Category Archives: law

“Where is Gao Zhisheng?”

C.A. Yueng from Under the Jacaranda Tree writes about Mr. Gao, still missing:

Ms Geng has been separated from her husband for nearly 22 months. When Gao Zhisheng briefly reappeared in early 2010, Ms Geng and her children had already fled to the USA to escape persecution. As she was about to give up hopes of ever seeing her husband alive, Xinhua News English services released information on 16 December 2011 to suggest that Gao Zhisheng had been sent back to jail to serve his full sentences for violating his parole conditions. However, apart from a letter sent from Shaya prison to Gao Zhisheng’s older brother Gao Zhiyi, neither Ms Geng nor her family has ever received any formal verdict or court ruling with regard to Gao Zhisheng’s sentencing.

They also have links to an interview with his wife and more analysis.

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“China Set to Punish Another Human Rights Activist”

I’m sure this will go over even better than the house arrest of a blind lawyer and his daughter:

First the police crippled Ni Yulan’s legs. Then the authorities took away her license to practice law. Later, while she was serving time in jail, demolition crews tore down the courtyard house that had been in her family for two generations.

Freed from prison in 2010 but unable to walk, she ended up living in a Beijing park with her husband for nearly two months, until unflattering publicity led local officials to move them into a cheap hotel.

Their predicament will most likely take a turn for the worse in the coming weeks, when a court in the capital’s Xicheng district is expected to sentence the couple on charges that include “picking quarrels” and disturbing public order. “I’m afraid the sentence this time will be especially heavy,” their lawyer, Cheng Hai, said after their hearing on Thursday.

The case of Ms. Ni and Mr. Dong highlights the ways officials can leverage the legal system against those they deem to be nuisances. Ms. Ni, 51, who received a law degree from China University of Political Science and Law, drew the attention of the authorities in 2002, when she used her expertise to help neighbors in Xicheng fighting eviction, part of the government’s sweeping effort to remake the capital ahead of the Olympics.

Detained after she tried to photograph demolition crews, she said she was kicked and pummeled over the course of 15 hours, leaving her incontinent and unable to walk. She was released after 75 days but continued her legal work while also seeking redress for the beating. Over the next few years, she was arrested twice more and convicted of “obstructing public business.”

During her three years in prison, she said, she endured frequent indignities: An officer once urinated on her face, she said, and prison officials often took away her crutches, forcing her to crawl from her cell to the prison workshop. One of her tasks included cleaning toilets.

Her daughter, too, said she was subjected to government surveillance. “The police followed me to school and watched me all day so I would experience the fear,” said the daughter, Dong Xuan, now 27.

During their trial last week, Ms. Ni, thin and weak, was propped up on a makeshift bed, an oxygen mask tethered to her face. Outside, a heavy police presence prevented family members, supporters and foreign diplomats from entering the courtroom. Their lawyer, Mr. Cheng, claims the proceedings were illegal because 9 of his 10 witnesses were barred from testifying.

Reached by phone, a spokesman for the Xicheng District People’s Court declined to answer questions about the case.

Cases like this are part of what convinces me that the Communist Party isn’t anywhere near as strong as it looks, in the long term. Does a secure Party need to go to such lengths to attack a women whose crime is lawyering and who needs an oxygen mask to survive?

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“China’s Latest Legal Crackdown”

Jerome Cohen is back in the WSJ, describing the new Chinese legal code updates:

Before the end of this month, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress will review the second draft of a proposal for comprehensive revisions to China’s Criminal Procedure Law. Despite some tweaks made under public pressure, it’s clear the revisions will be one step forward and two steps back for justice, at least for the politically controversial.

For non-political citizens, the draft revision promises overdue protections against arbitrary exercise of state power. But for politically unpopular minorities and dissidents, the revision threatens the legalization of repressive and abusive state tactics. The overall effect is a murky, two-tiered legal regime that will move the country further away from some major international human rights standards.

Despite its positive aspects, the draft revision also embraces a more sinister agenda toward political outsiders. It will authorize, under Article 73, the practice of enforced disappearances of political offenders. While the practice has been employed for years, it was always technically illegal—until now. Under the draft, citizens can be secretly detained for up to six months on suspicion of “endangering national security” or “terrorism”—notoriously vague charges that have long been manipulated by police, prosecutors and courts. Article 73 is a blatant, open-ended attempt to authorize expanded political repression in the guise of concern for national security.

