Chapter 20: Running All About to Avoid SARS; Clutching at Straws to Keep Control of the Military (2003)1. SARS
In 2003 the terrifying SARS epidemic swept the world.
SARS spread to nearly 30 countries and infected more than 8,000 people. More than 800 died as a result. The economic loss was estimated at US$30 billion. China had the largest number of infections. The number of infections in Hong Kong and mainland China comprised 80 percent of all infections worldwide. But the international community has suspected that the CCP greatly distorted the numbers. The actual number of infections was likely much higher.
SARS first broke out in southern China in November 2002.
It happened during the CCP’s 16th Congress, and Jiang Zemin was concerned about keeping his position as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC). The Chinese media were required to create a “good political atmosphere” and repeat Jiang’s slogan of “stability above all else.” The CCP’s internal memo circulated by the Propaganda Ministry explicitly said that SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), also called “atypical pneumonia,” was one of the things not to be reported on publicly.
All other Chinese-speaking communities in the world called the illness “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome” or SARS. Only the Chinese Communist Party termed it “atypical pneumonia,” presumably to reduce the level of panic among the public. But actual action should have been taken to truly lessen panic. Changing the name served only to lower people’s guard. When the public doesn’t have factual information, they are more likely to believe rumors and feel panicked. The bottom line is, this deceptive strategy—renaming the illness—was a product of Jiang Zemin’s policy of “stability above all else.”
When the first case of SARS was discovered in China, the propaganda branch headed by Li Changchun, who was a member of Jiang’s faction, a Politburo Standing Committee member, and then-Party Secretary of Guangdong Province, tried his best to cover it up. Then the epidemic gradually spread to other provinces. When Li Changchun left Guangdong, dissenting opinions began to emerge among officials in Guangdong Province. When some local newspapers reported on SARS, Jiang Zemin quickly appointed then-Party Secretary for Zhejiang Province Zhang Dejiang as Party Secretary for Guangdong Province. Zhang became the immediate supervisor of Guangdong Province Propaganda Department Director Zhong Yangsheng and repeatedly prohibited the media from reporting on SARS. In late February and early March, Guangdong Province Propaganda Department went so far as to oversee the reorganization of the major newspapers. After the reorganization, the Guangdong media fell into the hands of members of the Jiang faction in the Propaganda Ministry. Suddenly, all reporting on SARS stopped.
Concealing the development of SARS was like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. Although a lid could be put on the news, that was not so with the virus itself. SARS spread quickly in Guangdong. Since the time when SARS broke out globally in February 2003, almost every day, media around the world reported new infections and deaths. Yet in China, the source of SARS, the official government media were silent.
In early March 2003, when the National People’s Congress and the Political Consultative Conference were meeting in Beijing, a shocking news story broke out. A medical doctor from Guangdong was so ill that he was taken to Hong Kong for treatment. He died shortly after arriving in Hong Kong. Hong Kong media suddenly realized that SARS was very close to them, but it was already too late. Since then, SARS began spreading in Hong Kong. Immediately the entire world panicked. Hong Kong is important for the global economy. It is also an important transportation center for people and goods. Every day, countless flights arrive at and leave from Hong Kong; countless people come and go. It was impossible to track and investigate everyone. Once someone was infected they could be tracked, but there was no way to find out about those whose cases of the illness were still latent. The World Health Organization requested that the CCP immediately report on the SARS infections and spread of it in China.
On March 26, Zhang Wenkang, who was Jiang Zemin’s private doctor, a member of the Jiang faction, and China’s Minister of Health, publicly acknowledged the spread of the illness for the first time under pressure from the WHO. However, he said that only 792 were infected in Guangdong, and that 31 died, while failing to mention the situation with the epidemic in other provinces. Hu Jintao attempted to require that local government officials report on the spread of the disease every day without delay, omission, or fraud. Zhang openly argued with Hu and said that China had no law requiring that the status of such illnesses be reported every day. Many observers believed that the intentional cover-up directly resulted in the disease spreading out of control. From Guangdong Province in southern China, SARS was spread to over 20 cities and provinces, including the capital Beijing and the central government compound of Zhongnanhai. As people entered and left China, SARS quickly spread to many other countries and regions.
New Tang Dynasty Television, an independent Chinese-language television station based in North America, began issuing warnings and following the story as early as February 2003. Because of the censorship of news in Mainland China, the public had no way of knowing about this important news that could threaten their very existence.
Instead, on April 2 of that year, China’s state-controlled media published an article, titled “The Situation of Atypical Pneumonia Is Under Effective Control.” The next day, Minister of Health Zhang Wenkang told Chinese and foreign reporters at a press conference, “I can say with good conscience that it is safe to work, live, and travel in China.”
