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