(Dear English readers and friends,
We invite you to read the draft translation for us and give us suggestions for improvement. Our contact info is: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you.)
Dear fellow Chinese citizens,
The authors are the launching group of the constitutional amendment campaign of Chinese citizens. We the launching group hold that the current Constitution of the People’s Republic of China (“the Constitution”), as the supreme law of the country, has disregarded and defied human rights and liberty of Chinese citizens, resulting in serious rights violations on individuals and groups. The following cases demonstrate serious problems regarding human rights under the Constitution:
1. Xia Junfeng’s case Vs. Bo Gu Kailai’s case: Although both cases involved homicide, Xia obviously had no malice or pre-intention to kill. He, a street vender, killed the urban management officers with his knife (a working tool) when trying to defend himself as the latter severely beat him, but consequently was sentenced to death penalty with immediate effect; while the urban management officers who severely beat Xia Junfeng was officially recognized as martyr and rewarded 900 thousand RMB national compensation! Bo Gu Kailai deliberately killed a British citizen Hywood under no external attack or manslaughter, but escaped the death penalty with immediate effect. Comparing both cases, we learn that everyone is not equal before law. The fact is that officials enjoy higher legal status than citizens.
2. Free people are not free (e.g., Chen Guangcheng, Liu Xia, and Hu Jia have been long confined in their homes under illegal harassment and violence from the police). The government denies citizens’ freedom at their own discretion under the excuse of executing laws, and thus denied that freedom be inborn and inalienable human rights. That the government can violate human rights at will demonstrate that government enjoys higher legal status than citizens.
3. Freedom of religion is not safeguarded and freedom of thoughts & conscience is denied.
Article 18 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, but in China, the Falungong practitioners and the entire groups of rights defense lawyers are persecuted. Government causes many rights violation cases on dissidents and residents who protest for environment issues or judicial justices. Other rights disasters linger on in everyone’s mind such as more than 100 Tibetan self-immolation cases as protest for freedom of religion and the June 4th Massacre in 1989 when the PLA field army intruded into Beijing city under the martial law, resulting in casualties of thousands of peaceful protesters including Beijing residents as well as students…. All these cases involve serious rights violations, because the Constitution does not recognize the freedom of thoughts, conscience and religion. Instead, the Constitution affirms the teachings of Marxism, Mao Zedong thoughts and patriotism (See preamble of the Constitution). By this means, the Constitution harshly restricts the freedom of religion under the rule that “Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” The freedom of demonstrations, protests, strikes and assemblies are thus restricted under similar excuse.
These cases may not directly concern you but some articles surely directly affect you, e.g. residential registration mechanism. You lose your freedom of movement and residence under this mechanism (the freedom of movement and residence is one of the fundamental rights in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights). Where you were born becomes your “home” land. According to law, your freedom of moving and residing in other places is legally restricted or curbed. Because of the residential registration system, Chinese citizens are not equal in respects of human rights and dignity. A citizen born in Beijing, though Chinese citizen like all others enjoys privileges in terms of education, cultural lives, urban facilities, medical care and pensions! Even among Beijing citizens, people born in different districts of Beijing city are treated unfairly in regards of education and development opportunities.
We the launching group hold that the reason why violation of human rights is so extensive in China is that the Constitution _ the supreme law stipulates many articles in defiance of human rights. Under this “Emperor-styled” Law (the traditional written or oral commandments that were especially made to monger and oppress people in the centrally controlled authoritarianism regime, plus the “fundamental principles from the god”), Chinese citizens are deprived of their rights and liberty defined by the international laws.
China, the first state in the world that signed the Charter of the United Nations and the council state of the United Nations, should undertake the obligations to observe the Charter and other signed and ratified international conventions and protocols (“The International Laws”). The Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations iterates in the beginning “WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights…. have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organisation to be known as the United Nations.” Till today, China has signed and approved the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, the “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” and the “United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” (“Convention against Torture”), and signed “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” (to be ratified).
According to the explanation published on the official website of the UN, the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” together with “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights” and its two optional protocols and the “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights” is called “International human rights law”. Based on this we believe that Chinese government is obliged to ensure by the Constitution that the international human rights law and the “Convention against Torture” be observed and followed. In order to respect human rights, the human rights law has to be the supreme law of the county, i.e., the Constitution. Only in this way, we can make sure that human rights are the first and utmost mission and responsibility of the government.
The UN affirms that the principle of universality of human rights is the cornerstone of international human rights law. All human rights are indivisible, whether they are civil and political rights, such as the right to life, equality before the law and freedom of expression; economic, social and cultural rights, such as the rights to work, social security and education, or collective rights, such as the rights to development and self-determination, are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. The deprivation of one right adversely affects the others.
