Then there is International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, which hundreds of thousands of Chinese should mark. But Chinese authorities hold no commemorations. They hope that citizens do not learn of the designation, because the ruling party uses torture to govern.
June 26 is a significant day for me. When the Chinese government announced the slogan of the Beijing Olympics, “One World, One Dream,” on June 26, 2005, I thought the Olympics would be an opportunity to promote freedom and democracy in Chinese society.
But one year later, when two lawyers and I drove to Dongshigu village on June 26, 2006, to investigate and collect evidence regarding the arrest of the blind lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng, our car was blocked by local government staff, and we were violently attacked. Before that, I had been followed for 41 consecutive days.
I was convicted in 2008 of “incitement to subvert state power” and jailed for more than three years. When I was released from prison on June 26, 2011, my home and the roads around it were blocked by uniformed and plainclothes police. More than 200 officers sought to stop my visitors. I realized I had gone from a small prison with high walls and electric fences to a big prison in society.
A couple of things are clear to me: Unless democracy grants all Chinese citizens freedom, I won’t enjoy freedom as an individual. And with the Communist Party’s 18th National Congress due to be held in the autumn, political housecleaning has started.
When Chinese people are deprived of their political rights, they are not allowed to vote or to attend elections, assemblies, parades or protests. They are not allowed to publish articles, accept interviews or speak in public. But the truth is that Chinese citizens’ political rights have been effectively suspended for decades. We don’t have general elections, so we cannot choose our ruler. We don’t have an independent judiciary; the Communist Party’s political and legal affairs committee is the final judge.
Moreover, all branches of the government, including the tax bureau, the religious affairs bureau and the family-planning commission, prioritize maintaining stability. Weiwen, or “stability maintenance,” is the biggest crime committed by the government and the most common violation of human rights.