Monday, May 29, 2023

Translation: Court Judgment in Wang Aizhong Political Tweeting Case

Translator's Notes:

  • I have translated the crime that Wang Aizhong was convicted of (寻衅滋事罪) as "disturbing the peace." Other translators use "picking quarrels and provoking trouble."
  • The court did not specify what Wang Aizhong shared on social media that disturbed the peace.  Here are his last three tweets that he posted prior to his detention on May 28:
    • On May 26, Wang retweeted a post by the New York Times linking to the Chinese language version of an article titled "Biden Orders Intelligence Inquiry Into Origins of Virus."
    • On May 26, Wang posted "Someone logged into my telegram account. Their attacks on private communication software and surveillance is getting more and more insane.
    • On May 24, Wang quote tweeted a post by the Wall Street Journal to the Chinese language version of an article titled "Belarus Faces EU Flight Ban for Grounding Ryanair Plane With Dissident." Wang added "Some folks really have guts. Certain other countries could stand to learn something from them."

People's Court of Tianhe District, Guangzhou, Guangdong

Criminal Judgment

(2022) Yue 0106 Criminal First Instance No. 377

The public prosecution agency was the People's Procuratorate of Tianhe District

Defendant Wang Aizhong, male, born on December 13, 1976, Han nationality, university degree, household registration in Guangzhou City. On May 28, 2021, he was taken into custody in connection with this case. He was taken into criminal detention the following day, and he was formally arrested on July 6 of the same year. He is currently being held in custody at the Tianhe District Detention Center in Guangzhou.

Defense counsel Ge Wenxiu is a lawyer at the Guangdong Lucheng Dingbang Law Firm.

Defense counsel He Weimin is a lawyer of Guangdong Jingguo Law Firm.

In the Sui Tian Procuratorate Criminal Prosecution (2022) No. Z10 Indictment the People's Procuratorate of Tianhe District, Guangzhou, Guangdong, charged defendant Wang Aizhong with committing the crime of disturbing the peace, and on January 27, 2022 it filed a public prosecution with this Court. This Court accepted the case and formed a collegial panel in accordance with the law, convened pretrial conferences, and tried this case with hearing in open court. The People's Procuratorate of Tianhe District, Guangzhou, Guangdong assigned procurators Huang Haifeng, Liu Qiwei, He Qian to appear in court in support of the indictment. Defendant Wang Aizhong and his defense counsel He Wenxiu were in court to participate in the proceedings. Hearings in this case have now concluded.

The public prosecution agency charged: Since January 2019, defendant Wang Aizhong did, in the eastern part of the Tianhe District in the city where he lives, repeatedly use "wall-climbing" methods on the Internet to repost false reports from foreign media, and added his own statements with fake information, and distributed them on his WeChat official account and on foreign social software, thereby causing a disturbance and misleading the public. On May 28, 2021, defendant Wang Aizhong was apprehended by investigators at his residence and brought to justice.

In order to prove the aforementioned facts, the public prosecution agency produced or read in court the Decision to Establish a Case, search and seizure materials, remote network inspection work records, screenshots of social software content, the testimony of witness Wang Mounan and others, the statement of the defendant, and other evidence. The public prosecution agency believed that defendant Wang Aizhong fabricated and disseminated fake information, creating a disturbance and causing severe chaos in public venue order, and he should bear criminal liability for the offense of disturbing the peace. It requested this Court pass sentence in accordance with the law.

Defendant Wang Aizhong's defense counsel proffered: Wang Aizhong's statements on overseas online platforms did not exceed the boundaries stipulated by law. The public prosecution agency failed to prove that Wang Aizhong's actions caused severe chaos in the cyberspace, and Wang Aizhong did not constitute the crime of disturbing the peace.

It was ascertained at trial: Since January 2019, defendant Wang Aizhong did on several occasions post and repost a large volume of fake information on domestic and foreign Internet platforms, creating an offensive social influence and severe chaos in public order.

The aforementioned facts have been confirmed by the following evidence presented and examined in court during the trial, and are determined by this Court:

1. The Police Report Acceptance Registration Form, the Decision to Establish a Case, and the apprehension process confirmed the circumstances of the case establishment and apprehension of defendant Wang Aizhong.

The search and seizure materials confirmed: When the police apprehended defendant Wang Aizhong, they seized an Apple mobile phone from him; in the search of Wang Aizhong's residence [OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL], they found an ASUS laptop, a Microsoft tablet, and an Apple mobile phone. All of the above items were seized.

3. Screenshots of defendant Wang Aizhong’s Twitter and WeChat account interfaces, and WeChat information provided by Tencent confirmed: Wang Aizhong’s Twitter account is “王爱忠@wangaizhong”; the name of the WeChat account is "A Wang Aizhong", the nickname is "Wang Aizhong D", and the username is WeChat is "wangaizhong2023".

Defendant Wang Aizhong signed and affirmed this.

4. The remote network inspection work records confirmed: The investigative agency remotely fixed and extracted the content of the tweets posted by the Twitter account "王爱忠@wangaizhong."

