By Liu Xiaobo and ninety-nine others, The New York Review of Books
Volume 53, Number 17 · November 2, 2006
To the Editors:

For many days since July 25, 2006, Chinese intellectuals and other netizens have been living in misery because the Web site that had been their spiritual home for six years, Century China (www.cc.org.cn), was shut down by the Chinese authorities.

On July 19, the Communication Administration Bureau of Beijing issued a “Notice to shut down Century China” (No. 2006-242). It stated that the Web site “illegally provides Internet news without proper qualifications” and “has violated the ‘Regulations of Internet News Service’ and Article 19 of ‘Regulations of Internet Information Service.’ Accordingly, Century China Web site and its chat forum Century Salon shall be shut down immediately.”

Throughout history oppressive governments worldwide have suppressed freedom of speech, but in today’s world, this type of suppression is becoming increasingly intolerable. The shutdown of Century China is just another instance of the Chinese government’s suppression of the freedom of its people. Therefore we must stage a focused and unyielding protest against the government’s abuse of power.

Since its launch on July 20, 2000, Century China became one of the most influential nongovernmental Web sites in Mainland China. Strictly observing its doctrine to be “free, independent, democratic, tolerant, and rational,” it attracted many prominent Chinese intellectuals within China and abroad. The Web site made a unique contribution to promoting China’s freedom of speech, political and social liberalization, and served as a communication forum for Chinese people worldwide.

Foreseeing the fate of his Web site, the editor in chief of Century China wrote a letter just before it was shut down. “Ever since its establishment,” he wrote, “our Web site has aimed to build a cyber world where rationality and freedom of speech reign. For six years, we strove hard to attain this goal because we believe that such a public space is beneficial to developing equality, freedom, rationality, and other crucial ingredients of modern society, and that we could do our part to accelerate China’s academic advancement and cultural development.”

In building Century China’s cyber world, we gradually mastered the tactics of “perseverance in compromise and compromise in perseverance.” The more we come to understand the value of freedom of speech and thought, the sooner we realize that in today’s political environment we must not only promote freedom of speech, but also explain, research, and fight for the civil and political rights granted by our own Constitution. We must strive to overcome the existing social system while compromising and working within it. Our aim is to expand freedom of speech and to promote social advancement little by little.

This responsibility belongs not only to certain individuals, but to the entire society.

To respect and safeguard freedom of speech, we are looking to reach a mutual understanding with government administrative departments that have the noble responsibility to implement the spirit of the Constitution. Even if this cannot happen right now, we hope to draft some basic rules for consideration by which open and rational dialogue can be held to solve this problem. The result of peaceful dialogue should positively expand the personal freedoms of the people.

The public space that was created by Century China represents the hope of all Chinese, at home and abroad—for freedom, constitutional democracy, and social liberalization. The shutdown of Century China is the destruction of the one spiritual home we had in the cyber world. By destroying this platform that connects the government and the people, and intellectuals at home and abroad, Chinese scholars are further alienated from their homeland.

People cannot live without freedom of speech, and suppressing this freedom violates the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as China’s Constitution.

Today, the international community has agreed that governments must respect and safeguard freedom of speech, which includes the Internet. Consequently, censorship of the Internet breaks international laws and norms.

Although it was able to force the closing of Century China, the government can never eliminate the people’s desire for freedom of speech, nor can it censor the Internet outside of China.

The shutdown of Century China has attracted worldwide criticism both inside China and abroad. The government and its administrative departments can no longer turn a deaf ear, because it is their responsibility to uphold the dignity of the Constitution by implementing each and every article.

Hence, for the purpose of promoting the rule of law in China, we state here that the communication administration departments in Beijing have violated Article 35 of the Constitution. On the basis of Article 41, we call upon the administrative departments to publicize the evidence they have that warrants the closure of Century China.

We appeal for the support of all Chinese intellectuals at home and abroad!


