Cyberdissident cites China’s free speech laws in his trial for subversion

Yet another Chinese citizen who cares passionately about free speech. I admire this fellow’s courage and creativity, though I suspect his logical and commonsensical plea will fall upon stone-deaf ears. From the unlinkable South China Morning Post:

Writer uses freedom of speech defence in subversion trial

Chinese dissident writer Zhang Lin pleaded innocent to charges of subversion on Tuesday, saying his internet postings should be protected by his right to freedom of speech.

“The state’s evidence in the case was based on six articles that Zhang Lin wrote and one interview he gave to the press,” his lawyer Mo Shaoping said

The case is a matter of freedom of speech. Zhang Lin has the right to air his own views and it doesn’t matter if people agree with him or not, this cannot be considered a crime.”

Zhang was tried at the intermediate court in his home town of Bengbu city in the central province of Anhui. The court refused to say when a verdict would be reached.

Mo said one article cited as evidence of subversive writing included the lyrics to a Chinese punk song, which said: “The Yellow River should run dry, this society should collapse, this system should be destroyed, this race should become extinct, this country should perish.”

“Zhang Lin did not write this song, it was a song written by another person, but quoted in Zhang Lin’s essay,” Mo said.

The prosecution maintained that Zhang’s internet essays “damaged national unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity, spread falsehoods, disturbed social order and damaged social stability.”

…The New York-based Human Rights in China said Zhang was facing possible life imprisonment and called for his immediate release, as did the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

More than 60 “cyber-dissidents” are currently held in Chinese jails for posting their views on the internet, while over 40 Chinese journalists are also serving prison sentences, the groups said.

It’s an odd thing, the way we’re all stunned to read that someone is actually turning to a judge in China with a totally straight face and asking that he uphold the nation’s constitution. It seems like such a bizarre and foolhardy thing to do.

Update: Link can be found here.

The Discussion: 13 Comments

good for him. If it’s in the damn constitution, it should be upheld.

sedition laws are irritating. “Patriot” Law my asp.

June 21, 2005 @ 5:37 pm | Comment

If it’s in the damn constitution, it should be upheld.

Yeah, and Mao promised multi-party elections and independence for the minorities. We know how the Party honors its promise to its citizens (and the constitution is nothing but a series of promises).

June 21, 2005 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

I think it’s smart of him to make that case, and there’s no downside to it that I can see. Maybe this kind of thing will help publicize the gap between rhetoric and reality.

June 21, 2005 @ 5:57 pm | Comment

i think it’s really great, but unfortunately, it will only help publicize the gap between rhetoric and reality for those of us who read the international media… because the Chinese media obviously won’t even touch this story with a ten foot pole.

June 21, 2005 @ 7:28 pm | Comment

But wait, Bingfeng said that Chinese people don’t care about free speech?

I’m confused. /sarcasm

June 21, 2005 @ 7:47 pm | Comment

This is what I was talking about yesterday Richard on the open thread.

The guy is asserting his right of free speech under Chinese law. You’ve got to admire his balls.

The authorities here do not take kindly to troublemakers doing such outrageous things as insisting on their legal and lawful rights as citizens of the People’s Republic of China.

This is the true face of ‘Totalitarianism with Chinese Characteristics’.

Engage in any kind of dissent and you’re unpatriotic, a traitor, seeking to destabilise China and do the evil west’s job for it. etc etc etc.

In the People’s Republic of China you get born, keep your head down and then you die……if you’re lucky.

June 22, 2005 @ 3:22 am | Comment

“The tigers and panthers lie in their lairs in the playground of fawns; the wolves and the jackals are nurtured in gardens where the spring flowers bloom … [but] …
I am venturing to offer advice that does not accord with the times, at a court which bans criticism, in the same way as when ice or frost are exposed to the sun they will of course melt.” Liu Tao, 155AD.
Liu was ignored. So too will Zhang be.

June 22, 2005 @ 3:24 am | Comment

Sometimes my memory leaves me in the lurch, but wasn’t it just recently that you heared a lot about respecting China’s law and regulations?

June 22, 2005 @ 4:03 am | Comment

I’m just flabbergasted that someone could be on trial for what are quite possibly, by the standards of comments that I and other foreigners make online, fairly innocuous remarks.

Maybe we should try and force a showtrial! First one to the Laogai wins an ice-cream! Easy for me to say of course, I’m leaving the country on Saturday.

June 22, 2005 @ 5:51 am | Comment

Other Lisa, I agree with you – there’s no downside, and regardless as to whether or not the media touch this case, I’ve heard that there is still a large pool of diverse opinions in the CCP, and cases like this will hopefully help those who are trying to reform the CCP to shine light on the hypocritical aspects of CCP governance. I think it can only help.

Earnestness for all!

June 22, 2005 @ 6:35 am | Comment


That’s what you think.

June 22, 2005 @ 7:48 am | Comment

Haha … I’m with Zoe. They’ll either get you at the airport, or kidnap your pet dog and force you to return “voluntarily”

June 22, 2005 @ 10:14 am | Comment

Give some credit to the lawyer handling the case. He could very easily be put in jail or suffer other noxious repercussions. I would be surprised if something bad does not happen to the lawyer just to show that the CCP is the boss. And to kill the chicken to scare the monkey (do I have that right?) I think the CCP would not like a bunch of rambuntious Chinese lawyers asserting constitution rights

What China will need is a Civil Liberties Union, perhaps pattern after the ACLU.

Note that the US military is trying to tell an appointed military lawyer defending an alleged terrorist that he can’t really undertake a full defense; he was told he could only make representations during the penalty phase of the trial. That sounds just like the judicial system just a few years ago in China.

I can’t see why anyone cares if the CCP reforms. It has stated clearly it wants a one party system with it the sole party in power forever. Why encourage that? Only a multiparty system with multi-voices will e effective in slowing down the rank corruption in China’s governance.

June 22, 2005 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.