But by then, China was in fact in widespread panic. Food and medicine that was believed to cure or prevent SARS, such as Chinese herbal formula Banlangen, Meng beans, white vinegar, and salt, were being bought up quickly in large cities. The prices of many Chinese herbal formulas skyrocketed. Many people started to wear face masks on the streets. Someone wrote a satire mimicking a poem by Mao Zedong: “Through the winds and showers, spring has arrived. SARS heralded the spring. Though the spring scenery is splendid, we have to wear thick face masks. Even face masks don’t bring us assurance, so we consume huge quantities of Chinese herbal formulas. When the Chinese herbs are out of stock, cunning merchants smile [as they can then make a profit].”
When the Beijing government repeated said that SARS was under control in China, Dr. Jiang Yanyong, a retired surgeon from the People’s Liberation Army’s Hospital 301 wrote a statement to the media, accusing the Chinese health system of concealing the truth.
Dr. Jiang said that, by April 3, Hospital 309 in Beijing (designated by the PLA’s General Logistics Department as the SARS special hospital) alone had accepted 60 SARS patients, at least six of whom died. But according to statistics published by Minister of Health Zhang Wenkang as of April 3, there were only 12 SARS-related cases in Beijing, including three deaths. Seventy-one-year-old Dr. Jiang, who had been hired back by Hospital 301 as a consultant after retiring, said that he and many doctors and nurses he worked with were irate about the underreporting.
Two weeks later, Zhang was fired. The public was outraged at all that had happened.
The Jiang faction continued to try to hide the development of SARS, but the disease remained merciless. In mid-April, SARS entered Zhongnanhai, the central CCP compound, and infected two members of the Politburo Standing Committee: Luo Gan and Wu Guanzheng. Wu Guanzheng was not seen in Zhongnanhai for a long time after April 1. Luo Gan disappeared from the public eye for several months after April 12. When word about this got out—it was top secret—Jiang Zemin grew anxious. Every few days, the government’s official media would say that Luo and Wu were visiting this or that place. The truth was, they both were struggling painfully with the SARS virus.
Because the CCP’s government-censored news reports and statements concealed the true situation of the illness, preventative measures were taken later than they should have been, resulting in the spread of SARS around the world. And more than 90 countries stopped issuing visas to Chinese citizens.
The consequences of the CCP’s initial silence and its information blockade on SARS-related news were disastrous. The entire world bore heavy economic and human-life losses. The world was in shock.
After international organizations and citizens from overseas continuously condemned the Chinese government for the way it was handling SARS, China’s Chairman Hu Jintao warned Health Ministry officials not to hide SARS cases. Subsequently, Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao both appeared frequently on TV, stepping to the front line in the war against SARS.
Jiang Zemin, on the other hand, took his whole family to Shanghai after Luo Gan and Wu Guanzheng became ill. At that point, Jiang’s faction was in the background, as Hu and Wen fought on the SARS frontline in Beijing. Jiang was in fact trying to use this opportunity to get rid of Hu and Wen. As soon as Jiang arrived in Shanghai, he ordered that “we must defend Shanghai with our lives.” Chen Lianyu, CCP Secretary for the Shanghai municipal government, was put in an impossible situation. SARS is invisible and intangible, and it infects people without any warning. How could humans fight SARS with their lives?
Jiang Zemin insisted on the policy of “stability above all else.” No matter how many people were taken to the hospital for SARS in Shanghai, the government’s official statistics remained at four people. People were saying things like, “This is completely ridiculous. Five people living in my building got SARS.” Later, the official number changed to seven, the reason being that the three newly infected were foreigners, and the government had to report it. By the end of the SARS crisis, the number of infections reported in Shanghai remained at seven, an almost comical farce that epitomizes the folly of Jiang’s insistence on putting “stability”—which is just a euphemism for his continued hold on power—above human life. It would be comical, that is, were it not for its dire and tragic consequences.
Two weeks after Hu Jintao left for Guangdong to inspect the development of SARS, Jiang Zemin, who had fled Beijing for Shanghai to escape SARS, appeared in public in Shanghai for the first time on April 26 and said, “China has achieved definitive results in controlling atypical pneumonia.” Because of the Jiang faction’s lies and escape in the face of SARS, Jiang was disdained and hated. Students from Peking University plainly said of him on the Internet, “Running to Shanghai to avoid the disaster! So afraid of death!”
But wherever Jiang Zemin went, the SARS situation became worse. Although level after level of the government in Shanghai ordered people “to defend Shanghai with human lives,” the results were not good. Jiang, seeing that the situation wasn’t good in Shanghai, went on to Liaoning and Shandong Provinces. When the SARS situation improved a little by late May, Jiang snuck back to Beijing. He was still afraid of staying in Zhongnanhai, and moved to Yuquanshan in western Beijing instead. Some people laughed at Jiang and said that in the face of SARS, Jiang, who is extremely afraid of death, could only run around; he couldn’t feel safe anywhere.
Throughout the whole SARS ordeal, the policy of deception that Jiang and his followers pursued was the direct cause of the disaster. They paid lip service to maintaining “stability,” while they were only maintaining the stability of their own positions. They did not care in the least how many ordinary citizens died.