By law, “residential surveillance,” a strict form of house arrest allowed for up to six months, is supposed to be less severe than confinement in a police detention center. Yet it has often been abused as a vehicle for detaining political offenders not in their own homes but in secret, incommunicado venues controlled by police, as in the cases of Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo and renowned artist Ai Weiwei. The proposed law effectively institutionalizes this rights violation.

In today’s climate, petitioners seeking relief from political or even mundane grievances may easily be charged with endangering national security, and peaceful Tibetan and Uighur protesters are often accused of terrorism. Under Article 73, they will have fewer legal rights than they do now. They will be virtually defenseless during the critical first stage of the criminal process.

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“China’s Legal Blindness”

Jerome Cohen has an op-ed in the WSJ talking about Chen Guangcheng:

There are three myths about Mr. Chen’s plight that must be dispelled. One is that such cases of persecution and abuse of lawyers and legal activists are rare in China, and only occur when a few heroic dissidents openly invoke the law to confront injustice rather than rely less confrontational methods.

Mr. Chen never saw himself as a “troublemaker” bent on damaging social stability and harmony. He wanted to improve stability and harmony by using legal institutions to process social grievances in an orderly way as prescribed by law. His only mistake was to accept the law as it was written, as a true believer in China’s legal reforms.

One day, when he was especially frustrated by the county court’s refusal to accept the lawsuits he brought on behalf of impoverished pro bono “clients,” he asked me: “What do the authorities want me to do? Lead a protest in the streets? I don’t want to do that.” Yet, in a cruel twist, he was ultimately convicted on bogus charges of interfering with traffic and damaging public property.

China’s activist lawyers and non-professional advocates are under widespread, systematic official assault. Hundreds of lawyers have been persecuted for representing clients who seek to challenge arbitrary residential evictions, environmental pollution, food and drug contamination, official corruption, and discrimination against the sick or disabled. Many public interest and criminal defense lawyers never consider themselves human rights lawyers until the local judicial bureau threatens to take away their license to practice law, the police detain them in jail or at home, the authorities “suggest” that they leave the country, or officially sponsored thugs kidnap and beat them.

A second myth is that Mr. Chen’s recent suffering is merely another example of local government run amok, neither approved nor condoned by the central government. Many attacks on lawyers are indeed local in origin, and Mr. Chen’s case started out that way in 2005 when local authorities first sent thugs to illegally confine him and his family at home. However, the case soon came to the attention of national leaders. After representatives of the Ministry of Public Security reportedly met with local officials to discuss the situation, the authorities launched a criminal prosecution against Mr. Chen, a more conventional type of repression.

A third myth is that there must be some purported legal justification for the suffering that the Chen household has endured since his release from prison last year. Governments, even the Chinese government, normally like to maintain some veneer of plausible legitimacy for their misconduct, however thin it might be. Yet no such justification has come to my knowledge in this case, which seems to have exceeded the bounds of police ingenuity.

When, at an Oct. 28 Beijing press conference, a foreign reporter asked deputy director Li Fei of the Legal Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee to state the legal basis for Mr. Chen’s home imprisonment, he declined to answer. He merely asserted that “in our country the freedom of a citizen is adequately protected, and the use of any compulsory measures is based on law.” The question and its answer were eliminated from both the transcript and the video broadcast of the press conference.

Although it hasn’t gotten Chen out yet, it is still good to see increased international pressure and awareness of his captivity. As an added bonus, some of that international noise can easily leak back into China and lead to more Chinese citizens learning about what their government is doing.

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“Lawlessness, Public Opinion and Censorship in China”

Jerome Cohen is back, with a great new article on Chen Guangcheng:

The Chinese government’s current suppression of rising internet protests against its barbaric abuse of the blind “barefoot lawyer” Chen Guangcheng raises fundamental questions about the impact of legal reforms on real life in China.

Is Chen destined to be illegally silenced for the rest of his life? He is about to be 40 and has the iron will and charisma of a Gandhi. He is badly debilitated, however, by six years of being denied adequate medical attention for increasingly serious gastroenteritis. His death in prison would have plainly embarrassed his captors, but dying “at home” might appear less sinister.

Although domestic media are usually forbidden to mention Chen, two Chinese newspapers recently made brief references to his plight. The Internet is a more likely prospect for invoking the Party’s highly-touted but normally restricted “supervision by public opinion”. The weeks since the first anniversary of his release from prison have witnessed a surge in microblog protests against Chen’s suffering. Some were inspired by the failed attempts of disabled activists to mark International White Cane Safety Day by visiting Chen. But many broader protests reflect widespread, perhaps growing, concern over the regime’s lawlessness.

