What Are the ‘Nine Commentaries’?
A series of editorials printed in The Epoch Times in November 2004. Drawing upon official Chinese Communist Party (CCP) records, third-party accounts and extensive personal testimony, the Nine Commentaries offers a comprehensive analysis of the CCP’s reign in China and the 80 million deaths it has caused, combining historical evidence with insight into the methods the CCP has used to rule. With chapters on “How the CCP Destroyed Traditional Culture” and “The CCP’s History of Killing,” the series focuses attention not only on the human costs of the CCP’s rule, but on the moral implications for Chinese society as well. In 2005, it was awarded the National Journalism Award by the Asian American Journalists Association.
A central aspect of the analysis is to encourage Chinese people inside and outside Mainland China to honestly examine the history of the Party’s rule, seek out the truth of the atrocities it has committed, and work together towards a more peaceful, just, and humane future for China, one based on the wisdom gained from 5,000 years of continuous civilization. The Nine Commentaries has struck a chord among many Chinese audiences, be they in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Chinatowns around the world.
What Has Been Their Impact?
There have been two main trends that have emerged in response to the publication of the Nine Commentaries:
Wave of renunciations
The publication of the Nine Commentaries has sparked a wave of resignations from the CCP, related youth organizations (the Youth League and the Young Pioneers), and other symbolic renunciations of the Party. Within weeks of the document’s publication, resignations began to be posted on a special website. The momentum of resignations has built over the years. In early 2005 around 10,000 people daily were issuing such statements. Now, around 50,000 per day are resigning. Among those resigning are high-ranking officials and prominent dissidents.
The act of resigning is largely symbolic, with many people from Mainland China signing with aliases for fear of government reprisal. A typical resignation from 2005 reads as follows: “I am 85 years old, and have been a CCP member since the 1940s. I devoted all my life to the CCP. I have experienced so many of the CCP’s political movements, and have witnessed scene after scene of tragedy. [The CCP] has deceived generations of kind people with lies…it cares nothing about the common people’s lives…. I immediately withdraw from the evil CCP and all of its organizations.”
These symbolic acts are having a concrete impact: peacefully disintegrating the CCP from the inside, shifting the political culture in China, and creating a constituency ready to see an end to the current regime’s rule. In addition to posting directly to relevant websites, such statements are expressed via phone calls, e-mails, or faxes from inside China to overseas Chinese or through postings in public places inside China. In March 2009, according to the websites tracking the phenomenon, the total number of people having renounced their association with the CCP and related organizations reached 50 million.
Since 2005, a number of former Chinese officials from both the diplomatic community and security forces have defected, citing the Nine Commentaries as one catalyst and publicly resigning from the CCP themselves, as well as exposing some aspects of the party-state’s operations, including espionage and torture. Three of the most prominent such examples have been:
Chen Yonglin — Former First Secretary at the Chinese consulate in Sydney, Australia, defected in June 2005. Chen subsequently testified before the U.S. Congress and to Western media outlets about extensive espionage and intimidation operations carried out by Chinese diplomatic personnel in Western countries that focused particularly on dissident groups and persecuted religious minorities like Falun Gong adherents and Tibetans.
Hao Fengjun — Former officer in the Public Security Bureau in Tianjin and later in the city’s “610 Office,” a nationwide, extra-legal task force in China charged with leading and coordinating the campaign to eradicate the Falun Gong spiritual group. Hao defected in the summer of 2005, bringing with him several confidential documents from the 610 Office in Tianjin, including one citing efforts by local agents to identify Falun Gong adherents known to have symbolically resigned from the CCP. The document, dated Dec. 14, 2004 and available upon request, states:
“… four Falun Gong members in our city published so-called ‘statement of resigning from the CCP and Youth League.’ Apart from one person who used the nickname ‘Awakening,’ others used real names. The details are as follows: 1. On Dec. 5, Mu Xiangjie (female, Date of Birth: July 16, 1976, the Hui nationality, at present lives abroad) published a statement “I firmly withdraw from the Communist Youth League.” 2.