Internally, the CCP transmitted Jiang’s order to all levels of government that if SARS were reported in an area, the local officials would be fired. As a result, no local official dared to report the situation on SARS to the higher levels of government. They each strategized on their own how to “defeat” SARS. SARS cases became the most confidential information among government officials.
The central government’s threat to fire local officials caused a chain effect in the government. Officials at each level pressured the level below to do all they could to “defeat” and hide SARS. A very common approach was to change the death certificate of the SARS victims. Inside sources reveal that to curb the spread of SARS, hospitals gave SARS patients lethal injections.
A doctor from Guangdong Province who wishes to remain anonymous said, “There are no detailed statistics on SARS patients. Beijing gave quotas to each local area. The local officials had to report their numbers according to the quota. It is easy to see that the published numbers look very neat and orderly.” A policeman from Shenzhen City who was specially assigned to handle deceased SARS patients said, “Because there was a huge potential for those infected with SARS to infect others, the police in local areas were required specifically to cremate the corpses.” He also said, “Beijing ordered that the number of deaths in Shenzhen could not exceed 30. In fact, the number of SARS casualties in Shenzhen was much higher than the publicized number.”
In Guangdong, Sichuan, Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning Provinces, the military barricaded entire villages where SARS was found. They first cut off all phone lines to the area, and then forbade all people from leaving, thereby concealing the news to the outside world. After one village was barricaded, a man tried to escape and was shot to death by the soldiers.
In most of the barricaded villages, the military waited for the entire village to die out and then sanitized the whole area. A policeman from Shenzhen said, “Hospitals no longer handled the dead bodies of SARS patients. The military and police completely took over the task. The bodies were destroyed en masse by the military.”
By the end of June, northeastern China alone saw about 10,000 casualties. The CCP’s information blockade prevented mainland Chinese media from giving even the smallest clue. The Propaganda Ministry issued orders that only the Xinhua News Agency may publish news related to SARS; no other regional media was allowed to publish any news related to SARS without Xinhua’s approval. Prior to that, the Propaganda Ministry reorganized newspapers and magazines nationwide and shut down certain newspapers to prevent “disobedient” media from leaking information to the public.
Within the highest central CCP leadership in Beijing, there were huge disagreements on how to handle SARS. One faction favored publicizing the truth to prevent the potential catastrophe were the epidemic to spread unchecked. Meanwhile, Jiang Zemin’s position was that “if it maintains stability and prosperity, 2 million deaths are worth it.” How CCTV, which was tightly controlled by Jiang’s faction, reported on SARS was directly determined by Jiang Zemin himself. Dr. Jiang Yanyong, who many called a “SARS hero,” was quickly silenced and penalized according to military regulations.
The most ridiculous was that, instead of admitting to their own mistakes in the SARS epidemic, Jiang Zemin and the CCP shifted the responsibility to the helpless common citizens and threatened to take extreme measures against the people who “intentionally” spread SARS. When the government had failed in its responsibilities, and when the people were rushing in a panic to save their own lives, how could anyone possibly have “intentionally” spread SARS? Even at that time, Jiang Zemin did not pass up any opportunity to defame Falun Gong. On June 9, Xinhua News Agency quite absurdly reported that Falun Gong practitioners infected themselves with SARS and spread it throughout the nation. It was amazing that the news anchors were able to say this with a straight face. It was suspected that this piece of news was meant to provide the background needed to barricade and eliminate infected villages, as well as to hinder Falun Gong adherents’ efforts to tell people about the persecution they faced. It was not at all meant to relieve the SARS situation.
Throughout the spreading of the SARS epidemic, Jiang Zemin exhibited his extreme cowardice and disregard for human life.
On July 1, 2003, the CCP celebrated the sixth anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule. To the CCP’s surprise, on that very day, Hong Kong saw the largest public demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre—over half a million Hong Kong residents took to the streets to demonstrate against the proposed Article 23 of the Basic Law and to request general election of Hong Kong’s chief executive and Legislative Council.
A few hours prior to the demonstration, the CCP’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson told reporters, “You say that over 10,000 people [will attend the demonstration], but it hasn’t even happened yet. The organizers say the protest won’t start until 3 p.m., so it’s hard to say how many people will participate.”
Well, the actual number of participants turned out to be at least 500,000, much higher than 10,000. The CCP has completely lost touch with the sentiments of Hong Kong residents.
During the 1989 democratic movement in Beijing, over one million Hong Kong residents participated in street demonstrations to support the students. Beijing was in fear and called Hong Kong a “base for subversion.” When the Beijing government drafted the Basic Law of Hong Kong (Hong Kong’s constitution), they proposed a provision that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government could legislate to outlaw subversion (Article 23) when necessary. Even then, some legal experts objected, as they considered Article 23 (also called the “National Security Provision”) inconsistent with the spirit of democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.
