As a result of his promoting democracy as a student in China in the late 1980s, Wang Dan was blacklisted by the Chinese government, twice imprisoned and exiled to the United States.
Wang, a leader of the student movement that culminated in the bloody demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in June of 1989, said yesterday at the Law School that the amount of student activism in China has diminished since those violent attacks on students.
This absence of student activism, Wang said, has allowed the Chinese government to pass economic reforms – such as the establishment of a market economy – that are detrimental to the majority of Chinese people.
“The economic reforms from (the Communist Party of China) have been transformed into a license to openly steal the people’s property,” Wang said.
Wang, exiled to the United States in 1998, is working on a Ph.D. in history at Harvard University.
Despite China’s sudden rise in the global economy, Wang said the country’s rapid economic development – often referred to as the Chinese “miracle” – has hindered attempts at building democracy in China.
“In fact, the success of the (economic) reforms has become the best excuse for the Communist Party of China to reject freedom and democracy,” Wang said.
In addition, Wang said the Chinese government’s decision to privatize its state-owned properties and companies directly contradicts efforts to promote democracy in China.
“This privatization is not for the benefit of the people,” Wang said. “But rather, it allows only a small number of elite to own state property.”
Because of China’s growing influence in the global economy, Wang said there will be a negative impact on other countries if China’s Communist Party and market economy are not opposed.
“If China does not change its current track to move in the direction of democracy and liberty, tremendous disasters will happen to the whole world,” Wang said.
Ultimately, Wang said establishing a new democratic government is key to laying the foundation for a positive and sustainable future in China.
“To deal with the Chinese communist party is to deal with China of today,” Wang said. “But to deal with growing civil society is to deal with the China of tomorrow.”