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Liu Xiaobo: Walking the Path of Kang Youwei, Spilling His Blood Like Tan Sitong

Wang Dan, July 20, 2017

“Liu Xiaobo’s death also lays bare a reality we sometimes are reluctant to acknowledge: even the most moderate position, so long as it is premised on constitutional democracy, cannot be accepted by the Chinese Communist Party.”

 

Liu Xiaobo in 1989

 

 

When I heard that Liu Xiaobo had died, I quickly posted the news on Facebook. So many online friends shared their condolences. One message among them struck me as particularly incisive and worthy of our consideration — this friend said that Liu Xiaobo “walked the path of Kang Youwei (康有为), and spilled his blood like Tan Sitong (谭嗣同).”

Of course, to say that Liu Xiaobo “walked the path of Kang Youwei” is not to say that Liu advocated for constitutional monarchy, but rather that his political position and basic viewpoint were actually quite moderate, just as were those of Kang Youwei in his day. Liu Xiaobo never called for revolution, to the point that he maintained “I have no enemies.” But like Tan Sitong, Liu came to a violent end: persecuted to death for the sake of advancing reform. Sometimes, history does repeat itself.

But Liu Xiaobo’s death also lays bare a reality we sometimes are reluctant to acknowledge: even the most moderate position, so long as it is premised on constitutional democracy, cannot be accepted by the Chinese Communist Party. No matter how moderate the view, no matter how much goodwill its proponents convey, to the CCP he is an “enemy of the state” and must be eliminated as soon as possible. Within and without the system, from former General Secretary Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) to the dissident Liu Xiaobo, it has always been thus.

What does this tell us? It tells us that all those who abide in the hope that the CCP will initiate political reform, all those who believe that the CCP will move toward democracy once a certain stage of economic development has been reached, all those who wait on the chance that Xi Jinping will turn out to be an enlightened autocrat—are all wrong, naive, even ignorant. Liu Xiaobo’s death has proven this once again.

This point has profound implications as to whether China’s future transition will bode well for its neighbors and for the world. If China’s ruling party is willing to permit moderate opposition, the transition may be smooth and peaceful; but if the CCP cannot even admit moderate opposition like Liu Xiaobo’s, then the only option is to break away from the moderates, and for hatred to accumulate in society.

If the path to reform is cut off, China will be left with opposition between state and society, and the only way out will be bloody revolution. We certainly don’t want this, but once it happens, China will inevitably plunge into chaos, and that internal chaos will impact neighboring countries and the whole world. This is the profound fear that Liu Xiaobo’s death has given us.

No doubt Liu Xiaobo’s horrific end is the result of the CCP’s total lack of humanity. But as New York University Law Professor Jerome Cohen has pointed out, Western countries are increasingly indifferent to human rights in China, so much so that they have nearly abandoned the issue. This conniving and appeasement is also to blame. Liu Xiaobo’s death will reverberate throughout the international community, emboldening the call to reckon with its policy towards the human rights of the Chinese people. The tragic death of a Nobel Peace laureate, we hope, will prompt those parties and politicians who have cozied back up to China to rethink their relationship.

In other words, Liu Xiaobo’s passing could become a turning point in China’s rise: the CCP, which continues to buy global support with the image of rapid economic growth, must bear the burden of Liu Xiaobo’s death for a long time to come. It will deal a blow to that image and an immense setback for the CCP’s arrogance. We will be glad to see this change, but the price we paid for it was Liu Xiaobo’s life. It is a tragedy of our time.

With his life, with his final breath, Liu Xiaobo gave us this truth—the CPP is the new Nazi Party. I hope this will make the world think.

 

 

TAIWAN-HONGKONG-CHINA-DEMOCRACY-POLITICSWang Dan (王丹) is a leader of the Chinese democracy movement, and was one of the most visible student leaders during the Tiananmen protests in 1989. He holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and has been teaching in Taiwan until recently.

 

 

 


More articles on the passing of Liu Xiaobo:

Liu Xiaobo: The Founder of China’s Political Opposition Movements, Wu Qiang, June 30, 2017.

The Path Forward in the Wake of Liu Xiaobo’s Passing, Yaxue Cao, July 16, 2017.

