人 權 群 像
 

Professor Seymour’s Reminiscence on Taiwan|James Dulles Seymour|人權群像第二季第七集|黃于哲
Huang Yu Zhe

Abstract

 

The aim of this interview is to provide Professor James Dulles Seymour an opportunity to reminisce his experience in Taiwan. Throughout his long career, Professor Seymour not only has dedicated his life's work to researching and writing on China and Taiwan, but has had extensive experience of working with NGOs in a wide range of issues. The interview is divided into eight parts. Firstly, it gives a detailed introduction of Professor Seymour. Secondly, it deals with his major research area and teaching. The third part is his view on the South China Sea issue and the Diaoyutai dispute. The fourth part is about the One Belt One Road. The fifth part is regarding his view on Taiwan’s situation. The sixth part focuses on his take on the rule of law in the United States and the United Kingdom. The seventh part is about his future plan. The last part concludes with his achievement and setback.

 

Keywords: human rights, rule of law, history, Taiwan, China

 

I. Introduction

On October 22, 2019, Professor James Dulles Seymour[1] came to Taiwan and visited Soochow University in Taipei. He took an interview with Professor Mab Huang to talk about his reminiscence on Taiwan. In the beginning, Professor Huang said it was very fortunate to have Professor James Seymour with us. He has a Chinese name called司馬晉. Professor Huang has known Professor James Seymour for many, many years.

And through Professor Seymour’s long career, they have worked together on quite a few projects. Professor Seymour is indeed very close, that is, the work with Taiwan. He came to study Chinese language in Taiwan in the 1960s. That was quite early while he was studying at Columbia University. And he wrote on the, first, on the minority party in China, called民主同盟(the China Democratic League)[2]. And then, later on he turned to the study of, that is, human rights in Asia, particularly in China, in Taiwan. And he published a journal, or, that is entitled spearhead quite early, which again promoted human rights in Asia. And later on, of course, that was of a great help to Professor Huang, when the Taiwan Human Rights Journal was republished here in Taiwan, and also with the Human Rights Dictionary, which was done, in the 1990s.

But Professor Seymour was not only kept to the “ivory tower.” He took part, to a very large extent, in many social activities, in social movements. He was the head of the Amnesty International, New York University Branch, and was on mission to Taiwan during the 1970s and early 1980s. Later on, in the interview, he would have had a little more to say about the human rights situation, which was very, very difficult in Taiwan, and what his missions were about, and his testimony in the United States Congress. Certainly, that was very crucial for the development of democratic rule, for the agitation of democratic rule in Taiwan. In the interview, later, Professor Huang would let him speak a little bit more, so that our audience would have a greater degree of understanding.

And then, in the past three years, Professor Seymour divided his time between New York City, Columbia University, and Hong Kong, the Chinese University in Hong Kong. He is doing research and teaching on Tibet and Xinjiang, that is referred to us, the great western area of China, 大西北(Northwest China)[3]. And during this time, he worked closely with Han Dong-fang (韓東方)[4] on promoting labor movements in China, and defending the interest and well-being of the laboring class in China.

Professor Huang indicated that as our audience can appreciate that he had done so many things. Therefore, Professor Huang would ask him to say a little bit to say more about his work and his experiences.

Professor Seymour began by expressing his profound gratitude to Professor Huang. Professor Seymour pointed out that, as he said, they go back a long way to more than six decades. And when they were students at Columbia University, and now here they are again. Professor Seymour became interested in China, Chinese studies in the 1950s. Then, he expected to be drafted into the army and be sent to Vietnam. Yet, a fluke of respiratory and the Army rejected him, so, he decided, they’d just given him two years of his life back, like, maybe his whole life back. Professor Seymour asked himself, “What would I really want to do?” “I’d want to come to East Asia and study Chinese,” he thought. Particularly, in those days, Americans could not go to China, and Hong Kong was not a good place to learn Kuo Yu (國語), and Taiwan was not a perfect place to learn Kuo Yu, but not bad. Then, a lot of mainlanders, and most of his friends here that he’d developed in the course of eight months were mainlanders. And Professor Mab Huang (黃默) introduced to him to a lot of other different people.

Professor Seymour often enrolled a class at Shih-fan Da Xue (師範大學, Normal University), Kuo Yu Zhong Xin (國語中心, Chinese Center). And at lunch break, Professor Seymour often went to Professor Huang’s parents for lunch, when Professor Huang was still at New York. Professor Seymour visited his parents quite frequently. As Professor Seymour remembered, they lived in a lovely little old Japanese style house, which he is sure, the house had already been torn down, but he very liked that house.

