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Citizens are innocent! Petition in support of the New Citizens’ Movement in China and the human rights defenders under prosecution

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With the foundation of China’s rights defense movement in the last decade, "New Citizens' Movement" is a public platform for citizens to go beyond their individual interests in pursuit of citizens’ rights with a common identity as citizens. “Citizens” are the core of the whole movement. As a free and independent individual, a citizen (1) abides the publicly recognized laws and order, (2) emphasizes the identity of “citizen”, (3) promotes the values of “liberty, justice and love”, (4) goes beyond individual interests, and (5) encourages citizens to advocate for peaceful and rational expression and actions in pursuit of democracy, the rule of law, civil liberties, human rights and a civil society. The New Citizens’ Movement encourages citizens, under the current constitution, to exercise freedom of speech in the public and the right to lawful actions.

 

From March to April this year, however, more than 40 citizens were arrested for exercising freedom of speech and of assembly, including Yuan Dong, Zhang Baocheng, Ma Xinli, Hou Xin, Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing, Sun Hanhui, Wang Yonghong, Li Wei and Qi Yueying (together called the "Ten Nobles of the Assets Declaration Movement") as well as Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping, Li Sihua, Li Xuemei in Jiangxi. In mid-July this year, Dr. Xu Zhiyong, a renowned law scholar and one of the founders of Open Constitution Initiative, was placed under criminal detention with the charge of "gathering a crowd to disturb public order" after he had been held under house arrest for three months. Two days after Xu's detention, Transition Institute, a civil society organization founded by Guo Yushan (ex-member of Open Constitution Initiative), was outlawed by Beijing Civil Affairs Bureau for not being registered in the Bureau. The police accusations against the arrested and the prosecuted are mainly "gathering a crowd to disturb public order" or "unlawful assembly". Other accusations include inciting subversion of state power, endangering national security, provocative and disturbing behaviors, fraud, extorting public or private property by blackmail, withdrawing capital upon registration of company, conducting illegal business and illegal publications.

 

Since the dawn of New Citizens’ Movement, activities on different social and political issues have been organized. Different kinds of activities, including forum threads forwarding, lawsuits, participation in or open refusal to running for elections, mass demonstrations and performance art have been organized in order to advocate for citizens’ rights movement and civil disobedience movement. Both movements advocate for disclosure of officials’ assets,  transparency, anti-corruption, anti-household registration (hukou) stratification, freedom of beliefs, freedom of speech, and the right to election. Among all, there are large-scale campaigns to promote the abolition of urban and rural hukou system, disclosure of officials' assets, protection of families of prisoners of conscience, and non-violent ways to enhance development of the government and the country. Moreover, advocates hold regular meals to discuss current political development, people’s livelihood, public services and social policies.

 

According to Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution, Chinese citizens "enjoy freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration". Article 37 stipulates that "[t]he freedom of person of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable" and "[u]nlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens' freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited". The abovementioned acts of the Chinese Government not only contravene the Chinese Constitution, but also violate the international human rights standards. China signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. China also signed the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Chinese Government is obliged to protect the rights of citizens, but it instead openly violates the rights of its own citizens.

 

When demand for transparency of the government becomes "inciting subversion of state power";

When expression of expectations on government in public areas becomes "assembling crowds to disturb public order";

When exercising citizens' rights becomes the cause of imprisonment,

Every person's rights could be deprived and violated at any time.

 

Every citizen in every society shall exercise their rights enshrined in the Constitution without any threat. The New Citizens' Movement is being oppressed relentlessly by the government. What the movement needs is not only the persistence of Mainland citizens, but also the support from different areas to unite civil power all over the world that effectively exert pressure on the Chinese government, urging it to respect and protect citizens' civil liberties and basic rights and to release the arrested activists immediately.

 

Participation and support from the public are crucial to the success of New Citizens' Movement. A little spark kindles a great fire. We fervently hope you can sign our petition, support the "New Citizens' Movement, pay attention to human rights situation of Chinese citizens and walk with the prosecuted activists.

I am a citizen. I demand the Chinese Government:
 

1.           to release Xu Zhiyong and other arrested citizens immediately;

2.          to ensure the arrested citizens and lawyers have unobstructed access to legal services ;

3.          to respect and protect citizens' rights to freedom of speech and assembly;

4.          to ensure that citizens can exercise their rights enshrined in the Chinese Constitution without any forms of threats;

 

5.          to stop the persecution of human rights advocates.

 

Endorsed by

China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group

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