Retired professor who called Xi Jinping ‘mafia boss’ expelled from Party

Domestic News

The Chinese Communist Party has expelled an insider and granddaughter of a revolutionary after she called top leader Xi Jinping a “mafia boss.”

cai xia
Illustration by Derek Zheng

Cài Xiá 蔡霞 is “the granddaughter of a revolutionary fighter [who] taught for four decades” at the Central Party School of the Chinese Communist Party, a finishing school for promising cadres. She was expelled from the Party and had her retirement benefits cut, Reuters reported yesterday.

Her excommunication came after an audio recording of her calling top leader Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 a “mafia boss” and the Party a “political zombie” was leaked to the internet in June this year.

  • In the leaked audio, Cai especially criticizes the 2018 constitutional amendment that removed term limits for the presidency, which means Xi is now allowed to rule for life.
  • She calls on the Politburo Standing Committee — the seven most senior officials in the Party, of which Xi is one — to “meet to make a resolution, and just change the person in power.”
  • The Central Party School announced her punishment (in Chinese) on its website, accusing Cai of making “remarks that had serious political problems and damaged the country’s reputation.”
  • Cai has been in the U.S. for several months, and does not plan to return to China, according to Jane Tang of Radio Free Asia.

Cai is not new to controversy:

  • In 2013, she published an essay advocating constitutional democracy after a newspaper editorial advocating constitutional government was censored by Party authorities.
  • In that same year, she criticized the government for arresting entrepreneur and blogger Charles Xue (薛蛮子 Xuē Mánzǐ) for soliciting a prostitute, noting that “the relationship between the prostitute and man who solicited her was a private transaction that is not within the scope of the law,” and that Xue’s arrest was part of a campaign by the government to silence critical voices on social media.  
  • In 2016, she defended (in Chinese) real estate tycoon Rén Zhìqiáng 任志強 after he was removed from Chinese social media for writing posts critical of the authorities.
  • Also in that year, she rebuked a Beijing court (in Chinese) after it declined to press charges against police officers implicated in the death of Léi Yáng 雷洋, a Chinese environmentalist who died after being arrested.

What does Cai’s punishment mean?

In the introduction to the translation of Cai’s 2013 essay on constitutional democracy, translators Timothy Cheek, Joshua A. Fogel, and David Ownby write: “it is clear from this essay and its continuing availability on the Chinese internet, as well as Cai Xia’s ongoing public life, that such thought is thinkable and such speech is possible without reprisal.”

After eight years of Xi Jinping’s rule, this is clearly no longer the case. You either put up with Xi and shut up, or you get disappeared, or you get out of China. There is no room for any kind of dissent anymore, not even from well-connected Party insiders.  

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