Translation: Civil Rights Lawyer Xu Zhiyong's Statement to the Court
- Xu Zhiyong (许志永) is a PRC civil rights lawyer who co-founded the New Citizens' Movement (中国新公民运动) along with fellow civil rights lawyer Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜).
- Xu has been the target of government prosecutions for over a decade, and the government's attempts to silence him have been covered extensively by this blog: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2022/03/xu-zhiyongs-li-qiaochu-indictment.html.
- The text below is Xu's statement published shortly before a court was expected to issue a verdict in his trial for subversion in connection with meetings he and Ding held with other activists in 2019.
- The Chinese version was created by running an image posted by Ding's wife on Twitter on April 8, 2023 (https://twitter.com/luoshch/status/1644179129237925892) through OCR software. I have tried to proof the OCR version, but some errors in transcription may remain.
- There are other translations of Xu's statement available from Chinese PEN (https://www.chinesepen.org/english/xu-zhiyonga-beautiful-china-a-statement-on-court) and China Change (https://chinachange.org/2023/04/09/a-democratic-china-must-be-realized-in-our-time-we-cannot-saddle-the-next-generation-with-this-duty-xu-zhiyongs-court-statement/).
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!