China Detains Writer of Critical Web Letter to Hu

On March 18th, CDT shared the story of Zhang Shijun, a former soldier who called for democracy in an online open letter to President Hu Jintao (link in Chinese). According to Bloomberg, Zhang was taken by police last night:

zhang-shijun-cp-6437831Chinese police detained the writer of an online letter to President Hu Jintao, which criticized the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and called for democracy, according to a local human rights group.

Ex-solider Zhang Shijun, 38, was taken away by police in Tengzhou City, Shandong province last night, Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch said in a statement on its Web site today, citing Zhang’s wife.

“My circumstances are more and more tense, I have already been threatened,” Zhang said in an e-mail yesterday, after being contacted by Bloomberg News about an interview. A call to his mobile phone today got an automated message saying it could not be connected.

Zhang’s open letter to Hu Jintao can be found here, partially translated by CDT:

Comrade Hu Jintao, this is the tenth letter I’ve written to you. For eighteen years, I’ve tried all of the “legal” channels to address my questions, but I haven’t received any response so far. From my personal experience, I’ve discovered that the party that works “for the common good” and the government that is “for the people” are actually very hypocritical, numb, and cold-blooded! The constitution states that we have freedom of speech. You yourself have also expressed encouragement for people to air their views. As a result, allow me to open this letter, to make a just appeal, and let the people call out. This shouldn’t be a “monologue in the PRC.”

Comrade Hu Jintao, if I call you comrade, it’s because I’m supposing you have the same desire as I do to “rejuvenate China.” “Rejuvenate China” was the call our great revolutionary predecessor Sun Yat-sen first made over 100 years ago. Comrade Mao Zedong has said, “Aside from some counterrevolutionaries, we Chinese people are all the successors of revolutionary Sun Yat-sen.” While the wise have passed away, their words still remain. Let us encourage one another.

I love my homeland, I love its people. Underneath our feet is the land of our ancestors, our land, the land of the people, the land of our people’s thousands’ year-old civilization — this is my homeland. This is every Chinese person’s motherland, and belongs to everyone of Chinese descent. It does not belong just to one person, one family, one party’s private holdings. It cannot be taken by any organization or power as its country, people, or ideology. Comrade Hu Jintao, do you agree?




Chairman Hu Jintao, I truly believe that a country’s vitality [阳气, yang qi] will come from its lifeblood, its youth. The youth should be regarded as precious and be nurtured, lest our country be endangered by dark forces of wanton harm and brutal killings …

As one spark of our country’s energy, I may be snuffed out, but by no means will I be self-extinguished — no matter what dangers surround me, no matter what terrible circumstances befall me.

Today, I stand on this land and cry out this universal truth and future. How I hope that my one small voice could reveberate, how I hope a great response could resound. This is my anticipation, and it is worth my anticipating.

If, on this ancient and new land, I never bathe in the rays of a democracy and rule of law but instead feel the sharp edge of a knife in my back, I will quietly face my demons and say: I am ready.

I will face the world and say: I am ready.

Today, I stand here because I still believe in my homeland — this land, this people, and this ancient civilization.