5. The screenshots of Twitter and Wechat Moments confirmed that defendant Wang Aizhong posted a large amount of fake information on social software, causing severe chaos in public order.

Defendant Wang Aizhong carried out signing and affirming some of the screenshots.

6. Defendant Wang Aizhong's household registration information and criminal record investigation materials confirmed the identity of defendant Wang Aizhong. On February 23, 2013, he was sentenced to administrative detention for participating in an illegal assembly; on May 28, 2014, he was criminally detained for publishing rumors on the Internet, and was later released on bail.

7. The testimonies of witnesses Wang Doenan, Chen Doeyun, and Wan Doeming confirmed: Wang Aizhong's WeChat account is "wangaizhong2023" and his Twitter account is "王aizhong@wangaizhong."

Witness Chen Doeyun carried out signing and affirming Wang Aizhong's WeChat account, Twitter account, and screenshots of his WeChat Moments interface. Witness Wan Doeming identified Wang Aizhong and carried out signing and affirming the relevant screenshots of his Moments content.

8. The statement of defendant Wang Aizhong: I posted about some high profile social incidents on WeChat Moments and Twitter, which came from self-media such as Weibo. The WeChat account I use is qingshan1995, and I have also used wangaizhong2023 and wangaizhong, and the associated mobile phone number is [INTENTIONALLY OMITTED]. My Twitter account is @wangaizhong, and my nickname is "王爱中." I have posted relevant information on WeChat Moments and Twitter, and the account is only used by myself, and others do not know my account and password. I am posting relevant information using my mobile phone.

Regarding the opinion proffered by defendant Wang Aizhong and the defense counsel that he is not guilty, based on an investigation, Wang Aizhong used the aforementioned WeChat and Twitter accounts to disseminate fake information relating to State policies and major domestic events on the Internet, creating a disturbance and misleading the public, and the relevant information was widely read And reposted, with dangerous consequences that created severe chaos in public order.

The opinion proffered by Wang Aizhong and his defense counsel that he is not guilty is not established and is not adopted by this Court.

This Court finds that defendant Wang Aizhong intentionally fabricated fake information, or knowingly disseminated fake information on the Internet, causing disturbances, and creating severe chaos in public order. His actions constitute the crime of disturbing the peace. With respect to the public prosecution agency's charge, the facts were clear and the evidence was reliable and copious, and the charged offense is established and is adopted by this Court. After Wang Aizhong was brought to justice he made truthful statements regarding the primary criminal facts, and may be given a lighter punishment in accordance with the law. In accordance with Articles 293(1)(iv), 67(3), and 64 of the "Criminal Law of the People's Republic of China" and Article 5 of the "Interpretation of the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate on Several Issues Concerning the Specific Application of Law in the Handling of Defamation Through Information Networks and Other Criminal Cases," the judgment is as follows:

1. Defendant Wang Aizhong committed the crime of disturbing the peace, and is sentenced to a fixed term imprisonment of three years (The prison term is to be calculated starting on the day the judgment is executed, and each day in custody prior to the execution of the judgment shall count as one day of the prison term, that is, from May 28, 2021 to May 27, 2024).

2. The seized mobile phones used as tools in the crime shall be confiscated (the aforementioned items are currently seized by the Tianhe District Branch of the Public Security Bureau of Guangzhou, and the bureau will carry this out).

If any party does not accept this judgment, they may within 10 days after the second day after receiving this written judgment bring an appeal through this Court or directly to the Intermediate People's Court of Guangzhou. A written appeal should be submitted with one original and two copies of the appeal brief.

Chief Adjudicator Liang Xiaowen
Adjudicator Zhang Kai
Adjudicator Zhu Lu

May 18, 2023

Clerks Chen Min and Mai Yingjie
















2.搜查及扣押材料证实:民警抓获被告人王爱忠时从其身上查获1部苹果手机;在王爱忠住处[OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]房搜查发现1部华硕笔记本电脑、1台微软平板电脑和1部苹果手机。上述物品均予以扣押。









8.被告人王爱忠的供述:我在微信朋友圈、推特发了一些社会热点事件,来自微博等自媒体上自称是当事人或家属的“爆料”。我使用的微信账号是qingshan1995,还用过wangaizhong2023、wangaizhong,关联的手机号码为[INTENTIONALLY OMITTED]。我的推特账号是@wangaizhong,昵称是“王爱忠”。我曾在微信朋友圈及推特发表过相关的信息,账号只有我自己在使用,其他人不知道我的账号和密码。我是使用手机发布相关信息。






审判长 梁晓文
审判员 张凯
审判员 朱璐


书记员 陈敏 麦英杰

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Examples of PRC Government Regulation of Online Public Sentiment

On January 18, 2023 the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission posted an announcement on its website that was launching a "Special Action to 'Loudly and Clearly Improve the Internet Environment  for the 2023 Spring Festival" (中央网信办启动“清朗·2023年春节网络环境整治”专项行动). . The goals of the "special action" included:

  • "curbing the spread of bad culture" (遏制不良文化传播);
  • "creating a positive, civilized and healthy online public opinion atmosphere for the Spring Festival" (营造积极向上、文明健康的春节网络舆论氛围).

