Target: Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Goal: Stop detaining and arresting critics of the Chinese government
The President of China should reverse his country’s policy of detaining and arresting people who are demanding increased rights for the Chinese people, among them the right to criticize and demand accountability from the Communist party. The Chinese government has been cracking down on journalists and lawyers who have openly spoken out for reforms that would require the Communist Party to act in line with the standards set out in the country’s constitution and grant Chinese citizens the right to scrutinize the behavior of their officials.
Unnerved by those who seek to limit its powers, the party leadership has decided to silence the voices of these reform advocates. The most prominent among them, Xu Zhiyong, the leader of the rights movement New Citizens, has been first detained and then arrested on the dubious charge of assembling a crowd to disrupt the public order. It is quite possible that the real “offense” that provoked the arrest was his recent call for the Communist party to adhere to the principle of transparency by requiring government officials to disclose their assets.
If we were to treat Xu Zhiyong’s arrest as a test case of the government’s tolerance for criticism, then it would demonstrate the leadership’s lack of hesitation to resort to repressive measures towards those who dare question its decisions. In fact, fellow members of Zhiyong’s New Citizens movement who made use of the right to challenge the legality of his detention and arrest found themselves caught up in the machinery of an oppressive police state bent upon retribution. The journalist Xiao Shu, who denounced Zhiyong’s detention for its failure to comply with the requirements of the legal system and started a signature campaign calling for his release ,was himself taken into custody. Zhiyong’s lawyer, Liu Weiguo, was likewise targeted for supporting his client. When he attempted to visit Xu in prison, the police apprehended him with the accusation of attempting to incite a protest.
According to China Human Rights Defenders, an overseas-based activist group, the Chinese government has recently detained over 23 New Citizens activists. Based on the arrests, it is quite clear that a rights defender doesn’t even need to make a public pronouncement that denounces the party’s actions to be interpreted as a threat by the Chinese government. A mere private discussion that focuses on government criticism suffices to justify an arrest. Liu Jacai, who was initially detained by the police in the Chinese province of Hubei for 10 days for posting controversial opinions online, was later arrested once again, this time on charges of subversion, for organizing dinner parties featuring conversation on the topics of human rights and social justice.
The Chinese government cannot continue to silence the voices of its citizens. Tell President Xi Jinping to allow his citizens to speak freely about their government.
Dear Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
It is unjust to treat advocates of greater citizens’ rights and increased government accountability to the people as criminals. The men and women who discuss and write about the injustices committed by their political leaders are simply trying to shine a light on the abuses that hurt the lives of their fellow citizens. They are not trying to sabotage the workings of the government nor to overthrow it.
Whether it is Zhiyong’s proposal for the disclosure of officials’ financial assets or Jacai’s dinner party discussions about about human rights and social justice, these are not attempts to provoke unrest and violence but merely peaceful deliberations of ideas on how to effect positive change so that life in China can correspond more closely to the noble ideals of freedom and justice. Thus, the appropriate government stance towards concerned citizens who seek to better their country’s fate is to stop detaining and arresting them and leave them to their activist activity.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: John Vandenberg via Wikimedia Commons