On September 19, 2004, Jiang Zemin resigned from his post as Chairman of the Central Military Commission. Of the “big three” posts (the other two are Party General Secretary and People’s Republic President), the CMC Chair is the least known, but arguably the most powerful. For those of us who follow Communist China closely, the Hu Jintao era really didn’t begin until this day one year ago.
Now that a year has passed, we have the opportunity to examine Hu’s tenure (however short), find trends, and perhaps look to the future. Many in the anti Communist, pro-democracy movement have decided to take a wait-and-see attitude towards Hu, but with all due respect, the events of the past year have been more than enough to reveal the truth about Hu Jintao – and that truth is not good.
Two months after he took over the CMC, Hu was faced with a crisis in Hanyuan County, Sichuan. Roughly 100,000 people were staging a sit-in protest at a partly constructed dam (Epoch Times) that, when finished, will turn all of the county’s farmland into a lake, flooding out 100,000 people in the process. The local cadres, naturally, cared more about the loan and relocation money they pocketed – they were even willing to re-label the fertile farmland they controlled as hardscrabble dirt to skim from the latter – than the fate of its people. They responded with the sit-in, and waited to see Hu’s reaction. What they got was a public relations snow job and a hail of bullets.
Of course, the snow job was lapped up by the outside media. Hu sent a Politburo Standing Committee Member (Epoch Times) – the highest-ranking party organ outside of the CMC – to Hanyuan, fired one local cadre, and ordered dam construction suspended (BBC). However, there were signs of trouble even within the charm offensive, chief among them the PSC member himself: Luo Gan, protégé of Tiananmen butcher Li Peng.
Much like his patron, Luo pulled the trigger on a bloody crackdown at the behest of his boss. Military and paramilitary units from all over Communist China, up to and including far away Liaoning Province, were sent to Hanyaun with a simple mission – shoot the protestors out. They accomplished this with chilling efficiency (Voice of America via Epoch Times): one source put the death toll at 10,000; others simply labeled the numbers “staggering.”
In other words, two months into his tenure as CMC Chair, Hu Jintao ordered a massacre that took more lives than Tiananmen Square, 9/11/01, and Hurricane Katrina combined.
If this were an aberration, a tragic mistake by a new and untested leader, that would be one thing. However, Hu has made clear over this past year that the Hanyuan County Massacre was the culmination of – rather than the exception to – his model of “governing.” The very day he took over the CMC, Hu launched into a tirade against “hostile forces” that were “using the banner of political reform to promote Western bourgeois parliamentary democracy, human rights and freedom of the press” (Washington Post). Wrapping up the speech “in blunt language that party veterans said recalled Mao Zedong's destructive Cultural Revolution,” he demanded fellow cadres “be alert to the danger of subversive thinking.”
The year that has followed has been marked by “a crackdown to restore discipline to state media and intimidate dissident intellectuals”, in which he has actually “gone further than his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, by adopting new measures to regulate discussions on university Internet sites and the activities of nongovernmental organizations.” One economist even went so far as to say, “Looking back at the policies of Jiang Zemin now, it wasn't so bad.”
Hu has also spent the past year wiping out popular websites – including a how-to for citizens to report corrupt cadres (Asia Times via Epoch Times) – and arresting any appellant (petitioner) whose case was considered unreasonable,” i.e., too embarrassing for the cadres (Epoch Times).
In the past, Communist leaders trying to avoid too many eyes focused on their bloody hands have resorted to radical nationalism to distract the attention of their own people. Hu Jintao, contrary to the whispers that predated his ascension, has proven no different. Less than six months into his reign, he rammed the “anti-secession” law through the rubber-stamp legislature, giving himself a legalistic fig leaf to cover a possible invasion of Taiwan. As criticism of the Chinese Communist Party for this “law” encircled the globe – and word leaked out that the cadres planned a 2012 invasion of the island democracy as cover for a massive crackdown and seizure of citizens’ bank accounts – Hu resorted to a road far more traveled by the Communists: orchestrated protests against foreigners (New York Times, registration required) – in this case, the Japanese.
Thus over the past year, the Communist regime under Hu Jintao has insulted Japan, and threatened war with Taiwan, and escalated the persecution of its own people to the point of slaughtering them in Hanyuan County. These are not the actions of a “reformer,” they are the actions of a typical Communist determined to preserve his regime at all costs. In a mere twelve months, Hu has dashed the expectations of those who had hoped the end of the Jiang Zemin era would mean genuine change for the long suffering Chinese people, and has not only continued, but exacerbated the hostility between the CCP and the free, democratic world. America, and the world of which it is a part, will never be safe until China is free, and no one has proven that more over the last year than Hu Jintao.