Human Rights Violations in China

Killing the Chicken to Scare the Monkey: “Elections” in China

Killing the chicken to scare the monkey is a popular Chinese idiom. The idiom came from an old folktale. In the story, a street entertainer earned a lot of money with his dancing monkey, but one day his monkey refused to dance. Then, the entertainer killed a live chicken in front of the monkey. The scare was so big that the monkey resumed dancing immediately.

In Chinese history, many emperors used this brutal strategy to show their power and secure their position. At the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty (1,000 B.C.), an emperor asked his minister to recruit a scholar to be in his think tank. After declining the offer multiple times, the scholar was killed. The message was that the next scholar the emperor asked to serve him would fear the same fate, and thereby would accept the offer.

Ex-president Escorted out of China Party Congress

During the final session of the Chinese Communist Congress last week, President Xi unexpectedly ordered to remove the ex-president Hu Jintao in front of thousands of delegates. This happened just hours before Xi asked all delegates to vote for him to continue being the Chinese President for a third term. The choices were “raise your hand if you vote for it;” “raise your hand if you vote against it;” and “raise your hand if you give up your vote.”

This is “democracy with Chinese characteristics” which the Chinese regime constantly brags about to the world. Scared by this killing-the-chicken action, thousands of participants raised their hands as high as possible. Xi loudly announced, “No one voted against; nor anybody gave up their vote; this motion passed unanimously.”

Politics-related Discussion Was Forbidden at Home

I grew up in China during Mao’s Communist regime. Since very young, my parents, like millions of parents in China, set a family rule – don’t talk about politics either inside or outside the home. Even today, every time I call my parents on the phone, they repeat this family rule. They have been living in fear for their entire lives.

Schools only teach children the “greatness” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). During my K-12 education, I never heard the word “election,” let alone understand the meaning of the word. My teachers said that China had a system called centralized democracy.

The CCP describes a centralized democracy as a process in which people elect their representatives first, and then their representatives elect the President and his cabinet. Sounds great, but it has never been implemented. There is neither election campaign, nor debate, nor secret ballots. Most people have no idea who their representatives are. The only way that people know their so-called representatives is to watch them raise their hands on TV.

Centralized democracy is no democracy but rather centralized power. Raise your hand if you vote No. Then, you will see an innocent “chicken” killed. During Mao’s time, fake representatives were all Communist Party members. They raised hands to support Mao to be in power till the day he died. They also raised hands to let Mao kill and persecute political dissidents who were sentenced as right wingers.

Term Limits in China’s Presidency (1982 – 2018)

At the end of Mao’s regime, Mao appointed Hua Guofeng to be his heir, the CCP chairman after his death. Upon Mao’s death, China started an economic reform under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, with the goal of getting rid of poverty, and opened to the Western countries. In 1982, Deng led the CCP to put in place a two-consecutive-term limit to China’s presidency. The purpose of this change was to prevent the chaos and tumult, like the Cultural Revolution, that were caused by a single authoritarian leader.

With more and more foreigners traveling to and building businesses in China, people got a chance to experience the differences between China and countries like the United States. While the Chinese government has never stopped censoring media, the desire for a free and democratic society was growing. In 1989, when the CCP chairman died, university students led a movement to push the government to change the one-party rule system. The 1989 student demonstration ended with a massacre on Tiananmen Square.

The current Chinese population has always been ruled by the CCP’s dictatorship, although between 1982 and 2018, the constitution stipulated that the president could not serve more than two consecutive terms. Xi took power in 2012, after much internal wheeling and dealing with the ex-president Hu Jintao and other behind-the-scenes powerful CCP figures. Since 2012, Xi has rapidly consolidated power to levels not seen since the era of Mao Zedong. In 2018, Xi ended the presidency term limits and paved the road for his third term.

The CCP, Just Another Emperor-Centered Dynasty

The leaders of the U.S. and other Western countries expected that China would move toward a democratic society once its economy would take off. Unfortunately, those foreign leaders did not see their expected outcome. Neither did the hard-working Chinese people. The CCP gamed the international system, and promptly became greedy, corrupt, and aggressive.

Intolerance of political dissidents is the nature of the Communist Party. Different from, let’s say, the U.S. President, the CCP chairman is not only the President of China and the Commander-in-Chief, but also controls everything, from the legislature to the judiciary. In 2018, Xi easily changed the Constitution and ended the term limits.

Some people say that there shouldn’t be a surprise that Xi wants to become an emperor, but it’s just surprising that the Party didn’t do anything to stop him. This comment is naïve. The CCP regime, regardless of whether it was under Mao or is under Xi, is just another Chinese dynasty with an emperor as its head. If we want China to change, we need the courage of the Tank Man of 1989.

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