For Professor Seymour, those were very depressing times in Taiwan. However, he was rather careful when he was here as a student. He kept his ears open and my mouth shut. But that doesn’t last forever. Then, he became more vocal. And after Chiang Kai-shek(蔣介石)[5] passed away in 1975, the government announced that there would be a commutation of prisoners’ sentences. So, the human rights organization, the Amnesty International[6], asked him to come to Taiwan from New York, and appealed to the government to include political prisoners in the commutation. So, that was his first mission to Taiwan to promote human rights. And then, the Amnesty International sent him again a few months later to, hopefully, to attend the trials of eight political prisoners, trials held in Jing Mei (景美). And, he, unfortunately, when he got to Jing Mei (景美), the local authorities would not permit him to observe the trial. So, to some extent, he came all this way from New York to Taipei for nothing. But it turned out to be rather productive because he met a whole lot of people, young dissidents who were not famous then, but then became famous later on. And, in fact, many of them went to jail in the wake after Meilidao (美麗島)[7] Incident. For Professor Seymour, that’s a brief history, as far as Taiwan is concerned.

Professor Huang believed that many people in Taiwan know him quite well. And they thought, and they still think that, at that point, certainly, he were quite supportive and sympathetic to Tang Wei (黨外)[8].

But Professor Seymour emphasized that he was trying not to be partisan about it, and not supported this political group or that political group. He just supported human rights and democracy. And what the people of Taiwan decided to do with their future, it’s not really his business. But promoting human rights considered to be his business.

Professor Huang thought that he was quite right, and that is the right position for him to take, and that position would allow him to go a very long way. It’s not to be so partisan. But, still, it is kind of a difficult art, as Professor Huang found, when he surveyed the situation around Professor Seymour. Professor Seymour believed that, technically, he was on the government’s blacklist throughout the 1970s until the 1980s. Of course, in the 1980s, maybe, he crossed the line. Maybe, he lost my non-political bona fides and so he landed himself on the blacklist. But he, you can say that, he is proud to say that he had been on both Kuomintang’s (國民黨) blacklist and the Communist Party’s blacklist one time or the other. So, he joked about that, at least, he can be playing even-handed.

Professor Huang said that it was definitely, for him, that those proved that Professor Seymour had done something right about. Professor Huang was saying that’s kind of difficult. Because many of his colleagues, very well-educated persons, professors at the university, that would, at some points, would be drawn into one camp or the other. So, he thinks, for him, the lesson he learned, that this political turmoil really caused a very serious problem for the intellectuals. And if you study the intellectuals,

the Chinese intellectuals for the past twenty years, you would know very well that it’s very difficult not to take side and they all ended up in a very, in very difficult, very bad situation. Also, Professor Seymour said that he had friends here who settled on very different approaches about how to handle the situation. Some were quite militant, even lived in exile in Japan and supported Taiwan for the Taiwanese. And other people much more cautious and conservative liberals people like Hu Fu (胡佛)[9], Professor at National Taiwan University.

But one thing is interesting that Professor Seymour and Professor Hu Fu originally introduced to each other. They came here on a freighter, and that's how Professor Seymour first got to Taiwan. Professor Seymour remembered that Professor Hu Fu was always very cautious, tried not to antagonize Kuomintang, tried to stay in the good graces of Kuomintang, at the same time, promoting the cause of constitutional government. Therefore, Professor Seymour had friends who took all these different various approaches, but he didn't deal with the situation himself. Obviously, in his view, there was no right way to do it nor wrong way to do it. Everybody had to figure it out for himself.

 

II. Professor Seymour’s major research area and teaching

Professor Huang mentioned that the year that Professor Seymour divided his time between New York and Hong Kong. Professor Huang would like to know what kind of research and teaching he had been doing, and what kind of activity he haas, social activity that he has participated and supported? Professor Seymour said that he moved to Hong Kong, having retired from Columbia in 2005. And the reason for the move had to do with his personal life and family situation. But once he got to Hong Kong, he became somewhat active at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. They were setting up a new master, master's degree program called "Global Political Economy, "and they wanted to offer a course, in the English name of the course "Development of West China and New Silk Road."

At that time, the "Silk Road"[10] was a buzzword that everybody was interested in, the "Silk Road." They couldn't find anybody to teach this course. And one of the people setting up this program said to Professor Seymour, "Would he teach the course?" And he said, "Development of West China and New Silk Road, what, what was it about? " And they said, well, "Whatever you want it to be about, it could be about. As such, Professor Seymour developed this course out of whole cloth, a lot of political, cultural, historic background and the political economy, and a lot of environmental ecology issues. They were the whole gamut and focused on West China, and to some extent, Central Asia. Professor Seymour had a lot of fun with this course. It tightened their grip more and more on Hong Kong, and then, it became more and more untenable to teach the history of the West, what it is now of West China, objectively. These were kind of negotiated out of existence between China and the neighboring countries, which were usually Russia, and those countries and those kind of being divided in half. But, that's not the way the Chinese understand their history. Their understanding of history is that Xinjiang (新疆) has been part of China for two thousand years. Tibet has been part of China, they used to say, since the Tang (唐朝), which is no basis for that. So, they say, well, since the Yuan (元朝), since the Mongol period, which is not wrong, but it's kind of odd interpretation of history. Professor Seymour teaches all those of course, from his point of view, which is rather different from there for point of view. And the audience will be shocked to hear that the course is no longer offered. But Professor Seymour was able to pull it off while he I was able to confront. Since then, Professor Seymour has been teaching that course for a decade.

