On January 1, 2005, VOA reported in its comparative news program on a recent open forum held at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, as well as the disturbance that occurred around the forum.
The Epoch Times used the National Press Club venue for the forum; the Chinese Embassy lodged a protest
The overseas Chinese-language newspaper, The Epoch Times held an open forum on December 21 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, to discuss an editorial series entitled, "Jiu Ping: Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" published in that newspaper.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC lodged a protest with the National Press Club, asking them to stop the forum.
Mr. John Bloom, general manager of the National Press Club, spoke in response to the Chinese Embassy's protest: "The activity held by The Epoch Times at the National Press Club was a private activity, and the club only provided a venue for discussion and did not provide any financial support. The National Press Club is a private organisation, and our principle is to protect the freedom of speech and press. We do not take any stand regarding the activities held at the club."
National Press Club: Freedom of Speech
Mr. Bloom also revealed that the Chinese Embassy protests all activities held at the club that involve Falun Gong or Taiwan. It is reported that John M. Donnelly, National Press Club Board of Governors chairman, wrote a letter to the Chinese Embassy in this regard, in which he stressed that the club provides a forum for all kinds of views and said, "We would never bow to a request to silence anyone. We practise and defend freedom of speech, and that applies equally to all, regardless of their views."
The Chinese Embassy's protest backfired and helped promote the forum
The forum scheduled for December 21 was not cancelled; instead, more people came to join the discussion as a result of the Chinese Embassy's protest. This is something the Chinese Embassy had never anticipated. Many attendants were from the "think tanks" in Washington and from academic institutions. The forum also attracted a number of media representatives.
In view of the anticipated large attendance at the forum, the club management offered the forum an even bigger venue on the day of the meeting and provided extra seating. The forum's theme banner read, "Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party" in English.
The main speakers for the forum included Mr. Michael A. Ledeen, former adviser to the U.S. National Security Council, State and Defence Departments; Mr. Michael Horowitz from the Hudson Institute, Mr. William Murray, Chairman of the Religious Freedom Coalition; Mr. Ethan Gutman, author of the book, Losing the New China: A story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal, and Political Science Professor Ming Chu-cheng from Taiwan University, who is currently a visiting scholar at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
Host Stephen Gregory spoke of the significance of the "Nine Commentaries"
Mr. Stephen Gregory, Opinion Editor for The Epoch Times English-language edition, hosted the forum. He said in his opening remarks, "With the Jiuping (Nine Commentaries), The Epoch Times has given the people of China a great gift. After 55 years of lies and terror, the people of China now have the opportunity to systematically and theoretically know their true history. They can now share with one another the tremendous losses they have suffered under the Chinese Communist Party. They can step back from the Chinese Communist Party's nightmare and consider the beauty and significance of the ancient civilisations that the Communist Party has worked so hard to destroy."
Mr. Michael A. Ledeen, former adviser to the U.S. National Security Council, State and Defence Departments presented the keynote speech.
Mr. Ledeen: Dictatorship is the least stable
Mr. Ledeen said that as a historian of 19th and 20th century totalitarian movements of various sorts, he would address some of the peculiarities of the government of the People's Republic of China and would then share a few thoughts regarding future trends.
"Tyranny is the most unstable form of government. Now I put it to you that most people are not used to thinking this way; since most people think when they see a dictatorship, some kind of authoritarian or totalitarian regime immediately assume that its there for the duration. That it's strong because they're tough, and they're mean and they're cruel and they oppress their people and so forth. Yet if you look around the world today and ask yourself what are the governments that have lasted longest and are doing best and are manifestly the most stable, they are all elected representative governments of which we are the oldest existing constitutional government."
"Every angle of the world has been swept by democratic impulse. And the People's Republic of China knows this well because they watched the downfall of their creator and their most reliable ally for a good part of their history the Soviet Union."
Freedom cannot be sliced up into separate sections
Mr. Ledeen continued, "And they said to themselves we are not going to repeat the errors that the Soviets made. So they looked at why the Soviet Union fell, and how it fell. And so they said, "What did they do?" They gave political freedom and retained economic control. We are not going to make that mistake. We are going to give economic freedom but we're going to retain political control; thereby avoiding the fate of the Soviet Union. And thereby, any sensible person can see, making exactly the same mistake that Gorbeshov did; because freedom cannot be sliced up into separate compartments."
