In this New Year’s message, the lawyers express their continued dedication to defending citizens' rights and interests, pursuing democracy and rule of law, and aspiring to the implementation of constitutional governance. To accomplish these goals, the lawyers strongly demand that the National People's Congress's Standing Committee ratify and implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights—signed in 1998—because it embodies human rights, constitutional governance, democracy, freedom, and other core values of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They request that the Covenant be ratified and implemented without hesitation, and that its content concretized into actual, specific measures under a constitutional government.
Below is an English translation of the statement by Human Rights in China. See the Chinese original.
Calling for a Spring that ‘Respects and Protect Human Rights’
A New Year message concerning the ratification of the Covenant and implementation of constitutional governance
By the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group
With the beginning of another year, everything looks new and rejuvenated. As the New Year is upon us, we, members of the Chinese Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights, send you our New Year’s greetings!
As a group, we are dedicated to defending citizens' rights and interests, pursuing democracy and rule of law, and aspiring to the implementation of constitutional governance. Although we have yet to make major contributions to human rights, we affirm the concept of human rights and commit to following the steps of our wise predecessors. Though humble in our position, we care for the fate of our nation and swear to contribute our meager efforts to human rights work in China.
Looking at today's China, the most important human rights task is the ratification and implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (hereafter "the Covenant"). Embodying human rights, constitutional governance, democracy, freedom, and other core values of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereafter "the Declaration"), the Covenant is a key component of the International Bill of Rights and a product of the development of human civilization, rich in content and universal in application.
Our government has already signed the Covenant in October 1998 (but under article 67 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, the approval of the National People Congress' Standing Committee is required before [the Covenant] can enter into force), and many state leaders had on many occasions promised early ratification. To this day, more than 15 years and three administrations later, the Covenant's ratification is still not within sight. If [ratification] is further delayed, how can [the government] win the people's and the international community's trust? And how can China present itself on the global stage as a "responsible great power"?
Experiences around the world demonstrate that the protection of civil rights advances national development, and ensures social harmony. In recent years, the Chinese people's longing for democracy, rule of law, and constitutional governance is ever more pressing; their calls for basic civil rights and freedoms, including freedoms of speech, publication, assembly, association, procession, protest, belief and movement, are growing stronger day by day; and citizens' conscious exercising of their civil and political rights, including rights to criticize, recommend, litigate, and appeal, are increasingly commonplace. However, we must recognize that, in today's China, citizens' basic rights have not been properly respected and they still cannot exercise their political rights normally. Many civil rights guaranteed under the Constitution still cannot be concretized.
The Covenant is linked to every citizen's well-being. Chinese citizens are not inferior to citizens of any other country and there is no reason why Chinese citizens cannot enjoy basic human rights on equal footing with citizens of other countries. The content of human rights is not limited to clothing, food, shelter and movement, but also encompasses [the right of] citizens to oversee government powers and be free from fear of these powers; [the right of] everyone to enjoy freedoms, equality, democracy, and rule of law; and [the right of] everyone to live their lives in dignity! [The clause] "The State respects and protects human rights" has already been written into the Constitution, and it is a solemn promise the People's Republic of China has made to its citizens!
Looking back at 2013, in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hefei, Dalian, Chibi and other places, many citizens, including Xu Zhiyong, Guo Feixiong, Ding Jiaxi, Zhang Lin, Wang Gongquan, Liu Ping, You Liying, Che Zhongshan, Lu Xueqin, and Liu Hu, were detained, arrested, indicted and tried for exercising their civil rights, including rights to freedom of speech, belief, assembly, and the press. This series of repression demonstrates blatant contempt for the Constitution and the law, willfully violates citizens' basic human rights, undermines democracy and rule of law, and completely contravenes the spirit of the Declaration and the Covenant, causing bewilderment domestically and anxiety internationally. Confronted with suppression of our civil and political rights and distortion of the Constitution and the law, we citizens, every one of us, should all uphold our conscience and muster up the courage to carry out the duties incumbent upon us as citizens, resolutely fight back against the anti-constitutionalist and anti-rule of law trend, and strongly condemn evil acts that trample human rights. China belongs to every one of us citizens! Therefore, we strongly demand the National People's Congress's Standing Committee to ratify and implement the Covenant without any hesitation and to concretize the Covenant's content into actual, specific measures under a constitutional government.
Dear all citizens who love freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights, we should work together, for ourselves, for our offspring , and for China in the future, to pave an easy path for constitutional governance.
"Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people" (Preamble of the Declaration).
"[T]he ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedom and freedom from fear and want can only be achieved if conditions are created whereby everyone may enjoy his civil and political rights, as well as his economic, social and cultural rights"(Preamble of the Covenant).
Reading the Declaration fills us with emotion; revisiting the Covenant fills us with longing. We are full of hope for a life with greater freedom, greater happiness, and greater dignity!
January 1, 2014
[See original for list of signatories]
[We] warmly welcome [you] to sign this New Year message and join the Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Group!
Lawyer Wang Cheng: 13616501896
Tang Jitian 13161302848
Jiang Tianyong 13001010856