Publication: China Brief Volume: 2 Issue: 2

By Nie Minzhi

I, Nie Minzhi, am more than 70 years old. Since my discharge from the Qingchun Hospital, my health has gone from bad to worse. I have been unable to find out the cause for this deterioration, which began with dizziness and loss of energy. I fear that my days are numbered and that I will not be able to further dedicate myself to the cause of democracy in China. A Chinese saying goes, “when a man is dying, he speaks with good intentions.” It is from this context that I earnestly request you, Lao Wang, to record my last words.

First, I request you to put down in black and white my profound thanks to my wife Jin Shunzhu. She sold our house to raise money for my medical bills. Though I was against this, we had no other options remaining to us. Over the years, she has been taking good care of me. During the days when I was hospitalized and confined to bed, she made nothing of the hardship and attended me day and night. If there is a next life, I will repay all that I owe her.

Second, I want to express my sincere gratitude to the China Democracy Party. After the guns cracked on June 4, 1989, I became so depressed about the prospects of myself and of society that it was as if my heart had died. Then in 1998 Mr. Mao Qingxiang told me of the founding of the China Democracy Party. The news not only rekindled my hope for society but also rejuvenated me. It was as if spring had come to a withered tree. I was reborn! But because of my poor health, I regret that I will not be able to continue to work for my beloved party and assume my responsibilities.

Finally, I want to say that I highly appreciate the help given to me by comrades at home and abroad under extremely difficult circumstances. My thanks also go to He Zhiping, an officer at the local police station, for his efforts to contact my children and arrange community support for me.

Now I will discuss my views on the China Democracy Party.

I have confidence in the comrades of my party in different provinces of China. All political parties have gone through various difficulties and setbacks in the process of growing up. When a party is at a low ebb, it is imperative that its members study hard and hold firm their belief. On top of that, they should act more rationally than at any other time. They should take into consideration the well being of the people, the interest of the nation and the universal justice of mankind. They should offer support when the government and the Communist Party are doing the right things. On the other hand, they should voice opposition when the government and the communist party have erred and urge them to correct their mistakes. Our goal is to establish a system in which all power belongs to the people, executive powers are checked and balanced, freedom is safeguarded and human rights are protected. The establishment of democratic parties is one of the indispensable steps towards such a goal. However, both opposition and support are merely tools. Comrades, please bear in mind that the opposition is not a party that says no to every issue.

The prodemocracy movement overseas has contributed a great deal to democracy and progress in China, however, the movement itself is rather complicated. As we are unable to know the real situations, it would be irresponsible and against the interest of the China Democracy Party to make inappropriate comments. It is my hope that the Zhejiang Preparatory Committee of the China Democracy Party will refrain from getting involved in disputes among members of the overseas pro-democracy movement. I also hope that our comrades will unite and cooperate on the basis of seeking common ground while reserving their differences. No one is perfect. It is fine if a person is willing to correct his mistakes.

I will now proceed to outline my views on the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government.

We affirm the great economic achievements of the last two decades. Credit should be given to the industrious, intelligent and courageous Chinese people who sometimes have to run great political risks while taking economic initiatives. This success is also attributable to the Chinese Communist authorities under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zeming and Zhu Rongji. These leaders have rectified the errors of the planned economy, returned some economic power and freedom to the people, and initiated the reform and opening of China to the outside world.

We are, of course, clearly aware that natural resources have been predatorily exploited to the extent that the ecological environment of China’s coming generations has been endangered. As a result of unfair economic policy, those who wield power have become increasingly rich while the ordinary people have gained nothing. A great number of workers have been laid off and farmers have gone bankrupt. Many of these unfortunates have been landed in a miserable impasse, for China does not have a sound social security system. As political structural reform has been lagging behind, power remains unchecked. The nation has been swamped by officials who abuse power or pervert justice for the sake of bribes and other personal gains. If measures are not taken to institute the rule of law, to rigorously promote democracy and to rectify the officialdom, the current prosperity will evaporate when its foundation has been eroded. This will be a misfortune for the Chinese Communist Party and a disaster for the Chinese people.

I have been lucky enough to witness the important progress China has made in its bid for WTO membership. A sound system of democracy and rule of law is the essential guarantee for the smooth operation of modern economies. Converging China’s economy with the world’s will certainly promote political progress in the nation, which will eventually result in merging China politically into the international community. But, to my regret, I won’t be alive to see this happen.

I also have been lucky enough to read about Mr. Jiang Zemin’s announcement of the “Three Representations” formulation, which has laid the theoretical foundation to transform the Communist Party into a modern political party based on the principles of democracy and rule of law. However, what counts is deeds, not words. The Chinese Communist Party will hold its 16th Party Congress in 2002. If decisions on party building and personnel matters are still made inside the “black box” under the patriarchal system with the majority of its members having to give up the right to vote and the right to know, how could such a party claim to represent 63 million members? And who would believe that it could represent the fundamental interests of the great majority of the people?

I want to point out still further that the Communist Party has no right to represent the great majority of the people unless it ceases–immediately–to encroach upon the people’s right to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of religious belief, and releases at once all prisoners of conscience for the sake of national reconciliation. If the Communist Party fails to return to the people their right to elect government leaders and legislators at all levels and continues to hold on to the nation as its private property, it can only represent the privileges and selfish interests of a small group of rulers.

“The trend of democracy is surging forward with mighty power. He who conforms to it thrives and he who goes against it perishes.” This is the world we have in view. Who represents the course through which advanced culture and advanced productive forces will develop? The answer is clear as daylight. Let the people and history pass their judgment. I think that the Communist Party still has a chance to be on the right side of history.

Let me shift back to family matters. During the Cultural Revolution I was condemned to death with the sentence suspended because I was against Lin Biao. After he died in a plane crash on his way to seek refuge in the Soviet Union, my original sentence was commuted to ten years in prison. During those years, I failed to fulfil my obligation as a father to care for my two sons and daughter. Since then I always have had a guilty conscience and have tried to help them in different ways whenever possible, however, our relationship remains estranged because of their mental scars. During the period when I was critically ill and hospitalized, they did not come to visit me. I can understand the reason for that and have forgiven them. My wife also feels sorry for their traumatic experience in the past. This is not a grief inflicted on my family alone. Many other Chinese families have been broken up with some gone, some dead, and some severing ties with kin. It is my hope that such tragedies will never happen again. Finally, I want to say to my sons and daughter “I always love you!”

September 2001, Zhejinag Province, China. Translated for China Brief by Wen Yu.