Zhang Hongbao in Blast Furnace
A Documentary on How the Outstanding Spiritual Leader
Transformed to a Political Leader
Back to Index >>
From New York Times Message Board
On Zhang Hongbao and Politics
By Qing Xin
In the United States, involvement in politics is a profession or, for some people, probably just a short career. In China, however, being engaged in politics is the rulers' exclusive privilege, often a life-time privilege, and sometimes an inherited privilege; even those "open-minded" rulers only manage to pass on the privilege, not to their children, but to the members of their clique. For their subjects, on the other hand, politics is always a forbidden zone. But here is the paradox: once you accidentally step into this zone, you will find it impossible to get away, for you will be affixed an indelible political label and trapped forever in the mire of politics, not as a participant, of course, but as a despicable opponent to be put in prison, placed under supervision, or subject to discrimination. The stigma of being "politically untouchable" may become something inerasable, to be carried over from generation to generation. Consequently, most Chinese adopt a self-defensive strategy by staying away from politics. For the same reason, Liu Xiaobo deserves the reputation of a rare anomaly, for he had the courage to openly publicize his political views at the gate of the prison.
It seems that Zhang Hongbao was also destined to get involved in politics. "The Cultural Revolution" threw Zhang into the maelstrom of politics: as a 12 year-old "Little Red Devil," he "responded to Chairman Mao's calls" by cultivating an intense interest in the national affairs, and undertaking a political pilgrimage to Beijing. At 14, he went to the countryside, serving as leader of a platoon of "soldiers" who were actually middle school students thrown out of school by the political turmoil. Ten years in the farm transformed him from an ignorant youngster who would admire "an educated youth" from Beijing simply for his ability to memorize The Communist Manifesto, to an expert tutoring people in their study of Marxist classics, from a commissioner of the Communist League to a designated third-echelon successor to the party leadership of a gold mine bureau.
A fortuitous event changed the projectile of his life, but his political sensitivity and interest remained unchanged.
In 1987, at the end of his study at Beijing University of Science and Technology, Zhang finished his thesis "The Declaration of a Destined Leader," which had nothing to do with his major of economic management. But amidst the professors' consternation and without waiting for his diploma, he left the university to begin his practice as "a destined leader."
It turned out that Zhang Hongbao's success as a leader received recognition from both his supporters and his opponents, for in China's Qigong circle, Zhonggong grew into the largest section. Among Chinese entrepreneurs, Zhang enjoyed the reputation of "the elitist from Sichuan;" his Qilin Group of Corporations had the highest per capital income in Chinese private enterprises, although he refrained from publicizing the fact.
Zhang's accomplishment would be unimaginable without his political sensitivity and his flexible strategies.
In his in-depth research on Qigong and super-functions, Zhang Hongbao applied the traditional Chinese philosophical principles in his synopsis of universal laws, and came to the conclusion that Marxism is based upon an unscientific foundation. He spent three days in Beijing's Great Hall of Science, expounding the results of his research to an audience consisting of people from almost every profession in Beijing. After this audacious move, he announced his retirement from the public arena, not only to avoid political troubles but also to devote himself entirely to the development of Zhonggong.
In planning Zhonggong's future, Zhang Hongbao made great efforts not to overtly provoke CCP; therefore, he came up with an explicit policy: "no participation in politics, no involvement with religion, and no establishment of social organizations." Zhang was fully aware that as a large-scale enterprise, Zhonggong could not avoid drawing attention from CCP. Zhang was sober enough to realize that, in order to ensure the safety of the Zhonggong enterprise in China's special political environment, he had to give up, despite his involuntary resistance, some of his individual rights, even those granted to every citizen by the Constitution. For Zhonggong was no longer his personal business; what was at stake was the vital interest of more than 100,000 employees and their families, as well as millions of disciples. Although CCP officials kept a suspicious attitude towards Zhang's "Three No's" policy, they could not find any excuse to take immediate actions against Zhonggong, so Zhang Hongbao managed to gain some precious time-12 years-for the development of his organization.
Inside the iron curtain of CCP dictatorship, Zhang Hongbao had to restrain his own political aspirations and suspend his pursuit of ideals, but CCP still could not tolerate him.
