China cracks down on dissident writer who criticized personality cult around Xi — Radio Free Asia

Despite asking for public input ahead of a key party congress later this year, Chinese authorities appear to be stepping up their crackdown on public dissent amid a growing personality cult around the leader of the Communist Party of China ( CCP) in power, Xi Jinping.

Retired writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Association Tian Qizhuang is apparently incommunicado after submitting an “opinion” opposing the Xi personality cult, claiming it violated the CCP’s charter.

In an open letter to CCP discipline chief Zhao Leji, Tian accused Guangxi regional party secretary Liu Ning of “serious violations” of the party charter in a speech he made in a recent communicated.

“We must work hard to forge our party spirit and loyalty to the heart [leader Xi Jinping] with a high degree of political awareness,” the statement read, after the regional CPC party conference elected Xi as a delegate following his nomination by the CPC Central Committee, in an exercise to demand and demonstrate loyalty towards Xi.

“[We must] always support our leader, defend our leader and follow our leader,” the statement read.

In his letter, Tian argued that the statement violated a clause added to the CCP charter at the 12th Party Congress in 1982, banning personality cults around Chinese leaders.

“The key point of personality cults is that they privilege personal power over the constitution and the law, violating the republican principle that everyone is equal before the law,” Tian wrote.

“The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Party Committee blatantly issued this statement in violation of the CCP’s charter,” he said.

“This denial of the fundamental policy of respect for the rule of law also shows that the cult of personality [around Xi] has already reached a dangerous level,” Tian wrote, calling on the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) to “quickly investigate and deal with the matter, and publicize the results and sanctions to the whole party. …thoughts and culture to make a comeback.”

The CCP, mandated by Xi, said it was soliciting opinions and suggestions online ahead of the party congress in April 15 by May 16with the aim of “stirring the brains and promoting democracy”.

But several days after the letter was published, Tian was visited by local state security police, who searched his home for “evidence”, confiscating his mobile phone and computer.

Hymns to Xi

The Guangxi statement came after outgoing Shenzhen party secretary Wang Weizhong praised Xi in his farewell speech, listing five of the leader’s attributes for which he would remain “eternally grateful”.

News commentator Wei Xin said hymns to Xi are likely to become even more common as the 20th CPC National Congress approaches later this year.

“On the one hand, we have a wave of populism, accompanied on the other by structural changes in the highest circles of the CPC Central Committee, which is increasingly leaning towards individual totalitarianism,” Wei told FRG.

“Party constitution is not enough to curb the cult of personality or the centralization of power in an individual in the face of these changes,” he said.

“[These tendencies within] the CCP will grow stronger and stronger over the next six months as the 20th Party Congress approaches, and will likely peak in the fall. »

Wei’s warning points to a 2010 essay by Chengdu Party School teacher Liu Yifei titled “Never Forget to Oppose Personality Cults.”

In it, Liu warns that a lack of clear understanding within party ranks of the dangers led to disaster in the absence of strong institutional constraints, resulting in “a leader who could not be contained” by his own party: the late Supreme Leader Mao Zedong.

Feng Chongyi, professor of Chinese studies at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, said the emergence of a personality cult around Xi is linked to the CCP leader’s successful removal of term limits presidential elections via the Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC). , in 2018.

“After the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976] finished, the party line was against individual autocracy, and the abolition of lifetime leadership was part of that,” Feng said. “No leader from Hu Yaobang, Zhao Ziyang, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao has served more than two terms, but he is now breaking this rule and bringing back a term for life.”

“To achieve this, he needs a campaign of deification and a cult of personality; it’s all part of the same operation,” he said.

Bad news distractions

Feng said there was a lot of bad news that Xi needed to distract from through populism.

“There are problems at home and abroad, with a constantly weakening economy and a worsening confrontation with developed countries,” he said. “It has created a lot of discontent in the party ranks, but China does not have … democratic elections or a political process.”

“So as long as they can suppress people like this writer, he will get re-election,” Feng said.

Tian’s silence came as online platforms such as Weibo, Douyin and WeChat began asking users to provide their IP address, which makes it easier to locate people when commenting or posting.

WeChat said it will start displaying the location of users when they post content, using their IP address, with national accounts indicating the province, autonomous region or directly governed municipality of the user, and foreign accounts indicating their country.

Hebei-based political scientist Wei Qing said the move is fueling the growing use of “grid management”, which divides localities into grids, giving officials responsibility for the actions of anyone living in their place.

“The goal is network management, which is the policy of the central government, and the cyberspace administration implements this central policy,” Wei said. “Controlling the movement of people is the greatest characteristic of an autocratic society.”

“Now that China is returning to the Cultural Revolution, the movement of people in both physical and cyberspace will be one of the most important goals.”

He said local officials’ knowledge of who posts from where will likely be much more accurate than just knowing a person’s province or city.

“It’s not just about displaying your IP, but also being included in network management,” Wei said. “Anything you say online will be considered the responsibility of your local police station.”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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