University News

Chinese democracy: Xu Wenli speaks out

By
Contributing Writer
Monday, October 4, 2010

When Xu Wenli spoke in his office, he used his hands like a true orator. On his wall, he displays a red poster with the words “Free Xu Wenli” over a photo of his face.

Xu, a leader of China’s democratic party and a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies, conducted a European tour across 14 nations this summer.

“My mission in Europe was to carry out diplomatic activities, academic exchanges, make friends and rekindle the flame of desire for a republic in China,” Xu wrote in an e-mail about his trip. His trip was on behalf of both the China Democracy Party and the Watson Institute, he said.

Xu was not always interested in Chinese politics, he said through a translator. His interest began on April 5, 1976, when he witnessed the communist police forces brutally crush a mourning ceremony for the death of Zhou Enlai, the first premier of the People’s Republic of China, he said.

He was compelled to take action and published an anti-communist magazine called the April Fifth Forum, earning him the nickname “China’s Godfather of Dissent.”

In 1998, Xu’s efforts in helping to found the China Democracy Party were successful, and he remains one of the party’s leaders. “The only way to go against a party that commits many wrongdoings is to create a party,” he said.

“Thus, the mission of the Democratic Party of China, which I passionately lead, is to attempt, for the third time, to establish a republican political system in China and ending the current Chinese Communist Party’s one-party dictatorship,” Xu wrote.

Since 1982, Xu has served a total of 16 years in Chinese prisons. “In reaction to his declining condition, international human rights groups, the US ambassador to China and Western officials called for his release,” according to the biography on the Watson Institute website.

He was exiled to the U.S. on Dec. 24, 2002, and by Jan. 1, 2003, President Ruth Simmons had offered him a spot on the Brown faculty, Xu said.

“Maybe within five years, there will be major progress with the democratic movement,” Xu said about China’s future. “There will be multiple parties, not restricted only to communism.”

He explained that communism originally took a firm stance at a time when China had no economic growth, but now that more money is in the hands of civilians, government control is becoming weaker. “There are multiple money holders that will cause disruptions within the system,” he said.

Xu’s trip to Europe was a warmup for the events he’ll do in the future, he said. He plans on taking five or six more trips across the world to promote and raise awareness for the Chinese democratic movement. “Everyone should care about the future of China,” Xu said. He warned that the world should “pay more attention.”

“The educated are aware of what’s wrong with this country. This awareness is huge progress,” Xu said.

“It’s like a bucket of water being held up from the Revolution (of 1911). Like 100 years of water added to that bucket, the weight will break soon,” he said. “I hope so.”