This is an excerpt from rights defense lawyer Tang Jingling’s defense and final statement at his trial for "inciting subversion of state power." In the statement, he recounts the rights defense activities he has carried out over some 20 years and his commitment to China’s democratization. He questions the legitimacy of the Chinese Communist regime and lawfulness of the court’s jurisdiction over his legal case. He also reveals the widespread “extrajudicial torture" in China. He calls this prosecution “a trial between darkness and light," and “a trial of destruction of hope."
Tang Jingling was criminally detained on May 16, 2014 on suspicion of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." He was formally arrested on June 20 the same year, on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power." His initial trial on June 19, 2015 in the Guangzhou City Intermediate People's Court was suspended when his family dismissed his defense counsel to protest procedural irregularities. The trial reopened in the same court on July 23, 2015, and concluded on July 24 without a verdict.
Excerpts from “My Defense and Final Statement”
[Translation by Human Rights in China]
Twenty years have passed since I first declared my mission in life in 1995: devote myself to China’s democratization. In November 2005, as a result of the persecution and continuous harassment by special agents of the Communist Party of China, I lost my lawyer’s license and my then increasingly thriving and profitable law business. I have never been able to resume my profession since. Today, two decades later—and after more than a year of detention in a place maybe worse than a Nazi concentration camp in many respects—Yuan Xinting, Wang Qingying, and I are brought to trial for “inciting subversion of state power.”
This is a trial of darkness against light, a trial of destruction of hope. However, even if temporarily defeated, justice is far more powerful than evil. Facing this unlawful and unjust trial, I do not want to use any defense to lessen a harsh sentence that I may receive. As early as at the time of the notorious trial of Mr. Liu Xiaobo and of Charter 08, I already stated categorically that if authoritarianism is not guilty, then freedom certainly would not be innocent. Our detention and prosecution are the measurements of the dictator’s own crime. In the past year, the suffering and humiliation we have endured far exceeded criminal punishment. Yet all this is the freedom fighter’s glorious crown. Even though we are incapable of stopping the havoc wrought by evil, we can persevere in our pursuit of freedom and justice. I want to use the occasion of this trial to look back on the path I have taken for these twenty years.
It is an almost never-ending battle that I enlisted myself in. When I first embarked on this path, I did not consider whether a somewhat proud and somewhat timid young fellow from an average peasant family in the Jianghan Plain [in Hubei] like me could face this challenge. Only now do I increasingly feel the smallness of my own strength. That makes it understandable why some people—with profound intellectual understanding of freedom, democracy, and human rights, some even possessing wealth, public influence, and important government rank, those who should normally assume the duty of leadership commensurate with the power they have been conferred by the people—would, when facing this absolutely unbalanced struggle between the mere individual and the ruthless totalitarian party-state apparatus, abandon the decidedly tough and almost foolish path of freedom struggle, and desert the principle that freedom is not something that can be bestowed by others. They have strayed from this long expedition. Yet, the flame of justice, freedom, and dignity inside the heart of humanity is inextinguishable and can only burn ever more fiercely. My faith grows with each passing day.
. . .
In 2000, the Internet started becoming a part of ordinary people’s lives, thus opening up a continuous test site and battlefield for political freedom. On this virgin ground, citizens who had long been tightly muzzled began to get the taste of free speech. With the expansion of network coverage and the upgrading and changing patterns of Internet tools themselves, the struggle between dictatorial power and freedom advocates—blocking and unblocking, rooting out and resurgence, and encirclement and circumvention—escalated correspondingly.
The waves of attacks by dark powers included not only monitoring, suppression, and prohibition in the physical Internet space, but also intimidation, division, bribery, economic suppression—and even detention and imprisonment—of those offline. I can proudly say I was among those who never gave up.
. . .
Beginning in the second half of 2010, the Jasmine Revolution that swept the Middle East and North Africa toppled many authoritarian governments, one after the other. In early 2011, the wave hit China and triggered the CPC s’ large-scale manhunt of domestic democracy and human rights activists. From February onward, many friends and I were incarcerated inside the People's Police Training Center of the Guangzhou Public Security Bureau. Aside from me, the people locked up the longest were Yuan Xinting and Sun Desheng (who, in August 2013, was detained again, along with Guo Feixiong, in the Tianhe Detention Center). During my detention, I was subjected to round-the-clock interrogation by two to four police officers each in three shifts a day, without a minute in between. I lived through March and April in this type of forced confession hell. In August, I was released and forcibly escorted back to Hubei. While I was detained special agents kept my wife locked up in our home, turning my home into their temporary prison, causing her to become severely depressed. Perhaps to this day, these evil people are still contemptuously saying to God: “I have committed evil, but who will bring retribution upon me?”
After Xi Jinping came to power, he set off, beginning in 2013, a wave of repression greater in scope and intensity than that of 2011, trying in vain to reverse the tides of democratization. But perhaps he doesn’t know, the darkness before dawn can never stop the coming of light.
Over these years, I have only done one thing: push for a citizen non-cooperation movement. This includes three aspects: one, promote an increase in spontaneous citizen non-cooperation; two, promote an improvement in spontaneous citizen non-cooperation; three, push for a conscious citizen non-cooperation movement, to bring about a democratic and free China.
That which we believe in and make great efforts to achieve—we strive to lay bare before the world’s people.
. . .
When a person regains the consciousness of a human being in choosing to stay away from evil, that person will naturally realize the power of good. This is the truth of life that has been repeatedly validated by generations of sages, and is also my own personal experience. Every time we make a choice, it is the same as a trial: the forces of good and evil struggle in your heart, waiting for you to decide—whether you stand on the side of evil, or the side of justice. This way, we either accumulate our sins or move gradually towards purity, until the moment when we account to our own conscience, history, or the judgment of God.