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China`s Right to Know

Posted September. 08, 2010 11:21,   


“What is the June 4 incident?” A Chinese user posted this question on China’s major Web portal site Baidu two years ago. The incident refers to the Tiananmen Square protest of June 4, 1989. In May that year, more than one million protestors gathered at Tiananmen Square in Beijing urging democracy for the country. At the time, many around the world expected China to eventually undergo democratization. Beijing, however, deployed tanks on the night of June 3 to disperse the demonstrators. Since then, all talk of the incident has been considered taboo in China. A response to the question saying, “Who dares answer the question?” has been posted for a while.

Chinese President Hu Jintao said Monday at an event marking the 30th anniversary of Shenzhen’s designation as a special economic zone, “We need political and democratic reform to continue the achievements of 30 years of economic reform and opening.” He also said, “To grant the right to know and vote to the people and guarantee freedom of expression and supervision, we must introduce an election system and democratic ways of making decisions and realize democratic management and supervision.” His comments are leading many to expect political democratization in China’s future.

What Hu stressed is the establishment of social democracy, however. In his speech, he mentioned socialism 29 times and “socialism unique to China” nine times. What he proposed is not a free democracy but a style of socialism befitting China’s situation propagated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 along with the declaration of the policy of reform and opening to pursue market economics under the Communist Party. Socialism unique to China was also mentioned by Hu at the party’s 17th National Congress in 2007.

Human Rights Watch said in a report early this year that 28 Chinese journalists are in prison and Chinese media and the country’s 338 million netizens are subject to government censorship. “The Party,” a recently published book in the U.S. on the Chinese Communist Party, said it stops at nothing to ensure its survival but keeps everything secret. In China, the people`s right to know is set within the party`s limits. Though the country has made economic progress in leaps and bounds, it cannot continue suppressing the political freedom of its people over the long term.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)