As Liu Xiaobo Dies in Isolation, It’s Time to Abandon ‘Quiet Diplomacy’, Chang Ping, July 18, 2017.

 


Translated from Chinese by China Change.

 

 

 

 

As Liu Xiaobo Dies in Isolation, It’s Time to Abandon ‘Quiet Diplomacy’

By Chang Ping, July 18, 2017

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a welcome ceremony for Chinese panda bears Meng Meng and Jiao Qing at the Zoo in Berlin

While Liu Xiaobo lay dying in China, the jolly “panda diplomacy” unfolded in Berlin.  Photo:  REUTERS

 

On July 7, the German professor Markus W Büchler, Chairman of the Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg, traveled to Shenyang to take part in diagnosing the condition of Liu Xiaobo. Media reports noted that it was the first time in almost a decade that Liu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, had seen a foreigner. When I read this line I felt full of grief. The visit of a doctor isn’t anything like that of a friend calling in. Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned for his speech and thought, and apart from the small number of family members who’ve long been under house arrest, no one has been able to see him for all these years. Until he got late-stage liver cancer, when his days on earth were numbered, the only people he was able to see — apart from the doctors, nurses, and a few family members — were the police who had been ordered to keep him under close guard. On July 13, he left the world completely cut off from it.

A group of 154 Nobel Prize laureates signed a joint statement hoping that the Chinese authorities would let Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia freely see their family, and that Liu be allowed to receive treatment anywhere he wished. UN human rights officials, politicians from around the world, human rights organizations and numerous Chinese citizens have said the same thing. The Chinese government pretends they don’t hear it — like a black hole that swallows everything that enters.

While silencing dissidents and shutting up their supporters, the Chinese government has also started projecting its voice on the international scene. Xi Jinping has been more assertive and bolder than any previous leader in boasting in international fora; Chinese state media has even suggested that he’s going to point toward the future direction of mankind. Buying up media, suppressing foreign journalists, and changing global public opinion have become the Chinese government’s undisguised combat strategies. Angela Merkel is content to chat with Xi Jinping for a long while about pandas at the zoo, but when it comes to a dying Liu Xiaobo, she won’t say a word in public. It’s clearly not that she doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care for Liu Xiaobo, but that she’s being stifled by the Chinese government.

Publicly humiliate the Communist Party, or let the Party publicly humiliate you?

Last week, the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) held a hearing on human rights conditions in China, which included the remarks of Terence Halliday, co-director of the Center on Law & Globalization at the American Bar Foundation. Halliday said that “At this moment from our longstanding research I have no doubt that when the world speaks out loud and publicly, China listens. China has a very thin skin” (video, 1’33”).  Some may see this as publicly shaming to China — but in fact, it’s the Communist Party that has been shaming human rights and democracy. The most Western nations can do is stop or lessen this dishonor.

Would publicly criticizing China have any use? Some would defend Merkel’s failure to publicly mention Liu Xiaobo — that she is making a compromise and getting things done in a low-key manner. Whether it’s getting the Nobel Peace Prize laureate on the brink of death released, or changing China’s authoritarian political system, many people think that “private dialogue” is the most effective path. They even suppose that public pressure will have the opposite of the result intended. Over the past twenty years, the European Union has been holding dialogues on human rights with China quietly, and it is termed “quiet diplomacy.”

But in fact, those who are provided succor are those who have been reported on in the media the most — those who make dictators truly feel the pressure of international public opinion. There are countless unknown victims who have received no lenience since they are so “low key.” In fact, they’re often subject to the most cruel and brutal treatment.

This is not limited to only individual cases. The German scholar Katrin Kinzelbach’s 2014 book “The EU’s Human Rights Dialogue with China: Quiet Diplomacy and its Limits,” traced the development of the EU’s rights dialogue with China from its founding in 1995 until 2010, relying on internal memoranda, a vast array of documents, and extensive interviews with officials from over 20 member states. She spoke with former chairpersons of the dialogue committees and traced the institutional changes in the process. The conclusion of her research was that “quiet diplomacy” exerts almost no positive impact at all on human rights in China. Not only did the dialogue fail to achieve the hoped-for outcome, but it led to the Chinese government holding human rights in more contempt, turning the dialogue into a perfunctory affair and an occasion for them to rebut all questions, criticisms, and suggestions.

