Issued by Citizen Power Initiatives for China
Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 2020
On Feb. 9, 2020, a group of Chinese intellectuals both in and outside China put forth a petition to China’s nominal legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, demanding that Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, China’s bill of rights, be implemented.
The petition, emphasizing the right of free speech, was triggered by the tragic death of whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang, which has aroused harsh criticism against the Chinese Communist Party-run government.
“The story of Li Wenliang has once again told us how important the right of free speech is for the wellbeing of the people,” said Dr. Yang Jianli, Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China and one of the originators of the petition.
“There is an old Chinese saying: ‘Free speech does deliver people to death.’ But the way the Chinese authorities have handled the Corona virus has shown that suppressing free speech can result in the death of many, many people.”
On behalf of Citizen Power Initiatives for China, Dr. Yang urged the international community to monitor China’s human rights violations in addressing the epidemic and confront China on its human rights record while cooperating with it to contain the outbreak.
The text of petition, which has been signed by more than 1000 people in China as of now, is as follows.
Free Speech Begins Today —To the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress
Free Speech Begins Today
—To the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress
On February 6, 2020, Martyr Li Wenliang, the whistleblower, died in the plague of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), and as a victim of the suppression of free speech.
Because of the suppression of speech and the truth by the authorities, the 2019-nCoV has ravaged the lives of hundreds of millions of Chinese people who were forced into isolation and fear during the most solemn and festive traditional celebration of the Chinese New Year. The entire population was placed under de facto house arrest, and the society and economy were forced to a standstill.
To date, over 900 compatriots have died and millions in Wuhan and Hubei have been displaced and are suffering. The origin of this tragedy was that when eight medical practitioners, including Li Wenliang, tried to warn the society about the virus, they were prevented from doing so by the police in early January. Accused of “spreading rumors,” Li Wenliang was forced to sign a pledge to stop his warnings.
In the past thirty years, the Chinese people have given up their freedom for security, but they now face an existential threat their security in the form of a public health crisis. A humanitarian disaster is imminent. Around the world, fear of China has spread faster than the virus, leaving China in unprecedented global isolation. All of this is the price of giving up freedoms and suppressing speech. The “Chinese model” has been shown to be a bubble. Still, the authorities are focusing on the suppression of free speech rather than the prevention of epidemics. The Supreme Law and administrative organizations have adopted an undeclared state of emergency in an extrajudicial manner that violates the Constitution and have illegally suspended constitutional civil rights under the pretext of epidemic prevention, including freedom of speech, freedom of movement, private property rights, and more.
These draconian measures must end! There is no security without freedom of expression! For the sake of all Chinese citizens, we are herewith requesting the Chinese authorities act upon the following five appeals:
1. We request that February 6th be National Free Speech Day (Li Wenliang’s Day).
2. We demand that the Chinese people enjoy the right to freedom of speech conferred by Article 35 of the Constitution.
3. We advocate that the Chinese people should no longer be threatened by any state entity or political organization because of their speech. No one’s rights to freedom of association and communication should be infringed upon by any authority. State agencies should immediately stop censorship and blockades on social media.
4. We hope that citizens of Wuhan and Hubei should have equal civil rights and all patients with 2019-nCoV in Wuhan should receive timely, proper and effective medical assistance, and the government should provide living allowances to people who have difficulty living due to the lockdown of the city and isolation.
5. We call on the National People’s Congress to convene an emergency meeting immediately to avoid the illegal suspension of the scheduled sessions of this year by any political force, and to discuss how to immediately protect citizens’ freedom of speech. Starting with freedom of speech, constitutionalism begins today!