According to the Constitution, Chinese people enjoy "freedom of expression;" however, a Beijing court has found Mr. Liu Xiaobo, who expressed his political opinion, guilty of speech crimes. According to the Constitution, all political power in China does not rest with the Communist Party. Who does it rest with? It rests with the people; however, according to the court judgement, Charter 08, which wanted to do away with a single party dictatorship, was guilty of subversion. So it was with the first verdict, and with the first appeal, which upheld the original verdict. This sort of final appeals process is very disappointing.
Liu Xiaobo's decision to continue to appeal was the last opportunity for the authorities to correct the mistake that had been made. It is regrettable in the extreme that they wasted this opportunity.
China's media was forced to keep silence after the first hearing, but there was an international outcry and some very severe criticism. Why was this? Because it is virtuous to care about other people. Internationally, people were speaking out for justice because they shared fellow feeling with ordinary Chinese people. These people are good friends capable of straight talk. It is a shame that the authorities were unable to accept or understand their good will.
Veteran Chinese intellectuals, lawyers, and Party members all pointed out to the government that they had made an astonishing error with the first verdict, including the error of disregarding the broad currents of civilization and universal values. The meaningful and heartfelt words of these elders were interceding on behalf of the people, in the hope of progress for China, in the hope that those in the Chinese Communist Party would change their ways and not cover up their mistake in the hope of keeping it hidden. These were sincere words spoken with a sincere heart. It's a shame their effort was wasted.
The judgment wasn't able to prove Liu Xiaobo's guilt using legal principles; on the contrary, it did the exact opposite. It proved that China's Constitution is a piece of useless paper. It proved that the single-party authoritarian government is blatantly unconstitutional. The "freedom of expression" we enjoy in China is an illusion, a figment of the imagination, because we are not free to talk about human rights and democracy, and we're not free to talk about universal values and civilization, nor to discuss our dissatisfaction with one-party rule. Any Chinese citizen wishing to express their anger with the Party had better get ready to serve an 11-year jail sentence. If they happen to do this three times, then they can expect to spend the remainder of their lives in prison. This judgment was in effect a policy document which laid bare for the whole world to see that this is how a one-party dictatorship treats the UN human rights covenants, and that this is the state of human rights in China at the "best-ever" period in their history.
Ghosts of injustice
The past 60 years of single-party dictatorship are haunted by ghosts of injustice numbering into seven figures, perhaps even eight figures. If we include in the roll of victims their close relatives, and people who have had their homes and families ripped apart, then we are talking about eight figures at the very least, and quite possibly even nine figures: that's hundreds of millions. Whether the total number of victims is in the tens of millions or the hundreds of millions is a Party and state secret. If such tragedies continue to be enacted year after year while we turn a blind eye, eventually the Chinese people will become nothing more than chickens to be slaughtered and monkeys to be frightened. And a republican system will never come to China, which will never take its place on the world stage as a responsible member of the international community.
It is a great pity that the government seems not to want progress, that it seems to have given up trying. The Chinese Constitution and the rights of its citizens have been recklessly trampled by the one-party system. There is no end to the number of cases of injustice, or miscarriages of justice, which this system churns out. The case of Liu Xiaobo is just the latest warning sign: when economic conditions improve, the one-party dictatorship must not continue to keep us languishing in obscurity. We must decide that we want to join the community of universal values, and come out to fight for this of our own accord. The case of Liu Xiaobo and Charter 08 is not an isolated one, but it serves as a rallying cry.
Barometer of change
The final verdict on this case is enough to make one tremble with fear. Because it means that the one-party system has turned a deaf ear to the rights of citizens and to the rule of law. I believe that there is only one logical conclusion: that we must keep up an unremitting pressure on the one-party dictatorship until it cannot eat or sleep for worrying, until it is forced to return power to the people. Only pressure will keep China moving forwards on the road to progress.
Liu Xiaobo has gone to jail for human rights, for 1.3 billion ordinary people who have no voice. As a representative of the powerless Chinese people, as a representative of Charter 08, a symbol of hope for the future of China, he is a barometer for the future direction of China, which was set up by the one-party dictatorship's own hand.
To protect civil rights is to protect the Constitution. The struggle for the rule of law is by definition a legal struggle. Through this tenacious and unyielding struggle to protect citizens' rights and the rule of law, the republican vision will become a reality. The last days are here: spring cannot be far away!
When all Chinese people truly enjoy the rights of citizens, then that will be the final victory for the struggle for human rights. When we have finally shaken off the disastrous number of cases of injustice and miscarriages of justice which have befallen us, then people of all nationalities will be able to live in our towns and cities, with free competition, and the basic guarantee of the rule of law to safeguard them from fear. Only then will we see a truly just and stable society. This will mean that democratic politics will come to our country, and we will be able to build a republic. As for the Chinese Communist Party, it won't lose anything that was truly worth having, only the malignancy that is one-party rule, which has brought calamity to the country and to the people. It is only when this malignancy is taken as the be-all and end-all that it is allowed to spread in such a mad and uncontrolled manner, leading the Chinese people into corruption and decadence.
Original essay broadcast by RFA's Mandarin service. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.