China: the Quest for Democracy A Personal Testimony

EVENT NOTICE: 6pm Tues 4 June 2013 – Twenty four years after the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, how do the Chinese people speak out against the government? To what extent is freedom of expression now permitted? What are the realistic prospects of reform in China? Is the democracy movement wasting its time?

According to the South China Morning Post, a newspaper not afraid of criticising the Beijing government from time to time, the emphasis of this year’s June 4 night vigil – “Love the country, love the people” – has sparked a row between Hong Kong’s veteran democrats and pro-autonomy activists, with the latter claiming that whether the mainland is democratic or not is irrelevant to Hong Kong people.

Be that as it may, is it relevant to China itself? To a great extent the world is divided on this issue, as China has grown to become the world’s second largest country with half a billion people taken out of poverty. Most nations, including Australia, seek to build their relationships with Beijing, and in Washington the Obama administration renounces containment of China in favour of cooperation.

On the other hand China’s growth is slowing, there are pockets of unrest, concerns about military expansion, widespread corruption, and emigration. China is the major source of Australian immigrants, and the New South Wales government’s Waratah bonds have been selling faster than expected to rich Chinese seeking a short cut to an Australian passport.

In the first of a series of three major events this winter on the future of China – featuring leading thinkers from Beijing, and Linda Jakobson, of the Lowy Institute for International Policy – AIIA NSW will examine the outlook for democracy movement.

In an AIIA NSW Q & A session will question Chin Jin, an activist in this movement, and the author of My Quest for Democracy in China, just published in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan on what its realistic hopes are for the current period of Chinese leadership.

Chin Jin is one of those who believes that the best way to achieve democracy is by arguing the case in writings, taking the view that “the pen is mightier than the sword”. Now a writer and broadcaster, based in Sydney, he funds his writing by working three days a week as a taxi driver.

He recently participated in an AIIA NSW discussion on the future of Tibet at the Glover Cottages, where we were pleased to host visiting Tibetologists from Beijing and Lhasa, and engaged in a cordial two way discussion on the subject. However the Chinese government has persistently refused him a visa to visit his homeland to see his ailing father.

Chin Jin describes modern-day China as a vessel in a stormy sea, but points out that there are no Gorbachevs to foster perestroika and glasnost, or push a reform agenda. “There isn’t any farsighted figure in the Chinese Communist Party, and to wish for the CCP to begin the political reform in line with the historical trend of democratization is naïve”, he writes.

So where does the democracy movement go from here? Come and find out!


Entry:  AIIA NSW members: $15.00; Senior/student members: $10.00

           Visitors:  $25.00;  Student visitors: $15.00

Book now:


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