Wei Jingsheng: Even if I didn’t appear at the “Democracy Wall,” I couldn’t escape it later

Narrator:Wei Jingsheng|Democracy Activist

Wei Jingsheng was born in 1950 to parents who were both senior Communist Party cadres. He grew up in the best schools in Beijing, where he received a red education of love for the Chinese Communist Party, while hearing and witnessing the power struggles at the top of the Communist Party.

When the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, Wei joined the Red Guards at the age of 16. He says he was very enthusiastic at that time, defending the Communist Party, defending Chairman Mao, and really not afraid to die. During the “Great Cascade”, the son of a high-ranking cadre saw for the first time the hardships of the people at the bottom, and was shocked by the poverty in remote areas.

To escape persecution by the authorities, his parents sent him to his hometown in Anhui to work as a farmer. The once-rich countryside is now devastated, the result of a famine that killed tens of millions of people in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the Communist dictator Mao Zedong was bent on economic blindness. Wei Jingsheng said that this experience in the countryside made him extremely suspicious of the Communist Party.

In 1970, like many children of cadres, Wei was able to join the army through his parents’ connections, and returned to Beijing in 1973 after demobilization to become an electrician at the Beijing Zoo. He says that his time as a soldier and worker was the most precious stage of his life. He came into contact with people from all walks of life, read a lot of books, gained a deep understanding of China and its history and current social situation, and underwent a major shift in his understanding of the Communist Party.

In 1978, the Xidan Democratic Wall Movement broke out. Some workers and intellectuals spontaneously preached democracy and freedom in the form of large-character posters in Xidan, Beijing, of which Wei Jingsheng was a leading figure. He published a series of articles such as “The Fifth Modernization: Democracy and Others” and participated in the founding of the underground publication “Exploration”.

In March of the following year, he posted another large-character poster, “To Democracy or to a New Dictatorship,” naming the top leader Deng Xiaoping as following a dictatorial path. A few days later, he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in prison for “counter-revolution”. The Xidan Democracy Wall was also banned.

In 1993, Wei Jingsheng was arrested for a second time and sentenced to 14 years. Under strong international pressure, Wei was allowed to travel to the United States for medical treatment in 1997, and was put on a flight to the United States directly from his cell.

The Democracy Wall was the first wave of open dissident movements to be suppressed in the history of Red China. Wei Jingsheng told VOA that he never regretted joining the movement, even though he knew it was “something that would cost him his head. After the Democracy Wall, China has seen wave after wave of movements for democracy and freedom. Even if he didn’t jump out then, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to escape later.

One day after his exile, he received a phone call from his father. The old Communist Party member who had told him to stop told him that many “big sisters” (the Communist Party’s internal term for senior female cadres) in Beijing wanted to visit him in the United States. They said, “Jing Sheng is a good boy. He did what we wanted to do back then but didn’t dare to do.”

Sometimes what one should do is a bit fated. If I were to do it over again, I think I would do it again. Because after the wall of democracy, China gradually set off this opportunity for democracy and freedom. The Democracy Wall was the first opportunity. Even if I didn’t show up at the Democracy Wall, I don’t think I could have escaped it later.

Everyone knew that I was a cadre’s son. During the Cultural Revolution, everyone burned their family photos. These cadres were afraid that if they were unlucky, they would get other friends involved. When I helped my mother burn the photos, I found a photo, and I said, “Isn’t that Jiang Qing, who is that child holding? My mother said, “Isn’t that you? I said, “How do you know Jiang Qing? My mother said, “At that time, the two families were neighbors. She and Jiang Qing were both from Qingdao. Their relationship was good at the beginning, but later it became bad, and they specifically told me, “Don’t go to her if there is any disaster in our family.”

My mother’s views in this regard were actually earlier than my father’s. She was very critical of the Communist Party and of Mao Zedong from an early age, and in the early 1960s China and the Soviet Union had not yet openly turned against each other, but it was communicated within the Party. My mother was the secretary of the party committee of a very large enterprise at that time. She spoke about it in advance at a public meeting. Because the matter had not yet been made public, but was only communicated within the Party, she made a mistake. In one fell swoop, she was relegated to an ordinary worker, the party secretary to the end. From that time she probably began to doubt this Communist Party. She should have realized earlier than my father that the Communist Party was a big scam.

Because they were the sons of cadres, their living conditions were better than those of the general public, and the schools they attended were better than those of the general public. We cadres’ children were taught in school how good the Communist Party was, how the people supported it, how happy the people were, how the people in Taiwan were eating banana peels, how the people in the United States were in dire straits, and so on. At that time, the mind was indeed full of these educational concepts. So during the Cultural Revolution, many of us joined the Red Guards, defending Chairman Mao and the Communist Party, with great enthusiasm. They were really not afraid to die.

The first time I had doubts was when the big cohort. We are the earliest cohort, then there was no large-scale cohort, on the ordinary train, and ordinary passengers are mixed together, going to the northwest. When we got to the area of Dingyuan in Gansu, after we passed Tianshui, I stuck my head out at a temporary stop, because I couldn’t eat the biscuits I bought in Tianshui at that time, they were made of mixed flour and were particularly unpalatable, so I wanted to give the biscuits to the rice vendor.