China points the world in a dark direction

Two weeks ago Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Initiatives for China, International Campaign for Tibet, Human Rights in China, International Society for Human Rights, and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) made a joint statement calling on the European Union to suspend human rights dialogues with China. Their reasoning was that this sort of quiet diplomacy, on a particularly low-level this year, hasn’t improved the circumstances of China’s human rights in China, but instead has become a shield for the EU to avoid a thorny issue.

In her book, Kinzelbach writes that the “quiet diplomacy” strategy of human rights dialogues has shown itself to be weak and ineffectual, and that the only effective policy that Europe had on the issue was the prohibition of weapons sales to China after the June 4 massacre. If it wants to change human rights in China, the EU needs to summon up the courage, truly persevere, and support the immense significance of the human rights cause.

When politicians are laughing together about how cute the pandas are, and silent and unmoved while China’s most prominent dissident is dying in isolation, perhaps what China’s official propaganda mouthpieces have said is entirely accurate: In fact, Xi Jinping is pointing to a new direction for mankind, that is, abandoning the painful development of a political culture that safeguards human rights, democracy and liberty, and instead focusing on success in advanced economics and high technology, establishing an even more barbaric, darker, and despicable society that operates according to the law of the jungle.

 

 

长平Chang Ping is a Chinese media veteran and current events commentator now living in political exile in Germany.

 

 

 

 


Related:

The Path Forward in the Wake of Liu Xiaobo’s Passing, Yaxue Cao, July 16, 2017.

Liu Xiaobo: The Founder of China’s Political Opposition Movements, Wu Qiang, June 30, 2017.

 

Also by Chang Ping:

One Belt, One Road, Total Corruption, May 18, 2017.

China’s ‘Freedom’ Cage, by Chang Ping, 2015.

We’d Be Satisfied With Any Government!, October, 2015.

Chinese Students Studying Abroad a New Focus of CCP’s “United Front Work” , June, 2015.

Tiananmen Massacre not a “Passing Lapse” of the Chinese Government, July, 2014.

 

A China Change interview with Chang Ping:

The Fate of Press Freedom in China’s Era of ‘Reform and Opening up’:  An Interview With Chang Ping, December 15, 2016

 

 

 

 

The Path Forward in the Wake of Liu Xiaobo’s Passing

Yaxue Cao, July 16, 2017

 

Liu Xiaobo_08 gathering

Sanwei Bookstore, May 18, 2008, Beijing. Photo: http://woeser.middle-way.net/2010/12/blog-post_09.html

 

 

It was heartbreaking and depressing recently to watch the community of Chinese activists and dissidents, especially friends of Liu Xiaobo, congregating on WhatsApp and frantically thinking of ways to save him. The appeals and statements, and the calls for signatures from a dozen or so sources, sounded like echoes bouncing off the walls that Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia were trapped behind. For China’s opposition movement, the passing of Liu Xiaobo feels like the climax of a continuous and ruthless campaign of elimination. Now, people are left to pick up the pieces, and they will need time.

I have been pointing out that over the past few years, starting from the now benign-looking crackdown on the New Citizens Movement in 2013, the Party has been carrying out a what I call “targeted elimination” of key activists, dissidents, and intellectuals across the country. In Guangdong, they imprisoned Guo Feixiong, Tang Jingling, and those pesky grassroots street demonstrators. In Wuhan, they put a few key activists in jail; the same was done in Suzhou and Shenzhen. In Xinyu, Jiangxi, they jailed Liu Ping and her small cohort. In Zhengzhou, a nascent, bustling citizen network used to gather frequently — but no more. In Beijing, Xu Zhiyong and key activists in the New Citizens Movement were sentenced, and prominent lawyers such as Pu Zhiqiang, as well as influential intellectuals, have been taken out one way or the other. The Sakharov laureate Hu Jia spent much of the year under house arrest in his Beijing home. Then in 2015, there was the consummate 709 Crackdown that targeted no fewer than 300 human rights lawyers and activists across the country. I can go on with the list, but you get the picture.

Those considered less than “leaders” have been chased around, driven out of their rentals, and subjected to all manner of harassment. Liberal commentators, journalists, and intellectuals have mostly stopped writing, because it has become too dangerous to analyze and reflect on the current conditions and the behavior of the government. Well, even if they write, their writings won’t survive anywhere inside China’s system of omnipresent censorship.   

