Peking municipal authorities have approved strong action against the city's Democracy Wall, China's last major forum of free expression, and strongly suggested the wallposter area be closed.
"Facts prove the Xidan wall has no advantages, only disadvantages, and so must be taken care of as soon as possible." The Peking Daily said today in a front-page report summing up discussions by the city revolutionary committee.
A shutdown of the year-old wallposter area near Xidan Street would be a severe blow to the morale of educated Chinese who have argued for more free expression here. It would also severely weaken the Chinese government's claims to have created a new legal system based on the constitution rather than political whim. The right to "speak out freely, air their views fully, hold great debates and write big character posters," is guaranteed in the new Chinese constitution approved 21 months ago, but the official campaign against the wall has made no mention of that.
The standing committee of the National People's Congress, China's parliament, asked the Peking authorities Thursday to take unspecified action against the wall, a two-block expanse of dirty brick enclosing a bus yard along the Avenue of Eternal Peace. Today's Peking Daily story said the members of the Peking revolutionary committee enthusiastically took up the suggestion.
Han Zuoli, a leader of the city education bureau, told the session that posters put up on the wall had "attacked party leadership and the socialist system. . . . In view of these circumstances, Xidan wall can no longer continue."
Although there appeared to be a few more police than usual at the wall today, an average weekend crowd of 100 to 200 people was there reading posters. There appeared to have been no new posters put up overnight. Most contained personal grievances against the government including former government officials protesting illegal removal from their jobs in earlier political purges and former city residents seeking permission to return from hard jobs on farms.
The campaign against the wall seems to derive from the Oct. 16 conviction of a 29-year-old dissident, Wei Jingsheng. Wei received 15 years in prison for writing wallposters critical of top leaders like Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping and for allegedly giving information on the Sino-Vietnamese war to a foreigner, later identified in an unofficial trial transcript as Ian Mackenzie of Reuter.
The official criticisms of the wall have all mentioned Wei's activities, which ended eight months ago when he was arrested. Most posters that have appeared since a March public order against "slandering" party leader have been more restrained, although several wallposters protested the severity of the sentence given Wei. Several people in recent weeks have been arrested in front of the wall, although only two are apparently still in custody, when police move to stop the sale of an unofficial transcript of Wei's trial.
Zhang Binggui, another Peking committee member, said people who frequented the wall "didn't study, didn't work and just hang around . . . as to people who really work hard and concentrate their efforts on the four modernizations, they won't go there."
Many readers at the wall today, as during the last several months, appeared to be average Peking residents, though mostly male. Soldiers in uniform and civilians with briefcases have often crowded around the posters. Many people appear to read wallposters to pass the time while waiting for buses that pull up to the curb.
The Peking Daily also raised the issue of involvement by foreigners, important in the government's case against Wei, by quoting a committee member as saying the wall was used by "some foreigners with ulterior motives who want to get some information."
Chinese authorities originally encouraged the wallposter movement a year ago, as a way to put pressure on some holdover officials from the Mao Tse-tung era who did not support the pragmatic, Western-oriented policies of Deng and party chairman Hua Guofeng.