Image via CMP.
Over 100 prominent Chinese individuals – academics, lawyers, economists, and former Communist Party officials – have signed an open letter calling on the government to immediately ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which commits signatories to protection of numerous core individual civil and political rights.
The letter, currently circulating on Weibo (though likely not for long), is addressed to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), ahead of the annual ‘two meetings’ of the NPC and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Both the NPC and CPPCC are largely rubber stamp bodies for decisions already taken within the Communist Party, but the NPC is nevertheless China’s official legislative body.
The letter, which has been signed by numerous prominent figures – including lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, economist Mao Yushi, investigative reporter Wang Keqin, among many – lauds previous achievements on human rights, and points to the CPC’s early pledge to fight “for human rights and freedom”. Though the language of the letter is deliberately conciliatory and uncontroversial, previous calls for the CPC to follow the constitution that it created have led to crackdowns. The official Weibo account of Caijing, the magazine which published the open letter, has no posts regarding it, suggesting that Sina at least has begun harmonisation.
The values and solicitude promoted by the International Bill of Human Rights have also been declared continuously by the government of China and by the Chinese Communist Party, and are the goals and tenets upon which the nation was founded and constitutionalism established. Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party issued an appeal to “fight for human rights and freedom,” and this was entered into documents of a constitutional nature, including Draft Constitution for the Constitution of the Soviet Republic of China (中华苏维埃共和国宪法大纲) and Administrative Program for the Shaanxi, Gansu and Ningxia Region (陕甘宁边区施政纲领), and for this purpose a whole series of ordinances were promulgated in Communist Party-controlled areas in order to guarantee [these principles]. In the constitutional movement that seized the entire country in the 1940s, the Chinese Communist Party also was a principal promoter [of these values], and human rights protection was one of the essential issues. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the 1954 Constitution included a special clause stipulating the “basic rights and responsibilities of citizens,” and this established the basic tone of our country’s constitution, with a foundational role for human rights. While [China] afterwards suffered many turns and setbacks, and paid a steep price on the issues of constitutionalism and human rights protection, the great goal of [establishing] human rights has already become a core agenda inseparable from the project of [national] transition in which we are presently engaged. This can be seen most recently in the second human rights plan formulated by our country, the National Human Rights Action Plan (2012-2015).
Hong Kong University’s China Media Project is in the process of translating the letter, go there to read it in its entirety.
The letter as it appears (for now) on Caijing.