Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 2014
Volume 25
Issue 3
Page Numbers 184-87
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On June 7, newly elected president Petro Poroshenko was sworn into office. (For more on recent political developments in Ukraine, see the articles on pp. 17–89 above.) Below are excerpts from Poroshenko’s inaugural address:

The return of Ukraine to its natural, European state has been long-awaited by many generations. The dictatorship that ruled Ukraine in recent years sought to deprive us of this prospect; people rebelled. The victorious revolution of dignity has not only changed the government. The country has changed. People have changed. The time of inevitable positive changes has come. To implement them, we need first of all peace, security and unity. . . . I have become president to preserve and strengthen the unity of Ukraine—to ensure lasting peace and guarantee reliable security. I know that peace is the main thing for which the Ukrainian people aspire today. . . .

Citizens of Ukraine will never enjoy the beauty of peace unless we settle down our relations with Russia. Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is, and will be Ukrainian soil. Yesterday, in the course of the meeting in Normandy, I told this to President Putin: Crimea is Ukrainian soil. Period. There can be no compromise regarding Crimea, European choice, and state structure. Anything else shall be discussed and negotiated. Any attempts at external and internal enslavement of Ukrainians meet and will meet the most determined resistance. We want to be free.

To live in a new way means to live freely under a political system that guarantees the rights and freedoms of person and nation. I would like to emphasize my commitment to the parliamentary-presidential republic. No usurpation of power! European democracy for me is the best form of government invented by mankind. It is the European choice which tells us that significant powers must immediately be delegated from the center to local governments. Reform on decentralization will begin this [End Page 184] year with amendments to the constitution. Newly elected local councils will receive new powers. Still, Ukraine was, is, and will be a unitary state. Dreams of federation have no grounds in Ukraine.

Early parliamentary elections are an important part of the public request for a full reset of government. Let us be honest. The current composition of this distinguished assembly does not match the mood of society—for it has changed significantly since 2012.


On January 15, Ilham Tohti, a professor of economics at Beijing’s Minzu University, was arrested on charges of inciting separatism. Tohti, a Uyghur born in Xinjiang, is the founder of Uyghur Online, a website dedicated to fostering understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. In April, the website China Change published a translation of his autobiographical essay entitled “My Ideals and the Career Path I Have Chosen.” Excerpts appear below:

People in Xinjiang today generally look back nostalgically at ethnic relations during the planned economy era [1949–76] as well as the Hu Yaobang and Song Hanliang era [1976–89]. During the planned economy era, the government distributed resources equally and fairly, creating a positive sense of equality among ethnic groups. In addition, at that time the population was restricted in mobility and there were few opportunities for group comparisons that could result in a sense of inequality. During the Hu Yaobang and Song Hanliang era, the political climate was relaxed. On the surface more people seemed to be voicing discontent publicly, but people trusted each other and felt least suppressed, and social synergy was the strongest. . . .

As a Uyghur intellectual, I strongly sense that the great rift of distrust between the Uyghur and Han societies is getting worse each day, especially within the younger generation. Unemployment and discrimination along ethnic lines have caused widespread animosity. The discord did not explode and then dissipate along with the July 5 incident and during subsequent social interactions. Instead, it has started to build up once again.

The situation is getting gradually worse. Yet, fewer and fewer people dare to speak out. Since 1997, the primary government objective in the region has been to combat the “three evil forces” [terrorism, separatism and religious extremism]. Its indirect effect is that Uyghur cadres and intellectuals feel strongly distrusted and the political atmosphere is oppressive.

The outbreak of the July 5 unrest in 2009 and, before it, the March 14 incident in Lhasa, Tibet, in 2008, clearly reminds us that as China is undergoing rapid changes, it is an extremely urgent task to explore how to achieve ethnic harmony. . . . [End Page 185]

Uyghur Online is a website I personally founded in order for all ethnic groups in China—as well as the world—to understand Xinjiang and the Uyghurs. Conversely, the website seeks to allow ethnic groups living in Xinjiang to understand the world. . . . I founded Uyghur Online because I discovered that many websites and search portals contained a large amount of posts that incited hatred and attacked the Uyghur community. As a result, I strongly felt that deep division existed between the Uyghur and Han peoples due to a lack of mutual understanding. But there was no platform for communication and dialogue. Han and Uyghur netizens have been talking past each other, with no opportunities to exchange views one-on-one and listen meaningfully to each other. . . .

