Abridged from the Chinese original
[Translation by Human Rights in China]
This court is one with special depth. In this court, I will offer my own narrative of the facts regarding my street protests and the political opportunities I availed myself of in support of Southern Weekly, my original intentions, core considerations, operations, and balanced actions. I will also elaborate on the basic reasoning and legal basis for my promotion of “eight-city flash actions,” which aimed to urge the National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
In early January of 2013, Tuo Zhen, propaganda chief of the Guangdong provincial Party committee, censored Southern Weekly’s editorial “Dream of China, Dream of Constitution.” Strong reactions were triggered in China’s online space and civil society by the thought police’s severe infringement on the newspaper’s right to freedom of expression on public affairs. For the entire day on January 7, several thousand citizens gathered in front of the main gate of Nanfang Media Group to support the brave fight by Southern Weekly’s editors and journalists against censorship, and against the dictatorial, unlawful suppression of opinions. The people demonstrated their conscience, sense of justice, and their disgust and loathing for totalitarian thought control. To put it precisely, the thousands of citizens who assembled at the main gate of Nanfang Media Group on that cold wintery day did so on their own volition, and not at the encouragement or instigation by any one individual.
As early as the end of 2012, when mass incidents of environmental rights defense took place in Shifang and Ningbo, I started paying close attention to and pondering whether, had these incidents happened in Guangzhou, we would be able to channel the power of people’s spontaneous struggle and case-based, local demands toward a political experiment to more courageously and actively express the demands of all people, to fight for universal freedom and democratic rights, and to implement civil and political rights in an orderly fashion. This kind of political experiment would eliminate disturbance, roused emotions, and all sorts of destructions. Instead, the self-control and self-restraint of the civil society would forge a model for street politics that is peaceful, rational, manageable, and constructive. From there, gradually and incrementally, the Chinese society would pave the way of decisive growth in a non-confrontational and orderly political opening and civil society development, toward the comprehensive realization of freedom, democracy, and constitutional government.
Therefore, on the night of January 4, several hours after the Southern Weekly staff members’ signed petition first appeared on Sina Weibo, I made a forecast of the situation and turned on the switch of “political experiment” in my head. Through the collective and separate efforts by myself and other members of Guangzhou’s civil society, citizens gathered in front of the gate of Nanfang Media Group, and elevated a case-based mass action expressing sympathy and support for the Southern Weekly to full-scale political demands. On the site, the political signs that read “freedom of the press” and “constitutional democracy” and the political speeches delivered by pro-democracy activists became the focus of the gathering. It was the signs and speeches that turned the Southern Weekly incident into a genuine political assembly with a clear theme. According to public opinion, for the first time since 1989, the glorious tradition of demanding freedom and democracy through direct actions was continued on a new platform and in a new time frame.
One must not hold the view that we freedom and democracy fighters were using the support for Southern Weekly and defense of freedom of speech as a pretext to stir up turmoil, seize power, or even subvert the regime. Demonizing democracy pursuers only reflects the narrow-mindedness of totalitarian dictators. Such view also underestimates the ambition of us activists who have entwined our lives with the pursuit of freedom and democracy. Like brave soldiers, we charge forward, unafraid of making physical sacrifices. With the collective efforts of tens of thousands of people, combined with ancient and contemporary wisdoms, we construct and control a new social structure in which the power of officials is thoroughly checked by that of the people—in order to create a mature, major-power constitutional democracy for China and humanity. My personal goal is the realization of an ideal system, not the power of an individual that fades in a matter of years. The fight will not end until freedom is achieved. Isn’t this the ultimate happiness in life?
We showed clearly with public actions and speeches that our political assembly is one that cherishes China’s conscience and the voices of the people. We were not only fighting for the freedom of speech of the editors and journalists at Southern Weekly, but also for that of all Chinese people. Our battle was for the realization of universal political rights. Our directly felt emotions (care and anger) were genuine, and so were our idealistic declarations (freedom of speech and its institutional protection, and constitutional democracy).
