This article was first published in China Change website
Mr. Xi Jinping, President of China:
We are startled and dismayed to learn of the recent forcible arrest in Guangzhou of Xu Zhiyong, a citizen-activist, and holder of the degree of Doctor of Laws from Peking University.
It was only a few days ago, on February 6, 2020, that Li Wenliang, a physician and an early whistle-blower on the spread of the coronavirus in Wuhan, died in his efforts to help his fellow citizens. When Dr. Li discovered the spread of the virus, he advised a small circle of his friends and relatives to guard against it. That act brought police to his door. He was summoned to a police station, threatened, and ordered him to keep silent about the virus. This kind of abridgment of the freedom of speech turned China into an open field upon which the virus could have its way and bring disaster. When the news about Dr. Li got out, a nationwide torrent of popular indignation followed. Calls for freedom of speech grew strong.
The news of Xu Zhiyong’s arbitrary arrest only sharpens the crisis of freedom of speech in China.
We are aware of Xu Zhiyong’s many and frank criticisms of the Chinese government and of you personally. But we recall, too, that when you came to power in 2012 you announced your intention to “rule by the constitution.” Article 35 of China’s constitution reads: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China shall have the freedoms of speech, the press, assembly, demonstration, and protest.” Article 41 reads: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China shall have the right to present criticisms of and suggestions for any state organ and any state official.” Xu Zhiyong’s views certainly do diverge from official government views; but they all fall within the scope of free expression and critical suggestion guaranteed by China’s constitution. As a leader of the government, you have a duty to respect analyses and political opinions that differ from your own, even if the difference is extreme. To deploy government organs in the repression of criticism and denial of free speech violates China’s constitution and diminishes the dignity both of the Chinese state and of you personally.
Accordingly, we feel compelled to express our profound concern over the arrest of Xu Zhiyong (and the arrests of his friends Ding Jiaxi, Zhang Zhongshun, Dai Zhenya, and Li Yingjun on 26 December 2019); we ask the Chinese government to show that it has absorbed the lesson of the Li Wenliang episode by immediately releasing the innocent citizens Xu Zhiyong and his colleagues, by ceasing abuses of citizens’ rights forthwith, and by returning freedom of speech to the Chinese people.
1. Tomoko Ako, University of Tokyo 阿古智子, 东京大学教授
2. Geremie R Barmé, Australian National University 白杰明, 澳大利亚国立大学荣休教授
3. Robert Barnett, SOAS University of London 伦敦大学亚非学院研究员
4. Jean-Philippe Béja, Institut de politique de Paris 白夏, 巴黎政治大学教授
5. Joseph Bosco, The Hill Newspaper 《国会山报》专栏作家
6. Anthony W Bradley, Edinburgh University/Oxford University 爱丁堡大学荣休教授/牛津大学访问学者
7. Anne-Marie Brady, University of Canterbury 坎特伯雷大学教授
8. Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Hong Kong Baptist University 香港浸会大学教授
9. Kevin Carrico, Monash University 凱大熊, 莫那什大学资深研究员
10. Josephine Chiu-Duke, Professor, Asian Studies Department, University of British Columbia 不列颠哥伦比亚大学教授
11. Donald Clarke, George Washington University 郭丹青, 乔治华盛顿大学教授
12. Jerome A. Cohen, New York University 孔杰荣, 纽约大学资深教授
13. Alison W. Conner, University of Hawaii at Manoa 夏威夷大学马诺阿分校教授
14. Michael C. Davis, Columbia University戴大為, 哥伦比亚大学教授
15. Larry Diamond, Stanford University 戴雅门, 斯坦福大学教授
16. June Teufel Dreyer, University of Miami 金德芳, 迈阿密大学教授
17. Michael S. Duke, Emeritus Professor, Asian Studies Department, University of British Columbia 杜迈可, 不列颠哥伦比亚大学荣休教授
18. Marion Eggert, Ruhr University Bochum 梅綺雯, 波鸿大学教授
19. Joseph W. Esherick, University of California, San Diego 周锡瑞, 加州大学圣迭戈分校荣休教授
20. Feng Chongyi, University of Technology Sydney 冯崇义, 悉尼科技大学教授
and more than 30 others,
This open letter was initiated by professors Andrew Nathan, Perry Link, and Zhang Lun. Please join them, as many of their colleagues have done, to sign this letter. Please send your name and affiliation to: [email protected]. The list of signatories will be updated daily.