonsense.  The fate of the Democracy Wall is not due
to radicals; rather it resulted from Deng Xiaoping's fear for his own

When the Democracy Wall just started, for a while, I continuously
looked around at Xidan Democracy Wall, searching for the ones whose
opinions make a resonance to me.  After a little while, I was somewhat
disappointed.  Then I noticed a small character poster and upon reading
it my whole body began to burn with righteous indignation.  The title
of this essay was: "The Fifth Modernization - Democracy and more."  
Even today I still believed that at that time when "The Four
Modernizations" was the dream of my countrymen which the Chinese
leaders Hua GuoFeng pledged to the people in making this dream reality,
Wei Jingsheng's outcry was a timely reminder, a warning to the Chinese
people lost in dream: without democracy the so-called modernizations
were no more than illusions!  It was wonderful; this sentence alone
accurately expounded the Communist Party's decades of "achievements."

This essay lead to heated debate, a majority endorsed it in public; but
under the cover of night this essay was treated completely differently.
Some cursed it (even posted curses on it), some threw dirt at it, even
worse, some tore it off, but the persistent author just posted it up
again.  Prior to this essay there had some sensitive articles, but the
authors didn't dare to leave their real names and contact information.  
But at the end of this article, the author left his name: Jin Sheng,
also included was a phone number.  The phone number was real, you could
get through, but evidently it was not his home; I recall it was either
his friend or relative's.  I called it up, the person who answered the
phone asked me to wait a moment, and then I exchanged a few words with
the author.   I said my name is "Jing Sheng."  He laughed a moment and
answered, "What a coincidence, my name is Jing Sheng too."  I
asked:  "The name on the essay is real?"  He answered, "Pretty much for
the sound, the characters are different, it's really the Jing in
Beijing (note by the translator: same Sheng in character)."  We agreed
on a place and time to meet, then I hurriedly hung up the phone; I had
called from a different work unit and I felt a bit nervous.

We decided to meet in the evening of the next day after we spoke by
phone; we met at the western wall of the Beijing Zoo at the terminal
station of the bus route 27.  According to my memory, other than Wei
Jingsheng and myself another person also came, but decades have passed
and I have forgotten whom it was.  The first question I asked Wei
Jingsheng was, "What's your opinion of violence?"  Wei Jingsheng
answered:  "Without a doubt, violence is the swiftest, most complete
way to solve the problem, but looking at it from a practical
perspective, it isn't likely to be realistic; thus, it is not within
the scope of our consideration."  Many years later, I still remember
this sentence.  His reply was ingenious, if he had flatly denied the
rationale of using violence, we probably would not have had a chance to
meet a second time.  At the time I was a big believer in violence and
furthermore I was stubborn, I could tolerate strategies that did not
chose violence, but I could not accept the denial of violence.  Wei
Jingsheng said it just right, "we will not consider violence," but he
did affirm violence's "speedy" and "thoroughness," and precisely his
mentioning "thoroughness" led me firmly determined to follow him.

What happened later followed naturally, he explained his opinion and
reasoning for starting a magazine:  the dazed masses needed to be woken
up; the first urgent issue was to win the battlefield of public
opinion.  For so many years the common people had no where to express
their opinion, we would be the people's "spokesperson" (it is not that
what we said would represent the people, rather we would give the
people a platform to express themselves, thus, the magazine would
represent the voice of the people.)  There did not need to be too many
people working on the magazine, if there were too many we would get
lost in dispute, which would hold up our work.  I expressed my
endorsement of his ideas, at the same time I also explained:  my junior
high school diploma was inflated, but I had only been through five
years of the formal education.  If I were to join the editorial
department, I would probably only be able to do manual labor, work with
my hands, and pass out flyers.  Wei Jingsheng laughed and said to
me:  "During the Cultural Revolution no one went to school, who is
really so skilled?  Ability is not the most important; most important
are conviction and courage.  All that we are doing is no more than
laying a path.  We cannot see the day when democracy will come.  I have
already come to a common understanding with a few other people, if you
are not opposing, we should find a time to talk this over and move this
matter forward together."   I frankly agreed.   We did not speak for
long, after deciding the time and location of our next meeting we went
our ways.

On the way home my mind was in a whirl:  the first time I made a free
choice, I chose people I was not familiar with, I chose an issue I was
not familiar with, was this right?  Was it wrong?  The choice was free,
this free choice made me excited, but there was also a slight feeling
that mixed in with the excitement was a certain amount of hesitation
and lack of courage.  That is right, it was my own approval, did others
approve?  Even if they approved, it was only on the idealistic level,
whereas the vast majority of Chinese people lived on the material
level.  Looking at it from the material level, how could I explain
my "righteous?  It would be dangerous; there was no one so naive as not
to see that, and what this sort of danger was most likely to destroy
was people's material space for survival and material living
environment.  When I met with Wei Jingsheng, I was in an excited and
idealistic state, and I was not afraid.  When I ultimately decided for
myself to do this, my fear emerged and my body released a cold sweat.  
Although this sort of lonely fear did not change my decision it did
seem to be suggesting to me:  this is your mortal weakness, people with
this sort of weakness are not fit to be drawn into the whirlpool of
political opposition movements under autocratic systems.

March 2007

(Originally published by Democratic China.  The Wei Jingsheng
Foundation is responsible for this version of the English translation.)

中国民主党           主席:王军    China Democracy Party    Chairman: Wang, Jun
Address:               41-25   Kissena   Blvd.   FLR 1 #110,   Flushing,   NY   11355   USA
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