Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Fresh from its triumph over the dark forces of Hollywood in their attempt to topple the state by shaking the hand of a blind man, the people's democratic dictatorship has now set its sights, once again, on Ni Yulan, already crippled by earlier police beatings. Apparently she and her husband have been "picking quarrels" and "disturbing public order", both criminal offenses. The New York Times story is here. Apparently the leaders have not been reading books about how China is destined to take over the world. They seem extraordinarily unconfident and fearful.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
Chinese prison authorities have apparently notified Gao Zhisheng's brother that he is being held in a prison in Xinjiang. Here's the report from China Aid Association (I added the link about the alleged probation violation):
China Aid Association
(Washington, D.C. – Jan. 1, 2012) For the first time since his most recent forced disappearance 20 months ago, the whereabouts of human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng were confirmed on Sunday.
ChinaAid learned that Gao Zhisheng’s older brother, Gao Zhiyi, received written notification on Sunday of Gao’s incarceration in Shaya Prison in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in far western China. The notification was signed and dated on Dec. 19 by the prison.
Gao disappeared into police custody in April 2010, the most recent in a series of forced disappearances since his 2006 conviction on a subversion charge. On Dec. 16, just days before his five-year probation period was to have ended, the Chinese government announced that it was sending him to prison for three years for violating his probation. It was the first word that he was still alive, but no information of his whereabouts or condition was released.
Shaya (Xayar) Prison is located in Aksu Prefecture, about 1,130 kilometers (700 miles) southwest of the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi.
"Gao's internal exile reminds the world of how former Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov was cruelly treated in Siberia in the 1980s," said ChinaAid founder and president Bob Fu, a friend of Gao. “The Chinese government can use this remote jail to prevent concerned people from visiting Attorney Gao, but just like Sakharov, Gao's courageous voice can never be silenced by the four walls of his prison cell."
Gao Zhiyi is planning to visit Gao Zhisheng as soon as he gets a physical address of the prison.
The prison’s mailing address is : Shaya Prison, Shaya county, Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Postal code: 842208
Prison phone number: +86-997-8402100.
Gao Zhiyi’s phone number: +86-151-9198-5726
Sunday, December 25, 2011
I was shocked and very saddened to hear of Prof. Larry Ribstein's sudden death (apparently from a stroke) on Dec. 24th. In addition to teaching Chinese law, I also teach business associations, and so was familiar with Larry's name and fame before actually meeting him when we were both visiting professors at NYU Law School in 2007-08. You can get a sense of Larry's personality by reading his voluminous writings and blog posts - his style is crystal clear and highly readable, his ideas original and important. But I needed to meet him in person to get a full sense of the man and to realize what a cool guy he was.
As I read others' remembrances, one term keeps cropping up that is one of the first things I noticed, too: intellectually honest. Larry was not afraid to follow his ideas where they led him, but never mischaracterized opposing ideas in order to refute them more easily. He had very strong ideas (in addition to deep learning) on many subjects, but I can think of few people with whom it was more fun to discuss things.
Larry's scholarly productivity is the stuff of legend - lots of it, on a wide range of topics, and all of it top-notch. I once asked him how he managed to do it. His answer: "I don't need a lot of sleep."
So broad is Larry's impact that it even reaches the field of Chinese law. He had been to China and was consulted on the drafting of (what else?) China's Partnership Law.
It is truly sad that such a terrific scholar and colleague has been lost to us.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Qiao Mu (乔木), an associate professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University and the director of its Center for International Communications Studies, recently ran (maybe "attempted to run" would be more accurate) as an independent candidate for the Haidian district people's congress. This is the only level of people's congress where candidates are directly elected; delegates to higher-level congresses are selected by lower-level congresses. And this is of course all done under the guidance of the Party. The election was on Nov. 8th. Here's his account:
As an independent candidate, I did not win the election, but got the second largest votes (1300 ballots) after one month campaign with my voluntary supporters, which shaped democracy in my university-community and brought many positive changes in the campus management and people’s mind.
I had NO intention to challenge the ruling party and the political system in the grassroots election. What I cared was the voter’s (faculty and students) opinion, livelihood and rights. However, I encountered increasingly enormous pressure and oppression from the very beginning. My voluntary students were forced to quit the campaign. Many organized spreading rumors and political lies in SMS to defame my personality, motives and actions (mostly on social media), i.e., my campaign was a conspiracy and sponsored by the west media, and I was manipulated by the US embassy, and I will leave the university it is useless to vote for me.
I was shocked to find, in the last week before the vote day, all my social media ( weibo/micro-blog on sina.com, blog, renren and my election video on tudou/56 were closed.) I tried to register new one many times on sina.com and renren.com, but all were closed for a short while. Things went beyond my imagination. All my mobiles and phones were monitored. I was followed by two securities in the campus and two secret agents outside. Many students and faculty members involved were forced verbally to quit me. Some students were required to identify my supporter on CCTV, some parents were asked to come to Beijing to persuade the students to stop.
