Jiang's Maoist New Year Message: "Crack Down Sternly"

08 January, 1999

By Al Santoli
CNS News Analysis from the AFPC

Pro-Democracy Dissidents Defy Jiang, Create New Labor Party

In a defiant letter scrawled in his prison cell, Chinese dissident Xu Xenli, who was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison for co- founding the China Democracy Party, said that the ruling Communist Party's grip on power is doomed, Reuters reports. In the statement, written as he met his lawyers, Xu, 55, wrote that political pluralism is "historically inevitable... No individual or political power can prevent this."

The statement, for presentation to the appeals court, was given by the lawyers' to Xu's wife, He Xintong. Xu claimed, "My so-called open trial was in truth nothing more than a means for political persecution." He described the China Democracy party, which has chapters in 23 of China's 31 provinces, as an effort to enter China's political stage in an, "open and rational manner.... Our original hope was to abandon mutual suspicion with the Communist Party, open up to each other and interact positively... Who would have thought that a small number of Communist Party leaders, keeping a heart in personal interest in one party rule, would have banned the China Democracy Party." After his signature, Xu ended the statement, "Penned in handcuffs."

News sources are reporting that Chinese labor activist, Zhang Shanguang, was sentenced to ten years in prison for telling U.S.-based Radio Free Asia about farmers' protests. He was sentenced after a brief closed-door hearing at a court in Huaihua city in the southern Humnan province. AP adds, the harsh sentencing of Zhang, 42, who was not a member of the China Democracy Party, had been working to create an association to protect the rights of laid-off workers when he was arrested, shortly after the visit of U.S. President Bill Clinton.

In his New Year's message to the nation, Chinese strongman Jiang Zemin ordered security forces to "crack down sternly on all kinds of sabotage activities by hostile forces both at home and abroad, so as to ensure social and political stability," the South China Morning Post reports. Jiang revived the Maoist rallying cry of "properly handling
contradictions among the people," a euphemism for eliminating anti-Communist Party elements. The Morning Post added that Beijing had ordered at least a temporary slowing of reform. For example, funds that could have financed reform of state enterprises have instead been allocated for welfare handouts to laid-off workers and for hiring more

News sources are reporting that in the wake of the crackdown on leaders of the China Democracy Party, mainland dissidents are organizing a new Chinese Labor Party, and are preparing to attempt to register it in Beijing. According to Ning Ye, a U.S.-based lawyer with the Free China Movement, there is a desire for openness across China by a growing
number of people who "are tired of repression and terror." In New York, former political prisoner Wang Xizhe's entered a fifth day of hunger strike in front of the United Nations headquarters.

Al Santoli writes for the American Foreign Policy Council.

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