To fight for the freedom of speech of all Chinese people including the Southern Weekly staff was the main goal of the participants at the three-day political assembly outside the main gate of Nanfang Media Group. The recognition and advancement of this great theme illustrate our genuine sense of justice, noble humanity, as well as profound and broad understanding of freedom and democracy.
As for myself, I can clearly state that all the activities I participated in to support Southern Weekly had a second political aim that is equally profound as the important purpose of “defending the freedom of speech of all Chinese people including the Southern Weekly staff.” That is, I planned to create a de facto political assembly by politicizing the gathering outside the main gate of Nanfang Media Group so that civil and political rights guaranteed on paper could be materialized on the ground. This would promote the normalization of citizens’ exercise of civil and political rights, thus laying the public opinion foundation and setting up the modus operandi for future political openness.
These two goals were the core considerations in my political experiment on the platform of street demonstration supporting Southern Weekly. All my operations and actions from January 4 to 9 had these two considerations as their starting point.
The rights defense movement, which originated from the Sun Zhigang incident in early 2000, has gone through five historical phases to date.
The first phase: In its nascent period, the rights defense movement took shape chiefly in individual legal cases, particularly in the legal rights defense of and social mobilization for cases of political persecution. Representative figures of this phase include Dr. Xu Zhiyong and lawyer Mo Shaoping.
The second phase: In the first half of 2005, an unprecedented political, legal, and intellectual collaboration surged and pushed the rights defense movement into the second phase in which it began to be defined and shaped. Objectively speaking, Fan Yafeng and I were in fact the earliest to define the rights defense movement. That is, we were the original designers of its main concept, political thinking, and operational strategy. Lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who joined in months later, was one of the major pillars of the struggles in court back then.
The third phase: In 2006, when Chen Guangcheng, Gao Zhisheng, and I were arrested and imprisoned one after another, Hu Jia, Zhang Zuhua, Liu Xiaobo, and others stood up bravely to vigorously resist the reverse current of crackdown. Lawyers such as Jiang Tianyong, Li Heping, Tang Jingling, Tang Jitian, and Teng Biao became involved in numerous sensitive cases and operationalized the real linkage between the rights defense movement and grassroots movement.
The fourth phase: The wide spread of the 2011 Chinese Jasmine Revolution stirred up even stronger waves of citizen participation. At the same time, “rights defense lawyers 2.0,” heralded by Chen Guangwu, Chen Youxi, Yang Jinzhu, Si Weijiang, Yang Xuelin, and others, undertook useful structural exploration in the areas of legal techniques and human rights protection.
The fifth phase: The period from 2011, when netizens nationwide “surrounded and observed” Cheng Guangcheng’s hometown of Dongshigu Village, to now, constitutes the rights defense movement’s fifth phase. This phase centers on citizens’ exercising their civil and political rights, led by civil society actors in places including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Jiangxi, Zhengzhou, Changsha, and Nanning.
The basic concept of the rights defense movement is: bring political events under the law, bring legal power to bear in politics, infuse the mainstream space of citizens’ intellectual life with the lawful struggle between the laws of nature and those of conscience, and promote a democracy movement through collective efforts and political rights defense.
The street political assembly experiment we conducted in support of Southern Weekly was based on the basic concept and general modus operandi of the rights defense movement.
In the following, I will first make my direct and systematic rebuttal and defense against the charges in the indictment accusing me of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in a public place, causing grave consequences” in the “Southern Weekly New Year editorial incident”—namely the street demonstrations in support of Southern Weekly.
First, while it’s completely lawful for citizens to express criticism of and opposition to the government and to exercise their political rights to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration, I personally was in fact not responsible for gathering the street protesters in support of Southern Weekly and had no right to claim the historical contribution under my name.