During his exile abroad, Zhang published articles in the overseas edition of The Qilin Culture to express his support and sympathy for "June 4" Movement. Also printed in large volumes in China, the articles eventually had to be destroyed because some people were afraid that too many Zhonggong members might be endangered once these articles were distributed. Zhang conceded to different opinions despite his feelings of frustration and pain.
Zhang cherished a deep love for his motherland. In that year, when he crossed the border and stepped into a free country for the first time, he was overwhelmed with joy. Pursuing with his eyes the doves flying high in a blue sky, he began to sing: "We've never seen any other country where people can breathe so freely..." But, with tears in his eyes, he soon began another song: "My Motherland."
During the six years of his exile abroad, he has never forgot his home country. Immersed in Qigong exercises, especially in those nights when there was a full moon, he often experienced sudden pangs of nostalgia for the faraway land. Taking advantage of the convenient communication overseas, he managed to keep track of China's political situations Because of visa restrictions, he could not stay in any country for long and had to move from place to place, but the mobility actually gave him an opportunity to carry out on-site investigations of each country's political system. He has tried to obtain every issue of Chinese newspapers and journals of the overseas democratic movements, for they are his textbooks. He also requested that all Zhonggong cadres traveling abroad should make it one of their priorities to read as much literature on democratic movements as they can, and those who are going back to China should try their best to bring home relevant materials as an important task.
During his incarceration in Guam, Zhang Hongbao, as a prisoner, experienced a peculiar surge of energy of freedom when he signed his name for the publication of his essay "My Points of View as a Dissident," as part of his struggle to transform China into a prosperous, peaceful, and democratic country.
When a person takes an important step forward, there is always the "momentum" for him/her to follow the path he or she has chosen. And Zhang Hongbao is no exception. With his dedication to the cause and his characteristic tenacity, he will not easily change the course of his life.
During the national public security meeting held in Chengdu on May 27, 1998, the Chinese government designated Zhonggong as an organization "with a hostile political tendency." The action taken by Jiang Zemin prompted the preparation and execution of Zhonggong "99.8" national campaign. Although this movement inevitably evoked brutal retaliations from the dictatorial authorities, the public exposure gave Zhang Hongbao a rare opportunity to accrue political experiences. And the following political persecutions, including large-scale arrests and sentencing under the name of political offenses, actually provided a training session for Zhonggong's key members in regard to their future political activities.
After "99.8," Zhang Hongbao threw himself into preparations for the restoration of Zhonggong as a business, with little intention to publicize the previous history of his political struggle against the dictatorship. However, as an old Chinese saying goes, "the tree wants to stay quiet, but the wind won't stop." Jiang Zemin's relentless persecution of Zhang Hongbao and the severe punishments CCP had imposed on important Zhonggong members spurred Zhang to contemplate on a new course. At the same time, the general trend of the public opinions among the overseas democratic movements, ("CCP's Suppression Resulted in Zhang Hongbao's Rise on the Political Arena," "A Brilliant Show under Suppression," and "Zhang Hongbao: Driven to Revolt"), can be regarded as an expression of some objective evaluations and expectations of his overseas friends. Actually, when they read the article "Zhonggong "99.8" National Campaign: An Exposure," they will detect in it a response from Zhang Hongbao, a response that serves to indicate the direction of his future activities.
According to American laws, Zhang Hongbao has not yet established his legal presence in the United States, but he has finally attained the freedom to choose between two courses: to continue with his career in the art of Qigong or to dedicate himself to a political career. At long last, he does not have to have any political scruples, for Jiang Zemin's inhumane persecution has rendered them unnecessary.
Zhang Hongbao has to make up his own mind, and he does lack the wisdom to do so. But if his friends are afraid that "even a wise man sometimes makes a mistake," they are welcome to offer him some advice. The background materials provided in the present essay can be used as references. We only hope that the destructive tactics CCP often resorted to in their calumny of political enemies will not be applied here, for those tactics have never proven effective in making Zhang Hongbao change his mind.
Many friends have interpreted Zhang Hongbao's incarceration in the United States as a blessing in disguise, as an ultimate test on body and mind that any leader has to take who is destined to bear ponderous responsibilities in the future. This interpretation has shed some light on the significance of Zhang Hongbao's current adversity.
At present, we are not sure what Zhang Hongbao is going to do. But there is one thing we are certain of: once he has made up his mind, he will accomplish what he sets out to do. He was made to succeed.
Back to Index >>
Print this article