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Human Rights in China issues two groundbreaking documents: The Declaration on Civil Rights and Freedom and the Declaration on Civil Rights and Social Justice

September 28, 1998

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TWO DECLARATIONS

Human Rights in China is issuing two important documents from China: the Declaration on Civil Rights and Freedom and the Declaration on Civil Rights and Social Justice. These two documents have unique significance in representing China's human rights and democracy movement as it enters into the next century. These documents are unprecedented in how they directly call upon all Chinese citizens to exhaust their efforts in achieving social equality and justice. The documents express the practical, concrete demands and hopes of the vast Chinese public. Since the Democracy Wall Movement, people in China have waged a twenty-year struggle for human rights and democracy. This struggle has seen both highs and lows and has stood witness to the bloodshed of June Fourth. The Declarations build upon the first twenty years of China's human rights and democracy movement and invigorates a citizens' movement of widespread social appeal. These two documents and the process of social exploration that shaped them have given new hope for a breakthrough in rights consciousness and activism.

The drafter of these two Declarations is Jiang Peikun, a professor of aesthetics at People's University; the spokesperson is Jiang Qisheng, former Ph.D. candidate at People's University; other signatories are: Ding Zilin, an assistant professor at People's University; Lin Mu, the former Communist Secretary for China's Northwestern University; and Wei Xiaotao, a high-level engineer and brother of dissident Wei Jingsheng. These two documents are the product of extensive deliberations and consultations which began in the winter of 1997-including input from politicians, economists, legal specialists and academics, and especially workers, farmers and others who represent the majority of Chinese society. As a result, the Declarations embody the unification of the appeals and demands of Chinese citizens.

The Chinese citizens' movement has risen up quietly through the decades and has continued developing since June 4, 1998, despite the government's strong measures of suppression. In the beginning of 1994, Xu Liangying, Wang Laidai, Ding Zilin, Jiang Peikun, Liu Liao, Shao Yanxiang and Zhang Kangkang-a group of seven influential scientists, intellectuals, poets and writers-published "An Appeal for Human Rights," which called on government authorities to end their assault on the freedom of expression. In 1995, the U.N. Year of Tolerance, 45 well-known figures in the natural and social sciences signed "An Appeal for Tolerance." Initiators and signatories included Xu Liangying, Lin Mu, Ding Zilin, Jiang Peikun, Wang Dan, Liu Nianchun, Jiang Qisheng and others. This type of citizens' appeal, including Speaking for the Poor, has continued to develop in recent years. In this year alone, there have been several citizens' actions, encompassing over 20 of China's provinces and municipalities. Examples include: the August 7 protest of anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia, which was signed by 229 influential individuals from over 20 provinces and municipalities and all walks of life; the August 27 statement on the Yangtze River flooding, which was signed by 309 concerned citizens from 19 provinces and municipalities and all stations of life. The main focus of these citizens' activities are not simply political demands, but the emphasis of the civil, political, economic, social and environmental rights that represent the hopes and needs of the common Chinese citizen.

The former Czechoslovakia had a group of outstanding and steadfast intellectuals who issued the important document Charter 77, which similarly sought to understand and give voice to public opinion. This document represented a significant breakthrough and development for the former Czechoslovakia and made a great impact on its future. Charter 77 also had a unique significance and contribution to the whole world. It is hoped that the Declaration on Civil Rights and Freedom and the Declaration on Civil Rights and Social Justice can similarly affect Chinese society and have lasting impact on the future. The appearance of these two Declarations, on the eve of the China's signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, shows promise in giving new momentum to China's grass-roots citizens' movement.

The full text of the two Declarations (in both English and Chinese) is being posted on the websites of Human Rights in China: http://www.hrichina.org and the Digital Freedom Network:http://www.dfn.org/. The Digital Freedom Network is an international nonpartisan organization that supports peaceful advocates of freedom and democracy by publishing their materials on the Internet. The Declarations are also being sent to our e-mail press list. If you are a journalist and would like to be on our list, please send your address via e-mail: hrichina@hrichina.org or fax: (212) 239-2561.

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