“We Stand on the Right Side of History”

Lawyer and activist Xu Zhiyong was detained by police on July 16 on suspicion of “gathering crowds to disrupt order in public venues,” despite the fact that he had been under house arrest since April. China Change has translated the transcript of a lengthy conversation between Xu and a top Beijing Public Security official, who took him in for questioning and warned him that he would soon be arrested for various “crimes.” In recent years, Xu has launched a new movement called Citizen (or New Citizen Movement) which calls on public officials to disclose their financial assets:

C: It’s been almost three months since we took coercive measures in early April against the illegal organization of Citizen (referring to the detention, and then arrest, in April of ten citizens who demanded disclosure of officials’ wealth in Beijing – trans.). As the head of this organization, you have committed several crimes of the Criminal Law. We will soon detain you as well, and we want to hear what you have to say.

Xu: Citizen is far from being an organization. Instead, it is a voluntary group of people who pursue democracy, the rule of law, freedom, justice and love, and who have been consistently advocating the nation’s progress through moderate and reasonable approaches. Our actions, whether it was a dinner gathering or calling for officials to disclose assets, were merely the exercise of citizens’ legitimate rights, and were not crimes at all. I will not change in my pursuit of the ideas of citizenry; as for our approaches, they can be discussed. We have always been reasonable and willing to listen to others’ input. Of course, if people as moderate and reasonable as me cannot escape being locked up in prison, so be it. It’s the misfortune of the Chinese people, and I will surrender myself to my destiny.

C: Are you people reasonable? You displayed banners more than a hundred times in various cities over the last few months. If we don’t stop you promptly, it will trigger social turmoil.

Xu: Shouldn’t officials disclose their assets? If they do so, corruption will be curbed as a result, and we would not have to display banners to call for it. Your fear of theses actions triggering mass gatherings only indicates that asset disclosure is what the people want. Making a call for it is merely an expression and it will not cause tumult. If tumult is upon us one day, it will be because of escalation of conflict caused by privilege, corruption and the perverse stability maintenance.

C: Hasn’t our Party been actively campaigning against corruption?

Xu: Isn’t that great? We are trying to help. [Source]

Two of Xu’s prominent supporters, investor Wang Gongquan and veteran journalist Xiao Shu, issued an open letter defending his work and that of Citizen (also called New Citizen Movement) and calling for Xu’s release. The sixth and final point of the letter reads:

We believe we stand on the right side of history. But we also understand that our own reason has its limitations, that we cannot claim a monopoly on the truth. We believe social progress must be the product of many forces coming together, and so we respect all efforts to promote peaceful change, wherever they arise – regardless of whether they emerge from within the system, or outside of it. At the same time, we understand that we cannot be rigid in our beliefs, that we must always ask whether we have gone too far and lost sight of original intentions, or whether our goals and methods are at odds. This is why we invite the scrutiny of society, understanding that criticism is the best form of counsel. But we will never yield in the face of despotic power. Despotic power, in fact, will only steel our determination. Persecution and suffering will only galvanize our fighting spirit. We are not prophets. We are not heroes. We are not sages. We are ordinary human beings, flawed like the rest, but more than that we are citizens awakened. The decisive power of peaceful change lies with the millions of citizens who have awakened. We are content to be individuals among them, to be a part of the New Citizen Movement, to stand with Xu Zhiyong. There is no amount of intimidation or bribery that can divide us. [Source]

Read more by and about Xu Zhiyong via CDT.


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