The indictment accuses me of being “the leading figure” in “gathering crowds to disrupt order in a public place.” As I have already mentioned above, the people who gathered in street protest to support Southern Weekly did not do so at any individual’s instigation, but on their own volition. It was a natural result after thousands of netizens showed their support for Southern Weekly on various microblog platforms from January 4 to 6. Yuan Xiaohua and Yuan Fengchu (Yuan Bing) were just brave individuals who took action. They were not, and could not have been, the organizers.
Second, the entire street protest and assembly to support Southern Weekly, including my speeches on site and also the placard raising, outreach, and speaking by Yuan Xiaohua, Yuan Fengchu, and Liu Yuandong, by no means constituted disruption of order in a public place.
Third, the working space in the Nanfang Media Group compound is a privately-owned space for the exclusive use of its staff members only, and does not constitute the public space that Article 291 of the Criminal Law refers to.
It is necessary to point out that during the three days when the protest and political assembly took place, there was not a single occurrence of me or other citizens disrupting the operation of the Media Group or the traffic near the compound: People were coming and going through the main gate of the Nanfang Media Group as usual without any obstruction; the publication and production of all media of the Nanfang Media Group were on their normal schedule, peaceful as always; no protester ever made any attempt to barge into the compound to show their support for Southern Weekly.
Fourth, the “Situation Briefing” issued by the Nanfang Media Group in November 2013, however, stated that “from January 6 to 9, 2013, an enormous crowd gathered in front of the compound, affecting the Group’s work process and obstructing the traffic at the main gate.” This statement was apparently arranged by the post-totalitarian stability maintenance mechanism tasked with targeting my case.
Fifth, there’s sufficient factual evidence that I and other citizens used multiple balancing measures to actively and aggressively maintain the order of the assembly at the site. This is a powerful testimony that we had no intention to “disrupt order in a public place.”
In fact, after 5 o’clock in the afternoon on January 7, I myself took the initiative of persuading the protesters to leave the site, and we made efforts to quell any clashes or disruptions by people with complex motives. The orderly, moderate, safe, and peaceful proceeding of the three-day political assembly was directly related to my and other citizens’ passionate pursuit of order and the rule of law, our heightened awareness of rules and civility, our high alertness against setups by the ossified forces that demonize constitutional democracy, and our mature capability to control the situations.
One can draw on the most basic, common courtesy of Chinese people to answer this: since I and other citizens were there to express our sympathy and support for Southern Weekly, why would we possibly want to disrupt the work and obstruct the traffic of the people we cared about? If anyone had done this, I would definitely have stood out and stopped such action, as other citizens would have.
Sixth, on the afternoon of January 7, 2013, the Nanfang Media Group voluntarily closed the main gate and opened the side one for vehicles to pass through. This was not a reasonable reaction to the protesting crowds’ blocking of the traffic, but an irrational overreaction. For this, they should take full responsibility.
Seventh, the indictment accuses me of “severely disrupting the order in the public place of the main gate of the Nanfang Media Group.” The prosecuting unit exhibited a picture of me delivering a speech on January 7, 2013 outside the main gate of the Nanfang Media Group while standing on the line marking the center of the gate. They used this picture as the primary proof of my obstructing vehicles from entering and exiting the gate. However, the conclusion of my obstructing the Nanfang Media Group traffic reached from the fact of my stepping on the centerline reversed the chronological and causal orders, seriously defied the principle of sufficient reason, went overboard with the deduction, and thus should be invalidated. The picture of me at the gate shown by the prosecuting unit recorded the scenario on site when I was giving a speech around 3 p.m. on the afternoon of January 7. But the photo clearly showed that there were no vehicles going through the main gate at that time.
Eighth, the indictment claimed that I “gathered crowds to disrupt order in a public place, causing grave consequences.” This legal assessment lacks the support of reliable legal evidence and contains serious logical confusion and groundless accusation.
Ninth, the indictment accuses me of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in a public place.” Over the course of presenting evidence, deduction, and authentication, the lawful exercise of citizens’ political rights to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration was deemed “disruption of order.” Without any subjective, fair, and precise criteria as reference, the accusation is in fact a highly subjective and arbitrary assumption.
