Why the Beijing Police Have Broken Up a Meeting of 80-Year-Olds

September 9, 2015 Updated: September 10, 2015

Aged 87, Du Guang is the outspoken and sharp-minded former official at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. He is an associate of magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, once known for its comparatively independent coverage of political matters.

Du also organizes regular gatherings of elderly peers. Meeting once a month in Beijing, the group of 20 to 60 people discuss current affairs and social developments for a few hours as they dine.

Their August gathering was crashed by the Chinese police, ostensibly in the interest of “state security.” Du Guang, who has come under pressure from the authorities before, says the move is politically motivated and “reflects the lawless and uncontrolled behavior of the security system.”

This August, Du had planned a luncheon to memorialize his colleague Xie Tao, once vice president of Renmin University in Beijing, who passed away five years ago on Aug. 25. As an intellectual who dared criticize the policies of chairman Mao, Xie suffered ten years of political persecution during the Cultural Revolution.

Xie Tao’s daughter, Xie Xiaoling, had spent months preparing for the occasion, but a few days prior to the meeting was contacted by the authorities and ordered not to attend. Other guests were given similar demands, and the northwest Beijing restaurant they had planned to eat at was menaced by police patrols, Du Guang wrote in an article that appeared on democraticchina.org.

Those who did try to show up, including Xie Xiaoling, were brusquely driven away by the police.

The New York-based New Tang Dynasty Television reported that Bao Tong, a former Chinese official in charge of implementing political reform before he was sacked in the wake of the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, had also been warned not to attend the memorial luncheon.

Du says that the actions taken by the police on Aug. 25 indicate the lack of rule of law, despite this having been officially prioritized by regime leaders since the 1980s.

If true rule of law is not implemented, Du warns that Chinese society will “remain shrouded” in the legacy of Zhou Yongkang, the former head of China’s regime security forces recently sentenced to life in prison for abusing his power.

Though Zhou may have been ousted, the violations of civil rights under communist rule are “rooted in the political power” of the regime elites.

Du’s meetings, which encourage open discussion of politics, are a sensitive issue for the Chinese regime.

“There’s no format, no plan, no arrangement, no restriction of participants,” Du wrote. “There are also middle aged friends joining us, sometimes even people from the security sector. We welcome all … We support debates on various opinions.”

Du Guang is a contributor for the magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu, sometimes rendered in English as “China Through The Ages.” Until last year, it covered contemporary Chinese political and social issues with relative independence from the Party line.

Many other writers and editors were retired Party officials like Du. Often, they were those who had become disillusioned by the regime in old age. In September 2014, the magazine was coerced by the Chinese regime’s censorship bureau to integrate with an official organization, bringing the publication under Party oversight and undermining its independent stance.