China Aid Association
(Langzhong, Sichuan—Sept. 11, 2012) On May 30, 2012, a house church located in Zhanggongqiao Village, Qili Office in Langzhong, Sichuan province, that has a congregation of over 1,000 members was raided and banned by the authorities. The private property and the assets of the church were confiscated. Sister Xie Deyue, the hostess of the house, was summoned. The person in charge of the church is Pastor Li Ming. In June, Xie Deyue and the believers hired human rights attorneys in accordance with legal process and submitted their application for administrative reconsideration. In August, Langzhong Municipal Government communicated its decision that the church was engaged in “illegal religious activities” and that the “penalty was properly rendered.”
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Following this, Xie Deyue and other house church members submitted an administrative lawsuit in accordance with the law, but Langzhong Municipal Court refused to file the case. For this, Xie Deyue wrote a letter to the Standing Committee of Langzhong Municipal People’s Congress and stated her reasons in accordance with the law. The following is the full text of her statement:
August 20, 2012
Dear respectable Standing Committee of Langzhong Municipal People’s Congress:
According to the Chinese Constitution and the related laws, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress has the right to supervise the court. I have heard Langzhong Court is notorious within the Sichuan court system for not filing cases. In the past, this did not have anything directly to do with me; however, now it not only concerns my interests, but more importantly, I worry that Langzhong will sink into an abyss if such misadministration continues unchecked. This is because I have found that the worse the judicial environment is, the poorer the economy will be, and the poorer the economy is, the worse the judicial environment will be. Conversely, the more developed a place is, the better the judicial environment is, and the better the judicial environment is, the more developed the economy will be. This is called the Matthew Effect. The better the judicial environment is, the more likely investors are to invest because the investment enjoys legal protection. If there is no legal protection, there is risk of not being able to recoup the principle of the investment, much less to earn profits. I wonder whether you have been to Jiangsu or Zhejiang provinces. The economy in these provinces is the most developed in China and the judicial environment is known to be especially first-rate within China. I’d like to know whether Langzhong People’s Court will be required to make its dutiful contribution to improve the environment for the rule of law in our local area. If they are permitted to continue to arbitrarily refuse to file cases as a means to discourage the free exercise of legal rights, I believe a large number of potential investors will be scared away from investing in the development of our economy.
Though my case may be considered a comparatively small religious one, the case itself has great significance and it makes me concerned about the future prospects for Langzhong. The reason I am concerned about Langzhong is because I feel Langzhong is the place in Sichuan province where people enjoy the least religious freedom (though I don’t think Langzhong ranks at the bottom of the list in the nation); Langzhong also has the worst environment for the rule of law. Elsewhere in Sichuan, few churches have been raided by the local authorities, not even the famous house church led by Brother Wang Yi in Chengdu. In comparison, Langzhong is the only place in Sichuan where house churches are routinely raided. Is Langzhong a special administrative region of Sichuan? Is its law different from that of the rest of Sichuan? I don’t think there are different laws that apply to different areas of Sichuan. As a judicial organ, the court is the last entity citizens have recourse to in seeking legal relief. The court should know and thus abide by the law more perfectly than all other departments. The state and the common people pin their hopes on it to correct erroneous conduct of administrative agencies. Otherwise, why does the state have the People’s Court try the administrative cases in which the administrative agency is the defendant? Why should the common people go through all of the trouble they do to have the court sue the administrative agency for wrongs if the court may capriciously ignore legal requests? While cases can be filed in all other courts in Sichuan, they often cannot be filed in Langzhong. For instance the last time I went there to file a case, I was told that some leaders in the court did not approve filing the case. This made me realize first-hand that the judicial environment in Langzhong is the worst in Sichuan, though I don’t think it is the worst in the nation. However, what brings me pains is that I am a resident of Langzhong which happens to be the worst in these aspects in Sichuan.
While I myself think my case may be viewed as a minor one, yet the reason why I resort to law and go through the legal procedure for redress is because I want to let the people of the world see whether Langzhong Court is abiding by the laws of the land. Why is it that cases which can be filed within other areas of Sichuan (as stipulated by the law) cannot be filed in Langzhong Court? If the court does not respect the law in this way, what hope can we pin on the judicial environment of Langzhong? I certainly hope that the Langzhong court can be held to the same judicial standards as the courts in the rest of Sichuan, instead of being permitted to notoriously obstruct justice. Once the environment comes to be known for ignoring the rule of law, investors will not dare to come to Langzhong. Who would want to invest in a place where they cannot even file a case, let alone try a case in accordance with the law?
Though my case may be viewed as a minor and insignificant one, yet it can be used to test whether the judicial environment here is able to be reformed. Isn’t the court supposed to provide for judicial justice? The major newspaper the People’s Daily is closely following this case in its reports to see whether Deng Xiaoping’s native place upholds the rule of law 30-plus years after he proposed for the rule of China through the rule of law. Not only people in China are concerned about this, but many people throughout the international community are also concerned as well; therefore, the People’s Daily is planning to follow this case in its English reports. Many people in the international community are vitally concerned to know the environment of the rule of law and the status of religious freedom in Langzhong through that report. I’m sure Langzhong will become famous because of this. However, as a resident of this place, I sincerely hope Langzhong will take this opportunity to show to the world that it is reforming and improving.
I have learned from some friends that the reason why the people in the international community are concerned about human rights and the rule of law in Langzhong, and thus in China, is not because they love China more than we ourselves, but because they love themselves more than they love the Chinese. They think that if China does not respect the human rights of the Chinese themselves, how can they respect the human rights of foreigners? If the environment for the rule of law is very poor in China, do the foreigners dare to invest in China? The reason why they are highly concerned about what may be considered a minor case is to learn the general trend and determine where our human rights and rule of law are headed. Doesn’t the Chinese government often say to the international community that it wants a peaceful rise. When people want to know whether China is really having a peaceful rise, they don’t want to hear what we are saying, but what we are doing. If we don’t do a good job in protecting our own human rights and rule of law, how can one believe that we are rising peacefully? If we do a good job in this regard, then rather than worrying about whether it is safe to invest in China, perhaps international investors and business people will vie with each other in seeking to do business in China!
It is my firm belief that this case will become a touch-stone whether there is freedom of religion in Langzhong and whether its environment for the rule of law is changing for the better. This case also tests whether Langzhong is willing to continue to be at the bottom of Sichuan in these most important two respects. I sincerely hope the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress can urge the People’s Court to file and try the case in accordance with the law and urge the court to create an excellent judicial environment for Langzhong so that investors from various places of the world and guests can feel that Langzhong is a place where one can feel safe and welcome.