Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


October 7, 2011

Please forward.

Every year there is a meeting in Washington, D.C. at the beginning of October by pro-democracy advocates for China. This meeting is an offset to the Communist Party of China's annual celebration of its assumption of power on October 1, 1949.

Very significantly, for the first time this year the CCP did not celebrate October 1st. The dictators of Beijing are running scared. With the Arab Spring underway, and with repressed peoples all over the world protesting for freedom, you do not want to advertise that you are the largest oppressor of all.

The subject of the D.C. meeting this year was the 1911 Chinese Xinhai Revolution. This revolution overthrew the last Imperial dynasty and established the Republic of China. It was the first attempt in China to establish a modern state, and which Mao Zedong and the Communists ultimately destroyed.


I was invited to participate in the event, and my remarks are as follows:

Forum in the U.S. Capitol: 1911 Chinese Xinhai Revolution -- Review and Outlook
Remarks by Roland Watson, Dictator Watch
Thursday, October 6, 2011, 12 noon - 2:30 p.m.
Room HVC-215, the U.S. Capitol, Washington, DC


I have worked for seventeen years as a pro-democracy advocate, mainly on China's Southwest neighbor, Burma. I have been involved in many activities, including years of underground organizing. I have followed China closely for this entire period. My group first disclosed that Burma was cooperating with North Korea, and China, in a clandestine nuclear program.

Burma and China

I was asked to speak about Burma and China. Burma is a military regime in the process of transforming to civilian. China is a civilian regime but which is still grounded in Mao's revolution and the People's Liberation Army.

The main difference is scale. China is massive - therefore, the task of bringing democracy to the country appears huge if not insurmountable.

It is not. With the correct approach - a popular uprising - the people of China, like the people of Egypt and Libya, can be free.

The regimes

Both the Communist Party of China (CCP) and Burma's regime have only one goal: To stay in power. The reason for this is simple. The rulers have great incentives not to lose power.

1. Physical risk: They could be killed, through a coup or by armed revolutionaries. This risk is higher in Burma, which has active ethnic resistance armies, and where it is known that many Burma Army soldiers actually side with the people.

2. Tried for war and other crimes, and then imprisoned, or even executed.

3. Lose their wealth, including of their families.

4. Lose status, or "face." In East Asia, this is often the strongest motivation of all. People will do anything not to lose face.

In summary, the dictators of China, and Burma, have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, from allowing democracy. To remove them, we have to accept this fact.

Regime strategy

Both the CCP and Burma's regime maintain control through imposing severe repression, where all dissidents are arrested, tortured and in many cases killed.

More generally, Burma's regime is now emulating the CCP. The regime set up the USDP, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, with the generals trading uniforms for suits. The USDP is now like the CCP, and if the regime is successful it will be in power for decades to come.

The people

The people of Burma, like the people of China, want freedom. In recent years they have begun to protest. However, for both countries the protests are generally against specific grievances, not for freedom and democracy. In China the grievances include working conditions, environmental pollution, and corruption and abuse by Party officials.

In Burma, there was a significant uprising in 2007, against energy price increases and then the abuse of Buddhist monks. In the last two weeks, there have been protests against a large dam at the source of the country's main river, the Irrawaddy, which dam is being built by and for China. The President of Burma has just suspended this dam.

Many people believe this is a sign that Burma's regime is now open to reform. This is not true. The rulers of Burma have two main threats, the ethnic armies and a popular uprising. The dam involved both. The Kachin Independence Army was blocking the delivery of construction supplies. The people were protesting the destruction of the Irrawaddy River, which is a basic national symbol. So, and even though it angered the CCP, the regime suspended the dam.

Also, the other possible source of a popular uprising in Burma is anti-Chinese sentiment. Burmese people are becoming more and more angry about the sale of the country's natural resources to China, and the influx of Chinese people. Suspending the dam was a way to relieve this pressure.

The Arab Spring

Everyone is aware of the Arab Spring movement in the Middle East. In Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, there is only one goal: Freedom. The people are united around this, getting rid of their dictators, and will settle for nothing less.

Freedom for China, and Burma

The people of China and Burma do not yet appear to grasp this, that they have to put freedom and democracy above all other considerations. They need to learn that human rights and environmental protection can never be guaranteed until the CCP and the USDP are driven from power.

Local grievances lead to local protests. But, if the focus is shifted to freedom, this can be used to create national movements, and national protests. Tiananmen Square can once again ring with voices calling for democracy.

Chinese expatriates can do much to encourage and assist the people inside China to redirect their emphasis from local grievances to democracy for the entire country. There are many new activist approaches that can be used, and which I, personally, as a prodemocracy advocate for East Asia, am looking for partners to organize.

Bringing democracy to China is a big task but it is not insurmountable. Any mountain, no matter how large, can be brought down by drops of rain. If the people of China unify around the goal of freedom and democracy, they too can bring down the mountain that is the Communist Party.

Thank you.