The "special action's" targets included:

  • Standardizing the management of information about entertainers that is presented online;
  • Dealing with "Internet celebrity" bloggers who have a history of sensationalizing bad conduct and deliberately focusing on the ugly side of things;
  • Investigating people who flaunt wealth online and clean up information that deliberately flaunts extravagant lifestyles and maliciously speculates about concealed wealth;
  • Preventing the rendering of gloomy emotions;
  • Controlling the spread of anxiety and exaggerating the dark side of society by publishing false information such as returning home notes and returning home experiences.

On March 12, 2023, the CAC posted on its website the "Notice on Launching a Special Action to 'Loudly  and Clearly Strictly Rectify the Chaos of 'Personal Media'" (关于开展“清朗·从严整治‘自媒体’乱象”专项行动的通知). The target of the "special action" included "harmful information" on "key platforms such as social networking, short video, and webcasting." Examples of "harmful information" included:'

  • Selecting high-profile topics such as the private economy and publishing "controversial and misleading remarks to incite opposition and tear-up the social consensus."
  • Creating harmful information that damages the image of the Party and government.

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Translated Excerpts from the 2018 "Program for Deepening Reforms of Party and State Institutions"

 On March 21, 2018, the official website of the government of the People's Republic of China published the text of the "Program for Deepening Reforms of Party and State Institutions" (深化党和国家机构改革方案). Articles 11, 35, and 36 of the Program are translated below.

(11) News and publishing work shall be centralized under the Central Propaganda Department. In order to strengthen the Party's concentrated and centralized leadership over news and public opinion work, strengthen the management of publishing activities, and develop and prosper the socialist publishing industry with Chinese characteristics, the news and publishing management responsibilities of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television are assigned to the Central Propaganda Department. When dealing with outsiders the Central Propaganda Department will identify itself as the State Press and Publication Administration (National Copyright Administration).

After the adjustment, the main responsibilities of the Central Propaganda Department in terms of press and publication management are to implement the Party's propaganda work guidelines, formulate management policies for the press and publication industry and supervise their implementation, manage press and publication administrative affairs, make overall plans, guide and coordinate press and publication undertakings, industrial development, supervise and manage the content and quality of publications, supervise and manage the printing industry, manage copyrights, manage publication imports, etc.



(35) Establish the State Administration of Radio and Television. In order to strengthen the Party's centralized and unified leadership over news and public opinion work, strengthen the management of important propaganda positions, firmly grasp the leadership of ideological work, and give full play to the role of radio and television media as the Party's mouthpieces, establish the State Administration of Radio and Television on the basis of the radio and television management responsibilities of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, as an institution directly under the State Council.

Its main responsibilities are to implement the Party's propaganda principles and policies, formulate policies and measures for radio and television management and supervise their implementation, make overall plans, guide and coordinate the development of radio and television undertakings and industries, promote the reform of systems and mechanisms in the field of radio and television, supervise, manage, and screen the radio and television content and quality of online audio-visual programs, be responsible for the import, collection, and management of radio and television programs, and coordinate and promote the work of going global in the field of radio and television.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television is no longer retained.




(36) Establish China Central Radio and Television Station. Adhering to the correct direction of public opinion, attaching great importance to the construction and innovation of communication methods, and improving the dissemination, guidance, influence, and credibility of news and public opinion are important starting points for firmly grasping the leadership of ideological work. In order to strengthen the Party's centralized construction and management of important public opinion positions, enhance the overall strength and competitiveness of radio and television media, promote the integrated development of radio and television media and emerging media, and accelerate the construction of international communication capabilities, CCTV (China Global Television Station), the Central People's Radio Station, and China Radio International are integrated, and the China Central Radio and Television Station is established as a public institution directly under the State Council under the leadership of the Central Propaganda Department.

The main responsibilities are to publicize the Party's theory and line principles and policies, coordinate and organize major propaganda reports, organize radio and television creation and production, produce and broadcast high-quality radio and television products, guide social hot spots, strengthen and improve public opinion supervision, promote the development of multimedia integration, strengthen international Communication capacity building, tell Chinese stories, etc.

The establishment of China Central Television (China International Television Station), China Central People's Broadcasting Station, and China International Radio Station is revoked. The original call signs are retained internally, and the unified call sign externally shall be "Voice of China."




Monday, April 17, 2023

How Many People Have Been Punished for Political and Religious Speech in China?

In 2022, I published "State Prosecutions of Speech in the People’s Republic of China: Cases Illustrating the Application of National Security and Public Order Laws to Political and Religious Expression," (, a free casebook containing my translations of over 100 documents produced by agencies of the government of the People's Republic of China between 1998 and 2020. Each of those documents reflected the outcome of a case where a PRC citizen was subjected to some form of punishment by the PRC government for their political or religious speech.

