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Interview with Zhong Weiguang: From Tibet to China’s Totalitarianism

In spite of economic development, China remains a totalitarian country under the Communist Party. In an interview, Zhong Weiguang, a scholar and expert on contemporary totalitarianism, stated that the Berlin Wall collapsed, not because Western leaders praised the Eastern Communist leaders for their openness and reforms, but because of the constant pressure from the West and because of the frequent protests in Eastern Germany. Zhong believes that a peaceful, non-violent approach and a tireless pursuit of faith and human rights will bring down the Chinese Communist regime.

Zhong Weiguang is a scholar residing in Germany, an expert on contemporary totalitarianism, and a founder of the “Movement for Chinese Cultural Freedom.” He was a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences working on modern physics and its ideology. In 1988 he went to Ruhr University in Germany to conduct research on ideological and cultural issues of contemporary China. Since the mid-1990s he has continued his research as a freelancer on contemporary totalitarian ideology. In the following interview, Mr. Zhong draws comparisons between Totalitarianism under Chinese communism, Russian communism, and the Nazi regime in Germany.

Reporter:  Hi, Mr. Zhong.  Can you briefly tell our readers what you do?

Zhong:  I am a freelance writer.  My research is primarily on contemporary totalitarianism. In this field, of all the Chinese, overseas Chinese, I have to say I have collected the most information, about several hundred books. I have spent all my life and all my research on China. So I hope in the next several years, or even longer term, that I can return to China to help establish a research institute on totalitarianism, to bring the research on communism and its hundred years of history back to China. I feel that China is lacking in this. That will be my priority over the next 10 years.

Reporter: What do you think about the recent bloodshed in Tibet?

Zhong: Whatever happened in Tibet is not an accidental and isolated incident, but a routine occurrence in a communist society – Germans and Europeans find it very familiar. In Eastern European countries such as the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and others, such social issues frequently occurred. Why? Because they had no freedom, no freedom of religion. Ultimately it is because those in communist societies have no basic human rights.

What is happening today in Tibet is no different from the crackdown on Falun Gong in 1999. As we all can see, the crackdown on Falun Gong is in fact the persecution of faith, although it took place among Hans, among Chinese. So even the Tibet incident looks like a national issue, an issue of belief in Buddhism. It is ultimately a matter of basic human rights—there is no freedom in communist society.

We can also see that current communist leaders are doing exactly the same thing to the media as the communists in the 1950s and 1960s, which I think the German media and politicians have noticed. For instance, Mr. Nooke, Germany’s human rights commissioner said that Wen Jiabao continues to use the language of the Great Cultural Revolution on the Dalai Lama and that the international community will not accept it. Once again we see that Chinese communist government has not changed, not even a bit.  If you want to know why the Chinese communist government is doing this to the media and to Tibetans, just look at history and you will know that the Chinese communist government is still following the dogmatic, authoritarian and arbitrary modus operandi of communists during the cold war.

Let’s not forget when looking at Tibet that the Chinese government is a communist government. Tibet is on its way to becoming Eastern Germany in 1953, Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is definitely so.

Reporter: We just talked about the Tibet conflict and the role that the Chinese Communist Party is playing. What do you think about the anti-violence protests by Tibetans, even in other parts of China? The Chinese economy is growing at an annual rate of eight percent. With such a high growth rate, there should be significant improvement in people’s lives.  Shouldn’t they be grateful to the government?

Zhong: We all may have seen the economic growth. In fact, if we recall, there were similar situations in history. For example, the Soviet Union’s economy was growing fast in the 1950s. The United States felt a sense of crisis, believing that the Soviet Union would surpass the United States in 20 years. But soon we saw the Soviet Union stuck in a stagnant stage instead of continuous growth at the rate of the 1950s. So as for the economic growth in China, first, it is not real. Second, any totalitarian system, including the “Despotie” discussed in the West, means rule by slave-owners of slaves. In ruling the slaves, slave-owners feed the slaves and make sure the slaves survive. That is in fact the case in China. The Chinese Communist Party has to provide some benefits to the people in order to maintain its rule. Yet to receive such benefits, people must give up their faith and other human rights. So the Chinese people have not gained a higher degree of freedom and space as result of the material economic growth.