Mr. Ledeen: Buying escape homes in North America
Mr. Ledeen asked people to pay attention to a phenomenon with reference to the history of other dictatorial countries: "The first is the odd phenomenon that's been discovered in the United States about the children of oligarchs in China and are coming to the United States and buying homes. It's not just the United States it's true of the eastern and southern part of the Pacific Rim as well it applies to places like Canada in Vancouver, Puget Sound and Australia and so forth. But all over the United States including Massachusetts and even areas where it wouldn't occur to me to buy a vacation home in the Middle West and so forth where it's typically cold and it snows most of the year. These are not investment properties, these are not vacation paradises. Why are they buying all these houses?
"The obvious explanation, common sense grabs you by the throat and makes you say well these are escape homes. These are places they hope to be able to repair if things go wrong in China. One of my favourite yardsticks of nervous dictatorships is the extent at which the ruling class is buying up real estate overseas in areas where you can reasonably expect them to want to go and live."
Mr. Ledeen concluded at the end of his speech, "We are blessed to be living in interesting times as these. And this new critique of the Communist Party of China has greatly advanced the argument, greatly advanced the chances that freedom will expand in one more place."
Dictators will be reduced to zero?
Another guest speaker at the open forum was Mr. Michael J. Horowitz, Director of the Hudson Institute's Project for Civil Justice Reform and the Project for International Religious Liberty. He quoted from Mark Palmer's book, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025, stating that in the past 30 years, the number of dictators in the world has been reduced from 130 to the current 40 or so, and the number could be expected to be reduced to zero in the next 15 years.
Mr. Ethan Gutman: The "Nine Commentaries" challenge the legitimacy of the Chinese Community Party
Mr. Gutman said that he lived in China for many years and was friends with many Chinese people. "I just want to note that when you're living in China, you run into something with an awful lot of your Chinese acquaintances and colleagues, which is there is obviously a feeling of inequality. Now, it's covered up in various ways, it's protested about, the assumption is that you're American, and you're arrogant and so on, but the fact is that is the underlying theme in the relationship. I don't believe that that is really due to economics anymore ... I believe it's because of the suppression of the--the fact that the Chinese cannot talk about these basic issues: the Cultural Revolution, the history of the Communist Party, exactly the kinds of issues that are now being addressed [in the "Nine Commentaries], and I think that's why this document is so important."
Mr. Horowitz provided an example regarding the significance of the "Nine Commentaries." He said, "I remember when Gorbachev permitted that history to be published, the history of the Soviet Union. It had an extraordinary impact on people in the Soviet Union. I mean, it was no longer possible--people knew that Stalin wasn't a good guy, by that time, but there was still some sort of heroic status, iconic status that he had. After the publication of the history of the Soviet Union by Gorbachev, the so-called Penkovsky Papers and some of the others, the legitimacy of the Communist Party in the minds of the people inside the Soviet Union was just shattered to an incredible degree." Mr. Horowitz believes that the "Nine Commentaries" are doing the same thing, and they challenge the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party.
Professor Ming Chu-cheng: The "Nine Commentaries" encourage people to dare to speak up
Political Science professor Ming Chu-cheng of Taiwan University, a visiting scholar at George Washington University, Washington, DC, has participated in a number of open forums held in New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey and Texas. He told the attendants about his personal experiences, noticing that many people, after reading the nine commentaries, dared to step forward and speak up. Some wept while speaking. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of Chinese people who are still afraid of stepping forward. The reason is not that they don't understand the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party imposed upon them. On the contrary, not only are they very clear about it all, they also have had first-hand experience of the persecution by the Chinese Communist Party and some of them are still being persecuted, even today.
The speakers mentioned the media's role several times in their presentations. William Murray said that when he saw the U.S. mainstream media widely reporting accounts of the fraudulent practises during the recent Ukraine election, he was very gratified. On the other hand, these same media outlets have kept silent about things that are happening in China, or they choose to only report some trivial things.
The speakers appealed to the international media to truly let people know what is happening.
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