Our three-day political assembly was orderly, moderate, safe, and peaceful, causing no chaos or disorderliness in any activities in a public place whatsoever. How groundless is the accusation of disruption and chaos when no such things even happened!
In the afternoon on the first day of the protest and assembly, after talking with the police, the demonstrators immediately moved to the sidewalk. The protest and assembly had since that point been carried out in an orderly manner on the sidewalk, taking up a classic model of sidewalk demonstration, in which important interests of all dimensions, public and private, were well taken care of. This model of sidewalk protest that respects the rule of law and exercises self-restraint is lawful in any modern, civilized country and absolutely does not violate any criminal law.
The citizens who participated in the protest and assembly exercised their political rights in a dignified and open manner and expressed the most moderate political demands for freedom of speech and constitutional democracy. Our political operation and action excluded prejudice, dissolved confrontation, and possessed the strong characteristic of ideological struggle. Such civilized, rational, and peaceful expression of opposition set up a decent example for China’s inevitable future political transition. Be it on surface or in depth, my actions exert positive influence on the social order, and absolutely did not cause any disorder, disruption, or chaos.
It calls for serious reflection that the indictment invokes Article 291 of the Criminal Law to blatantly characterize citizens’ exercise of their political rights to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration that are protected under Article 35 of the Constitution as “gathering crowds” “to disrupt.” This extremely negative and prejudicial wording sets up a major premise for demonizing, violating, and obliterating of citizens’ political rights to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration. Under this premise, all mass actions to lawfully exercise the rights of Chinese citizens are categorically defined as criminal actions that violate criminal laws. This “political law,” medieval in nature, which goes maliciously against the Constitution and natural justice, is an evil law that betrays the fundamental spirit of the law.
The keyword of this evil Article 291 of the Criminal Law, “disrupting,” lacks in basic legal exactitude both on the operational level and in terms of key assessment criteria: In criminal law, what is the threshold for public disorder to constitute “disruption”? What are the objective, tiered, and verifiable criteria to determine a disorder? Article 291 of the Criminal Law has failed to provide a proper definition. Apparently, this provision was consciously designed to be crude, vague, and lax, thus leaving the public security organs, procuratorial organs, and people’s courts with infinite latitude for arbitrary conclusions and at-will judgments. This way, it is successfully molded into a powerful legal tool for the totalitarian stability maintenance mechanism to suppress the pursuit of freedom and democracy.
Obviously, the objective of this evil law is not to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Chinese citizens, but to destroy and obliterate the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Chinese citizens with the assistance of police and judicial powers. The indictment bases itself on this evil law. Without any reliable legal basis, and without objective and precise criteria for judgment, it groundlessly characterizes the lawful exercise of rights by me and other citizens as “gathering crowds to disrupt order in a public place”—a claim made out of a flight of fancy and reversal of causal relation. The highly subjective and arbitrary assumption and accusation in the indictment directly trample on the procedural rationality and justice of a modern legal civilization.
In summary, the indictment’s accusation that my participation in the protest and assembly in support of Southern Weekly constituted “gathering crowds to disrupt order in a public place, causing grave consequences” has no legal standing whatsoever.
You detained, arrested, and imprisoned me for 15 months, based solely on the fact that I made speeches outside the main gate of Southern Weekly on January 7. You used every tool at your disposal, searched every nook and cranny, and yet you were unable to find any legal basis for charging me with disrupting public order. In fact, my speeches, as well as all my activities in support of Southern Weekly, have been in accordance with Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. This was a dignified exercise of the political rights of citizens to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration. It did not disrupt the traffic on major roads, or pedestrian passageways in the area, nor did it disrupt the normal operations of Southern Weekly or the coming and going of its personnel and vehicles. My behavior was completely lawful and did not violate Article 291 of the Criminal Law.