Come to think about it, that this calculated elimination should have come to Liu Xiaobo, China’s Nobel Peace laureate, is only inevitable: how could the Party allow him to walk out of prison in 2020 and instantly become a Mandela or an Aung San Suu Kyi for China’s struggle toward democracy?

With Liu Xiaobo gone, the mood among activists is one of helplessness. I’m surprised how little argument over the statement “I have no enemies” there has been these days, and indeed, how it ceased to be relevant, while Liu Xiaobo lay dying, for it is unbearable, and preposterous, to bring back to mind its central  proposal: “to counter the regime’s hostility with utmost goodwill, and to dispel hatred with love.” This statement used to be a lightening rod that sparked heated discussion. If Charter 08 represents a vision of China peacefully transitioning to a democracy, few today think it a viable option.  

I was certain from the beginning that foreign governments — the United States and Germany in particular — were not going to do enough to make Liu Xiaobo’s last wish come true: “If I were to die, I’d rather die in the West” (as he said, via Liao Yiwu).  They don’t care enough; they are absent-minded; they almost always underestimate the evil of the Chinese Communist Party; and they don’t know what it takes to get the upper hand with the CCP.  

I find it particularly grievous that Liu Xiaobo’s close friends were denied a last chance to see him and say goodbye, despite their repeated and heartfelt pleas on humanitarian grounds. They’d have a much better chance entreating humanity from a pack of coyotes. Rubbing salt in the wound, plainclothes agents then played the role of “family and friends” at Liu Xiaobo’s memorial service.

Altogether, I feel that dying and being dead in the Party’s filthy hands is so ignominious that Liu Xiaobo would have been more dignified dying alone in a dungeon somewhere.

What is the path forward? What’s going to happen next in the struggle for democracy? The path forward is that there is no path forward. The Party has been working systematically to block that path: The elimination of key activists has been successful, and they are either in prison or have been rendered ineffective. To keep tabs on a few hundred or thousand activists is nothing for the Party. If you run down the list of the first batch of Charter 08 signatories —  all 303 of them — and see where they are and what they have been doing now, you get a sense how this core group of Chinese citizens advocating change has been faring.

Meanwhile, the Party has been working overtime to cage in and lock down incipient civil society in China — an aspiration that has grown out of the economic and social transformations since the 1990s — by passing one draconian law after another from late 2014 to the present. This includes the law on the management of foreign NGOs, the National Security Law, the Internet Security Law, the revised Criminal Law, the Charity Law, the Counter-Terrorism Law, the counter-espionage law, and more recently, the draft Intelligence Law.  

On July 15, Liu Xiaobo’s ashes were given a sea burial off the coast of Dalian and his widow and relatives had their arms twisted to obey the Party’s orders. Since then, a Chinese phrase, “crush the bones and toss the ashes” (挫骨扬灰), has sprung to the mind of many as the most apt description for the Party’s animus. It means that one is so hated that his bones must be ground up and his ashes cast away. Applying it to Liu Xiaobo, it is at the same time literal and true of the Party’s fear of both the man and what he symbolized.

Liu Xiaobo may not have enemies, but the despots in China know very well who their enemies are.

 

 

Yaxue Cao edits this website. Follow her on Twitter @yaxuecao

 


 

 

 

 

 

Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars: A Statement on the Death of Mr. Liu Xiaobo

July 15, 2017

 

“This was a long and public slaughter.”

 

Today, Xiaobo is gone. Xiaobo, our teacher, our classmate, is gone. The courageous man who protected others’ lives at the scene of the Tiananmen massacre has perished, and the beautiful soul behind Charter 08 has passed away.

Xiaobo was a writer, a scholar, a sage, but even more he was a man who acted on his word. He is the unforgettable dark horse in literary circles. His words radiate with rational brilliance; he sacrificed his frail body for Tiananmen; he used pen and ink to calmly write his beautiful freedom-seeking articles. Years of purgatory did not change his ideas. He said at the devil’s court—I have no enemies.