As I was compiling the casebook, I was concerned that readers might be misled into believing that it represented a comprehensive accounting of all the people who had been imprisoned for their political and religious speech in the PRC. I was therefore careful to note in the introduction that it was not a "complete" collection of every case involving freedom of expression: 

The sheer volume of state prosecutions of offenses involving speech in the PRC would make assembling a complete collection of translations impossible for an individual such as myself. Indeed, it would seem that a dedicated researcher could fill at least one volume solely with cases involving individuals subjected to administrative detention for referring to police as "dogs." By my estimation, based on a brief review of the documents in my archives, there are dozens of additional court judgments that meet the criteria discussed below, but which I lack the time and resources to translate. (p. 6). 

The "criteria" I mentioned was that I had only included cases where:

  • The conduct for which an individual was prosecuted was exclusively or primarily "speech," where "speech" is defined broadly to include conduct such as publishing social media posts, essays, and books, as well as encouraging people to engage in "speech plus" conduct such as joining associations and protesting in public venues.
  • The speech being prosecuted related only to political or religious issues and actors.
  • The outcome would have been different under U.S. "constitutionalism."

In addition to those cases in my archive at the time I published "State Prosecutions," the PRC government has continued to prosecute people for speech related conduct. Here are some of the examples of which I am aware:

  • On November 7, 2022, a court sentenced artist Wang Yuwen and his wife Wang Liqin to four years and 30 months imprisonment, respectively, for social media posts that incited subversion of state power.
  • On December 28, 2022, a court sentenced house Christian worshiper Long Kehai to two years imprisonment for social media posts that disturbed the peace.
  • On February 10, 2023, a court sentenced Ruan Xiaohuan, the writer behind the "Program-Think" blog (编程随想的博客 to seven years imprisonment for blog posts that incited subversion of state power.
  • On March 31, 2023, a court sentenced civil rights lawyer Qin Yongpei to five years imprisonment for social media posts that incited subversion of state power.
  • On April 10, 2023, a court sentenced civil rights lawyers Ding Jiaxi and Xu Zhiyong to 12 and 14 years imprisonment, respectively, for subversion.

So the question alluded to in "State Prosecutions" remains: How many people in the PRC have had their rights to freedom of speech and publication (as those rights are understood in the U.S. and similar jurisdictions) violated by the PRC government?

The easiest way to answer this question is "Everyone who has lived in the PRC since its founding." This is because, notwithstanding the fact that the PRC Constitution explicitly grants citizens the right to freedom of "speech" and "publication," the PRC government imposes prior restraints on the publication of every newspaper, magazine, and book of any type, enforced by local governments and overseen by a central government agency responsible for all press and publication in the PRC. PRC courts have held that it is irrelevant whether or not the content of the publications is legal, or that a defendant had no intent to earn a profit. Rather, the only criteria is whether the defendant engaged in publishing without first obtaining authorization from the government. For example, in 2009 a Beijing court imprisoned four individuals for one to three years on the grounds that they printed The Bible and "other books of a religious nature" without the authorization of the press and publication agency. The court stated:

[A]n intent to obtain illegal revenue is not a necessary prerequisite for the crime of illegal operation of a business. Rather, all book publishing and printing must be authorized by publishing agencies pursuant to a signed Book and Periodical Printing Commission and in accordance with strict registration procedures. 

See: Shi Weihan, Tian Hongxia, Li Fengshan, Zhou Xin, Cheng Xiaojing, Lü Yuequan & Li Zong Criminal Judgment, (2009) Hai Criminal First Instance No. 594 (石维翰, 田红霞, 李凤山, 周鑫, 程小京, 吕跃全, 李棕刑事判决书, (2009) 海刑初字第594号), "State Prosecutions," pp. 91-107.

A slightly smaller number of people, though still in the hundreds of millions, have had their constitutional right to freedom of expression violated by the PRC government's use of the Great Firewall of China to restrict people in the PRC from accessing information online. I personally experienced this censorship as early as 2003 while in an Internet cafe in Beijing. I described the experience in the Congressional-Executive Commission on China's 2003 Annual Report as follows:

Tests performed by Commission staff indicate that systems providing this type of increasingly fine-tuned censorship have already been deployed at some Internet cafes. Specifically, Web pages containing sensitive content on sites that are otherwise accessible begin loading, but before they are completely visible the page is replaced by a message informing the user that the content the user is trying to access is forbidden. The browser is then automatically redirected to a government-authorized general interest Web site, but the user is not told why the site was prohibited or to whom an appeal should be submitted to have the prohibition removed.

One could argue, however, that many, if not most, people in the PRC have never attempted to exercise their right to publish (online or off), and have never wanted to read a publication or website that the PRC government has banned, censored, or blocked, and therefore those people have not had their rights violated by the PRC government's prior restraint and Internet censorship regimes.

