26 January 2014

Translation: Turning the Page and Beginning Life Anew

Turning the Page and Beginning Life Anew
An Open Letter from Xu Zhiyong’s
Defense Lawyer, Zhang Qingfang

To me, having received Zhiyong’s verdict is like turning over this page in my life.

Though we will still appeal in order to create some space for Ding Jiaxi and the others whose case is still pending in the Haidian court, the appeal trial won’t change anything.

In fact, before the indictment in this case was ever sent to the court, a “special case unit” including officials from the Beijing High People’s Court had already been set up.

During the trial on 22 January, the heads of the Beijing public security bureau, procuratorate, and court—Fu Zhenghua, Chi Qiang, and Mu Ping—were all watching the proceedings in their entirety from the video room.

When I took on the job of being Xu’s defense counsel, many friends inside the system kindly reminded me to take note of the sensitivity of the case and avoid saying or doing anything too radical. I always asked them not to worry and replied that I would pursue a defense in accordance with the law.

Recently, many people have asked me whether I plan to follow the path of the rights-defense lawyer. I tell them that, for now, I cannot; I’m not as brave as people like Yang Jinzhu or Si Weijiang. [Trans.: Yang was co-counsel for Xu Zhiyong, Si is representing Liu Ping, another member of the New Citizen Movement]

Although I will still serve as Zhiyong’s defense counsel during the appeal, I will not submit any defense opinion to the appeals court, because I don’t recognize its legality. Also, if any lawyer friends has enough courage and knowledge and is willing take on the role of second-instance defense counsel in this case, I will actively recommend them to Xu.

For the next few years, I and Dr. Xu’s classmate Guo Yushan will take responsibility for looking after his family. We shall not let Ms Cui Zheng and their newborn daughter want for anything economically or face other life pressures. This is Zhiyong’s wish.

In 2014, I will mainly rest and do my best to avoid causing any inconvenience to all of my friends.

Zhang Qingfang
26 January 2014

23 January 2014

"Chairman" Xi? Not so fast ...

In a recent piece for GlobalPost, Benjamin Carlson warns us away from employing what he calls "hazardous China clichés." Most I wouldn't argue with, but one in particular needs to be addressed for its less-than-deep grasp of China's political history and constitutional structure. He writes (emphasis added):

Pop quiz: What’s the most powerful political office in China?

If you guessed “president,” you’re wrong.
It’s the General Secretary of the Communist Party’s Central Committee. In China,"president" is a largely ceremonial title that is bestowed on whoever wins the office of general secretary — but it's the secretary position that counts.

There’s a good reason for the confusion over which name to use, however.

English-language media almost exclusively refers to Xi Jinping, the most powerful man in China, as “the president.” A recent Google News search for “President Xi Jinping” turned up nearly 6,000 results, while a search for “Chairman Xi Jinping” (the title by which he’s known in Chinese) turned up three hits.
Even Chinese state-run media call him “president” in English, while calling him “chairman” in Chinese.
The reason is obvious: Using the word “president” makes Xi sound equivalent to a democratically elected head of state. The reality is, in China Xi Jinping is called the same thing Mao Zedong was called: “chairman.” If we’re willing to say “Chairman Mao,” why not “Chairman Xi?”
There is indeed confusion,but in this case it's about how to translate 主席, which is both the "Chairman" in "Chairman Mao" and the "President" in "President Xi."

The title of 主席 has become so synonymous with Mao Zedong in no small part because he held so many different positions under that title and held them for so long. In 1943, Mao led the Chinese Communist Party as "chairman" of the Politburo. In 1945, he also took on the chairmanship of the CCP Central Committee, a post he held until his death in 1976.

After the founding of the PRC in 1949, Mao also headed the state as 主席 of the Central People's Government. When the first PRC constitution was enacted in 1954, Mao served as the first 中华人民共和国主席 (also known as 国家主席), the new position created to serve the function of "head of state." In 1959, Liu Shaoqi became head of state, while Mao continued to head the party. After Liu was arrested in 1968, the position of president was left unfilled. The post was abolished under the 1975 and 1978 constitutions, when supreme power of the state reverted to collective leadership under the National People's Congress.

In 1982, a new PRC constitution revived the post of 国家主席. The following year, the CCP constitution was amended, abolishing the position of "party chairman" (that is, chairman of the CCP Central Committee) and began referring to the party head as 总书记 ("general secretary"). These posts did not begin to be held by the same person until 1993, when then-General Secretary Jiang Zemin succeeded Yang Shangkun as 国家主席.

Yes, heading the CCP has generally been what "matters" most in China, politically speaking. But if you want to refer to Xi Jinping by his party title, you need to call him "General Secretary Xi," not "Chairman Xi." When Chinese refer to 习主席, they are inevitably referring to his "largely ceremonial" position as head of state, not his position within the party. (Of course, Xi is also 主席 of the Central Military Commission, but in most contexts he's being referred to as 国家主席.) 

