Joint Declaration Concerning the "Freezing Point" Incident (CECC Full Translation)

September 1, 2006

The following is a translation prepared by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China of a joint declaration issued by the 13 senior Chinese Communist Party elders protesting the Central Propaganda Department's censorship of the progressive weekly publication "Freezing Point" [bingdian], on February 2, 2006. The Chinese text was retrieved from the Epoch Times Web site on March 24, 2006.

On January 24, 2006, Freezing Point was finally ordered to shut down and rectify by the Central Propaganda Department's dupes at the propaganda agency of the Central Committee, and this was a concentrated eruption of the malicious control that has been haunting Chinese news for a long time. This is a major historical event in China's press circles.

istory proves: only totalitarian systems need to control the news, hoping in vain to forever seal up the people in a drum, carrying out obscurantist policies, and conspiring to make "what we say goes" everlasting. Nevertheless, the cold hard reality is: the soil of this malicious press control was destined to nurture Li Datong, Lu Yuegang, Du Yongtao, He Yanguang, and their Freezing Point community that was weak in body but forever vigorous in spirit. This is history's materialism, this is life's dialectic, and this will not change in response to any person's desires.

"Freezing Point" stuck to its ideals, not wavering for a decade. They edited and published the wisdom and conscience of a vast array of authors, gave expression to the power of investigative reporting and embodied the strength of social transformation, and received wide-ranging and continuous accolades. As soon as word got out that this kind of progressive Party weekly ends up being deliberately shut down, it was inevitable that on both sides of the strait public opinion would be shocked, or amazed, and that the entire globe would shake.

There is a reason this happened, and it is not an isolated incident. This is a continuation of the Central Propaganda Department's malicious control whereby in recent years it has repeatedly shut down and reorganized newspapers and magazines like the "Beijing News," "Lingnan Culture Times," "Global Economic Herald," "Southern Weekend," "Southern Metropolitan Daily," as well as "Studio," "In The Same Boat," "Methodology," "Strategy and Management," and the list goes on and on, and its origin comes mainly from the Department's "Critical Review Committee." The Central Propaganda Department has distorted "propaganda" into "control," assuming government powers in what should be viewed as overstepping its authority, constituting a violation of the Constitution. From the beginning the "Criticial Review Committee" has substituted "judgment" for "review," and "sentencing" for "criticizing," such that its name no longer comports with reality. They have stripped away freedom of speech in order to quash public opinion. They have not only engaged in stigmatizing and criticizing, but have even gone so far as to manufacture all sorts of "black lists," carry out secret investigations, waiting for an opportunity to pounce, sometimes carrying out the process of an "execution" with instruction on a single phone call, leaving the target without any right to plead their case. Their methods are incredibly crude, and are not subject to any legal restraints whatsoever. It is understood that the Central Committee has never conferred this prerogative upon them. They have in fact gone against the spirit of the documents adopted at the 5th Plenary Session of the 16th Party Central Committee, and have in effect made a figurehead of national policies on strictly enforcing the legal system and ruling the country by law. People will ask: If the propaganda agencies do not safeguard the media and do not safeguard freedom of speech, then what is their purpose?

Try looking at the results of their celebrated triumph - what the people got was only the loss of vigor in press circles, and a further withering of the news industry. The people cannot hear any competing voices and cannot see any harmonization. No one can say where the "mainstream consciousness" is flowing.

Even so, we once called out "give me liberty or give me death" and followed the revolution and joined in the construction. Indeed, we are all declining in years, but our self confident aggressiveness has not waned, and therefore we hope to follow Liang Qichao's example and "not stint in waging a war against ourselves as we were yesterday with ourselves as we are today." Looking back over the lessons we have learned in the last 60 or 70 years, peering through the clouds of history, we fully realize that once freedom of speech is lost, those in power will only be able to hear one voice. Where will there be peace of mind? How will the government enjoy the support of the people? Today, looking over the situation, one comes to recognize yet another rule: upon arriving at the juncture where a system of despotism changes direction toward a system of constitutional government, to deprive the people of freedom of expression, to not dare to let people speak, will inevitably sow the seeds of destruction for political transition and social transformation, and will unavoidably trigger collective opposition and lead to unrest. Throughout history rulers have used violence to preserve power politics. How can we forget such a lesson learned through so much blood?

One cannot overstate how freedom of speech improves the capacity to govern. It is fundamentally something that is guaranteed, not given, and certainly not bestowed. And the basic requirement of this guarantee should be this: a government may not impose restrictions based on what the country needs. For example, one may not use "stability" as a pretext for imposing deprivations. Experience teaches: encouraging the free airing of views is conducive to "stability," and the best illustration of this is how the Sun Zhigang incident was handled. Unfettered public opinion relieves unredressed injustice, eases social contradictions, and at a certain level remedies shortcomings in the administration of justice. The lessons of the Shanwei incident serve as negative proof of our thesis!

The meaning of freedom of speech does not lie in preserving ancient cultures, but in being able to guide unceasing innovation. Abolishing freedom of speech is destined to stunt the fruits of creativity, and therefore we should at once enact legislation to expand citizens' freedoms and rights, safeguard freedom of speech for the media, promote advancement and prosperity for the nation, and further the healthy development of society. The French revolution produced "The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens." After the Second World War there came the United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." In light of these exemplary provisions, why not follow in their line?

To briefly summarize what has been explained above, we submit the following demands:

1. The Central Propaganda Department should submit a written report to central authorities on the Freezing Point affair, undertake extensive self criticism, learn its lesson, and abolish the "Critical Review Commission."
2. Fully reinstate the "Freezing Point" weekly, and do not "settle accounts after the fall harvest."
3. As soon as possible, enact a "Media Protection Law," repeal all malicious measures for controlling news, and ensure the professional rights of the news media.

"We wish to sacrifice ourselves for freedom, and will never resign ourselves to being prisoners!" "Where freedom can be seen, joy welcomes the day." These are lines taken from the Hymn to Freedom chanted in prison by those heroes who preceded us. We will follow in the bloody footprints of the heroes who preceded us, and endeavor to defend citizens' freedoms and rights. We will move forward together with "Freezing Point."

Signatures (in order of the number of strokes in their surnames):
Jiang Ping, Zhu Houze, Li Rui, Li Pu, He Jiadong, He Fang, Shao Yanxiang, Zhang Sizhi, Wu Xiang, Zhong Peizhang, Hu Jiwei, Peng Di, Dai Huang.

Beijing, February 2, 2006.