Let Us Launch a 'Speak the Truth' Movement

November 30, 2007 12:00 am Last Updated: November 30, 2007 12:00 am

Recently, Chinese officials, democratic activists, scholars, and businessmen who are traditionally considered members of the Chinese Communist system have stood up one after another to write open letters to top leaders of Chinese regime to present their analysis and voice their deep concerns about the political, economical, cultural, religious, and environmental situation in China. With great courage, they have pointed out the calamities brought about by one-party totalitarianism, and have earnestly called for a political reform towards democracy, social justice, and harmony.

We are glad to see that the “insiders” of the Communist system are starting to join the “outside” democratic forces. What's even more inspiring is, despite the fact that outspoken Chinese often risk the danger of being persecuted by the repressive communist regime, more and more people have spoken their consciences with remarkable wisdom and courage.

The CCP's kaiserdom, just like any totalitarian regime, is built on a three-legged table. One is the loyalty of its followers, which is entirely based on the huge material interests and gains obtained through monopolization of power. The second is violence, and the third is lies. The CCP regime will come to a swift end even if only one leg is cut off.

In China, the time is now ripe for taxpayers to unite themselves to combat the dictatorship with their lawful rights, resist violence with peacefulness and rationality, and overthrow lies by speaking out the truth. Let's start from the simplest steps. I call upon all Chinese to start a Grand Movement of Speaking the Truth.

Why Launch Such a Movement?

In a normal society, there is no need to launch a movement to encourage people to speak out the truth. In a civilized society, to tell the truth should be as natural as breathing the air. However, in China, people have long been submerged in violence and lies imposed on them by the dictators–falsified history, fabrication, forged greatness, counterfeit virtue, fabricated happiness, and so on. All the regime's crimes that are committed in broad daylight are protected by these lies. How many people have been imprisoned, tortured to death, or have had their families torn apart, because they have told the truth?

Even today, in the 21st century, Chinese people still have to suffer financial punishment, political persecution, incarceration, physical and mental torture. They even have to lose their lives for telling the truth! China's society has become unaccustomed to speaking the truth. Instead, we have become accustomed to tolerating and complying with lies. Moreover, we have developed the ability to tell and live on lies. The entire society is lying and has taken it for granted. Even kindergarten kids would speak about the “Three Represents” [1] in front of a TV camera. Even those in the esteemed “pure land”–the institutions for higher education–are trading their diploma for official positions and money. As a result, we are indifferent towards those who are being ruthlessly persecuted for telling the truth; some of us even consider them abnormal people who have sabotaged social “harmony.”

As time goes by, our spiritual lives have withered. We manage to survive, or strive to survive in an inauthentic way, at the cost of our inner dignity. Those who do not belong to the privileged class are being exploited and abused until they have nowhere to turn to seek redress for the injustices they have suffered. It's precisely because we completely accept the rule of lies that the dictators act so sanctimoniously. It's precisely because we completely succumb to lies that the totalitarian regime appears to be strong. Our spiritual realm has fallen into deep ruin, because by lacking courage to speak the truth, we have failed to defend it.

Under such circumstances, without launching a movement, that is, having a group of people take the initiative to speak the truth with their noble loftiness and courage, we will be unable to save this lie-drenched society. In today's China, it is a phenomenal feat for any individual to openly speak the truth, a feat that will in turn greatly encourage more people to stand up to speak the truth. A movement disobeying communist rule will surely be on the horizon. As a result, a campaign for all Chinese people to speak the truth is necessary and inevitable.

What Truths Should be Told?

The Speak the Truth movement is targeted at the field of public life. We do not advocate violating personal privacy, which is irrelevant to public life. Public life refers to all public people and activities that are supported by taxes paid by citizens, with the purpose of enhancing citizens' welfare. Any citizen is entitled to and has the right and responsibility to speak freely in public life, in order to prevent corruption and damage to civic rights.

However, any dictator starts from controlling the right to speak in public through monopolizing civic rights. They use violence and lies to weaken people's ability to speak and think freely, thus destroying people's dignity and independent personalities. Hence, having an honest civic life will definitely be the most fundamental disintegration of an autocratic society.

To speak the truth, one must first speak one's mind and avoid saying things against one's conscience. Voice your own heartfelt evaluation of history, your opinion about the current situation of China and the world, your genuine wishes for your country, your criticism of your local government, and your genuine demands for what you think your government should or should not do.

When you speak from your heart, you refuse to go along with the language and language patterns that have been created by the lying machine of the dictatorial regime for controlling people's minds. The words that first come to mind may not necessarily be correct. Yet the essence of freedom of speech is not about being allowed to speak correct opinions but about being able to speak freely. Nobody can guarantee that one's words will be 100 percent correct, but everyone knows if someone is speaking one's true mind. Let us start by speaking our mind and not against our heart, gradually smooth out this mental state that has been distorted for so long, throw off the shackles that the dictatorial regime has placed on free thoughts, and fearlessly speak our mind in the field of public life.

