Unirule Announcement on theWebsite Incident
Between 15:00 and 16:00, January 20th, 2017, the following websites andself-media accounts were unaccessible, including Unirule Institute of Economicsofficial websites, the auxiliary websites of “Unirule Centre for Public Private Partnership” and“China-Review.com”, WeChat public accounts of Unirule scholars, and Microblogsof main Unirule members; several personalWeChat accounts of Unirule main members were shut down, and problems alsooccurred to Unirule email system. An online circulated message claimed that“Beijing Internet Information Office” was responsible for the shutdown of theaforesaid online platforms, and we were not able to confirm the authenticity.So far, we can not confirm whether this is anadministrative action of due process of law. Therefore, we consider it a violative technical action towards UniruleInstitute of Economics as a whole.
Here are the reasons：
1. If this act was carried out by Beijing Internet InformationOffice, then the responsible entity failed to communicate with Unirule forclarification of facts according to Article 30 of the Administrative PenaltyLaw of the People's Republic of China (hereafter referred to as theAdministrative Penalty Law); Article 30 of the Administrative Penalty Lawstipulates that “if the facts about the violations are not clear, noadministrative penalty shall be imposed.”
2. The responsible entityfailed to inform us beforehand according to Article 31 of the AdministrativePenalty Law that stipulates “Before deciding to impose administrativepenalties, administrative organs shall notify the parties of the facts, groundsand basis according to which the administrative penalties are to be decided onand shall notify the parties of the rights that they enjoy in accordance with law.”
3. The responsible entityfailed to follow Article 32 of the Administrative Penalty Law that stipulates“Administrative organs shall fully heed the opinions of the parties and shallreexamine the facts, grounds and evidence put forward by the parties”. Therights to“ state their cases and to defend themselves” were not respected bythe responsible entity.
4. The responsible entityfailed to issue a stamped “form of decision for administrative penalty” beforeshutting down the aforesaid online platforms according to Article 39 of theAdministrative Penalty Law in order to clarify the “violation”, and the properpenalty by this law.
5. The responsible entityfailed to inform us of our right to “request a hearing” according to theAdministrative Penalty Law beforehand, which led to the fact that wemissed the opportunity to resort to this right.
6. After the shutdown ofUnirule online platforms, there was no channel for appealing, and the entity ofBeijing Internet Information Office was not able to be found via the website ofthe Beijing municipal government.
7.This act is a violation of Article 35 of the Constitution of People’s Republicof China, stipulating that “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoyfreedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession andof demonstration.”
After all, this act of “shutting down”Unirule online platforms fallshort of due process of law stipulated byArticle 41 of the Administrative Penalty Law, “If, before making a decision onadministrative penalty, an administrative organ or its law-enforcing officer,fails to notify, as stipulated in Articles 31 and 32 of this Law, the party ofthe facts about the violation, grounds and basis on which the administrativepenalty is imposed, or refuses to heed the party's statement and self-defense,the decision on administrative penalty shall be invalid”, and should therefore,be deemed invalid.
Except the aforesaid three Unirule websites, otherUnirule online platforms including Microblogs, WeChat accountsand the email system did not showevidence of government-backed interruption:
8. Unirule Microblogsshowed “Abnormal Login, currently unable to visit”, which is a sign oftechnical problem;
9. Unirule WeChat publicaccounts showed “violation of relevant laws and regulations” withoutclarification by the service provider;
10. The personal WeChataccounts of main Unirule members were shut down by “WeChat Team” of the serviceprovider, stating that these accounts “violated personal WeChat use codes”without clarification;
11. Unirule email systemwas disrupted, and no entities have claimed responsible.
Therefore, no direct evidence shows that the disruption of Unirule andits main members’ Microblogs, WeChat public accounts, personal WeChat accounts,and Unirule email system was a result of government departments’ activity.
12. The website of “UniruleCentre for Public Private Partnership” has ceased to update since 2013. Even if there was “violation” of the law, the statute oflimitation has been surpassed as stipulated by the Administrative Penalty Law.Therefore, the shut-down of this website was not due to the so-called“violation of laws or regulations”, but because it belongs to Unirule Instituteof Economics.
13. The fact thatdisruption to Unirule websites, Microblogs, WeChat public accounts, personalWeChat accounts, and the email system were all undertaken within an hourdemonstrates that it was a coordinated act, targeting Unirule Institute ofEconomics, and aiming for silencing Unirule Institute of Economics.
It is the duty of the government to protectthe security of citizens and institutions; and what it essentially means toprotect national cyber security is to protect the cybersecurity of citizens andinstitutions. Only when citizens are secure, will the state and the governingpersonnel be secure. Therefore, we refuse to consider this deliberate sabotageof online platforms and communication of our institute an act of thegovernment.
It is also the duty of the government toprotect the freedom of expression and communication of citizens and institutions.This coordinated sabotage of all the online platforms and communication ofUnirule Institute of Economics is, therefore, a severe disruption of the constitutionalrights of citizens and institutions. Therefore, we believe this act thatviolates the duties of administrative departments, smears the reputation of thegovernment and stains the integrity of the Constitution should also be objectedby the government.
We consider all the disruptive actions towards the online presentation of Unirule Institute ofEconomics one unified incident. As mentioned and analysed before, some of theacts were not undertaken by the government, and some took place without therelevant government departments presenting formal legal documents. Therefore,we do not believe it is an administrative action of due process oflaw, and instead consider it a violative technicalaction towards Unirule Institute of Economics as a whole.
In this light, we, as taxpayers, sincerely urge the government to fullyexecute its duty and protect our cyber security. We also urge that interruptiontowards Unirule online communication and circulation to be stopped; that onlineservices from our Internet service providers to be restored unless valid legaldocuments are provided(or issued by administrative departments); and thatnormal operations of Unirule websites to be recovered(or legal documents toshut them down are provided).
We, hereby, would like to restate that Unirule Institute of Economics,as a private academic research organisation, is dedicated to advancing academicresearch, analysing current economic and social issues, and proposing reformplans and public policy suggestions. In recent years, we have undertakenresearch in reform of state-owned enterprises, breaking monopolies, reform ofthe oil system, land institutions, and reform of administrative departments,some of which were a result of positive interaction with governmentdepartments. Unirule Institute of Economics facilitates informed publicpolicy-making.
China-Review.com and Unirule WeChat public accounts and Microblogs are helpfulsupplements to the official interpretation and analysis of government policies.Therefore, they are remedies for public policy-makers as systematic deviationsoccur frequently. They are also an important part of the diversity of ideas inthe Chinese society, providing rational thinking and a peaceful mind in theturbulent mass media.
Critiques isinevitable in the research and proposals of Unirule Institute of Economics. However, we aspire to reach the utmoststage of criticism where good intentions are held in our heart and presented inour words. We humbly admit that we are all but ordinary mortals, and thataspiration may never be fully achieved. We sincerely hope all groups of thesociety point out the flaws and inappropriate parts of the forms and wording ofour critiques. And we will improve our work accordingly.
It is also our hope that tolerance and understanding of non-governmentorganisations be undertaken by the authorities for the advance of the Chinesesociety. We note that Mr. XI Jinping’s defence of free trade principles at theWorld Economic Forum, and the intrinsic tie between free trade and freeexpression is known by everyone in the world. Free trade refers to the freeexchange of commodities, and free expression refers to the free exchange ofideas. As ideas are more valuable than commodities, anyone that truly defendthe freedom of trade will defend the freedom of expression.
Unirule Institute ofEconomics
SHENG Hong, Director
January 24th, 2017