Before Hong Kong’s return to China, when China and the United Kingdom were negotiating the transition of power, Beijing intended to establish Article 23 of the Basic Law to govern treason and the crime of subversion. The proposal received strong opposition from many circles in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. To secure a smooth transition of power, Beijing publicly announced that it would delay the passage of Article 23.
- It provides that any group or its branch organizations banned in mainland China for the purpose of national security could also be banned at any time in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government need not conduct any independent investigation.
- The provisions intentionally blur the concepts of the nation and the government, confusing the relationship between the two. In a democratic country, citizens have the right to monitor or replace the government. However, Article 23 states that opposition to the government is the same as opposing the nation as a whole.
- The police are given excessive power. For example, the police would not need a court-issued warrant to search a residence or make any arrest. No evidence would be needed. Simply suspicion on the part of the police would suffice.
- Any speech that the Hong Kong government deems inflammatory can be reason for conviction. The speech may be oral, written, or in any electronic format. The speech makers, those who hear the speech, and those who know of the speech but do not report are all guilty.
- Permanent Hong Kong residents, no matter where they are, are bound by this law. Overseas violators of Article 23 would be extradited back to Hong Kong. Those inside Hong Kong, no matter what nationality (including passers-by and visitors) would also be under the jurisdiction of Article 23. Sentences range from seven years on the light side to lifetime imprisonment.
Jiang Zemin began the persecution against the Falun Gong in July 1999. Although Jiang used all he could to persecute Falun Gong in the mainland, and Tung Chi-hwa had placed some limitations on Falun Gong activities in Hong Kong, the government could not apply the same totalitarian suppression in Hong Kong as in mainland China due to the need to maintain the appearance of the “One Country, Two Systems.”
Hong Kong is a financial center for the world. It is also a popular tourist site among mainland Chinese travelers. Every day, a large number of visitors arrive in Hong Kong, and they are often given leaflets containing information about the persecution of Falun Gong, information they cannot get in the mainland. At tourist attractions, they are shown the video that Falun Gong followers produced to expose the farce of the Jan. 23, 2001, “self-immolation.” This is something Jiang simply cannot stand. Jiang considered the Article 23 legislation to be the best way to get rid of the Falun Gong in Hong Kong.
Because the legislation would have affected the rights of a large number of people, and its influence would have been quite broad, it attracted much international attention, directly impacting economic development in Hong Kong and the image of the Hong Kong SAR government. But Jiang was too busy to care about that. Since July 1999, nearly all of Jiang’s thoughts and energy have been focused on suppressing the Falun Gong. In Mainland China, Jiang could kill the Falun Gong followers. In Hong Kong, all he could do was try to push the new law through by force.
The first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong S.A.R., Tung Chi-hwa, was the son of C.Y. Tung, a shipping tycoon from Hong Kong. C.Y. Tung once owned the largest fleet of oil tankers in the world. However, after Tung Chi-hwa took over the business, it declined to bankruptcy within 10 years. In 1997, the Oriental Overseas Shipping Line owned by the Tung family was in a dire situation. It only turned around after the CCP offered financial support. Thus, Tung was very obedient to the CCP.
As chief executive, Tung was not the choice of the people of Hong Kong but the choice of Beijing. Most people from Hong Kong did not want Tung to serve a second term.
Indeed, Tung’s fate was not in his own hands, but dependent on how useful he was to Jiang. In the first few years of Tung’s tenure, Jiang did not gain anything substantial. On the contrary, due to the Asian financial crisis, Jiang had invested heavily in Tung. How could Tung just leave that easily? Jiang had done his calculations and urgently needed Tung to accomplish an important task for him.
At the end of 2001, when Tung gave a report in Beijing on his position, outside reports said, “Jiang expressed unreserved support for him (Tung) and the S.A.R. government. All of this laid a solid foundation for Tung’s continuing to serve a second term.”
In early 2002, Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung expressed several times that she did not want to continue to serve the post. In late February, Leung was called to Beijing and met with by Qian Qichen, Vice Premier and Politburo member in charge of Hong Kong and Macau affairs. Since then, Leung never again mentioned her intention to leave the position. According to sources, Elsie Leung was born in a family of underground CCP members. When Jiang arranged for her to stay in her position, she of course needed to obey the orders of her superiors.
On July 1, 2002, with Jiang’s strong support, Tung Chi-hwa, whose performance had been dismal, was re-elected as the head of Hong Kong S.A.R.
Not surprisingly, soon after Tung assembled his new cabinet, the Department of Justice quickly announced the Hong Kong government’s decision to establish Article 23 of the Basic Law. The public comment period on the proposed Article 23 was only three months long. A more detailed proposal was to be published no later than the beginning of the following year. The proposal was to be sent to the legislature to be reviewed and passed. Elsie Leung said she had already communicated with Beijing on this matter.
Since the persecution against Falun Gong began, Jiang had put Article 23 on his agenda and continued to pressure the Hong Kong government to pass the law. However, Hong Kong high-level officials led by Anson Chan Fang On-sang delayed the matter, saying that it was not necessary and that Hong Kong needed to maintain its image.