The Big Brother was watching us.
We did nothing wrong. All we did was in the track of China’s constitution and election law. But I was told there were policy and regulation, which were more important and measurable.
On the vote day of Nov 8, there were numerous banners and flags in the campus, which said to carry on socialist democracy and enhance the rule of law, and to vote gloriously. Many securities and secret agents walked around. People outside of the campus were not allowed to entered for three days.
I was not among the two officially nominated candidates. My name was not in the ballot. However, the voter could write down my name if they voted for me. I got 1296 votes among 8035 turn-outs, the second largest winner, much more than an official candidate. The No.1, a vice presidents of my university, passed the half line only with 117 more votes. If no those 117 votes, the election would be a runoff. He and I, the first two, will be voted another day. In that case, my name will be written on the ballot. Who knows the result?
Farewell to my 10 weibo (Microblogs on sina.com), 4 blogs with 100 articles, and 1 paid Renren ID with twenty thousand followers, most of them were my university (vote zone) contacts.
My social media can be closed, but I will neve close my mouth and my writing will never stop.
Qiao Mu (Michael)
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
... is apparently blind activist and barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng, judging from the extraordinary level of security thrown up around his home to prevent him from having any communications with the outside world. None of this has any known legal justification, by the way. Here's a report from China Human Rights Defenders (Chinese here). Think of how much all this must cost!
Attempts to visit the lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng (陈光诚) in Shandong Province have often been thwarted by the constant, stifling presence of guards blockading Dongshigu Village, where Chen lives under illegal house arrest (see reports below). The intensive operation is fortified by surveillance cameras and monitoring points set up at four village entrances and around Chen’s home. As groups of Chinese activists continue their “Operation Free Chen Guangcheng” by making repeated visits to Dongshigu Village, CHRD has released an aerial photo that charts the locations of village entrances and monitoring posts while describing these in detail.
The village’s widest concrete road—at three meters across—runs along its eastern edge and intersects China National Highway 205, which connects the provinces of Hebei and Guangdong. A small bridge lies in the middle of this road, and after crossing the bridge and turning right, Chen’s home is the first one on the north side, and is surrounded at all times by seven or eight guards.
The highway entrance near Chen’s home is guarded by 20 individuals who work in two shifts, scrutinizing each vehicle and person entering the village. At another location are two small structures that function as the guards’ work stations, with a pair of vehicles parked nearby. Thugs use one of them in case they need to chase after visitors, and the other is stationed next to a small bridge. Seven to eight individuals, also working in two shifts, man these vehicles.
Another concrete road entrance faces a neighboring village, Yazi Village, to the southeast of Dongshigu, and is located about 600 meters down the highway. A monitoring point in this area is set up about 100 meters after crossing a bridge, and guards—close to 20 people divided into two groups—reportedly stay hidden behind a pile of firewood and are able to see anyone crossing over the bridge, which leads to a trail into Dongshigu. On one side of the trail is a row of bungalows where tobacco is grown, and guards keep three vicious dogs on the other side.
A third entrance—a drainage area beneath a highway—lies along the village’s southwest edge, and is a path so narrow and rugged that it can only be undertaken on foot. There are six or seven guards stationed at this entrance, which is also equipped with a monitoring camera. Northwest of the village, there is a fourth passage off a small bridge to neighboring Xishigu Village. There are two monitoring points, one at the entrance of Xishigu Village and another after crossing a bridge and turning to the left, with close 20 guards.
In sum, there are two surveillance points in front and behind Chen’s home, and six other points set up at various locations on the four narrow roads that enter Dongshigu Village. There are a total of six surveillance cameras in the village. Two mobile phone jammers are set up at the homes of Chen’s neighbors to the west and east.
Reportedly, almost 100 hired thugs keep Chen under surveillance, and all are recruited from outside the village. They are divided into two large squads and 12 smaller groups, and maintain radio communication with each other while working around the clock. And like many extensive operations, monitoring Chen and the entire village is also wealth-generating. Given two daily meals, each person pockets 100 RMB a day—far more lucrative pay than the average villager (even the village party secretary earns just 3,000 RMB in salary per year). The guards are led by Gao Xingjian (高兴见), who comes from a nearby village. Gao was appointed as head of the guards after fighting off past visitors on many occasions, and has supposedly amassed a good deal of wealth from filling that role.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Pretty strong stuff. Available in English and Chinese at the China Media Project web site here. He has some good rhetorical touches. Among other things, he notes the irony that the judge in Li Zhuang's first trial, who excused all seven prosecution witnesses (all of whom were in custody) from appearing and being cross-examined because they "were unwilling" (grounds that have no basis in the Criminal Procedure Law), had written his master's thesis in law school on the necessity of witnesses appearing in court.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Here's an interesting account of an attempt by Chen Yunfei, a Chengdu-based rights activist, to visit Chen Guangcheng, the blind rights activist who is supposedly out of jail and a free man. Pretty brave, considering that the most recent person to try to visit Chen, He Peirong, seems to have disappeared (same source). Thanks to blogger Siweiluozi for the translation.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I am sorry to report that Professor CAI Dingjian (蔡定剑教授), Director of the Institute for Study on Constitutionalism at China University of Political Science and Law, passed away early in the morning of November 22nd. Prof. Cai was a widely respected figure both among his colleagues in China and among the foreign community of Chinese law scholars. He was also a very fine human being.
