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End Dictatorship, March Towards Freedom — A 2019 New Year’s Statement From the China Citizens Movement
December 31, 2018
China is at a crossroads.
History will remember 2018. In March, Xi Jinping amended the Constitution to everyone’s chagrin, paving the way to life in power.
It’s an anachronism to go back to permanent power in the 21st century. More than that, it’s a subversion of civilization; it’s a shame for the country and for all Chinese nationals.
Xi Jinping has imposed his will on the entire Chinese population. In order to hold onto power, he has to strip the Chinese of their rights and dignity and enslave them.
Xi Jinping is building a new model of totalitarianism that directly threatens freedom of movement and property rights. Each person lives in fear.
Xi Jinping attempts to monopolize all the resources and gain the privilege to rule over everything. Such desires threaten to diminish the struggle for freedom, over the last hundred years, for which countless Chinese have worked hard and made sacrifices.
Xi Jinping is quickly sabotaging the legitimate rules of the international community. His actions are leading China into isolation, making China a threat to the global order.
Over the six years of of his administration, Xi Jinping has been bringing China to a destructive point of no return. The entire country is becoming a sacrifice for his delusion of grandeur.
Citizens, this is the crossroads we have come to.
The road, on which Xi Jinping is forcefully taking all Chinese, is a dark road to disaster, a real “evil path.” It’s a road we can’t go down and refuse to go down.
Another way is to end Xi Jinping’s dictatorship and give the Chinese people freedom. It’s a road that will revive and lead this ancient land to greatness. It’s a road of hope and a road to light. It is the road we are determined to pursue.
We are passionate sons and proud daughters of China. We are students; we are artists. We are Chinese citizens everywhere across the country.
We are the victims of concentration camps in Xinjiang; we are private entrepreneurs who have been ripped off; we are victims of poisonous vaccines; we are also investors who have lost everything in the financial bust. We are every citizen who bears the scourge.
We are prisoners of conscience; we are also human rights lawyers facing the crackdown. We are persecuted believers, and we are also netizens whose accounts are censored or deleted altogether. We are every citizen and we hold close our conscience and convictions.
We don’t have guns or canon, but we have our own weaponry and they are more powerful than guns or canon. We use common sense to dispel lies; we use courage to resist violence; we use hope to overcome tyranny.
No matter how thorny the road ahead, it is our firm belief that Xi Jinping’s reactionary rule will inevitably end and freedom lies right ahead of us.
We know very well that we will pay a price that’s too stiff for ordinary people. But we have made our choice, and that is: instead of succumbing to tyranny, we are willing to dedicate ourselves to the cause of freedom.
We want to tell the world that the Chinese people love freedom, pursue freedom, and will enjoy freedom. One day the rest of the world will witness us being free and rejoicing.
As the New Year begins, we, the Chinese Citizens, shout together: End Dictatorship! March Towards Freedom!
December 31, 2018
Weather the Dark Storm, Persevere for Rule of Law in China — A 2019 New Year’s Message From the China Human Rights Lawyers Group
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 1, 2019
2018, the year of Wuxu (戊戌), is slipping into history. Over the past 120 years, Wuxu has always been an eventful year. In 1898, four years after China had lost the First Sino-Japanese War, the Hundred Days’ Reform failed, and six of its chief advocates, among them Tan Sitong (谭嗣同), paid the price in blood at their public beheading. In 1958, another year of Wuxu, the Great Leap Forward and the people’s communes was to bring on the world’s greatest famine that would result in tens of millions of deaths.
Indeed, China in the year 2018 bears little resemblance to the China of 1958 and 1898. Four decades of economic reform have seen China’s GDP rise to second place among the world’s nations. At the same time, there are many deeper issues and structural challenges to face. The Sino-U.S. trade war, coming as an onslaught from without, represents the conflict of universal values in China’s troubled integration with international society. Internally, China has been plagued by serious and chronic social ills — forced demolition, widespread petitioning, “stability maintenance,” wrongful charges, and judicial corruption — at the heart of which lie the inescapable questions concerning rule of law, constitutional government, freedom, and democracy.
Though the circumstances differ, the three years of Wuxu in the last 120 years share one common trait: societal change. And the underlying change is one of transition, from the closed society and “rule by man” (人治, as opposed to rule of law) to an open society, governed by law, that respects the rights of its citizens.
