Dui Hua Holds First Virtual Event
On May 20, Dui Hua Executive Director John Kamm gave a virtual speech titled “China: The Pandemic and 2020 Elections” as part of the San Francisco University Club’s “Luncheon Lectures” series. The event, which the University Club hosted over Zoom, was attended by over 80 people.
Kamm spoke for approximately 35 minutes before answering questions from the virtual audience. After describing how he became involved with China as an undergraduate 50 years ago, Kamm spoke about the United States’ all-of-government confrontation with China, listing “fronts” on trade, finance, national security, technology, and human rights. His talk also discussed the substantial increase in US legislation targeting China as well as the surge in polling revealing deteriorating opinions on China held by the US public (see box below). Kamm concluded his comments by discussing developments in US-China relations, including the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act.
The upcoming 2020 presidential election was one of the event’s focus areas, with Kamm saying, “China will be an issue to an extent that it has not been in the past.” In his comments on the topic, Kamm suggested that President Trump and Joe Biden will each try to appear tougher on China than their opponent, citing the fact that both are spending millions on airtime to run ads on China in battleground states, where anti-China sentiment tends to be higher. Despite such posturing, Kamm reminded the audience that both candidates have vulnerabilities when it comes to dealing with China.
Following his speech, Kamm participated in a question and answer session. Questions touched on topics including the pandemic’s effects on international trade and local supply chains, internet censorship, China’s possible preferences between the two main party presidential candidates, and policy challenges moving forward. When asked how current US-China relations were affecting Dui Hua’s work, Kamm responded, “It has rarely been so difficult.”
Responses to this event have been overwhelmingly positive. In an anonymous survey distributed to selected invitees to the virtual event, respondents praised the content of Kamm’s speech and noted the high technical quality of the event. When asked what they liked about the event, responses included, “The broad range of John’s information and sources for [the speech], his insights into the US polling numbers and Congressional politics, and his candor in answering questions.” Respondents also expressed interest in hearing more about US-China relations, Dui Hua’s advocacy methods and history, and political and religious prisoners.
“China: The Pandemic and 2020 Elections” marked Dui Hua’s first virtual event. Since the foundation began working remotely in March, Dui Hua has been exploring avenues to engage its supporters and general audiences online. Based on the positive response to Kamm’s Luncheon Lecture, Dui Hua is currently looking into possibilities for future virtual events, including panels, lectures, interviews with other experts working on China, and weekly or monthly audio events.
This talk is the latest event in a long, productive relationship between Dui Hua and the University Club. Kamm was introduced by Alfred Knoll, chair of the “Luncheon Lectures” series, who also moderated the talk. Mr. Knoll introduced Kamm, saying that he was the ideal person to address questions such as “What’s happening in China as a result of the pandemic?”, “Will it affect the 2020 elections?”, and are “Xi Jinping and Trump really drinking buddies?” Kamm last spoke at the University Club in May 2019, when he delivered a speech entitled “How Tiananmen Changed China—and Me.”
A judgment Dui Hua recently uncovered from court websites further corroborates our observation about an increasingly prevalent tactic of criminalizing political prisoners: a shift away from using inciting subversion in favor of charging defendants with “picking quarrels and provoking troubles.” Liu Meiting (刘美廷) and Han Lifang (韩丽芳) were arrested and indicted for inciting subversion in the summer of 2017, but a year later they were sentenced to four years and three years in prison, respectively, for “picking quarrels” in Yuncheng, Shaanxi.
Liu had long lodged futile petitions over the death of his parents and gravely injured brothers. Liu and his wife Han were accused of hosting and joining multiple WeChat groups totaling nearly 500 members. Their WeChat messages contained abusive language about Mao Zedong, his hardcore supporters and the Chinese Communist Party. They also condemned Mao’s fans as the “most stubborn dirt” in China and the Chinese Communist Party as a “rogue regime,” and called its party members gongfei (共匪), or Communist bandits. In one message, the couple even called on all Chinese people to arm themselves to wipe out the Party.