To speak honestly, one must use the real facts. Autocratic societies are sustained through covering up and distorting history and reality. Once its true history and nature is known, the CCP's revolution and ruling of China would have no chance to exist on the right side of history. It will lose the shadows it relies on for survival. We will use the light of truth to drive away the lice that have been created by the CCP and are crawling all over China. We will restore the health and beauty of China's society.

We will no longer be a political cosmetician, nor will we accept his work or collaborate with him. We will no longer write “red” classics, take “red tours”, or use words that have been created to cover up history and distort people's minds, such as the “liberation” of China (which in reality is a cruel form of slavery), three years of “natural disaster” (which were actually man-made calamities) [2] , the “June 4 incident” [3] (which was actually a massacre), and so on. We will ever more loudly proclaim the true facts of history, no matter big or small, and explain the true situation in the world, in China and its localities and of those around us. We will tell all emperors, large or small, “The emperor is naked!” Let the saying of “whoever controls history controls reality and whoever controls reality controls history” end with our generation speaking the truth.

To speak the truth, we need to let out our complaints. One of the characteristics of a totalitarian regime is to continuously create dissatisfaction yet not allow people to express it. When the CCP regime had full political control, it demanded that people sincerely believe in it and praise it from their heart. Now that the CCP has already been put on the defensive by the forces of political democratization, it can only hope that people do not oppose it or recognize what it really is, and instead continue to praise it against their wills. From today onward, the Chinese people should begin to discard the cynicism that comes from accepting, recognizing, praising, and being indifferent to the CCP regime, against our wills. We must voice our dissatisfaction with both history and reality, speak of the inequity that has been forced upon us and others, speak out against bureaucratic corruption, expose the CCP regime's crimes against humanity and crimes in destroying human nature, let people know how disharmonious the society is under the rule of an autocratic regime, and fully expose corruption and lies.

We must let people understand that an authoritarian regime has no ability to reduce official corruption or to establish a harmonious society. The taxpayers, as masters of the government, naturally have the right to oppose corruption and the abuse of civic rights. To allow citizens to fully voice their concerns is the first step towards a harmonious society.

How to Speak the Truth

In today's China, citizens have no reliable channels to be heard through the mass media and to influence regime decisions. This Speak the Truth movement wants to achieve is to build such channels.

This movement must first inculcate in us the habit of telling the truth , as it requires us not to lie, not to attend mendacious celebrations, not to support face-saving projects that waste people's money and manpower, not to watch China Central TV's news programs or any other fake media reports, not to read party newspapers and magazines, nor to cooperate with the propaganda department's deceitful policies. We should use honest language in our daily, public lives. If we do so, our mouths will break away from the chain of lies.

To participate in this movement, we should write either private or open letters to local government leaders or central leaders. If you agree with the content of an open letter published by someone else, you could also cosign the letter and send it to the leaders. We should continuously publish open letters and send them to those leaders, leaving them no way to ignore citizens' voices.

We should also publish Internet articles, write on our blogs, comment on others' articles, or even send cell phone text messages. The idea is to saturate the wavelengths surrounding China with the honest words and complaints of the Chinese people.

We should openly accept interviews from free media outlets and bring their stories back to China. Just as the free flow of capital can bring people material wealth, the free flow of information can bring people spiritual fulfillment.

The Speak the Truth movement is a campaign to establish a system of public opinion. We need to speak the truth, speak from our heart, express our dissatisfaction to the representatives of the people, let them get used to listening to the people, and bring these messages to the People's Congress.


Under the long rule of the communist dictatorship, we Chinese have lost too much. Most importantly, we have lost our right to speak and have forgotten how to do so. To take back this right, we need to constantly and determinedly speak the truth and relearn how to do so. For any individual, being able to speak the truth in China is the self-salvation of one's own soul. Physically, it is difficult, but spiritually, it is the only choice. For our nation to establish a democratic system, we, as a unified entity, need to clean up our political culture, which has been marked by lies and dictatorship.

The history of human civilization is the history of truth overcoming lies. Let us overcome our fear of dictatorship through speaking consciously and publicly. Let us unify people with courage through the Speak the Truth movement, regain our dignity and confidence as citizens, recover our spiritual realm, which has long been occupied by the enemy, and build the foundation of civic culture— all necessities for establishing a democratic society in the future.

My compatriots, let us act at once!

Dr. Jianli Yang is the Chairman of the Boston-based Foundation for China in the 21st Century, a non-profit think tank that promotes constitutional democracy for China, and a well-known leader in the Chinese Democracy movement. Yang holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics from UC Berkeley (1991) and a Ph.D. in Political Economy from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government (2001). A veteran of the Tiananmen Square movement and June 4, 1989, Yang is one of 49 prominent dissidents blacklisted by the Chinese government. He is the author of Non-violent Struggle and Constitutional Reform—On China's Road toward Democracy.