The process of taming power with rights is a long and painful one. Indeed, China has yet to complete its “great shift unseen over the past 3,000 years” (三千年来未有之大变局) described by the late-Qing minister Li Hongzhang (李鸿章) in his desperate attempts to right the ship of state.
2018 saw the outbreak of the Changsheng vaccine scandal, which once again tested the deteriorating moral of Chinese society. We loathe unscrupulous corporations that sacrifice everything for profit, even at the cost of endangering public safety; we abhor even more the authorities, who take taxpayers’ money but fail to perform their duties. The vaccine scandal is the latest of many chilling reminders that we are still far, far away from efficient and uncorrupt administration; and that a comprehensive market economy governed by law has continued to elude us.
This year, we have witnessed a number of laws drafted or amended, including the Constitution, Supervision Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Police Law, Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Heroes and Martyrs, Regulation on Religious Affairs, and the like. Put together, they evidence an alarming trend: the government continues to expand its power and suppressing individual rights.
This year, human rights lawyers have suffered another wave of crackdown following the 709 mass arrests of 2015. This time, the crackdown has been more deceptive and underhanded, making use of administrative channels to restrain practitioners of law. Lawyers saw their licenses suspended or revoked. Some were forced to temporarily discontinue their legal practices, submit to investigation, experienced troubles in their annual administrative inspections, or met with interference from the judicial and administrative authorities that prevented their re-employment by other law firms.
From the brazen arrest of lawyer Yu Wensheng (余文生) earlier in the year, to the court hearing at year’s end that saw the revocation of Liu Zhengqing’s practicing license, 2018 has seen a long list of human rights lawyers being disbarred or soon to be disbarred, or otherwise suspended, including Yu Wensheng , Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Wen Donghai (文东海), Ma Lianshun (马连顺), Qin Yongpei (覃永沛), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Chen Keyun (陈科云), Li Heping (李和平), Wang Yu (王宇), Zhang Kai (张凯), Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原), Zhou Lixin (周立新), Cheng Hai (程海), Hu Linzheng (胡林政), Zeng Wu (曾武), Chang Weiping (常玮平), He Wei (何伟), Chen Jiahong (陈家鸿), Li Jinxing (李金星), Yu Pinjian (玉品健), Liu Zhengqing (刘正清), Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), and more.
In 2018, we have seen increases in willful use of police summons and arbitrary disappearances.
Dong Yaoqiong (董瑶琼), a woman from Hunan, disappeared without a trace and later ended up in a psychiatric hospital. Another three young women — Shen Mengyu (沈梦雨), a master’s graduate at Zhongshan University who participated in the Jasic labor rights protest; Yue Xin (岳昕), a graduating senior at the Peking University who also voiced her support for Jasic workers, and Yang Shuhan (杨舒涵), a current student at the Renmin University — have been either disappeared or silenced. These young women have stood out with their kindheartedness, determination, independence and courage.
The “re-education centers” in Xinjiang have attracted international condemnation. Without any doubt, these mass violations of personal freedom fly in the face of the human rights guaranteed in the Chinese Constitution. They must be ended.
We have observed more and more incidents of police checking identification or phones at will, or engaging in other so called “law enforcement” activities that are in fact gross violations of human rights. We have also seen police carry out illegal acts, such as breaking into residents’ homes for inspection, summoning individuals on an arbitrary basis, or violently dispersing migrant workers. These acts have left us feeling fearful and apprehensive.
Renowned dissident Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) was given yet another severe sentence, and Ms. Xu Qin (徐秦) was unlawfully detained for months. We have also seen a deluge of farcical trials in the cities of Suzhou and Fuzhou against citizens who sought to defend their rights, and reprisals or abuse against civil rights activists who refused to plead guilty, such as Ge Jueping (戈觉平), Wu Qihe (吴其和), and Zhu Chengzhi (朱承志).
Following the terror of 709 crackdown, Mr. Xu Lin (徐琳) in Guangzhou wrote songs to rally morale and has been imprisoned since; Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃), Zhen Jianghua (甄江华), and Sun Lin (孙林) were punished for citizen journalism. We saw how the 85-year-old mother of another citizen journalist Huang Qi (黄琦) desperately sought support far and near after her son was framed and charged with “provoking quarrels,” and how Zhang Pancheng (张盼成), a security guard at Peking University who came from a humble family, began to speak of an awareness of rights that few students seem to care about or dare to voice.