 

III. Professor Seymour’s take on the South China Sea issue and the Diaoyutai dispute

Professor Huang pointed out that he has been struck in the past few years that Beijing has emphasized more on historical claim, that is, in their position, no matter it is about the South China Sea or the Diaoyutai, and now it is Xinjiang and Tibet. He would like to know how would Professor Seymour interpret these emphases on historical claim. Professor Seymour thought that as far as the South China Sea is concerned, the big issue is China going to respect international law or not. There is a huge body of Law of the Sea, which China supposedly adheres to, but they rather interpret it out of existence. He has a peculiar American point of view on all of these.

After the United States got its independence from Britain, in England in the 1770s, they thought they have solved all of the problems with England. But, all of a sudden, the British were kind of nasty to them on the ocean, and so, they were a weak country and England was a strong country. So, they fought, what Americans consider, the war of 1812, nobody else calls it that, but they call it that. And from the American point of view, that issue, everybody, weak countries, small countries have equal access to the seas, and shouldn't interfere with anybody else. And nobody has a right to privatize or territorialize.

Professor Seymour remembered that Professor Huang used to joke about how the British considered the Mediterranean owned as a private lake. But that was contrary to what Americans consider basic principle, freedom of the seas. So, now they're trying to uphold this principle in the South China Sea. But it's not so much up to them, as the countries bordering on the South China Sea, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia. And it's a question of can those countries pull themselves together, form some kind of unity, and stand up for the principle, freedom of the seas, or are they each going to try to grab a little piece of it? In which case they'll never prevail, because China is going to grab the whole thing.

But Professor Seymour believed that they need to decide this on the basis of international law. That's quite different from Tibet and really not controlled by China. Professor Seymour pointed out, you could say that it was part of the Qing dynasty, but the Manchu (滿族)[11] ruled this great international empire. Their own homeland was one country, and they thought, it meant, Dongbei (東北)[12] as their country, and then, Han area was China. And Tibet was Tibet. And the Manchu (滿族), the Qing dynasty ruled over this entire area. Therefore, that's quite a different situation from Xinjiang, which was very fragmented. And, of course, there's Mongolia, which ended up being rather divided in half, half becoming a Soviet satellite, and half becoming Chinese. The Soviet part ended up as a free and independent and democratic country. Yet, the inner Mongolia was not so lucky.

 

IV. Professor Seymour’s take on the One Belt One Road

Professor Huang raised the question about the One Belt One Road[13]. When that idea was first proposed by China, he thought, even he knew that probably would not happen. But that could it be a commitment to the One Belt One Road, which would merge Beijing closer to adhering to international law. But up to this point, it doesn't turn out to be like that. But at one point, Professor Huang believes, probably for a very brief period of time, as he posed the question in some of his writing that could it be a turning point that China will indeed join the international community, and the One Belt One Road would promote this commitment to the international law.

Yet, Professor Seymour said that Professor Huang is being very charitable toward the old imperialist power. He doesn’t think they ever, in reality, adhere to these principles that, Professor Huang is saying, are so lofty. And China is behaving very much like the old imperial powers, just trying to gain economic influence, loaning money to all these little countries, including Pacific island countries, and getting them deeply in debt. And it's quite a worrisome situation, from the point of view

they are really sacrificing their independence, in the name of economic development and its economic development that China is controlling.

In many ways, Professor Seymour believes that it's very good to see railways across Asia. Nobody can really argue with that if it facilitates international trade. But if it means China getting a grip, and politicizing the development of these countries in a way that benefits China. Then, that's somewhat worrisome.

Professor Huang said that he was hoping China would, to some degree, different from the old imperial empire. He pointed out that the traditional value of China and, which of course, that we can interpret them somehow differently. And then, of course, there is the commitment was from paper, you know, more to communism and to socialism.

Then, Professor Huang said to Professor Seymour that he would be delighted to know that one of their friends, Professor Chou, Yang-sun (周陽山)[14]. They met with him in New York, Columbia. He's a student of Professor Hu Fu (胡佛). Professor Huang noted that in many of his pieces in the newspaper, in the past few years, Professor Chou argued, to his great surprise, argued that the One Belt One Road is really in the tradition of Confucius idea in how China handled its relations with the neighboring countries, which is absolutely not selfish. Professor Chou argued that it's a commitment to help the weaker and small countries. Professor Chou, even to this day, as a steward of traditional Chinese. In that regard, Professor Seymour said that

it's a very traditional Chinese way of looking at it. That the emperor reigns over in the first place of China. But then gradually all of Tian Xia (天下)[15], and Tian Xia (天下) keeps expanding and expanding. And all the people in Tian Xia (天下) sort of focused on Zhongnanhai (中南海)[16]. Professor Seymour explained that he can understand that point of view, but it's not a point of view that all these powerless countries are really enamored with.

