Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Attendance limited at trial of Zhou Yezhong case

Beijing_no_2_ilpc_1The Beijing No. 2 Intermediate People's Court, whose quarters are displayed in the accompanying photo, has decided that its quarters are too cramped to allow for  more than eight (that's right - eight) members of the public to observe the upcoming trial of the Zhou Yezhong plagiarism case, previously blogged on first here and later here. According to the blog posting of the plaintiff's attorney, Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强), he was notified by the court that the eight available seats would be divided fairly among the parties: two seats to each of the three defendants (Zhou Yezhong, his research assistant Dai Jitao, and their publisher the People's Publishing House) and two to the plaintiff, Wang Tiancheng.

Genuinely public trials thus remain more a theory than a fact in China. The Court Organization Law has called for open trials since it was promulgated in 1979, and yet open trials did not occur.  Article 120 of the Civil Procedure Law has called for open trials since its promulgation in 1991, and yet open trials did not occur. In March 2003, almost a quarter of a century after the passage of the Court Organization Law, the Supreme People’s Court announced that the open trial system "was being successfully implemented." Yet courts still maintain tight control over who may observe their functioning. Obviously, courts do not have unlimited space, and certain restrictions are sometimes appropriate for the sake of maintaining order. But it is hard to avoid the suspicion that something else is involved here.

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Something else is involved. When I was in Shanghai staying wife my wife, a Chinese citizen, I asked to visit a court one rainy winter day. She looked up the court schedules on the internet, found a contract case that was scheduled for trial, and made several phones calls to ascertain that we could sit as observers in the public gallery. But when we wrrived and the officials saw my Gweilo face, the court officials adamently barred me from the court. Foreigners were not allowed.

Posted by: Paul Jones | May 19, 2006 5:19:52 AM

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