On 5 December 2023, the Wei Jingsheng Foundation announced that Professor Xu Zhangrun had been awarded the Twentieth Annual Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize. The text of the announcement is reproduced below.
Professor Xu Zhangrun remains under constant surveillance in the western suburbs of Beijing. Despite his isolation, it was possible to communicate the details of this award to him. Humbled and touched by this recognition, Professor Xu requested that the prize money attached to the award be used to support the operations of the Wei Jingsheng Foundation.
This accolade is the second award that Xu Zhangrun has received in 2023. In January, Rong Wei 榮偉, founding editor of Bouden House 博登書屋, an independent Chinese publisher in New York, announced that Professor Xu was being recognised both for the intellectual impact as well as the publishing success of China’s Ongoing Crisis: Six Chapters 《戊戌六章》, a series of essays that he had published amidst considerable controversy, and at great personal cost, in 2018-2019. (For details, see Six Chapters — One Hundred and Twenty Years, China Heritage, 1 January 2020.)
— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
6 December 2023
- Xu Zhangrun Archive
- Xu Zhangrun, Cyclopes on My Doorstep, 22 December 2020
- Xu Zhangrun, Composed of Eros & of Dust, 31 December 2020
- Xu Zhangrun, A Farewell Letter to My Students, ChinaFile, 9 September 2021
- Xu Zhangrun — Words of Gratitude & Elegies of Anger, 14 January 2023
- Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium
Announcement of Wei Jingsheng Foundation’s 20th Annual “Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize”
December 5, 2023
Since 2004, December 5th is the day when the Wei Jingsheng Foundation presents the “Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize”. In the last 20 years, as Chinese people from all walks of life have made calls and movements for democracy and freedom, the Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize has become a symbol of the Chinese people’s demand for democracy and freedom. Through this award, the whole world has also seen that democracy and freedom are not only the voice of Wei Jingsheng, the “Father of Democracy”, alone on the Democracy Wall 45 years ago, but also the goal that the awakened Chinese people strive for. The award has not only aroused great responses around the world, but also provided great encouragement and support to the people persisting in the fight for democracy and freedom in China who are at any moment in life-threatening danger.
As can be expected, those who nominate a candidate believe the person they have nominated has made a great contribution to the cause of Chinese democracy and freedom. Nominating someone in and of itself is a way to commend all champions of democracy, including those unknown, untiring democracy heroes who do not concern themselves with fame and fortune. As in previous years, this year we received many excellent recommendations. The three finalist candidates for this year are all very outstanding figures. But it is true that the articles and influence of one of them are particularly prominent in China, where millions of people have been silent in recent years. As an elite who once had no worries about daily life, his outcries with conscience and courage, although not alone, yet have come at a huge tragic and heartbreaking personal cost. It was his shouts and appeals that helped end the inhumane zero-tolerance policy of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for the more than three year Covid period, although the cold wave of dictatorship still enveloped the land of China.
In March 2018, Xi Jinping revised the Chinese Constitution, which ended the CCP’s years of term limit restrictions and paving the way for his lifelong dictatorship. Xi’s perverse actions were immediately opposed by people across China. Unsurprisingly, over the past more than a year Xi Jinping’s authoritarianism has reached a new peak. At the 20th National Congress of the CCP, which had “no single brave men” as teased by Xi Jinping, in full public view, Xi removed his old superior Hu Jintao from the venue and climbed to the throne of lifelong dictatorship. Afterwards, Premier Li Keqiang, who had told a few truths, including revealing that nearly half of China’s 1400 million people still had less than 1,000 RMB a month, was dismissed smoothly and died mysteriously. China’s economic development has brought more human rights disasters. The CCP has used high technology to create the modernization of contemporary dictatorship. Its “stability” maintenance expenditure has exceeded 210 billion US dollars, even higher than the military expenditure that has increased significantly over the past 40 years.
Faced with all these authoritarian behaviors and measures, the Chinese people have been even more angry yet afraid to speak out. The few who dare to speak out are also suppressed and silenced by the high-tech methods of the CCP. In recent years, due to the spread of the Covid virus, the CCP has used new shackles such as zero-Covid measures, makeshift hospitals, and health codes to retaliate against those who disclosed the truth such as Li Wenliang, Fang Bin, Zhang Zhan, and others, which further deprived personal freedoms of the Chinese people. It wasn’t until Peng Lifa’s brave words and deeds a year ago, followed by the White Paper Movement took hold one after another across China, that the CCP abruptly and irresponsibly ended its zero-Covid policy, in the way that caused millions and even tens of millions of deaths of the Chinese people.
During these series of horrifying events, people often ask where China’s elites are. They may even denounce the wealthy and powerful Chinese who have benefited from the “reform and opening up” in China over the past more than thirty years, but turn a blind eye to the suffering of ordinary Chinese. Don’t they have the conscience to stand up, raise their arms on the tank, tell the truth and point out the direction like Boris Yeltsin did in 1989?
