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Friday, June 15, 2007

Democracy in China

Editorial: 01:00 AM EDT on Friday, June 15, 2007 For the millions of Chinese who long for the day when democracy and the rule of law take up residence in their homeland, the First Congress of the China Democracy Party, held in Providence last week, timed to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, is a ray of hope.

Indeed, the Rhode Island motto, “Hope,” which is on the state flag, was cited by Xu Wenli, a prominent dissident who founded the CDP in the aftermath of the “crackdown.” The party is dedicated to peacefully bringing democratic government to China. In the major agenda item of the Congress, the 40 or so delegates declared China’s Third Republic, “in the spirit and tradition of the leaders of the Revolution of 1911.”

These courageous men and women, many of whom served long prison sentences for their defiance of China’s one-party rule, know that history can change virtually overnight, as it did in the Soviet Union and in the countries of the East Bloc, and that what may appear quixotic one day could be the basis of China’s government the next.

For now, they are exiles. Mr. Xu, who came to Providence in 2002 and now teaches at Brown’s Watson Institute, served a total of 16 years in Chinese prisons. But they also know that the communists are slowly losing their grip on China. The country almost daily has demonstrations and strikes. Corruption and the grossest abuses of human rights are the norm. The walls of the meeting room of the congress were covered with photographs of political prisoners.

Even though it probably won’t be reported in mainland Chinese newspapers, one of which was closed last week for printing a classified advertisement honoring the “Mothers of Tiananmen,” word of this meeting will get to millions of Chinese, helping to promote the CDP’s first goal of winning freedom of political association in China.

As part of that effort, the CDP is calling for China to free all political prisoners before the 2008 Olympic Games, to be held in Beijing. Many political prisoners are members of Falun Gong, a spiritual-fitness movement that has recently become a huge dissident political force. Mr. Xu said that some who have died in prison are suspected of having been used in live-organ-transplant schemes.

A China that is finally free of such horrors, democratically ruled by law and at peace with its neighbors, is in the interest of everyone on the planet — except China’s current regime.

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