There's a web site dedicated to his life and work here: http://www.chinaelections.org/specialtopic/SpecialTopicc.aspx?sortid=1278
Below is an obituary from the South China Morning Post, and below that, a remembrance from a friend published in 新京报.
Well-respected reformist, rights advocate dies
Nov 23, 2010
China lost a heavyweight fighter for legal and political reform yesterday when constitutional law professor Cai Dingjian died at the age of 54.
A gentle but firm advocate of "constitutional democracy", Cai's death stirred an outpouring of condolences from lawyers, academics, students and rights groups.
He had been battling cancer for nearly two years, during which time he continued to write and speak out passionately on a range of legal and rights issues.
Cai switched to academia in 2004 after years of serving the government and was one of the few reformists to command respect both within and outside the government.
A soldier with the People's Liberation Army during the Cultural Revolution, he joined the China University of Political Science and Law in 1979, where he began his legal studies. He continued working in the politics department upon graduation, but switched in 1986 to the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the country's highest legislative body, where he stayed for the next 17 years. He was vice-bureau-chief of the NPC Standing Committee secretariat when he left at the end of 2003.
Saying he wanted more freedom to do research, Cai returned to the university and taught administrative law. He also advocated constitutional democracy - striving to realise democracy through implementing the constitution and strengthening the law. He was director of the university's Institute for Study on Constitutionalism while also serving as a dedicated member of the Centre for People's Congress and Foreign Legislative Study at Peking University.
A model scholar, he pursued his goals through "a combination of field experience and academic rigour", many of his contemporaries said.
He wrote more than 200 research papers and often made comments in the media, with emphasis on the election and People's Congress systems, raising governance and state budget transparency, and, more recently, fighting discrimination.
Even when he worked for the NPC, he advanced rational arguments on why and how democracy should be realised in China. In 2003 he published a research paper arguing against the contention that electoral democracy would not work because most of the citizens were not educated enough.
Many believe that paper landed him in trouble and prompted his move into academia. His last book, Democracy is a Modern Lifestyle, was published in January.
Online postings and rights advocates mourned his passing. "We have lost an inspiring teacher, a respected scholar in law, a good friend for the civil community, and a public intellectual who fights for the rights of the less privileged in Chinese society," the Yirenping Centre, an anti-discrimination legal aid group, said.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
The following letter has been issued by the signatories in support of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. English and French versions follow the Chinese version.
唯色 （ 西藏，作家）
丘延亮 (台北，副研究员 中央研究院民族学研究所)
萨冲 （意大利， 工程师）
郭小林（北京 ， 诗人）
On Liu Xiaobo and the Nobel Peace Prize
The awarding of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese citizen, has drawn strong reactions both inside and outside China. This is a major event in modern Chinese history. It offers the prospect of a significant new advance for Chinese society in its peaceful transition toward democracy and constitutional government. In a spirit of responsibility toward China’s history and the promise in its future, we the undersigned wish to make these points:
1. The decision of the Nobel Committee to award this year’s prize to Liu Xiaobo is in full conformity with the principles of the prize and the criteria for its bestowal. In today’s world, peace is closely connected with human rights. Deprivation and devastation of life happens not only on battlefields in wars between nations; it also happens within single nations when tyrannical governments employ violence and abuse law. The praise that we have seen from around the world for the decision to award this year’s prize to a representative of China’s human rights movement shows what a wise and timely decision it was.
2. Liu Xiaobo is a splendid choice for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has consistently advocated non-violence in his quest to protect human rights and has confronted social injustice by arguing from reason. He has persevered in pursuing the goals of democracy and constitutional government and has set aside anger even toward those who persecute him. These virtues put his qualifications for the prize beyond doubt, and his actions and convictions can, in addition, serve as models for others in how to resolve political and social conflict.
