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Casting the “stability” spell
Liu Xiaobo

After the Tiananmen Massacre, Deng Xiaoping stated, “we must treasure hard-earned stability as we treasure our own eyes.” Afterwards, the “stability theory” has become a magic spell used by Chinese communist rulers to obstruct political reform and to violate human rights, dividing the nation’s liberals and authoritarians in the process. Whenever faced with foreign criticisms or domestic complaints and democratic aspirations, the communist regime and its elite stooges have just one shield: “maintaining stability.”
When the United States criticized deteriorating human rights violations in China, the communist regime replied, “We should use dialogue instead of confrontation in order to maintain the stability of our carefully nurtured Sino-American relations.” When the Taiwanese government promoted de-Sinicization, the Chinese communists accused Chen Shui-bian of “sabotaging the stability of the Taiwan Strait.” When the Hong Kong public called for political reforms and direct elections in 2007, Beijing claimed, “The anti-China demagogic democrats are destroying the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong.” The regimes suppresses calls for political reforms and civil rights without hesitation, again for the “stability” that has been so beneficial to the rulers. Not long ago, Premier Wen Jiabao defended the Tiananmen Massacre by claiming that “stability is more important than anything else.”

Nowadays in China, what the communist regime and its elite stooges call “instability” are not violent revolutions but spontaneous nonviolent resistance to social injustice institutionalized by the dictatorship. The resistance comes in the form of discussing politics on the Internet, open letters, symposiums, legal actions, group and peaceful petitions, sit-ins and demonstrations. These actions are all legal according to the Chinese constitution. The first choice of civil rights activists is legal activity. Only when legal means are denied would people engage in street protests. Very few would choose radical methods out of sheer despair such as self-immolation and breaking into local governments. Even these extreme cases have been mostly triggered by brutal repression meted out by law enforcement personnel.

People may have different views of these spontaneous civil rights movements based on their own value system and self-interests. Those who believe in the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” consider such movements legal, reasonable, rational, peaceful and orderly. The civil rights movements have nothing to do with riots and will never lead to social disorders. On the contrary, citizens peacefully expressing themselves through petitions are a natural part of good social order.

In those countries that respect public opinion and human rights, criticizing the government and demonstrating are not only legal, but also protected by law enforcement. These activities not only will not lead to instability but also create a benign equilibrium between the vigor of freedom and stable order of a society. Whether in western countries or Asian nations such as Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, criticism of the government is everywhere. Sometimes there are street protests and demonstrations with hundreds of thousands or even millions of participants. These societies are orderly. Half a million people participated in an orderly demonstration in Hong Kong. Two demonstrations in Taiwan, each with more than a million participants, before the island’s election did not affect Taiwan’s stability or social order.

The radical changes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union proceeded by and large, peacefully. The dissolution of the former Soviet Union represented the collapse of a totalitarian empire and led to nation states with proper boundaries. Russian itself remained intact as a multinational state. The losses of productivity these new democracies have suffered during their transition periods have been made up for after a period of adjustment. Even the economy of Russia, which suffered the most severe recession after the fall of the Soviet Union, has recovered nicely in the new century. More recently, nationwide demonstrations to force the resignation of the former Georgian president did not lead to violent clashes or social instability.

However, those who believe in authoritarianism hold that stability is above all. They consider criticisms of the government hostile. They misinterpret civil rights movements as riots or cults and even use them as evidence that democracy would lead to instability. Their views do not reflect the truth of civil rights movements because their viewpoint is not based on a factual analysis of objective experience, is contrary to basic morals of human civilization, and is not a value judgment based on common sense. Instead, their views are subjective opinions of a privileged ruling class and are an illegitimate dictatorship’s drummed-up guilty judgment, enforced by bayonets and lies.

Stability for the Chinese communists and privileged ruling class is nothing but the dictatorial order, enforced with guns, used for protecting their own interests and making public property into their own private property. The elite stooges who emphasize this so-called “stability” do not base their views on the interests of the public or the nation, but are supporting the ruling oligarchy out of concerns for their own interests.

In a nutshell, they have to find a plausible excuse to legitimize brutal plundering, repression and massacre. Since the Tiananmen Massacre, the excuse has been the “stability theory.”

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