We resolutely pushed forward this experiment of street politics in order to protect the freedom of speech of all Chinese people (including the Southern Weekly staff), to promote a normal state where civil and political rights are implemented, to create an orderly path for political openness and decisive growth of civil society, and to foster momentum in the process toward freedom and democracy. Our political goals are solemn and the objective of our action is moderate. Our operational tactics have been open and straightforward, respectful and cautious. Our community gathering was orderly and peaceful; the social effect of our assembly can be a win-win for officials and citizens, facilitating a gradual thawing of hostility.
Our actions benefit the core interest of the Chinese people: the pursuit of constitutional democracy is healthy, positive, proper, and above board. I am completely innocent, whereas you, who demonize constitutional democracy, abused your power to arrest me, inflicting injustice upon me. Your accusation that I disrupted order in a public place is purely a trumped up charge against me. Thus, my incarceration and the trial today are political persecution in the truest sense. Not only is it unlawful, it is a criminal offense. Your attempts to indiscriminately arrest and unjustly try a dozen of us democracy vanguard in order to reach your political objective of stemming the vast democratic tide in China is an enormous historic crime!
In the clear light of day, the great rivers will not flow backwards. For all eternity, your manufactured crimes against us and persecutions of our wave of freedom and democracy activists will live in infamy!
Over 100 years ago, the Chinese people threw off the shackles of the imperial dictatorship to establish Asia’s first democratic polity. However, due to failures domestic and abroad, this first experiment in democracy failed, and we unfortunately became slaves to totalitarianism. The economic reform since 1978 has allowed Chinese people to partially acquire personal rights and economic freedom. Yet this post-totalitarian system strongly defends private power, and refuses to implement real political reform, forcing the Chinese people to suffer as political and ideological prisoners until today. Currently, though China’s economy has grown to become the second largest in the world, the people still do not have the right to elect officials and representatives at all levels of government, the right to establish newspapers, magazines, or websites, the right to freedom of speech, assembly, procession, demonstration, association, or religion; nor have they acquired the right to a fair trial or the right to freedom from torture and abuse. In today’s China, people do not have political rights, and the society is filled with the atmosphere of slavery and deceit. The people’s search for freedom and exercise of their rights have been deemed illegal at every turn, and they are being bound by layers upon layers of chains of an evil autocratic machine. Instead of human rights, our government is brimming with bureaucratic rudeness, unreasonableness, brutality, and insults. Great economic disparity, rampant corruption, and unequal opportunities ravage the nation as mediocre people hold power. Lies, superficial words, and bureaucratic formalism whirl around us, and we are inundated with a dog-eat-dog unscrupulousness and cynical opportunism. This political society, with wealth but not equality, with materialism but not spirit, with the shell of Olympic grandeur but not a soul, this political society with deeply torn integrity, values, and rules and regulations, this robotic society devoid of dignity, sovereignty, and humanity—is unacceptable. It is also one that an awakened generation can no longer tolerate.
Sovereignty, it must begin with sovereignty! Awakened citizens must first demand from the post-totalitarian system the return of people’s sovereignty and a government by the people, affirming that our human dignity is based on people’s sovereignty and individual political sovereignty. Following a long period of economic growth, freeing the Chinese people from the political and ideological enslavement of totalitarianism, turning private power into publicly-owned power, and establishing a true constitutional democracy—these missions have become the foremost core interests of the Chinese nation. These missions are also the key to solving the majority of Chinese society’s problems, crises, and hidden concerns. The opponents of constitutional democracy are all traitors to the nation. A true patriot, after awakening as a citizen with modern, civilized consciousness, should take opposing totalitarianism and fighting for sovereignty, and opposing slavery and fighting for freedom as their fundamental political duties and missions.
