He Weifang’s Letter to Chongqing Colleagues

China Media Project has translated an open letter by legal scholar He Weifang which expresses concern at the erosion of rule of law by Chongqing’s “Strike Black” crime crackdown.

For more than a year now, I’ve wanted to write an open letter to discuss with everyone my views on the “anti-crime drive” (打黑) in Chongqing. But considering that I wrote quite a number of commentaries on my own blog and for various media, I feared I might make carping remarks or get all twisted up, so I wrote off the idea. However, a number of trends in Chongqing of late are nagging causes for anxiety. In my view, the various things that have happened in that city already pose a danger to the most basic notions of a society ruled by law. And as a legal scholar, one in particular who has participated in the process of judicial reform, I believe I now have an urgent duty to openly express my uneasiness and voice my criticisms.

Another factor behind my writing of this open letter is the fact that Chongqing is the locale of my alma mater, Southwest University of Political Science and Law, and a city of which I have the fondest memories. It was there in 1978, after a “long a arduous journey,” that I began my sojourn into legal studies in that campus at the foot of Gele Hill.

In the course of our studies that year, our teachers too had only just returned to campus life after the “terrible decade” during which they were suppressed, and they spoke of the lawless days of the Cultural Revolution, chapter upon chapter of misery and suffering. A number of teachers could not hold back the tears. Actually, all of us students had also experienced the Cultural Revolution first-hand, and all of us one way or another treasured this course of study in law. We longed for the future of building rule of law in our homeland, and we all hungered for the opportunity to get involved in this great project, doing our part to preserve civil rights and freedom. We made up our minds that we would not allow the tragedy of the Cultural Revolution to be replayed on this soil.

CMP has since noted the letter’s publication by the Shanghai-based Finance Week:

While He Weifang’s letter still seems to be readily available on various blogs in China, the choice to print it could be risky for mainstream media and major internet news portals. It is also accompanied by a rather strong lead editorial under the title, “A Market Economy Cannot Be Without Mavericks” (市场经济不能没有特立独行者).

Writing on Twitter today, journalist Peng Xiaoyun (彭晓芸), who was dismissed as opinion editor from Guangzhou’s Time Weekly earlier this year, praised Finance Week for its courage. “I salute this publication and the editors who put out this series of essays!” she wrote.

The anti-crime drive and other developments in Chongqing have recently been covered by John Garnaut at the Sydney Morning Herald, and by a recently featured Economist article citing them as examples of growing princeling influence.


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