On Dec. 5, Gu Wang (the husband of Wu Yanxia, a diehard Falun Gong [practitioner] in Ji County of our city, at present lives in Canada) published a so-called “statement of withdrawing from the CCP” to the Party Committee of the Tianjin electricity transmission design research institute. 3. On Dec. 13, Zhang Rongfa, a citizen in our city, published a so-called statement of ‘Quitting the evil CCP.’ At present, further investigation is carrying on regarding this person.”
Li Fengzhi — Former officer in China’s Ministry of State Security; defected to the United States in 2004 and publicly renounced CCP in March 2009. Li reinforced Chen’s points about extensive Chinese espionage efforts in the United States and other important Western nations; he was written up in The Washington Times, by the Associated Press, and in The Epoch Times pages.
What Has Been the Chinese Regime’s Response?
Fearing that the spread of the Nine Commentaries and the kinds of discussions it prompts would undermine the CCP’s hold on power, the Party and its security agencies have taken several steps to try and limit the publication’s impact, particularly inside China.
Banning the book and ordering state employees not to read it
In January 2005, the Ministry of Public Security issued a nationwide order to suppress the spread of the Nine Commentaries. In the following months, several regime websites referred to the publication, including the following
The website of the Financial Department of Xixiu District in Guizhou Province gave the following instructions among others: “(1) Firmly stop the spreading of Nine Commentaries … (4) Educate our employees and officials not to listen, believe, read, and spread the Nine Commentaries. Instead, report to the CCP office and turn in the booklet. Those who keep and further distribute Nine Commentaries will be punished; the active ones will receive a criminal charge.”
A regime website in Harbin City cited a directive to “set the utmost top priority to prevent and crack down on production and distribution of the Nine Commentaries.” See the October 2006 study by the World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG).
Using the “Great Firewall” to systematically block internet access to it
Two studies by the Open Net Initiative, a collaborative project among several universities to document internet filtering practices, have found the Nine Commentaries to be one of the terms most systematically blocked.
A 2005 study found that 90 percent of Chinese-language websites related to the Nine Commentaries were blocked, in addition to 16 percent of English-language ones. This was significantly more than websites that focused more broadly on issues of human rights, democracy, and free speech. While the full study is no longer available on ONI’s website, a graph depicting this dynamic can be found here.
Punishing those thought to be involved in its authorship, promotion, or distribution
Zheng Yichun — Given the political sensitivity of the Nine Commentaries, the identity of the publication’s author(s) has, understandably, not been released to the public. Nevertheless, the Chinese authorities have reportedly gone to great lengths to try to identify who these individuals are. In 2005, Zheng, an English professor who had also contributed political commentary articles to the Chinese version of the Epoch Times, was sentenced to seven years in prison.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists and others, the long sentence may have been partly because the Chinese authorities suspected he may have been one of the authors of the Nine Commentariesor in other ways connected to it. See: Journalists Imprisoned in China
Tan Xiuxia — “According to a news item on People’s Net, in November 2005, a Falun Gong practitioner named Tan Xiuxia from Shizuishan City in the Ningxia Hui Nationality Autonomous Region was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison by the Dawukou District Court of Shizuishan City. She was reportedly sentenced for having distributed flyers and VCDs related to Nine Commentaries in the Zhengtong Residential Area.” See: Written evidence submitted by Sarah Cook
Wang Xuejun — In October 2005, Wang (age 43), who had traveled to China with the Sydney Dance Company, was deported from the country, forced to return to Australia, and denied permission to continue with the tour after Shanghai authorities discovered he had given a copy of the Nine Commentaries to a local resident. See: Dancer calls for China condemnation
Mr. Chen Jinshu — “On January 29, 2008, Bao’an District Court in Shenzhen, Guangdong province sentenced Chen [age 49], a Hong Kong resident and Falun Gong adherent, to six years in prison in a closed-door trial. Chen had been detained in April 2007, while visiting his elderly father in China. He was then charged with shipping copies of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party to the Mainland.
The book, an editorial series on the history of the Chinese Communist Party, is banned in China, but circulated freely in Hong Kong. Chen’s family and lawyer have denied the charges, stating that the said case had already been closed in 2005 when another Falun Gong adherent was sentenced.” See:Hong Kong and Secret Trial Exposed by Hong Kong Family
Is It Spreading in China Anyway? How?
