In response to a question about what law the foreign journalists who were roughed up by police on February 27 violated, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Jiang Yu (姜瑜) said on March 3, 2011: “Don’t use the law as a shield.” Jiang made the statement at a regular press conference during which foreign journalists tried to obtain clarity about laws and regulations that govern them.
Jiang went on to say: “The real problem is that there are people who want to see the world in chaos, and they want to make trouble in China. For people with these kinds of motives, I think no law can protect them.”
The “shield” comment – which raises serious concerns about the official view of the rule of law in China – has ignited a firestorm of reactions among Chinese netizens.
In his video commentary, Human Rights in China (HRIC) Special Contributing Editor Hu Ping (胡平) says: “This statement is shocking. We know that Marx himself once said: In terms of law, I don’t exist outside of my conduct. The law governs only my conduct. Any law that punishes my thoughts, regardless of my conduct, is an insult to man, and is a dangerous trap. … So, Jiang Yu’s statement in fact represents a regression to the ancient ‘crime of unspoken criticism.’ In fact, what she said is a fundamental repudiation of all the laws currently enforced in China.” See Hu Ping’s entire commentary on HRIC’s Youtube Channel.
Following is HRIC’s translation of the statement by Jiang Yu and the question preceding it.
Question: Can you clearly tell us the specific clause of Chinese law that we have violated?
Answer: The violation is of relevant regulations regarding the need for an application when going places to interview people. Don’t use the law as a shield. The real problem is that there are people who want to see the world in chaos. They want to make trouble in China. For people with these kinds of motives, I think no law can protect them. I hope everyone will sensibly recognize this problem. If you truly are reporters, then you should behave in accordance with the journalists’ professional standards. While in China you should respect China’s laws and regulations. Looking at the past two situations, those journalists who were waiting for something to happen did not get the news they expected. If during those two days there were people who incited and instigated you to go somewhere for an illegal assembly, I suggest that you promptly report that to the police, in order to, one, protect Beijing’s law and order, and two, protect your own safety, rights, and benefits.