It happened on March 18. The spring conference run by the magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu was declared canceled by the authorities.
Yanhuang Chunqiu is a publication that examines contemporary Chinese historical materials and has a wide readership, the highest standards of scholarship, and international recognition.
At its spring conferences, the magazine's editors, readers and researchers are able to communicate with each other and understand each other. This is a Yanhuang Chunqiu tradition.
This year, the list of invited guests included the cream of our nation's elite class: revolutionary elders and nonagenarians Li Rui and He Fang; renowned legal scholars Guo Daohui and Jiang Ping; Marxist theorists like Du Guang; retired politicians like Yang Rudai; and descendants of the nation's founders, Ye Xiangzhen and Xi Ganping.
Some of these guests are extremely old, and might possibly not have been able to attend, but most of them would have taken the time to attend.
People came if they could, young and old alike, as they had in the past, to address the mighty question of building a harmonious society.
Unfortunately, the relevant authorities probably saw this as illegal, and issued the shutdown order at the last minute. A normal social activity of law-abiding citizens was shut down by dint of state power.
I heard this over an international telephone line from a foreign journalist.
I couldn't but be shocked. If this incident had occurred before the fourth [ruling Communist Party] plenum took up the rule of law as its theme, it would still have been unconstitutional.
But it didn't happen then; this is happening now, right before our eyes.
Surely, people will begin to doubt that the principles of the fourth plenum aren't being implemented in Beijing, or perhaps that they are meaningless?
They might ask, and with good reason, whether the healthy society pledged by the plenum contains any protection for our constitutional rights and freedoms.
I am asking them to tell us whether it does or not, so that everyone in China knows, so they won't put a foot wrong in future.
Tell us: Is it illegal or not for the government to take action that deprives citizens of their rights under Beijing's pledge to govern the country entirely according to law?
If it's legal, please show the relevant laws to the people. If it's illegal, then our leaders at the highest level are turning a blind eye to the rule of lawlessness, and the relevant authorities should be pursued according to the law.
It may seem that this incident has little to do with me personally. But it has to do with 1.3 billion citizens, so of course it concerns me as well.
As a citizen, I am responsible, and I have the power and a duty to ensure that the constitution is implemented.
This worries me so much that I daren't not speak out, so I am blowing the whistle.
The powers that be will have to decide what's what.
Translated by Luisetta Mudie.
Bao Tong, political aide to the late ousted premier Zhao Ziyang, is currently under house arrest at his home in Beijing.