Hunger Strike Manifesto, the June Second Hunger Strike Declaration by Liu Xiaobo
I was trying to find a full online transcript/translation of Liu Xiaobo's Hunger Strike Manifesto and there are no full, free transcriptions. So, I decided to transcribe it myself. Future posts will still be my own little daily thoughts.
Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote this during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. He wrote it as a manifesto for the hunger strike embarked upon by himself, Hou Dejian, Gao Xin, and Zhou Duo.
Hunger Strike Manifesto by Liu Xiaobo
We are on a hunger strike! We protest! We appeal! We repent!
Death is not what we seek; we are searching for true life.
In the face of the high-handed military violence of the Li Peng government, Chinese intellectuals must dispose of their age-old disease, passed down over centuries, of being spineless, of merely speaking and not acting. By means of action, we protest against military control; by means of action, we call for the birth of a new political culture; and by means of action, we express our repentance for the wrongs that have been the doing of our own age-old weakness. The Chinese nation has fallen behind; for this, each one of us bears his share of responsibility….
Our hunger strike is no longer a petition, but a protest against martial law and military control! We advocate the use of peaceful means to further democratization in China and to oppose any form of violence. Yet we do not fear brute force; through peaceful means, we will demonstrate the resilience of the democratic strength of the people, and smash the undemocratic order held together by bayonets and lies….
The thousands of years of Chinese history have been a story of violence met with violence, of learning to hate and be hated. Entering the modern era, this “enemy consciousness” [where one separates the enemy from the people] has become the legacy of the Chinese. The post-1949 slogan: “Take class struggle as they key link” has pushed to the extreme this traditional mentality of hatred, this enemy consciousness and the practice of meeting violence with violence. This time, the imposition of military control is but another manifestation of the political culture of “class struggle.” It is because of this that we are on a hunger strike; we appeal to the Chinese people that from now on they gradually discard and eradicate enemy consciousness and the mentality of hatred, and completely forsake “ our “class struggle” form of political culture, for hatred generates only violence and autocracy. We must use a democratic spirit of tolerance and cooperation to begin the construction of democracy in China. For democratic politics is a politics without enemies and without a mentality of hatred, a politics of consultation, discussion, and decision by vote based on mutual respect, mutual tolerance, and mutual accommodation. Since, as Premier, Li Peng has made grave mistakes, he should be made to resign according to democratic processes.
However, Li Peng is not our enemy; even if he steps down, he would still enjoy the rights that citizens should have, even the right to adhere to his mistaken beliefs. We appeal to all Chinese, from those in the government down to every ordinary citizen, to give up the old political culture and begin a new one. We ask that the government end martial law at once. We ask that both the students and the government once again turn to peaceful negotiation and consultative dialogue to resolve their differences.
The present student movement has received and unprecedented amount of sympathy, understanding, and support from all sectors of society. The implementation of martial law has turned a student movement into a national democracy movement. Undeniable, however is the fact that many of t hose who have supported the students have acted out of humanitarian sympathy and discontent with the government; they have lacked a citizen’s sense of political responsibility. Because of this, we appeal to all members of Chinese society to gradually drop the attitude of being onlookers and merely expressing sympathy. We appeal to you to acquire a sense of citizen consciousness. First of all, this citizen consciousness is the awareness that all citizens possess political rights. Every citizen must have the self-confidence that one’s own political rights are equal to the rights of the Premier. Next, citizen consciousness is a consciousness of rationalized political involvement—of political responsibility—not just a sense of justice and sympathy. It means that every man or woman cannot only express sympathy and support, but also must become directly involved in the construction of democracy. Finally, citizen consciousness means self-awareness of one’s responsibilities and obligations. In the construction of social politics bound by rationality and law, every one of us must contribute his part; likewise, where social politics are irrational and lawless, each bears his share of responsibility. Voluntary participation in the political life of society and voluntary acceptance of one’s responsibilities are the inescapable duties of every citizen. The Chinese people must see that, in democratized politics, everyone is first and foremost a citizen, and then a student, a professor, a worker, a cadre, or a soldier.
For thousands of years, Chinese society has followed a vicious cycle of overthrowing an old emperor just to put up a new one. History has shown t hat the fall of a leader who has lost the people’s support or the rise of a leader who has the backing of the people cannot solve China’s essential political problem. What we need is not a perfect savior, but a sound democratic system. We this call for the following: 1. All sectors of society should establish lawful, autonomous citizens’ organizations, and gradually develop these organizations into citizens’ political forces that will act to check government policy making, for the quintessence of democracy is the curbing and balancing of power. We would rather have ten monsters that are mutually restrained than one angel of absolute power. 2. by impeaching leaders who have committed serious errors, we should gradually establish a sound system for the impeachment of officials. Whoever rises and whoever falls is not important; what is important is how one ascends to or falls from power. An undemocratic procedure of appointment and dismissal can only result in dictatorship.
