Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Chen Guangcheng sentenced to four years

Chen_1I 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".

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What now must we do?

Yes, it is a farse. What amazes me is the about turn by the local authorities. They loved Chen Guangcheng when he was representing the disabled or stopping polluters. They even broadcast his wedding on the local news. But the moment he exposed the government's involvement with forced abortions and sterilizations he became public enemy number one.

There is an intriguing video of one of Chen’s lawyers, Li Jinsong, getting assaulted by a bunch of thugs. English: Chinese: . The video shows the beginning of the violence, but you can clearly see how mundane this thuggery is.

As Tolstoy said, "What now must we do? I am thinking of organizing a March for Blind Justice. Scores of blindfolded folks marching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Chinese Embassy here in Washington, DC. What do you think?

Posted by: Sifan | Aug 29, 2006 12:53:28 PM

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