If you’re a regular reader of The Epoch Times, you’ll know that our columnists have accurately foretold the dramatic events that have been unfolding recently in China. There’s an underlying issue that our journalists understand which allows us to see the current situation with clarity. It explains the sudden and dramatic fall of Bo Xilai. It even provides insight into how and why Google was forced out of China.
I’m going to make what may sound like a bold assertion: that Falun Gong, and the persecution of Falun Gong, is the core issue behind the extraordinary political events we see unfolding in China today. Our failure to understand Falun Gong’s impact and consider it in our relations with China wouldn’t just mean putting human rights on the backburner. It would mean engaging China with our eyes closed.
First, at risk of being seen to downplay the importance of other very serious human rights concerns inside China, I do want to stress that my co-panelist Yiyang Xia will describe how the repressive apparatus developed over the 13 years of persecuting Falun Gong has been used more recently to target human rights defenders of all types.
I have four points I’d like to make.
1. There is a faction in the Chinese Communist Party that has been seeking to overturn settled arrangements and seize power.
The Epoch Times learned about this in February. Wang Lijun was the chief of police for Bo Xilai, who ruled the giant city of Chongqing in central-western China. Wang fled by car to the American consulate in Chengdu, several hours away. Wang had been under investigation by Party central, Bo feared what Wang would reveal, and Bo turned on Wang. Wang was fleeing for his life—not simply to share evidence implicating his boss’s wife in murder. (Having heard from my co-panelist David Matas about Wang’s role in large-scale organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, we can see it’s highly unlikely Wang suddenly grew a conscience and wished to stand up to Bo over the death of Neil Heywood).
Bill Gertz, a US national security reporter, soon reported that Wang Lijun had revealed to U.S. officials that Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang were plotting to thwart the ascension to power of Xi Jinping, who is supposed to assume the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party later this year (or early next year, if the Party Congress is delayed).
The alliance between Bo and Zhou was well known. Zhou is the domestic security czar in the Communist Party and he had publicly pushed for Bo to be named to the Standing Committee—the group of nine men who rule the Party and China—and to take his place running everything related to law enforcement in China. Wang revealed there was more to this alliance than meets the eye: after Xi assumed office, Bo and Zhou planned on pushing Xi aside and promoting Bo to the top.
The Epoch Times had its own Chinese sources who affirmed what Gertz had reported, and so did those dissident Chinese-language media who, like The Epoch Times, have accurately reported the unfolding of events in the current political drama.
Further corroboration emerged in a story The Epoch Times broke about why Google was forced out of China. Bo and Zhou wanted to manipulate Internet searches so that information embarrassing to Xi Jinping, as well as Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao, would be presented. They wanted to use the Internet to weaken them. In order to control the Internet searches, they made a deal with Baidu—Google’s primary China-based search competitor at the time. They would force Google out, Baidu would collect Google’s market share, and then Baidu would tailor Internet searches to suit Bo and Zhou’s agenda.
Indeed, Zhou and Bo succeeded in pushing Google out, and Baidu’s search results for “XiJinping,” “HuJintao” and “WenJiabao” began returning articles with titles like “Hu Jintao’s Son Terribly Corrupt; Jiang Zemin Wants to Get to the Bottom of It,” and “Xi Jinping is a Lecher, Plays with Women in Zhejiang Behind His Second Wife,” and so on.
To sum up: Bo and Zhou sought to seize power through extraordinary means. The media have often reported on the “infighting” in China. The word is misleading. This is not parliamentary maneuvering. It is deadly serious. Before this is over we may well see executions.
2. The decision to persecute Falun Gong forced Jiang Zemin to build an alternative power structure inside the Communist Party.
In 1999 Jiang Zemin began the persecution against Falun Gong. It was a very divisive, controversial thing to have done, and in the end it completely backfired and turned into a nightmare for the Party.
It’s worth looking back to something written soon after that began. In November of 1999, John Pomfret of the Washington Post wrote: “The campaign has revealed dissent at the top echelons of power, undermining the image of China’s leadership as united and pragmatic. Communist Party sources said that the standing committee of the Politburo did not unanimously endorse the crackdown and that President Jiang Zemin alone decided that Falun Gong must be eliminated.”
Consider the enormity of what Jiang decided on his own to do. Between 70 and 100 million people were practicing Falun Gong in 1999. Each of those individuals has families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Jiang in effect set the communist party at war against a huge fraction of the Chinese people.
Jiang thought his campaign would be over in three months. When he found that was not the case, he had to improvise. Because his campaign was not popular, Jiang had to recruit officials to carry it out, which he did with bribery, blackmail, and coercion—creating a faction that had direct, personal ties to him.
Jiang had to ensure the persecution would continue. Otherwise, he would have reason to fear his legacy, his freedom, and even his life might be at risk. If the Party once stopped the persecution, then that huge part of the population that had been damaged would demand an accounting be made.
In 2002, when Jiang was scheduled to retire as head of the Communist Party, he expanded the Standing Committee, putting two of his people on it. In addition, he had the Standing Committee change the rule by which it operated. Under him, the rule had been “obey the general secretary.” After he retired, the rule was “work by consensus.” Since Jiang’s people dominated the committee, the effect of these changes was to assure Jiang never gave up power.
In addition to these steps, Jiang built up the Political and Legislative Affairs Committee—or PLAC for short—into a second centre of power within the Party. The PLAC controls every aspect of law enforcement in China, from police to judges, to lawyers, to labour camps, to surveillance. Its People’s Armed Police numbers 1.5 million, the size of an army. Jiang assured all the means of coercion outside of the military were at the command of his allies, giving him and his faction a kind of independence from the communist party itself.
It’s worth pausing to reflect on the sheer cost of an apparatus capable of repressing this number of people—a topic my co-panelist Yiyang Xia will delve into further.
Continued on the next page … Bo Xilai has been sued in over a dozen countries.