I will give you two examples. The first one is back in the Third Reich. There was a significant improvement in people’s lives in Germany. But we all know Third Reich was a totalitarian state. The second example is that yesterday I called two friends in Beijing.  They belong to the so-called middle class. European media may have reported that a middle class in China is on the rise and they participate in politics. When I spoke to the two friends about this, they laughed. One friend, who works at a publishing house, said that at the publishing house they do not have any freedom and cannot possibly participate in any political activities. They said that everything remains the same as it was in the 1950s when the Party had the final say on everything. But there is a difference. Now there are places that the Party’s tenacles normally do not reach. However, once these places revolt, the Party will extend its tentacles, and that is what happened in Tibet.

Reporter: You mentioned the phone calls to your friends. I want to know how the Chinese view their former senior leaders. Chinese leaders tend to speak in one nostalgic voice about the confrontation between the Communist Alliance and the free Western camp. Under the propaganda campaign, how much do Chinese really know about their past leaders, Tibet and Sichuan where revolts occurred in the past?

Zhong: Why did I say that there has been literally no change in today’s China whatsoever? It is because the Chinese Communist Party monopolizes all the media. In fact, its entire ideological basis and implementation approach are exactly the same as those used in the cold war, in the 1950s and 1960s. In China, the Communist Party controls all media, all propaganda organizations, and all publications without exception.  So any knowledge one has about Tibet is limited to the information from State radio broadcasting and State TV programs. Some may, by circumventing the Internet censorship, be able to access some information from outside China. Most people inside China are fed by Chinese Communist Party propaganda, day in and day out. They know little about what happened in Tibet and what they learned all came from the Communist Party—that Tibetan residents instigated violent riots—not that the communist government rolled out tanks and shot people in the street. Not that at all.

Even so, the communist regime has to admit that they did open fire and they did kill.  Why do people in China and in the West respond differently to such killings? Thomas Mann, President of the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament (EPP-ED Group) said if you kill one, it is too much and it should not be allowed. But for those in China, they do not think much if the authorities killed one or two. In other words, as result of the communist propaganda, life and human rights are no longer as important for the Chinese as they are for the West. These two points explain why the Chinese do not know much about Tibet and whatever they learned is distorted information.

Thirdly, the Chinese Communist Party defines the issue of faith and basic human rights as a conflict between the Han and Tibetan people, thus fanning nationalism. That has created quite a lot of negative impact in mainland China.

Reporter: To what extent do Chinese still believe what’s in the newspapers and TV programs?

Zhong: Most people in China have no access to anything else but Chinese TV programs and Chinese newspapers. Although they know these contents are all lies, they live in lies and have lost the ability to resist and break the lies. So they are numb and silent to the communist propaganda and unfortunately, do not find anything wrong with it.

On the other hand, there are very few who know some truth. The Communist Party takes advantage of nationalism and manipulates people’s desire for stability and fear of violence. So the general public in China knows little about the crackdown and views Tibet through colored lenses.

I would like to address this point through my own experience. Since the late 1980s, I always thought Tibet was very undeveloped and primitive. In spite of totalitarianism, the Communist Party did ship supplies to Tibet, thus providing some good things after all.  Even now, a lot of overseas Chinese students may have harbored the same thoughts as mine. As a result of this mindset, we are looking at Tibet through colored lenses and are totally ignorant of the truth about Tibet, how Tibetans lived prior to communist rule and what kind of life they want. It is the communist propaganda that imposes the colored lenses on us. Most, maybe 99 percent, of us, do not have a clear idea about the Tibet incident.

This is similar to what happened to the people in Eastern Germany. The communist way of life and thinking and the communist culture are all very different from the West, Western Germany, and normal societies. That’s why Chinese people responded differently, although more and more of them showed sympathy and understanding. Still, most do not understand the Tibet incident due to media censorship, lack of press freedom and communist propaganda. There are some people who do understand what happened in Tibet, such as rights activists, those who have suffered in the persecution, Falun Gong practitioners who have been persecuted due to their faith, also the dissident group formed after 1989 to promote democracy in China. For this last group, I believe what happened in Tibet will lead them to a better understanding of China and to the furtherance of democracy and human rights.

Therefore, I think this Tibetan effort, this protest against Chinese communist totalitarianism, is gradually expanding to the inner land and to the people there. If continued, the Chinese Communist Party can hardly stop the momentum. So I want to say now that the Olympics, and the related human rights campaigns, together with the Tibetan effort to pursue their faith and freedom have truly tolled the bell of death for the Chinese communist government. I think from now on, the Communist Party is on a slide going down.

Reporter: In your opinion why did China obtain the right to host the Olympic Games?