Chan had always been known for speaking her mind, and was called the conscience of Hong Kong. When Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, Chan was the most popular official in Hong Kong. Many Hong Kong people believed that if the first executive for the special administrative region were to be elected by popular vote, Chan would be the sure winner. As a person who had lived and worked in a democracy, Chan was well aware that the freedom of belief is a most fundamental right. Since the suppression of the Falun Gong began, as the second-highest official in Hong Kong, she upheld the Falun Gong adherents’ freedom of belief as members of a society governed by rule of law. This had deeply aggravated Jiang Zemin. Jiang could not directly fire Chan, so he forced her to resign.
Now that Tung was re-elected as chief executive, Secretary of Justice Elsie Leung also continued for a second term, and Secretary of Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee was eager to show Jiang her ability and loyalty and could hardly wait. The three formed an iron triangle. The time was ripe for Jiang’s plans in Hong Kong.
Jiang hoped to recycle the strategy that he had used in the initial phase of suppressing Falun Gong, namely, to quickly achieve victory by launching all-pervasive assaults. In Hong Kong, to avoid criticism from the international community, Jiang agreed to a nominal three-month consultation period. In Macau, which received fairly little attention from the rest of the world, there was no consultation period. The legislation became effective immediately.
Jiang was eager to place this form of restraint on Hong Kong. However, he forgot one fact. Article 23 was added to the Basic Law after over one million Hong Kong residents took to the streets twice to support democracy and condemn the CCP’s massacre during the 1989 democracy movement. Now Jiang’s intention involved more than crushing the Falun Gong. Instead, he was trying to push forward a challenge to the bottom line of democracy in Hong Kong, home to seven million people. That is just how Jiang is. When he wants to do something terrible he has no concern about the potential consequences.
The issue of Article 23 received tremendous attention from a wide array of people including various countries’ governments, non-governmental organizations, religious circles, news media, overseas Hong Kong people, legal circles, students, businesspeople, and people in Taiwan. Opposition from various groups in Hong Kong and Chinese people the world over remained strong and was getting stronger. Democracy advocates in Hong Kong and others actively explained the danger of Article 23 to the public and sought help from Western countries.
On the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 15, 2002, more than 40 Hong Kong organizations held the largest peaceful demonstration since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule to oppose the government’s proposed “anti-subversion law” based on Article 23 of the Basic Law. The police estimated that 12,000 people participated in the event, while the organizations estimated 60,000. Whatever the actual number, it was undeniably the largest demonstration since China took over Hong Kong in 1997. More and more Hong Kong residents came to understand the effect of Article 23 on the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and human rights. They took to the streets to express their concern.
In Chinese communities outside of China, groups from Hong Kong organized activities opposing Article 23. They stated, “Defend Hong Kong, Defend Our Conscience.” “Oppose Article 23 and Return the Government to the People.” Worldwide protests began.
The Global Coalition Against Article 23 Legislation was established on Dec. 4, 2002. Its mission was to protect human rights and the rule of law in Hong Kong. The Coalition called on overseas Chinese people to become united to defend democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, and to restore Hong Kong as a “pearl of the Orient.” The Coalition’s website received more than 9,000 signatures opposing Article 23 within a few days. The Coalition held gatherings in Washington DC and Los Angeles in support of the demonstrations in Hong Kong. Branch offices of the Global Alliance for Democracy and Peace (GADP) and Chinese groups in Vancouver also held local activities, encouraging the public to speak out against Article 23.
July 1, 2003, was an extremely hot day, but that did not stop the 500,000 from marching. The protest against the Hong Kong government’s proposed Article 23 was far larger than expected. It not only shocked Hong Kong, but also took the world by surprise.
The Civil Human Rights Front, a group consisting of more than 40 organizations, initiated the demonstration. The demonstrated started at 3 p.m. in the afternoon and ended at 9:30 p.m., six and a half hours. Some media estimated the number of participants to be as high as 1.2 million. Hong Kong police admit that at least 350,000 participated. The most widely accepted, conservative number is 500,000, a significant proportion of Hong Kong’s 6.8 million people.
Most mainland Chinese, however, did not hear about the event. The CCP censored nearly all related news. On July 1, the day of the demonstration, Phoenix Television, a Hong Kong TV station that follows orders from the CCP, only reported that 60,000 people “celebrated the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China,” while ignoring the 500,000-strong demonstration. No mainland Chinese media reported on the event.
The demonstration in Hong Kong shook Beijing. The political forces in Hong Kong became divided under the pressure from public opinion. On the evening of July 6, Chairman of the Liberal Party James Tien suddenly announced his resignation as a member of the Legislative Council. The Liberal Party simultaneously published a statement supporting a delay in the second-phase review of Article 23.
