Skip to content Skip to navigation

To Live and Fight as a Person or as a Citizen! Trial Statement by Liu Xianbin

March 25, 2011

Translation and Abridgement by Human Rights in China

Your Honor and Everyone Present:

Today I stand trial before this court, not because I committed a heinous crime, but because I wanted to live as a person or as a citizen—because in these warped times, I had the misfortune of possessing honesty, integrity, and courage, and have acted accordingly.

In most countries in today’s world, this kind of thing could never happen. Only in a country where human rights and civil rights are ignored and trampled on can an upstanding citizen such as me be subjected to this kind of endless political persecution. Only in a society where the judiciary is not independent, a society that lacks the equitable administration of justice, can such an absurd political trial be staged.

Of course, the word “absurd” cannot adequately convey the seriousness of the political persecution being inflicted on me by the authorities. In fact this is a classic example of a human rights violation, and it is truly a politically-motivated miscarriage of justice. It is the continuation of thousands of years of criminalizing speech.

In a time when all the world is calling for ensuring free speech on the Internet, I am imprisoned and tried by the authorities merely because I expressed some of my opinions online. I believe that this is not only an open affront and challenge to the power of international justice, but also a serious violation of a citizen’s rights and dignity.

It is truly unbearable! Against this open trampling of human rights and civil rights that defies universal condemnation, I must, as a citizen and as the direct victim of this political persecution, forcefully protest and firmly resist.

Therefore, when this case began to be heard in court, I had requested that members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) stay away from this case, since in my view, under the firm leadership of the Party and the direct leadership of the Party Committee and Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs at a certain level, there cannot be real judicial independence and equitable justice in this court. And for the same reasons, starting from my detention by the Suining Municipal Public Security Bureau on June 28, 2010 until today, I have resolutely refused to answer all questions from those handling the case.

Of course, before the powerful political regime and beneath the iron fist of the people’s “democratic” dictatorship, my individual resistance is no doubt very weak. But as a citizen, I must make clear my firm stance: I value people’s freedom, rights, and dignity, and I pledge my life to defend this bottom line—citizens’ right to freedom of speech. . . .

People have thoughts and feelings, and are a noble species with human dignity. To express one’s own thoughts and feelings or to seek the truth out of one’s own innate moral sense is an important mark of people acting as people, and of citizens acting as citizens. Therefore, freedom of speech is closely related to a person’s dignity and well-being. It is the bottom line that every person or citizen should cherish and must not retreat from, not even for half a step.

At the same time, freedom of speech is also closely related to positive social development and the wellbeing of the masses. In a country without freedom of speech, the truth will be suppressed over the long term, and lies will pervade. This inevitably will lead the country away from the right path of development; the society will move towards corruption and disorder, and the people will suffer great catastrophes. As the ancients said: Do not blame the speaker, but take heed of his warnings.

Although freedom of speech is so important to the well-being of individuals and society, it nevertheless is destined to be subject to the unsparing suppression by all forms of autocratic regimes. This is because all forms of autocratic regimes cannot part from the support of lies. As soon as the lies that an autocratic regime depends on are exposed, all of its seemingly powerful edifices will collapse in the blink of an eye.

In the past, traditional autocratic regimes mainly depended on the “divine right of kings,” a kind of lie based on the Mandate of Heaven. Nowadays, the falsehood of the Mandate of Heaven has long been debunked, and traditional autocratic regimes have become the dregs of history. But the specter of despotism has not completely disappeared. Under these new historical conditions, another form of the Mandate of Heaven—historical determinism—is once again propping up another kind of autocratic regime: the modern totalitarian regime.

For example, Marxists claim to have discovered and mastered the laws which govern the development of human society. They claim: communist society is the highest level of human society and communism and socialism inevitably will prevail over capitalism. This seemingly scientific “historical determinism” is extremely deceptive. It makes people in many countries get caught up in the insanity of communist movements and [think that they are] achieving a great victory for the proletariat revolution.

But have the Marxists really discovered the laws for the development of human society? Do the conclusions of scientific socialism really hold water? No! Over the past several decades, after capitalism survived seemingly fatal setbacks time and again, and experiments in socialism went bankrupt one by one, the myth of scientific socialism has been shattered. Furthermore, in my view, those who claim to have discovered God’s secrets, namely the laws of the development of human society, were driven by ulterior motives if not arrogance.

In fact, it is impossible to establish a perfect society such as a communist society in the human world. We can only rely on experience and common sense to constantly improve our society. We cannot design an imagined perfect ideal society out of nothing, and then force it into existence by aggressive means without regard for others’ wishes. To forcibly implement a plan for such an imagined perfect society will most likely lead to tyranny and enslavement!

