An Old Chinese Political Reformer Weighs in on Lawsuits Against Former Leader

June 12, 2015 Updated: June 14, 2015

Bao Tong was once the director of a political reform commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) during the late 1980s. He served under general secretary Zhao Ziyang, the deceased Chinese leader known for his ill-fated attempts to liberalize the regime. In 1989, during the events of the Tiananmen demonstrations and massacre, Bao was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison.

He now lives in Beijing under heavy surveillance and has also become a prominent analyst of the CCP. Here he offers his views on the significance of the recent spate of lawsuits that have been filed by Chinese citizens against Jiang Zemin, the former Communist Party chief whose time in power is increasingly being associated with the entrenchment of corruption and a legacy of brutal human rights abuses.

Many of those initiating the lawsuits are practitioners of Falun Gong, a traditional Chinese meditation practice that has been persecuted by the Communist regime since July 1999, when Jiang Zemin ordered a campaign to eradicate the practice in flagrant violation of the Chinese constitution.

Following is an edited and condensed version of Bao’s words made during the Chinese interview, conducted by Chinese edition Epoch Times reporter Chang Chun.

Suing a Tyrant

The [Chinese] Constitution protects the right to sue any public official, including Jiang Zemin. Regarding the Falun Gong issue, Jiang illegally forced his personal opinion on the people and government.

Following the constitution, people can supervise their officials, whether incumbent or resigned. As citizens, people can supervise and scrutinize former and current leaders.

Lawsuits, filing complaints, and supervision are all means of raising awareness. If one has grievances, he makes them known. This is how a  normal society works.

Forcing His Will

Jiang’s persecution of Falun Gong is a crime against humanity. Using his position as a leader, Jiang launched the suppression of a faith group, of a [meditation] practice intended for fitness and well-being.

[Prior to the persecution in 1999, former Chinese premier] Zhu Rongji told People’s Daily that Falun Gong was legal, and that the Chinese Communist Party would not ban it. He said he hoped that Falun Gong practitioners could have the peace of mind to continue their practice.

However, about a month later, I remember the Communist Party general secretary [Jiang] undermined the premier’s words like tearing a piece of wastepaper.

Zhu’s words reflected the law. What Jiang has done, seen from a legal point of view, is banditry. He illegally forced his will upon the State, he forced it onto the government and the people, a truly terrible thing.

He broke the law not only after stepping down [from his positions], but even when he was still head of state and the Party’s general secretary. It’s because of this that people are outraged and feel the need to bring the matter to the state judiciary. I think this action is correct.


Jiang’s actions ignored the law. The Chinese people had no opportunity to go against, criticize, or monitor him.

He’s inherited the worst characteristic from Mao Zedong, who had absolute power over the law and the state. The people had to tolerate this without raising any complaint.

How could one claim so much power just by being the general secretary or the state president? It’s against the law. The impact is extremely negative. Jiang Zemin, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping all had one thing in common—lawlessness. The damage brought to the morals of the Chinese nation and to society is beyond description.

The persecution of any citizen is the persecution of all citizens and society.

Falun Gong practitioners are also citizens. If Jiang could use such illegal methods to persecute Falun Gong practitioners, he could use the same methods to repress anyone. He has undermined the human conscience and distorted the whole concept of right and wrong. He has damaged social development and civilization.

Lawsuits Are Not Political

What is a political movement? It is to use political power to attack something*. But such issues as the movement for free elections in Hong Kong are the aspirations of the people, not political movements.

If Jiang Zemin is guilty of crimes, he is guilty even if you don’t put him on trial. No one has ever tried the first emperor Qin Shihuang. He’s dead, he died 2000 years ago. But everyone knows that Qin Shihuang burned books and buried scholars alive. He committed crimes. Is there any political movement needed to fight against Qin Shihuang?

I think the state should also support [the lawsuits against Jiang] in accordance with the law.

Not only I, as a citizen, should support, I think the state should also support [the lawsuits against Jiang] in accordance with the law. The state should support every citizen’s legal action, and protect them from suppression.

It’s foolish to suppress, manipulate, and block opinion. Only Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, and Jiang Zemin were stupid enough to believe that by cheating and suppressing people and sealing people’s mouths they control society. There are still people like them, but they are fewer and fewer, and their methods are less and less effective.

*=The term “political movement” in Chinese almost ubiquitously refers to a Communist movement, with all the associated abuse.

Translated by Lu Chen. Written in English by Leo Timm.