3. In the days since the announcement of his prize, leaders in many nations, regions, and major world organizations have called upon the Chinese authorities to release Liu Xiaobo. We agree. At the same time we call upon the authorities to release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who are in detention for reasons such as their speech, their political views, or their religious beliefs. We ask that legal procedures aimed at freeing Liu Xiaobo be undertaken without delay, and that Liu and his wife be permitted to travel to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. Upon hearing the news of Liu Xiaobo’s prize, citizens at several locations in China gathered at restaurants to share their excitement over food and wine and to hold discussions, display banners, and distribute notices. Normal and healthy as these activities were, they met with harassment and repression from police. Some of the participants were interrogated, threatened, and escorted home; others were detained; still others, including Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia, have been placed under house arrest and held incommunicado. We call upon the police to cease these illegal actions forthwith and to immediately release the people who have been illegally detained.
5. We call upon the Chinese authorities to approach Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize with realism and reason. They should take note of the responses to the prize inside and outside China and see in these responses the currents in world thinking as well as the underlying preferences of our fellow citizens. China should join the mainstream of civilized humanity by embracing universal values. Such is the only route to becoming a “great nation” that is capable of playing a positive and responsible role on the world stage. We are convinced that any signs of improvement or goodwill from the government and its leaders will be met with understanding and support from the Chinese people and will be effective in moving Chinese society in a peaceful direction.
6. We call upon the Chinese authorities to make good on their oft-repeated promise to reform the political system. In a recent series of speeches, Premier Wen Jiabao has intimated a strong desire to promote political reform. We are ready to engage actively in such an effort. We expect our government to uphold the constitution of The People’s Republic of China as well as the Charter of the United Nations and other international agreements to which it has subscribed. This will require it to guarantee the rights of Chinese citizens as they work to bring about peaceful transition toward a society that will be, in fact and not just in name, a democracy and a nation of laws.
Communiqué sur l’attribution du Prix Nobel de la paix à Liu Xiaobo
Le citoyen chinois Liu Xiaobo a obtenu le prix Nobel de la paix 2010. Cette nouvelle a eu un impact extraordinaire tant en Chine qu’à l’étranger. C’est un événement historique pour la Chine contemporaine, une nouvelle occasion pour elle d’effectuer une transition pacifique vers un gouvernement constitutionnel. Dans un esprit de responsabilité devant l’histoire, et devant le destin futur de la Chine, nous publions le communiqué suivant :
1)L’attribution par le comité Nobel du prix Nobel de la paix à Liu Xiaobo correspond aux objectifs et aux critères d’attribution de ce prix. Dans la société contemporaine, la paix est inséparable des droits de l’Homme, la privation de la vie et son piétinement ne se produisent pas seulement sur les champs de bataille, mais sont également causés par la mise en oeuvre de mauvaises lois et d’une politique de violence.Le concert de louange de la part de l’opinion internationale montre que l’attriution du Prix à une personnalité représentative du mouvement chinois des droits de l’homme est une décision correcte et opportune.。
2) Le choix de Liu Xiaobo pour ce prix est particulièrement juste, car il n’a cessé de défendre les droits de l’homme de manière non-violente, et a toujours adopté une position raisonnable dans sa résistance aux injustices sociales ; il a montré une grande ténacité dans son combat pour obtenir la mise en oeuvre d’un régime constitutionnel,et malgré les persécutions, il est dépourvu de toute haine, ce qui fait de lui un candidat idéal pour le Prix. Les idées et la pratique de Liu Xiaobo constitutent pour les Chinois de mode de résolution des conflits
3) Dès qu’il a obtenu le Prix, les gouvernements de tous les pays, les dirigeants de toutes les régions et de toutes sortes d’organisations n’ont cessé d’exiger des autorités chinoises qu’elles libèrent LXB, ;nous adoptons la même attitude. En même temps, nous appelons les autorités à libérer tous les prisonniers de conscience et les prisonniers politiques enfermé pour des raisons d’idéologie,d’expression ou de foi religieuse.Nous appelons à prendre au plus vite toutes les mesures pour que LXB regagne sa liberté, qu’il soit réuni à son épouse Liu Xia, et qu’il puisse se rendre en personne à Oslo recevoir le prix.
4) En apprenant la nouvelle, dans toute la Chine, des citoyens ravis ont organisé des banquets, des réunions, ont porté des banderolles, distribué des tracts pour célébrer ou discuter l’événement ; ces actions sont tout à fait légales et raisonnables. Mais les policiers ont ont réprimé ces activités, des citoyens ont été gardés à vue, interrogés, menacés, renvoyés dans leur lieu d’origine, voire détenus, placés en résidence surveillée, privés leur liberté d’action, privés de leur droit de communiquer avec l’extérieur, comme l’épouse de LXB Liu Xia. Nous exigeons que la police mette immédiatement un terme à ces actes illégaux et libère immédiatement les citoyens détenus.
