Chinese liberal economist Mao Yushi, known as a ready critic of the regime, remarked recently that if he could have one thing in the New Year, it would be freedom of speech. He made the remarks at an economic forum in Beijing, and they struck a cord around China—freedom of speech is the most fundamental right, he said, and it’s come to seem more precious than ever in the context Party leader Xi Jinping’s unrelenting crackdowns.
“We have a Chinese dream, but in order to make the dream come true, it doesn’t matter how great our economy is, but to gain respect from the world’s people from their hearts. We are far behind the goal. Why? The top issue is freedom of speech, without which we have nothing else to talk about,” the 86 year-old Mao said in his opening address to the forum.
The Beijing-based Unirule Institute of Economics held its forum on the theme of “New Year Wishes” on Jan. 9, with a number of scholars and economists attending, including Mao, the honorary chairman of the institute.
Mao told Epoch Times that most of the scholars also mentioned the issue on the day. “The meeting is about what you wish for the New Year, and many of the scholars talked about freedom of speech… I think it’s very significant,” Mao said.
The Chinese authorities’ latest assault on free expression was the attempt to enforce a real name registration system on the Internet, Mao said. Such policies come along with mass arrests of intellectuals who are deemed dissidents for their speech, “which is totally inappropriate,” Mao said.
In his opening speech, Mao said that whether freedom of speech is guaranteed in a society is a major standard to evaluate whether that society is moving forward or backward.
“My wish for 2015 is freedom of speech. It’s the most basic. If freedom of speech is not guaranteed, nothing will be achieved. And freedom of speech must be fought for. It’s not given.”
As one of China’s most well-known liberal economists, Mao’s remarks were widely circulated on the Chinese internet for over a week after he made them.
One of the most popular responses says: “When I criticized the government, some people commented that ‘You eat meat from your bowl, then scold your mother when you put down your chopsticks.’ My reply is: First of all, the meat I ate wasn’t given by the government. I bought it with my hard-earned money, and earning money is the right of all workers. Secondly, the government is not my mother. It’s the servant of the people that relies on people’s taxes. China’s reforms have been done through the Chinese people’s efforts. Thirdly, as a citizen, you definitely don’t need to be grateful to the government!”
Translated and written in English by Lu Chen.