Of course, the Party Propaganda Department has an equally long memory and is trying to wipe out all Internet mention of Chen. Thisi s a great challenge to the ingenuity and energy of his blogging sympathizers. Yet other possibilities also exist. Huge, peaceful pro-environment “strolls” in Xiamen, Shanghai and Dalian led to cancellation of harmful development projects. At great political risk, some 370 Shanghai people just signed a petition supporting Chen. One can imagine the boost that might come from China’s large disabled population, if awakened. Chen once estimated that almost 10% of Linyi City’s residents are disabled. Foreign protest movements on Chen’s behalf also seem to be stirring in an attempt to emulate their recent success in helping to free famous artist Ai Weiwei from his illegal detention.

Zhou Yongkang and his comrades are undoubtedly determined to hang tough. Yet reports that Chen’s six-year-old daughter has finally been permitted to attend school – under stigmatizing police escort – suggest a sop to public opinion. Unfortunately, a similar gesture toward the daughter of the long-”disappeared” human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng only added to the pressures that battered her and did not presage release for her courageous father. Without stronger public demands for holding the Chinese government to account for dishonoring its own legislation, Chen is unlikely to fare better.

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“Little Yueyue and China’s moral road”

Where to even start with this one… a few years ago, a man in Nanjing helped a senior citizen who had fallen over. He was then taken to court and blamed for her injuries, with the judge ruling that he must have been responsible, because why else would he help her out? This is one of those times where having a ludicrously terrible judicial system which only exists to serve the powerful and moneyed and can’t actually function in any other capacity comes back to bite you. Since then a slight nervousness about helping others has turned into an outright phobia- Chinese friends and students have told me on multiple occasions that I shouldn’t ever help anyone in distress, because I’ll end up taken to court and the Nanjing ruling will happen again.

It seems to have reached a head with the case of Yueyue, a child struck by a car who was then ignored by passersby, much to the outrage of the general public. A piece from Asia Times:

“What has happened to our morality?” “Where are our hearts of sympathy?” “How come we could ever become even more cruel and hard-hearted than cold-blooded animals?” These were questions being asked by outraged Chinese media and bloggers over a recent incident hit-and-run incident which saw bystanders indifferently walk past a toddler who was struck by a van, only for the child to be hit by a second vehicle.

The incident happened on October 13 in Foshan city in southern Guangdong, the richest province in China, and was captured by a surveillance camera. The footage was aired by the province’s Southern Television Guangdong (TVS) and posted last Saturday on the Chinese video site Youku, drawing around 2 million views and thousands of comments on that site alone.

The footage shows a two-and-a-half-year-old girl hit and run over by a large white van while walking down a street in a market district of Foshan. About six minutes later, another passing van runs her over again. During the interval, at least 18 people walk by without helping her. Finally last an elderly trash collector comes to her aid, moving her to a side of the street and calling her mother.

The apathy of the bystanders and people in the neighborhood has shocked the public, with media commentators and netizens seething over an incident that raises questions about the morality and conscience of today’s China.

“[Ancient Chinese thinker] Mencius said, ‘The heart of sympathy is essential to man.’ What has made us so apathetic?… Lack of sympathy is a moral disaster facing us all … Let us all ask ourselves if we had passed by the scene, how many of us would have stopped to help the girl?” wrote a commentary on Chongqing Times.

It went on to blame the system for a lack of mechanisms that support good deeds. “Our current system is obviously in an embarrassing status: corruption continues to run wild and evil people enjoy privileges, scandals with charity organizations such as the Red Cross stop people from donating to help the needy. [3] All this certainly shakes up the beliefs of kind-hearted people.”

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“Independent Candidate Yu Nan’s Candidacy Revoked for No Reason”

We’ve been following the upsurge in independent candidates for local elections- many have been harassed by the government or had their candidacies invalidated for any number of meaningless reasons. Another one has bitten the dust, this time for no reason whatsoever:

On September 7, Yu was suddenly notified by the Election Committee of the National People’s Congress and asked to turn in original copies of the household registrations and property certificates for all of his 17 nominators. In addition, one of the nominators was required to be present at the Committee for an interview. Yu later managed to collect all of the required documentations in time, and his wife was interviewed as a nominator.

On September 9, however, Yu’s candidacy was revoked with no reason or any prior notification given, despite the fact that he was on the list of four officially registered candidates. And since only three representatives are needed in Yu’s district, there will be no surprise on the election day, which will be September 15.

Another stark reminder that the law exists only as a means of enforcing the Party’s will, and if their will runs contrary to the law, the law loses every time.

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