The Gate of Heavenly Peace

Democracy Wall

During the winter months of 1978-79, thousands of people in Beijing put up written complaints and protests about the ills of China on a stretch of blank wall on Chang'an Avenue, to the west of the former Forbidden City. This became known as "Democracy Wall."

When this website was originally created, the Democracy Wall page was a place where visitors could post their opinions about the site or the film, "The Gate of Heavenly Peace." The page was administered by Frontline, and has not been updated since shortly after the initial PBS broadcast of the film in June 1996. Any questions and suggestions about this page should be sent directly to Frontline.

Read what has been posted on this site's Democracy Wall.

Wei Jingsheng, an activist in the Democracy Wall events, called for democracy to become China's "Fifth Modernization" as a precondition for other aspects of modernization.

The Fifth Modernization

"The leaders of our nation must be informed that we want to take our destiny into our own hands. We want no more gods or emperors. No more saviours of any kind. We want to be masters of our own country, not modernized tools for the expansionist ambitions of dictators... Democracy, freedom and happiness are the only goals of modernization. Without this fifth modernization, the four others are nothing more than a new-fangled lie."

Wei Jingsheng on Dissent

"Dissent may not always be pleasant to listen to, and it is inevitable that it will sometimes be misguided. But it is everyone's sovereign right. Indeed when government is seen as defective or unreasonable, criticizing it is an unshirkable duty. Only through the people's criticism and supervision of the leadership can mistakes be minimized and government prevented from riding roughshod over the masses. Then, and only then, can everyone breathe freely."
[Quoted from Seeds of Fire, Geremie Barmé and John Minford, editors (New York: The Noonday Press, 1989), p. 277-8]

In October 1979, Wei Jingsheng was convicted of publishing counter-revolutionary statements and leaking secret information to foreign reporters. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Released on parole in September 1993, Wei was forbidden to take part in political activities for three years and told not to publish articles overseas. He ignored these interdictions and was taken into custody in March 1994. In December 1995, Wei Jingsheng was sentenced to fourteen years in prison for his political activities. Nearly two years later, in November 1997, Wei was released from prison and flown to the United States, where he received medical treatment. He is now at Columbia University in New York.

On January 16, 1980, Deng Xiaoping demanded cancellation of the constitutional right to hang wall posters and stated that the "four great" freedoms of "speaking out freely, airing views fully, holding great debates, and writing big character posters.... have never played a positive role in China."

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