Another WeChat post was addressed to a staffer in the US embassy. In April 2017, they urged the US to issue a letter of help to participating countries of the Belt and Road Forum on behalf of the oppressed petitioners in China. They pleaded foreigners not to “aid and abet injustice” because their participation in the forum gave China impetus to ratchet up stability maintenance and lock up tens of thousands of petitioners.
The court found that the above WeChat messages were merely acts of venting personal frustrations and that the couple had no real intent to overthrow or subvert the socialist system. However, the attacks on the Party and state leaders were said to have “vilified China’s national image” and “seriously sabotage[d] social order.”
The catch-all offense of “picking quarrels” was again used in a more recent case to punish dissent. Fu Hailu (符海陆), Zhang Junyong (张隽勇), Luo Fuyu (罗富誉), and Chen Bing (陈兵) were sentenced in April 2019 for “picking quarrels” for selling bottles of baijiu bearing the label “8964” in commemoration of June Fourth. Before being convicted, they were likewise detained, arrested and indicted for inciting subversion.
Over the last month, Dui Hua has learned of two new cases of inciting subversion:
- Zhang Guiqi (张桂祺), also known as Lu Yang (鲁扬), is reportedly held in Liaocheng, Shandong. Zhang is a signatory of Charter 08 written by Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo.
- Wang Yuwen (王玉文), also known as Wang Zang (王藏), was detained on May 30.
The reasons for their detention are not entirely clear. As China appears to be increasingly using “picking quarrels” to suppress dissent, it remains to be seen whether their crime will be changed at a later stage of criminal investigation.
PUBLICATIONS ROUND UP
Featured: Human Rights Journal, May 28, 2020: Detailed Court Statistics on Article 300, Part I
A cult is a social group characterized by its unconventional, sometimes controversial religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs. In the United States, mainstream culture and religious leaders consider violent acts such as murder, suicide, and bodily harm as important factors when designating a social group as a cult. Most liberal democracies do not have legislation against cults because any attempt to do so is believed to run counter to freedom of religion enshrined in their constitutions. In China, however, a group can be designated as a cult because its politics and potential to mobilize people are considered threats to Communist Party rule.
Since coming into force in 1997, Article 300 of the Criminal Law—“using or organizing a cult to undermine implementation of the law”—has frequently been used to criminalize non-mainstream religious groups. Observers have long viewed religious persecution as being widespread in China, but they have been unable to quantify the precise extent of the crackdown because reliable figures are not available.
This article draws on the Records of People’s Courts Historical Judicial Statistics: 1949-2016, which contains extensive information on trials of Article 300 offenses, including statistical breakdowns of sentencing, gender, and defendants’ occupation. These statistics have revealed that over 23,000 cult cases were accepted and over 40,000 people were tried during an 18-year period beginning in 1998.
JOHN KAMM REMEMBERS
John Kamm Remembers is a feature that explores Kamm’s human rights advocacy prior to and since Dui Hua’s establishment in 1999.
Going to Bat for Hong Kong
On January 1, 1990, I began my one-year term as president of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) in Hong Kong. As recounted elsewhere, there was opposition from large corporate members to my becoming president. Many of them resented my having pushed through a resolution condemning the June 4, 1989 killings. A former president of Amcham claimed, with no evidence, that the Hong Kong government opposed the prospect of my becoming Amcham president and would refuse to work with me.
1990 would prove to be an eventful year marked by my testifying three times to Congress on China’s Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status – before subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (May 16, 1990), the Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee (June 19, 1990), and the Senate Finance Committee (June 20, 1990). My argument – that withdrawing MFN from China would cause massive collateral damage to Hong Kong – was cited by President George H. W. Bush in his May 24, 1990 statement renewing China’s MFN.
The MFN decision is thought to have been the first time in American history where the then-colony had played a role in a major foreign policy decision.
The chamber also successfully lobbied the Bush administration to issue an executive order protecting visas for Chinese students, and it urged the normalization of relations with Vietnam. In September 1990, I led the first American delegation to Mongolia after that country’s democratic revolution.
Internally, I oversaw the raising of membership dues by a large percentage; the chamber lost very few members. This hike in dues resulted in the chamber banking a significant sum, which enabled it to purchase its own premises in the Bank of America Building, a property it occupies to the present day. I was proud to have welcomed the first businesswoman onto the chamber’s executive council, a long overdue step.
