The true meaning of "Constitution Day"

The true meaning of "Constitution Day"

The arrests of labor and environmental activists on December 3 turned “Constitution Day” into a “Fuck the Constitution Day” (让宪法日成了日宪法). This may be the best illustration of what “the law” and “the constitution” really mean.

Translated by “Solidarity with Chinese Workers” from《公益人被抓,为何成为宪法日的注脚》by Han Qing (韩青), published 2015-12-04 on NGOCN. Original Chinese also reposted below.

This is part of series being compiled on Libcom under the tag “Solidarity with Chinese Workers“, in order to help publicize the ongoing crackdown on Chinese workers and labor activists, which began on December 3 – the latest wave in a trend of escalating repression that began in 2012. Free Chinese labour activists now 馬上釋放中國勞權人士. For further background, see “Guangzhou labor activists arrested en masse”, “Sweeping the house clean of labor NGOs”, and “The criminalization of strikes since 2012“.

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Today (December 4) is China’s National Legal Awareness Day (全国法制宣传日and the nation’s second ever Constitution Day. Different levels of government across the country come up with different means of celebration: the Supreme People’s Procuratorate organized a calligraphy exhibition, Kunming organized a mass pledge campaign, Shanghai primary schools hosted flag ceremonies and gave speeches on strengthening the principles of the constitution and developing law-abiding habits. But the most “creative” celebration had to be Ningde in Fujian and Foshan in Guangdong: just a day before Constitution Day, they arrested several activists (公益人) in a single breath.1

In Ningde, two environmental activists were arrested on charges of prostitution or sexual misconduct, because the two volunteers who had been reporting on local pollution were living together. In Foshan, He Xiaobo (何晓波) from Foshan’s Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Center (南飞雁社 会工作服务中心)2 was arrested on charges of embezzlement, pending further investigation.3

Despite the fact that China’s Constitution guarantees citizens of the People’s Republic of China freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, and the right to criticize or raise suggestions to any state institution or government official, whenever someone actually tries to exercise these rights, s/he soon hits a legal ceiling.

Some of these ceilings are visible, such as restrictions on public assembly. Some are not, such as the limits of acceptable criticism. But under the recent propaganda around “legal governance”, all of these ceilings are redecorated and start to radiate the holy light of “law.” The constitution, meanwhile, is positioned high and beyond these actual ceilings of legal practice.

The original spirit of the constitution is to restrict the power of government. But when the constitution is suspended, activists of all kinds, whether dealing with the environment of labor rights, are put inside a straitjacket called the law. The right to practice activism is locked inside the cage they call law.

The government is inventing more and more new cages. “Inciting crowds to disrupt public order” was the weapon they used against Xu Zhiyong, who advocated for students’ rights to take their university entrance exams in provinces other than their own, and the five feminists who were planning an anti-sexual harassment campaign. “Disorderly behavior” was the charge used against Jia Lingmin, who gave free legal advice to victims of forced demolition, and Zhao Lianhai, who fought for compensation for babies suffering from kidney stones due to Sanlu’s poisoned formula milk. “Illegal business activity” was applied to organizations with publications, such as Guo Yushan of Chuanzhixing4 for their Academic Newsletter of the Transition Institute; and Guo Bin and Yang Zhaoqing of Zhengzhou Yirenping for its China Anti-Discrimination Legal Action Newsletter. “Extortion and blackmail” was wielded against Tian Jinguang, chairperson of the Spotted Seal Association in Panjin, Liaoning. This time they’ve added, “embezzlement” and “prostitution”…

With so many different kinds of cages, there’s always one that fits. If one doesn’t fit, they can switch to another charge, as in the case of Chang Boyang of Zhengzhou Yirenping last year, where they went through three different charges in the course of a month. When Chang was first criminally detained, it was “inciting crowds to disrupt public order”, when they applied for an arrest warrant, it was “disorderly behavior”, then when their arrest was authorized it had become “illegal business activity.”

The number of cages is increasing, the chains are growing tighter. In legislation, they will soon release a “foreign NGO management regulations” and “charity regulations”, both of which have raised intense controversy. The price of activism is being upped, and the outer limits of acceptable activism are being restricted by “law.”

Why go on then? If activists were to withdraw in the face of these difficulties, they surely wouldn’t be facing the results they do today. Perhaps they are too earnest, in thinking of this tract of land as their home. What matters most to them is their moral conscience and integrity of spirit.

Before He Xiaobo was arrested, the government had already investigated his organization’s financial records many a time. The concurrently apprehended Hongmei, who leads a women workers organization, was also accused of “illegal business activity ”. But they didn’t retreat, their attitude just like Xiaobo’s online alias—“fighting alone till the end.”

But in fact, they are not fighting alone, there are many friends supporting them. After Xiaobo was arrested, his wife has been continually updating his weibo, saying “people keep periodically messaging him, asking if he’s back”, all the way up until now.

The two environmentalists have also received media attention; when they were released this morning, no one paid attention to the local authorities dirtying of their names. Ninde’s pollution problem has even received more attention due to these events. Moreover, local environmental organizations have stated they will make a legal investigation of the police action.

