Statement on the Bloodshed at Dongzhou in Shanwei City, GuangdongComments Off on Statement on the Bloodshed at Dongzhou in Shanwei City, Guangdong
Dear friends and colleagues:
Please sign the following open statement and forward it through your mailing lists or list-servers to friends and colleagues, showing your support to this effort to bring to justice those responsible for the Dongzhou killings. Thank you, and happy holidays!
December 20, 2005
Statement on the Bloodshed at Dongzhou in Shanwei City, Guangdong
(Open internationally for signature)
On 6 December 2005, the government of Shanwei City in Guangdong Province unleashed the Armed Police to suppress the villagers of Dongzhou who were seeking to protect their rights according to law. The shocking use of live ammunition against the villagers led to a number of deaths and injuries among them. This is the first time since the 1989 June Fourth Massacre that government forces have opened fire at random on ordinary people.
We want to express our strongest opposition to and condemnation of the Dongzhou authorities who caused this bloodshed! We also strongly oppose the despicable attitude of the Chinese authorities in failing, to date, to issue any explanation or clarification, or to launch any investigation, as well as their intransigent actions in banning all domestic media from covering the Dongzhou bloodshed.
In 2002, construction of a massive power plant reportedly began at the Honghai Bay Economic Development Experimental Zone in Shanwei. For this purpose, large tracts of mountain land and arable land belonging to the village were expropriated, as well as Baisha Lake. As a result, over 40,000 villagers in Dongzhou lost land essential to their livelihood without receiving appropriate compensation and settlement as required by the Constitution and the law. Starting in 2004, the villagers began to try to use the law to protect their rights, employing many different means to appeal to the local authorities and higher level departments, but never received a proper response, let alone any resolution.
Even more disgusting is the fact that the local government employed all sorts of tactics to try to block the petitioning of the villagers, including detaining their representatives, and also imposed an information blackout, banning media reports on the matter. Lawyers who wanted to offer legal aid to the villagers were warned by local justice departments not to get involved and thus could not take up the brief. With all their avenues of appeal blocked, the villagers set up a continuous peaceful protest blockading the gates of the Shanwei Power Plant in order to push the government expeditiously to address the villagers’ legitimate claims for compensation and settlement in an appropriate manner.
We believe that the clashes between officials and villagers were brought about because of the local authorities’ abuse of their power and suppression of related complaints; just as this shocking bloodshed and wanton killing results from the Chinese authorities’ persistent neglect of the basic human rights of citizens.
We believe that the actions of the Guangdong local government in mobilizing fully-armed police against unarmed villagers makes a mockery of the Chinese government’s claim that it seeks social harmony and of its promises that it respects and protects human rights, and thus the legitimacy of its rule over the country is facing collapse. This action has trampled on universal values, on the Constitution and the provisions of the international human rights treaties signed by the Chinese government. Regardless of whether the order to suppress the protests by force was made by the local government in Guangdong or by the Chinese government, this decision and the bloodshed it created constitutes a heinous crime. Such a government crime should be prosecuted at national level and condemned internationally.
We observe that in recent years a series of extensive and fierce conflicts between officials and ordinary people have broken out over the issue of compensation and settlement for the appropriation of rural land for the purposes of urban development and industrial construction. Some examples are the bloody incidents of 31 July 2004 in Shijiahe Village, Zhengzhou City, Henan Province and of 4 October 2004 in Sanchawan Village, Yulin City, Shaanxi Province; the event of November 2004 in Hanyuan, Sichuan Province; and the clashes in Taishi Village, Panyu District, Guangdong over the effort to remove a village official between July and October 2005.
We believe that the Shanwei government’s use of lethal force to suppress the legitimate requests of citizens is a crime that must be punished with the full force of the law, and that a concomitant political price must be paid. The Chinese government must act courageously in accordance with the law to ensure that the persons involved bear legal and political responsibility for their acts. Otherwise, this bloodshed will set an abominable model for local governments and will mean that in future clashes between officials and people will only increase, the fear and resentment in the hearts of people across the country will deepen, the possibilities for the peaceful transformation of Chinese society will be blocked and in the end there will be widespread opposition in society and an avalanche of political crises. We do not wish to see such an outcome, and do not accept it. We trust that all Chinese people, including officials high and low, do not wish to see such an outcome either, and will not accept it.