In the course of the present movement, both the government and the students have made mistakes. The main mistake of the government was that, conditioned by the outmoded political ideology of “class struggle,” it has chosen to take a stand in opposition to the great majority of students and residents, thus causing continuous intensification of the conflict. The main mistake of the students is that, because the organizing of their own organizations left much to be desired, many undemocratic elements have appeared in the process of striving for democracy. We therefore call on both the government and students to conduct level-headed self-examination. It is our belief that, on the whole, the greater fault for the present situation lies with the government. Actions, such as demonstrations and hunger strikes are democratic ways through which people express their wishes; they are completely legal and reasonable. They are anything but “turmoil.” Yet the government ignored the basic rights of the people granted by the Constitution; on the basis of its autocratic political ideology, it labeled the student movement as “turmoil.” This stand led to a series of wrong decisions, which then led to the growth of the movement and rising antagonism. The real catalyst for the turmoil is therefore the government’s wrong decisions, errors of a gravity no less than those of the “Cultural Revolution.” It was only due to the great restraint shown by the students and people of Beijing and the impassioned appeals from all sectors of society—including the Party, the government, and the military—that wide-scale bloodshed has been avoided. In view of this, the government must admit to and examine these mistakes that it has made. We believe that it is not yet too late to correct the mistakes. The government should draw some painful lessons from this major movement. It should learn to become accustomed to listening to the voice of the people, to allowing people to express their desires through the exercise of constitutionally granted rights, and to governing the country in a democratic way. The nationwide movement for democracy is a lesson for the government in how to govern society by means of democracy and rule of law.
The students’ mistakes are mainly manifested in the internal chaos of their organizations and the lack of efficient and democratic procedures. Although their goal is democracy, their means and procedures for achieving democracy are not democratic. Their theories call for democracy, but their handling of specific problems is not democratic. Their lack of cooperative spirit and sectarianism that has caused their forces to neutralize each other have resulted in all their policies coming to naught. More faults can be named: financial chaos; material waste; an excess of emotion and lack of reason; too much of the attitude that they are privileged and not enough belief in equality; and so on. In the last hundred years, the great majority of Chinese people’s struggles for democracy has remained at the level of ideological battles and slogan shouting. Enlightenment is much talked about, but little is said about the actual running of a democracy. Goals are discussed, but not the means, the procedures, or process through which they will be achieved. We believe that the actual realization of a democratic political system lies in the democratization of the process, means, and procedures of operating such a system. For this, we appeal to the Chinese people to forsake this tradition of “empty democracy,” a democracy of only ideology, slogans, and abstract goals, and begin the construction of the process, means, and procedures for operation of a democracy. We ask you to transform a democratic movement focused on ideological enlightenment into a movement of democracy in action; this must be done by starting with each specific matter. We call for the students to begin a self-examination that should focus on the overhaul and reorganization of the student groups in Tiananmen Square.
The government’s grave mistakes in its approach were also reflected in the use of the term “a handful of persons” to refer to participants in the protests. Through our hunger strike we would like to tell the media, at home and abroad, who this so-called “handful of persons” really are: they are not a bunch of students, but citizens with a sense of political responsibility who have voluntarily participated in the present nationwide democratic movement led by the students. All we have done and all we are doing is lawful and reasonable. In this combat of opposing political cultures, of character cultivation and of moral strength, the hunger strikers intend to use their wisdom and actions to make the government feel shamed, to make it admit and correct its wrongdoings. We also intend to encourage the autonomous student organizations to improve themselves daily in accordance with democratic and legal procedures.
It must also be acknowledged that democratic governance of the country is unfamiliar to every Chinese citizen. And every Chinese citizen, including the highest officials in the Party and the government, must learn it from the bottom up. In this learning process, mistakes by both the government and the people are inevitable. The key is to admit mistakes when they become evident and to correct them after they appear; to learn from our mistakes and turn them into positive lessons; and, during the continuous process of rectifying our mistakes, to learn gradually how to govern the country democratically.
We don’t have enemies!
Don’t let hatred and violence poison wisdom and the process of democratization in China!
We must all carry out self-examination!
Everyone bears a responsibility for the backwardness of China!
We are above all citizens!
We are not seeking death!
We are searching for true life!
--Liu Xiaobo, Ph.D in Literature, Assistant Professor, Chinese Department, Beijing Normal University
--Zhou Dou, former Assistant Professor, Sociology Research Institute, Beijing University, Director, Comprehensive Planning Division, Beijing Stone Corporation Group
--Hou Dejian, well-known composer and song writer
--Gao Xin, former Chief Editor of Normal University Weekly, Party member