Xiaobo had no enemies. But the illegitimate Chinese communist regime that murdered him sees him as an enemy. Lengthy imprisonment destroyed him physically, and the kidnapping of his family tormented him mentally. Xiaobo is gone. He is gone in solitude; he is gone in the gaze of the world. This was a long and public slaughter. This was a shameless revelry by the despotic rulers.

However, the thieves with sharp fangs and claws were fearful of the unarmed Xiaobo. They dare not demolish the cage that besieged him; they dare not speak his name aloud; they even dare not to allow him a plot for a tomb. They thought the ashes of the dead being scattered into the sea is equal to being totally crushed. But what they don’t know is that in every drop of spray blown from the crests of waves is his reflection.

Xiaobo said: “I look forward to my country being a land of free expression, where different values, ideas, beliefs and political opinions… can compete and peacefully coexist.” “I hope to be China’s last victim for the crime of free thought.” This is the poem of a martyr who died for his ideals, as well as the prayer of scholars like us.

Xiaobo is gone, but the tyrants remain. As long as we live, we will not stop resisting. Xiaobo, we will always remember your name, for your dream is ours too.

 

 


The Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars (IFCSS) was founded on August 1, 1989, when over 1000 Chinese student representatives from more than 200 major U.S. universities held their First Congress of Chinese Students and Scholars in USA at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The mission of IFCSS was to promote democracy in China and to protect the interests of the Chinese students and scholars studying in the United States, as a response to Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Since its birth, IFCSS had become one of the most influential overseas Chinese students groups in history. It had lobbied successfully in U.S. Congress, organized the well-known “Washington March for Chinese Democracy” in 1989, and united tens of thousands of Chinese students together for many years since 1989. However, its relevance and importance have been declining for years, even though some of its members continues to organize Memorials for the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in Washington D. C. every year, and provides financial assistance to Tiananmen victims on a regular basis.

 

 

 

 

New Citizens Movement Leader Xu Zhiyong Released From Prison

China Change, July 15, 2017

 

 
Xu zhiyongDr. Xu Zhiyong (许志永), leader of the New Citizens Movement, was released from prison on July 15, after serving a 4-year sentence.

Xu Zhiyong’s defense lawyer Zhang Qingfang (张庆方) confirmed that Dr. Xu has returned home in Beijing. He was picked up earlier by the security police, a source said.

Yesterday, scores of citizens traveled to the vicinity of Kenhua Prison in Ninghe District in Tianjin where Xu Zhiyong had been imprisoned since he was sentenced in February 2014. Dr. Xu, 44 years old, is a legal scholar and the founder of Gongmeng, a civil society group that pioneered China’s “rights defense movement” and in recent years campaigned for equal education rights for migrant workers’ children in large cities, and engaged in citizen activism under the banner “Freedom, Justice, and Love.”

The crackdown on the New Citizens Movement began in April 2013. Xu Zhiyong was arrested in July 2013.

FullSizeRender

Dr. Xu Zhiyong’s essays were published last fall,  “highly recommended” by the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Friends who tried to visit Xu this morning were blocked by three plainclothes security agents at the entrance of his residential compound. It’s unclear whether Dr. Xu will be placed under some kind of restriction in his movement and communications — illegal but common practices used by the Chinese government against leading dissidents.

Yesterday, activists who went to the prison to welcome Dr. Xu found that the roads around the prison were closed, allowing only inbound traffic. During the night, police raided the guest rooms of the activists. On the morning of the 15th, police stopped activists approaching the prison, telling them that Xu Zhiyong had been released already.

On July 13, Liu Xiaobo, the founder of China’s political opposition movements and the only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate in the world, died in custody from liver cancer, marking, some say, the end of an era and with it the hope of a gradual transition to democracy in China.

Dr. Xu is a leader of the younger generation of Chinese activists; he returns, four years later, to a much harsher environment for political opposition.

 

 


Related:

The China Manifesto – detained activist Xu Zhiyong calls for end to ‘barbaric’ one party rule, The Telegraph, January 23, 2014.

Who Is Xu Zhiyong — An Interview with Dr. Teng Biao, Part One, April 10, 2014.

Who Is Xu Zhiyong — An Interview with Dr. Teng Biao, Part Two, April 13, 2014.

