Open letter: the Chinese Communist Party’s rule by fear endangers Chinese citizens – and the world

More than one hundred China experts and senior political figures, including an Estonian MP, Yoko Alender, and Marcus Kolga, an Estonian Canadian journalist and a former president of the Estonian Central Council in Canada, have signed an open letter describing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government’s cover up of COVID-19 as “China’s Chernobyl moment”; Estonian World publishes the letter in full.

The group of signatories include some of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese politics, law and modern history. The open letter responds to another open letter released by a group of China-based establishment academics who accused critical voices of “politicising” the COVID-19 pandemic – the narrative of which has also been frequently repeated by CCP government official spokespeople, and also, recently, by the head of the World Health Organisation. “The CCP government has launched a crackdown on Chinese journalists reporting critically on the COVID-19 crisis and it is now censoring scientific research on the origins of the pandemic,” the signatories said in a press statement.

An open letter to Chinese citizens and friends of China at home and abroad

The current global crisis has been caused by the regime so many of you have been tolerating or supporting for decades.

On 2 April 2020, a group of one hundred Chinese establishment scholars wrote an open letter decrying the “many critical voices politicising the COVID-19 pandemic”. They stated that “(at) this stage of the pandemic, the exact source and origin of COVID-19 remain undetermined, but these questions are unimportant and finger pointing is demeaning and hurtful to everyone”. They also argued against what they alleged is the politicising of the epidemic.

The open letter exemplifies what the independent intellectual Professor Xu Zhangrun has called the “ridiculous ‘Red Culture’ and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn.”

Professor Xu – now under house arrest – has called on his compatriots to stop their uncritical support for the Chinese Communist Party, and instead to “rage against this injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”

While the exact source and spread of the virus are not clear, yet the question of origin is highly important, for the people of China and for all humankind: only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge we can prevent it from happening again.

The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province. Under the influence of the CCP, the World Health Organisation first downplayed the pandemic. Taiwanese health officials also allege that they ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December. Under pressure from the CCP, democratic Taiwan – which has coped with the pandemic in exemplary fashion – is excluded from the WHO.

We should never forget that China’s Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak: Dr Ai Fen can no longer appear in public after accepting a domestic media interview; her colleague Dr Li Wenliang died while fighting the virus in Wuhan. On his deathbed Dr Li famously said that “a healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice.”

The Chinese entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang wrote that “without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system”. He disappeared on 12 March.

The courageous citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, who tried to report freely about the situation in Wuhan, now are also missing.

Mainland China’s political malaise goes beyond the leadership failure of Xi Jinping. In a recent video message, a young student called Zhang Wenbin reflected on his evolution from an uncritical CCP supporter to a critical citizen with a conscience: “Since I scaled the Great Firewall, I gradually came to the realisation that the Chinese Communist Party has extended its dragon claws into every corner of the world, including collective farming [1950s], the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], the Great Famine [1958-1961], the One-Child Policy, the Tiananmen massacre [1989], as well as the persecution of the Falun Gong [spiritual movement], and the peoples of Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang…Yet everyone continues to turn a blind eye, singing the party’s praises. I just can’t bear it.” Zhang disappeared shortly after recording his message. His friends fear he will face interrogation and torture by the secret police.

The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicising all aspects of life including people’s health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People’s Republic of China has endangered everyone. Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China. These independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear. Neither should you.

As an international group of public figures, security policy analysts and China watchers, we stand in solidarity with courageous and conscientious Chinese citizens including Xu Zhangrun, Ai Fen, Li Wenliang, Ren Zhiqiang, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, Li Zehua, Xu Zhiyong, and Zhang Wenbin, just to name a few of the real heroes and martyrs who risk their life and liberty for a free and open China. Their individual voices are already forming a chorus. They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world. We urge you to join them.

Signatories (in alphabetical order)

Judith Abitan, Executive Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and a Human Rights Advocate

Mantas Adomėnas MP, Parliament of Lithuania

Yoko Alender MP, Parliament of Estonia

Lord Alton of Liverpool, House of Lords, United Kingdom

Lord Andrew Adonis, House of Lords, United Kingdom

Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster

Matteo Angioli, Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”

Nathan Attrill, Australian National University

Rt Hon Norman Baker, Former Home Affairs minister, UK government

Christopher Balding, Fulbright University Vietnam

Geremie R. Barmé, Historian, Professor Emeritus, The Australian National University

Bastiaan Belder, Historian, Rapporteur European Parliament on EU-China relations 2004-2019

Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow, FPRI.org

Anne-Marie Brady, Global Fellow, Kissinger Institute on China and the US, Wilson Center, USA; Professor in Political Science and International Relations, University Canterbury, NZ

Charles Burton, Macdonald-Laurier Institute and European Values Center for Security Policy

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University

William A. Callahan, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics

Kevin Carrico, Monash University

Duanjie Chen, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Jerome A. Cohen, Founding Director, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University

J Michael Cole, University of Nottingham and Senior fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Ottawa, Canada

Damian Collins MP, House of Commons, United Kingdom

Stéphane Corcuff, University of Lyon

Irwin Cotler, Chair of the Raoul Centre for Human Rights, Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Halyna Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Group

