Open letter to President Xi Jinping on rule of law and Gao Zhisheng’s freedom

Gao Zhisheng

China Aid Association

(Midland, Texas—Nov. 12, 2014) China Aid released an open letter, below, to Chinese President Xi Jinping today, calling for Xi and the Chinese government to uphold the decision to govern China by rule of law, which was passed during the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Oct. 23, and to view Gao Zhisheng’s case as the first opportunity to put the decision into practice.

Open letter to President Xi Jinping on rule of law and Gao Zhisheng’s freedom

On October 23, 2014, the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China passed the CCP Central Committee’s “Decision on Certain Major Issues in Comprehensively Promoting the Country in Accordance to the Law.”

The policies reflected in the “Decision” to comprehensively promote the rule of law, comprise of requirements for all organizations and individuals, including the Chinese government, to respect the authority of the Chinese Constitution and the law in conducting business activities, exercising their rights, and implementing their duties or obligations. Thus, no individual or organization may enjoy privileges beyond the Chinese Constitution or law. Furthermore, individuals and organizations must safeguard the unification, dignity, and authority of the government’s legal system and guarantee the effective implementation of the Chinese Constitution and the law. Individuals and organizations must not permit any justification for subjugating the law or suppressing the law by the abuse of power or authority, or break the law for personal gain.

Individuals and organizations must emphasize the standardization and inherent restrictions on government power and enhance transparency and oversight to ensure that all forms of power are supervised and those who violate the law are investigated. Furthermore, any person not abiding by the law, strictly enforcing the law, or investigating illegal activities must be brought to justice.

China Aid believes that such a decision made by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China deserves applause. However, we are perhaps more interested in witnessing the strong will of the Communist Party to implement this decision. To be sure, the case of human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng will be a litmus test on whether the Chinese Communist Party truly desires to comprehensively abide by and obey the rule of law to govern China.

On August 15, 2006, attorney Gao Zhisheng was secretly apprehended and detained by Chinese police from his sister’s home in Shandong. Subsequently, Gao’s license to practice law was revoked by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice. On September 21, 2006, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau arrested Gao on the charge of “inciting the subversion of state power.” On December 21, 2006, the Beijing First Municipal Intermediate Court delivered a sentence in the trial of the first instance, in which Gao was sentenced to three years in prison with a reprieve of five years on the charge of inciting the subversion of state power and was subsequently deprived of his political rights for one year. However, Gao’s wife, Geng He, indicated that government authorities never delivered the verdict to his family or his defense lawyer. During his five-year reprieve, Gao went missing for three years. On December 16, 2011, the Beijing First Municipal Intermediate Court canceled Gao Zhisheng’s reprieve, and Gao was escorted to Shaya Prison in the Aksu District of Western Xinjiang to serve a three-year sentence. On August 7, 2014, Gao Zhisheng finished serving his sentence and was released. Since his release Gao’s family, relatives, and friends have been refused contact or visitation rights.

As Gao awaited his prison release, the international media, including the BBC, inquired whether Gao would regain his freedom once his sentence ended on August 7, 2014, especially in light of the fact that Zhou Yongkang, the secretary of the Central Political and Legislative Committee, who had managed Gao’s case, had been publicly discredited in July 2014.

Amnesty International launched a letter writing campaign calling for Gao’s release, in which global citizens representing a myriad of countries wrote more than 160,000 postcards on Gao’s behalf. In 2012, the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan passed a resolution calling for the release of prisoners of conscience in mainland China, and Gao was among the list. A number of human rights organizations and members of the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan demanded that Gao be released and receive rehabilitation. The Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper, wrote that Gao’s treatment by Chinese authorities after his release would be “a touchstone in testing how Xi Jinping’s government handles issues concerning human rights and freedom of speech.”

The international community remains greatly concerned for Gao as he continues to endure harsh treatment by Chinese authorities and is denied basic freedoms. In fact, the Chinese Communist government authorities’ treatment of Gao violates Article 33 of the Chinese Constitution, which states that “the state respects and protects human rights,” and Article 37 of the Constitution, which states “the freedom of citizens of the People’s Republic of China is inviolable….The unlawful deprivation or restriction of an citizens’ freedom by detention or other means is prohibited.” The Chinese authorities also violated the Chinese law by restricting Gao’s right to freedom of movement and prohibiting him from leaving China to reunite with his wife and children, indicating that the a period of deprivation of his political rights restricts such movement.

However, according to Article 54 of Chinese criminal law, deprivation of political rights is defined as the following:

1. The right to elect and the right to be elected;

2. the right to freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, procession, and demonstration;

3. the right to hold a position in state organs; and

4. the right to hold a leading position in a state-owned company, enterprise, institution, or a people’s organization.

Therefore, according to Chinese criminal law, government authorities should not restrict Gao’s travel and should process his travel documents to freely move both within China and abroad.

President Xi Jinping, China Aid is hopeful that the Chinese government will demonstrate the determination and courage to practice and enforce the rule of law as it manages state affairs and governs the country according to the Chinese Constitution and law. Therefore, we respectfully request that you restore Gao Zhisheng’s freedom of movement and allow him to travel as soon as possible, both in China and abroad. In doing so, Gao’s case will be an example of the Chinese Communist Party’s commitment to promote and enforce the rule of law in China.

China Aid
November 12, 2014

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