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China jails man for making film on constitutional government

Students of a rural school sign their names on a banner which reads 'Promote the spirit of the constitution, build a harmonious campus' in Shandong province, Dec. 4, 2014. (Photo courtesy: RFA)
Students of a rural school sign their names on a banner which reads ‘Promote the spirit of the constitution, build a harmonious campus’ in Shandong province, Dec. 4, 2014. (Photo courtesy: RFA)

(TibetanReview.net, Jan01, 2015) – While claiming to promote rule of law and even celebrating its first national Constitution Day, China on Dec 30 jailed a man for making a film about constitutional government. Beijing’s Chaoyang District People’s Court jailed Shen Yongping for one year for allegedly “running an illegal business” after the country’s media censors declared his film “an illegal publication,” reported Radio Free Asia (Washington) Dec 30.

Shen’s real crime appears to be that his film faults the Communist Party of China for failing to live up to the promises it had made during the days of its struggle to implement democracy after it came to power on Oct 1, 1949. His film, “A Hundred Years of Constitutionalism,” tells the history of attempts to establish constitutional rule in modern China and Mao Zedong’s failure to implement his promised democracy after he took power.

The report indicated that the government’s Bureau of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which administers tight control over media and publications, had seized from Zhen’s apartment 4,000 copies of the film, alleging they were illegal publications.

Shen completed the film a few months before China celebrated its first national Constitution Day amid the party’s new rhetoric about the rule of law and had no plans to make money from the documentary. The report cited Shen’s lawyer Zhang Xuezhong as saying the filmmaker had been handing out DVDs free of charge and had planned to post it online for free download. “He just wanted to strengthen people’s view of the Constitution, and he used an art form to depict the past 100 years of Chinese people’s struggle for governance by the Constitution,” Zhang has said.

China’s constitution says “citizens … enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of protest and of demonstration.” But in the absence of an independent judiciary and a legal political opposition, the guarantee is not worth the paper it is written on.

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