Is this not the case? Over the past sixty years in this country, in one political movement or socialist experiment after another, all in the name of that so-called sublime ideal, hundreds of thousands of people were regarded as hostile elements and suffered ruthless suppression. The people were assaulted, and relinquished their freedom, rights, and dignity, and the rulers thus established the most ferocious autocratic, totalitarian regime in history.

Under this type of totalitarian system, the Party, the country, the people and collective interests reign supreme, while the individual is insignificant. Every person at any time can potentially be sacrificed or suppressed for some kind of collective interest or glory. In this society there is no rule of law, forgiveness, or respect for fundamental human rights. There is only unconditional submission to the will of the Party and leaders.

Obviously this is not a normal society; this is a mad society, and an inhumane society. Of course, it is impossible for any society to be in this kind of excited and deranged state for the long term. So more than thirty years ago, when the communist movement was tossing Chinese society to the brink of collapse, Deng Xiaoping had no choice but to carry out Reform and Opening Up in order to bring this society back to a normal state.

However, Deng Xiaoping’s reforms also had serious limits, since his goal was to save and continue the CPC’s rule. As a result he did not make any substantive changes to the party system that was hindering the progress of Chinese society. Therefore, over the long term, he only stressed reforms of the economic system, but refused to implement reforms of the political system. Obviously, this kind of “walking-on-one-leg” approach to reform inevitably restricted the development of Chinese society and brought about grave societal problems.

First of all, in this reform, since the power in the hands of government authorities did not receive proper supervision and restriction, this provided fertile soil for corruption to flourish and spread. Since the 1980s, although the authorities have repeatedly said that they want to firmly resist corruption, but since there is no implementation of real democracy or rule of law, the phenomenon of corruption has been getting worse and worse, and has turned into a malignant tumor that infringes upon the interests of the people and eats away the social structure.

Furthermore, along with the development of China’s economy, under the powerful lure of benefits, all levels of government also went so far as to ignore their own duties to wantonly engage in all kinds of economic activities in competition with the people. This inevitably gravely interfered with the normal operation of the market economy and led to the expansion of the capital of the bureaucrats and a rise in the status of the bigwigs. It worsened all kinds of social conflicts and deepened the people’s suffering.

Even more fatal is that while the people’s interests are being widely and severely infringed upon by all levels of government and officials, the people are unable to use normal channels to express their own wishes and defend their own rights and interests. Although the constitution stipulates that citizens have a good deal of freedom and rights, these stipulations have always been empty words. Facing the might of the government, the people can only become the target of wanton bullying and trampling. . . .

. . . Although Chinese society has now already put forth a demand for political democratization, we nevertheless see the authorities still unwilling to take the initiative to carry out this kind of transformation. They explicitly indicate that they will absolutely not engage in Western practices, namely a multi-party system, separation of powers, and parliamentary democracy, and that they will in no way renounce the Four Cardinal Principles.1 In order to delay and obstruct the course of Chinese democratization, they on one hand severely suppress domestic democratic forces, and on the other hand concoct many lies in order to deceive the masses.

For example, when we emphasize human rights and civil rights, they say “the right to survive is the greatest human right,” as if Chinese people’s longing for human rights reaches only to the level of animals. They also disregard the fact that Taiwan has already democratized, saying that Chinese culture does not suit Western democracy. In the end, they deliberately exaggerate the problems that arise in the process of democratization in other countries, and threaten us by saying that “democracy will lead to chaos.” . . .

This short-sighted, large-scale, and low-human rights barbaric model of development certainly cannot last. It is already in the process of seriously over drafting China’s future. This direction of development is far from being a genuine market economy, and it looks more like the early stages of a capitalism that Marx criticized: there is blood and filth dripping from its every pore!

Furthermore, this development model, which is relatively free and open economically but still autocratic and conservative politically, is not China’s original creation. Before, South Korea and Taiwan had also followed a similar path of development. Due to the lack of a democratic political environment and equitable social system, this kind of development pattern inevitably runs out of steam. This is also a major reason why South Korea and Taiwan later had no choice but democratize.

If China continues to develop in the current manner, and is unwilling to implement political democratization after economic liberalization as South Korea and Taiwan did, then there will be two dangerous prospects awaiting China: either it will turn into a long-stagnating, corrupt, Latin-American-style crony-capitalist country, or it will retread the path of German fascism and Japanese militarism, while enslaving people domestically, and at the same time bringing disaster to countries worldwide.

