Saturday, February 25, 2012

Document of 1989: 42 Scientists and Educators Open Letter

On February 20, 1989, 42 prominent scientists and educators in Beijing co-signed an open letter to the nation's top leadership calling for democracy. This is the third such letter following those of Fang Lizhi and 33 writers. This letter is relatively lengthy and detailed. As with the other letters, it called for the release of political prisoners but stopped short of calling for an amnesty. It also did not mention Wei Jingsheng's name.

Open Letter to Party Central Leaders from Beijing Science and Education Community

General Secretary Zhao Ziyang,
Chairman Wan Li,
President Li Xiannian,
Premier Li Peng,
Party Central,
NPC Standing Committee
CPPCC National Committee
State Council,

Since the 3rd Plenary Session of the 11th Party Congress, Our nation's modernization efforts, led by liberation of thoughts and guided by the openness and reform policies, have achieved world-renowned successes. Although some complications and mistakes have appeared, the overall direction of the development is in accord to people's will and the world historical trend. This decade has indeed been the best period since the founding of our nation. Today, however, the reform has encountered serious obstacles in its path: rampant corruption and graft, runaway inflation, deteriorating morale, serious crises in education, science, and culture. Chinese intellectuals with its tradition of taking up the responsibilities of the nation's survival cannot help but to worry deeply. For the purpose of preventing a premature death of the modernization efforts, we, old and middle-aged intellectuals who have worked at the frontiers of research, education, and culture, with our sense of social responsibilities for our nation and people and with our loyal and patriotic soul, sincerely suggest the following:

(A) In the context of openness and reform, the reform of the political system, i.e., the democratization of politics, need to be conducted with the economic reform. This is because that the experiences in world history and the realities in China show us that the democratization of politics (including rule by law) is the necessary guarantee for the economic reform and the entire modernization endeavor. Only with democratization people will be able to fully unleash their initiative and enthusiasm. They will be willing to share the burden of the unavoidable difficulties in the process of reform. With the collective mind and force of the people, no difficulties couldn't be overcome. Also, with market economy, only with democratization and under the supervision of the people and media we could have a "clean" government. In contrary, a government without people's supervision cannot stop corruption. This is a well-known law of history.

(B) The first necessity of political democratization is to effectively guanranttee citizens' basic rights in the Constitution, especially the guarantee of citizens rights of free expression, free press and publication. Only when people can freely express their thoughts, dissenting opinions can be published openly, and criticisms against leaders not be punished that we can achieve an active, comfortable, and harmonic society and that the democratic senses of citizens can be releashed. This is the only reliable guarantee to stability and unity, with which reform can continue smoothly.

(C) To prevent any repeat of historical tragedies of incriminating the publication of dissenting opeinions, please see to that all youths sentenced or detained because of crimes of thoughts be released. No longer incriminating thoughts will open up a new era for the politics of our nation.

(D) Government must provide necessary supports to the education and science endeavors that are critical in deciding the nation's future but do not yield direct economic benefits. It must do all it can to increase funding for scientific research, especially those in fundamental sciences, enhance the living conditions of all intellectuals so they don't face hardships. Right now, a few first-rated professors are already applying for hardship aids. Recently, a 78-year-old senior engineer jumped to his death because he couldn't afford to live. This obviously damages the modernization efforts and also the image of our nation.

If the above suggestions could be adopted, it would be a grand fortune of our nation and people. The concepts of democracy and science spearheaded by the pioneers of the May Fourth Movement 70 years ago would truly bloosom in the vast lands of China. It would also bring a celebratory atmosphere to the 40th anniversary of our nation's founding.


Qian Linzhao, Wang Ganchan, Shi Yalang, Xu Liangying, Guo Xingguang, Xue Yugu, Ye Wuzheng, Huang Zongchen, Hu Shihua, Zhu Zhaoxian, Zhou Mingzheng, Xu Guozhi, Jiang Lijin, Sun Keding, Wang Rong, Liu Yuanzhang, Mao yuShi, Hu Jimin, Yan Rengeng, Zhang Yisan, Du Yuji, Yu Haocheng, Zhang Xianyang, Li Hongling, Bao Zunxin, Liu Shengji, shao Yanxiang, Wu Zuguang, Wang Laidi, Gu Zhihui, Ge Ge, Liu Liao, Zhang Zhaoqing, Liang Xiaoguang, Zhang Conghua, Hou Meiying, Wu Guozheng, Cai Shidong, Cao Zhunxi, Xiao Shuxi, Zhou Liquang, Liang Zhixue

(For the Chinese names of the signatories, please view the original version here.)

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