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An appeal for freedom of speech in China

Domenico Pacitti & editorial staff of JUST Response Human Rights Journal

Fifty-four Chinese citizens have received prison sentences of between two and twelve years for expressing and exchanging opinions on the Internet. The true figure is believed to be very much higher. JUST Response urgently invites Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, Premier Wen Jiabao and Jiang Zemin, former President and now Head of the Central Military Commission, to order the immediate release of prisoners and recognise the basic human right of  freedom of expression for all who live in China.

An open letter to:-

Mr. Hu Jintao
President of the People's Republic of China

Mr. Wen Jiabao
Premier of the People's Republic of China

Mr. Jiang Zemin
Head of the Central Military Commission and formerly President of the People's Republic of China

The good people of China

RE: Request for: 1) the unconditional release of at least fifty-four Chinese citizens who have been imprisoned for expressing and exchanging opinions on the Internet;  2) full observation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) signed by China in 1998; 3) the immediate recognition and establishment of the basic human right of freedom of expression for all who live in China

JUST Response is an international human rights journal concerned with the worldwide monitoring and promotion of the basic principles of truth, justice, freedom and democracy. We wish to express our full support for the 54 Chinese citizens who have been jailed for expressing and disseminating their opinions on the Internet, as reported by Amnesty International. We believe that they could well represent only a fraction of a much larger number.

We respectfully request that you order the swift release of these 54 prisoners and all others who are being held on similar charges. We invite you to desist from persecuting the free expression, exchange and dissemination of opinions by courageous thinking men and women from a broad cross-section of Chinese society. They represent both the future of your country and its intimate soul, both of which you are attempting to destroy.

We remind you that on October 5 1998, the People's Republic of China became signatories to the ICCPR. Article 19 of that Covenant states:

"1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."

Why did you sign the Covenant if you do not intend to abide by it? How much honour do you think this wiil bring upon the Chinese government and its people?

Your country is estimated to have over fifty million Internet users and is poised to overtake the USA, the current world leader. Do you really think you can hold back this ocean of opinion or contain this fire of energy? Do you want to "wrap fire in paper" or stop the sun from rising?

Note: JUST Response published this appeal on February 1 2004.