We believe that the basis for social harmony is the respect for and protection of human rights, the reliance on and soliciting of the people’s opinions. The reason why the current social crisis in China is deepening daily is that under a political system of one-party dictatorship and censorship, there is a serious imbalance between the power of officials and the power of the people, and a great gulf between them. When the depredations of the rich and the powerful on the marginalized groups become more and more extreme, the clashes between them will also increase in number and intensity. Facing such clashes, governments will increasingly resort to violence.
We believe that the fundamental reason why collective efforts to defend rights are resulting in ugly clashes between officials and people is that in the unbalanced reforms of the last two decades, reform of the political structure has seriously lagged behind. The Chinese government’s approach to rule and its way of dealing with crises still reflect the practice of an era of dictatorship, and have essentially remained unchanged. There is still hostility to people’s opinions, monopolization of political powers, insatiable corruption in politics and economy, unthinking brutality and lack of transparency. Precisely because of this tolerance for unchecked political power, governments at all levels dare to abuse their power and repress the common people. This is why the authorities in Shanwei dared to shoot and kill in broad daylight in such a senseless and brutal manner.
We believe that if the highest Chinese authorities continue to defend the current system so tenaciously and do not rapidly undertake reforms of the political structure towards democratization and liberalization, if the citizens who have been oppressed and exploited do not decide to use all legal means to struggle to defend their own rights and freedoms, the human rights in the Constitution will be nothing but empty words, and similar bloody crimes against human rights will continue to take place at other times, in other places, and yet more people will fall victim to them. Because if China does not adopt a democratic and liberal constitutionalism, and there is no open political space for the expression of different interests in society, there is no chance that conflicts like that in Dongzhou can be peacefully resolved, and there will be no hope of democracy and freedom for Chinese people. Furthermore, as local and central level become caught in the vicious circle of resorting to suppression again and again to protect their vested interests, there will be no way out of the cycle of violence.
Today the villagers of Dongzhou are still under the control of armed police and their physical safety remains in danger. The truth about the bloodshed is still being covered up and distorted by the authorities, the people have nowhere to express their concern about these events and their right to know about the situation is being ignored.
We are angry, we are sorrowful, if we sit back and do nothing about such heinous crimes by the state and this climate of fear we do not deserve to be considered as having any moral sense at all.
Therefore, we issue this urgent statement and make the following requests to central and local governments:
1.The central government must take effective measures to ensure that the violent suppression is halted, the armed blockade of the village is lifted, and the situation is not allowed to deteriorate further. It must also guarantee the physical safety of the villagers who have sought to protect their rights.
2.The government and the procuratorate should take immediate action to investigate the truth about the bloodshed. We suggest that the Guangdong People’s Congress and the National People’s Congress set up a joint special committee of enquiry, inviting independent experts and trusted persons from outside government to participate, and conduct an independent and open investigation of the crimes of the local government.
3.The government should immediately lift media controls that block reporting about the events, ensuring the rights and interests and the safety of journalists, and submitting to the supervision and scrutiny of the public and the media.
4.Officials of the government and the armed police who ordered the shooting and the crackdown should be prosecuted and punished according to law in a just and independent judicial process.
5.The name list of the villagers who were killed should be made public as soon as possible, and the bereaved families should receive comfort and compensation, while the injured should be given care and proper compensation.
6.The villagers whose land was expropriated legally must be given proper compensation and settlement in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. The standards set for the compensation and settlement should be discussed at a public hearing. All land which has been illegally expropriated should be returned unconditionally to the collective village organization and the villagers.
7.All bribery and corruption relating to the construction of the Shanwei Power Plant should be investigated and punished.
8.The peaceful resolution of this bloody incident should be used as a starting point to launch reforms of the political structure: to realize independence of the judiciary and the media, to open up the local election process, and to start to honor the basic civil rights enshrined in the Constitution, such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of association and democratic elections.
Finally, we appeal to all Chinese citizens of conscience, to the international community and to human rights organizations strongly to condemn the brutality of the Guangdong provincial government, to follow carefully the evolution of the situation and to assist the Dongzhou villagers as they continue to seek to protect their rights.
Our freedom is not within the grant of any person; we struggle for the freedom that has been forcibly taken from us. Our insistence on courage and action fortifies us in protecting dignity, fighting for civil rights and promoting the growth of independent civil society so as to press the Chinese government genuinely to abide by the constitutional commitment to “respect and protect human rights” and to work gradually to realize the peaceful democratic transformation of Chinese society.
(At least 667 have signed. See below for the list. But this number is incomplete as of today, December 20, 2005, all Chinese websites where this statement is posted are shut down.)
To sign, email your name and affiliation to one of the following accounts: