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Lifestyle > Culture > 90th anniversary of May 4th

Chinese youngsters pay tribute to "Mr Democracy, Mr Science" on Youth Day

2008-05-06 03:55:33 GMT2008-05-06 11:55:33 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, May 5 (Xinhua) -- On the campus of the elite Beijing University, a statue of "Mr Democracy" and "Mr Science" was quietly left unnoticed in front of a student dormitory, even on Sunday -- the Chinese Youth Day -- when the two gentlemen should be once again applauded for their great contribution to the country's development.

Sunday marked the 89th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, China's first mass student movement on May 4, 1919, and the 110th birthday of the Beijing University.

The May Fourth Movement was touched when the then Chinese government gave in to the Japanese government's attempt to colonize the eastern province of Shandong.

Political fervor, student patriotism, and iconoclastic and reformist demands gave birth to a national movement.

It was also an anti-Confucius movement as well as one that promoted Western scientific and democratic ideas. Chen Duxiu, dean of liberal arts of Beijing University and one of the pioneer thinkers in the country, personalized them into two gentlemen -- Mr. Democracy and Mr. Science.

From then on, the two "gentlemen" always walked hand in hand --or rather, marched together to guide the country's development. It was believed that only the two gentlemen could save China from poverty and backwardness.

The golden statue was composed by two letters "D" and "S" with a minor planet model put on top of the "S". It was donated by alumni to observe the denomination of the "Beijing University" minor planet on May 4, 1998 when the university celebrated its centennial birthday.

When asked about the significance of the two letters, passersby could respond confidently with events in Chinese history when democracy and science, first put forward by pioneer thinkers, began to exert an impact on Chinese society.

Zhang Shuo, an economics student with the Beijing University, said the statue was merely a symbol that was no longer needed because science and democracy has taken root in principle, and changed people's lives.

But people are still debating the meaning of the two words.

Zeng Jiakun, editor in chief of the school newspaper "Beijing University Youth", told Xinhua that the development of democratic and scientific concepts in China started from the May Fourth Movement.

"Though twists and turns always occurred in the development of democracy and science, our present achievements could well comfort our predecessors," Zeng said.

Gao Ming, a finance student of the university, said the real situation of China should be considered in the promotion of science and democracy.

"Democracy was put forward to fight feudalism in the 1910s and science was to oppose backward culture. Certainly, the science and democracy we uphold now should be abreast of the times," said Gao.

Zhu Xueqin, one of the first three migrant workers to have been elected deputies to the National People's Congress, the national legislature, said she was "an eyewitness of the progress of Chinese democracy".

Zhu represented 210 million Chinese migrant workers, deliberating the government work report, delivering speeches and casting ballots in the Great Hall of the People when the parliament convened here in March.

The 31-year-old was formerly a villager in east China's Jiangsu Province. With only a high school diploma, she went to Shanghai in1995 to seek better job opportunities. Now she is vice chairwoman for the trade union of a noted Shanghai-based fashion company.

Zhu believed democracy and science changed her fate.

Liu Yunxian, professor with the China Executive Leadership Academy in Shanghai's Pudong District, told Xinhua that scientific and democratic spirit had far-reaching influence on the entire modernization of China.

First and foremost, the mainstream ideology was scientific and the mode of development became more scientific as economic construction advanced, Liu said.

He added that democracy was put forward to oppose autocracy at that time but the current democracy was to give more rights to citizens.

"The development of individual rights and freedom, as well as the progress of democracy in China, has been evident since 1978," Liu said, adding that the 17th Party Congress last year proposed adopting a tenure system for Party congress delegates and select cities or counties as pilot areas to turn local parliaments into permanent organs so as to expand intra-Party democracy

He said the grassroots democracy was being improved and the government administration was becoming more transparent.

Ding Dong, a Chinese philosophy graduate of the Beijing University, said democracy would become "an empty word" if it was severed from a nation's real condition.

"The spirit of science and democracy has been further continued in the mind of today's young people who were told to always seek truth from facts, respect science and explore truth," Ding said.

School newspaper editor-in-chief Zeng cited the example of the overseas leg of the current Olympic torch relay. "Although the torch relay met with an unpleasant experience in some countries , Chinese youths expressed their patriotism in an orderly and rational way, which was also a display of democratic spirit," Zeng said.

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