Professor Huang then indicated that another student, or to be more precise, disciple of Professor Hu Fu, Professor Chu Yun-han (朱雲漢)[17], has presented himself as a visionary seeing the future so clearly. In Chu’s view, the United States certainly has been declining. Professor Huang said that he doesn’t think that many people would dispute or quarrel with Chu. And more than that, Chu argued, that China is taking the lead, giving this earth-shaking transformation of the world situation. The Chinese model[18], that is, the Chinese model of development will prevail, and China is going to lead the whole world into an absolutely new era.

Professor Huang said that Professor Seymour and him and Professor Hu Fu have been friends for almost half a century. But he must say and he doesn’t want to push this point that in his later years, he was moving closer to the position of Beijing. Professor Hu Fu argued in an interview he had with some journal, and that again, for Professor Huang, was kind of difficult really, arguing that Chinese people have lost some of their individual freedom, but the Chinese state has gained a great deal of larger of freedom. So, in the end, Professor Hu Fu returned to the thesis of individual freedom, smaller freedom and a larger freedom of the state. Professor Huang said that he cannot quite accept that, but, of course, he respects Professor Hu Fu’s position. Professor Huang said that's what he has been saying about the difficult situation, the rapid change in the political map had done to the intellectuals.

Professor Seymour added that the Chinese nationalism is a very powerful force, and it used to be somewhat limited that we were just trying to undo the damage that was done to China, by the imperialist powers and the western countries, and so forth. But now, that sort of limited form of nationalism has been replaced by a much more expansive view of nationalism. Furthermore, the Chinese are so proud, justifiably, proud of being an economic powerhouse in the world. Of course, countries have their ups and downs, economies have also their ups and downs. It's not always going to be a bed of roses for China. But in recent years, China has seemed to be doing very well, and rich, and able to lend money to, and therefore, dominate many other countries. And all the time saying, "but we never interfere in domestic affairs of other countries." Professor Seymour said that that's the line. In the end, they've seemed to end up doing quite a bit of interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries. They have, Professor Seymour is quite concerned and worried, about almost this extremist of blind nationalism in China.

Professor Huang then added that he cannot convince himself that these in the long term would be the good of China, and certainly for Asia as well, and it can be quite dangerous. Professor Huang is hoping for the best, saying that somehow you would not bring about ruining for China and everyone else around China.

V. Professor Seymour’s take on Taiwan’s situation

Professor Huang raised that Taiwan is put in a very difficult situation. Taiwan, internally, is very divided, as Professor Seymour understands, since he has been to Taiwan for so many times. Certainly, Professor Seymour visited this time, and that he came at the moment that politics is the concern, is the talk of the town, everybody is very much preoccupied about the election in 2020. Professor Huang asked how Professor Seymour would think about the situation.

Professor Seymour said that he did not dabble too much in Taiwan politics. But, as an American, he comes from a country where the country is extremely divided. There is no center anymore. There are the people that support Trump and the people that oppose Trump. And he still views Taiwan as a little, seems to be, there is a center here, still. In general, people support the status quo. They realize that if you go too far in the direction of independence for Taiwan, then that will be provocative, and might really cause big problems for Taiwan. And, of course, the other extreme, the people that want to cozy up to China, and make a deal, and work out some agreements that Beijing is satisfied with. But those groups on the extremes are rather small. And Professor Seymour said that he doesn’t follow Taiwan politics all that closely, but it seems to him that there seems to be some sort of consensus, we just have to muddle through. We can't declare independence. We don't want to be a province of China. So, we'll just have to abide by this very imperfect situation, but it could be a lot worse. Professor Seymour says that the more extreme forces, they are minority, but they are quite vocal. They speak very loudly. And, so that do you think there is, this danger, what you referred to us, the middle position cannot hold on indefinitely, that somehow more people would be drifted either to this camp or that camp.

Professor Seymour added that's what happened in the United States. Everybody drifted either to the left or the right and there's no center. He doesn't see that happening yet in Taiwan, maybe, he will. But it seems to him that everybody sees the risks, and so there seemed to be, there is a center here. And we'll see what in January, what happens to the election[19].

Professor Huang then asked that to be explicit, would Professor Seymour be saying that if Tsai Ing-wen is re-elected, that the center still holds? Is that more an idealist idea? Professor Seymour said that it is certainly a likely scenario. But he doesn't know if he can predict that. Anyway, he'll have a better sense of things in a couple of months.

