Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Li Zhuang is the lawyer who defended accused mobster Gong Gangmo in Chongqing and was convicted on charges of suborning perjury for his troubles. (Background information here.) It's now reported that the Chongqing authorities are planning on bringing new charges against him; cynics (or perhaps realists) interpret this as a device by political contender Bo Xilai, Chongqing's Party secretary, to keep Li under wraps for a while longer so as not to derail his national leadership aspirations. (Li should be due for release around June 2011; he was arrested in Dec. 2009 and ultimately sentenced to 18 months, and sentences typically take into account time served in detention prior to conviction.)
Chen Youxi, his defense lawyer in the first trial, has written an extremely angry piece [April 12th update: Original link harmonized off the Caing web site where it originally appeared; new link here] denouncing the original and upcoming proceedings. It's well worth reading (if you read Chinese) to get a defense lawyer's perspective on Bo's "Chongqing model." Among other things, it contains (see Point 4 in the text) a very detailed account of the bargaining that went on between the original trial and the appeal. Chen accuses the Chongqing authorities of reneging on the deal they made with Li Zhuang. But he understands why Li Zhuang folded under pressure, referring ominously to another defendant who somehow managed to commit suicide at 12:30 pm in a cell filled with other prisoners.
Chen also says that the new charges have serious legal deficiencies, but he's not going to help the prosecution by giving away what they are right now. His overall view is that the Chongqing authorities have just gone kind of crazy. He was willing to keep quiet about the Li Zhuang case, and had done so, so that his client could be released as scheduled and then everyone could forget the whole thing. But now Chongqing has stirred things up again, and reminded people what a kangaroo court the first trial was (among other things, contrary to the requirements of Chinese law, no witnesses for the prosecution appeared in court, even those fully under the control of the prosecution).
Throughout, he says that lawyers have no role as lawyers to play in these proceedings. If they get involved, it can only be as actors in a play. The better their defense, the more convincing the play will be. For a different view by a sympathizer, see this response by Si Weijiang, who argues that defense lawyers can still play an important role even in fixed proceedings such as these.