Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A624-W386

魏京生基金会新闻与文章发布号: A624-W386


Release Date: April 16, 2011



Topic: The Ai Weiwei Incident Reveals the Evolution of the Chinese Legal System -- Wei Jingsheng

标题:从艾未未事件看中国法制的演变 -- 魏京生


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)



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The Ai Weiwei Incident Reveals the Evolution of the Chinese Legal System

-- Wei Jingsheng



On April 3rd, right before the Chinese Memorial Day, the Chinese Communist authority secretly detained the well-known artist Ai Weiwei.  His family did not receive any notification, and there was no news for his friends who were looking for him.  Only when the Xinhua News Agency of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) released the news that Ai Weiwei was under investigation due to suspicion of economic crimes, did people know that indeed he was detained by the CCP.


Friends cannot help but to angrily say: is this not the return of the Cultural Revolution?  What is the difference from the lawless Mao Zedong era?  In essence, this indeed has no difference to the lawlessness of the Mao era and Hitler era.  The CCP government has people disappeared quietly, depriving personal freedom without legal procedures.  This is the lawlessness.  This is Mao and Hitler.


However, to be different from the naked brainwashing classes of the Mao era, the illegal detention nowadays has used certain legal loopholes.  Starting from what was used against the common Chinese, it developed into a full-scale dictatorship including illegal measures against its own officials.  That is it developed from the so-called "residence under surveillance" used against common people to the "double designation" used against CCP officials.


Let me tell you a little story.  In the spring of 1994, the CCP was facing sanctions from the USA.  At that time the Clinton administration was preparing to ease the sanctions by delinking trade and human rights, which encountered strong resistance in the US Congress.  The opinions of the Chinese dissidents became the key bargaining chip.  The voice of the opposition in China played an important role.


Thus, the Jiang Zemin clique sent police to detain me for negotiations.  They even initiated a few conditions to improve human rights and the rule of law in exchange for me not to speak against the delinking of trade and human rights.  I did not agree.  Eventually, the compromise reached  was that, in exchange for releasing dissidents and also opening freedom of expression and trade unions, I would keep silent on the issue of human rights and trade.


This agreement encountered great resistance even within the Communist leadership.  The faction against Jiang Zemin did not plan to implement this agreement, in an effort to undermine this delinking of trade and human rights.  Thus, they seized me again, with a certificate of summons for interrogation.  More than two days later, I protested the continuously served summons for interrogation.


I said: "First, in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law, a summons for interrogation is just to talk to me.  You have violated the law by interrogating me for days of more than 24 hours.  Second, the continued interrogations should not be more than 3 times and today is the last day.  If you cannot bring a paper meets legal procedures to arrest or detain me, then I am sorry that I must leave."


They knew I would do as I said, and as well were concerned of the impact of the international society, so they assured me: Do not worry, we will go get the right document from the Procuratorate now and give it to you tomorrow.  The following day, I asked: "Is the paper here yet?  If not, I am ready to go home."  The old policeman said with hesitation: "Yes, it is here and you cannot go home yet."  When he handed over that piece of paper, I laughed.  It was a certificate of "residence under surveillance".  So I said: "Look, without evidence, you cannot even get a detention warrant from the Procuratorate."  He replied: "This 'residence under surveillance' by the Public Security Bureau also works".


I said that it is illegal detention that I will be looking for lawyers to file against you, and I have to leave.  We had a quarrel.  Then the police who made the negotiations with me requested to talk to me alone.  We drove away from the guesthouse supposedly belonging to the fake antique company in Tong Country.  These people told me that the situation within the CCP was very complicated.  The anti-Jiang faction wanted trouble.  If Jiang Zemin did not carry out the already reached agreement, or if there were unexpected things from my side, it would cause the breakdown of the agreement.  They told me that outside, the implementation of the agreement was still in effect, and the people I asked to release were released as well.  People like Wang Dan were still very active that the authorities had not arrested them despite pressure.  So they hoped that I would give some face to Jiang Zemin, to be patient and to continuously maintain the implementation of the agreement, and so on.


I weighed the pros and cons, and decided to use my own freedom in exchange for the freedom of people outside, so I accepted their "residence under surveillance" while maintaining my rights of suing them for illegal detention.  After that, Bill Clinton successfully delinked trade and human rights.  Eighteen months later, the Chinese Communists took me to court.  It turned out that even the court would not recognize that that 18 months detention was legal.  Thus, it created a new case and broke the law that had been defined in the Criminal Procedure Law requiring the approvals of the court and Procuratorate to deprive people's freedom.  Since then, depriving people's personal freedom in the name of "residence under surveillance" became "legal," and further expanded into "double designation" used to against CCP's own officials.


The legal reform that started in 1980 once gave great hope to the Chinese.  However, from the "Severely Crackdown" period of Deng Xiaoping, to the illegal detention and "double designation", the lawless Mao era has returned after a big circle.  Why is this so?  Do not even the CCP officials need the protection of the law?  This question touches on a fundamental issue, that is the essence of authoritarian politics is against the human nature.


As early as three decades ago, Deng Xiaoping sensitively found out that the legal system protecting human rights did not fit the need of authoritarian politics.  While intellectuals were foolishly cheering that finally democracy and the rule of law would be realized, Deng Xiaoping began to undermine the authority of the law by starting "severely crackdown" for criminal offenses, one step at a time, until it became routine to deprive people's personal freedom arbitrarily. 


Once the authority could arbitrarily deprive people's freedom, all the other parts of constitutions and laws became a law serving the authoritarian regime only.  If they let you have, then you shall have; otherwise, you do not.  This is the fundamental difference between the laws of an authoritarian regime and the laws of a democracy.  To say that the authoritarians do not have law are only angry words from the people.  What people do not have are their rights according to the law.  In democratic law and the traditional Chinese law, one could only deprive personal freedom according to the law which is clear defined.  Even a crown prince was subject to criminal punishment the same as the common people.  Even when the emperor handed out punishment, it must also be according to the law.  In comparison, authoritarian law is the law of the slave owners, whoever the master is, whoever has the power to do anything he wants.


The reason that nowadays there are so many people petitioning in China is because that the Chinese people are accustomed to the law of equality, instead of the law of slave owners from the West.  Thus there is this fundamental difference in the understanding.  While the common people think that they are legal and reasonable, the CCP officials tend to scoff at them.  However, these officials need to be reminded of the Cultural Revolution.  When they are "double designated", the common people will be laughing at them as well.



To hear Mr. Wei Jingsheng's commentary, please visit:



(Written and recorded on April 8, 2011.  Broadcasted by Radio Free Asia.)



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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A624-W386

魏京生基金会新闻与文章发布号: A624-W386


Release Date: April 16, 2011



Topic: The Ai Weiwei Incident Reveals the Evolution of the Chinese Legal System -- Wei Jingsheng

标题:从艾未未事件看中国法制的演变 -- 魏京生


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)









-- 魏京生









































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