5) Nous appelons les autorités chinoises à adopter une attitude raisonnable face à l’attribution du Prix à LXB, et en observant les réactions chaleureuses en chine et à l’étranger, à se mettre en accord avec le courant mondial ; la Chine doit entrer dans le courant principal des valeurs universelles et de la civilisation de l’humanité, et établir l’image d’un grand pays positiv et responsable. Nous sommes convaincus que toute amélioration et toute bonne intention du gouvernement chinois sera accueillie par la compréhension et le soutien de tous, et poussera la société chinoise dans une direction pacifique.
6) Nous appelons les autorités chinoises à tenir leur promesse de réforme du système politique. Le premier ministre Wen Jiabao, dans un ensemble de discours, a récemment manifesté son profond désir de faire avancer la réfome politique, et nous sommes prêts à participer à ce processus. Nous souhaitons que dans le cadre de la Constitution de la République populaire de Chine, de la Charte des Nations Unies qu’il reconnaît, et des traités internationaux qu’il a signés,le gouvernement puisse garantir réellement tous les droits des citoyens, qu’il mette en oeuvre une transition sociale pacifique afin de faire de la Chine un pays démocratique, doté d’un Etat de droit digne de ce nom.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Just noticed this on Xu Zhiyong's blog:
On Aug. 21, 2010, in the afternoon, the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau decided to dismiss the case of suspected tax evasion against Gongmeng Company [i.e., Xu's organization, known in English as the Open Constitution Initiative] on the grounds that Gongmeng Company had paid the fine. The PSB returned the company account books as well as other confiscated materials. At the same time, the release on bail of Zhuang Lu and Xu Zhiyong was dissolved [i.e., they are free unconditionally and not just out awaiting trial].
To date, the court has not accepted Gongmeng Company's case over its disputed legal status. But whatever Gongmeng Company's legal status, we citizens will continue just as before to promote the establishment and growth of civil society.
Thanks to everyone for your constant concern and support! This is our incentive to keep going. No matter what problems we encounter, we will stubbornly maintain our ideal of a good society.
Background for those who don't know: Here's a news story from the L.A. Times about the case, which began last summer.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
It is often claimed by the Chinese government - as well as some foreign observers who ought to know better - that China never responds to external pressure and that such pressure is always counterproductive. This has always seemed like obvious nonsense to me: if Chinese leaders really did have this infantile mentality, foreign governments could manipulate them to do anything. The US would send officials to press China to persecute the Dalai Lama and point more missiles at Taiwan. In reality, it's more likely that Chinese leaders, like everyone else, respond to a range of incentives of both domestic and foreign origin. Sure, they have to worry about how RMB revaluation (for example) will play domestically and can't appear to be bending to foreign pressure, but of how many national leaders is that not true?
For what it's worth, Gao Zhisheng's reappearance is a data point in this debate. It's impossible (at least for me; perhaps not for others) to imagine that he would be chatting with an AP reporter, in at least passable health, were it not for foreign pressure. Of course, better treatment for one person in response to foreign pressure is not the same as a major change in policy in response to foreign pressure. And the fact that foreign pressure sometimes works does not mean it always works. Still, it's a data point to keep in mind whenever you hear the claim that "China will never act under foreign pressure."
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Let me quote from the South China Morning Post report:
Peking University severed ties last week with a high-profile women's rights advocacy group [the Women's Legal Research and Services Center (妇女法律研究与服务中心)] under its auspices, sending further chills through the mainland's NGO community, which fears a new era of tightened government control.
In a public notice dated March 25 on the university's website, the social sciences faculty announced it was "cancelling" four research institutes set up under its name, and that any further actions carried out by them would have nothing to do with the university.
The four institutes include three from the law department - the Women's Legal Research and Services Centre, the Public Law Research Centre and the Constitution Research Centre - and one from the media department, the Finance News Research Centre.
(I've been holding off on blogging about this because I was hoping to get a linkable news report, but so far no newspapers in all of Westlaw's database has seen fit to report on this but the South China Morning Post, for which you have to have a subscription. Here's a synopsis of the SCMP report, which in fact contains almost every word.) As usual, the authorities have put on their "nothing to see here, folks; move along" face: according to the SCMP report, "The dean of social sciences, Cheng Yuzhui, told Beijing Youth Daily yesterday that the cancellations were just routine restructuring of the university's research institutes, removing 'some institutes that no longer suit the current trend'."
Here's a statement issued by Guo Jianmei, the Center's head, and her team in English and Chinese:
On 25 March, the Division of Social Sciences, Peking University, published a Notice of Cancellation of Organisations on the University’s official website. The Center for Women's Law & Legal Services was one of the four on the list. The days that followed were filled with calls of concern and support from the media, NGOs, partners, the relevant authorities, friends and persons whom we have helped. We are touched, and we are grateful!