In 1989, after the student movement was crushed, the forces of the Chinese civil society opposition were fundamentally broken up. After 24 years of accumulated hardships, the forces of the Chinese civil society opposition have recovered their vitality under the banner of the rights defense movement, and are coalescing once again. In a situation where economic transformation has prepared a rich material foundation for political change, where the totalitarian camp is undergoing major divisions, and where the international community has given powerful moral support for China’s freedom fighters, this generation of people are fortunate enough to inch towards a new starting line—the starting line for a second democracy experiment of the Chinese nation.
In order to embrace and cherish this historic opportunity, the rights defense movement must devote itself to a peaceful political transformation. The Chinese people have long tired of suffering bloodshed and turmoil. Without a doubt, the consensus of the country’s populace is to advance in an orderly fashion a constitutional democracy in peace, stability, and growth. However, this “orderliness” should not be designed or controlled with an iron fist by a powerful reformer who closes himself off from the people or, even less, by a Putin-style authoritarian and patronizing governance. Instead, this “orderliness” should be based in people’s sovereignty and led by civil society. It should be achieved through a broad competition, broad sovereignty, and broad balance arranged and lawfully ruled by a roundtable consensus reached by different forces and levels of society in a process of political opening. At the same time, the actual strength of support of the polity and civilized regulations are the key to the success of a peaceful transformation. In order to cultivate the people’s strength, the rights defense movement has always vigorously promoted the simultaneous development and balanced growth of the opposition movement and civil society. To achieve the substantive expansion of civil and political rights through the open and energetic exercise of these rights which are made available to the people in an orderly fashion, to strengthen and depend upon an independent and autonomous civil society, to use the power of actual opposition forces that form constructive checks and balances against the ruling power to construct an open political society with multi-party competitions, thereby promoting a constitutional democracy revolution—these are the simply-put and clear operational paths of our rights defense movement.
From late February to mid-March in 2013, because of the convening of the Two Congresses [the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference], I was put under residential surveillance for 20 days by the Guangzhou domestic security authorities. During this time, through the Internet and people like Xiao Shu, we collaborated on a signature campaign urging the National People’s Congress to ratify The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In late March, when the residential surveillance was over, I and Sun Desheng and Yuan Fengchu (Yuan Bing), Guangzhou-based democracy fighters who have been active in street actions in recently years, whom I contacted via the Internet or met with in person, decided to start on-the-ground actions to urge the National People’s Congress to ratify the ICCPR. I was chiefly the one who proposed the ground actions, whereas the concrete operations were the responsibilities of Sun Desheng and Yuan Bing. In Guangzhou, we finalized the concrete plan: undertake a series of street outreach activities—the “eight-city flash actions” campaign—in Wuhan, Yueyang, Changshi, Zhuzhou, Hengyang, Guangzhou, Dongguan, and Shenzhen. The outreach method was to go to the major parks, monuments, sidewalks, and other places, and unfurl our main banner which read, “Urge the National People’s Congress to Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” To demonstrate the cooperative spirit of the people in our nation’s freedom camp and assist in the great cause of advancing civil society in Beijing, activists also would unfurl a second banner that read “Citizens of XX (City’s Name) Demand Officials to Reveal Their Assets.” This theme also reflected ours, as well as the people of the entire nation’s, demands.
The indictment characterizes the aforementioned actions of Sun Desheng, Yuan Fengchu (Yuan Bing), and myself, who participated in the street outreach activities to promote the ratification of the ICCPR, as facts of my second crime of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places.” However, the motivation and goal of our series of street outreach activities, and even the words on our banners—“Urge the National People’s Congress to Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “Citizens of XX (City’s Name) Demand Officials to Reveal Their Assets”—were never mentioned, in direct violation of the requirement by law that important facts of law and key factors in the case be presented in completeness and with the integrity. This amply shows how the behind-the-scenes operators and the entire post-totalitarian system which demonizes constitutional democracy are extremely fearful of universal human rights values and the people’s call to fight corruption. At the same time, this also reflects their great effort in attempting to cover up what essentially is a political witch-hunt. How puny their skills, how laughable.
