Chinese bloggers who are experiencing a severe crackdown at the hands of their own government provide a source of hope and inspiration for advocates of liberty here in the United States.
Take a look at this New York Times op-ed: “Busting China’s Bloggers” by Murong Xuecon, one of the many bloggers in China who are standing up to their own government — and, in the process, risking arrest, torture, indefinite incarceration, and even execution at the hands of the Chinese authorities.
Murong points out that he and his friends are prime targets for arrest by the government for what they are writing. Recently he and other bloggers met for dinner where they came up with a list of potential candidates for arrest. The attitude was light-hearted but everyone was fully cognizant that the risks were very real.
As the concluding paragraph points out, “As we contemplate the government’s next target, I keep my fear in check. I understand that for China to change, some people will have to pay a price. Wang Xiaoshan, a publisher who was among my friends at the dinner, put it best when he said: Start with me.”
How many times do we hear freedom advocates here in the United States lamenting our plight? “The welfare-warfare state is too big,” they exclaim. “It’s just too powerful. What’s the point? We can never win. We might as well just give up.”
Well, here are people in China who face a much bigger and much more dangerous task than we do. The Communist Party holds all the cards in their game. It also holds all the guns. It has all the omnipotent power that comes with a totalitarian state.
So, do we see those Chinese bloggers lamenting, “Oh, there’s just no hope. Let’s just seal our lips. The government is going to do bad things to us. Let’s just give up”?
On the contrary, those bloggers are more determined than ever to continue speaking out against the wrongdoing and tyranny under which they are suffering.
Why do they do it? Because they know it’s the right thing to do, no matter how grave the risks. And because they want to live in a free society. And because they know that no matter how dark things might be, the situation is never hopeless. Things can always shift, suddenly and unexpectedly.
And that’s where their blogs come in. They obviously believe that ideas on liberty matter. That’s why they keep writing. If they didn’t think that ideas mattered, they wouldn’t be risking their lives and liberty to publish them. Consider what Murong says:
And Big V bloggers don’t just express opinions; we act as information hubs. When we discuss issues online, people take notice. In 2010, I re-posted a news item about a protest against a forced eviction in Jiangxi Province in which three people resorted to self-immolation. The story was re-posted thousands of times and became one of the hottest news items of the year.
The vast state censorship apparatus works to keep us down. But posts race through Weibo so quickly that it’s difficult to control them with technology. Hence, the government is resorting to detainment.
And that’s the other side of this — the government’s reaction to these bloggers. It’s trying to shut them down. It’s arresting them, incarcerating them, torturing them, and even killing them.
Ask yourself: Why? Why does the government care? It has all the power in the world. Chinese citizens don’t even own guns owing to the communist state’s strict gun-control laws. Why should the government care that people are publishing critiques of the government?
The answer is because the government knows the power of ideas on liberty. Such ideas can inflame a populace. They can ignite the hearts and minds of people. They can inspire people to want to be free.
That possibility is quite fearful to every tyrannical regime. The Chinese tyrants are not stupid. They know the power of ideas on liberty. They know that no matter how powerful their hold might be on the Chinese people, if a critical mass of the citizenry decides it wants to be free, there won’t be anything the Chinese government will be able to do to prevent it. That’s why they suppress even the smallest critiques of their horrible system.
Why should Americans who care about liberty continue to speak out against the wrongdoing of America’s welfare-warfare state? For the same reason that those Chinese bloggers are speaking out against their governmental system: Because it’s the right thing to do. As the Chinese bloggers are showing us, the chances for success are irrelevant. One stands against wrongdoing because it’s the right thing to do.
But it also provides the hope for change. One person’s courage to speak the truth inspires another person’s courage to speak the truth. Gradually, courage and truth spread across society. That’s what ultimately brings meaningful and constructive change to a society.
Thus, when we look at what those Chinese bloggers are doing to stand up for what they believe in, it should inspire the advocates of freedom here in American to redouble our efforts, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s the best way to change the world in a positive direction.
And, after all, we have no real excuse: While our government can certainly be nasty with its surveillance, IRS investigations, regulatory prosecutions, and other means to discourage political criticism, at least we are not (yet) subject to the types of things that the Chinese government is doing to its critics.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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