Professor Huang then added that he doesn't say that he is talking about any particular candidate for president. But, in general. He is not saying that Professor Seymour is supporting either, or any, or candidate for presidency. This time, probably, still is kind of difficult to be certain that for the first time. For the Chinese Nationalist Party, Kuomintang, they have a fairly charismatic leader coming from the people. And that posed a new challenge certainly for the Democratic Progressive Party, and the incumbent government has been criticized on many fronts. So, we just have to wait and see in a sense.

Professor Seymour also indicated that we would be thankful that we don't have the problem of the populism here. The powerful leader that comes up with a few simple solutions. “Who said there is a simple solution for every difficult question? There's a simple solution and it’s always wrong,” Professor Seymour said. That's what these populist leaders in the United States and Britain do. And it does not give rise to the execution of carefully thought-out policies.

VI. Professor Seymour’s take on the rule of law in the U.S. and the U.K.

Professor Huang indicated that it could have resorted to in the judicial branch, that is the rule of law, certainly, most in the United States and U.K., you have the long tradition of the rule of law. And many people hope that if Trump[20] can be checked, or Boris Johnson[21], that probably would have quite a bit to do with this quite long tradition, the independence of a judiciary and rule of law. What would Professor Seymour think?

Professor Seymour said that has more confidence in the rule of law in England, and Taiwan, than, he would say, he has in the United States. We’ve just seen the Court said that the Prime Minister in U.K. could not suspend the Parliament. Professor Seymour thinks that’s a very constructive move. And the United States was, unfortunately, beginning with Nixon[22]. You began to see the politicization of the Supreme Court[23]. The Republicans appointed hard-right conservatives starting with Rehnquist[24], and, now, Gorsuch[25]. People could be counting on the support, the Republicans, and in their decisions, so, they're no longer really legal decisions, but political decisions. Of course, the Democrats have tried to appoint liberals to offset that. But they've been rather unlucky. So, majorities are now quite conservative. And two people on the Supreme Court, Professor Seymour thinks, he would say, and most people would say that they committed a perjury. That is, they lied during their confirmation hearing. And so there, you have, on the Supreme Court, two out of the nine judges have committed crimes. And they are telling us that which laws we have to follow up and which laws we should not have to follow up. And it's an obviously very political decision from the point of view of the Justices. So, it is a very upsetting situation in the United States. Professor Seymour hopes they can come back to find some other way to appoint Supreme Court Justices, so they can return to the rule of law, and not have a Supreme Court which is just a political body.

Professor Huang added that he kind of agrees with Professor Seymour more on the United States situation. But, as far as Taiwan, certainly, Professor Huang thinks, that we don’t have that kind of tradition, that kind of rule of law. Tt’s a new thing for Taiwan and it would take time to learn. So, what the judiciary does or does not do in the next few years, and faces with somebody’s new case, which, would definitely come.

Professor Seymour then pointed out that Taiwan has this kind of odd situation, the five branches of government of Taiwan, which is supposed to be three, the government of, three branches of government, and checks and balances. When the United States was established, it was just at a moment in history where checks and balances and separation of powers were considered very important. They got this idea from the French. Then very quickly they realized that there are a lot of problems with that. Therefore, no other country really picked up on that. Professor Seymour said that they have an independent judiciary. And that's all you need. You don't really have to have the legislature and the executive checking each other all the time. That's the road to stalemate. So, think of, other countries did not follow the American example.

Professor Huang added that we still need to deal with the legacies of the five branches by our Constitution. And the one time, certainly, the Democratic Progressive Party has been talking about abolishing the Examination Yuan[26] and the Control Yuan[27]. But they have not done that. And, at this time, in the Control Yuan, it's so openly divided into those commissioners appointed by the previous or, assumingly, the long decades of the KMT groups. And those eleven, recommended and appointed by Tsai Ing-wen, are re openly divided. It's really an astonishing situation.

Professor Seymour added that Sun Yat-sen[28] came up with this idea, the five branches, and the founding fathers of the United States came up with this idea, the three branches, and it seems to be good on paper. But, actually, when working out, in practice, it's more problems than resolutions.

Professor Huang concluded that we are all searching. And certainly, Professor Seymour and he, certainly, would not on the new model that Beijing has been proudly advocating for so long. Professor Huang thinks Professor Seymour would agree with him on that.

 

VII. Professor Seymour’s future plan

Professor Huang indicated that Professor Seymour has done so many things. His study on research on the great Western area in China, that is, Tibet[29] and Xinjiang[30], has been superb. Professor Huang talked about how his lecture, yesterday, in the workshop, was very well-received. Professor Huang wondered what is Professor Seymour going to do next?

