Statement regarding the refusal of mediation and a request for legal process
To the Intermediate People's Court of Fuyang city, Anhui province Honorable Judge Qian Weiguang:
In the libel case brought by Zhang Xide against Chen Guidi and company, there has already elapsed a period of one year and seven months from the beginning of the lawsuit, a period of one year and one month from the date of effectiveness of the ruling on jurisdiction, and nearly one year since the Court heard the case.
However, the waiting period for a decision on this case appears to be indefinite. We have already submitted a written complaint about this, as well as about the inadmissibility of some of Zhang Xide's witnesses, and called for a fair and impartial decision from the Court. We have had no formal reply...
...The Court has committed several procedural errors, including limiting the right of the defendant to appeal, impeding the legal process.
Firstly, at the time the case was brought, the Court issued a "notice" requiring the People's Literature Publishing Company to cease publishing Dangdai , the magazine which serialized Survey of China's Peasants , and forbidding it from publishing this work in any form "to avoid further disputes in future".
We believe that the creative freedom and freedom to publish are enshrined in the Constitution and granted to all citizens. This has harmed the normal business and the interests of the publishing company and the property rights of the authors. The Fuyang city Intermediate People's Court has restrained publication of this work illegally, harming the legitimate interests of the publishing house, the authors and the readers. This is clearly an abuse of judicial power.
...the case brought by Zhang Xide, who appears in the book, has given us the opportunity to test the capabilities of China's judicial system ... the fact that a work gives rise to many different opinions is proof that it does indeed reflect reality. Survey of China's Peasants has left a great many people with the feeling that they will never rest easy again, because it wounded people once more in their souls, which they thought had become cold and weak...
...I see that the newly appointed Anhui provincial Party secretary, Guo Jinlong, criticized Survey in an interview with Phoenix TV, saying: "This is a very bad book, which has blackened the image of Anhui, and it does not seek truth from facts." He said the authors had overdramatized a few problems "left over from history" which had now been solved, and were not objective.
He admitted that some problems existed with grassroots work in the countryside, and that basically the work of local officials consisted of collecting grain and taxes and performing abortions. But he thought that since collecting grain and taxes was for the country, and performing abortions was carrying out family planning policies, they should not be brought up again, and if the authors kept piling them up, then this was "smearing Anhui’s name."
Apparently, Secretary Guo didn't do his homework. Was it the authors' work, or was it the violent acts of Zhang Xide and his ilk that smeared Anhui's name? Furthermore, the book gives a clear picture of the reality of the lives of the many peasants under Secretary Guo's area of responsibility.
...We cannot tell whether Secretary Guo's point of view as a leader and representative of Party and government in Anhui has dictated the attitude of the Fuyang Intermediate People's Court. But his comments are certainly not going to fall on deaf ears among his officials.
We are deeply grateful that it is the independent spirit of the judiciary, the sense of legal professionalism, which has led to the failure to issue a decision in this case. That this is due to your unwillingness to throw the authors to the wolves, as well as your knowing that there are no reasons to rule against them. You have gone as far as this.
However, we still hold high hopes that you will, and you should, overcome the predicament you are in, and give a final decision in favor of freedom of speech.
...With this case you have the opportunity to decide whether China's citizens have the right to criticize the public policies of the Party and the government.
...If you accept the principle that The New York Times vs. Sullivan (1964) opened up a space for free speech under the rule of law, then Zhang Xide vs. Chen Guidi has the potential to provide a solid basis to take Chinese society toward greater openness....
...Honorable Judge Qian Weiguang: A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You can choose with that first step whether the human spirit begins to shine or remains trodden down in the dust...
You have already shown yourselves to be among the best of China's judicial officials...The eyes of countless authors, journalists and ordinary citizens are upon you, waiting for your decision...Whether you now choose to act as the guardians of freedom, or as the attendants of oppression is a matter for your own consciences.
Defendant: Chen Guidi Trustee/representative: Beijing Huayi Lawyers Administration Bureau Lawyer: Pu Zhiqiang
Beijing, July 10, 2005
First broadcast in full by RFA's Mandarin service, directed by Jennifer Chou. Translated and produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Additional editing by the RFA Mandarin Web team.