As Xi Jinping makes internal Party speeches about the need to stamp out and crack down on corruption, and institutes new rules, like a five year moratorium on constructing new official buildings, he has given a clear signal that another side of the Party’s policies won’t be changing: police violence toward activists.
Calling for a democratic government that promotes “freedom, righteousness, and love,” the New Citizens Movement parallels the U.S. Declaration of Independence in its belief that a government’s duty is to protect human rights and serve the people’s interests.
“China needs a movement to save itself from all its social problems: corruption, power abuses, and the wealth gap to name a few,” wrote Xu Zhiyong, a high-profile human rights activist who founded the movement with others, in a blog post in May.
So far, the regime has reacted by arresting at least 15 activists as of July 26 and placing Xu under house arrest in April then detaining him on July 16. Xu was charged with “assembling a crowd to disrupt order in a public place” and corralled into a room with eleven theft suspects.
“Arresting Xu is a clear violation of the freedom of speech,” said Beijing-based human rights activist Hu Jia in an interview with Epoch Times.
“Authorities believe the Citizens Movement will have a huge impact on society, so they’re harassing and terrifying the participants in hopes of obstructing the movement,” Hu said. “Everyone should speak up to support these activists, because protecting their rights is protecting your own rights.”
Well-known Chinese scholars, lawyers, economists, and businessmen started an open letter calling for Xu and other New Citizen Movement participants’ release, gathering 446 signatures as of July 23.
The New Citizens Movement falls on one side of a divide in opinions activists have of the Chinese Communist Party and the best way of dealing with it, which includes a view that the regime is still able to atone for many problems. On the other end, protesters like Ai Weiwei have grown disillusioned with the Party. Ai satirized some of the more optimistic activists in his profanity-laced song “Idiot” released in May, with a music video of Ai in jail, monitored by police even while on the toilet.