Another way to answer this question would be to count every person that has been subjected to any form of State-imposed punishment for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression. This would be impossible, however, because these punishments take so many forms, including:

  • "Inviting People to Tea": Wu Gan, who was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for committing the crime of subversion of state power in 2017, wrote: "'Drinking tea' usually refers to being interviewed by public security or state security officials because of your speech or your civic actions." See "Wu Gan's Self-Defense and Examples of His 'Subversive' Writings."
  • "Knock and Warn" and "Education and Salvation": This term (in Chinese: 敲打告诫, 教育挽救) is used by PRC police to describe how they make repeated visits to people's homes and call them into police stations to issue warnings and pressure them to sign "guarantees." For example, in 2017 PRC police repeatedly undertook "knock and warn" and "education and salvation" work with the poet Wang Zang, ultimately pressuring him to sign a letter promising he would not "publish words and images on foreign websites that damage the reputation and image of the State." See "Translation: Wang Yuwen & Wang Liqin Inciting Subversion Police Prosecution Recommendation."
  • Harassing Family Members: In early 2016, PRC authorities arrested civil rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang on suspicion of committing the crime of subversion of state power. Later that year his wife, Li Wenzu reported that government authorities were preventing her from renting an apartment and sending her child to kindergarten. See "Photo of Weeping Wife of Jailed Chinese Lawyer Wang Quanzhang Disappears From Sina Weibo."
  • Disbarment: Civil rights lawyer Wang Yu was detained at the same time as other lawyers at the Fengrui Law Firm (see "State Prosecutions," Chapter 6, Associations: The "7.09" Rights Defenders), but there is no indication Wang was criminally prosecuted. Instead, the government canceled Wang's certificate to practice law on the grounds that, after the government shut down the Fengrui Law Firm, she was not employed by another law firm.
  • Threatening Livelihoods: In 2020, shortly after Qinghua University constitutional law scholar Xu Zhangrun published a series of articles critical of the PRC government's response to the COVID pandemic, his employer fired him from the job that he had held for two decades, confiscated his pension and all accrued benefits, withdrew his accreditation as an educator and demanded that he vacate his apartment on the university campus. See "A Farewell to My Students."
  • Tax Audits: In 2009, shortly after civil rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong published a report that challenged China's official explanation that the deadly riots that broke out across Tibet in March 2008, were inspired by "overseas forces," the PRC government served his Gong Meng Consulting Company Limited with a "Notice of Tax Administrative Sanctions" imposing fines of 1,420,000 yuan (about USD 200,000). See "Xu Zhiyong Detained (Again), China's Web Sites Censor It (Again)."
  • Party Disciplinary Actions: In 2016, a Beijing district committee of the Communist Party of China "pledged severe intraparty penalties for Ren Zhiqiang, a celebrity blogger and property developer whose accounts were closed for allegedly spreading illegal information." According to state-sponsored media, the CPC issued a circular saying Ren, "has been releasing illegal information and making inappropriate comments online, resulting in a vile influence and damage to the party image." See "Party Puts Ren Zhiqiang on One Year Probation for Online Posts."
  • Extended Detention: In April 2011, the artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing Airport and his assistant, Wen Tao, was grabbed off the street by four plain clothes officers. Ai and Wen were released in June and were not charged.

Adding to the difficulty of using these punishments as a measuring tool is the fact that most of these punishments doubtless go unreported.

In addition to the foregoing, in the PRC the police can impose formal punishments, including issuing written citations and fines, as well as ordering individuals to serve time in detention, without a trial before a judge. The legal basis for this is provided by the "Public Security Administrative Punishments Law." That law states that if an act "disrupts public order, hampers public security, infringes upon the rights of persons and property, or hampers social administration" but is not serious enough to warrant criminal punishment, public security authorities can impose punishments including warnings, fines, revocations of licenses, and "administrative detention." These punishments are meted out directly by the police.

Several examples of the police using administrative punishments to punish constitutionally protected freedom of expression can be found in "State Prosecutions," Chapter 10: Seditious Libel on Social Media. For example, in 2017, a court found that police did not violate Feng's rights by subjecting him to five days administrative detention for referring to Xi Jinping as "fat pig," "steamed bun," and "spendthrift" in WeChat posts.

Unfortunately, there is no single publicly available official resource that might provide insight into how many similar cases there might be. While some provincial governments do provide online databases of administrative punishments, they have been censored to remove evidence of people being punished for speech-related conduct (see "Disappearing Government Records Show Police Ordering People, Companies to Stop Using Foreign VPNs"

The best resource I am aware of is a list compiled by the operator of the @SpeechFreedomCN Twitter account. According to that list, there are at least 1,800 publicly reported cases of people being subjected to administrative punishments for speech related conduct. See: "Inventory of Literary Inquisition Incidents in China in Recent Years" (中国近年文字狱事件盘点).

In many jurisdictions around the world one could come up with a more precise answer to the question by determining how many people had been formally convicted and imprisoned by the judiciary for speech related conduct in the modern era. Unfortunately this is difficult, if not impossible, to determine for the PRC, because the PRC government deliberately censors information relating to its prosecutions of speech. I have described this in a previous blog post: "Censorship of Court Judgments in the PRC."

Just because it is impossible to determine the exact number of convictions does not mean that it is not worthwhile to attempt to come up with a reasonable approximation. Such an approximation would be helpful in furthering meaningful and constructive discussions of what "freedom of expression" (and the lack thereof) means in the PRC today (as opposed to historically). In order to provide a framework for such discussions it would first be helpful to determine what we mean by "today" by defining the relevant time period.