On careful comparison between the current Constitution and the relevant international laws regarding human rights, we find out that Chinese Constitution severely break the International human rights law and the “Convention against Torture” by tactful means, as described in the following:
1. Deny the freedom of thought and conscience by keeping silent, and meantime stipulate anti-freedom of thought and conscience rules in the name of building spiritual civilization.
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
However, the Constitution keeps silent with the freedom of thought and conscience, instead Article 24 of the Constitution states “The state strengthens the building of socialist spiritual civilization through spreading education in high ideals and morality, general education and education in discipline and the legal system, and through promoting the formulation and observance of rules of conduct and common pledges by different sections of the people in urban and rural areas,” meantime it also articulates, “The state advocates the civic virtues of love for the motherland, for the people, for labour, for science and for socialism; it educates the people in patriotism, collectivism, internationalism and communism and in dialectical and historical materialism; it combats the decadent ideas of capitalism and feudalism and other decadent ideas.” That is to say, the state uses the excuse of “building spiritual civilization” to control people’s thoughts, deprive the people of the right to freedom of independent thoughts and conscience, and preach patriotism, Marxism and Leninism and define these as the “socialist civic virtues” and list all the other thoughts as “capitalism, feudalism and other decadent ideas”. This article sharply contradicts against Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience”.
2. Superficially admit freedom of religion, but meantime restrict or deprive the freedom of religion by using extralegal restrictions
In respect of religion, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that everyone has the right to freedom of religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Although article 36 of the Constitution claims that citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief, such freedom is restricted by the following pre-set conditions that “no one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.” Thus Chinese government manages to use article 36 of the Constitution to persecute Falungong practitioners in the name of “wicked religion”; Muslims in Sinkiang in the name of “disrupting public order” as well as Tibetan Buddhists and Christians practicing religion in private churches in the name of “subject to foreign domination”.
3. Deny human rights by citing other articles in the Constitution.
International human rights law affirms that human rights are rights inherent to all human beings and human rights entail both rights and obligations. In regards with rights and obligations, UN explains that both individuals and states have to undertake obligations. At the individual level, while we are entitled our human rights, we should also respect the human rights of others. For the states, states assume obligations and duties under international law to respect, to protect and to fulfill human rights. The obligation to respect means that States must refrain from interfering with or curtailing the enjoyment of human rights.
Nevertheless, in chapter 2 of the Constitution, THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF CITIZENS, it is stated that the state respect and protect human rights, but emphasis on the other side that “every citizen enjoys the rights and at the same time must perform the duties prescribed by the constitution and the law”. This is to say enjoying rights have pre-set conditions; rights are not inherent to all human beings and inalienable. This pre-set condition is “abide by the law”. As a result, when laws restrict or deprive human rights, citizens consequently lose their inherent and inalienable rights in order to “abide by the law”.
In addition to that, article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says everyone “has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Article 20 (1) says everyone “has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.”
Although article 35 of the Constitution says citizens of the People's Republic of China “enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration”, article 1 of the Constitution stipulates “the socialist system is the basic system of the People’s Republic of China. Sabotage of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.” The so-called freedoms of the citizens are deprived in the name of “sabotaging the socialist system”. The hundreds of citizens became criminals of conscience in names of “incited subversion of the government”, “illegal assembly” and “sabotaging the public order”, just because they requested officials to publically report their assets and called for ending the one-party rule authoritarianism by publically showing their opinions on the sign boards they prepared and held on hand. These are the examples of depriving human rights stated in some articles of the Constitution by citing other articles of the Constitution.
4. UN holds that equality is the foundation of human rights, yet Chinese Constitution denies the fundamental principle that all are equal before the law by cunningly changing the wording.
Article 33 writes “All citizens of the People's Republic of China are equal before the law”, but if we analyse article 41 “Citizens of the People's Republic of China have the right to criticize and make suggestions to any state organ or functionary”; “Citizens have the right to make to relevant state organs complaints and charges against, or exposures of, violation of the law or dereliction of duty by any state organ or functionary”; and “Citizens who have suffered losses through infringement of their civil rights by any state organ or functionary have the right to compensation in accordance with the law.”, we may find out that citizens are in obvious inferior status as compared with the state organ or functionary as citizens are not entitled to sue the state organ or functionary to the court of law. Citizens who suffer losses through infringement of their rights by state organ or functionary are only allowed to request for compensation but not to sue them to the court of law. This reminds us of the urban management staff. The functionary from this state organ can beat Mr. Ji Zhongxing, a motor cycle taxi driver, to so serious disabilities that he can’t live without personal care on daily life. Yet he is impossible to win anything if he wanted to sue or even simply complain against the state organ or functionary. This is the wide-spreading scenario that hundreds of thousands of persecuted petitioners are experiencing in their daily lives!
