Participants of China’s New Citizen’s Movement, a grassroots social campaign launched by lawyer and activist Xu Zhiyong (许志永), issued a statement today objecting to Xu’s recent detention and calling for greater attention to his case.
The letter, apparently drafted by Chinese investor Wang Gongquan (王功权) and veteran journalist Xiao Shu (笑蜀) (the author of a petition earlier this year calling on China’s National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights), called the New Citizen’s Movement a “movement of social renewal and reform led by citizens themselves,” its objectives to promote constitutionalism and civil society.
“There is no amount of intimidation or bribery that can divide us,” the statement said.
A full translation follows:
Our Statement on the Xu Zhiyong Incident
We, the participants in the New Citizen’s Movement, compelled by a sense of duty, must stand up and make our views known as the initiator of the New Citizen’s Movement, Xu Zhiyong, faces detention:
1. First, we must object to [the actions of] the authorities concerned. Before he was taken into custody, Xu Zhiyong had already been under house arrest for three months, and there were no judicial procedures whatsoever involved. This is a classic example of the illegal deprivation of personal liberty. Even when [this issue] was beyond the limits of our tolerance, we continued to exercise restraint. Now, we can no longer tolerate [these actions], because our restraint was not answered by restraint on the part of the authorities. Looking back now, it seems we were complicit in the abuses of power perpetrated by the relevant authorities [in this case]. In order to protect the human rights and civil rights of Xu Zhiyong, in order to prevent authorities traveling even further down this path of error, we must say NO to this sabotage of the legal system and especially to this violation of human and civil rights by the authorities. Otherwise, we have not done our utmost to assist Xu Zhiyong and uphold our responsibility as citizens to check public power. And how then can we face our own consciences?
2. We believe the authorities are in error in placing Xu Zhiyong under house arrest and subjecting him to criminal detention. But as citizens we have the utmost respect for the law, and we hope this problem can be resolved through legal channels. We encourage the authorities to act with the fullest respect for the laws they have themselves advanced, and not to trifle with the law. To this end, it is our hope that every aspect of the Xu Zhiyong case accords with modern legal standards of fairness, openness and independence, that it not be subject to political interference or the application of any invisible rules. Xu Zhiyong’s legal rights must be protected. His lawyer’s right to act in his defense must be protected. The public’s right to know and the media’s right to free reporting must be thoroughly protected. We call on the public at this juncture to exercise the greatest possible degree of supervision of the relevant authorities, and we call on media outside China to report all aspects of this case with the utmost sense of journalistic professionalism. Attention is power; a united gaze can transform our destiny.
3. Xu Zhiyong was the initiator of the New Citizen’s Movement, but freedom and equality are defining characteristics of the New Citizen’s Movement – and though the initiator, Xu Zhiyong is only an equal participant in the New Citizen’s Movement. The New Citizen’s Movement will not lose momentum due to Xu Zhiyong’s misfortunes. We will continue to push ahead with the New Citizen’s Movement within the Constitution and the law, drawing on the fragile power we have as ordinary citizens.
4. The New Citizen’s Movement and its historic mission have two aspects. The first is political, promoting through peaceful means the transition of our country to constitutionalism. The second is social, which means promoting the modern transition of our society from a “people’s society” – in fact, a society of feudal subjects – to a civil society. The keystone of constitutionalism is the protection of human rights and the limiting of power. To this end, we have already called on the National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. And we have pressed through petition for the open declaration of property and assets held by public officials. In the arena of social reform, we have promoted equal rights in education, beginning with better access to college entrance examinations by migrant youth. We will continue to push ahead with the New Citizen’s Movement in both of these arenas. We understand that the road is long, but we will not give up our beliefs, and we will not slacken our efforts.
5. It is our firm conviction that the New Citizen’s Movement is well intentioned, not hostile – that it is constructive, not destructive. This positive and constructive attitude is something China is in most urgent need of right now. In China today it is not only the natural environment that has been recklessly destroyed. China’s social environment is being pushed to the limits of destruction and pollution, and protecting society is now of utmost urgency. The ultimate value of this positive and constructive [attitude] lies in protecting society. That is to say, the New Citizen’s Movement is a social gexin yundong, a movement of social renewal and reform led by citizens themselves. While its significance is of a revolutionary nature, it is not a traditional revolution – even less is it a Leninist-style revolution in which “the core question of revolution is the question of regime.” The goal is not political power, but rather a fuller public life [for China's citizens], fostering a citizen mentality, promoting citizen cooperation as a means of training and fostering citizenship. On the basis of this goal, we encourage more of our brothers and sisters to shake off fear, to join our ranks – beginning with ourselves, beginning now, and beginning with the exercise of citizenship in whatever space is available to us. In this way, drop-by-drop, we can push change, creating a better social environment for ourselves and for our children and grandchildren. We call especially on the authorities to desist in their suppression of the New Citizen’s Movement, because you live not only in the temples of power but also in the midst of society. Protecting our society equally concerns your interests and those of your children and grandchildren.
6. We believe we stand on the right side of history. But we also understand that our own reason has its limitations, that we cannot claim a monopoly on the truth. We believe social progress must be the product of many forces coming together, and so we respect all efforts to promote peaceful change, wherever they arise – regardless of whether they emerge from within the system, or outside of it. At the same time, we understand that we cannot be rigid in our beliefs, that we must always ask whether we have gone too far and lost sight of original intentions, or whether our goals and methods are at odds. This is why we invite the scrutiny of society, understanding that criticism is the best form of counsel. But we will never yield in the face of despotic power. Despotic power, in fact, will only steel our determination. Persecution and suffering will only galvanize our fighting spirit. We are not prophets. We are not heroes. We are not sages. We are ordinary human beings, flawed like the rest, but more than that we are citizens awakened. The decisive power of peaceful change lies with the millions of citizens who have awakened. We are content to be individuals among them, to be a part of the New Citizen Movement, to stand with Xu Zhiyong. There is no amount of intimidation or bribery that can divide us.
In the midst of Xu Zhiyong’s difficulties, this is our statement. For Xu Zhiyong, for all of our brothers and sisters, and for ourselves.
SIGNED by the following Chinese citizens:
Wang Gongquan (王功权) — Beijing, investor
Xiao Shu (笑蜀) — real name, Chen Min, Guangzhou, media professional