On April 27th, the Daily Telegraph published a letter from Chinese Embassy Spokesperson refuting unwarranted criticism on the Ai Weiwei case. The full text of the letter reads as follows:
“Chinese citizen Ai Weiwei is now under investigation for suspected economic crimes. The article ‘China must set Ai Weiwei free’ by Mr Salman Rushdie on April 20th and the leading article that goes with it made unwarranted criticisms on the Ai Weiwei case that interfere with China’s judicial independence and show disrespect for China’s judicial sovereignty. This shouldn’t be acceptable to any sovereign country.
China is a country under the rule of law. The basic rights and freedoms of Chinese citizens, including freedom of expression, are protected by the law. Chinese citizens can express their opinions and aspirations through many channels. As things stand, there are close to 2000 newspapers, 10,000 magazines, and 500 TV and radio channels and stations in China. China also has 450 million internet users, among whom are 230 million bloggers and 120 million micro-bloggers. There are millions of internet forums, where 66% of internet users regularly post messages, often critical, every day. Art is thriving in China. One can find arts of all forms and genres in China, from classical to post-modern, from Chinese to Western, from realism to abstract art. Mr Rushdie’s novels were introduced to China as early as from 1992. Many of his books were translated into Chinese and published in China. Ai Weiwei has made many comments before, through Twitter or interviews given to Western journalists. He also goes around different countries to hold exhibitions. These activities were not restricted; otherwise would he be able to put on his exhibition at Tate Modern?
On the other hand, Chinese citizens should act within the law. No one is above the law. Just like in other countries, acts of violations of the law will be dealt with by the law. The Ai Weiwei case, in essence, is not a human rights matter, nor is it about freedom of speech, but rather it is a question of whether the rule of law should be upheld. All the evidences will be closely examined and the charges arising therefrom will be based on facts and the law, not on suppression of his rights. The judicial system in China allows no violation or interference by others.
In the past three decades of reform and opening up, China has achieved a lot in terms of economic development and openness and tolerance in the society. The people’s living standards are rising and there has been marked progress in democratic decision-making and rule of law. According to the latest opinion survey by Reuters/Ipsos, 78% of Chinese respondents surveyed are optimistic about the future of their country. The Chinese government and people are working hard to overcome difficulties and challenges along the way, as they endeavour to build a strong, prosperous, democratic, culturally advanced and harmonious socialist country. China will have a promising future.
It is natural for China and Western countries to see human rights and democracy differently given their different historical and cultural traditions and national circumstances. We have always stood for dialogue on an equal footing, rather than imposing one’s will on others, mutual respect, rather than unjustified attacks, and candid exchanges rather than exerting pressure. China is not the former Soviet Union. China has no use for ‘lecturers’, who cling to the Cold War mentality and follow double standards in their preachings.”