Recently, news has spread widely over China’s Internet about “Judge Obama in the White House”. Netizens in Mainland China have taken Zhu Ling’s case abroad – a Tsinghua University student who was poisoned by thallium 19 years ago.
They even requested that Mr Obama send troops to liberate the people in China. This scenario has aroused interest from reporters worldwide. While some say it is the black humour of despaired Chinese petitioners, others believe it is not despair, but awakening, which has led to a new path for China’s human rights defenders.
In accordance with relevant provisions of the United States, as long as a petition lodged on the White House website can gather 100,000 signatures within 30 days, the White House needs to respond. A petition for Zhu Ling’s case gathered over 140,000 signatures in three days.
The move to go abroad, as well as the number of petitioners, has stunned reporters worldwide as it is unprecedented. According to the report by Voice of America on May 6, the France 24 television website broadcast the news.
On May 8, Jiang Xin, a US cable news reporter in China, also sent a lengthy story from Beijing. It gave details of Zhu Ling’s case and the bizarre developments over the past week.
China’s judiciary lacks independence. Many petitioners went to Beijing to appeal, but were detained, arrested and abused. As officials tend to protect their own interests, petitioners are generally retaliated against. Taking the case to courts overseas has become the petitioners’ last resort.
Netizen Mr Zhang from Xinjiang said:
“Many of them have petitioned for quite a while. They have come to realise that China is not ruled by law. Petitioners have taken foreign media and the White House as their hope. This clearly indicates that real hope lies in a true democracy and a rule-by-law society. Only then can petitioners’ grievances be resolved through a proper channel.”
Lan Shu, a political commentator, stated: “Over the last three decades, people in China have changed their method to petition. It has changed from visiting the central office, to the High Court, to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and now to passing flyers in foreign consular districts. Then it moves to petitioning in Hong Kong, the United Nations and finally to the White House.”
Today, the White House website has received numerous petitions from China’s human rights defenders. Will this be the new path Chinese petitioners take? Lan Shu:
“This clearly shows that petitioners are more likely to choose public opinion to protect their rights. It also indicates their total despair towards Chinese officials, the judicial system, the Communist system and the media under the central government’s control.
“After decades of petitioning, Chinese people have finally reached complete a state of despair, which has led them to the White House website.”
Chinese petitioners’ quest for justice abroad is unprecedented. How will the US react to this? At the moment, it remains unknown. One sure thing is that China’s human rights defenders have made history.