Hon Michael Danby MP, Seven term MP, former Parliamentary Secretary & past Chao Australian Parliament Foreign Affairs & Defence Committee

Michael Danielsen, Taiwan Corner

David A. Dayton, Utah Valley University

Axel Dessein, King’s College London

Horst Fabian, Independent researcher and Europe – China civil society Ambassador

Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne

Isaac Stone Fish, Senior Fellow, Asia Society

Anna Fotyga, European Parliament

Andrew Foxall, Henry Jackson Society

Vanessa Frangville, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Aaron L. Friedberg, Princeton University

Andreas Fulda, University of Nottingham, School of Politics and International Relations

Daniel Garrett, Securing Tianxia

Angela Gui, University of Cambridge

Martin Hála, Sinopsis and Charles University

Clive Hamilton, Charles Sturt University, Canberra

Dan Harris, Harris Bricken

Laura Harth, Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”

John Hemmings, Henry Jackson Society

Frank Herschel Finch III, University of New Haven

Michael Hsiao, Academia Sinica

Massimo Introvigne, Sociologist, editor in chief of Bitter Winter

Dolkun Isa, World Uyghur Congress

Jakub Janda, Director, European Values Center for Security Policy, Prague, Czech Republic

Filip Jirouš, Sinopsis

Rasa Juknevičienė, European Parliament

Thierry Kellner, Université libre de Bruxelles

Tinatin Khidasheli, Civic IDEA, Former Minister of Defence, Georgia

Tamar Kintsurashvili, Media Development Foundation

Ondřej Klimeš, Researcher, Czech Academy of Sciences

Marcus Kolga, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Marko Kovic, Independent researcher and writer in Zurich, Switzerland

Andrius Kubilius, European Parliament

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Chairman of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats

Nathan Law Kwun Chung, Demosisto

Gregory Lee, University of Lyon

Anastasia Lin, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Petra Lindberg, SHRIC -Supporting Human Rights In China

Jan Lipavský MP, House of Commons, Czech Republic

Dimon Liu, Independent human rights activist

Olga Lomová, Charles University

Edward Lucas, Author, journalist, and senior vice-president, Center for European Policy Analysis

Nicola Macbean, The Rights Practice

Rahima Mahmut, Uyghur Human Rights Activiest, U.K. Project Director, World Uyghur Congress

Paul Maidowski, Fletcher School alumn

Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Commentator and author of “Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada” and “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

Stewart McDonald MP, House of Commons, United Kingdom

John Minford, Emeritus Professor of Chinese Studies, Australian National University

David Missal, Sinologist and Freelance Journalist

Alan Mendoza, The Henry Jackson Society

Juraj Mesík, Slovak Foreign Policy Association

Giorgi Moldini, Stratcom Georgia

Enrique Miguel Sanchez Motos, Senior Civil Servant. President of Association for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience

John MacKenzie Nicolson, House of Commons, United Kingdom

Manyan Ng, International Society for Human Rights

Valérie Niquet, China and Asia specialist

Mareike Ohlberg, Analyst, Mercator Institute for China Studies

Kyle Olbert, Citizens of the American Republic

Jojje Olsson, Swedish journalist

Shaun O’Dwyer, Faculty of Languages and Cultures, Kyushu University

Katarzyna Pejda, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

Andrew J Phelan, Med Tech Entrepreneur

Johnathan Pollock, Editor, 9DashLine

Patrick Poon, PhD researcher, Université Jean Moulin (Lyon III)

Katerina Prochazkova, Sinopsis

Luke de Pulford, Coalition for Genocide Response

Jafer Qureshi, Consultant Psychiatrist – Fellow Of the Royal College of Psychiatry. Philanthropist

Aaron Rhodes, President, Forum for Religious Freedom Europe

Pablo Rodríguez-Merino, University of Warwick

Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chair of Conservative Party Human Rights Commission & Chair of Hong Kong Watch

Bert-Jan Ruissen, Member of the European Parliament

Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, President of the “Global Committee for the Rule of Law- Marco Pannella”

Łukasz Sarek, Researcher, Asia Explained

Katarzyna Sarek, Jagiellonian University, Poland

Puma Shen, National Taipei University

Radosław Sikorski, European Parliament

Duncan Stirling, Former participant; EU-China Managers Exchange and Training Programme. Former foreign expert; China Central Television

Mark Stokes, The Project 2049 Institute

May-Britt U. Stumbaum, Freie Universität Berlin

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Sinopsis

Thierry Valle, President, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

Jeffrey Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine

Michael B. Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics; Visiting Scholar, George Washington University

Jianli Yang, Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China

Solomon Yue, CEO of Republicans Overseas & Republican National Committeeman for Oregon

Anna Zádrapová, Sinopsis

Michal Zelcer-Lavid, Bar-Ilan University

Adrian Zenz, Senior fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Peter Zoehrer, FOREF Europe

For the latest developments in Estonia, follow our special blog on coronavirus.

The opinions in this article are those of the authors. Cover: The Chinese Communist Party’s congress in Beijing. The image is illustrative (Wikipedia).

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