Teng Biao (滕彪) is a Chinese human rights activist and lawyer, president of China Against the Death Penalty, co-founder of the Open Constitution Initiative and visiting scholar at U.S.-Asia Law Institute, New York University.
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The Open Constitution Initiative (gongmen, 公盟) was established in 2003 by Xu Zhiyong, Teng Biao, Yu Jiang, and Zhang Xingshui from the Peking University Law School. On July 17, 2009, Chinese authorities declared the organization “illegal”. Xu Zhiyong has been arrested on charges of ‘tax evasion’ and released on bail on 23 August 2009 while Gongmeng was fined nearly 1.5 million renminbi and shut down. In 2014 Xu was sentenced to four years in prison for “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”.
Interview by Matteo Damiani
What was the Open Constitution Initiative? Why was it shut down by the government?
OCI aka Gongmeng, was a human rights NGO I co-founded in 2003. It was shut down in 2009 because we had dealt lots of sensitive issues/cases, including Tibet, torture, forced eviction, force abortion and promoting local congress election.
Do the average Chinese know anything about the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989? Was the Chinese government successfully to remove from the collective memory this event?
Many young people don’t know Tiananmen massacre. CCP is brainwashing and propaganda were working effectively. Only a few citizens try there best and sacrifice a lot to keep the memory and further develop the spirit of Tiananmen democracy movement.
Do average people care about human rights?
Generally no. Political indifference is widespread. Unless their own rights are violated. Main reason is the high risk to defend human rights in China.
How is the propaganda’s machine evolved over the years?
It became more subtle, and more powerful, with social media and the high tech of big data. Internet helps civil society but also helps CCP’s propaganda.
What do you think about the new restrictions and regulations imposed by the Chinese government on the internet services?
It is a part of the comprehensive crackdown on human rights movement and civil society. See my article, “Why Xi is purging human rights lawyers?”
Few weeks ago thousands watch as 10 people sentenced to death in sport stadium and people were invited to attend the sentencing on social media. Do you think in the next future open-air sentencing trials will be more frequent?
Yes. Xi is trying to take back some political means of the Cultural Revolution.
What is happening in Xinjiang is particularly disturbing: China is collection DNA from millions in the region, people are convicted in detention centers, etc. How the government can think these measures help the process of reconciliation?
CCP is taking China towards more and more Owellian state. The situation in Xinjiang (and Tibet) is worse that other part of China, but CCP really wants to achieve a total control of the society. “Political stability” is its priority.
See aslo, my article, Is China Returning to the Madness of Mao’s Cultural Revolution?
Internet technology and new media have provided new tools for the government to monitor, control and stabilize the people
In 2011, we genuinely thought the internet and social media would have changed the world for better, spreading ideas and democracy. Now, 6 years later many think social media are on the verge to become dystopian tools to manipulate millions of people. How was this overturn possible?
The Internet empowers both the state and society. The Internet has played an important role in facilitating political liberalization and social movement, and produces enormous effects which are highly decentralized and beyond the reach of state power. But at the same time, Internet technology and new media have provided new tools for the government to monitor, control and stabilize the people. Since Xi came to power, he seemed to have strengthened the unchecked power of CCP and saw internet as a big threat to the regime. With a strong one-party rule, CCP tried to monitor all social media and use new high techs as tools of control.