Tung Chi-hwa had calculated its chances. Out of the 60 members of the Legislative Council, 28 or 29 were pro-Beijing. James Tien, Chairman of the Liberal Party, controlled eight legislators from his party. As a member of the government, Tien had the responsibility to follow Tung’s orders. Altogether, Tung thought for sure he had 36 or 37 votes, more than half of the legislative council. That was why he totally ignored the strong opposition from the public and tried to force the law through. However, Tien’s sudden resignation cost Tung eight votes from the Liberal Party. The passing of Article 23 was no longer possible. The second-phase review of Article 23 had to be postponed indefinitely.
On the evening of July 16, the Hong Kong S.A.R. government announced its acceptance of the resignation of Secretary of Security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and Financial Secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung. Ip had very low public support due to her terse approach to push Article 23 through the Legislative Council.
By then, Jiang had lost and could not turn the situation around.
On Sept. 5, when the passage of Article 23 was apparently impossible, Hong Kong’s chief executive Tung Chi-hwa announced, with little sincerity, that the government withdrew the “National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill” out of public concern regarding Article 23.
Jiang’s plan to use Hong Kong’s Article 23 to control Falun Gong and suppress Hong Kong people ended up a complete failure. However, Jiang used the opportunity to turn the tables and shirk responsibility. He accused Hu Jintao, who was in charge of Hong Kong affairs, of failing to report to the CCP Central Committee the true situation of Hong Kong residents and causing a policy mistake. He stripped Hu of the powerful position of managing Hong Kong affairs, and handed over the position to his trusted follower Zeng Qinghong.
On March 10, 2005, after losing his main benefactor Jiang Zemin, Tung Chi-hwa officially resigned from the Hong Kong S.A.R. Chief Executive position.
2003 was a year of intense power struggle between Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
At the 4th Plenary Conference of the CCP’s 16th Congress in November 2002, Jiang was forced to give up his position of chairman of the nation and CCP general secretary. However, Jiang was reluctant to let go of his power. He directed Zhang Wannian to suddenly propose a motion that would enable Jiang to keep the control of the military.
Jiang also set up a few rules for the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. The most important one was that the Standing Committee, with its nine members, was the collective leadership. There was no “core” to the standing committee because Jiang could not stand having Hu replace him as the new core. Another important directive from Jiang was that small things, ordinary things, should be decided by the Standing Committee after discussion. However, important matters had to be decided by Jiang Zemin. Even though Jiang lost power, Hu could not have full control. Jiang’s desire for power, fear of losing power, and jealousy of others who wield power are beyond imagination.
Some called this strange leadership structure inappropriate because it was neither the third generation of leaders nor the fourth generation. The most laughable was that CCP General Secretary and Chairman of the Nation Hu Jintao was merely the Vice Chairman of the CMC, yet Jiang Zemin, who no longer had any titles in the party or the central government, was Chairman of the CMC. The country’s top-level leadership structure was seen as a farce. An overseas media agency used an analogy to describe the odd situation of the CCP leadership: Jiang’s continuing control of the military resulted in an usual power allocation for China; it was likened to Clinton giving the presidency to Bush yet staying on as Commander in Chief of the United States military.
Inside the CCP, there were heated debates after the 16th Congress about whether Hu or Jiang’s name should appear first in media reports. This uncertainty, which implied that his power was no longer unquestioned, highly irritated Jiang. Therefore, he tried everything he could to fight for power.
Jiang did all he could to promote generals that were loyal to him. This was his open challenge to Hu, since it showed that he came before Hu. For a while after the 16th Congress, Jiang was always mentioned before Hu. It wasn’t because Jiang was very confident about himself. Instead, he was trying to show the international community that he was still the true power center of China. He was trying to show the United States government that they must go through him to get anything done.
But with the support of Party elders, Hu was also flexing his muscles behind the scenes. He did exactly what Jiang hated. For example, at the end of 2002, Hu hosted the first round of ideology education with members of the new Politburo, during which he invited experts to discuss the constitution. Hu used the constitution to strengthen his own power position, while hinting that Jiang violated the constitution. Although Hu did not say it explicitly, all those in the audience knew what he was getting at.
Before New Year’s Day in 2003, to show off his position, Jiang suggested that the Politburo host a meeting to discuss their recent experience within the CCP. Former Politburo members were also invited. Jiang had planned to use this meeting to please Politburo members and reduce the dissatisfaction of the members over Jiang’s extended control of the military. At the meeting, Jiang said that another five years had passed, and it would be good for the members to untie their “knots” and communicate with each other. To his surprise, the members were having an argument, and Jiang was the main target. Li Ruihuan said that in the past five years, Jiang never listened to different or opposing opinions. Other members raised almost 40 complaints about Jiang in six different subject areas, including monopoly on power, dictatorship, promoting a cult of personality, creating memorials for himself, publishing books about himself, and showing off everywhere. They accused Jiang of severely damaging China’s image and dignity in the international community. During the meeting, the members also questioned why all the important CCP and political decisions must be reviewed and approved by Jiang, an ordinary CCP member, and why Jiang’s name is listed before the Party’s General Secretary and other members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo in internal Party documents and local politically-controlled newspapers. By the end of the meeting, the members all agreed that Hu’s name should be in front of Jiang in future publications.