One is of course free to translate 国家主席 almost any way one likes. But English versions of the Chinese constitution have been translating it as "president" for 60 years, and simply arguing that we should say "Chairman Xi" just because we said "Chairman Mao" is not compelling from a historical viewpoint.

01 January 2014

Chinese Human Rights Lawyers: Calling for a Spring of “Respect and Protection for Human Rights”

Source: http://wqw2010.blogspot.hk/2013/12/blog-post_1793.html

Calling for a Spring of 
“Respect and Protection for Human Rights”

A New Year’s Greeting from Chinese Lawyers for Human Rights Concerning Ratification of the ICCPR and Implementation of Constitutional Government


The beginning of a new year brings renewal to all things. As the new year approaches, we the members of Chinese Lawyers for Human Rights send our greetings to you for the new year!

We are a group that feels passionately about protection of citizens’ rights, pursues democracy and human rights, and longs for constitutional government. Even if we have not yet made significant contributions to the human rights endeavor, we believe in human rights ideals and sincerely intend to follow in the footsteps of those who came before; despite our lowly positions, we shall never stop being concerned about our nation and are determined to contribute our modest efforts toward the human rights enterprise in China.

Looking at China today, the most important task in this human rights mission is to ratify and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR embodies the core values of human rights, constitutional government, democracy, freedom, and rule of law that are expressed in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is an important component of international human rights law and a crystallization of the development of human civilization; it is rich in content and universally applicable.

Our government signed the ICCPR in October 1998, but according to Article 67 of the Constitution of the PRC, it cannot take effect without first being ratified by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. Numerous state leaders have already promised to ratify the ICCPR as soon as possible. To date, three governments and 15 long years have passed, but ratification of the ICCPR remains nowhere in sight. If there is further delay, how can you win the trust of our fellow citizens? How can you win the trust of the international community? Moreover, how can China portray itself as a “responsible great power” on the international stage?

Looking around at the world, only when citizens’ rights are protected can there be an incentive for national development and an expectation of social harmony. In recent years, the Chinese people have developed an increasingly urgent longing for democracy, rule of law, and constitutional government; they are increasingly vocal in their demands for basic citizens’ rights and freedoms regarding expression, publication, assembly, association, procession, demonstration, religious belief, and movement; and their willingness to exercise their rights to criticize, make recommendations, make accusations, and petition is increasingly common. However, we must face the fact that in today’s China citizens’ fundamental rights do not receive the respect they are due, citizens are unable to exercise their political rights in an ordinary manner, and the many citizens’ rights provided for in the constitution can still not put down roots.

The ICCPR concerns the well-being of each and every citizen. Chinese citizens are not inferior to the citizens of any other country, and there is no reason why the citizens of China should not enjoy the same fundamental rights as citizens of other countries. In no way are human rights limited to the basic necessities of life; they also include citizen oversight of state power and [the right] to be free from fear of state power. Human rights also include the rights of all to enjoy freedom, equality, democracy, and rule of law, not to mention the right of every individual to enjoy the right to human dignity! “The state respects and protects human rights” has already been written into the constitution, serving as a solemn promise from the PRC to its citizens!

Looking back at 2013, we find that citizens like Xu Zhiyong, Guo Feixiong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhang Lin, Wang Gongquan, Liu Ping, Qiu Liying, Che Zhongshan, Lu Xueqin, and Liu Hu have been arrested, indicted, or tried in places like Beijing, Guangzhou, Hefei, Dalian, and Chibi for exercising their citizens’ rights to free speech, freedom of religious belief, freedom of assembly, and press freedom. This series of repressions is a brazen insult to the constitution and the law, a wanton violation of citizens’ fundamental rights, and a gross violation of democracy and rule of law. It is a complete departure from the spirit of the UDHR and the ICCPR that perplexes people at home and makes people overseas uneasy.

At such a time when citizens’ rights and political rights are repressed and the constitution and laws are being perverted, all of us citizens ought to adhere to our consciences, strike up our courage, and fulfill our unshirkable civic responsibilities by resolutely fighting back against this counter-current opposing constitutionalism and rule of law and strongly condemn the evil violation of human rights. China belongs to each and every one of us citizens. We therefore firmly demand that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee ratify and implement the ICCPR without the slightest further delay and make its content effective in realistic and concrete measures of constitutional government.

All citizens who love freedom, democracy, rule of law, and human rights: We should make a concerted effort to lay the groundwork for constitutional government—for ourselves, for future generations, and for the China of the future!

“Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people . . .” (Preamble, UDHR)

“The ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights.” (Preamble, ICCPR)

Reading the UDHR inspires a surge of emotion in our hearts. Reviewing the ICCPR fills us with fascination. We are filled with hope for lives with even more freedom, even more fortune, and even more dignity!

1 January 2014