 

 

 

 

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group: Statement Upon the 2nd Anniversary of the 709 Incident

The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, July 9, 2017

 

In the early hours of the morning on July 9, 2015, the Beijing-based lawyer Wang Yu and her husband and son, Bao Longjun (包龙军) and Bao Zhuoxuan (包卓轩), were suddenly illegally arrested by the police. Before long, Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), Li Heping (李和平), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋), Xie Yang (谢阳), Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Li Chunfu (李春富), Xie Yuandong (谢远东), Liu Sixin (刘四新), Gao Yue (高月), Zhao Wei (赵威), Li Shuyun (李姝云) and dozens of other lawyers and their assistants were also arrested. At around the same time, Wu Gan (吴淦 known online as “The Butcher”), an activist who was in Nanchang protesting the Jiangxi High Court’s refusal to allow a lawyer to examine the case files surrounding the “Leping Wrongful Imprisonment” case, was arrested, along with Li Yanjun (李燕军), Liu Xing (刘星), Zhai Yanmin (翟岩民), Wang Su’e (王素娥), and others, a total of 17 citizen activists in Weifang, Shandong Province. This was a prelude to the mass arrests of the July 9 sweep. Later, there were also the arrests, one after another, of Hu Shigen (胡石根), Gou Hongguo (勾洪国), Wang Fang (王芳), Yin Xu’an (尹旭安) and other rights defenders. After July 9, over 360 lawyers and citizens around the country were summoned and subjected to coercive, high-pressure interrogations. The family members of lawyers and rights activists were also implicated and subjected to constant threats and intimidation. About 40 lawyers were prevented from leaving China.

This campaign of mass arrests of lawyers began on July 9, 2015, and so is known as the “709 Incident.” After it began, those detained have for the most part been disappeared — held in secret detention (officially known as “residential surveillance at a designated place”). In January 2016, when the term of “residential surveillance at a designated place” expired, the majority of the lawyers were then formally arrested on the criminal charge of subverting, or inciting subversion of, state power. The authorities attempted to forcibly sever the legal contracts between those arrested and their own lawyers and then, entirely exceeding any legitimate power they held, assigned lawyers they controlled to the cases. In early August 2016, the Tianjin Second Intermediate Court began rapidly prosecuting and pronouncing pro forma sentences against Hu Shigen, Zhou Shifeng, Gou Hongguo, and Zhai Yanmin on charges of “subversion of state power.” The four were given prison sentences of between three and seven years. In November 2016 lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), who had been working indefatigably to try to rescue the 709 detainees, was himself put under secret detention in the Changsha 1st Detention Center.

Separately, beginning in September 2016, but particularly from February to May 2017, mass arrests of citizens in Shenzhen began. Those targeted included Gu Yimin (顾义民), Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Lu Guoying (陆国英), Hu Cheng (胡诚), Wang Jun (王军), Ding Yan (丁岩), Ma Zhiquan (马志权), Li Nanhai (李南海) and others. Their arrests was said to have been connected with their advocacy on behalf of 709 victims — a continuation and escalation of the campaign.

In January 2017, lawyer Li Chunfu (李春富) was released on probation. The long-term torture and abuse he was subjected to in custody, however, left him mentally broken. Only through the care, company, and guidance of his family did he gradually begin returning to health. Xie Yang’s lawyer Chen Jiangang (陈建刚), after visiting him in custody, published the inside details of the extreme torture that Xie Yang was subjected to. In April 2017, Li Heping (李和平) was given a suspended sentence for “subversion of state power”; when he returned home, his face was thin and pallid. He explained that he had suffered systematic, long-term psychological and physical torture in custody. The Chinese phrase “nine deaths and still alive” (九死一生) would describe it. In May 2017, Xie Yang was released on probation. When in the detention center, Wu Gan wrote a letter of complaint against the authorities, describing the torture he was put through. Nothing at all has been heard from Wang Quanzhang since his arrest two years ago; the lawyers hired by his family have yet to see him, and no one knows whether he’s even dead or alive.

In the post 709 Crackdown period, some people believe that the community of human rights lawyers had been dealt with a destructive blow. Some have been delighted at that prospect, some withdrew, and others have changed course. The 709 incident itself, however, has become the occasion for a number of human rights lawyers to shine through. Those who stuck through when besieged with crisis and danger on all sides are benchmarks for legal professionals in China — they’re the group who most care, most pursue, and are most willing to exert themselves for freedom, democracy, rule of law, fairness, and justice in China.

