The Year of the Two Suns
Reprint from March 13, 2016
It was the year 2OO3. That was the year of the two Suns. If we look up into the stars it is not so uncommon to see a binary star system. [Yet it wasn't until recently that we could imagine a binary star system with life ie. Kepler-35A and B]. However, 2OO3 was an exceptional year because it was the beginning of the civil rights movement in China. Since civil rights legislation had been enacted in 1986--this was its actualization. It was the year when two Suns could be figuratively seen in the sky over China—namely, Sun Zhigang (孙志刚) and Sun Dawu (孙大午).
Sun Zhigang was a recent university graduate from Hubei Province. He had been offered work in the city of Guangzhou in the province of Guangdong. However, he was arrested on the street because he did not hold a temporary work permit. There was a suspicion that he was an “illegal immigrant”.
It may be difficult for a westerner to understand the term “illegal immigrant” as it applied to China in 2OO3. For example, there is quite a controversy, today, in the United States concerning illegal immigrants. This controversy is being capitalized upon by businessman Donald Trump in his campaign for President. He advocates sending back illegal Hispanic immigrants to their country of origin and building a Great Wall between the United States and Mexico. However, an illegal immigrant in China was one who comes from one province and illegally tries to live and work in another province without the proper ID card, temporary residence permit and work permit. Normally, if one can use that term, he would be held in custody and repatriated. Repatriation though does not mean he would be sent to another country, but rather back to the province from which he came.
The news reported by the Southern Metropolis Daily of Guangzhou was stunning and reverberated throughout China. Sun Zhigang was dead three days after his apprehension. He had been beaten to death by guards and other inmates in the medical clinic affiliated with the custody and repatriation center. One wonders why he was in the medical clinic in the first place.
In May 2OO3, three legal scholars—among who was Xu Zhiyong—petitioned the National People’s Congress Standing Committee for change or abolishment of the Custody and Repatriation Measures. They argued the measures would restrict the personal freedom of citizens. In June, the State Council announced the measures would be abolished. Xu also defended Yu Huafeng (喻华峰) who was General Manager of the Southern Metropolis Daily that reported the story.
On May 27th of 2OO3, a second luminary was arrested. His name was Sun Dawu (孙大午). He was a self-educated farmer from Langwuzhuang, Xushui County, Hebei. Sun had given speeches at Beijing and Tsinghua universities to promote the rights’ of farmers, rule of law and more fair representation—although the latter was expressed more stridently. "Farmers should stand out and speak for themselves " he declared. "They should have their own organizations and have their own demands" The author notes that these sentences are still censored on the internet of 2015. As a matter of fact, he was in the process of starting his own private college in cooperation with domestic and international colleges and universities to complement his private middle school of 2000 peasant students from various provinces. Sun also established a private financial cooperative which paid higher interest rates than state-owned banks such as the state Agricultural Bank where he had worked.
While the coastal regions of China embraced capitalism with their acceptance of private ownership of land and investment in a free market economy, Langwuzhuang was mired in a quagmire of poverty. Local officials and institutions were ossified in the collective era and area. The loquacious Sun was a quadruple challenge to their authority in terms of a private financial collective, private land, private schools and free speech. The local banks in particular were upset about loss of deposits to the Dawu Group.
The upshot was that Sun, his brothers and a manager were arrested for taking illegal deposits (a rather grey area in terms of banking). However, the 4742 depositors of the financial cooperative made no claim against him. The financial harm though done to the Dawu Group was irreparable because proper supervision of the business was absent and not appointed by the court. The equivalent of hundreds of thousands in US dollars were seized from the company safe by authorities and never returned. Should not the "loan" be repaid with interest?
The website of Taiwujituan or Dawu Group was shut down. The author established 50 websites with different content, titles, keywords and passwords modelled on the ARPANET protocol to tell Sun’s story because he could not speak. Sun was held incommunicado without legal representation for a long period after his arrest and without chance of bail.
The author tried to hire one of the best international human rights lawyers in the United States on his behalf, but even his son, Sun Meng, could not visit his father. Without Sun’s written approval no lawyer could be hired. It might be well advised for civil rights activists in China to hire in advance of arrest this kind of international legal representation specializing in civil rights with the arrest and incarceration for the second time of the civil rights activist Xu Zhiyong in 2014 and scores of other lawyers and those lawyers representing them in July 2015.
It may be in the People's Republic of China of 2015 and beyond that the only way to secure protection for a civil rights activist of his self, family and businesses is to hire an international civil rights' expert in advance of arrest. It is estimated that a retainer of $1,000,000 US held in trust and earning interest at a US bank would be required. This method also helps fulfil a 100 year plan and promote civil rights. Furthermore, it guarantees that if a civil rights activist is arrested that the case will garner international attention and scrutiny.
Sun’s trial in November 2OO3 made international headlines. Sun was defended by three Chinese lawyers which included Dr. Xu Zhiyong. Sun had tremendous support from farmers, intellectuals, entrepreneurs, reporters and net citizens. The result was that he was sentenced to time served and put on four years’ probation.
Xu Zhiyong said that "We moved on in 2003 by registering a public interest organization. We represented Sun Dawu's case and we promoted the election of the People's Congress. Starting from the Sun Zhigang Case we focused on individual cases that had wide significance for the defense of civil rights and the push for system building. Many people referred to 2003 as the start of what would be known as the citizen's rights movement."
1. A Blow for Freedom, A Campaign in Memory of Sun Zhigang
Verna Yu, scmp.com
2. Edward Gargan, Detoured on his Road to Democracy: Chinese Businessman jailed after speaking out, August 10, 2003
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