The “New Citizens” trials in their entirety, whether procedurally or substantively, have left the dignity of the rule of law in utter ruin. As legal professionals, you are in fact well aware that the “disrupting order in a public place” charges against us are nothing but a pretext. What the people behind you are really afraid of is not only the fact that we have become upright, true citizens, but also that we are openly advocating for every Chinese to become an upright citizen, to take seriously their identity and rights as citizens. I will say this again today, that whatever the price I have to pay, I still take my identity as a citizen seriously, I remain proud of my citizenship, and I will continue to openly advocate for every Chinese to take seriously their identity, rights, and responsibilities as citizens.
This is a sacred identity fought for and won by our previous generations, which has never changed ever since China became the first republic in Asia during the Xinhai Revolution [of 1911]. I am a citizen and not a subject of an autocratic dynasty. My country is a people’s republic, a country that should really belong to the people, where governments and parliaments at all levels should be established through direct popular elections. I and 1.3 billion citizens together have the right to elect a ruling party, our mayors, and our parliamentarians, and the right to participate in the governing of our country. In a country that truly belongs to the people, the people’s military and police are loyal to the people and not to any political party; they take orders from a civilian government and not from any domestic slaves of interest groups. In a country that truly belongs to the people, civil servants serve with humility, are elected directly by the people, and are accountable to the people. Such a country represents genuine political civilization. We the 1.3 billion citizens are not masses being led—we are taxpayers and the country’s masters. We are citizens—not docile subjects to be enslaved at will.
I believe in the freedoms and rights written in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and China’s Constitution. I treasure our suffrage rights, however meager, and actively ran as a candidate in the most grassroots people’s deputies elections and cast my vote seriously. I defended social equality and justice, helping those who are victims of forced evictions to protect their properties and rights. I helped hundreds of millions of new migrants in cities to fight for equal urban residential status, including the right of their children to take university exams in locations outside their hometowns. I fought for, even at the cost of my own liberty, citizens’ constitutional right to speak freely, express their own political views, and call for officials’ asset disclosure.
I am a citizen and not like those indifferent to the affairs of the country and of the world. In autocracy’s long history, countless Chinese people took themselves to be lowly commoners. But what I want to say today is: today, in light of the progress of human civilization, the country truly belongs to the people; China belongs to everyone living on this land; it does not belong to a small group of occupiers. I love China: the China that is this vast land with five thousand years of history and civilization, where 1.3 billion people are hardworking and good-hearted, which is not the private property of any interest group. A real patriot never evades the key problems facing her country and never looks away from inequality and injustice, or special privileges and corruption. The root cause of disunity among the people is one-party autocracy. Only democratic constitutionalism can save China. A real patriot clearly distinguishes her country from its government and political parties. Love for one’s country is not the same as love for its government, let alone love for a certain political party. A real patriot strives and takes up responsibilities for her country’s democratic rule of law, and equality and justice. I consistently and firmly believe that my motherland will definitely be able to extricate itself from the haze of autocracy and achieve genuine democracy and freedoms within our generation.
I am a citizen and not part of an irrational and angry mob. I will speak up and stand tall for justice. But I will hold on to my reasons at all times. On the road to freedom, I will not let hatred and hostility cloud my soul. I will act in accordance with the New Citizen spirit of freedom, justice, and love. I will keep justice in my heart at all times and will never be unscrupulous in order to achieve any ends. I will not lie, make false accusations, or attack my opponents with any means without restraints. Irrespective of what they do, we must hold on to this baseline and not become them, because this nation needs new hope. I will keep kindness in my heart at all times, as hostility between people is the result of mutual ignorance, narrow-mindedness, and fear. In the face of millions of souls darkened and poisoned by the haze of autocracy, our mission is not hatred and destruction, but mercy and redemption.
I am a citizen who holds onto the baseline of conscience and justice in a bankrupt society. In a totalitarian society, I have always defended the New Citizen spirit of freedom, justice, and love. I have done all I can to serve, serve society, help the needy, and advance the country’s institution-building; I have been willing to take on risks, to take on responsibilities, and pay the price for my ideals; I have strived to let go, let go of my ego, and face the world with humility. Even in the court, I have used silence to defend procedural justice. In prison, I have also fought for the rights and dignity to which citizens are entitled. I am a citizen and I am proud of my identity as a citizen. I use the blue citizen logo as my profile on Weibo, WeChat, and QQ. Even after that logo was banned, I still use the word “citizen” to express my identity as a citizen. I have added the word “citizen” in front of my own name and I wear citizen badges. Even in prison where I do not have the badges, I wrote the word “citizen” on my prison uniform. I also showed the word “citizen” [on my prison uniform] to the judges.
I hope that every Chinese, every Chinese who loves his or her own country, will join me in taking our own identity as citizens seriously, taking pride in being a citizen, and openly displaying this identity. This way, we can get to know each other, help each other move forward and make efforts together. I believe that through the struggle, sacrifice, and brave actions of our generation, we will certainly achieve a beautiful China with democratic rule of law, freedom, justice, and love.
Citizen Xu Zhiyong
April 2, 2014