China: Internet human rights declaration

2009 is a political sensitive year in China. Apart from the 60th anniversary of PRC, it is also the 20th anniversary of Tienanmen Massacre and the 50th anniversary of Dalai Lama's exile. Moreover, natural disasters, social unrests and ethnic conflicts come one after the other. Social and political control began to tighten up early this year.

In the Internet, several major social media, such as fanfou (a Chinese website similar to twitter) and douban have been suspended. Major overseas websites, such as youtube and twitter have been blocked. The Golden Shield was equipped with Blue Dam or Blue Shield. Moreover, the government also tries to block the access to major circumvention tools such as TOR.

In term of law and regulation, most of the websites are now demanding real identity login and pressure were given to web managers to remove sensitive and critical comments within a few minutes.

Yesterday, on 8 of October, 15 Chinese intellectuals, including writers, scholars and lawyers, jointly issued the an online Internet Human Rights Declaration reinstating the citizen's rights to access and disseminate information.

C.A Yeung from Under the Jacaranda Tree has translated the declaration into English. Below is a list of principles put forward by the initiators to be endorsed by a wider public:

1. Freedom of speech on the Internet is a part of citizens’ rights to freedom of speech. It is the most basic human rights and the most fundamental value that should be pursued, treasured and protected.

2. Netizens who express their opinions on the Internet using words, sounds, pictures or videos, should be protected and encouraged, as long as such conduct is in accord with the constitution and local statutes.

3. The right to publish opinion is the most basic rights for netizens. This includes the right to publish through weblogs and podcasts, as well as online discussion forums. Netizens’ rights to publish should not be subjected to unlawful investigation and interference. They should be allowed freedom to hold and to express their views without feeling intimidated.

4. Netizens’ editorial rights should be respected. When they are exercising those rights, they should not be subjected to harassment by authorities who act outside of law.

5. It is the right of Netizens to conduct interviews and to report their findings. This right is protected as a part of their constitutional rights to freedom of speech. Netizens who excercise this right should endeavour to report the truth, and to avoid distortions, fabrications and malicious slander.

6. It is the right of netizens to make comments and to exchange opinion. This includes the right to ask questions, to monitor, to criticise and to boycott.

7. Netizens’ freedom of speech encompasses a right to express themselves anonymously. Anonymity enables some authors to express their opinions in ways that best suit their needs. This legal right should be respected as long as an anonymous author is expressing his views in accordance with legal and constitutional requirements.

8. The right to conduct information searches on the Internet is an integral part of netizens’ rights to express, to be informed and to monitor. It is our opinion that legal websites should not be filtered, and that netizens’ rights to conduct searches on public information for personal use should be respected and protected.

9. Online privacy should be respected and protected. Netizens’ real identities and personal information should not be disclosed unless the information is required for a transparent legal proceeding, or else if the disclosure is necessary under the rule of law.

10. The freedom of disseminating information should be respected and protected as long as it is conducted in line with legal and constitutional requirements. Website monitoring, filtering and blockades that go against the principle of freedom of speech should be condemned by public opinion. Netizens are entitled to seek freedom of expression and justice through judicial proceedings.

You may join the signature campaign by signing up here with information including name, city/county, occupation and email. Remember to read the full text in Chinese or in English.

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