Soap-Box Orator Preaches Human Rights to Shoppers in China's Chongqing

2017-12-05
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Political activist Han Liang speaks in Chongqing to promote human rights, Dec. 5, 2017.
Political activist Han Liang speaks in Chongqing to promote human rights, Dec. 5, 2017.
Photo courtesy of Han Liang

A political activist in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing took to the streets on Tuesday to deliver soap-box-style public orations praising the concept of universal human rights, a concept that has been rejected by the ruling Chinese Communist Party as a Western liberal import unsuited to China.

Han Liang, who has previously run afoul of the authorities for trying to stand as an independent candidate in elections to his district-level People's Congress, stood outside the Aoti shopping mall in downtown Chongqing, dressed in pro-human rights slogans and armed with a public address system.

He said his action was in honor of World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, but that he expects to be under virtual house arrest under the watchful eye of China's state security police by then.

"I think I will very likely lose my freedom very soon," Han said. "Usually I go out and do this in honor of Human Rights Day, but they are always there to detain me, so I'm getting in early this year."

"I found a location to do this today, and my speechifying was quite a success," he said. "I said 'Compatriots! Are you aware that Dec. 10 is the 69th World Human Rights Day, which was set up by the United Nations in 1948?

Han said he also informed passersby that "the People's Republic of China never took part, although the [1911] Republic of China [now based in Taiwan] does take part."

He informed local people out shopping that their human rights include the right to exist, the right to an education, and the right to freedom of expression, among other things, Han said.

"I told them that human rights was a higher principle than national sovereignty, and that a lot of people in China have never heard of human rights," he said.

"But once you have human rights, you have everything," Han told the crowd. "Without human rights, we lose everything."

Large crowd listens

Han said nobody is taught about human rights in China's current education system.

"I told them that we can't blame the government; that they're too busy with their power struggles from morning until night," Han said. "Human rights don't even cross their minds, but they detain us if we start talking about it."

Han, who is in his seventies, said his speech drew a large crowd.

"A lot of people were there listening, and there were no police to be seen," he said.

Human Rights Day falls on Dec. 10 every year, and was established to mark the adoption of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

It is frequently used as a focal point and key anniversary for political and human rights activists in China, and activists are frequently placed under surveillance or house arrest ahead of the date.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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