Today, we want to honor such an elite Chinese, an intellectual with conscience and insight, who has the courage to call out and point out the right direction. Today, the “Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize” jury announced that this year’s winner of the “Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize” is someone who published several outstanding articles in recent years, who opposes one-man dictatorship and high-pressure policies that suppress humanity, and who has put forward constructive suggestions: Professor Xu Zhangrun. This is also an appeal and support to other conscientious Chinese elites, especially those in the intellectual and power classes, hoping and encouraging them to stand up bravely for the benefit of the entire Chinese people, oppose dictatorship and tyranny, and strive for everyone’s democracy and freedom.
Professor Xu Zhangrun was born on October 25, 1962, in Lujiang, Anhui Province. He is a Chinese jurist and was appointed as a researcher by the Fairbank Center for China Studies at Harvard University. After receiving his doctorate from the University of Melbourne Law School, he served as a professor and doctoral supervisor at Tsinghua University Law School, director of the Tsinghua University Rule of Law and Human Rights Research Center, and editor-in-chief of “Tsinghua Law”. His research fields are mainly jurisprudence, Western legal philosophy, constitutional theory and Confucian humanism and jurisprudence. In 2005, he was selected as one of the “Top Ten Outstanding Young Jurists in China”.
After Xi Jinping became the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CCP and the supreme leader in China in 2012, Professor Xu Zhangrun began to criticize Xi Jinping’s governance policy. In July 2018, Xu published an article “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes”, which raised several concerns and suggestions, triggering a huge response. In March 2019, Xu was suspended from his teaching and academic work by Tsinghua University. On May 21, 2020, Professor Xu Zhangrun published a new article “China’s Lone Boat on the Ocean of World Civilization — Political Views and Civilization Theory of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Context of the Global System”, which analyzed the various problems exposed in China during the pandemic and called for institutional reform. Since then, he has been further suppressed by the Chinese Communist authorities.
In Professor Xu Zhangrun’s article “Imminent Fears, Immediate Hopes,” he pointed out and criticized the one-man dictatorship that actually is also dangerous to China’s elites and even the powerful class. He wrote:
“However, in recent times people have been both pointedly critical and fearful of the significance of the revisions made to the Chinese Constitution [in March 2018] which included the abandonment of term limits on political leaders [a move that, in effect, opened the way for State President/ General Secretary/ Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping potential to enjoy lifelong tenure in power]. There is a widespread feeling that this move actually signifies the negation of the last thirty years of the Economic Reform and Open Door policies. People fear that, in one fell swoop, China will be cast back to the terrifying days of [one-man rule under] Mao. We have witnessed along with this Constitutional revision a rising clamour related to the manufacturing of a personality cult [for Xi Jinping], something that has in particular provoked the Imminent Fears that I outline in the following.”
After listing the “eight fears” about the CCP’s policies, Professor Xu Zhangrun then put forward the “eight hopes” that would benefit China and the people, and concluded:
“The Eight Hopes outlined here merely give expression to what one would call contemporary political commonsense; they also sum up widespread appeals and desires [regularly expressed] within the populace at large. Herein I am — to use an old expression — ‘Putting My Life on the Line Simply to Say What Everyone Already Knows and Thinks’. In this vast world of great disorder, if there is no reasonable way to express such views there can then be no [reasonable way to legitimate them through appropriate] legislation. If that is the case, neither I nor the Masses can find a way to live [without fear]. What to do? Alas and Alack indeed!”
After enumerating the various scandalous operations of the CCP authorities led by Xi Jinping in recent years, Professor Xu Zhangrun concluded:
“As for all of this to do: it’s simply too much, too excessive, over the top, as those involved vie to outdo each other. Such behaviour merely serves to drag us back into the Dark Ages of fearfulness and deprivation. That’s all I’ve got to say now. We’ll see what Fate has in store; only Heaven can judge the nation’s fortunes.”
Professor Xu Zhangrun was not unaware that the CCP would retaliate, but he still spoke out. Sure enough, a few months later, he was suppressed and suspended from teaching and academic work at Tsinghua University. Even so, just a few months after the CCP virus ravaged China and even the whole world, Professor Xu, adhering to his consistent sense of responsibility for the people and concern for the destiny of mankind, published another article: “China’s Lone Boat on the Ocean of World Civilization — Political Views and Civilization Theory of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Context of the Global System.” In his article, he criticized various issues in China’s politics and society, the elites verses masses, and current world politics since the pandemic, and expressed his views on many aspects such as China’s civilization reconstruction, system renewal, and future relationship between China and the world.
At the beginning of the article, Professor Xu Zhangrun wrote:
“At this critical moment of life and death, this scholar has something to say and has to say it.Although one’s life would be perish, there will still be a faint wisp in the sky tomorrow morning, as existence would not exist, yet existence will last forever.”