We have borne witness to the abhorrent behavior of a policeman surnamed Chen working at the Hualin Police Station in Guangzhou, who stripped the clothes off female lawyer Sun Shihua (孙世华) under the pretext of “law enforcement.” We have seen the incident treated with the cover-ups typical of bureaucracies such as the procuratorate, supervision commission, disciplinary inspection, judicial administration, and lawyers’ association, as well as the arrogance of the Liwan police, who instead of going after the culprit, issued administrative penalties to Sun Shihua the victim. We feel pain and helplessness at her plight, yet deep in our hearts is the firm belief that Chen and the officials shielding him will eventually have their shameful acts recorded in the annals of China’s legal history.
At year’s end, WeChat accounts were deleted en masse, Twitter users were forced to delete their feeds and accounts, and freedom of speech in general is coming under more vicious attacks in China. Religious freedom has also suffered, as most recently evidenced by the sudden arrests of Early Rain Covenant Church members in Chengdu, Sichuan, among many other incidents.
The day after Christmas, Tianjin No.2 Intermediate People’s Court held a closed trial of lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) citing state secrets, eschewing all pretenses of law. This forms a sharp contrast to the creative protest of the 709 wives—Li Wenzu (李文足), Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊), and Xu Yan (许艳). Their slogan “We can be hairless, but you can’t be lawless” will become a legal maxim for the ages. [发, hair, has a similar sound to 法, law]
2018, this year of Wuxu, was a year filled with extreme challenges.
What’s to be done? Shall we cower the corner and find solace in temporary efforts, or shall we confront the reality and pursue the rule of law regardless how the storm of tyranny rages? We are faulted and accused at every turn, thwarted before even taking a single step. Yet as pioneers of our time, we must march on, making the best of the situation. Like the sun and moon moving on their celestial courses, like rivers flowing to the ocean, we stand firm in our conviction that constitutional government, democracy and human rights will become reality in the face of adversity. The ideal of rule of law is our motivation and what keeps us from despair.
Because of our ideals, human rights lawyers didn’t shy away from pressure and continued to defend Qin Yongmin,Tashi Wangchuk (扎西文色), Huang Qi, Jin Zhehong (金哲宏) and other cases deemed politically sensitive. For us human rights lawyers, there are only legal cases, and there are no such thing as “sensitive cases.”
In 2019, four years after the 709 crackdown, we will welcome the release from prison of two human rights lawyers, Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) and Jiang Tianyong (江天勇).
In 2019, we hope to see the freedom of another four human rights lawyers: Wang Quanzhang, Yu Wensheng, Li Yuhan (李昱函), and Chen Wuquan (陈武权). Whether in terms of Chinese law or international conventions, there’s no legal ground for the accusations they face.
We hope that the laws on the books can be followed, and not manipulated by those in power.
We hope that no more human rights lawyers find their practicing licenses revoked for any excuse.
We hope to put an end to the arbitrary summons, detentions, forcible disappearances, and other gangster tactics employed by the authorities. We hope that police can exercise self-control and refrain from acting on their whims. We request that police officer Chen at Hualin Police Station turn himself in, that the Guangzhou police remove him from his post, and that he face a penalty appropriate to his misdeed.
Going into 2019, we look forward to the vindication of moe, and hopefully all wrongful charges. We hope that an effective mechanism can be established to eliminate and correct unjust rulings. We hope that “picking quarrels” and “extorting government” will no longer be used as grounds for prosecuting petitioners and human rights activists. These charges are absurd, unreasonable, and an assault on the rule of law. While these actions of the authorities may have some immediate suppressive effect, in the long run it will serve only to intensify conflicts between the government and the governed. The consequences will be disastrous.
The life mission of any lawyers is to uphold justice in their cases. We as human rights lawyers will continue to practice, representing all kinds of clients, including those deemed politically sensitive. We will use our work to promote the causes of constitutional government and rule of law. We face many storms ahead and the path is fraught with peril and uncertainty. Yet we forge on, duty-bound to the mission of justice. There is no going back! Our determination in the face of impossible odds will drive us forward, persevere through the storm for the sake of a better China. This is the choice we made, our predestination and mission.
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group
December 31, 2018
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.
