Chen Hanbo: How to Protect the Press Freedom Provided in the Constitution?

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(Report written for the CCP Central Committee Secretariat on 9 October 1980)

After reading Comrade Qiaomu’s letter to Comrade Yaobang, I felt deeply enlightened. The great importance of the incidents in Poland for us lies in the fact that the Polish incident is a historical warning, [we must] research the contradictions inside our country’s society, formulate and implement correct policies, avoid intensifying contradictions, and achieve the objective of stability and unity, in order to benefit the construction of the “Four Modernizations”.

Concerning publishing work, a matter that easily gives rise to contradictions is essentially how to correctly resolve the question of freedom of the press.

Our country’s Constitutions provides that citizens have the freedom of the press. In the thirty years since founding the nation, we have mainly stressed “public opinion without exception”, and have never earnestly implemented the freedom of the press. Afterwards, in spite of the policy of “letting a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend”, the freedom of the press could still not be properly implemented. In the decade of chaos, the freedom of the press completely became empty talk. Last summer, following the emergence of the “Xidan Wall”, spontaneous organizations and spontaneous printing, the voices demanding freedom of the press rose, and the number of people registering the publication of self-initiated periodicals with the publications departments grew in number. Recently (after the People’s Congress meeting and the Consultative Conference meeting), this sort of calls and demands again shows a tendency to increase. What now? If you don’t permit them to publish, they say you don’t implement the constitution; if you approve that they publish, there is the fear that they will make their periodicals in to things like the Hong Kong “Seventies” and “Contend”, that only expose your “inside stories” and “dark side”, this is not beneficial to stability and unity. Rather, this will not be easy to tidy up. Because of this, we have had no sound plan for a year, in spite of repeated research, we have only evaded and delayed the matter, we acknowledged that you have the freedom of the press, but do not grant you registration. This is absolutely no long-term solution. Because matters have been delayed until today, it will be inescapable in tomorrow. There must be a counterpolicy before the situation is acceptable.

The general principle to deal with this matter should be that implementing freedom of the press should benefit stability and unity, and the education of the absolute majority of the masses, and the tiny minority should be isolated and attacked. That is to say, we must ensure that the legitimate demand to publish of the absolute majority of people is protected, and that the tiny minority cannot cause trouble, or can cause a little bit of trouble, but is unable to create social turmoil.

We have started to consider a number of methods, which are:

I, Realistically improving Party and government leadership and management over publishing work, earnestly running existing publications (periodicals and books) well. Concerning these publications, we must relax measures, except for things violating the Constitution (as well as all kinds of laws), violating the basic principles of the country, or that are defamatory or absurd, we should not use administrative means to limit publication, truly achieve that different ideas, theories and schools can have full opportunities to publish their writings and works, ensure that these publications become tools for Party propaganda and public opinion, and are a garden for the popular masses to carry forward Socialist democracy and develop science and culture. This is to say, we must progressively ensure that the popular masses’ demand to publish is appropriately satisfied through running these publications well. Concerning problematic publications, we must adopt the method of discussion, we must generally not intervene administratively. Concerning publications that truly have grave political problems, and when administrative measures must be adopted, we must also not flagrantly interfere, but we must deal with the matter appropriately, strive to ensure that we can both guarantee the freedom of the press, and can prevent the spread of poison. Although it is difficult to avoid that a tiny minority of people is dissatisfied, the support and sympathy of the absolute majority means we are unlikely to lose popular approval.

II, Permitting a number of bodies, groups, schools and research work units that truly need to, and meet conditions, to run publishing houses, run publications (on a not-for-profit basis), and add a number of gardens from specialist workers and popular masses in many areas to publish their own research and create achievements and viewpoints. This not only benefits the development of science and culture, it also benefits the implementation and development of a democracy of ideas, theory and academia among the people. Naturally, implementing this matter may run into the difficult matter of paper shortages.