At the end, he shouted:
“Enough, this musty god-making movement and shallow leader worship; enough, this shameless and dirty singing and dancing; enough, this heroic boundless lies and endless suffering; enough, the bloodthirsty politics of the Red Dynasty and the insatiable party-state system; enough, the absurd chaos and step-by-step perverseness of the past seven years; enough, the mountains of corpses and seas of blood in the past seventy years from this red tyranny, in the way never been seen before…”
Red tyranny quickly revealed its horrific side. Professor Xu Zhangrun was once again retaliated against even more shamelessly. Within three months, Professor Xu Zhangrun was stigmatized, officially expelled from Tsinghua University, and banned from leaving China. This is a new and more cruel method adopted by the Chinese Communist regime. In the past, the CCP’s political suppression and even physical imprisonment of people of conscience only served to promote these people and thus win the respect of the Chinese people and the world. That can be described as a failure. But nowadays, the CCP is advancing with the times and is better at creating cases and even scandals through so-called legal and administrative means to crackdown on dissidents, relying on stigmatization and other means to isolate, divide and crack down.
Today, as we award Professor Xu Zhangrun the 20th “Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize” it is not only an encouragement and commendation to those who have been resisting the totalitarian tyranny of the CCP for decades, but also an encouragement and commendation to Chinese intellectual elites who resist tyranny. Especially, we want to commend and praise Sun Wenguang, a physics professor at Shandong University, and Tong Shidong, a physics professor at Hunan University, who have passed away and were unable to receive our awards in time. Both of them could have enjoyed the glory and wealth they had gained from vested interests, yet they bravely stood up for their conscience and responsibility. As a result, they were imprisoned, and even their wives and children were separated from them. All members of this judging committee are highly educated intellectuals who studied in the United States in their early years, who also deeply feel the great responsibility of the intellectual elite. We hope that this year’s prize will inspire more Chinese elites to stand up bravely and jointly to end the dictatorship of the CCP, especially the one under Xi Jinping. We want to promote realization of democracy and freedom in China, for the well-being of the Chinese people and world peace.
The total prize money collected this time is two thousand US dollars (US $2,000.00). People who donate are donating their enthusiasm and belief in Chinese democracy, and we would like to express our sincere gratitude. In addition, we also express our gratitude to all friends who participated in the nomination of the 20th “Wei Jingsheng Chinese Democracy Champion Prize”, especially Professor Perry Link who nominated Professor Xu Zhangrun, and Professor Geremie Barmé who translated Professor Xu Zhangrun’s articles into English, and Professor Lawrence Anderson-Huang for reviewing English for this announcement and many previous newsletters. Thank you, especially to Professor Perry Link, Professor Geremie Barmé, Professor Lawrence Anderson-Huang for your long-term support and encouragement to the cause of democracy and freedom in China over the years.
Wei Jingsheng Foundation “Wei Jingsheng Democracy Champion Prize” Judging Committee:
Dr. CHEN Xingyu;
Dr. CHEN Bangzheng;
Dr. WANG Ping (signed)
December 5, 2023
- The quotations from Professor Xu’s works are from texts translated by Geremie R. Barmé. See:
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- Tel: 1-202-270-6980
For further information and details, visit our website at: www.weijingsheng.org
在习近平2012年出任中共中央委员会总书记成为最高领导人后，许章润教授开始批评习近平的执政方针。 2018年7月，他发表文章《我们当下的恐惧与期待》，提出数项担忧与建议，引发巨大回响。 2019年3月，他被清华大学暂停其教学和学术工作。2020年5月21日，许章润教授发表文章《世界文明大洋上的中国孤舟–全球体系背景下新冠疫情的政治观与文明论》，分析了中国在疫情下暴露的种种问题，呼吁制度改革。从此受到中共当局更进一步的打压。
联系方法：firstname.lastname@example.org 或 email@example.com 电话：1-202-270-6980
Erewhon and Erewhon Studio
In our work on Xu Zhangrun 許章潤 we translate the name of his study — 無齋 wú zhāi, literally, ‘The Studio That Isn’t’ — as Erewhon Studio. Professor Xu has remarked that in his previously stretched circumstances, when his family lived in cramped quarters, he had no study — 齋 zhāi, ‘studio’, as such places for private creative pursuits are known — or a settled place for his academic research and writing. Thus, when he did finally have a study, he decided to call it 無齋 wú zhāi, literally, ‘The Studio That Isn’t a Studio’, alternatively, No Study, Non-existent Studio, or even Nothingness Studio. That is to say, it was a place for study that was both nowhere and everywhere.
We translate 無齋 wú zhāi as ‘Erewhon Studio’. ‘Erewhon’ is a garbled version of the word ‘Nowhere’, as well as being the title of a novel by Samuel Butler published in 1872. A satire of Victorian social mores, the book was about ‘nowhere in particular’; Butler’s fictional ruminations are thought to have been inspired in part by his time in New Zealand. ‘Erewhon Studio’ thus links Xu Zhangrun’s prose, with its satirical undertow and utopian aspiration, and New Zealand, a distant island nation where China Heritage is produced. Of course, Xu Zhangrun’s feuilletons, produced ‘no-where’, are really about ‘now-here’.
— adapted from the notes to Xu Zhangrun
‘And Teachers, Then? They Just Do Their Thing!’
China Heritage, 10 November 2018