How people treat their enemies is an indicator of how civilized they are.
The circumstances surrounding the execution of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s uncle and political regent Jang Song-thaek have shocked the world. Jang was arrested at a public event, tortured, and then condemned and labeled a traitor in the harshest language.
None of the condemnations were made in legal terminology, nor was there a judge to issue a verdict before he was reportedly mowed down with 90 bullets from a machine gun several days later.
Official North Korean media outlets destroyed Jang’s files, to eradicate evidence that he had existed, leaving North Koreans with nothing but fear of the country’s dictatorship.
Kim’s cruel purge frightened his nation’s people and his enemies, and also unsettled the international community. Is there anything that this kind of person is not prepared to do? North Koreans seem to follow their leader, but they are probably in a state of terror; officials are filled with apprehension and wondering if they are next; the international community seems incapable of stopping Kim from acquiring nuclear weapons; and even China, North Korea’s only supporter, appears to be furious over the execution. Kim may have executed a political enemy, but he has also left himself with no support.
China and North Korea are two of the world’s last communist dictatorships, but the Chinese and the North Korean communist parties are very different from each other. North Korean leadership is inherited and focuses on blood relations, while the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) focuses on collective leadership. At least the law is followed to some extent in CCP power struggles. The verdict of former Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙來), for example, was highly political, but more than half a year was spent on his trial. However, in North Korea, all that is needed is for Kim to give an order, and his No. 2 man is disgraced and executed.
Several investigations and purges of top political leaders have taken place in China. In the past there was an unwritten rule that no one in the politburo could be prosecuted, and that none of their children could be charged with an offense. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has not followed this rule. What Zhou Yongkang (周永康), the first member of the politburo to be forced to follow the new “double rule” — to explain the details of a case at a specified time and at a specified location — is guilty of is known only to the CCP’s top leaders. Different media outlets say that he was involved in an attempted coup, that he tried to poison Xi, that his corruption had earned him tens of billions of yuan, that he kept women and that he violated human rights. In short, there was nothing he would not do. Zhou’s wife and son have been put under house arrest. One media outlet reported that CCP Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Xu Caihou (徐才厚) has also been forced to follow the double rule regulations because he was riding roughshod over the military. This is a typical example of how it is necessary to malign someone in the media or through rumor-mongering before it is possible to take them down.
Political purges are clearly conducted in a more civilized manner in China than in North Korea. That power struggles in communist countries can be seen from democratic Taiwan is not a reason to celebrate, because former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has already been in prison for five years. Despite illness and surgery, he will remain in prison. Taiwan may be a more civilized place than both China and North Korea, but it still has a long way to go.