A good starting point is the late 1990's, for two reasons. First, this is when PRC revised its criminal law and changed how it defined certain crimes that had previously been commonly used to punish speech conduct. For more on this see "Imprisonment for Crimes No Longer in the Criminal Law," Dui Hua, December 20, 2017.

The second reason to set the late 1990's as a good starting point is because that was when the PRC government began punishing people for using the Internet, where so much of today's political and religious discourse takes place. The PRC first connected to the global Internet in 1994 (see, and almost immediately the PRC government began convicting people of crimes related to using it for speech conduct. For example, in 1998 a PRC court found Wang Youcai guilty of subversion on the grounds he drafted and shared documents via email that "argued for such things as 'gaining political rights, revising the Constitution, eliminating one party rule' and 'establishing a constitutional democratic political system and establishing a system where political power is divided.'" A translation of his court judgment can be found on p. 115 of "State Prosecutions."

Having established that a useful time period would be from the late 1990's to the present, there is one resource that could potentially be used to give us a rough approximation of the number of people in the PRC who have had their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of publication violated by the PRC government: the Congressional-Executive Commission on China's Political Prisoner Database ("PPD")

In the PPD each political prisoner's record is assigned one or more "issues" reflecting what the Commission's staff believed the individual was detained for. One of those categories is "Freedom of Opinion and Expression." Using a downloaded version of the PPD, it would appear that there are at least 5,000 records of individuals detained between 1997 and 2023 that were assigned the issue "Freedom of Opinion and Expression."

When considering whether that number is useful in answering the question posed above, one should keep in mind that it is arguably both under and over-inclusive. With respect to the former, it necessarily excludes cases for which there was never any public reporting, or which the Commission was unaware of or elected to exclude. For example, I was unable to locate any cases included in Appendix II of State Prosecutions, "Individuals Imprisoned for Posting on Twitter," in the PPD.

With respect to the latter, the database includes cases (roughly half of the total) where individuals were detained and released without any indication of their having been formally punished (either administratively or criminally). For example, the PPD includes a record for Chen Pingfu (陈平福 - CECC Record Number: 2013-00392), who was detained and indicted for inciting subversion of state power for publishing 34 articles online with titles such as "Those Intending to Stay the Tide of Democracy Are Opposing the Will of God" and "Official Power is at the Heart of Autocracy, Civil Rights are the Heart of Democracy." Ultimately, however, the procuratorate withdrew its indictment. One could therefore argue that, while Chen may have been a political prisoner during the period of his detention, his rights were, in the end, upheld and not violated.

So, how to answer the question: "How many people in the PRC have had their rights to freedom of speech and publication violated by the PRC government?" My view, based on my familiarity with the available data, is the answer is "it depends on what you are counting":

  • All of China’s 1.4 billion population is subjected to prior restraints on publishing, which would almost certainly be considered unconstitutional in every developed country.
  • All of China’s over 800 million Internet users are subjected to the Great Firewall’s censorship of most major foreign social media and major English and Chinese language news websites.
  • Since the late 1990’s, the number of people who have been subjected to informal and administrative punishments by government agencies for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression is likely in the tens of thousands.
  • Since the late 1990’s, the number of people who have been detained for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression is likely somewhere in the area of 10-20 thousand.
  • Since the late 1990’s, the number of people who have been imprisoned after being convicted for crimes for exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression is likely in the thousands.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

Translation: Civil Rights Lawyer Xu Zhiyong's Statement to the Court

Translator's Notes:

 Xu Zhiyong's Statement to the Court

A Glorious China

I long to have a dream. A glorious China, both beautiful and free, just and blessed. That is, a democratic China. Where all that is under heaven remains that under heaven which belongs to the people under heaven. Where it is not the country of one clan and one Party, but a country of the actual people. Where power is derived from the ballot box, not from the barrel of a gun.

Where the people regularly elect members of parliament, mayors, governors, and presidents, and the power is vested in the people, owned by the people, governed by the people, and enjoyed by the people. From then on, the people are no longer a fig leaf for a dictator, no longer the unknown ants in the reincarnation of a dynasty, but the true masters of the country. From then on, the rulers are no longer high-ranking occupiers, but humble service providers. They compete fairly and the people choose the best. From then on, regime change is no longer a bloodbath of swords and shadows, but a celebratory festival of the people.

When the path of righteousness is followed, then all under heaven will exist for the common good. After three thousand years, the Chinese nation will surely climb out of the Three Gorges of history and make its way toward a modern civilization. Democratic China is within our generation's reach, and we absolutely shall not pass the responsibility on to the next generation.

Such is a China ruled by law. A legislative democracy, where the people elect their own representatives. Laws are enacted through democratic procedures to represent the interests of the greatest number of people. There are no evil laws imposed on the people by the rulers, and no extrajudicial laws in the name of discipline and rules. Law enforcement is strict, and the people elect the government to enforce the law for the people. No individual or organization is above the law, and no weak person is outside the protection of the law. The judiciary is fair, judges are independent, there is no ruler except the law, and justice is adjudicated by law and conscience.

