Saturday, February 1, 2014

As Two More New Citizens Movement Participants Are Convicted, Baidu and Sina Begin Censoring "New Citizens Movement"

Haidian Court Announcements
of Yuan and Xi's Convictions

On January 29, 2014, the Haidian People’s Court published notices on its Sina Weibo stating that it had sentenced Yuan Dong (袁冬) to 18 months imprisonment for gathering crowds to disturb order in a public venue, and that it had found Hou Xin (侯欣) guilty of the same crime, but imposed no penalties due to the minor nature of her crime.

Yuan and Hou were detained on March 31, 2013.  On May 24, 2013 Xu Zhiyong (许志永) published an article on his blog entitled "Citizen’s Statement Regarding the Arrest of the Asset Disclosure Ten Gentlemen" (公民就“财产公示十君子”被捕的声明). The post was signed by Xu,Xiao Shu (笑蜀), Wang Gongquan (王功权), Teng Biao (滕彪), Liu Weiguo (刘卫国), Li Xiongbing (黎雄兵), Liang Xiaojun (梁小军), Li Fangping (李方平), and Xiao Guozhen (肖国珍). According to the Statement:
On March 31, 2013, Yuan Dong, Zhang Baocheng, Ma Xinli, Hou Xin and others unfurled banners in downtown Xidan plaza, Beijing, calling for the public disclosure of officials’ assets.  After about ten minutes the four of them were taken away by police and subjected to criminal detention for “illegal assembly.”
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That day Yuan Dong and the others were just four people holding a banner, and one person speaking. Those who had gathered around were just spectators who happened to be passing by and they had not been organized as fellow participants. Their actions were those of individuals expressing their views, which is an exercise of their freedom of speech under Article 35 of the Constitution, as we well as the right under Article 41 to criticize and offer opinions to state agencies and civil servants. There was no assembly as that term is understood in the law, much less  any “refusal to obey orders to disburse,” “severe disruption of social order,” or any other action that would qualify as  a crime under Article 296 of the Criminal Law. It did not constitute the crime of illegal assembly.

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These screenshots show that Sina Weibo began censoring the phrase "Asset Disclosure Ten Gentlemen" (财产公示十君子) shortly after the Statement was published.

Yuan and Hou were participants in China's "New Citizens Movement." The New Citizens Movement was described by Xu Zhiyong in a November 2012 blog post as follows:
China needs a New Citizens Movement. This is a political movement for a hoary people to say thoroughly part ways with autocracy and complete the transformation into a constitutional civilization. It is a social movement to thoroughly wipe out the corruption of privilege, the abuse of power for personal gain, and the gap between rich and poor, and build a new order based on fairness and justice. It is a cultural movement to thoroughly part ways with a culture of despots and subjects, and build a new citizen spirit. It is a peaceful progressive movement to  raise the level of civilization of all mankind.
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The goals of the New Citizens Movement are a China that is democratic, free, and subject to the rule of law, a civil society that is just and happy, and new national consciousness of "Freedom, Righteousness, Love."
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The New Citizens Movement includes several type of social and political movements that are currently underway: the Grass Mud Horse Movement, the Demolished Households Movement, the Household Registration Desegregation Movement, the June 4th Meditation Day Movement, the Freedom of Belief Movement, the Blog Movement, the Environment Protection Movement, the Food Safety Movement, the People's Congress Candidacy Movement, the Weibo Child Protection Movement, the Anti-Monopoly Movement, the Anti-Corruption Movement . . .  it is the coalescence of social and political movements around a new citizens' spirit. 
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On January 22, 2014, a Beijing court sentenced Xu to four years imprisonment on the same charges as Yuan and Hou. These screenshots show that on the same day Baidu began censoring searches for “Xu Zhiyong.”
On January 23, the state-sponsored Global Times published an article in English entitled "Law is No Threat to Citizen Movement." Some excerpts:
Xu's effort to launch the "New Citizens' Movement" is not widely known to the Chinese public. Its influence can mainly be felt in academia and some groups of activists. Xu's advocacies, including constitutionalism, property disclosure of civil servants and education equality, can be expressed and are also echoed in Chinese society.

These advocacies are not incompatible with China's reforms. Xu, as well as other activists like him, will not likely be tried simply because they have these advocacies.
These screenshots show that Baidu and Sina Weibo began censoring searches for “New Citizens Movement” (新公民运动) about the same time Yuan and Hou were sentenced.