ZHONG: The reason that China obtained the right to host the Olympic Games seven years ago is because, after the end of cold war, many Westerners felt the overall threat from communism had been lifted. So they felt relaxed toward the Chinese Communist Party leading to the grant of the right to host the Olympics. Also, commercial opportunities brought by the economy at that time helped as well. But in the history of the Olympics, there were only two totalitarian countries that held the Olympics: Hitler’s Germany and the Soviet Union. So one cannot get around the issues of human rights, freedom, peace and democracy when holding the Olympics. In other words, the illusions people once had seven years ago were naturally shattered when facing these issues.

Here, let me cite an example. After the 1990s German media had discussed, on many occasions, whether China is still a communist country. Several times, the conclusion from these discussions was that China is now not a traditional communist country. I think this is very wrong. It is an important factor contributing to the killings of Tibetans by the Chinese Communist Party in disregard of public opinion throughout the world.
Two specific points:

First, the communist government today is totally a traditional communist government.  For instance, between 1961 and 1962, Hu Jintao and I went to the same cafeteria for two years. We lived and studied on the campus of Qinghua University for nine years. I am clear that the today’s top communist leaders were trained and grew up with communist doctrines. All he read were communist dogmatic books that were allowed under the communist press censorship. The way they think and their modus operandi follow the Communist doctrines. They have no creativity to break new ground and that is why the Chinese Communist Party is still the traditional Communist Party of the 1950s and 1960s. The difference is they are more lacking in talent, more conservative and more dogmatic in comparison to the first generation of Chinese Communist Party leaders.

Second, if the whole world had been on the alert against this communist government, warning one another while engaging the communist government, that this communist government is the same as all Communist Parties in history, that it is in pursuit of political power and will resort to violence whenever it sees fit, if we did that, then this communist government would not have dared to open fire and kill Tibetan residents. Here is an example. After the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, the world rose in protest. So from 1989 to 1995, the communist government was quiet and cautious, and did not make moves without calculation. Yet, after 1995, it felt that the world had loosened up and no long cared about its oppression of its own people. Then, in 1999, it unscrupulously cracked down Falun Gong practitioners. Today if there is some unrest in any part of China, the Communist Party immediately sends in tanks to roam the streets and dispatch military forces. I think the connivance of the world caused all this.

We can see that the Berlin Wall collapsed, not because Western leaders praised the Eastern communist leaders for their openness and reforms, but because of the continuous exchanges between the East and West during which the West constantly applied pressure, and because of frequent protests from the Eastern people against communist rule. In other words, only when the general public, politicians, statesmen, and other countries show their dedicated pursuit of human rights and democracy and a willingness to engage in confrontation, will the communist government show some self-restraint. The Berlin Wall and other examples I have just cited of East Germany further demonstrate that the communist society cannot change itself. The only way to change it is the communist government must fall and it must be overthrown. We are now advocating a peaceful, non-violent approach, a tireless pursuit of faith and human rights.

I would also like to say that the Tibet incident shows us the Communist Party in this incident, so that we can see that communist society, the communist government, and the Communist Party are actually the demon of human society. If the demon is about to eat human beings, we all say that we will not sanction it as long as it has some self-restraint, then the demon will definitely proceed to eat human beings and to do evil. However, if instead we immediately speak up and say that if this demon does it, we will take all necessary actions to sanction it, then the demon will hesitate and back off. This is what the European communities are facing today. In my opinion, many politicians are moving in the right direction; i.e., it is still a question mark if they boycott the Olympics and sanction China, and all options are open. If China repeats what it has done to Tibet, it will face sanctions. I think this position is reasonable and responsible. Some other figures have jumped out to say that they will not sanction China and that they will help China open up. I think this will only encourage China to further resort to violence as it has done in Tibet.

Reporter: What is the impact of the Olympics on China’s economy?

Zhong: Of course it will have a positive impact on the Chinese government and its economy because it has attracted the world’s attention and foreign investment. We must not forget the apparent but unsubstantiated prosperity in the past. Even those who are pro-Communist Party and have indeed made some achievements are attributing the growth to the increase in foreign investment. Such foreign investment in recent years in fact will gradually stagnate and dwindle down, leading to a slowdown of China’s economic development.

So the Olympics is the No. 1 priority for the Chinese Communist Party. It re-directs and keeps public attention away from the conflicts between the Communist Party and its people. This is the first objective of the Communist Party. The second objective is it wants to attract more foreign investment. That, it believes, will boost the Chinese economy. These are the two political objectives that it plans to achieve during the Olympics. If the international community remains unalert, the Communist Party will likely accomplish its objectives on these two points.