From then on, the law is no longer a tool of class dictatorship, but a measure of fairness and justice. From then on, judges are no longer the handles of the knives of privilege and centralization, but the patron saints of justice. From then on, all under heaven is ruled by law, all power is in the rule of law and order, the people believe in the rule of law, and fairness and justice floods the land.

Such is a free China. I loathe a society where power is rampant and human nature is distorted. A few bureaucrats decide what 1.3 billion people believe in, what they say, what news they listen to, and what movies they watch. They have built a high cultural firewall to isolate China from the civilized world. They feed millions of network supervisors, network police, and network commentators, and stifle the voice of the people. They use hundreds of millions of cameras and big data to create an airtight monitoring network, leaving Chinese people standing naked before their power. They have even invaded people's spiritual world, burning crosses, demolishing Buddhist schools, and forcing new local religions into exile.

There is no absolute freedom, but this certainly cannot justify wantonly strangling freedom. There are universal standards for human civilization, that is, these are the rights and freedoms written down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in the Constitution of China. These cannot remain blank pieces of paper forever.

I yearn for a nation that is free, a China where beasts of the powers-that-be don’t run rampant. Where we have freedom of belief, and your religious and ideological beliefs are matters of a personal nature, in which the powers-that-be cannot interfere. Where we have freedom of speech, and  There is no mass deletion of posts and accounts, there is no area that is off limits to political speech, and no one will be imprisoned for expressing political opinions. Where we have freedom of public participation, there are no false and manipulated elections, no "inappropriate remarks," and everyone has the freedom to form parties, associations, and participate in public affairs. Where we have freedom of personal life, there are no ubiquitous eyes of Big Brother, and everyone who stands before the powers-that-be enjoys privacy and dignity. In a free China, the people are like sprouts growing vigorously in spring, supporting the reborn civilization of the ancient East. Everyone is free from the distortions of power, lives in reality, and grows into their best selves.

There is no absolute freedom, and the Chinese people have no rights. It is tragic that it has become common sense for Chinese people to look for  connections when they have to get something done. Unfairness exists in every country, but China is different. There is no independent judiciary, no free media, no dissenting voices. Anti-corruption remains the official path for rulers to eliminate dissidents. The greatest  injustice in China is its autocracy, where a privileged group monopolizes all power of the State and the lifeblood of the economy. High oil prices, high housing prices, high taxes, and everywhere exploitation. The people are overwhelmed, while the exploiters say they are losing money year after year.

I yearn for a country that is fair and just, a China that is not permeated by relationships based on  privilege. Where power is held in check by the people, and untainted and honest officials act, not to grow rich, but to serve the public. Where there is equal education that does not depend on one’s household registration, and everyone, urban and rural, rich and poor, has equal opportunities to receive an education. Public schools do not distinguish between key and ordinary, and parents are free from the anxiety of choosing a school. Where there is a fair opportunity to choose a job, regardless of one’s beliefs, party, or gender, and public positions are open to everyone on an equal basis. Where everyone can find a suitable position and create their own happy life without relying on powerful relationships. Where there are fair pensions, regardless of whether one is in the city or the countryside, or is a civil servant or an employee, and the ratio of pensions to on-the-job salaries is roughly equal. Where the elderly in the poorest villages also have pensions sufficient to live a decent life. Where there is equal medical care, regardless of whether you are an official or  a civilian, and there is free medical care for serious illness, and no one becomes impoverished because of illness again.

In a China based on the public interest, the strong are constrained, and the weak are safeguarded. Everyone performs their duties, everyone does their best, and everyone gets what they deserve. There is not so much anger and anxiety from the cradle to the grave, and everyone has a happy smile on their faces. That is a China full of love. I loathe a society that is guarded, indifferent, and self-harming, where everyone learns from childhood not to trust strangers. So many years of poisoned milk powder, waste oil, fake vaccines, and poisoned meat. Everyone dons thick masks as a precaution against one another, and detours around the elderly who have fallen to the ground. Every society has human indifference, but nothing like China. The foundation of this country is class struggle, and it is the barrel of a gun that never tires of fighting. From state power to the jungle, there is no bottom line, and society has lost the cornerstone of conscience. After many years of materialism, people's spiritual world is barren. When people's hearts have abandoned the spiritual world that lies on the other side, love becomes like a spring without a source.

I yearn for a nation full of love, a China free from memories of fear and shadows. A nation of faith  that respects heaven, loves people, and believes that God is watching. Where there is a belief that life has a common root, and springs from the same spiritual source, and one day will return there. In this world there is no devil, only people of different backgrounds who experience joy, differences, divisions, and injuries. We sink into the joys and sorrows of our respective roles, and look back at our different choices and different roles on the ground from a high place. There is no hatred, only compassion. Love yourself, practice this world, perfect soul; love relatives and friends, the love of life, there is also gratitude; love strangers, smile at each other; love enemies, only sympathy without hatred, hostility and bound souls; love all beings, the spirit of all things ; Love the endless world. In a China full of love, there are no devils, no enemies, and no dark jungles. We are sincere, simple, and kind, with clean faces, clear eyes, and innocent smiles. That is our China reborn.

