Long and peaceful evolution needed to achieve Western values, says activist
'No. I don't want to overthrow the Communist Party in China,' He Qingquan said, a few hours before catching a flight to Canada.
A pro-democracy activist like thousands of other university students of his generation, He, who now holds licences to practise law in China and in Canada, said conditions are not yet ripe for judicial independence in the former.
'Like it or not, completely doing away with control [over the judicial system] by the Communist Party won't necessarily let us have a better world to live in,' he said.
He (pictured) said he had seen graduates straight out of university made judges and they had heard marriage disputes before they were old enough to get married themselves.
He said he had also seen people appointed judges just because they had once been close associates of a local justice official, 'like serving as their secretaries and chauffeurs'.
Such people did not have the slightest sense of honour in their job, He said.
'Once you let them have independence, they can only exploit the citizens even more, and make a mess of the entire legal system,' he said.
So has his dream of a democratic mainland died? Has he forgotten his youth, when he was detained during a university students' march in central Beijing in 1987, and investigated again for his part in the protest movement in 1989?
'No,' He said sombrely. 'I still follow Chinese politics. I said what I said because I have given some intense thought to China.'
He said China could not achieve Western standards of democracy, rule of law, freedom and human rights by waging a revolution every generation.
The West developed through building and rebuilding over centuries, dating back to Roman times and beyond, he said.
He said he learned at his Canadian law school that those values are 'not just things'.
'And every one of them is thoroughly analysed, meticulously debated, and developed in every possible aspect,' he said.
Nor would they come to China just as things, or quickly as the result of regime change.
'They won't. They will never come to stay until we make them part of our valued tradition,' he said.
Those seeking a clean break with the past risked losing what freedoms they had to a centralised power that could be more brutal and reckless.
'There is no point knocking down the house if you hate the interior work,' He said. 'Why do we still want to do it - now that China has already experienced so much through the 20th century?'
He said he is now more confident about China's future.
'My father is a farmer in central China's mountains,' he said. 'He is over 70. He always says to me we are fortunate that for the last 60 years, we haven't had a civil war in this country.
'For me, for all its past major social experiments, and ups and downs, the fact that China can still manage to have one-fifth of the world's population living under its roof is already a feat.'
At the same time, protests, debates and diverse opinions are all normal and good things to have.
'They help citizens define their rights,' he said. 'And that's the way every society builds its traditions.'