By Matthew Robertson, Epoch Times
When one group stands up and simply says, “No” to being suppressed, what effect does that have on a country long ruled by an authoritarian, communist regime?
“It’s huge,” says Tang Baiqiao, a veteran Chinese democracy activist. Tang was a student leader during the Tiananmen movement in 1989 and has been active since then. A change has taken place over the last several years because of a movement begun by practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice that has been persecuted in China since 1999. That movement is called Tuidang, or “Quit the Party.”
“In the past people wanted to change specific policies of the CCP. Now it’s different,” says Tang. “Now people want it to just scram, step down from power. Fast. Tuidang shows people a very good way to do something. It’s a nonviolent form of resistance.”
The Tuidang movement began late in 2004, soon after the publication by The Epoch Times of the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party, known as jiuping in Chinese, first as an editorial series and then as a book.
Participants in Tuidang can use their real names or a pseudonym to declare their renunciation of the Party.
Often Tuidang participants are not formal Party members, but they can add their names to the rolls of renouncers all the same. Nearly all Chinese people born after 1949 were inducted into both the Young Pioneers and the Youth League, communist mass organizations that penetrate society and disseminate Party dogma. Tuidang calls on Chinese people to cut their ties from those affiliations.
According to the Global Service Center for Quitting the CCP, over 120 million people have renounced any affiliation with the Party.
“Tuidang is about noncooperation and resistance to the CCP’s violent rule. Just like the spirit of Gandhi’s resistance movement was nonviolent noncooperation. This is what Tuidang is for China. But so many dissident groups in China were cooperating with the CCP. Tuidang was the first movement that fundamentally changed the way people thought about their relationship to the CCP: completely cutting their ties from it,” said Tang Baiqiao.
Tang thinks it will eventually lead to the democratization of China.
The concept of the Tuidang movement stemmed initially from the activism of Falun Gong practitioners—a form of resistance that had never been seen before in China, according to several dissidents.
“Under the whole violent, totalitarian CCP, there has been wave after wave of crazy persecution and attacks, but there has never been an organization or group that openly stands up and protects its legal rights,” said Guo Guoting, an exiled Chinese human rights lawyer now living in Canada, in a previous interview.
“When Falun Gong started doing this, every Chinese person was taken off guard,” he said.
“It’s been an ongoing process, an extraordinarily tenacious process of protecting their rights to their beliefs, a display of persistence and dauntlessness,” he said.
Guo said that just as Martin Luther King and Gandhi promoted nonviolent resistance, so, “In China this movement of nonviolent, civil disobedience is precisely Falun Gong. I think it has given every sector of Chinese society an extremely meaningful and effective path: peaceful appeal and protest, peaceful noncooperation.”
Unlike previous dissident movements or anti-Party publications, Falun Gong practitioners, assisted by the Internet and with fearless volunteers in every city and town, have been able to deliver the message of Tuidang far and wide.
“Basically everyone in China has read or at least heard of the ‘Nine Commentaries,’” Tang said.
The “Nine Commentaries” is the first anti-communist literature that has become part of the texture of understanding of how Chinese people relate to the Communist Party, according to dissidents. And it has had a crucial and invisible impact, becoming a kind of undercurrent informing Chinese about the future of China and the future of the Communist Party, according to dissidents.
As the people of Tuidang see it, the two are opposite: China’s future begins when the Party ends.
The “Nine Commentaries” and Tuidang reinforce the idea to ordinary Chinese that the Party must simply be gotten rid of. And it simultaneously assures them that China will not fall into chaos as a result.
The Tuidang movement represents the most responsible form of civic consciousness possible in China at the moment, according to Tang Baiqiao.
“The greatest civic good Chinese people can do right now is get rid of the CCP,” Tang says. “This is bigger than protecting the rights of Falun Gong practitioners, it’s for everyone: victims of Tiananmen, Tibetan Buddhists, underground Christians, all those persecutions will stop.
“Ending the Party’s dictatorship is the best way to bring justice to Chinese society, because the biggest cause of injustice in society is the CCP. Tuidang aims to fix this problem from its root. This is the path of China’s future, and Tuidang’s contribution to that is the greatest.”
The penetration and acceptance of the idea that there is no hope for reform of the Communist Party has far reaching implications. Ultimately, it means Chinese people are more willing to stand up for their rights and oppose the regime.
Villagers have defied the Party line on Falun Gong in a series of incidents over the past year. To a large degree this is attributable to the ideas in Tuidang being widely accepted.
Mass protests against the Communist Party have also risen dramatically during the time of Tuidang’s dissemination. This is largely attributable to a consequent uptick in forced demolitions of the homes of peasants during the period, and dissidents also say that the underlying ideas in Tuidang have given greater confidence to such protest movements.
There is a feeling that political change in China is long overdue—and not just a trim around the edges.
The idea of quitting the Party became the logical and inevitable progression.
According to Zhong Weiguang, there has been a progression in the activism of Falun Gong practitioners, and this has carried on to the mainstream. “They went from simply telling the truth, to protecting their rights, to Tuidang.” The idea of quitting the Party became the logical and inevitable progression.
As more people have caught on to the necessity of getting rid of the Party for China’s future, Tuidang has become the most powerful and ideal vehicle for it.
“In China we have a story about the Hegemon of Western Chu, also known as Xiang Yu, before the Han Dynasty. Liu Bang and Xiang Yu were fighting. In the end Xiang Yu was stuck. He wouldn’t surrender. What to do? So Liu Bang had an idea: he organized all his soldiers to surround Xiang Yu’s and sing the songs from their hometown. They had no heart to fight anymore. The troops simply melted away,” Zhong said.
“In China we call this ‘enemies coming from all sides.’ Now the Communist Party is in this situation. This is the effect of the ‘Nine Commentaries’ and Tuidang.”
Resistance From the Villages
A series of incidents in 2011 and 2012 illustrate the direct impact of the Tuidang
movement and the efforts of Falun Gong practitioners to explain themselves and the persecution of their discipline to the Chinese people.
Amnesty International documented a case where 2,300 villagers from near Tianjin signed their names to petitions on behalf of Falun Gong practitioner Zhou Xiangyang. Zhou’s wife, Li Shanshan, traveled to villages, explained the story of their romance and the Party’s merciless persecution of her husband, and convinced them to sign their names to the petition—at potential personal danger.
Almost identical incidents took place in Zhouguantun Village in Hebei Province, where 300 households signed a petition demanding the release of Wang Xiaodong, a local Falun Gong practitioner and schoolteacher. The pressure led to the state prosecutor, who usually would participate in the persecution, sending the case back to local Party officials. Revenge was sought, however, the villagers were coerced into renouncing their support for Wang while security officials recorded the proceedings on video cameras.
In northeastern China, 15,000 villagers signed a petition calling on the authorities to investigate the case of a Falun Gong practitioner apparently beaten to death in custody. Qin Rongqian, the daughter of the deceased, organized the petition over several months.