The 709 incident has also revealed a number of legal scholars and professionals, both embedded in the state system and outside it, who wear the garb of “men of the law” but who in fact trample the rule of law, helping to suppress democracy activists, and who hamper China’s democratization. Doing so, they’ve now become obstacles, trying to block up the wheels of history’s progress. Among them are some “experts,” “professors,” and “scholars” who, in their ivory tower, act like kept propagandists for those in power, defending the Party’s anti-democratic, anti-liberty, and anti-rule of law behavior. They sell out their consciences for money; they’ve abandoned the basic ethics of human beings, and they’re simply washing up after the evildoers. There are also a group of official lawyers who work at the command of the security apparatus. They too cloak themselves as “men of the law,” but the role they play is that of the stability maintenance agent, defending those trampling on the rule of law. History will testify the truth about them, and their names will put to shame in the course of China’s democratization.

History will also remember another group of people from the 709 incident: the family members of 709 victims. Especially the wives of Li Heping, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yang, Xie Yanyi, Gou Hongguo, Zhai Yanmin and others. Their images of carrying bright red buckets with names of their husbands  impressed all of us. The work of these wives on behalf of their husbands persisted throughout the 709 crackdown.

The 709 incident was a premeditated, large-scale, coordinated attack by the authorities on the human rights defense movement, the most severe over the last several years. The daily withering of civil society in China under such repression is a fact — but as long as there are abuses of human rights, human rights lawyers will not be absent. We believe that those who’ve been through the 709 test won’t give up on defending human rights. Instead, they will more tenaciously, wisely, and fearlessly assume the mission that the era demands of them.

The 709 incident shows that when the ignorant and powerful come to confront human rights defenders, they act without mercy or feeling or any restraint. The forced confessions they extract simply reflect their apprehension and guilty conscience in the face of the law, and in the face of a citizenry that is waking up every day. They desperately need human rights lawyers to acknowledge allegiance and openly confess guilt so they can then use that to further repress the rest of the citizenry.

The international community, lawyers, the family members of victims, citizens, and people of conscience throughout society, have always been supporters of 709 victims. Those ensnared by the 709 crackdown have borne witness to the false promise of the rule of law in China with their suffering. The awakening of citizen consciousness and the development of civil society are inevitable parts of the road to a modern democratic civilization; lawyers are a crucial force on this path toward the rule of law. They should not become the targets of attack, elimination, and persecution.

The human rights lawyers who have been arrested are not the troublemakers in Chinese society, but instead the people who seek out solutions. They assume it upon themselves, and they summon up their own courage, to put the questions that plague Chinese society on the table and hope for a lawful path to their resolution. History makes clear that liberty, democracy, and the rule of law don’t fall from the sky; those in power won’t limit it of their own accord, nor will they proactively let go of their own vested interests. Using the law to resist, to strive for freedom, promote democracy, and realize the rule of law is an effective path. In this process, the sacrifices and exertions of the resistors are worth it.

Upon the second anniversary of the 709 incident, we thank the attention of everyone on the 709 incident, and we thank everyone who has worked to free the persecuted. We won’t be discouraged; we’ll continue striving to defend human rights. We hope that everyone continues to pay attention to the cases of Wang Quanzhang, Jiang Tianyong, and Wu Gan, among others. We also express our concern over the condition of Liu Xiaobo. Constitutional democracy has not yet been realized, and citizens must continue to strive. Before the arrival of dawn, there will be harsher suppression and worse persecution, but they will not stop the sun from rising, and the light of constitutional democracy will radiate everywhere in China and heal this wounded land.

 

July 9, 2017

 
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The China Human Rights Lawyers Group was founded on September 13, 2013. It is an open platform for cooperation. Since its founding, members of the group have worked together to protect human rights and promote the rule of law in China through issuing joint statements and representing human rights cases. Any Chinese lawyer who shares our human rights principles and is willing to defend the basic rights of citizens is welcome to join. We look forward to working with you.

Chang Boyang (常伯阳) 18837183338
Liu Shihui (刘士辉) 18516638964
Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) 18639228639
Tang Ji Tian (唐吉田) 13161302848
Yu Wensheng (余文生) 13910033651