An Interview With the Father of the Chinese Democracy Movement

Wei Jingsheng was recognized in Mike Pompeo's historic speech on China

By Yinyin Liao

For 18 years, Wei Jingsheng was imprisoned in China. His crime? An essay posted on a wall in China’s capital. 

As a young man, he authored a piece titled “The Fifth Modernization,” vocally critiquing the Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian governance. His essay emphasized the need for democracy to achieve a true modernization of China.

“We want to be masters of our own destiny. We need no gods or emperors. We do not believe in the existence of any savior. We want to be masters of the world and not instruments used by autocrats to carry out their wild ambitions. We want a modern lifestyle and democracy for the people. Freedom and happiness are our sole objectives in accomplishing modernization. Without this fifth modernization all others are merely another promise”
— Wei Jingsheng, ‘The Fifth Modernization’

In the essay, he boldly decried Deng Xiaoping as a dictator, who at the time was the most powerful figure in Communist China. Regardless, Wei boldly signed his essay with his real name and address, publicly posting it onto the 1978 Democracy Wall in Beijing. During China’s Democracy movement, that wall served as a quasi-Twitter of the times. People from all over China plastered opinions and poetry and thoughts on the Democracy Wall.

The essay soon became famous.

For his words, he was arrested at 29, spending a total of 18 years of his life in China’s labor prisons until the age of 47. In 1997, he was deported to the United States under the pretense of seeking medical help. Once in the United States, he immediately continued his advocacy for Chinese democracy by starting the Wei Jingsheng Foundation to promote the democratization of China.

On July 23, Secretary of Mike State Pompeo delivered a historic address calling for the free world to confront the CCP. Wei, who was present at the address, was commended and recognized as the “father of the Chinese democracy movement” by Pompeo.

At 70 years old, Wei has dedicated 40 years of his life advocating for Chinese democracy. 

“We’ve been working so hard for so long, trying to convince the U.S. government to see the face of the Chinese Communist Party. Finally, they see the truth. Finally, they are acting. So many are saying, ‘finally, China has hope again.’ It feels really good,” Wei said with a smile in an exclusive interview with the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times.

The original interview has been translated from Mandarin to English. Here, Wei shares his thoughts on key issues surrounding the U.S.-China standoff:

Q: What are the key points of Pompeo’s speech?

Wei: The main point. The first is that the administration’s mindset has shifted. They emphasized the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people are not the same thing. He repeatedly emphasized that we are very supportive of the Chinese people and support them in fighting for democracy and freedom. Therefore, Wang Dan and I were invited to emphasize this truth—the Chinese Communist Party is different from the people who resist its tyranny.

The second point is the need to protect the various American properties: intellectual property and freedom of its people. The concept that values are higher than the draw for businesses to make money. 

Business still has to continue, but business is not the most important thing anymore. Why did the previous administrations always kneel down to China? It was because it put pressure on American businesses. In order to do business, they were willing to give up anything. Many American values were abandoned. 

One of the main points of Pompeo’s speech is that we must defend freedom, not only for the United States, but for the whole world. He said that if we don’t end the CCP’s tyranny, the CCP will end us. 

This is a very important point. It shows that U.S. foreign policy has completely adjusted.

Q: In response to Pompeo’s speech, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that 93 percent of Chinese support the Chinese Communist Party. What do you think about that figure?

Wei: It must be said that they were forced to support the Communist Party. 

It means 93 percent of Chinese dare not speak. Even so, there are still 7 percent who oppose the CCP. Seven percent dare to speak? Not a small number, it means nearly 100 million Chinese people dare to resist. This is very important information. Those who dare not speak are those who do not dare to be angry. It’s not really supporting the Communist Party.

Q: Why do you think the United States only now realizes that the Chinese Communist Party does not represent Chinese people?

Wei: We have been talking about it for decades, but politicians in Western countries deliberately ignore our statement in order to maintain friendly relations with China to do business with China. In fact, they must understand in their hearts: how can Chinese people like the CCP? 

In truth, they need the Communist Party to oppress Chinese people so they can access cheap labor. This is their interest. Under this interest, they gave up their values.

But now, they have discovered that if you sacrifice your values to make money, you soon lose your own freedom. So Pompeo also addressed the issue of saving the free world. This is a serious struggle of life and death.

Q: What do you think about the consulate closings between the United States and China?

Wei: Actually, due to the policy of tolerance of the previous U.S. administrations towards the CCP, the CCP has been getting away with committing crimes in America. 

In fact, American society, including police forces in the U.S., such as many FBI officials, kept these matters private. They also said that it could not be tolerated but were helpless to act. 

There was pressure from above not to offend China. Therefore, the CCP became more and more unscrupulous and reckless under the United State’s laissez-faire policy. The backlog has accumulated for years. 

