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Silencing the People Is More Dangerous than Damming a River

April 4, 2011

Human Rights in China (HRIC) urges the Chinese authorities to stop the crackdown on all those in China exercising fundamental rights protected by international and Chinese domestic law. The detention of Ai Weiwei (艾未未) is the most recent example of the Chinese government’s total disregard for the rule of law and its own respectability in the international community.

In recent months, the world has seen the Chinese authorities dramatically step up the detention and arrest of individuals who speak out about corruption, voice their support for victims of injustices, and peacefully appeal for political reform – perhaps out of fear that the uprisings against repressive regimes in the Middle East would spread to China. The authorities have even publically assaulted foreign journalists, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs went as far as telling foreign journalists that they “cannot use the law as a shield.”

In recent weeks, the Chinese authorities have used the crime “inciting subversion of state power” to convict or charge activists: Liu Xianbin (刘贤斌) was convicted and sentenced to 10 years; Ran Yunfei (冉云飞), Chen Wei (陈卫), and Ding Mao (丁矛) were charged. They have also criminally detained dozens of individuals and placed many more under house arrest. Additionally, the Chinese government, in violation of China’s criminal procedure law, has kept scores of individuals in custody for prolonged periods without charging them or even informing their families of their whereabouts.

In relying on an intensifying crackdown on lawyers, activists, petitioners, journalists, and others, the Chinese authorities not only display their disregard for the rule of law, but also betray their lack of confidence in finding sustainable solutions to the root causes of the serious political and social problems China faces.

To promote genuine and lasting stability and harmony, the Chinese government must obey its own laws and respect the rights of people to speak their minds and peacefully advocate for reform. The government must heed the old Chinese saying: “Silencing the people is more dangerous than damming a river” (防民之口,甚于防川).


For more information on the ongoing crackdown, see:

HRIC Video Commentary