Professor Seymour joked about that Professor Huang has been pestering him, for many months from now, to write something for him about Xinjiang. Professor Seymour said that he promised, when getting back to Hong Kong, his first order of business is that he has a lot of tons of materials to go through. Professor Seymour said that “Don't expect it quickly. But I will do it. I'll write an article for your wonderful journal, the Taiwan Human Rights Journal (台灣人權學刊).

Professor Huang added that we have your great article about the dispute between the terms people(人民) and nation(民族). Professor Huang said that was a great article, and still, is. And he assumed that Professor Seymour would be talking about that this afternoon in his class.

Professor Seymour also wanted to say something for the record. When he got onto the subject in the first place, because someone called my attention to the fact that the version of the international human rights covenants of the U.N. texts, and the version that you find, if you go to the U.N. website, would be very different. And Professor Huang was the person that told him about that. And he looked it up and dug it around, and he found indeed. The handwritten, that signed by all the powers, are equally authentic five languages, which Chinese was one. And quite different from what you find, if you go to the U.N. website, and go through and read what the Chinese version or fake version of the international human rights covenants.

Professor Seymour said that Professor Huang put the bee in his bonnet, and began with any mistakes he attributed to Professor Huang.

In response, Professor Huang laughed and said it's very exciting inquiry to get into that so he is very pleased that Professor Seymour took upon that. And then Professor Seymour and he have been talking about coming up with a new human rights dictionary. They’ll deal with it later.

 

VIII. Professor Seymour’s take on his achievement and setback

Professor Huang then asked that which achievement in Professor Seymour’s long area was in academic and in the public service he is both proud of? And which event or which activity that he thinks was the most serious setback for him, regret, that it hadn't happened? or worry you?

Professor Seymour said that he has been involved with various human rights and civil society organizations. Right now, he is chairman of the board of the U.S. section of an organization. They've kept a very low profile, so Professor Huang has probably never heard of it, and it's called the Rights Practice[31]. And they try to help local organizations,

civil society organizations in China on the Mainland. Also, there are human rights organizations, women's organizations, and labor organizations, and the lawyers that are defending people accused of crimes. They try to give them both sort of intellectual and know-how support and financial support, if they're able to raise money for the purpose in China.

And the setback is that Xi Jing-ping is not very enthusiastic about the whole concept of civil society. And in fact, "Seven No Talk"(七不講), seven things that you're not supposed to talk about in universities. Number two is civil society. So, it's the last couple of years, it's become increasingly difficult for the international civil society organizations, such as the Rights Practice, the China Labour Bulletin, and the Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, they are very difficult to function in China. The local partners that they help are becoming more increasingly nervous about receiving international support. And some of their people go to China, and they get denied Visas. And the whole ideal of getting financial support they have to kind of keep that quiet, because that could get their local partners in trouble.

So, for Professor Seymour, the big setback and he hopes that it's only temporary. But for Professor Seymour, “that's it.” It's just more and more difficult for international civil society organizations to function in China.

Professor Huang added that they indeed have been keeping it a very low profile. He has not heard the Rights Practice. And Professor Huang asked that since when was the Rights Practice organization set up?

Professor Seymour said that there are a lot of little groups that are often associated with universities or associated with the lawyer's groups. The lawyers that way getting themselves in trouble and getting themselves arrested, and just for trying to enable people who are in legal trouble to exert their legal rights. And, sometimes, the lawyers get arrested for doing the job, and there are various groups, like aids support groups, and all sorts of groups that try to help the people who do not have Hukou (戶口). And, sometimes, it’s very difficult for a family to send their children to a local school, because they don't have a local Hukou (戶口). There are all of these little issues that get neglected by the government, but there are organizations in China trying to make progress in these areas, and they work with all these organizations. They let them take the lead and they just get them help where they need it.

Professor Huang then wondered that is Professor Seymour still working with the China Labour Bulletin? Professor Seymour said that he thinks that this new organization takes all my time, so he is not really working with China Labour Bulletin, but they're growing strong. They're doing wonderful work to help workers in China organized and engaged in collective bargaining. So, Hang Dong-fang’s group China Labour Bulletin do a wonderful job in that area. They have that kind of division of labor. Yet, the Rights Practice don't do too much, for now, promote collective bargaining that sort of thing. They leave that to China Labour Bulletin.

Professor Huang also asked that is Han Dong-fang (韓東方) still living and working in Hong Kong? If he is, that should be a very difficult situation. What would Professor Seymour say? Professor Seymour said that now Hong Kong is in a lot of troubles. But the Hong Kong-based organizations do help Chinese. The problem is in China, not in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a lot of problems, but, as far as these international, that's the only one that he thinks of based in Hong Kong. And the Rights Practice is based in London.

Professor Huang said that Professor Seymour is still doing a great deal of work. He is not retired, in any genuine sense. Professor Huang then asked what great achievement Professor Seymour thinks he has done?

