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Jiang Zemin's hostage feast
Cao Changqing

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This year's Christmas news story that makes me most happy is that Mr. Xu Wenli obtained his freedom and came to the U.S. The reason is that he has been in jail for too long -- he was detained twice, for a total of sixteen years (just how many “sixteen years” can one have in one's life!).

Several years ago in New York, I interviewed Xu Wenli's daughter, Xu Jin, who was still in college at the time. She told me that when her father was first arrested, she had not even entered elementary school yet. But when her father was released the first time after having served twelve years in prison, she was already studying at college in the U.S. This only child of the Xu's grew up in an environment without a father.

According to the news report, Xu Jin, who had by then finished college and become a teacher in Rhode Island, rushed to Chicago to greet her father who entered U.S. customs there. The father and daughter met at the airport, hugging each other and weeping. I could not help but sigh with emotion when I saw the photo of the nearly 60-year-old Xu Wenli. The first time I saw Xu was over twenty years ago when I was studying at a university in Heilongjiang Province, China, in the late 1970's. I was moved by the Xidan Democracy Wall movement, particularly by Xu Wenli. So I took an overnight train to Beijing and found Xu Wenli at his home. Back then he was the Editor in Chief of an unofficial publication called "April 5th Forum." The impression he left me at that time was that he was young and vigorous.

Xu was arrested in 1981 and received a heavy sentence of fifteen years in prison. He was released after serving twelve years. But after a few years he was arrested again and sentenced to another thirteen years in prison. This time he was kept in prison for more than four years. If not for the pressure from the U.S., who knows whether they would have kept him in prison until the full sentence term was served. By then, he would have been 70 years old. When I first met him, he was only 36 years old. Just thinking about the brutality of the Communist despotic system chills people to the bone. In today's China, how many more "Xu Wenlis" are still in prison, and how many more "Xu Jins" are missing their fathers and longing for the reunion with their loved ones on Christmas Eve?

It is no longer a secret that the Chinese Communist regime treats political prisoners as bargaining chips, bargaining back and forth with the U.S. When China applied to host the Olympic Games in the past, when the Olympic Games Committee was voting, when Beijing was hosting the Asian Games, and when Jiang Zemin wanted to establish a closer relationship with the U.S. to accumulate his so-called political inheritance, the regime would release one or two political prisoners. It is just like a Las Vegas gambler who throws out a few "chips" (the goal is to win more). Moreover, almost all the freed prisoners are sent somewhere outside China. The regime then compiles blacklists to forbid those people from returning to their own home country. The purpose is to disallow these political prisoners from speaking independently in their own country, on their own land, and among their own people. In essence, this is no different from “exile.”

Islamic radical organizations in the Middle East hold Americans, Israelis, and other foreigners as "hostages," and then bargain with Western nations to gain benefits. This is surely an extremely cruel and despicable behavior. And then there is Jiang Zemin's regime that holds hostage none other than the people of its own country, then bargaining with the U.S. and other Western nations to strike "deals." It seems easier for the Chinese Communist Party to seize the citizens of its own country than to seize birds in a birdcage.

According to the report, just a few weeks prior to Xu Wenli’s release, the Chinese Communist Party arrested the student Liu Di from Beijing Normal University, the webmaster Liu Yibin, and the dissident He Depu, and announced the arrest of the dissident Wang Bingzhang. We have not even mentioned those who were arrested before and are still in detention, including Huang Qi, Yang Zili, Qin Yongmin, Wang Youcai, and Yang Jianli. All these people can potentially become political bargaining chips in the future to strike "deals" with the U.S. The Chinese Communist Party is engaged in the hostage business of "releasing one while arresting a dozen."

Many Western countries have adopted the "rejection" policy regarding the hostage issue. That is, they do not negotiate with the kidnappers, as this would be equivalent to acknowledging its feasibility. To an extent, this policy has worked quite well. However, it would be very difficult for the U.S. and other Western nations to apply this "rejection" strategy to the Chinese Communist regime. This is because all the "hostages" are already under the Communist Party's control, and they might easily number over 1.3 billion. If the West adopts the no attention and no negotiation policy, Jiang Zemin would then be able to obtain more profit by arbitrarily arresting more people, because once these independent voices are silenced, it allows Jiang to maintain the Communist Party's unified voice and the unified despotic system.

Therefore, the only way to stop this type of hostage phenomenon is to eradicate this kind of hostage system uniquely created by the Chinese Communist Party. This will enable all Xu Jins to grow up in an environment with their fathers, all Liu Dis to be with their grandmas and family members on Christmas eve, and all Wang Youcais, Yang Zilis, Wang Bingzhangs, and Yang Jianlis to return to their wives and family members and no longer be separated from their families by the prison bars.

There is a famous saying from the renowned ancient Chinese novel "The Dream of Red Mansion: “Even the finest feast must come to an end at last. The Chinese Communist Party employs the method of taking the people of its own land as hostages to maintain its feast, which makes clear to the world that its "grand feast of the century" is already coming to the end.”

*Cao Changqing is a columnist based in New York.

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