Therefore, if the authorities really had the well being of the people at heart and really took the country’s long-term stability into consideration, they have no reason to oppose and obstruct the democratic transformation of Chinese society. Selfish desires—nothing else—are the reason why even now they still stubbornly resist this kind of change! They do not want to weaken or lose the power they possess or their various prerogatives and vested interests by carrying out democratic reforms.

It is no wonder they sometimes will say: countless revolutionary martyrs gave their blood and their lives to win this country. What they actually mean is: this land is something that we fought for. We are determined not to hand it over so easily. Look, this is their true feeling. From the beginning there was nothing different between them and the rulers of past dynasties! They all regard the whole of China as their private property!

Unfortunately this reasoning also does not hold water because the country belongs to the people of the country, and is not the private property of any one group or party. Any regime must be based on the general consent of the people, and cannot itself have the final say. Perhaps they will say: from the beginning we have had the extensive support of the people. However, even if what they say were true, that was more than sixty years ago. It does not mean that the people today would make the same decision.

It is precisely because they put the Party above all else that they reject and cannot tolerate any political change. However, today, when citizens’ consciousness has widely awakened, will they really be able to continue to do whatever they please? Facing the unstoppable wave of global democratization, will they really be able to guard the last bastion of despotism?

No! Because I have already seen: the force that opposes dictatorial corruption and strives for freedom and democracy is indomitably and rapidly growing in Chinese society. Although under the long-term suppression of an autocratic, totalitarian regime, the force pressing for freedom and democracy in China is now still not strong enough. However, I have believed all along: a seed will inevitably penetrate the hard surface of the ground. The first rays of morning sun will inevitably tear through the unbounded darkness. Chinese society will inevitably welcome the loud cries of those calling for freedom.

Thus, your persecution of me is of no use! I am merely one paving stone on the road to China’s freedom. I am merely an ephemeral drop of water in the tide of Chinese democratization. I am merely one lowly straw determined to crush an autocratic, totalitarian regime. By imprisoning and persecuting me, you will only be able to extend your autocratic, totalitarian regime for one second at most.

So I firmly believe: this country will inevitably experience profound changes, and the enemies of freedom will inevitably exit the stage of history. Even though the people, under the prolonged ravage by an autocratic, totalitarian regime, have become selfish, detached, and apathetic, seeking only peace and stability in their own lives, and indifferent to justice for society, the suffering of the masses, and the future of their nation, I have always believed: all people want to live the life of a real person. . . .

Therefore, although for the past twenty years I have continuously been subject to the persecution of this regime, I do not hate those who have persecuted me. I would rather believe that they all are ordinary people with conscience but also selfish motives, that they all had no choice but to take part in this evil in order to work and live, and that some of them are feeling remorse at this very moment and condemning themselves for their weakness and indifference.

Liu Xiaobo said: “I have no enemies.” As for me, Liu Xianbin, why would I want to have a personal enemy? However, I still hope that those who have aided the oppressors will not again participate in this kind of systemic evil-doing. I hope that you all will no longer live in lies, can hold fast to the bottom lines of your conscience, and morals. I hope that you, from this moment on, can also live your lives as a person or as a citizen. . . .

The above is my trial statement, and, one could say, also my abiding thoughts and viewpoints. If these views were expressed and put into effect by one of your leaders, you would certainly sing his praises and say that he is a great person initiating a new era. However, as these views are being expressed by me, an ordinary citizen, you are severely suppressing me, and perhaps this is an intrinsic characteristic of an autocratic society.

Of course this cannot be completely blamed on you, because under this current party-state system, it goes without saying that there cannot be judicial independence and the judicial fairness that is built upon it. Therefore, I do not harbor any extravagant hope that I will receive a fair trial today. However, in the future when you are lucky enough to be living in a free China, please do not forget my sacrifice today, and as a warrior of freedom, I will feel gratified by my past efforts.

After the collapse of China’s autocratic regime, when God’s fairness and righteousness illuminate the land of China, I will tell my child: in the final period of darkness in Chinese history, I had continued to strive to live and fight as a person or as a citizen!

Translator’s Note

1. The Four Cardinal Principles (四项基本原则) were announced by then-Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping in 1979 as the fundamental policy for governing the nation, which may not be debated. They are: upholding the socialist path, upholding the people’s democratic dictatorship, upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and upholding Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong thought. In 1982, the principles were written into the Preamble of the Constitution. Deng Xiaoping, “Uphold the Four Cardinal Principles,” ^