III, At the same time as earnestly doing both abovementioned work matters better, conditionally permitting the popular masses to run their own publishing houses and run their own publications (colleagues’ publishing houses and self-run publications). We must only grasp two conditions: first, authorial responsibility for political matters and second, own responsibility for economic profits and losses (they are to resolve printing, paper and other material matters themselves). Those agreeing with these two matters are to be granted registry. On the basis of the fundamental interest of the absolute majority of people, implement policies that are both permissive and restrictive. Those that are run well are to be encouraged in matters of personnel, assets and materials; those gravely violating the laws are to be appropriately punished; those not managed well will stop publication of themselves. In order to establish models, we must consciously give support to a number of colleagues’ publishing houses and self-published periodicals, and implement running by the people with public assistance. As there are clear political demands, and paper and printing materials are grasped in the hands of the State, there can only be a small number that can persistently run for a long time. If the Party and the government act appropriately and without mistakes in the area of implementing policy and managing directions, and the people who run publications or publishing houses can consider the bigger picture, remain conscious of the larger principles and put the people’s interests central, the creation of harm may be avoided or reduced. Weighing the pros and cons is much better then refusing permission without exception.

In order to implement the freedom of speech and freedom of the press provided in the Constitution, we must formulate a Publishing Law or a Press and Publications Law.

At present, constitutions of various countries worldwide generally include the freedom of the press, but the majority of capitalist countries, the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries in fact do not have or only have a little freedom of the press. Those old-brand capitalist countries whose governance experiences are relatively rich and whose regimes are relatively consolidated, have a set of relatively integrated bourgeois democratic institutions, they want a bit more freedom of the press, but they also limit this through all sorts of legal methods and other means, in order to benefit the rule of the bourgeoisie. The history of the Socialist system is relatively short, after we gained nationwide power, because of mistakes in work and destruction by our enemies, Socialist democratic institutions are not perfect. The question of freedom of the press has not been appropriately resolved for a long time, which is one manifestation of this. In the area of publishing, the Polish incident is a historical warning that requires us to start from the real conditions in our country, appropriately consult some experiences and methods from bourgeois democracies, explore and progressively shape a set of institutions to implement Socialist press freedom. Because of this, we should immediately set to conducting surveys and research, to formulate a Publishing Law or a Press and Publications Law for our country, and ensure that the freedom of the press provided in the Constitution is correctly implemented. The Copyright Law that is currently being drafted cannot replace a Publishing Law, because it mainly resolves copyright relationships within our country and between our country and the outside world, i.e. problems of property relationships in the area of publishing, it misters and protects the vigour from all sides through material interests, it serves the people and serves Socialism; the Publishing Law mainly resolves problems of political relationships and social relationships within our country, it benefits the political and ideological unity and capturing of the absolute majority, and the long-term maintenance of a stable and united situation.

 

如何保障宪法规定的出版自由

(一九八○年十月九日写给中共中央书记处的报告)

读了乔木同志给耀邦同志的信,深受启发。波兰事件对我们的重大意义在于要以波兰事件为殷鉴,研究我国社会内部的矛盾,制订并实行正确的政策,避免激化矛盾,达到安定团结的目的,以利于“四化”建设。

就出版工作而言,容易引起矛盾的,主要是如何正确解决出版自由的问题。

我国宪法规定公民有出版自由。建国三十年来,我们主要是强调“舆论一律”,而从来没有认真实行出版自由。后来虽有“百花齐放、百家争鸣”政策,但出版自由仍然未能妥善实行。十年动乱时期,出版自由完全成为徒托空言。去夏,随着“西单墙”和自发组织、自发刊物的出现,要求出版自由的呼声甚高,向出版部门登记出版自发刊物者甚多。近来(人大会议和政协会议以后),此种呼声和要求又有重起之势。怎么办?你不准他出版,他说你不执行宪法;你批准他出版,又怕他把刊物办成香港《七十年代》、《争鸣》之类的东西,专曝你的“内幕”、“阴暗面”,不利于安定团结。这样,反倒不易收拾。因此,一年以来我们虽反复研究,仍无良策,只好回避、拖延,承认你有出版自由,但不给你登记。这决不是长久之计。因为拖过今天,躲不了来日。总得有个对策才好。

