Thought-Control Efforts Intensified
Party leaders identify suppression of liberalism as key to reviving their power and prestige. BEIJING'S PROPAGANDA PUSH
BEIJING — HAVING crushed public protests for democracy, China's leaders have launched a nationwide campaign to wipe out liberal ideas. In an intensified effort at thought control, authorities have raided bookstores, vilified advocates of democratic reform, stepped up ideological indoctrination, and arrested some of nearly two dozen outspoken intellectuals on an official blacklist.
The propaganda campaign against what the state calls ``bourgeois liberalization'' indicates that China's leadership is attempting to purge liberal thoughts from people's minds now that a tough media account of the crackdown has helped clear pro-democracy protesters from the streets.
Communist Party leaders have identified the suppression of liberalism as a key task in their effort to revive their power and prestige since they ordered the Army last month to fire on unarmed, pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing. The media have all but completely withheld reports on the execution of liberal partisans since senior leader Deng Xiaoping ordered a hush-up of reports on repression last month in response to strong condemnation from overseas, a Chinese source said on condition of anonymity.
State newspapers, radio, and television early this month also stopped updating the number of arrests in a nationwide manhunt of activists after police had netted more than 2,500 fugitives.
Instead, the party leadership has turned the propaganda blitz against ideas. Since mid-June it has required millions of Chinese at universities, public organs, and factories to endorse a June 9 speech in which Deng hailed the brutal crackdown on the ``counter-revolutionary riots'' and condemned any challenge to party primacy.
In a statement showing the distaste of the leadership for proponents of liberal thinking, party General Secretary Jiang Zemin told the party's central committee last month that intellectuals ``who advocate `bourgeois liberalization' cannot represent our intellectuals - they are the scum of our nation.''
Police have arrested at least three intellectuals who officials claim instigated rallies this spring for democratic reform, basic freedoms, and an end to corruption, according to Chinese sources. Many of the fugitive thinkers have gone into hiding and some have managed to flee abroad.
As part of a nationwide clampdown on what the party calls the ``cultural market,'' propaganda officials have seized liberal books and pamphlets in raids on private bookstalls in Beijing. On Friday they confiscated foreign newspapers and periodicals at 10 major hotels in the capital, telling hotel staff that such publications are henceforth banned.
``Recently, the Media and Publication Administration decided to take resolute measures directed against the book market'' throughout the country, the party newspaper People's Daily reported on Friday. The state has decided to ``ban books advocating `bourgeois liberalization' or inciting the plotting and organizing of `counter-revolutionary riots,''' the newspaper said.
``Such publications will be confiscated and destroyed,'' administration spokesman Liang Heng said, according to the Saturday issue of the official newspaper China Daily.
Propaganda officials have also raided bookstores in Shanghai and Zhejiang Province, according to official reports.
In the past decade of eased social regimentation, China's leadership has tolerated limited circulation of the works of such liberal thinkers as John Stuart Mill and Jean Jacques Rousseau. It is so far unclear whether the state will sweep these books from the shelves now that it has banned the writings of Chinese intellectuals who have defied party orthodoxy.
Official censure has so far singled out the provocative and widely popular documentary ``He Shang,'' or ``River Elegy.'' Appearing as a TV series and a book, the broad review of China's culture obliquely criticizes conservative leaders by denouncing China's legacy of xenophobia, chauvinism, and autocratic rule.
```He Shang' attempted to negate the cultural tradition of China, to vilify the Chinese revolution and the history of socialist construction, and to advocate total `Westernization' in China,'' veteran leader Song Renqiong told a symposium last week, according to People's Daily.
China's conservative leaders have blamed foreigners for sowing decadence and liberal ideas in China, warning in a July 10 People's Daily editorial that the ``worship of foreign countries'' will nurture ``superficial, vulgar, even corrupt and degenerate influences and styles.''
The attack against foreign ideas from abroad contradicts repeated official statements that Beijing will still welcome foreigners as tourists, investors, and business partners.
The hostility toward thoughts from abroad also highlights the belief of China's leaders that the principles behind the liberal aspirations of Chinese have come from outside rather than sprung from limited economic freedoms during a decade of reform.
While claiming that foreigners are the source of liberal ideas, hard-line leaders have made former party leader Zhao Ziyang the scapegoat for the popularity of such values.
Participants at the recent symposium agreed that Mr. Zhao, ousted as party general secretary last month, ``is the greatest protector for those in literary and art circles who have been advocating `bourgeois liberalization,''' People's Daily reported on July 13.
The party hopes to snuff out liberal thoughts among China's youth by scheduling additional mandatory classes in ideology at colleges starting this fall. And it plans summer vacation programs to teach elementary and middle school students to love the party, socialism, and the Army, according to a recent issue of Beijing Daily.
Party leader Jiang told a meeting of higher education on Friday that young Chinese embrace the ideas of personal freedoms and democracy because the state has failed to sufficiently mold their ideological outlook.