Documents on Democracy

Issue Date April 2020
Volume 31
Issue 2
Page Numbers 189-191
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On February 7, Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang died of coronavirus, spurring widespread outrage. Li and seven other doctors had been detained and admonished by Wuhan authorities in early January for attempting to share information about the virus. An anonymous group of Tsinghua University alumni published an open letter following Li’s death. The full text follows.

Doctor Li Wenliang has died. The whole nation is in mourning.

He was a dedicated, compassionate ophthalmologist who was questioned by his work unit, reprimanded by the police, and publicly named a rumormonger by CCTV simply because he told a few truths in a We-Chat group shared among his graduating class.

In the end, he proved with his death that he was not making rumors. He didn’t want to be a hero, yet he was forced to become one! Without truth, lies run rampant. Killing truth is akin to killing human beings. Eight people were silenced, resulting in all of China being shut. What a terrible price to pay!

To this end, we announce the following:

First, we resolutely oppose putting political security above all else. This is the selfish goal of a small group of people! The lives of hundreds of millions must come first!

Second, we resolutely oppose blocking of accounts and chat groups. We support the effective protection of the constitutional rights of all citizens—especially freedom of speech, whether that speech is right or wrong.

Third, we resolutely oppose the thinking and model behind stability-maintenance, and oppose hostility toward the people. Only by guaranteeing people’s livelihood and improving democracy can there be social stability and peaceful living.

Fourth, we resolutely oppose turning this disaster into a grand celebration [End Page 189] of meritorious deeds. We must hold the officials and the system accountable, so as to avoid repeating this disaster.

Fifth, we resolutely oppose going backwards. We must adhere to Deng Xiaoping’s abolition of a system that allows leaders to stay in power indefinitely, and resume political reform in order to save the Chinese nation from its crisis!

Fellow citizens! For the life and death of hundreds of millions of Chinese, and for the survival of our nation and our country, let us utter our final roar!


On January 11, Tsai Ing-Wen was reelected president of Taiwan. Her victory speech is excerpted below:

This election has shown that the Taiwanese people hope the international community will witness our commitment to democratic values and will respect our national identity. … The results of this election carry an added significance, because they have shown that when our sovereignty and democracy are threatened, the Taiwanese people will shout our determination even more loudly back.

Over the past three years, our administration has been firm on our bottom line on Taiwanìs sovereignty, but we have also been willing to maintain healthy exchanges with China. In the face of Chinaìs diplomatic pressure and military threats, we have maintained a nonprovocative, non-adventurist attitude that has prevented serious conflict from breaking out in the Taiwan Strait.

However, through their increasing pressure and proposal of a “one country, two systemsî model for Taiwan, China has hoped to force us to accept conditions that are entirely unacceptable. In the face of Chinaìs intention to unilaterally change the cross-strait status quo, Taiwan has had no choice but to continue strengthening our democratic defense mechanisms, and establish national defense capabilities that can ensure security in the Taiwan Strait.

I want to emphasize that my commitment to peaceful, stable cross-strait relations remains unchanged. But both sides of the Taiwan Strait have a responsibility to ensure peaceful and stable cross-strait relations.

Today, I want to once again call upon the Beijing authorities to remind them that peace, parity, democracy, and dialogue are the key to positive cross-strait interactions and long-term stable development. These four words are also the only path to bringing together and benefitting both our two peoples.

“Peace” means that China must abandon threats of force against Taiwan. “Parity” means that neither side of the Taiwan Strait should deny the fact of the other’s existence. “Democracy” means that the future [End Page 190] of Taiwan must be decided by our country’s 23 million people. “Dialogue” means that we must be able to sit down and discuss the future development of cross-strait relations.

I also hope that the Beijing authorities understand that democratic Taiwan, and our democratically-elected government, will not concede to threats and intimidation. Positive cross-strait interactions founded in mutual respect are the best way to serve our peoples. The results of this election have made that answer crystal clear.


On December 16, the pro-Europe mayors of Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, and Warsaw signed the Pact of Free Cities to resist the illiberal policies of their nations’ leaders. The pact is excerpted below.

Unfortunately, in recent years, populists have dominated the political landscape in many countries in central Europe (and beyond). They exploit societal discontent for personal and political gain, without providing real answers. They claim to represent the nation but ignore the concerns of a substantial number of our citizens, not least those living in multicultural cities. They have whipped up our region’s historical grievances and are spreading the kind of xenophobic nationalism that twice engulfed Europe in war in the previous century.

We ran for office to show our fellow citizens that there is a better way to govern. We firmly believe in the power of grassroots democracy. We campaigned, and now lead, by listening to the people. We speak to our fellow citizens every day. We thrive on civic association and civic engagement—not on the suppression of civil society. Our motto is “nothing about us without us.”

We reject the false promise to protect our people by walling ourselves off from the rest of the world. We do not cling to an outdated understanding of the concepts of sovereignty and identity, but believe in an open society based on our cherished common values of freedom, human dignity, democracy, sustainability, equality, the rule of law, social justice, tolerance, and cultural diversity. …

Our cities are the engines of growth and innovation in the region. As we face many common challenges, we have decided to tackle them together. To this end, we are proud to establish the “Pact of Free Cities”. …

We will coordinate our efforts to advocate tailored European policy solutions and to jointly lobby for better access to EU funding for cities. We will tap into the ingenuity of our diaspora communities to create opportunities for the next generation of Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, and Slovaks. We will show that grassroots democracy is the answer to the challenges our societies face. [End Page 191]

Copyright © 2020 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press