To an entity that has been single-minded in purpose and enterprise for the last 15 years, expulsion from the Peking University family is a major and unexpected setback which affects more than just the entity itself. For the Center for Women's Law & Legal Services of Peking University is a symbol of deep significance. To the country, it is an industrious pair of hands that helps build social harmony. To the weak and the vulnerable, it is a ray of light that offers warmth and hope. To NGOs and our partners, it is a fellow comrade on the frontlines, enforcing the rule of law and advancing good for the civil society. To the people at large, it is a deliverer of social conscience and the spirit of law. And to every member of the Center, it is our common home.
As such, to those who have cared and still continue to care, I would like to say a few last words about this name that has become history:
I. In 15 years, we have lighted up more lives than the sun has.
Since the Center’s inception in 1995, our aim was to provide legal aid, protect women’s rights, and promote gender equality. Equity and justice were not only the Center’s tenets, but the belief and ideal espoused by every member. As the first public interest organisation in China that specialises in providing legal aid for women, we were one of the earliest private legal aid practice. While demand for legal aid among the vulnerable was high, State legal resources were scarce. The Center thus became an expedient complement that plugged gaps in the government’s legal aid services. It has since, helped more than 100,000 women victims obtain recourse to justice.
In 2004, to meet the increasingly diverse needs in women’s rights protection, the Center began providing public interest litigation services, and was soon to become an important force in public interest legal practice. Absent a public interest litigation framework, the Center set itself to legal and policy improvement and reform by working on typical cases, incorporating the protection of the individual rights of women into the overall rights of citizens, to ensure impact. The cases involved important and difficult issues as gender discrimination in the workplace, labour rights of women, sexual harassment in the workplace, violence against women, rights of female migrant workers, and rural women land rights. And by employing different approaches in legislative advocacy, the Center has expanded its beneficiary population.
Our efforts have rendered power to the law and to legal aid. A victim once told us, “the Center is like a lamp, glowing of equity and justice, exuding warmth in the cold, and shedding light on the darkness ahead. She spoke not only for the many weak and poor women, she spoke also for the meaning of our enterprise.
The Center has become a sphere of influence that motivated many later-comers. Consciously, it took on the responsibility of providing legal aid, conducting public interest litigation, organising public interest legal advocacy, and training public interest lawyers. In 2002, a legal aid collaboration group was established, so as to enable more organisations and institutions to participate in the delivery of legal aid. In 2007, the Center founded the Public Interest Lawyers’ Network for Women’s Rights, and in 2009, the name was changed to China Public Interest Lawyers’ Network. The Network currently comprises more than 300 brilliant lawyers from more than twenty provinces and cities, providing legal aid for thousands of poor and vulnerable people. I still remember the Network’s launch ceremony on 15 March 2009 at the Centennial Lecture Hall at Peking University, where leaders from authorities as the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Legal Aid, Center for Legal Assistance, All-China Lawyers’ Association and the Beijing Lawyers’ Association turned up to show their support. The speech given by Professor Zhu Suli, Dean of Peking University Law Department remains vivid in my mind.
In September 2009, Ms Guo Jianmei, public interest lawyer and head of the Center founded Qian Qian Law Firm. Specialising in public interest law and public interest legal activities, and comprising professional public interest lawyers, Qian Qian has expanded its scope to benefit a broader spectrum of vulnerable persons such as the disabled, migrant workers and the aged.
15 years of innovative approaches and effective outputs have not only profited the poor and vulnerable women; the Center has also grown to become an influential and credible NGO. It has earned praises and won awards. In February 2006, in their congratulatory note to the Center’s tenth anniversary, Professor Min Weifang, the Party Secretary of Peking University, and Professor Xu Zhihong, President of Peking University, said, “the Center for Women's Law & Legal Services of Peking University has observed Peking University’s glorious tradition of patriotism, progress, democracy and scientific approach. By seeking relentlessly, developing aggressively, and improving constantly, it has achieved commendable results, contributed to the progress and advancement of women’s rights protection and legal aid delivery, and served its role in fostering harmony. Its work has won interest, support and tribute of the society and its peers, recognition and respect from women at large, and glory for Peking University!”
As Premier Wen Jiabao said, “Equity and justice glow brighter than the sun.” Indeed, equity and justice are of supreme value and significance to every individual, every country, and every nation. The Center shall be a faithful and determined perpetuator of this worthy cause.
II. Hurdles deter us not, but spur us on.
Cancellation by Peking University was not our first setback. The Center was nearly closed down during its initial days, only to be followed by one challenge after another. Funding was a major problem, as those days, funding channels were few and funding systems unregulated. Fund shortage stymied NGO development, and was the major obstacle to the Center’s growth.