Initial signers from the Chinese Mainland:

Liu Xiaobo, Beijing, freelance writer
Liu Junning, Beijing, political theorist
Zhang Zuhua, Beijing, political theorist
Ding Zilin, Beijing, professor
Jiang Peikun, Beijing, professor
Bao Zunxin, Beijing, historian
Wu Si, Beijing, historian
He Weifang, Beijing, professor
Yu Jie, Beijing, writer
Li Datong, Beijing, journalist
Liao Yiwu, Chengdu, writer
Wang Yi, Chengdu, scholar
Sun Wenguang, Ji’nan, professor
Wang Zhijing, Beijing, freelance writer
Wu Wei, Guangdong, Internet editor
Xu Xiao, Beijing, writer
Liang Xiaoyan, Beijing, editor
Pu Zhiqiang, Beijing, lawyer
Hao Jian, Beijing, professor
Li Jianqiang, Qingdao, lawyer
Zhao Dagong, Shenzhen, freelance writer
Yu Shicun, Beijing, writer
Liu Di, Beijing, freelance writer
Zan Aizong, Zhejiang, journalist
Wen Kejian, Zhejiang, freelance writer
Lin Hui, Zhejiang, freelance writer
Zhu Jianguo, Shenzhen, freelance writer
Gao Yu, Beijing, journalist
Hu Jia, Beijing, AIDS worker
Wan Yanhai, Beijing, AIDS worker
Wang Lixiong, Beijing, writer
Wei Se, Lhasa, writer
Teng Biao, Beijing, lawyer
Yu Meisun, Beijing, freelance writer
Yu Zhijian, Hunan, freelance writer
Chen Xiaoya, Beijing, historian
Liu Anping, Guangzhou, physician
Yuan Xinting, Guangzhou, editor
Qin Geng, Hainan, freelance writer
Li Jian, Dalian, human rights defender
Deng Huaming, Guangzhou, lawyer
Tang Jingling, Guangzhou, lawyer
Tang Cong, Guangzhou, journalist
Huang Weilong, Guangzhou, freelance writer
Zhao Cheng, Shanxi, academic
Xie Yong, Shanxi, editor
Qi Yanchen, Hebei, freelance writer
Yang Hengjun, Guangzhou, businessman
Wang Xinli, Nanjing, writer
Du Daobin, Hubei, freelance writer
Liu Ning, Beijing, freelance writer
Guo Xiaolin, Beijing, writer
Han Xin, Guizhou, writer
Hu Yunfa, Wuhan, writer
Zhang Dajun, Beijing, scholar
Yang Zaixin, Guangxi, lawyer
Li Heping, Beijing, lawyer


Initial signers from Overseas:

Zheng Yi, USA, writer
Wang Dan, USA, Ph.D. candidate
Wuerkaixi, Taiwan, political commentator
Zhang Heci, Australia, freelance writer
Wan Zhi, Sweden, writer
Zhang Yu, Sweden, researcher
Cai Yongmei, Hong Kong, magazine editor
Hu Ping, USA, scholar
Yi Ping, USA, scholar
Kang Zhengguo, USA, teacher
Cai Chu, USA, editor
Huang Heqing, Spain, freelance writer
Jingwa [pen name], USA, poet
Wang Yiliang, USA, poet
Yang Lian, England, poet
Youyou [pen name], England, novelist
Menglang [pen name], USA, writer
Cheng Yinghong, USA, historian
Guo Luoji, USA, researcher
Wu Yimao, USA, writer
Liao Tienchi, USA, editor
Chen Kuide, USA, scholar
Zhang Weiguo, USA, journalist
Li Xiaorong, France, scholar
Sun Jingwu, Japan, writer
Wang Juntao, USA, political scientist
Lao Daiwei, Australia, writer
Amu [pen name], Australia, writer
Asen [pen name], Australia, writer
Jian Shaohui, Australia, writer
Qi Jiazhen, Australia, writer
Qiu Xiaoyu, USA, university staff
Huang Xiang, USA, poet
Hong Zhesheng, USA, editor
Feng Chongyi, Australia, professor
Zhang Lun, France, scholar
Zhang Guangda, France, scholar
He Qinglian, USA, scholar
Lin Baohua, Taiwan, commentator
Harry Wu, USA, publisher
Zhang Langlang, USA, writer
Wei Shi, USA, editor
Chen Shizhong, Sweden, professor


November 2, 2006: Perry Link, SHUT DOWN IN CHINA

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