For more than 2,000 years, China has been enveloped by the haze of the Qin Dynasty. Even with the renaissance of the Tang and Song Dynasties, the backwardness of modern times was inevitable. The root of the rebirth of Chinese civilization lies above us, and it is there we find the God of all,1 the rich spiritual world of ancestors, and a China with the warmth of spring and blossoming flowers. All of this flows into the trend of modern democracy and science, and is reborn as a glorious Eastern civilization. For thousands of years, different civilizations have followed different paths to reach today's global village, and there are enormous differences in the spiritual worlds residing under the same roof. Conflicts based on different religions and civilizations have emerged, and humanity needs a new path to move toward the future together. This is the manifest destiny of China. Providence has bequeathed to us a spiritual wilderness from which a new civilization may grow. The spiritual sustenance we dedicate to mankind is not the bamboo slips in the graves of our ancestors, but the revelation heeded by our generation: Achieve an understanding of nature and yourself in a higher place. This is God's new philosophical belief ushering in a new era of civilization, that is a China that is admired by the world, and a China that is certain to become the greatest country in the world. This is certain to come to pass after autocracy has ended in China, and it is free and democratic.

1.3 billion people working together to create the most advanced technology, the most splendid culture, and the most prosperous economy in the world. Having a strong military, we will not occupy land or plunder resources. Rather, we will only take up arms where tyranny and injustice abide. Having the most advanced ideology and culture, we will not depend on might to promote it. Rather the world will be attracted to it owing to its merits, and it will spread to the four corners of the world.

Anyone, whether it is a person or a country, who follows the creed "There are no permanent friendships, only permanent interests" is doomed to fail. Diplomacy is about mutual benefit and win-win results. Furthermore, it is a moral imperative. Autocrats and traitors will never be our friends. For those people who are still struggling under the iron heel of dictatorship, we have the responsibility to extend a helping hand and help them share in human civilization. This is both a moral responsibility and self-preservation.

We have the courage to let go of the historical burden of the physical and mental harms done to us by other countries during the 20th century. A great nation that is truly confident will not indulge in the pain of history forever, and we will work together to create a glorious future for Asia. To developed countries, we will offer mutual benefit, cooperation, and competition to jointly create a new world order of freedom and democracy. People need a world government to maintain peace, protect the environment, provide disaster relief, and explore outer space.

Who was it that caused us to be born in China? One does not need a reason to love this country, it is a seed planted by God deep within every soul. To love China is to strive to make her more glorious. I have been jailed three times, all for a glorious China. For the first time, they accused the non-profit public welfare organization Open Constitution Initiative of tax evasion. The second time, they accused us of disrupting public order by promoting local college entrance examinations for the children of immigrants. This time, I am accused of subverting state power because I espoused a dream of a glorious China and advocated that everyone should be a citizen. Is it subversive to conduct oneself as a true citizen? Is it subversive to put their core values into practice by pursuing democracy and freedom? Is it subversive to sing rise up and refuse to be slaves in the March of the Volunteers? Such is the hypocrisy and absurdity of their regime. Such is its corruption.

I consider it an honor to suffer for liberty, justice, and love. I do not believe that the foundation of national rejuvenation can be built on a quicksand of lies; I do not believe that power politics and slavery are the eternal destiny of the Chinese nation. I do not believe that the spring breeze of freedom will always be blocked by the high wall; I do not believe that there will be an eternal night with no tomorrow. For more than 30 years, from a boy running wildly in a blizzard to waiting for dawn before dawn, my life has been on the same road. This tortuous and bumpy road has continued the dream of the sages. "Beautiful China" is the struggle and regret of Mr. Sun Yat-sen's life; it is Lin Juemin's sad last words written to his wife; it is the song of youth of Lin Zhao and Yu Luoke who died for China; The student's weeping blood declared. For more than a century, the Chinese nation has experienced ups and downs on the road to modern civilization. Now the sacred mission falls on the shoulders of our generation.

For more than 30 years, from a boy running wildly in a blizzard, to waiting for the daybreak before the dawn, my life has been on the same path. This tortuous and bumpy path has continued the dream of the sages.

"A Glorious China" is Mr. Sun Yat-sen's legacy of struggle and regret; they are the sad final words that Lin Juemin wrote to his wife; it is the youthful song of Lin Zhao and Yu Luoke who died for China; it is the weeping declaration of the students in Tiananmen Square in 1989. For more than a century, the Chinese nation has experienced ups and downs on the road to modern civilization. Now the sacred mission falls upon the shoulders of our generation.

Citizens and compatriots, the world is on an inexorable path. The rising sun of the rebirth of Eastern civilization is poised to burst forth, and the three thousand years of great changes will come to fruition in our generation. Let us take up this great era as citizens, and bid welcome to a China in the warm full bloom of Spring!