处理这个问题的总的原则,应当是实行出版自由要有利于安定团结和教育大多数群众,孤立和打击极少数。就是说,要使大多数人的正当的出版要求得到保证,使极少数人闹不起来,即或闹一阵子,也不至于造成社会动乱。

我们初步考虑了如下的一些办法:

一、切实改善党和政府对出版工作的领导和管理,认真办好现有的出版物(刊物和图书)。对这些出版物,要放宽尺度,除了违反宪法(以及各种法律)、违反国家基本政策以及诽谤、荒诞的东西之外,都不应用行政手段限制其出版,真正做到不同思想、理论、学派都有充分发表其著作和作品的机会,使这些出版物既成为党的宣传舆论的工具,又是人民群众发扬社会主义民主和发展科学文化的园地。就是说,要通过办好这些出版物,逐步使人民群众的出版要求得到适当的满足。对有问题的出版物,要采取讨论的方法,一般不要进行行政干涉。对确有严重政治问题的出版物,必须采取行政手段时,也不要横加干涉,而要妥善处置,力求做到既能保障出版自由,又能防止流毒扩散。虽然少数人难免不满,但多数人拥护、同情就不至于失掉人心。

二、允许确有需要又有条件的部分机关、团体、学校、科研单位办出版社、办刊物(不以赢利为目的),为各方面的专业工作者和人民群众增加一些发表自己的研究、创作成果和主张的园地。这不仅有利于发展科学文化,也有利于人民内部实行和发展在思想、理论、学术上的民主。当然,实行这条又会遇到纸张短缺的困难因素。

三、在认真做好上述两方面工作的同时,有条件地允许人民群众自办出版社、自办刊物(同仁出版社、自发刊物)。我们只要掌握住两条:一、在政治上文责自负,二、在经济上自负盈亏(印刷、纸张以及其他物质条件均自行解决)。同意这两条的,准予登记。根据绝大多数人的根本利益,实行既允许又限制的政策。办得好的,在人、财、物上加以鼓励;严重违法者,适当惩罚;经营不善者,自行停刊。为了树立标兵,要有意识地给几个同仁出版社、自发刊物以支持,实行民办公助。政治上有明确要求,纸张、印刷又掌握在国家手里,能长期坚持办下去的,只能是少数。如果党和政府在执行政策和管理方面都能做到妥善无误,而办刊物或出版社的人又能顾大局、识大体,以人民利益为重,当可避免或减少造成危害。权衡利弊,比一律不准要好。

为了实行宪法规定的言论自由和出版自由,需要制订一部出版法或新闻出版法。

目前,世界各国的宪法大都写有出版自由,而多数资本主义国家和苏联东欧国家,实际上并没有或很少有出版自由。那些统治经验比较丰富、政权比较巩固的老牌资本主义国家,有一套比较完整的资产阶级民主制度,出版自由要多一些,但也是通过各种法律手段和其他办法进行限制,以有利于资产阶级的统治。社会主义制度的历史较短,我们取得全国政权后,由于工作上的失误和敌人的破坏,社会主义民主制度很不完善。出版自由的问题长期没有得到适当的解决,就是一种表现。出版方面,以波兰事件引为殷鉴,就要求我们从我国的实际情况出发,适当参考资产阶级民主的某些经验和方法,探索并逐步形成一套实行社会主义出版自由的制度。因此,应当立即着手进行调查研究,制订我国的出版法或新闻出版法,使宪法规定的出版自由得以正确地贯彻执行。现已草拟的著作权法代替不了出版法,因为它主要是解决我国内部和我国与外国的版权关系,即出版方面的财产关系问题,以从物质利益上调动和保护各方面的积极性,为人民服务,为社会主义服务;而出版法则主要是解决我国社会内部的政治关系和社会关系问题,以利于从政治上、思想上团结和争取大多数,长久保持安定团结的局面。

 

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