Professor Seymour said that he thinks his main academic book that made the greatest contribution, and nobody reads, because nobody is particularly interested in that subject. But he got interested in the China's prison system in the 1990s, meanwhile because he happened to meet somebody in Hong Kong, a Shanghai Ren who has spent ten years in a prison run by the新疆生產建設兵團[32]. There was a whole prison system out there. And sometimes, you deal with people who have a hard time in Mainland, they escape, and they're just terribly excited, terribly unhappy, angry. They don't make good interview subjects, but this informant made a wonderful interview subject, he was very balanced, and had a lot of information. He did not exaggerate, so Professor Seymour just started taking notes everything he said, and Professor Seymour wrote it down. Then, Professor Seymour wrote an article. But he said that it was supposed to be an article, but it's got longer and longer, and it's too long to be an article. And it is not quite long enough for a book. And then he found another colleague who, whereas most of his research has to do with Xinjian, and his colleague was studying prisons in Gansu and Qinghai. In other words, between the two of them, they had northwest China pretty well covered. So, then, Professor Seymour wrote a few more general chapters about the prison system in China, which had been poorly understood, because there were people and there was a communist propaganda about how wonderful their prison system is. And they just take these people, and rehabilitate them, and then return them to society. That's kind of nonsense. And the other extreme, there were people who greatly exaggerated the horrors of the system, and they did this was pretty horrible. But it was for one thing, one much smaller, the number of prisoners in China much smaller than the extremists, the extreme anti-communists were claiming. So, Professor Seymour just went in there and did the really hard research work, and found some materials. There were some materials of the subject at Chinese University of Hong Kong, the university service center for China studies. And Professor Seymour interviewed other people, and finally was confident that he understood the nature of the system and the size of the system. So, this book is called "New Ghosts, Old Ghosts.[33]" The name was taken from a Du Fu (杜甫) poem,「新鬼,舊鬼」(New Ghosts, Old Ghosts), originating from the sentence,「新鬼煩冤舊鬼哭。」(The complaining lament of new ghosts is accompanied with the weeping of old ghosts.) And this was about Ching Hai (青海).

So, anyway, Professor Seymour just took four characters for the name of the book, "New Ghosts, Old Ghosts." Professor Seymour thinks that's the academic achievement of which he is most proud of. It was published in 1998.

 

IX. Conclusion

Professor Huang added that, anyhow, he would go after that book and, see if he can find someone to review this book in our journal. And he was really appreciative for this interview that Professor Seymour took time to come to Soochow University and had such a wide-ranging discussion with us.

[1]“Dr. Seymour’s field is Chinese politics, and his particular interests are human rights, ethnic minorities, labor issues, and the environment. He is the primary author of New Ghosts, Old Ghosts: Prisons and Labor Reform Camps in China (M. E. Sharpe, 1998). Before coming to Columbia, he taught at New York University, where he served as chair of the Politics Department in Washington Square College. Recent publications include the chapter “The Exodus: North Korea’s Out-migration,” in The Future of U.S.- Korean Relations: The Imbalance of Power, ed. John Feffer (Routledge, 2006); an essay in China’s Environment and the Challenge of Sustainable Development, ed. Kristen A. Day (M. E. Sharpe, 2005); and the chapter “Sizing Up China’s Prisons” in Crime, Punishment, and Policing in China by Børge Bakken (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005). Dr. Seymour is also an adjunct associate professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where in the fall he teaches the graduate course “The Development of West China and the New Silk Road.” Retrieved from http://weai.columbia.edu/james-seymour/.

[2]“The China Democratic League is one of the eight legally recognised political parties in the People's Republic of China. The League is mainly made up by middle-level and senior intellectuals in the fields of culture, education, science and technology. As of the end of 2012, the party had a membership of more than 282,000. Of this total, 22.8% were from the field of advanced education, 30.2% were from the field of compulsory education, 17.4% were in science and technology, 5.8% were in art and the press.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_Democratic_League.

[3]“Northwest China includes the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Ningxia and the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu and Qinghai.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_China.

[4]“Han Dongfang (born 1963) is a Chinese advocate for workers' rights. He won the 1993 Democracy Award from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy. Han was born in the impoverished village of Nanweiquan in Shanxi and first came to international prominence as a railway worker in Beijing. He helped set up the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation (BWAF) during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The BWAF was the People's Republic of China's first independent trade union, established as an alternative to the Party-controlled All-China Federation of Trade Unions. The BWAF was disbanded after the June 4 crackdown, and Han was placed at the top of the Chinese government’s most wanted list. He turned himself in to the police and was imprisoned for 22 months without trial until he contacted tuberculosis in prison and was released in April 1991. He spent a year in the U.S. undergoing medical treatment before returning to China in August 1993. On his return, he was arrested in Guangzhou and expelled to Hong Kong, where he still lives today. In 1994, he established China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization that seeks to uphold and defend the rights of workers across China. In addition to his work at CLB, Han conducts regular interviews with workers and peasants across China on Radio Free Asia. These interviews give insight into lives of workers in China, and are broadcast three times weekly on shortwave radio.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Dongfang.