Lawyer He Wei (何伟), Tel: 18523069266
Lawyer Lin Qilei (蔺其磊), Tel: 13366227598
Lawyer Shi Ping (施平), Tel: 15515694755
Lawyer Wang Qingpeng (王清鹏), Tel: +1 (425)7329584
Lawyer Xie Yang (谢阳), Tel: 18673190911
Perseverance Will See Us Through — A 2018 New Year’s Message From the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 1, 2018
It is with a heavy heart and a sense of desolation that we begin our New Year’s dedication, just as China is shrouded in smog and enveloped in haze. But regardless of the challenges and suffering of the past year, we have not cowered. We continue to hope that 2018 will bring us closer to freedom. We also wish that our own hope will become infectious, and that the citizens of China will together fight for a free, beautiful future and country.
2017 was again a year of no shortage of injustice and wanton violations of the law by the country’s judicial organs. Ugly words such as suffocation, shackles, and dungeons tested our resolve; deaths, disappearances, and bloodshed caused us enormous pain. Though we see no justice and feel no freedom, our faith girds us to continue to persevere — to wait for conscience, to wait for strength, and to await the arrival of spring.
2017 was the year in which we lost a great intellectual of liberty, Liu Xiaobo (刘晓波). He left the world with the saddest dirge, and while alive he expounded in his works, and demonstrated in his life, the incorruptibility, uprightness, and patriotism of the Chinese intellectual. His soul returned to the sea where waves will carry his dream of a free China forever.
2017 saw the persecution of numerous human rights lawyers. Jiang Tianyong (江天勇), Li Heping (李和平), and Xie Yang (谢阳) were all convicted on false charges. Wang Quanzhang (王全璋) was illegally held incommunicado for a cumulative 900 days. The persecution of Li Yuhan (李昱函) has been relentless. All of these cases show just how harsh and dangerous it has become to be a human rights lawyer in China.
In 2017, a large number of lawyers were threatened, coerced, and silenced by local judicial bureaus and legal associations, including Zhu Shenwu (祝圣武), Wu Youshui (吴有水), Wen Donghai (文东海), Wang Liqian (王理乾), Wang Longde (王龙德), Yu Wensheng (余文生), and Peng Yonghe (彭永和). For no more than exercising their freedom of expression and proactively defending the interests and rights of their clients, these lawyers were made targets of harassment — and in some cases subject to sanctions by the official lawyer’s association, or administrative penalties. This entirely contradicts the claims of officialdom that China is a country ruled by law and that human rights are guaranteed.
In 2017, the draft Law on Supervision (《监察法》) made its appearance. This law, which on the surface appears to be codying anti-corruption measures, could before long become yet another extraordinary tool for the dictatorship to infringe on human rights on a massive scale under the guise of “ruling the country according to the law.”
In 2017, the number of occasions on which the law was distorted beyond recognition is countless. Numerous defense lawyers were forcibly dismissed for inexplicable reasons, and there was no further pretense that trials in China are open and public affairs. It has become abundantly clear that citizens in China have no actual rights whatsoever.
In 2017, citizens of conscience were suppressed; the rights of petitioners were dismissed; forced demolitions for the acquisition of land, and their attendant social contradictions, became an endless source of tragedy. The abuse scandal at RYB Education kindergartens in Beijing, and the expulsion of the “low-end population” in Beijing, became capstones to a year already brimming with human rights disasters, and drew widespread, appalled attention from the public.
Despite all of the above, countless Chinese who hold tightly to ideals continued to spark hope that human rights must be protected, and justice must be served. The society-wide discussion of the draft Law on Supervision, the heated opinions given in response to the Law on Detention Centers (《看守所法》), the condemnation of the expulsion of the “low-end population” from Beijing, and the support for citizen actions around the country — all of this gave us hope.
For their part, human rights lawyers have not hesitated in assuming their historical responsibility, as shown in the spirited defenses given in the political trials and cases of Wu Gan (吴淦)、Chen Yunfei (陈云飞)、Huang Qi (黄琦)、and Qin Yongmin (秦永敏). The coalition of eight lawyers in Guangdong, involved in a case of a tuberculosis outbreak at a school in Hunan (湖南肺结核事件), is the first time since the 709 crackdown that lawyers have banded together to make a sally, and it is a demonstration of their staunch conviction that human rights must be safeguarded.
