When poorly constructed elementary school buildings collapsed in Wenchuan, China, after a massive earthquake there in 2008, parents wanted answers. Rather than launching an investigation or tallying the student deaths, however, agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) infiltrated the parent groups, broke them up, arrested the recalcitrants, and jailed a man trying to help them.
A similar dynamic happened after the poisoned milk-powder scandal broke in 2008. The man who lobbied on behalf of the parents, and whose child was also a victim, ended up in jail.
Meanwhile, millions of peaceful Chinese citizens are monitored, arrested, and tortured to death, because the CCP considers their religious beliefs to be a threat to their rule.
The Chinese regime also crushes all attempts by anyone organizing politically—hence hopes for a future China without these depredations seem bleak.
Enter “Tuidang,” meaning, “Renounce the Party.”
Yan Zhijun is the archetype of a Tuidang activist. A 62-year-old Chinese woman with a broad, disarming smile, she started promoting Tuidang in early 2005, on a trip from the United States back to China.
It began with a small circle of family members. She would remind them of the horrors of Communist Party rule, past and present, and simply ask, “Do you want to be part of that?”
After she got back from China, her Tuidang activities picked up momentum. From family members and friends she extended the circle to friends of friends, former school students and teachers, and then strangers (she now says everyone she meets is like a “brother or sister,” and if they’re Chinese, she talks about Tuidang.)
People who hadn’t heard from her for four decades were surprised to get a phone call, she in America, explaining why they needed to sever ties with the Chinese Communist Party. She’s helped 1,800 people resign, by her own calculations.
The idea of severing ties with an organization one might not be a formal member of may seem strange, except for the fact that the CCP is no normal organization. Since taking power in 1949 it has forced the populace to swear allegiance to it, dominated or attempted to control every aspect of life in China, and implicated a large swathe of the populace in its misdeeds.
In the words of the “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” an editorial series published by The Epoch Times in the fall of 2004 that gave birth to the movement, under CCP rule, “Traditional faiths and principles have been violently destroyed. Original ethical concepts and social structures have been disintegrated by force. Empathy, love, and harmony among people have been twisted into struggle and hatred.”
The result has been predictable: “A total collapse of social, moral, and ecological systems, and a profound crisis for the Chinese people … brought about through the deliberate planning, organization, and control of the CCP.”
Chinese people get it. An experience of the CCP is the common denominator for every person who grew up on the mainland, and as Tuidang activists see it, it is time for the Chinese people to determine their own fate.
The concern is not with the forms on the surface. One can use an alias to quit the Party, and even go back to work as a Party official as long as the psychological separation has been made. “Gods look at one’s heart,” Tuidang participants repeatedly say.
Participants explain that Tuidang peacefully dissolves the Party, one renunciation at a time. Tuidang also provides participants with the chance to separate themselves from the crimes and corruption of the CCP. Caylan Ford, a graduate of George Washington University, writes in her master’s thesis on Tuidang that it offers Chinese people a path to “solace, moral redemption, and freedom by severing their psychic and symbolic ties to the Communist Party.”
Peace of Mind
Given the extremes of violence the Party has wrought on the Chinese people over its decades in power, some of the renunciation statements are extreme. One is from a decommissioned soldier calling himself Chen Xiaoyu. He describes being forced, along with his company, to open fire on a village of the Hui ethnic group in China. “I will never forget that extreme cruelty and tragic scene, which cannot be described with words,” Chen wrote.
The next lines go to the heart of the Tuidang experience for Chinese people: “I was raised as an honest and kind person, and I could have passed a happy and peaceful, normal life, but the demon robbed me of this happiness I should have had. … If gods hear my repentance, please grant me peace of mind so that I will no longer be terrified by this recurring nightmare. Today, I solemnly declare that I withdraw from the CCP and any of its affiliated organizations.”
A policeman, using a pseudonym (since getting caught could lead to punishment from dismissal to torture), wrote that he was full of remorse after years of “suppressing the common people.”
“Because I have lost hope with everything the CCP has done and have been an accessory to its crimes for the past 30 years, my conscience can no longer take the huge pressure. With the help of Falun Gong practitioners, I am publishing my withdrawal from the CCP and its affiliated organizations,” he wrote.
References to gods or higher forces that watch over man are a common feature of the longer statements. Such beliefs were a fundamental part of Chinese culture until 1949, when the Communist Party forcefully suppressed all religions as “superstitions.” And the reference to Falun Gong is fitting, since most of the people on the front lines pushing the movement forward are practitioners of Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline that has been persecuted since 1999 in China.
A New China
Tuidang not only enjoins Chinese to face the moral issues presented by the CCP’s dictatorship, but it also presents a compelling vision of another China that is grounded in authentic Chinese traditions, rather than the theories of Marx and Lenin.
“When I meet people I ask them if they had heard about the ‘santui,’” Yan Zhijun says. Santui means the “Three Withdrawals,” referring to the Young Pioneers, the Communist Youth League, and the Party proper.
“I talk to them about it simply: ‘Why do you want to fight with heaven and earth?’” as is espoused by CCP communist theory. “This isn’t what the Yellow Emperor taught us,” she would say, referring to the mythical founder of Chinese civilization.
Yan peppers her speech with ancient Chinese phraseology and historical references. “China has persisted for thousands of years, but no dynasty has ever tried to brainwash people out of being a good person. Chinese have always emphasized the truth, but do you have that feeling today?” Few do, she notes.
Tuidang presents itself as the alternative to the culture that has been created by the Communist Party: it is the old China, the China long before the communists arrived; it’s about understanding the law of karma, embracing simple virtues, and honest living. And it is finding a receptive ear.
On a recent sunny Sunday, Yan obtained one renunciation within 30 seconds. A man approached seeking some of the materials she and her colleague were handing out. She asked him if he had joined the Communist Party. He said no. Had he joined the Youth League? Nope. But what about when he was young, didn’t he wear a “red kerchief”? Like most Chinese, he had. When he was just a tot he also made an oath to “resolutely obey the Chinese Communist Party.” Now that he realized the CCP was bad news, shouldn’t he make a clean break? She gave him a pseudonym of Xia Ming (a play on words of “It’s summer; I understand the truth”) and he agreed. She would later enter that name for him onto the dajiyuan.tuidang.com website.
Xia Ming’s entry is recorded somewhere in the tidal wave of 55,000 new statements that appear on the website each day—every one of them stating a time, ID number, and number of people making a renunciation. As of the evening of Aug. 9, the numbers had reached 100,141,700; by Aug. 10 they will be over 100,200,000.
Around the world, wherever there are Chinese, and particularly in China, people like Yan Zhijun are talking to friends, relatives, former school friends, and tourists, reminding them of the dark horrors of Communist Party rule, and informing them that they do have a choice—something the Party has resolutely tried to take away from its citizens. “Shouldn’t you make a clean break?” activists ask. Over 100 million have said, “Yes,” they should.