Talent is another problem, especially when the Center, as a professional organisation, was in need of well-qualified legal professionals. Attracting and retaining talent in a society of low public interest awareness and driven by utilitarianism was a huge difficulty. So were balancing ideals and the reality, dedication and compensation, and spiritual fulfilment and material satisfaction.
Our work is also hampered by a deficient legal environment, flawed enforcement systems, administrative interference, local protectionist policies, industry protectionism, even corruptive practices within the judicial system. Persistent overwork leading to physical and mental stress of the Center’s members is also a permanent problem.
Cancellation is also not the gravest difficulty we have faced. We were even threatened with physical harm. When angry villagers in that remote village let go of their tightly clasped sticks, convinced by our steady and determined gaze, we knew we could never be beaten. Because justice is what we pursue, and justice will always triumph.
Difficulty is only an excuse of the weak and the feeble. To go-getters with conviction, difficulty is impetus to move mountains. Difficulty is but snowfall before spring comes. And snow melts. Thereafter, a spring breeze will blow away, bringing forth myriad blossoms and an enchanting fragrance.
III. Farewell, Beida! But our pursuance of equity and justice shall endure, and our belief in the rule of law shall prevail.
We have several members on our team who are Peking University graduates. They were inculcated with knowledge and intellectual depth, and nurtured with democratic sensibilities and humanistic values––the motivation for their choice of a public interest career. Cancellation was saddening to Guo Jianmei. This is not the Beida that she once knew. Guo’s resolute embarkation on a public interest career was guided by her Beida predecessors and the Beida spirit. She hopes that many will understand her sense of desolation and feeling of betrayal.
But desolation is one thing, Guo Jianmei and her team are as eager and as passionate as ever. They are convinced that legal aid and public interest work is what the people need, and what a harmonious society must have. These needs are revealed by the Center’s work during the last 15 years, spoken by the sacks of millet and sweet potatoes, and the hundreds of thank-you banners from those poor and vulnerable clients, and proven by the numerous awards that the Center has won.
The Center may have become a chapter in history, Qian Qian is for now and the future.
The Center has devoted itself to serving women’s rights, giving legal aid, and growing as an NGO. The least it has done is to have sent this message: Private legal aid organisations must and will play an indispensable role in China. Given the national circumstances, charting new frontiers, will require dedicated and valiant fighters, and they should be recognised and encouraged.
The future will be bright, and we will stick to our goal and continue on. The road may be treacherous, and the view along the way may not be always pleasant. But the meaning of life is about keeping our feet on the ground, undeterred, and making our way toward our ideals.
We have no complaint, we have no regret.
We thank every entity and every friend who cares for and who supports us. We have you, who will walk with us.Former Center for Women's Law & Legal Services of Peking UniversityApril 1, 2010我们的话
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
China's Rule of Law is in Full Retreat
February 21, 2010
Attending today's lunch and hearing so much praise makes me feel very uneasy. I don't know how many times I have celebrated my birthday this year, and here comes Sun Guodong, hosting yet another event.
The first celebration was with fellow scholars and the second with my family, but I felt like something was missing. There was no event with lawyers, or rather we might say some lawyers wanted to have a birthday celebration for me but didn't have a chance. I think today's event might settle that. However, in listening to these words of praise my ears have pricked up, as I must say you have expressed aspirations I have definitely never fulfilled. Perhaps it was just the circumstances around me. Because today the situation for the rule of law in China is grim. So in these circumstances perhaps your expectations of me are even higher. But I think I have not been able to do enough.
Strictly speaking, in the 30 years of reform what I did was call for private rights. I chose civil law and private rights because those areas were weak in China, or rather in a China with such strong public powers, private rights were always in a weak position. Private rights include the rights of private enterprise, of private property, and perhaps even broader personal rights.
Today, I will just mention three issues, but these are not the same three you all just suggested. The first private right I will mention is the Shanxi coal mine problem [private coal miners were encouraged to invest then their mines were taken by the state at low or no compensation]. The Shanxi coal miners demonstrate a violation of the rights of private property and private enterprise, a brazen violation of constitutional guarantees.
The second is the Li Zhuang case [the defense lawyer convicted of inciting false testimony in the Chongqing mafia crackdown]. When Wu Xiaoji brought over Li's defense lawyer to talk to me, we chatted for a long time about what happened in court that day and the entire procedural history of the case. After hearing about it, I was furious. No matter what you think about it, from the most basic level, procedural justice was violated. The evidence was not brought out and many of the witnesses did not appear in court. From the perspective of evidence, that case had serious problems.
The third is the Liu Xiaobo case. When I heard about the Liu Xiaobo verdict, I felt it was a crime of speech -- a very dangerous thing. China has a long tradition of criminalizing speech, and if we let that tradition continue today, and if those with a sense of justice can't express their views, then our problems are just too serious. Or perhaps, for those of us engaged in the rule of law, if even we take a hands-off approach -- if there is not a single voice of justice among us -- then I think that is really dangerous.
