Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Monday, 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.

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Tracked on Aug 22, 2006 11:34:20 AM


I agree with you. Though I often write about how the provinces frequently do things of which Beijing does not approve, when it comes to something as internationally significant as these trials, we have to assume Beijing's complicity.

Posted by: China Law Blog | Aug 21, 2006 6:37:46 PM

I agree such stories are sad in and of themselves, but I am curious to what extent that they are sad about the whole Chinese legal system. Would we be necessarily more sanguine about Chinese "legal system" without such incidences? Or have such stories just served to enforce our preconceptions? Would any one share some ideas based on a more "systematic" research or understanding of the situation?

Posted by: Li | Aug 22, 2006 11:42:25 AM

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