As to the indictment’s accusation that in promoting street outreach activities with the “eight-city flash actions” to press for the ratification of the Covenant, I was “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places causing grave consequences,” my rebuttal and defense are quite simple:
1. As to the unjust sentence that has been rendered me for my actions in this case, the indictment’s narrative has failed to substantiate its claim of “clarity of facts and veracity in proof.” Regarding the presentation of the facts of law, please use what I stated earlier as the standard; there is no need to continue to interrogate and coerce confessions from Yuan Bing and others.
2. The “eight-city flash actions” street outreach activities to demand the ratification of the Covenant were designed and proposed by me based on my steadfast political ideals and operational strategy. After Sun Desheng and Yuan Bing voluntarily agreed [to participate], they were responsible for the operation and action, and promoted and carried out the entire process basically in accordance with my expectations and suggestions. Therefore, I assume all the primary and decisional responsibilities. The indictment’s characterization of Sun Desheng as a “key member” like myself does not comport with the facts.
3. The “eight-city flash actions” street outreach activities were conducted in parks and sidewalks in accordance with internationally accepted models. The subjective intention itself was to conduct street outreach in small groups and to advertise, and not to “gather crowds” to carry out political protests. In the course of the actual actions, we did not cause “crowds to gather” in any of those cities. As for “disrupting disorder in public places,” it is purely made up.
4. Sun Desheng and Yuan Bing are citizens. Do not harm their personal rights to walk and stand on sidewalks and parks. That they have these rights is unassailable and unquestionable. On this basis, using sidewalks and park spaces to unfurl the “Urge the National People’s Congress to Ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and “Citizens of XX (City’s Name) Demand Officials to Reveal Their Assets” banners for street outreach is essentially the exercise of their right to freedom of speech in a public space. Naturally, their actions are not the same thing as the “gathering crowds” in public places to exercise their rights to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration (not to mention the malice and prejudice that this phrase evokes).
In any other civilized country, Sun Desheng, Yuan Bing, and other people using sidewalks and parks to express their political views in the “eight-city flash actions” street outreach would be accepted as lawful exercises of rights, civilized, rational, and unremarkable.
In short, the indictment’s accusation that we were “gathering crowds” and “disrupting” while carrying out the “eight-city flash actions” series of street outreach activities is entirely groundless. I am completely innocent. So are Sun Desheng and Yuan Bing.
It is impossible to pretend that the Indictment of me and Sun Desheng is anything but political persecution. The UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is the universal framework for human rights standards internationally. Sun Desheng, Yuan Bing, and other citizens have been accused of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public places, causing grave consequences” for unfurling banners urging the National People’s Congress to ratify as soon as possible a Covenant that the State Council has signed. From this, one can see the degree of fear and hatred among the anti-democratic dark forces of China for the Covenant. It is truly lamentable, exasperating, laughable, and comical. You have completely lost your sense of shame. The thickness of the skin on your face deserves a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
From North to South, from Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Zhangqing, and Wang Yonghong, to Sun Desheng, Yuan Bing, and other citizens, unfurling banners on sidewalks and in parks calling for officials to disclose their assets, has all been deemed evidence of criminal violation of Article 291 of the Criminal Law punishable by prison sentences. In a clear universe and under a bright sky, the path with Chinese characteristics has grandly set down new political marvels like this for the human society in the globalized era. If we were to conduct a survey with ordinary Chinese citizens and asked, “Since ancient times, can you find a more corrupt country than China today?” Let us guess what kind of responses we would receive. If all of China wants to guess how many old political families have assets exceeding ten billion yuan, would you dare make this information to the public? Why are you so scared of a dozen or so citizens calling for officials to disclose their assets? What do your actions illustrate? In this information age when the internet is ubiquitous, how many people do you plan to pick up? What kind of magical weapons do you plan on using to shut the mouths of hundreds of millions people? When this generation of citizens have fully awakened, and fearlessly stood up to demand sovereignty, what will you possibly say to them?
