Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bo Xilai reveals his sensitive side

I don't think Bo Xilai, Party secretary of Chongqing, would last long in the snakepit of Washington politics. According to a recent report in the New York Times, he is such a delicate soul that when a retired forestry worker in Chongqing named Fang Hong posted online a scatalogical verse making fun of Bo's persecution of the lawyer Li Zhuang, he (Fang Hong) was shipped off to a year's detention in re-education through labor:

Mr. Fang posted his scatological criticism on April 21 on the Chinese social network Tencent. In it, he compared the case against Mr. Li to excrement that Mr. Bo had handed to his underlings for delivery to Mr. Li — who then returned it, with emphasis, to Mr. Bo. For good measure, Mr. Fang’s online post made a crude sexual pun on Mr. Bo’s name.

On his microblog, Mr. Fang had commented on supposed miscarriages of justice many times before, but the reaction to his April post was swift. Censors ordered the post deleted the next day.

An account by Mr. Fang’s son Fang Di, posted on the Web site of a lawyer, Chen Youxi, details what followed. The elder Mr. Fang was invited to visit the local police station for a talk, his house was placed under surveillance and his electricity and gas were shut off. On April 24, he was detained. And on April 25 he was shipped to a prison for re-education through labor, a punishment meted out to small-time criminals and political miscreants by police officials without judicial oversight.

Here's a web page with relevant documents and commentary, including:

  • commentary by attorney Chen Youxi;
  • a copy of the document announcing the re-education through labor decision;
  • the account of Fang Di referred to in the NYT story;
  • a copy of some Chongqing regulations on legal representation for those sentenced to re-education through labor;
  • a copy of the posting that caused all the trouble, which I won't post directly here because I go to Chongqing from time to time and don't want to have to stay longer than planned.

It's interesting to note that although the provisions on re-education through labor are remarkably vague and elastic, it's a bit of a stretch to make them cover Fang's behavior. Well, you be the judge. The decision notice states that Fang is sentenced under Art. 10(4) of the "Provisional Measures on Re-Education Through Labor" because he has "made up facts and disturbed public order" (虚构事实扰乱公共秩序). The relevant article, however, makes punishable acts of "disturbing social security by acts such as assembling a mob to engage in fighting, stirring up trouble, or instigating a fuss" (yes, it is that vague) (聚众斗殴、寻衅滋事、煽动闹事等扰乱社会治安).

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