Despite the fact that human rights lawyers are illegally prevented from entering the courtroom on a regular basis, colleagues in the legal profession speak out on their behalf. Lawyers collectively censure and protest illegal verdicts, sometimes causing malefactors to retreat in guilty conscience. Rights lawyers also continue to provide legal assistance to petitioners, believers, and other vulnerable populations. Though the help is far from meeting the need, it plants a seed of good that will overcome.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of rights cases end in failure — but it is precisely perseverance in the face of such setbacks that has forged the indominidable character of human rights lawyers in China. The history of human society shows that it’s futile for any dictatorship to stand in the way of progress. The law of the jungle is a temporary phase; the progress of civilization is an inevitability.
In 2018, we won’t harbor false hopes, nor indulge in fantasy — but we will remain steadfast to our cherished ideals of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and we will not stop in our defense and safeguarding of human rights. We’ll be tenacious in our defense of the wronged, the prisoners of conscience, and the pursuit of justice.
2018 is the 20th anniversary of the Chinese government’s signature to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. We call on the Chinese authorities to fulfill their promises, immediately ratify the Convention, and implement the protections of civil rights therein, making every Chinese person an actual citizen of their own country.
In 2018, we call for Wang Quanzhang to be released — the suffering he has endured pains all of our hearts. We also wish well for liberal intellectuals, two exemplars of which, Liu Xiaobo and Yang Tianshui (杨天水), passed away this year. The two were not the enemies of this country, and their departure is a loss to the Chinese people.
In 2018, for moving China toward a more civilized, reasonable, and peaceful society, for helping the Chinese people become more free, more hopeful, and happier, we won’t relent in our efforts, and we know that we must endure. Only by doing so will we live up to this period of time.
The New Year is upon us, and though the haze won’t dissipate all at once, we believe that as long as we continue in our efforts, our lives will have meaning, and we’ll be part of a new history for a free China.
In 2018, let’s persevere together!
China Human Rights Lawyers Group
December 31, 2017
The China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团) 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
‘We Bear Witness; We Keep the Faith’: A New Year’s Message From the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group, January 2, 2017
Time sweeps by, the seasons change, and another year is upon us. As we bid farewell to the old and welcome the new, China’s human rights lawyers greet 2017.
We bore witness to too much in 2016.
We saw the hidden poverty that lies behind the bright and orderly image of the nation.
Due to poverty, a 13-year-old in Jinchang, Gansu, leapt from a building to her death after being humiliated. She had pilfered and eaten a few chocolates at the local market — the first time in her life that she’d savored the taste.
Due to poverty, a student from Linyi, Shandong, who had matriculated but not yet begun college, died after falling into depression due to the shame of being cheated out of her 9,900 yuan ($1,400) in school fees. It may be no more than the price of a meal for China’s nouveau riche, but for this girl, it was her family’s entire savings — and probably debt, too.
Due to poverty, a young mother in Linxia, Gansu, killed her four children then poisoned herself. The local authorities said that they were not responsible.
We’ve seen the unstoppable crushing force of the demolition brigade throughout the country tearing down homes, and the tragedies it’s wrought.
Because of a forced demolition, the young Fan Huapei (范华培) from Zhengzhou killed three people before being shot to death. This was the level of hopelessness experienced by someone who’d been to university. And when the police could have captured him alive, they killed him instead. Other victims who had similarly been harmed and humiliated paid respect to him at his funeral. This should give cause for thought.
Because of a forced demolition, a young man named Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙) killed the village official responsible with a nail gun. Jia was executed this year. Before he died, he declared to his lawyer and family that he was willing to donate his organs after death, and left behind a heartfelt poem bidding farewell to the world. He had a kind heart. If his case wasn’t treated as a question of social stability and political security, he would have been spared the death penalty, given that he had repeatedly sought resolution of the dispute, and gave himself up after the crime.
We’ve seen more environmental pollution and a ceaseless smog that suffocates the cities; we’ve seen contaminated food and poisoned vaccines; we’ve seen how the downtrodden in society hurt each other, and an increase in violent crimes. We’ve seen the death of Lei Yang (雷洋), the outrage in public opinion that followed, the trivial punishments given to police officers, and the increasing abuses of police power. We’ve seen an economic decline and a devaluation of the currency. We’ve seen the deep sense of insecurity that grips the middle class.
For human rights lawyers, the year 2016 is a year of anxiety, dread, and perseverance.
