Ai: How do you think about the New Citizen Movement initiated by Xu Zhiyong?
Zhang: This is a path that China must go. Of course at present many people still think it is a sensitive issue, and not everyone agrees that he should do it. Chinese people have been under the authoritarian education for years, many people think if you promote it and it will cause chaos, which will affect stability, then what shall we do? How about our normal lives? In fact China cannot always be like this, the civil society must start to be encouraged to participate in state governance. This society is so complicated that no matter how wise one is, he cannot be wise enough to make all decisions right and find correct answer for every question. In fact the solution of our problems itself is a process of collisions, during which, different opinions shall be freely expressed, and answers are pursued in our communications and even arguments. There might be some social instability during this process, it is possible since there has been too much contradiction accumulated for years that is controlled but not solved.
In China, we have all kinds of problems, the urban-rural difference, household registration and separation, unjust distribution of wealth, corrupted officials, no matter how determined our leaders are, these problems cannot be solved by the ruling party itself. To use totalitarian power cannot solve it, since many problems are caused by the totalitarian power. Thus, it is impossible that totalitarianism can be a good solution to the problems.
Everyone sees this clear. However, it is probably not time that all Chinese people will stand out just because now Xu Zhiyong is on trial. But it will not be too long; China has to develop towards democracy and constitutionalism. All nations must progress, especially a nation such as China. In the past, cruel penalties could not obstruct people to seek their ideal society and express their anger upon the government. Now…
On the other hand, China is not completely without rule of law. After so many years, the legal system has been developing. No matter how badly the government hates one person, underground measures, such as abduction or assassination cannot be used. There must be a court trial, though the trial is unjust, however empirically it is dealt within the legal framework. Also originally the authority wanted to use the crime of subverting state power to charge Xu Zhiyong, but later only gathered a little evidence of disrupting public order with the highest sentence of five years. Five years, not mentioning towards Xu Zhiyong, to many people, it will not even play an intimidation role.
As far as I know, many people who have achieved in fame and in wealth will follow Xu Zhiyong’s path to seek their ideal world. I feel that this trial will not play any positive role for the government. It will only affect negatively upon China’s image, and its international reputation.