These arrests turned “Constitution Day” into a “Fuck the Constitution Day.”5 This may be the best illustration of what “the law” and “the constitution” really mean.

原文:
公益人被抓,为何成为宪法日的注脚
2015-12-04 NGOCN
关注NGOCN,公益视野从此大不同原创·作者:韩青

今天(12月4日)是全国法制宣传日,也是第二个国家宪法日,各地各部门都在比拼宣传宪法的玩法,最高检玩起了书法展,昆明市玩起了千人宣誓,上海市的小学则通过国旗下的讲话,教育师生增强宪法观念,养成遵纪守法习惯……这其中玩得最有创意的,恐怕要数福建宁德和广东佛山了,在宪法日前一天,他们一口气带走了多名公益人。

福建宁德的说法是,两名环保志愿者涉嫌卖淫嫖娼,因为这两位举报当地污染的志愿者同住一室,广东佛山的说法是,南飞雁的何晓波涉嫌职务侵占,被带走协助调查。

编注:截至发稿时最新消息,何晓波因涉嫌职务侵占被公安机关刑事拘留。

尽管宪法中明文写着,中华人民共和国公民有言论和结社的自由,对于任何国家机关和国家工作人员,都有提出批评和建议的权利,但如果真的有人身体力行,很快就会碰到法律的天花板。

南飞雁是广东佛山最大的劳工NGO,也是最早的工伤维权NGO,除了为工人争取权益,他们还服务流动人口,上图是针对积分入学的政策倡导。

这些天花板有的是看得到的,比如结社的门槛,有的是看不到的,比如批评的边界,但在依法治国的背景下,这些天花板都装饰一新,开始闪耀着法律的光芒。宪法,则被置于天花板之上。

宪法本义,是要把政府权力关在笼子里,如今宪法高搁,公益人做环境保护也好,做工人权益也好,都被套上了那件他们称之为法律的紧身衣。做公益的权利,都被以法律之名关在笼子里。

这些笼子还不断推陈出新。之前有聚众扰乱社会公共秩序,这给了倡导异地高考权利的许志永、准备策划反性骚扰活动的女权五姐妹等;有寻衅滋事,给了为拆迁户义务普法的贾灵敏、为三鹿奶粉结石宝宝争取赔偿的赵连海;有非法经营,如果机构印制过刊物,即便是公益性质的《传知行学术通讯》、《反歧视通讯》等,负责人也会被带走,传知行的郭玉闪,郑州亿人平的郭彬、杨占青即是如此;还有敲诈勒索,比如辽宁盘锦的斑海豹协会会长田继光;这次又加上了职务侵占和卖淫嫖娼……

这么多型号的笼子,总有一种适合你。如果不适合,再换一种。像郑州亿人平的常伯阳,去年就曾在一月之间连换三种罪名,刑拘时是聚众扰乱,报捕时是寻衅滋事,批捕时则是非法经营。

笼子在增多,绳索也在勒紧。立法上,今年推出的境外NGO管理法和慈善法,都在业内引起了很大争议。公益的门槛,正被人为加高,公益的边界,也正被“法律”压缩。

那,为什么还要做呢?如果这些公益人知难而退,想必不会有此结果。我想,可能是他们太爱较真了,太把这块土地当成自己的家了。他们更在乎的,是内心的道德律令和精神家园的纯净。

何晓波被带走之前,机构已被多次查账,同时被带走的红梅,她所领导的女工机构也被指“非法经营”。但他们没有退让,他们的态度就如晓波那时的网名,“一个人战斗到底”。

但实际上,他并不是一个人在战斗,还有很多朋友在关心。他走之后,他妻子在他的微信号上不断更新消息,说“总有人时不时发个信息,回来没”,一直到现在。

两名环保志愿者也获得媒体关注,在今晨获释,没什么人在乎当地对他们的污名。宁德的污染现状反倒因此欲盖弥彰,被更多人注意到。环保机构也表示,会通过法律追究当地警方所谓的调查。

公益人被抓,让宪法日成了日宪法。而这,恐怕是对宪法和法制最好的宣传了。

Notes

Translators: 公益人 actually means “public good people”. In China, activists usually call themselves “public good people” to sound less radical and threatening to the system. This is a survival strategy.
Translators: Nanfeiyan Social Work Service Organization was one of the first labor NGOs in China to deal with occupational injury compensation. Besides advocating workers’ rights, they also provide services to the migrant population. For example, they advocate for migrants’ rights to education.
Author’s note: As of the publication of this article, He Xiaobo remains under criminal detention due to alleged embezzlement.
Translators: Chuanzhixing is an activist group, but a liberal one. It advocates for protection of private property, deepening of the free market, and even “more space” for enterprises. But in China this is all termed 公益, meaning public good, which also means activism in some sense.
Translators: this is a pun on the Chinese word ri (日), which means “day” but colloquially means “fuck” in a vulgar sense similar to the English word: “让宪法日成了日宪法”.

Posted By

Anonymous
Dec 8 2015 04:38

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