As in 2015, human rights defenders in China continued to suffer enormously in 2016. Civil society was savaged, citizen activists and dissident intellectuals were taken into captivity one by one, some vanished for weeks before news of their detention was released, and others are now still being held incommunicado. In an uninterrupted succession, relatives and friends posted notices of “missing persons” — those who have been forcibly disappeared. They include: the couple Ge Jueping (戈觉平) and Luo Guoying (陆国英), Gu Yimin (顾义民), Hu Cheng (胡诚), Wang Wanping (王婉平), Chen Zongyao (陈宗瑶), Sun Cun (孙林), Deng Hongcheng (邓洪成), Xiao Bing (肖兵), Wang Jianhua (王建华), Li Nanhai (李南海), Ding Yan (丁岩), Wang Jun (王军), Deng Jianfeng (邓剑峰, released just recently), Ma Zhiquan (马志权), Wang Wei (王威), Dong Lingpeng (董凌鹏), Song Liqian (宋立前), Huang Anyang (黄安阳), Huang Qi (黄琦), Pu Fei (蒲飞, recently released), Liu Feiyue (刘飞跃), Xiong Feiling (熊飞骏), Wang Fei (王飞, a.k.a. Hai Di [海底]), and a long list of others. Whether or not these human rights defenders were charged with national security crimes, almost all were placed under residential surveillance at a designated location and denied access to lawyers and any other communication. They were forced into isolation and helplessness, as a way of trying to make them submit. The model of punishment used against “709 incident” rights lawyers was replicated again and again against them.
As for those rolled up in the shocking “709 incident,” after a year of detention incommunicado, and after much preparation by the authorities, Hu Shigen (胡石根), Zhou Shifeng (周世锋) and two others were hauled before a court for show trials. Every one of them confessed guilt, expressed repentance, and vowed not to appeal. Instead of remonstration and urgent defense, the defense lawyers who were appointed to defend them behaved in lockstep with the prosecutors that one could hardly separate them. The court hearing was composed like a concerto, performed to perfection. Just what took place behind closed doors to bring this about will only be known in time.
As for the sentencing to ten years imprisonment of Zhejiang Democracy Party figures Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) and Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) — it has once again become manifestly clear that independent organization and assembly is absolutely forbidden, and that those who venture into this forbidden realm can be charged over and over again for the same “offense.”
The sentencing of dissident Zhang Haitao (张海涛) to 19 years was unprecedented. Such madness and hysteria is a tragic sight to behold.
The secret detention of human rights lawyer Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) towards the end of the year was both a continuation and expansion of the 709 arrests. Everyone knows the reason he was arrested: It was to cut off support for the families of the 709 detained lawyers and their rescue efforts, so that they’ll be forced to face the system alone, and, the authorities hope, give up their rights and hope, and cease to protest on behalf of their loved ones. Jiang Tianyong’s case is a clear warning of the severity and urgency that Chinese rights lawyers face.
Of course, through the year we’ve also witnessed the continued awakening and growth of rights awareness in China. These ordinary men and women have taken to the streets to defend their homes, they’ve signed petitions, speaking out for Lei Yang and Jia Jinglong online and offline.
We salute those human rights defenders for their bravery and indomitability. They refuse to submit in the face of increasing repression and persist in the face of danger.
After 17 months of persevering, lawyers were finally able to meet their clients Xie Yang (谢阳) and Wu Gan (吴淦) respectively. The two had not surrendered or been silenced by the cruelty of prison, and they showed again the strength of their commitments even from inside the cell. Perhaps, in the eyes of the cultural elite, these are the uncultivated grassroots members of China’s society, but at this moment, they are models of tenacity and courage and a source of inspiration.
The wives of the persecuted lawyers, meanwhile, have been courageous, wise, broad-minded, tenacious, and united in helping one another. This includes Wang Qiaoling (王峭岭), Li Wenzu (李文足), Chen Guiqiu (陈桂秋), Yuan Shanshan (原珊珊), Liu Ermin (刘二敏), Fan Lili (樊丽丽), and others. They’ve been threatened, intimidated, beaten, detained, and yet not stopped. Their efforts have led their husband’s cases to be more widely known, and their public profile more complete. They’re tender, but not weak. They shed tears before the camera when discussing their husband’s captivity, but they’ve never made a display of weakness to the authorities to plead for false leniency, for they are convinced that their loved one are heroes, not criminals. They’re a group of extraordinary women who have defended rights in their own way in the face of immense adversity. Their behavior and their composure has made them the most beautiful vision in this grim winter, and their actions are thorns in the side of the authorities.
