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08CANBERRA755 2008-07-25 06:54:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Canberra
Cable title:  

CHINESE DISSIDENT CHEN ZIMING CALLS ON DCM

Tags:   AS CH PHUM PINR PREL 
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1. (C/NF) During a call on the DCM on July 23, Chinese
dissident Chen Ziming said that while the economic situation
of ordinary Chinese is improving, the democratic rights
situation is not. Chen, who has been visiting Australia for
the past two weeks and has spent a week in New Zealand, noted
that this is his first trip outside of China since Tiananmen,
but that he does not expect trouble when he returns to
Beijing on July 30. He will travel to Inner Mongolia during
the Olympics because of anticipated increased restrictions by
security authorities. Chen was appreciative of U.S. efforts
to promote democracy and human rights in China in general and
for its representations on his behalf to Beijing. Chen noted
that the burgeoning middle class that he estimated to be
currently at some 50 to 80 million people is not beholden to
the Party for its livelihood and will eventually be a force
for increased democracy in China. He expressed surprise that
there had not been greater Australian interest in China's
human rights situation, commenting that this had turned his
trip into more of a vacation than he had expected. Chen said
that Australia has never appeared to him to be very
interested in being assertive to support human rights in
China. End Summary.

DEMOCRACY MOVEMENT IN CHINA



2. (C) Chen was accompanied by his wife Wang Zhihong, Mr.
Zhang Xiaogang, Secretary of Independent Chinese Pen,
affiliate of the worldwide writers association International
Pen, Mr. Fang Yuan, a Chinese dissident based in Canberra,
and Mr. Chen Yonglin who is now Secretary of the Chinese
Dissidents Association in Australia. Polcouns and EconCouns
also sat in at the meeting. Chen was appreciative of U.S.
representations to Beijing authorities over the years on
human rights and democracy issues and said that he himself
has benefited. Chen noted that he had been in prison 13
years for his dissident activities at the time of Tiananmen
Square and had his democratic rights, including freedom to
speak to the press, seriously circumscribed following his
release. He described the Democracy Movement in China as a
"three steps forward two steps back" process. Though some
freedom of expression is allowed for ordinary Chinese, from
the late 1980s leading dissidents have been increasingly
restricted in publicizing their views, Chen asserted. He
added that a 200 member democracy think tank that he had set
up no longer exists.



3. (C) The DCM told Chen that the one of the core
objectives of our diplomatic engagement with China is the
promotion of human rights and political reform. The U.S.
raises human rights issues in nearly all of its high-level
meetings with the Chinese government. As Chen had noted the
U.S. raises both individual cases as well as the need for
China to carry out reforms to protect its citizens, rights.
The DCM added that the U.S. felt that the U.S. - China Human
Rights Dialogue held in May was constructive. We made it
clear to the Chinese, both before and during the Dialogue,
that we wanted it to be "results-based." It is too early to
judge whether the Dialogue was a success. In the meantime,
we will continue to take every opportunity to raise with the
Qwe will continue to take every opportunity to raise with the
Chinese government our concerns regarding specific human
rights issues. Chen responded that among western nations the
U.S. has clearly done the most to promote democracy and human
rights in China.

GROWING MIDDLE CLASS WILL POSE CHALLENGE



4. (C) China's growing middle class will over the next
decade become a force for increased democratization in China,
Chen said. He estimated that there are currently 50-80
million people in China's middle class and that number is set
to expand dramatically over the next 10 years. This members
of this powerful new class are not beholden to the Chinese
Communist Party for their livelihoods and will be more likely
to challenge the authorities in the longer term. Chen
commented that while the Party is still very firm in
controlling overtly political activity, it has already lost
many of its tools of coercion over day-to-day life. Most of
the new middle class is willing to accept for now this
implicit deal of staying out of politics in return for

CANBERRA 00000755 002.2 OF 002


greater freedom to live their daily lives, he said. Chen
expressed confidence that any attempt by the Party to regain
the coercive tools over day to day life that it had as late
as the early 1990s would face strong opposition from urban
Chinese and particularly the new middle class.

WILL NOT BE IN BEIJING FOR THE OLYMPICS



5. (C) Chen, who has been visiting Australia for the past
two weeks and has spent a week in New Zealand, noted that
this is his first trip outside of China since Tiananmen, but
that he does not expect trouble when he returns to Beijing on
July 30. He will travel to Inner Mongolia during the
Olympics because of anticipated increased restrictions by
security authorities. He added that the number of political
dissidents in Beijing is growing (to 5-10,000 over the next 5
years) and that authorities will have increased difficulties
keeping them all under surveillance. Chen also said that
though police personnel are getting better equipped, their
motivation appears to be flagging, with some telling him
almost apologetically that they are working for the security
agencies simply "to feed their families."



6. (C/NF) Asked about his reception in Australia, Chen said
that he was surprised and disappointed at how uninterested
Australians seemed to be in human rights in China. He said
that Australia had never seemed to take a particularly
assertive approach in raising human rights with the Chinese
Government and that the Australian Embassy in Beijing had
never been active in reaching out to dissidents. Chen said
he had met with Graham Fletcher, the DFAT First Assistant
Secretary for North Asia (and former DCM in Beijing) for an
interesting but not very substantive discussion. This had
been his only contact with the Australian Government, he
said, adding that attendance at his lectures had been
disappointing. Of those who came, almost all were ethnic
Chinese, mainly students studying in Australia. As a result,
Chen laughingly said that his trip to Australia had turned
into more of a vacation than he had expected.

COMMENT



7. (C) The meeting had been sought by Chen who had spoken
earlier at a Sydney Catholic club promoting his new book on
the 30 years of reform in China. It is rare for Beijing to
allow a dissident of Chen's visibility the freedom to travel
to and from China. Nonetheless, Chen did not appear
apprehensive over Chinese authorities apparently expecting
little backlash from his actions while "vacationing"
overseas, particularly his meetings with U.S. and Australian
authorities.