5. What makes the conditions worse is that even though the Constitution admit the rights and freedom of citizens, the government can still use the unconstitutional “administrative rules” to openly violate human rights, with all conveniences. For example,
1) Article 37 of the Constitution writes, “The freedom of person of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable. No citizen may be arrested except with the approval or by decision of a people's procuratorate or by decision of a people's court, and arrests must be made by a public security organ. Unlawful deprivation or restriction of citizens' freedom of person by detention or other means is prohibited; and unlawful search of the person of citizens is prohibited.” However, the Re-education-through-Labor (RTL) prevailing in the country detains citizens for as long as three years without any trials. The so-called psychiatric hospital controlled by the public security bureau (e.g. Ankang Hospital) and the black jails in the names of “hotels” or “senior citizen care centers” detain citizens without even involving procuratorate or court of law.
2) Article 38 of the Constitution writes “The personal dignity of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable. Insult, libel, false charge or frame-up directed against citizens by any means is prohibited.” But in prinsons, RTL camps and even in schools and other public or private places, how many cases happen that citizens’ dignity is violated only because the violators are backed by power? Are these rare?! Just a simple example can show this: State Bureau for Letters and Calls conduct hand search on both male and female petitioners at the entrance (including lower part of the body). Should such insulting act be the administrative regulation of the state organ!
3) Article 13 of the Constitution writes, “The state protects the right of citizens to own lawfully earned income, savings, houses and other lawful property”; article 39 writes, “The home of citizens of the People's Republic of China is inviolable. Unlawful search of, or intrusion into, a citizen's home is prohibited”. However, the prevailing governmental demolishing campaign has caused wide-spreading forced evictions of civilian residence. The citizens are not secured in their own homes; more seriously, casualties are often reported for the forced evictions. The reason why this happens is that behind this right, the Constitution has another clause which says, “The state may in the public interest take over land for its use in accordance with the law, and compensate the land users.” This article has shown that rights of the citizens have to go after the state-claimed “public interest”. What is public interest? It is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution or other laws.
Considering the above-mentioned scenario, we call on Chinese citizens to join the constitutional amendment campaign so as to ensure that the new Constitution protect human rights and make us part of UN people in real term, and we enjoy true human rights and freedom. We appeal for the following in specific:
1. Ensure that “all are equal before the law”. The state organ and functionary should be equal to citizens.
2. Remove the “Four cardinal principles” from the Constitution, because they sharply restrict, prohibit and violate the fundamental human rights, and are the direct causing factor of the denial of citizens’ rights of the freedom to thoughts, conscience, and religion as well as other fundamental rights.
3. Cover in the Constitution the fundamental rights and freedom that are affirmed by international human rights law and to be ratified by the government.
4. To restrict the government from arbitrary violations on human rights, an independent legitimate institution has to make laws on the government’s work and proceedings on behalf of all citizens. An impartial judiciary institution has to be established to oversee the implementation of the relevant laws.
5. The powers not delegated to the government by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the government, are reserved to the people.
6. The government or legislative institution shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
7. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Given that the current constitution, law and governmental rules virtually do not provide human rights protections and human rights violations happen so frequently in China, all left without fair settlements, we the group call for closed signatories of this declaration among Chinese citizens inside or outside China in order to ensure their life safety and security. Please email to: email@example.com for signatures. You may choose any subject with “real name + ID No.” as the content in the email. On receiving your email, we the group will provide you with a random signatory’s ID generated by the computer. When there are 100,000 signatories, we the group are to disclose the list of signatories listing the names and signatory’s ID in alphabetic order. When we have 200,000 signatories, we the group are to submit the declaration to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress; and meantime, we are to submit a copy with the name list of signatories to the UN Committee against torture as well as another one set to the UN Refugee Agency to seek concern and protection from both institutions.
For the sake of your freedom and your rights protection, we the launching group of the Constitutional Amendment Campaign by Chinese Citizens sincerely invite you to join us as signatories. As we are not to immediately disclose the signatories’ information, your life safety will be ensured to certain degree. We anticipate your response and thank you for your participation.
Proposed and written by,
The launching group of the Constitutional Amendment Campaign by Chinese Citizens
On Oct 10, 2013
Email for signatories: firstname.lastname@example.org