Uyghur Online is managed to prevent any pro-independence, separatist, or irresponsible inflammatory postings, and it does not post subversive materials. However, it does not forbid posts that expose social ills in Xinjiang or elsewhere, so long as they show good intentions and the content is authentic. As expected, nationalistic Hans and Uyghurs have had heated arguments on the forum. Yet, I have always maintained that one should not fear differences of opinion and opposition, but rather [only fear] not having opportunities for exchange. . . .

In addition, I made Uyghur Online a tool to influence and solicit Uyghurs’ ideas about society. In Uyghur society today, there are virtually no rational, moderate and constructive voices that grapple with the real problems of the Uyghur society, free of [China’s] official, orthodox, and constrained propaganda. From overseas there is no lack of provocative and subversive statements, which don’t solve any real problems. As Xinjiang faces the danger of escalating ethnic conflicts, and discussions of ethnic problems tend to be radical, I believe that one of our most important tasks and missions is for us to use rational and constructive voices to compete against more extreme ones in the market place of ideas. . . .

As a Uyghur intellectual, I naturally have deep feelings for my ethnic group, and I feel uneasy about its impoverishment and its many sufferings attributable to historical and circumstantial factors. I have equally deep feelings for my country, and, having traveled to dozens of other countries, I have come to the conclusion that national pride runs deep within my veins. The pain and pride experienced by both my ethnic group and also my countrymen are my own pain and my own pride.

Today in Xinjiang and elsewhere, we are witnessing a unique period where ethnic issues are of unprecedented importance and difficulty. Whether rationally or emotionally, I cannot accept any part of the nation being separated. With regard to ethnic issues, I do not oppose the natural fusing of ethnic groups, because it reflects a natural as well as a social law. . . . However, I do oppose a false and calculated ethnic harmony. Use of administrative means to keep ethnic groups together is, in essence, a use of force that breeds division, whereas tolerance as a means to encourage diversity will lead to mutual harmony and unity. [End Page 186]

On June 3 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Chinese lawyer and civil-rights activist Chen Guangcheng—who in April 2012 fled house arrest and sought refuge in the U.S. embassy in Beijing before being allowed to leave the country—marked the impending twenty-fifth anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square by delivering his first public speech in English. Excerpts from an adaptation of the speech published by the Witherspoon Institute appear below:

Twenty-five years later, instead of admitting its evils and facing history, the Communist Party of China (CCP) continues to cover it all up, and continues its one-party dictatorship. Calls for justice have still not been answered. The criminals who ordered the crackdown have still not been held accountable. This is a deep grief for the Chinese people. This is a grief for the whole world.

Today, we see great economic progress in China, but there has been very little political reform. The Communist Party of China continues to block media and filter so-called “sensitive words” on the Internet. In public, people are still afraid and silent about the June Fourth Incident. In the past twenty-five years, the Chinese people have fought like heroes against the tanks, machine guns, police batons and shields, handcuffs, foot shackles, and prison cells. They have had little success. Why? Because they fight against cold-blooded, evil men who live outside the law. Outlaws.

But citizen activism has been growing. Who are those brave people? Heroes who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square. Heroes in the Democracy Party of China. Human rights lawyers. Heroes involved in more than 200,000 incidents each year. Opposing these acts of patriotism costs China about 70 billion Yuan each year, which is about $11.7 billion US dollars. China spends this huge sum not on looking after her people, but on suppressing them. . . . A government that cannot face its own history is a government without a future. . . .

Hong Kong’s June Fourth Memorial Museum opened this year. It is the first museum in the world dedicated to June Fourth. It reveals the truth of what happened, truth that people in mainland China are not allowed to hear. And the Taiwan Association for Human Rights started an anti-CCP movement on the Internet. The museum, the Internet movement, everything that makes us remember June Fourth, 1989 has its effect. Every speech, every story on the radio or TV, every candlelight vigil makes the perpetrators shudder in fear. It gives people courage to think and speak aloud again. Thank you to the people of Hong Kong. Thank you to everyone in the world who loves freedom and democracy and speaks out. For twenty-five years, you have refused to bury history. . . .

Today, many Chinese people are beginning to awaken. They are overcoming their fear and working for democracy. China will change. But we must stop the Communist Party from brutalizing and suppressing the Chinese people during this inevitable change. [End Page 187]