The Nine Commentaries continues to spread in China despite the authorities’ efforts to limit its distribution. This is occurring through a grassroots network of Falun Gong adherents, democracy activists, and others both inside and outside China who have e-mailed the document, faxed it, posted it by traditional mail, smuggled it into China in person, sent text messages about it or downloaded it from the internet after using circumvention tools.
As one example, Dynamic Internet Technologies (DIT), a company that employs circumvention systems called Dynaweb and Ultrareach wrote in a report published in June that by May 31, 2005, 307,202 people had used these systems to access the Nine Commentaries. Information for how to use the systems to access the articles was being sent to people in Mainland China through e-mail: by June, 2.3 million messages had been sent. See: Report on Internet Circumvention Technologies and Renunciations from the CCP
How Do We Know This Is Really Happening?
While there has, unfortunately, been little if any mainstream Western media coverage of the Nine Commentaries and the accompanying phenomenon of people symbolically resigning from the CCP and related organizations, there is a wealth of anecdotal and some documentary evidence to indicate that this is indeed happening. These include:
Resignations and related statements by high-profile Chinese human rights and democracy activists
Gao Zhisheng and his wife Geng He — In his recently released memoir A China More Just, prominent Chinese lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Gao Zhisheng, included a chapter specifically on the movement of people quitting the party. This section included his own statement of resignation from December 2005, a moment he termed ‘the proudest day of my life,’ his wife’s statement, and a commentary article calling on more Chinese to re-evaluate the CCP and join the movement. For Gao’s resignation statement, see: Celebrated Chinese Lawyer Quits CCP. See here for information on his book: A China More Just
Zheng Enchong — Zheng, a well-known lawyer from Shanghai who served a three-year prison term in retaliation for his efforts to help local residents evicted from their homes, recorded a message to a rally in Flushing, New York supporting those who have quit the CCP and affiliated organizations. In his video message, played in public in December 2008, he stated:
“I am Zheng Enchong, a Shanghai resident and former Shanghai attorney. I am very grateful to be able to communicate with friends in Flushing. Like many mainlanders, I renounced membership in the Communist Youth League and Young Pioneers this year (2008) with my real name … After I announced my intent to withdraw membership in the CCP with my real name, many Shanghai people congratulated me. A lot of them have renounced the CCP, some with their real names, and others with an alias. During my previous trip to Hong Kong, I met more than 30 people who had withdrawn from the CCP, and about a dozen of them did so with their real names.” See: The Chinese Have Abandoned the CCP
Wei Jingsheng — Wei, a prominent Chinese dissident who served 18 years in Chinese prisons because of his pro-democracy writings, has stated: “The Nine Commentaries is a very important landmark. The movement to quit the CCP gives people an opportunity to thoroughly clean their conscience. Many people despise the CCP, yet they are unable to tell what is true from what is false because people around them are all telling lies. One of the effects The Nine Commentaries will have is that even ordinary citizens who couldn’t care less about politics will one day dare to say openly: ‘We are opposed to the CCP.'”
Photos from inside China
Photos such as the one published with this article have been sent outside of China, illustrating the fact that within the country, at least some people are posting their resignation statements in public.
Anecdotal evidence from individuals who have left China recently
Be they Falun Gong adherents, former officials, or democracy activists, multiple individuals who have left China recently have relayed anecdotal evidence of either distributing the Nine Commentaries themselves, having it given to them by others, or discovering that many of their acquaintances had already read them.
‘Quit the Party’ Booths and distribution of ‘Nine Commentaries’ outside of China
While open and public distribution of the Nine Commentaries remains impossible inside China, it is a common sight in Chinatowns across the world to find “Quit the Party” booths. At these sites, individuals (primarily adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement), can be seen on nearly a daily basis distributing copies of the Nine Commentaries, discussing their content with passers-by, and convincing fellow Chinese to file renunciation statements.
While not all passers-by agree to the latter, if one is able to overhear and understand the conversations taking place, it is evident that a fair percentage of them do agree.
Also outside Mainland China, in Hong Kong in 2004, the first 60,000 copies of a special Nine Commentaries edition published by Dajiyuan were reportedly distributed within a few hours of printing, in some cases to tourists from the mainland who said they would take the paper home with them to show others.