By John Kusumi
of freedom and democracy may become concerned, perhaps, to inquire after
the health of the Chinese democracy movement, a matter which first came to
everyone's attention at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
In its day, that event
was jarring like September 11, with a similar loss of civilian life in
China. That attack on civilians was at the hands of their own government.
The Communist regime of China is well described as the most murderous regime in history,
Was there a response,
from freedom-loving Americans? Yes. Very many Americans wanted to help.
There was set up, a China Support Network, a June 4 Foundation, and a
China Democracy Fund, along with Silicon Valley for Democracy in China,
and many new Chinese organizations. Because I was responsible for the
China Support Network, I carry with me the firsthand knowledge, gained as
Chinese dissidents got together with helpful Americans.
Here, many years later, I can
report that there is a cash shortage in the Chinese democracy cause. Some
people may ask, "what happened?," and "how did the money
miss its target?" This editorial hopes to be constructive for
overcoming the present-day challenge; and, I will suggest exactly how to
best make a contribution -- that hits the spot -- for today's situation.
Yet, perhaps a couple of paragraphs will give cursory answers to the
foregoing questions. Those may be good questions for Americans who gave money.
My own CSN organization did not
collect the big bucks of charity. In a quirky way, CSN began as
a "cyber" organization, visible on computer networks, but not in
the news. In that year, we never really "arrived" as a news
story. We were behind the scenes both implicitly and literally. We
connected with leading Chinese dissidents in Washington; but, we never got
into professional fundraising and traditional organization building. We
helped in Washington on an ad-hoc basis, and did not become the leading
charity as for collecting donations in the democracy movement. In a book I
have authored, with my own behind-the-scenes account, is this paragraph--
I was first called into Washington, CSN had not begun collecting money
from members and the American people. All expenditures were covered by
contributions from myself, the participants, and my father. If any money
was collected from the public, it was exactly from exactly one
person. Any flow or momentum of contributions never got going.
book also explains some of why this happened. Arriving in Washington, we
learned that the dissidents were setting up yet newer organizations. The
question became, "who's got the ball?," and we expected
dissidents to direct funds to their newer organizations, as best they
could. Americans who gave to Tiananmen Square charities may find that
their checks were made out to the June 4 Foundation or other groups.
China Support Network received an enormous number of "sign ups"
and expressions of support, but those did not translate into material
support. Admittedly, I was somewhat gun-shy to get ahead of the cause. I
cared to be very respectful, where in the Chinese democracy movement I am
a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's court. In the earliest days, one
could ask the question, "did we belong there?" (The question was
put to rest as I connected with leading dissidents in Washington. We spent
their first week in Washington, working shoulder to shoulder. The
Sino-U.S. working group of handlers "clicked" like we had been
working together for years.)
the experience in Washington, I knew that CSN was the leading group of
American support for the dissidents, because we were the only
Americans joining and
working in that group of handlers. Now, did money given elsewhere miss its
target? No! Rather than give to the leading American response group, it
may be more right to give to actual Chinese organizations. The China
Democracy Fund reported directly to Shen Tong, a Tiananmen dissident. The
June 4 Foundation now reports to the IFCSS (the Independent Federation of
Chinese Students and Scholars).
cannot say that the target was missed, merely because we see no
English-language results. The dissidents conduct many operations in
Chinese and in China. What appears in the English language is almost an
afterthought. It is not for Americans to say what is the "right"
or "wrong" deployment of funds in a process that is frankly
foreign to us.
the events of 1989, the Chinese democracy movement went into a period
characterized by two experiences. Returning to college became a priority
for many. Taking final exams and graduating had not occurred for most who
were involved, myself included. The second characteristic of this time was
some fractious bickering, infighting, discord, and disunity within the
movement. It was predictable that many would jockey for position, and that
an "industry shakeout" would occur.
jostling settled down and the serious players moved to more unity, in the
second half of the 1990s. Certain outposts of the democracy movement, such
as Human Rights in China, the Laogai Research Foundation, and the
Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy (a prolific news source
in Hong Kong) became funded by the NED, the quasi-public National
Endowment for Democracy. The track record of China suggests that NED
funding is not the kiss of life for democracy. It is observably true that
NED's funding supports information gathering, and not hardcore political
actions. (Staunch Chinese activists find disappointment in the NED.)
staunchest of activists are now found in two organizations: the Free China
Movement, a collective of groups including the China Democracy Party and
the Chinese Labor Party; and, the China Support Network. (Plenty of credit
is also due to staunch activists outside these groups; but, the mentioned
groups are very central to the present day work of this movement.)
and CSN have become unheralded "blizzards of work," where much
activity continues, and seems to do so mostly beneath the radar of the
American news media. These groups have in common that they are presently
active; and, that they face cash shortages. Neither group receives
funding from the NED. FCM is a newer group (est. 1998), therefore it was
not even around to benefit by any charity in 1989. Its leader, the
Tiananmen dissident Lian Shengde, spent years in prison in China, and
emerged to the U.S. only in 1994.
I was to urge my fellow Americans to rethink their charity, and to revisit
this purpose now, those are the two groups which today finds to be both
deserving and needy, as they face daunting ratios of workload to
resources. I recommend both FCM and CSN as charities, where very small
inputs could yield very large outputs.
is also true that the IFCSS and its June 4
Foundation remain another deserving place, where today finds a cash
crunch. Because this cause vanished off the radar of American news media,
the absence of visibility has suffocated or asphyxiated many groups as for
their fundraising activities.
exposure leads to a hard time in appealing for support. We now need to
make just such appeals. Your readership of this article may be our only
exposure which allows us to appeal to you for your generosity. You
yourself -- or those to whom you pass this article -- can make
a difference in the cause of Chinese freedom, democracy, and human rights.
generously today (see a web site address below). We thank you for your support.
by the China Support Network (CSN). Begun by grass roots Americans in
1989, CSN represents Americans who were "on the side" of the
students in Tiananmen Square -- standing for democratic reform, human
rights, and freedom in China. For dissident news; to support a stronger
China policy; or get more information, see http://www.chinasupport.net.