Today, in court, I am not only speaking up in defense of my own innocence, but also of the innocence of Sun Desheng, Yuan Bing, Yuan Xiaohua, Liu Yuandong, and the other citizens who have participated in the street protests and political assemblies to support Southern Weekly. I am speaking in defense of citizens who joined the “eight-city flash actions” street outreach to urge the National People’s Congress to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. And I am speaking in defense of the political rights of all Chinese citizens.
As Chinese citizens, we enjoy the sacred popular sovereignty and individual political sovereignty, the political rights to freedom of assembly, procession, and demonstration that are the embodiment of this sovereignty. As masters of this political community, as masters of this country, citizens lawfully and orderly exercising their rights as masters of their society are protected by heaven’s law and earth’s principal, and are completely not guilty.
Our actions are in accordance with the demands for popular sovereignty; our actions are beneficial to the Chinese people’s core interest of the pursuit of constitutional democracy. A constitutional democracy is the grand conglomeration of universal suffrage, separation of powers, limitation of power by the rule of law, a multiparty system, and a federal system. It is the manifestation of popular sovereignty achieved through converting privately-owned power to publicly-owned power. What kind of people opposes constitutional democracy? What kind of people views the manifestation of Chinese people’s core interest and the realization of constitutional democracy as a bottomless abyss and as the end of the world? You whose interests lie in corruption and abuse, who are against a country for the people, who want a country for the Party and for a small clique, can you try to hide the truth from the masses—through sudden huge profits and cheating, through totalitarianism and authoritarianism, and through all kinds of ways to obstruct the majestic wave of democracy—and delay for decades more the Chinese nations’ second experiment with democracy? Let us wait with our eyes peeled.
With this, my long defense statement is nearing its end. It doesn’t matter what the actual facts of law are, according to the rules of the game of a post-totalitarian system trying to maintain stability, I am destined to be sentenced. I am well aware of this and calmly accept. It is because, based on the intrinsic pattern of the power of freedom and democracy, there are bound to be times when people stand up on their own volition and avail themselves of the opportunities in historical junctures, to firmly and responsibly lead wave after wave of actions, to force a bigger gap through the gates that a post-totalitarian system can no longer keep shut.
If we accumulate enough pressure and cooperation, the gates will swing open completely. Especially if a new powerful figure attempts to replicate Putin’s or Lee Kuan Yew’s model in China under the banner of another round of reforms. If this figure tries to use a birdcage-style authoritarian rule to bring about a new centralization of power, and tip the power scale further against the people, there must be some freedom and democracy idealists who will awaken their moral courage to take the initiative to publicly stand with the weak, and try to balance the scale. They must spur more citizens to awaken and bravely join the ranks where everyone is equal and power is checked. Otherwise, China’s coming decades will be bleak. In response to all the suppression, challenges, and fluctuations, the vanguard of the Chinese constitutional democracy experiment will have the opportunity to bear witness for the Chinese people. The hope for rescuing Chinese society from this profound crisis, and for achieving long-term peace and stability founded on a political revolution lie in: the rule of law, limitation of power, universal suffrage, separation of powers, checks and balances, a federal system, a multiparty system, equality among all Chinese ethnicities, religious freedom, autonomy of society, strengthening the sovereign structure of civil society, establishing national welfare guided by freedom, and building, together with American and European democratic nations, an internationally agreed-upon righteous path to humanitarianism.
For me, going to prison for defending the right to freedom of speech of the staff of Southern Weekly and all the Chinese people, and for pressuring the National People’s Congress to ratify The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is a great honor. To pay the price for my actions to try to curb the powers of the mighty and advance constitutional democracy is my duty as an old democracy warrior who has fought for 30 years. I believe the multi-centered network structure of the Chinese opposition movement will do the same thing they have done these past ten years: they will firmly resist this violent wave of mad suppression, and utilize the force of the rising tides. On this soil of China, there has never been a shortage of wholesome forces and fearless activists. The future of history holds profound meaning.