The first step in US policy is not only the State Department’s diplomacy, but many other aspects. This is what the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Justice are all working on now. The grievances of the Communist Party are too rampant. 

This rebound is a rebound of pressure that has accumulated for a long time.

Q: Do you think it’s likely that all Chinese consulates in the United States will be closed? Or vice versa?

Wei: I don’t think it’s possible. The Chinese Communist Party doesn’t want to fight. For the sake of face, it also has to close a consulate in response to the U.S. shutting down the Chinese consulate in Houston. 

Originally, the pro-communist trade union in Hong Kong still signed a request to close the Hong Kong U.S. consulate, and then some people asked to close Shanghai. Yet, the CCP closed one of the most remote U.S. consulates in Chengdu. The CCP said this will make the United States suffer, a lot. 

What is the loss for the United States? Now, the entire southwest region has to travel a long way away to apply for visas to the United States. The Chinese suffer.

Q: Did you personally give Pompeo any other suggestions?

Wei: After the speech, a few of us individually talked to Pompeo. 

I asked whether the Consulate closures will impact U.S. foreign policy. Secretary Pompeo explained to me that even if there were no US embassies or consulates left in China, these policies would not be changed. He was absolutely resolute.

For suggestions, I mentioned one of the most important issues that everyone is most concerned about. I said that the Chinese people cheered on the Internet and support the U.S. policy. But some Chinese people are worried about whether the U.S. will uphold these policies. 

He explained repeatedly that the U.S. policy is very firm.

Q: In Hong Kong, many are worried that if the Democratic Party wins the presidential election, the United States will change its China policy and stop supporting Hong Kong. Can you elaborate on this?

Wei: Many people in the United States also raised this question. At the scene, Pompeo first explained in detail that this policy was not formulated by him alone, nor solely by the State Department, but by several major departments that took their time in finalization.

Secondly, this policy has received firm support from both political parties, unanimous support. In his explanation, he re-emphasized that previous sanctions on Xinjiang and Hong Kong all passed unanimously. This China policy has unanimous support from both parties! 

The meaning is to imply that even if the ruling party changes in the United States, the policy will not change anymore.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on the situation in Hong Kong?

Wei: There was no direct mention of issues such as Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet during Pompeo’s speech. Even a Xinjiang leader who was present at the speech did not mention very specific issues in Xinjiang. 

We are talking about the general situation of the Chinese Communist Party, and to what extent U.S. policy will stabilize. Everyone has noticed that the consulate in Houston has been closed. This shows that the United States is resolute. 

The question now is, “will China gradually escalate?”

The current performance of the Chinese government is relatively contracted and restrained. The CCP knows that if you remain stubborn and break relations with the United States, will you be able to inevitably fight a war?  Even the renowned anti-American Chinese generals said that they absolutely cannot fight the United States, or even Taiwan.

In this situation, many in the Chinese Communist Party are not stupid. They often say that the Communist Party is evil, but not stupid. 

In the past, many politicians turned to the Communist Party when under threat. Under the pressure of political donations, U.S. policy has consistently made concessions to the CCP. 

Now at the point where even the United States’ own legal system cannot be enforced in its own country, the United States has awakened. The CCP is very afraid. If the relationship can’t be managed, it is very dangerous to the CCP. 

Therefore, the CCP is not only more restrained on the issue of consulates, but also on the issue of Hong Kong. No one has quashed the opposition and people in Hong Kong. This is great for the people of Hong Kong. Everyone has to keep fighting and not give in. You have to have the right attitude so that people can help you. If you don’t work hard, how can others help you, right?

I have repeatedly said this to my friends in Hong Kong. You have to fight for yourself. How can it be possible to get good things without paying the price? You have to be prepared to pay a price.

Q: As a veteran pro-democracy activist who has struggled with the Communist Party for decades, how should Hong Kong fight for its freedom?

Wei: I think there are various ways to fight. Not only with the street protests, but of course, the street protests are good.

It is very important to protect the existing rule of law in Hong Kong, because not all people in the judiciary have been completely taken over by the Communist Party.

Many people still have a conscience. How to support and protect them is to protect the people of Hong Kong themselves. This is very important. Freedom of speech and individual rights in Hong Kong must be protected through the courts, through the judiciary, through the protection of conscientious judges of the judiciary, etc.

This is a very important direction of the struggle. Remind everyone that they are all important. Without these basic guarantees of individual freedom, all so-called democratic elections are fake.

Hong Kong people should also think about how to protect inalienable rights, protect their friends who have been arrested, and protect friends who have been punished for speaking out.

The load of Hong Kong people is still very heavy.

Hong Kong is today’s Berlin. The Chinese Communist Party wants to maintain a Berlin wall between China and Hong Kong. But they need to find a way to tear down that wall. Hong Kong’s fight will tear down that Berlin wall.

Subscribe For Latest Updates

Sign up to receive important news avoided by other media.
Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.