August 25, 2006
Zhao Yan found innocent on state secrets charge but sentenced to 3 years on fraud charge
New York Times researcher Zhao Yan managed to escape conviction on the charge that he was the source of information for a Times story on Jiang Zemin's stepping down from the Central Military Commission. He was, however, convicted and sentenced to three years on an unrelated fraud charge. Those who have followed this case will know that the fraud charge is likely specious; either it was just too much for the authorities to admit that they had simply got the wrong man or they felt that punishing the innocent would make a paper like the Times think twice before publishing displeasing stories again. (Maybe they are right.) The NYT report is here.
August 24, 2006
Further comment on Chen Guangcheng case
If further proof of the complicity of the central authorities in Chen's case were needed, try searching for his name (陈光诚) on Baidu (www.baidu.com): you get no results, along with a helpful message telling you that your keywords "may have content not in accordance with relevant laws and regulations" (您输入的关键词可能涉及不符合相关法律法规的内容). Interestingly, the results for both Google.cn and Google.com are very similar (they are headed by a nasty - and of course anonymous - character assassination which starts with the claim that because Chen is blind, he hasn't seen the great changes taking place in China!).
Chen Guangcheng sentenced to four years
I recently posted on the proceedings of the Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) trial； this farce has now reached its denouement with the sentencing of Chen to four years in prison for crimes (destruction of property, organizing a mob to block traffic) allegedly committed while he was under close police guard. As his lawyers were prevented by the authorities from attending the trial, the court appointed new lawyers for Chen who neither contested the charges nor called any witnesses on his behalf. (New York Times story here | Comments from attorney Xu Zhiyong's blog here.)
This case is just what it appears to be and hardly requires further commentary by me. I will just point out that Chen received substantially less due process than is typically available for murderers and other violent criminals. Even the Gang of Four got more due process than this. Central government leaders, who allowed this to happen, probably have better information on the state of Chinese society than I do. If they believe that the failure to crush a single individual who was, after all, exposing violations of state law will lead to a collapse of their authority, one can only conclude that the current state of social peace (such as it is) is fragile indeed.
I will conclude with a comment from Prof. Jerome Cohen of NYU Law School, who is closely acquainted with the details of the case:
The extremely harsh sentence for Chen Guangcheng confirms not only the lawlessness and vindictiveness of the authorities of Linyi City but also the determination of the national Communist Party Political-Legal Committee to intimidate and suppress the country's rising generation of human rights activist-lawyers. There was no valid basis for the charges against Chen. That is why all legal procedures were thrown out the window in his "trial". Otherwise his lawyers, who were never allowed in the courtroom, would have exposed the process as the farce that it was. Moreover, even if this idealistic and peaceful blind man who has led an exemplary life had been genuinely guilty of the charges, as his wife pointed out, the sentence is wildly disproportionate to the alleged offenses. It is another shameful demonstration by the highest leaders in the country - not merely the Linyi authorities - that all those in China who take seriously the regime's policies and legislation trumpeting "a socialist rule of law" do so at their peril. Chen's is not an isolated case, of course, but is related to the current campaign against lawyers, journalists and others who stoke the fires of the nation's increasing rights consciousness. But Chen is a justifiably famous person whose case will become a worldwide symbol of injustice in China. I will take my Chen Guangcheng T-shirt to my opening class on "Law and Society in China".
August 23, 2006
Decision and appeal in the Zhou Yezhong plagiarism case
I previously posted a few times on the plagiarism suit brought by Wang Tiancheng (王天成) against Wuhan University law professor Zhou Yezhong (周叶中) (most recent post, with links to previous posts, here). Here, somewhat belatedly, are the latest developments in this case.
On July 18th, the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court delivered its verdict: victory for Zhou Yezhong. Wang Tiancheng's suit was found to "lack a factual and legal basis" (缺乏事实和法律依据). This judgment has been widely ridiculed within China; my sources tell me that the judges themselves were embarrassed by it but felt they had no choice, given the politics of the case.
- Text of judgment
- Response by Pu Zhiqiang (Wang's attorney)
- Response by Wang Tiancheng showing evidence of plagiarism
- Another critique
Wang Tiancheng has appealed; the text of his appeal submission can be found here. He does not expect to win, but is appealing to avoid any suspicion that he accepts the original judgment.
August 21, 2006
Sad news for China's legal system
I am sorry to report two sad developments. First, Gao Zhisheng (高智晟), the attorney of whom I previously posted, is reported by Agence France Presse to have been arrested. It seems he was seized from his sister's home by several men who did not wear uniforms or identify themselves. As in most countries, it is unlawful in China to resist arrest, but presumably lawful to resist a kidnapping attempt. I wonder if it would be the official view of a Chinese court that a citizen, faced with persons attempting to spirit him away who wear no uniform, offer no identification, and say nothing, should assume that this is just regular police procedure and be liable if he attempts to resist?
The second sad development is the latest news regarding the trial of Chen Guangcheng (about whom I have previously posted), for which the word "farce" is scarcely adequate. The local authorities in Linyi, clearly intending not only to convict Chen but also to make a point that they can do whatever they want, prevented his lawyers from attending the trial by beating them or detaining them on grounds as patently - indeed, one might say conspicuously - flimsy as the charges against Chen himself.
By this time, the complicity of the central authorities in this disgrace can hardly be doubted. It is often said - I have said so myself - that the central government often has a hard time getting local governments to go along with its wishes, and cannot simply issue commands and achieve obedience. But at the same time, it is pretty clear that central government action would be swift and decisive were it to be discovered that the Party secretary of Linyi County was a Falun Gong adherent. It's just a question of priorities.