Beginning from Jan. 1, 2003, all internal CCP documents and notices placed Hu Jintao in the first place and Jiang Zemin in the second. Jiang was irritated by this. He avoided appearing in public with Hu until Jan. 20. On Jan. 21, Jiang and Hu both attended an entertainment performance hosted by the CMC. Jiang walked in front of Hu on this occasion.
To maintain his power, Jiang Zemin continued to tout the Three Represents.
Between Feb. 12–18, Jiang hosted Three Represents Training Courses at the Communist Central Party School for newly elected members of the Central Committee, alternate members of the Central Committee, and leaders of the central government and the ministries under the State Council.
To Jiang’s disappointment, some of the high-ranking officials at the trainings not only failed to praise the Three Represents, but criticized it. They believed that if the CCP’s monitoring mechanisms were not strengthened and the Party’s power was not solidified, talking about the Three Represents and implementing the requirements of the Three Represents was simply a waste of time. The theory could not solve any of the Party’s real problems, they felt. When some participants in the training courses objected to the Party’s consistent use of the Three Represents slogans, they were in fact targeting Jiang Zemin. They said the Three Represents was not created until 2001; saying that the CCP had always followed it since it took over China in 1949 and especially since the 4th Plenary Meeting of the 13th CCP Congress was a complete lie, and one that was being told to the 60 million CCP members and 1.3 billion Chinese people. The trainees were the new batch of high-ranking leaders of the CCP. Their position on the Three Represents was actually what they thought of Jiang Zemin.
On March 15, 2003, during the People’s Congress’s single-candidate, usually rubber-stamp elections, Jiang’s bid for re-election as Chairman of the CMC was met with 98 votes in opposition and 122 abstentions. If the results had been based on the rules of real, competitive elections, Jiang would not possibly have been elected. Jiang was quite distraught about it.
On March 18, 2003, Xinhua News Agency, which was still under Jiang’s control, at Jiang’s orders published congratulatory letters from leaders of several foreign countries, including the President of Congo Sassou Nguesso, President of Namibia Sam Nujoma, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and President of Uruguay Jorge Batlle Ibanez. The purpose was to create a veneer of popularity of Jiang.
Interestingly, of the leaders of important Western countries who Jiang had contact with in the past, such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia, none of them sent a congratulatory letter to Jiang for his re-election as Chairman of the CMC. Jiang often said that he would guide Hu another leg of the journey and support Hu for another stretch, in order to show him his unique way of handling international affairs. What Jiang meant was that he thought China couldn’t continue without him. But as soon as Jiang left the top post, nobody took him seriously anymore. Jiang felt like his reputation had been dragged through the mud, leaving him angry and resentful.
On May 2, 2003, a Chinese Navy conventional submarine sunk during a routine training exercise in the eastern Chinese territorial waters near Neichangshan. All 70 people aboard were killed.
There were a variety of reasons given for the sea disaster. At first, the CCP announced that it was due to a mechanical malfunction. It later changed its statement and said the accident was due to improper commands. When recovered and returned to harbor, the submarine was in good condition with no apparent damage. In addition, the 70 people were suffocated to death within a very short period of time. Overseas military experts found it surprising that nobody in the submarine escaped the disaster, since all submarines are designed with an escape hatch to allow the crew a way out. Other military commentators also pointed out that the sea water outside of the Liaodong Peninsula was only 100 to 200 meters deep, which was considered shallow for a submarine. Even with the presence of mechanical problems, the submarine should have been able to sustain the crew for a period of time, enabling some people in the submarine to survive the incident. The entire incident was veiled in secrecy.
A while later, an insider from the Chinese Navy revealed that the incident was an act of revenge on the part of a navy official who was about to retire; the official committed suicide and killed dozens of others to protest Jiang Zemin’s military cuts. Jiang had brought in new blood to replace existing officials in order to rid the established military leaders of their influence at various levels, and to install his own followers. His actions frustrated many retiring officials, resulting in the serious incident with the North Sea Fleet.
Originally, 57 navy troops and officials were assigned to the submarine. Before the incident, the North Sea Fleet happened to have sent a Deputy Squadron Leader at the rank of Senior Colonel to inspect the submarine, and brought 12 more people aboard. The angry official who caused the accident thought that this would be the best opportunity for revenge. When the submarine left the navy base at Qingdao, he shut off the air inlet, resulting in the lack of oxygen throughout the submarine and killing 69 others and himself.
After the incident, Jiang not only failed to own up to his responsibility for it, but also fired the Navy commander Shi Yunsheng, the Navy’s political commissioner Yang Huaiqing, the commander of the North Sea Fleet, and the political commissioner of the North Sea Fleet. Jiang replaced them with people who had pledged loyalty to him. The current commander of the Navy, Zhang Dingfa, was promoted by Jiang to the position in part because of the incident. Another reason for his appointment was so that he could monitor Hu Jintao from within the CMC.