Though the political climate now is perilous, China’s human rights lawyers have not ceased their steps out of fear. Instead, they persist in spite of fear, overcoming it. Fear has not prevented them from taking on the 709 cases. They’ve wielded the law, bringing suits, submitting requests for reconsideration, lodging appeals, writing articles, and fighting for their right to see and defend their clients. These suits may prove to be fruitless in the current circumstances, but the efforts themselves are significant nonetheless. Indeed, in the absence of rule of law, it makes little sense to see only outcomes as measures of heroism.
It’s no exaggeration to say that wherever there are human rights abuses in China, there they are defending against them: in Suzhou, Wuxi, Chengdu, Wenzhou, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Shenzhen…
They’ve been on the road through all of 2016.
Because we’ve borne witness, we’ve reason to believe that in this new year, China’s human rights lawyers, determined and idealistic, will do whatever is called for to bring light and hope as the regime’s iron curtain continues to descend.
Because we’ve born witness, we believe that human nature yearns for liberty, and that the freedom so hoped for won’t be stopped by the will of a few tyrants. The time will come when human rights will be valued and respected and rights lawyers will have a free, vast platform on which to pursue their vocation.
With the continued advancement of the internet, and the increasing impact that China’s severe social problems are having on each and every person, the ideology and doctrines preached by the Party will have increasingly less purchase. Everyone who has had their interests or rights harmed is a latent ally. Like seeds planted and buds sprouting, is there any question about their strength as they grow by the multitudes?
It is our hope that a China with benign and rule-based governance will eventually be formed by the germination and growth of those countless seeds.
In 2017, let us look up the starry sky above and obey the calls from our hearts. Let us continue to fight through thorns and brambles to do our job. In this era of great change, let us set down more milestones toward the betterment of human rights in China.
Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
January 1, 2017
Editors’ note: The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group has about 300 members currently.
— New Year Greetings from the 300-member Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
Times goes on, but the laws of nature are the same. As the first rays of the morning sun will surely burst through the darkness, we cast our gaze, brimming with hope, upon a new year. The China Human Rights Lawyers Group (中国人权律师团) hereby imparts to everyone our most sincere New Year’s greetings!
2015 was a year replete with manmade disasters: A capsized boat on the Yangtze River, the Tianjin explosion, and the Shenzhen landslide one after another. And in each case the truth of what happened was concealed by the miasma of official power, forming a deep and dark human rights black hole.
2015 was also a year when Chinese citizens continued the fight for human rights: they gathered in Qing’an, in Heilongjiang, to protest the gunning down of a petitioner; the spirited defense of workers’ rights in Guangdong goes without saying; and across China, citizens took to the streets on protest marches against polluting industries setting up shop in their neighborhoods. All of this is testimony to a citizenry which is awakening to its own rights consciousness with each passing day and which is becoming more determined to resist the unchecked expansion of government power.
2015 was also a year of hysteria for the Party’s stability maintenance apparatus: Beginning in July, using so-called “residential surveillance at a designated place,” human rights lawyers were forcibly disappeared in the name of “suspicion of endangering state security” and have been completely deprived of their legal rights. They were smeared on national television by so-called journalists with CCTV who effectively declared them guilty before a trial had even begun. Dozens of human rights lawyers and defenders around China were arrested, and over 300 were threatened or summoned for a “chat” with state security officers. The “July 9th Arrests” of rights lawyers in China came on with unchecked force and viciousness. The whereabouts of China Human Rights Lawyer Group members Li Heping, Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang, Xie Yanyi, Sui Muqing, Xie Yang, Li Chunfu, and Liu Sixin are to this day still unknown. This is an insult to any idea of “rule of law,” and a violent attack on social progress.
2015 was the most difficult year for human rights lawyers: friends around us were jailed, and a sense of dread and foreboding became ubiquitous as the authorities’ suppression became more and more suffocating by the day. But opportunity always comes in the shadow of adversity: human rights lawyers stood mighty and unmoved in the face of the violent suppression, and still bravely stood on the front lines of rights defense, fighting for rule of law.
As human rights lawyers, we believe that every person is born equal, and each enjoys the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness without fear. These rights are also enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and other international legal documents. For Chinese citizens born to this land, who hold deep affection for it, and who are no longer accustomed to being intimidated and subjugated, we cannot do nothing when we see human rights recklessly trampled upon.