So, looking at China's current situation, I think we are in a period where the rule of law is in retreat. Or perhaps, building the rule of law, judicial reform, and political reform are all moving backwards. This is my first thought.
My second thought: In the last two books I published, I used the term "cry out" in the title. The first book was called "What I can do is cry out." I recently published a book that I edited by hand, putting together some of my prior work in a careful compilation that I called "Private Rights Cry Out." This latest is part of a series of 100 works of top people in the humanities; in that series I am the only one from the legal field. Why did I choose the word "cry out," and why in the last two years? Of course, I have been enlightened by Lu Xun's example, but it is not only that. I think that choosing "cry out" is important because the situation has become more oppressive. That is to say the environment outside has become more and more difficult. In those circumstances, one must "cry out." No matter what words you choose, when the circumstances are urgent, you must call out with your voice.
I also use "cry out" to to be clear about another issue: we must both dare to fight and be good at fighting. Given the conditions for building the rule of law today, these two things need to be merged. This is something I have pondered a long time, and it is very difficult. Perhaps you are good at fighting but you don't dare stand up. Or you dare to fight, but lose your sense of proportion. Because the basic essence of the problem in China is problem of the Party's leadership, the foundation of the political system. If the political system does not reform, then nothing else can reform. If the political system does not reform, then your rule of law, your judicial reform, your anything-else will not be much of an achievement. In those circumstances, it is easy for you to "cross the line," to step into forbidden territory. So in China's circumstances how to put those two things together -- to both dare to fight and be good at fighting -- this is a formidable task.
I remember that Ji Weidong once wrote about this problem, and this has given me something to think about. He wrote: How is it that someone like Jiang Ping can exist in China's current political conditions, how is that he does not "cross the line" too far? Of course, the leadership values you, but they are also conscious that they need to be careful about you. I could be regarded as "inside the line" and also be regarded as "outside the line." That position is actually very difficult. I think that at this moment we should carefully position ourselves as in between of those "inside the line" and those "outside the line", this way everything will be a bit better.
My third thought is that overall I am still an optimist. In the past, I used to love to say that China's rule of law was two steps forward, one step back. I still haven't changed that view today. Because in terms of the protection of private rights, today's China is vastly improved over the past. Needless to say, this is the case in the last thirty years, or even more needless to say it is the case compared to the decade of the Cultural Revolution. In the 30 years of reform, with the "baptism" of the Property Law, rights consciousness about private rights protection has been enormously improved. The Chengdu self-immolation case, or other cases, already demonstrate that people's sense of private rights have woken up. Add the function of law to the awakening sense of rights consciousness and that is something that can be extremely powerful.
Twenty years ago, when we passed the Administrative Litigation Law, it was hard to imagine that such a law could help protect private rights. But today, whether by litigation or other methods, protecting your own rights is something we can say everyone understands. Everyone understands that their rights cannot be infringed. Perhaps in some places the projection of private rights is overlooked, or in some places it is abused. But no matter what, today when we stress protecting private rights, we want to stress two things: first, ordinary personal rights must be protected, but we also must pay attention to not abusing power. If we grasp this, everything will be fine.
So today I would like to thank everyone here. So many of you are still here. Some of the scholars have left, but you lawyers have persisted to the end. This also helps explain an important issue, as Pu Zhiqiang just put it as well. Like our lawyers today, more and more people are genuinely interested in the fate of China's rule of law. Lawyers definitely don't only want to make money; many lawyers have come to understand and think about our country's destiny, the future of the rule of law, and the protection of human rights. That way of thinking, and that theme, has already taken root in our heads.
I think this is very heartening phenomenon. I believe that China certainly has a bright future. The world trends are unmistakable: whether human rights, democracy, or freedom, these are irresistible trends. All the world's people are moving forward. That we are moving backward is only temporary. Or perhaps, for the time that some people reign, they can do as they please. But after he steps down, he has no status. I think this is the truth.
I was recently invited to write some comments on the Li Zhuang case by a Chinese journal. But then they told me that the Central Propaganda Department had issued a circular forbidding publication of material on the case. Since I can't bear to have all that work go for nothing, here's the comment as it would have been published:
Monday, March 1, 2010
As Prof. Cohen, one of the founders of Chinese law studies in the United States, will be celebrating his 80th birthday this July 1st, the Chinese law community has been planning various events in his honor. Most recently, on Feb. 19th the George Washington University Law School and Georgetown University Law Center jointly put on an afternoon conference in Washington, DC. The program is here; videos of the proceedings will be available shortly.
Later this month, the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii will be holding a series of events from March 15th through 18th. Here are two informational flyers: an overview and a panel discussion program. The panel discussion will be recorded and made available on line.
Monday, February 15, 2010