Towards a Hong Kong Policy
On November 16, 1990, as my term of office was about to expire, I traveled to New York. I gave a speech at the Harvard Club in which I called for legislation to protect Hong Kong’s special status under United States law, an initiative that contributed to the enactment of the Hong Kong Policy Act in 1992. The speech, titled “Towards a Hong Kong Policy,” was hosted by the National Committee on US-China Relations.” It was attended by more than 60 local and state officials, journalists, businesspeople and traders, and lawyers, including President John F. Kennedy’s speech writer Ted Sorenson and the celebrated China expert Jerome A. Cohen. It didn’t take long for my speech to find its way to Washington D.C.
I started my remarks by noting that little thought had been given to fashioning a national policy to protect and enhance America’s substantial interests in Hong Kong, and then went on to list what those substantial interests were: America’s 14th largest trading partner, home for more than 160 American-owned factories worth $1.4 billion in investment, shared culture and values, and an American population of more than 20,000 citizens. I estimated that 200,000 Hong Kong people would emigrate to the United States over the next ten years.
I declared that “The United States has a special responsibility with respect to the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong. . .Ours was the first government to recognize the declaration, later leading the vote in the United Nations on registering the Joint Declaration as an international treaty.” I stressed that the United States has a moral responsibility to be true to our own ideology of free enterprise and respect for human rights. “If America is a shining city on a hill, nowhere is the glow reflected more brilliantly than Hong Kong.”
I questioned how well the Joint Declaration was being honored, and I gave a somewhat tepid response. It was being honored “in the main.” I pointed out that there had been a series of disagreements between the United Kingdom and China on such matters as the pace of democratization, the British Nationality Act, the Port and Airport Development Strategy (which called for the building of a new airport), and cross border controls. “Fortunately, neither side has accused the other of breaking the Joint Declaration.” How times have changed!
I concluded my remarks by suggesting initiatives for the American government and institutions to preserve and protect Hong Kong:
- Washington should keep Hong Kong interests in mind when considering policies towards China. Institutions, whether academic, professional, religious or public-service oriented, should strengthen ties with counterparts in Hong Kong.
- Government should examine Hong Kong’s Basic Law and make comments and suggestions on areas where it can be improved. “I have been particularly vocal on the article relating to subversion and state secrets (Article 23). China’s insistence that Hong Kong pass laws against possession of undefined state secrets represents a serious threat to the free flow of information crucial to Hong Kong’s commercial vitality.”
- The United States should seek to negotiate directly with the Hong Kong government on trade, investment, and taxation treaties necessary for the further development of US-Hong Kong economic relations. The trade treaty should cover separate tariff treatment, trade quotas, bilateral dispute settlement, protection against expropriation, and the establishment of trade offices on each other’s territory.
- Washington should seek treaties with the sovereign powers (China and the United Kingdom) guaranteeing consular access, port visits by military vessels, and reciprocal air traffic rights.
- The United States should support Hong Kong’s full participation in international trade and financial organizations. “We need to work harder to insure Hong Kong’s admission to the Asia Pacific Economic Council.” I suggested that Congress enact legislation to ensure that Hong Kong continues to have access to American companies offering high technology goods and services.
- “Congress should reinforce legislation on Hong Kong’s separate immigration status after 1997.”
- I recommended that the executive branch pressure the Hong Kong government to demonstrate greater commitment to the internationalization of Hong Kong. I cited the “pressing need to involve foreign nationals in as many areas of public life as possible.” I suggested that the Hong Kong civil service be internationalized.
I wound up my speech with these words: “Inasmuch as legislative authority and direction will be required for granting Hong Kong separate trade and immigration benefits, Congress should, at an early date, enact a Hong Kong Relations Act.”
On September 20, 1991, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) – whom I had met when he visited Hong Kong in 1990 – introduced the Hong Kong Policy Act. The legislation included most of my recommendations. It was eventually signed into law by President George H. W. Bush on October 5, 1992. It was amended by the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on November 27, 2019.