We do not have the freedom of living without fear, but we struggle against our fears, and move forward despite of it: We will continue to voice support for those human rights lawyers and defenders who have been disappeared or charged for no more than the exercise of their rights as citizens; we will defend those whose economic, social, or cultural rights have been infringed upon; and we will stand up for the equal rights of every person. All this is also defending ourselves, defending members of our profession, defending our family, defending our country and people, defending human rights, defending justice, and defending the future of the nation!
As human rights lawyers, we could never be satisfied to cooly look upon the changes in the world with the disposition of a sage—or spread cheap sympathy, sobbing with a posture of kindness. We are idealists who advocate and promote the value of human rights. We are legal activists who defend the rights of the people. We must stand up and tell the many-headed hydra whose power seems inescapable that human rights are universal values, they’re applicable to every human society, and as history marches forward, time is on our side!
Indeed, time is on our side. The Chinese people, who established the first republic in Asia 100 years ago, cannot remain forever outside the grand historical current of democracy and rule of law, cannot pretend that they’re content with their lot as they listen to the commands of a select few who prefer to “feel the stones in the river” rather than cross the bridge. 
Nearly 30 years ago Taiwan, a people of a common origin to us, cast off martial law and established a constitutional democracy. In January 2016 they will hold their sixth democratic election for the leadership of the state. Surveying the world, we see the waves of democracy crashing against the levees of dictatorship. China has no reason to stand outside this. Technological progress is levelling out the differences in mankind that result from nationhood, race, gender, language, geography, and historically conditioned human rights. To realize the beauty of having our human rights protected, all of us need to hold our hands firmly together and persevere. We firmly believe that, urged along by wisdom and resolution, history will continue its surge forward.
On the eve of great change, we will not be onlookers.
We will not be onlookers, because we are defenders of human rights and the law, and possess an unyielding conviction that the rule of law will ultimately triumph over dictatorship. We will not be onlookers, because we believe that the rights of the people in this long-suffering land need urgent defense, and their value deserves urgent advocacy. Having experienced fear, we know the preciousness of the freedom of its absence—and only by overcoming fear is it possible to transcend it and to elevate ourselves.
The smog is thick and the night dark, but the sun will shine as the time comes. Let us greet the beautiful moment of daybreak with smiles; let us embrace those of our compatriots who have recovered their freedom after suffering so much as we pursue a new future.
Chinese Human Rights Lawyer Group
January 1, 2016
 This is an inverted reference to Deng Xiaoping’s dictum that China would “cross the river by feeling the stones” (摸着石头过河) during the post-Mao era.
Appendix 1: The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group – A Brief Introduction
The Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group was establishment on September 13, 2013 and it is an open platform for coordination between lawyers. Since its inception, the group has organized joint petitions, aided lawyers in joining rights cases or incidents, and made a variety of similar efforts to protect human rights and promote the development of the rule of law in China. Any Chinese lawyer who share the same human rights principles and are willing to defend citizens’ basic rights are welcome to join the group.
Contact persons (in the order of Pinyin):
Chang Boyang 常伯阳 18837183338
Liu Shihui 刘士辉 18516638964
Lin Qilei 蔺其磊 18639228639
Tang Jitian 唐吉田 13161302848
Yu Wensheng 余文生 13910033651
Appendix 2: The 300 members of the Group
(to be found in the Chinese original)
14 Cases Exemplify the Role Played by Lawyers in the Rights Defense Movement, 2003–2015, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang, August 19, 2015.
中文原文《夜尽天明终有时─中国人权律师团律师2016年新年献辞》, translated by China Change.
I would have written this post yesterday, but some how sitting in my office all day, didn’t help me remember that it was a “holiday.”
So last night I planned on taking a bunch of photos and videos for you all to enjoy, but then, nothing happened! At our school that sets of fireworks pretty much weekly, there was nothing to see. We could only just make out the rumbling in the distance. My wife was surprised that I had forgotten how unimportant it is here.
So here is something a bit more fun. This is how we celebrated the New Year in Longzhou, and why I always expect New Year’s Eve in China to be crazy. Students with fireworks and massive groups of students running around a bonfire. You can expect the full story sometime soon.
I hope you all have a wonderful time tonight, and I wish you all a happy New Year.