Chinese citizens have generally been a submissive people. What is extraordinary is that tens of thousands of protests are taking place in China every year.
Not long ago, one such protest in China was brutally shut down by the Chinese government. Once again, the world looked on as China provided another example of how it thwarts basic human rights.
The protest took place when the police of Weng An County released a suspect who had allegedly raped and murdered a teenage girl. It is believed that the suspect is a relative of a local police officer. The victim's relative went to the police station demanding justice; instead he was badly beaten by police. This then led hundreds of thousands of people to the street. But the official crackdown on this lawful protest spurred tragic violence.
And it is widely known that many such protests for basic rights are beaten back.
No matter how hard the Communist Party tries to cover up their crimes with all kinds of celebrations, its true brutality is constantly being revealed by the crackdowns on peaceful protests, a carte blanche to destroy citizen's homes, and a flouting of laws and trampling of rights. The party is dictatorial, squeezing people both economically and politically, like a criminal organization.
Enough is enough! Citizens must unite and utilize their own power. It only takes a few people to proclaim their rights, to encourage and awaken the rest of the country to those rights and lead the way.
The people in Weng An did the right thing to demand their rights. It is important that all people in China work against oppression, exploitation, and corruption and to fight for human rights and democracy.
But the way to gain the upper hand – and ultimate peace – is through nonviolent tactics. That is not just a moral principle, but a sound, successful strategy used by democracy and human rights activists around the world. And it would knock the government off guard.
The Communist Party is adept at violence, but their well-equipped police force is not necessarily strong at suppressing peaceful protests.
When citizens retaliate with violence, it only provides an excuse for government to crack down on the democracy movement, ultimately weakening citizen power. Nonviolence will put the party in a morally vulnerable position and soften it. Such a tactic will also help win over citizens who are hesitant to act against the government.
Nonviolence doesn't mean nonaction. There is the kind of nonviolence in which people refuse to cooperate or participate in any political activities with the government. Such active refusal speaks volumes. This action includes refusing to implement Communist policy or to give lukewarm attention to government. Or it can mean not participating in any government celebrations, communist festivals, communist TV or newspapers. It means staying away from any communist promotion of their "shining models," abandoning the communist jargon, and ignoring unconstitutional decrees.
Active nonviolence includes organizing prodemocracy movements, such as protests, sit-ins, school or factory strikes, fasting, seminars, open funerals for victims, gatherings in someone's honor, and refusal to pay evil taxes.
For active nonviolence, demonstrators need a tangible goal so that they can eventually pressure the Communist Party into a compromise.
But before that compromise comes, both passive and active nonviolence will likely result in more crackdowns and persecution.
The key to success is persistence.
Attempts at peaceful protests in China in the past, and an effort by the Dalai Lama to encourage peaceful demonstrations, are a strong foundation from which to work forward.
The best way to develop a protest movement is to use places such as schools, unions, associations, churches, or clubs to rally people. Chinese citizens can even create some new gathering points to draw activists.
Meanwhile, the more citizens utilize communication tools such as the Internet, the bigger the power base will be. By searching for information, we can find ways to get around Web firewalls and other obstacles to end isolation. Each addition to the cause will create a chain reaction and multiply citizen strength.
And it is important to recognize that the tragic death of Li Shufen, the teenager who was found in the river in China, should not go unnoticed. By persistent, nonviolent action we gain moral ground and protect our children from being the next victims.
Citizen power based on peaceful nonviolence will eventually conquer the power of the Communist Power. Let's start today.
Yang Jianli is founder of Initiatives for China, dedicated to empowering the citizens of China for a peaceful transition to a democratic China. A PhD, he is a research fellow at Harvard University and a former political prisoner in China.