open letter regarding zhengzhou case

From Jonathan Lassen <>
Date Mon, 17 Jan 2005 22:25:14 -0500
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January 15, 2005

An Open Letter To:

President Hu Jintao
Premier Wen Jiabao
Zhongnanhai, Beijing
People's Republic of China
President Hu and Premier Wen:

We are writing to protest the wrongful arrest, trial and sentencing to
three years in prison each of Mr. Zhang Zhengyao and Mr. Zhang Ruquan,
which took place in the city of Zhengzhou in Henan Province in
December, 2004.  These two members of the working class were tried for
their involvement in passing out a leaflet on the 28th anniversary of
the death of Chairman Mao Zedong, and found guilty of the crime of
libel in a closed court proceeding.  We hereby call for your personal
attention to this matter, and urge decisive action to be taken that
would lead effectively to their release without delay, and an end to
any legal or other forms of harassment against their two associates,
Ms. Ge Liying and Mr. Wang Zhanqing.

We, the undersigned, are socialists and progressives, activists and
intellectuals, members of the working classes and academics, from
China, the United States and other countries.  Despite our different
backgrounds, we are united by our strong feelings of solidarity with
Zhang Zhengyao and Zhang Ruquan.  It is for taking a public stand in
defense of the working classes and of socialism that they were
arrested and sentenced to three years in prison.  We are deeply
disturbed that the Zhengzhou authorities have meted out such a harsh
punishment to one worker who is retired and another who is unemployed,
for voicing the sentiments widely felt among Chinese workers and
peasants and expressing concerns shared by socialists and progressive
people everywhere over the widening gap between  the rich and the poor
in China, deepening capitalistic exploitation of its working people,
loss of health care, education and pensions, widespread official
corruption, and deviation from any reasonable conception of socialism.
President Hu and Premier Wen, immediately upon assumption of your
respective offices, you both displayed a refreshing understanding of
the plight of the Chinese working class, and of their pain and anger,
as reflected in the leaflet that has been found libelous by the
Zhengzhou authorities.  Both of you called for greater respect for
democratic rights and sensitivity to dissenting viewpoints aired on
the internet, many of which were expressed in even more strident terms
than what is found in the leaflet passed out in Zhengzhou. President
Hu, you especially have in no ambiguous terms deplored the loss of
faith by many people in leadership positions in the cause of
socialism, and called for a renewed commitment to the vision and
values that, led by Chairman Mao, successfully guided the great
Chinese revolution. In particular, you called on those in leading
positions within the government and party to follow his call to "Serve
the People," and to live simply and free from corruption.  This has
been widely welcome in China and elsewhere.

Many have remained hopeful that you would mount a determined campaign
to address effectively the worst abuses of capitalist exploitation and
official corruption, to foster greater respect for political and civil
rights of the Chinese people, and to resume the fight for socialism. 
This is precisely what is called for by the leaflet that was passed
out on September 9 in Zhengzhou by Zhang Zhengyao and Zhang Ruquan. 
Far from being treated as criminal, their action should be supported
and welcomed for its forthright statement of the needs and hopes of
workers and peasants throughout China.
It is in this light, in addition to sharing our sense of outrage, that
we are respectfully calling for your intervention so as to bring a
just resolution to this travesty.