On June 13, Xinhua Net, a Jiang-controlled news website, said that the investigation into the Navy’s Submarine No. 361 incident had come to a conclusion. The cause of the incident, it said, was “inappropriate commands.” However, the report did not dare discuss why there would have been inappropriate commands.
An event to offer condolences to the families of the deceased was planned. Jiang made certain that Hu would be invited and come as Vice Chairman of the CMC—the operative word being “Vice.”
What the public saw about the event was a report like the following: “CMC Chairman Jiang Zemin, and CMC Vice Chairmen Hu Jintao, Guo Boxiong, and Cao Gangchuan met on the 5th with representatives of the family members of the deceased crew from the Navy’s Submarine No. 361 and representatives of their divisions. On behalf of the CMC, Jiang Zemin…” Jiang again built himself up and tried to frame himself as a popular leader of the people and the military, making sure people noted that he was ranked higher than Hu. His scheme was quite clumsy, however, because by building himself up he brought more blame on himself for the incident.
At 9 a.m. sharp on Oct. 15, 2003, “Shenzhou V,” a manned spacecraft costing 19 billion yuan, was successfully launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province.
Jiang, accompanied by Wu Bangguo and Zeng Qinghong, arrived at the satellite launch center before the scheduled time. Jiang wanted to beat Hu in being the first to talk with the astronaut so that he could get all the attention. However, in the CCP’s official media reports, only Hu Jintao, Huang Ju, Wu Guanzheng, Cao Gangchuan, and Wang Gang were shown or mentioned as watching the launch live at the launch center. Jiang Zemin was not mentioned at all. This demonstrated that the struggle between the Jiang and Hu factions had intensified.
Jiang Mianheng received a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 1991. He worked for Hewlett-Packard after graduation. In January 1993, Jiang Mianheng returned to China and worked for Shanghai Institute of Metallurgy (now Shanghai Institute of Microsystem and Information Technology), under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In July 1997, Jiang Mianheng was promoted to be the director of Shanghai Institute of Metallurgy. Two years later, in November 1999, as if riding on a rocket, he was promoted to the position of Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. From 1993 to 1999, in six short years, Jiang Mianheng leapt from being an ordinary researcher to Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Just like Lin Biao promoted his son Lin Liguo during the Cultural Revolution, Jiang Zemin has specifically arranged for Jiang Mianheng’s rise in status.
China’s manned space flight engineering command was the highest organization in charge of launching “Shenzhou V.” The Commander General was General Li Jinai, commissioner of the CMC and Director of the General Armament Department (GAD). Of the four deputy commanders, only Jiang Mianheng was not trained in the field. The other deputy commanders were experts. They included Deputy Director of the GAD Hu Shixiang, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation general manager Zhang Qingwei, and director of China National Space Administration Luan Enjie.
When it came to technology, Jiang Mianheng was a relative novice. The manned spacecraft project was extraordinarily expensive and involved tremendous responsibility. It therefore required very specific expert knowledge. By any normal reasoning, Jiang Mianheng should not have been appointed deputy commander of the project.
The reason why Jiang Mianheng’s name rose in status after the successful launch was that Jiang Zemin utilized the situation to advance his son’s political career. Jiang Zemin unscrupulously placed Jiang Mianheng into the core of the military. That could give Jiang Zemin’s words more weight, he thought. At the right time, he thought, Jiang Mianheng might even be able to control the military, similar to what happened with Lin Biao’s son Lin Liguo.
Jiang Zemin was extremely power hungry, and at the same time extremely fearful of losing power. He wouldn’t feel safe unless someone he trusted was in power. Now faced with having to hand over power entirely, Jiang’s worry and wish to keep power grew. Only when power rested in his sons’ hands could he feel safest. Indeed, for a long time, Jiang has placed his sons and other family members in key government positions. His oldest son, Jiang Mianheng, is in charge of the sciences, including China Telecom and the Internet. He not only learns about technology but also makes a big profit. His youngest son, Jiang Miankang, was quickly promoted to the position of Major General in the General Political Department of the military. Under a great deal of pressure both from inside and outside of China to hand over control over the military, Jiang Zemin had wanted also to place his older son Jiang Mianheng into the military to increase his control of the military. As soon as the “Shenzhou V” was launched, the Jiang father-and-son pair was anxious reap the benefits.
Along the same lines, in 2003, in order to increase his power, Jiang Zemin also suggested the promotion of his faithful follower and lover Chen Zhili so that she might participate in work related to the CMC, defense technology, and education. However, the high leaders of the military looked down on Chen and nicknamed her “Chen the whore.” At a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Jiang’s suggestion to promote Chen roused much controversy and was set aside for the time being.
On the eve of Jiang’s fall from power, he kept making changes to try to salvage the situation. But it was impossible to turn things around. Soon after his attempts, Jiang lost his power amidst embarrassing opposition.