[5]“Chiang Kai-shek (31 October 1887 – 5 April 1975), also known as Chiang Chung-cheng and romanized via Mandarin as Chiang Chieh-shih and Jiang Jieshi, was a Chinese nationalist politician, revolutionary and military leader who served as the leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in Taiwan until his death. Born in Chekiang (Zhejiang) Province, Chiang was a member of the Kuomintang (KMT) and a lieutenant of Sun Yat-sen in the revolution to overthrow the Beiyang government and reunify China. With Soviet and communist (Communist Party of China: CPC) help, Chiang organized the military for Sun's Canton Nationalist Government and headed the Whampoa Military Academy. Commander in chief of the National Revolutionary Army (from which he came to be known as Generalissimo), he led the Northern Expedition from 1926 to 1928, before defeating a coalition of warlords and nominally reunifying China under a new Nationalist government. Midway through the campaign, the KMT–CPC alliance broke down and Chiang purged the communists inside the party, triggering a civil war with the CPC, which he eventually lost in 1949. As leader of the Republic of China in the Nanjing decade, Chiang sought to strike a difficult balance between modernizing China while also devoting resources to defending the nation against the impending Japanese threat. Trying to avoid a war with Japan while hostilities with CPC continued, he was kidnapped in the Xi'an Incident and obliged to form an Anti-Japanese United Front with the CPC. Following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, he mobilized China for the Second Sino-Japanese War. For eight years he led the war of resistance against a vastly superior enemy, mostly from the wartime capital Chongqing. As the leader of a major Allied power, Chiang met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Cairo Conference to discuss terms for Japanese surrender. No sooner had the Second World War ended than the Civil War with the communists, by then led by Mao Zedong, resumed. Chiang's nationalists were mostly defeated in a few decisive battles in 1948. In 1949 Chiang's government and army retreated to Taiwan, where Chiang imposed martial law and persecuted critics during the White Terror. Presiding over a period of social reforms and economic prosperity, Chiang won five elections to six-year terms as President of the Republic of China and was Director-General of the Kuomintang until his death in 1975, three years into his fifth term as President and just one year before Mao's death. One of the longest-serving non-royal heads of state in the 20th century, Chiang was the longest-serving non-royal ruler of China having held the post for 46 years. Like Mao, he is regarded as a controversial figure. Supporters credit him with playing a major part in unifying the nation and leading the Chinese resistance against Japan, as well as with countering Soviet-communist encroachment. Detractors and critics denounce him as a dictator at the front of an authoritarian regime who suppressed opponents.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Kai-shek.

[6]“Amnesty International (also referred to as Amnesty or AI) is a non-governmental organization with its headquarters in the United Kingdom focused on human rights. The organization says it has more than eight million members and supporters around the world. The stated mission of the organization is to campaign for "a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. Amnesty International was founded in London in 1961, following the publication of the article "The Forgotten Prisoners" in The Observer on 28 May 1961, by the lawyers-Peter Benenson and Philip James. Amnesty draws attention to human rights abuses and campaigns for compliance with international laws and standards. It works to mobilize public opinion to generate pressure on governments where abuse takes place. Amnesty considers capital punishment to be "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights." The organization was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize for its "defence of human dignity against torture," and the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights in 1978. In the field of international human rights organizations, Amnesty has the third-longest history, after the International Federation for Human Rights, and the Anti-Slavery Society.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amnesty_International.

[7]“The Kaohsiung Incident, also known as the Formosa Incident, the Meilidao Incident, or the Formosa Magazine incident, was a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations that occurred in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on 10 December 1979 during Taiwan's martial law period. The incident occurred when Formosa Magazine, headed by released political prisoner Shih Ming-teh and veteran opposition legislator Huang Hsin-chieh, and other opposition politicians held a demonstration commemorating Human Rights Day to promote and demand democracy in Taiwan. At that time, the Republic of China was a one-party state and the government used this protest as an excuse to arrest the main leaders of the political opposition. The Kaohsiung Incident is widely regarded as a seminal event in the post-war history of Taiwan and the watershed of the Taiwan democratization movements. The event had the effect of galvanizing the Taiwanese community into political actions and is regarded as one of the events that eventually led to democracy in Taiwan.” Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaohsiung_Incident.

[8]“The Tangwai movement, or simply Tangwai, was a political movement in the Republic of China (Taiwan) in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. Although the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) had allowed contested elections for a small number of seats in Legislative Yuan, opposition parties were still forbidden. As a result, many opponents of the KMT, officially classifie

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