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A Chinese letter we missed
by Thanos Kalamidas
2010-10-15 08:13:58
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It is natural that the Chilean miners monopolized the news the last few days touching the hearts and the minds of the people all around the world. However there was other news that we really missed and to my opinion one of them was something dramatic that might hide surprises for the future. Hours after the Nobel Prize went to Liu Xiaobo another news flash from China reached the media agencies all around the world.

A group of twenty-three communist party elders in China wrote a letter calling the leadership of the party for changes emphasizing the need to end the restrictions on freedom of speech. And for us who remember things before the 21st century we remember that it was something like that that pointed the beginning of the end for the Soviet Union. I presume that you think that this minute I project wishful wishes but think of it, would anybody dare like a letter like that ten or twenty years ago in China? Furthermore how possible would have been this letter to be written from the elder members of the Communist Party.

Actually the writers of this letters used a language that really provokes the status quo of the party’s structure as it has evolutes the last decades describing the current censoring as a scandal and embarrassment, describing the propaganda department as the “invisible black hands” and demanding freedom of speech, freedom of expression in internet and respect to journalists and their work.

When these words are coming from a former personal secretary of Mao Zedong and from the former editor of the People’s daily, the official communist party’s newspaper it is like a tsunami has hit the fundamentals of the Chinese communist party, a tsunami worst than the one the hit Indonesia a few years ago. And the letter is doing so pointing that it is not the communist party that has failed them or the Chinese constitution but the ones who control the propaganda department often abusing their orders and becoming more royal than the royals. How the party is going to answer? Imprisoning those people who are supposed to be the ones that guarantee the continuation of the system? Respect to the elders isn’t the schizophrenic characteristic of the Chinese party always balancing between centuries tradition and Marxist/Maoist modernism? Wasn’t that part of the Cultural Revolution that marked and changed the Chinese Communist Party?

The letter from the elders was an open letter since their access to the decision making centres is very limited and most likely like other similar letter in the last few decades – you might remember similar letters about the financial scandals that in the end led to arrests and some death sentences – but like other open letters in the past started an exchange, a conversation and most of all made the party aware that change is necessary.

Apart from all that the eldest prove that they can be more modern and adopted from the contemporary leadership of the Communist Party acknowledging that information is something we can not ban for long nowadays and especially with internet things has become a bit more complicate and difficult. It doesn’t matter how many ways they might find to censor it, the information will find the way to enter if not invade. The point is that you either trust the critic mind of the people or let them victims of controlled and targeting information. Because now the Chinese people have been targeted except from the totally controlled form the Party information from another kind of information that comes from a blinder often raw opposition that might represent everything the system fights as principal.

The Chilean miners are safe and some of them have already started going home to their families but freedom of speech has a long way to reach China might longer than the silk road, however this letter from the elder is a sign that the people understand that you can censor speech for ever and it is impossible to imprison freedom of thought

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Emanuel Paparella2010-10-15 10:43:39
Ah, freedom of speech in China. It still sounds like an oxymoron. When it was first “guaranteed” in the Chinese Constitution in the 80s John Stuart Mill must have been turning in his grave because a human inalienable right was never intended to be guaranteed, propagated, and for that matter defended by any state; it is integral part of any human being; one is born with them. That is something that many governments with totalitarian tendencies have not managed to grasp yet. In fact in China the government has not grasped it yet. Proof of it is that within 24 hours of the posting of the letter it began to disappear from the internet in China. It would appear that there is no problem understanding “censorship.” It is that little word “inalienable” that remains a misunderstood orphan. A modest suggestion: in order to under-stand that little word one has to severely limit one’s bullying intimidating tendencies and humbly “stand-under,” rather than arrogantly stand-above. Freedom of speech is valueless in theory on a piece of paper, it can only be understood with the practice of it. The more it is practiced, the more it is understood.

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