I was shocked, I was in front of a beggar, 17, 18 years old a girl, not wearing clothes at all. Black body, are dirty things, pulling may be her brother, draped in a sack. I was very shocked, how could this happen? Across from me sat a person who may have been out on an errand. He said, “Oh, this situation is very common, in such poor places, you can buy such a girl for ten dollars. I couldn’t understand the situation at that time, I was very shocked. From that time I began to doubt the education I received in school. Was the Communist Party really that good? Why would this be the case?

[Editor’s note: In December 1966, when a large number of senior Communist Party officials were under attack by the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards, led by the children of senior cadres, formed the “Capital Red Guards Joint Action Committee” (the “Joint Action”) to openly confront the Central Cultural Revolution and protect their They wanted to protect their parents. They also threatened, “The Central Cultural Revolution has forced us to fight against it, and we have to fight against it.” Within a month, Linkage was declared a counter-revolutionary organization and more than 100 key members of Linkage were arrested.

In the middle and late stages of the Cultural Revolution, I fled to my hometown in the countryside to avoid being tracked by the Ministry of Public Security. In fact, our hometown is famous as the countryside of fish and rice, which is around Chaohu Lake (Anhui Province), where soldiers and grain have been abundant since ancient times. Later I actually found out that half of the population in our hometown starved to death during the Great Leap Forward. Half of the people starved to death next to our village. In our village, our relative had the guts to share the public grain and he was almost sentenced. Because he was an old communist, he was not sentenced, but only expelled from the party.

I did some research in the area and I said how did they survive in those days. People said that even the rats were eaten up at that time, the nests of rats were all dug up, and then they started to eat people. I said there is such a thing ah, eating people ah? People said look at a village next to us, maybe two or three miles away from us, all earth walls. It’s been eight years since I said that. It’s been eight years since the Great Famine, and no one has come back alive, which means that all the people in that village have died of starvation. Since then, I have had great doubts about the Communist Party.

I found that the situation of starvation in my hometown was not only in that area, but also all over the country. Only some poor areas of the people, history knows how to spend the wilderness years. They know how to dig wild vegetables, digging roots, the death of people may not be so many. And my hometown is the land of fish and rice, since ancient times there is no problem of not having enough to eat. When there was a great famine, people died of hunger, and it was very miserable. After I saw that situation, my impression of the Communist Party gradually turned negative.

When I was in the army, we often went to the town on Sundays to buy things. There was a bookstore in town, and there were many Marxist books in the bookstore. Who in the countryside reads such books? I bought the whole set. When I studied Marxism, unlike the past when I was in a mood of reverence, this time I looked at it with a critical attitude. I also read a lot of books other than Marx. At that time, China had many internal publications, and many communists could read many books that were forbidden. The senior cadres had two copies of the “Internal Reference”, or “Grand Reference”, every day. The “Grand Reference” was mainly about foreign affairs, while the “Internal Reference” was mainly about Chinese internal affairs. Through these things, we have an objective understanding of Chinese reality. To look at Marxism from an objective point of view is a basic logical error. How can you use a dictatorship, a tyranny, to establish a democracy? How can you use tyranny to protect the interests of the common people?

From the time I went to the countryside to the time I became a soldier, my understanding of the Communist Party was basically completely transformed. Through my time as a soldier and a worker, I gained a deep understanding of Chinese history and the current situation of Chinese society. This was the most important and precious period of my life.

[Editor’s note: In the late 1970s, Wei Jingsheng, who worked as an electrician at the Beijing Zoo, joined the Xidan Democracy Wall Movement, posted the small-character poster The Fifth Modernization: Democracy and Others, and participated in founding the underground publication Exploration. After four days of criticizing Deng Xiaoping by name, he was arrested and imprisoned twice for a total of 18 years].

I went out to do these things during the Democracy Wall, and my father did not object. His thinking had actually changed. When the Democracy Wall was about to be suppressed, he had a lot of inside information, and he said to me, “What you are doing is a headache, so stop it quickly. Of course I said, “I can’t stop anymore.

Sometimes what one should do is somewhat predestined. I think I should do it again. Because after the Democracy Wall, there were a lot of opportunities for this kind of democracy and freedom in China. The Democracy Wall was the first opportunity. So even if I didn’t show up at the Democracy Wall, I don’t think I could have escaped later.

Nowadays, young people are better off, far away from the Cultural Revolution, from the famine, from the June 4 massacre. Young people don’t always know about that time now, but you can look at the history of your own country. And then look at the history of other countries to learn from it. Don’t be enthusiastic about what others are shouting and follow what they are doing. For example, look at the history of Germany. Germany Hitler economy is also rapid development, the people’s lives were improved. Then Hitler and the Nazi party incited up to appear in the face of racism patriotism, and China now incites the so-called patriotism in fact, the content is similar. Under the incitement of this fervor, firstly, the authoritarian tyranny was consolidated; secondly, due to his consolidation, he began to expand his ambition, which is exactly the same as the increasingly fierce war wolves Xi Jinping is engaged in today. The next step is to start foreign expansion, which will bring a lot of disasters not only to the German people, but also to the neighboring people.

I always want to say to young people nowadays not to worship anything or anyone. You have to think about what others say and see it through your own eyes. Believe in what you see with your own eyes. Believe in the conclusions you draw from your own thinking. Look at this disaster that has been going on in China for 70 years, from the 1950s to now, which started in 1921 when the Communist Party was founded, the seeds of the disaster, the seeds of deception. It has lasted for 100 years now, and then it should also end its life.