What Can You Do in the Face of Terror – A Chinese Entrepreneur Responds to Arrest of Rights Lawyers

By Sun Dawu, published: July 24, 2015

Mr. Sun Dawu (孙大午) is a farmer-turned-businessman, and in 2003 he was accused by the government of running an illegal credit cooperative among farmers in Hebei province. His case was one of the landmark cases taken on by rights lawyers when this group of legal professionals were just emerging. Dr. Xu Zhiyong (许志永) wrote, in his 2003 essay “The ‘Illegal’ Life of a Private Enterprise: Defending Sun Dawu,” “providing legal assistance to Sun Dawu is not merely about helping Mr. Sun himself; we are also helping many entrepreneurs who find themselves in similar positions, helping to create a better environment for our nation’s private enterprises to survive and develop, and helping to further the development of reform. We are willing to work hard and serve as legal volunteers promoting social change.” – The Editors


Sun Dawu (孙大午)

Sun Dawu (孙大午). Photo: http://xgmyd.com/archives/20059

On May 27, 2003, I got a call from a deputy chairman of the Xushui (河北徐水) County People’s Consultative Congress. He told me the new county party secretary had invited me to lunch at the Hongyan Hotel. As soon as I got to the hotel, I was taken away by plainclothes police. This might not qualify as terror.

My company reported news of my detention to my brother Erwu and my deputy Liu Ping, who were more than 400 km away in Handan (邯郸) on an inspection tour. When they finished up their inspection and hurried back, they were arrested at the highway exit. That doesn’t qualify as terror either.

When my younger brother Sun Zhihua learned that his two older brothers had been arrested and went to the public security bureau to make an inquiry, he, too, was arrested. That’s not terror either.

Then how about afterwards, when dozens of police cars (including official government vehicles), hundreds of police and government officials locked up the Dawu Group and seized more than 20 people, took away computers, and pried open safes—does this count as terror?

Even worse than that was when a warrant was issued for my wife and friends had to help her escape by hiding in the trunk of a car. Or when the police wanted to take away my eldest son Sun Meng and my mother, who’s in her 80s, stood in front of the police car saying: “You’ve arrested my three sons, can’t you leave me one grandson? You’ll have to run me over first.”

If Sun Dawu is the one who committed a crime, why did they need to arrest so many other people? What effect were they trying to achieve by making the atmosphere so terrifying? Did they want to destroy people’s will? It makes me think of the way the Manchus or the Japanese devils acted when they invaded China. Once the army has already surrendered and the city has fallen, why do you have to massacre unarmed civilians? They’re trying to destroy people’s will to resist, to make people recoil in terror and live in humiliation, like lowly insects.

A couple of days ago, I read the news that lawyer Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱, whom I do not know) was making the long trip to Beijing to defend lawyer Zhou Shifeng (周世锋). Yang said that if he was arrested for this, he would go on hunger strike and die like a martyr. Meanwhile, some lawyers and scholars who have been courageous in the past have kept silent. Jiang Ping and Mao Yushi have both spoken up, but they’ve indicated that they are fearful and a bit despondent. I also feel this way. The terror comes from being afraid, from knowing that one is innocent but that one must bear the responsibility of being convicted. What’s so strange is not knowing when or how one might be punished or how serious the punishment might be. These are all unknowns, and terror comes from the unknown!

In the space of only a few days, more than a hundred lawyers were suddenly arrested, taken in for questioning, or given warnings. This has created an atmosphere of terror throughout society. Even if a few lawyers have committed mistakes, there’s no need to arrest lawyers by the dozens or even hundreds. And the lawyers who have been arrested are mostly those who speak up for vulnerable groups or speak out about sensitive cases.

In my case back in 2003, the Dawu Group (大午集团) benefited from the help of three dedicated lawyers who came to our defense. At a moment when we were suddenly faced with great calamity, our managers and employees were able to remain steadfast in the midst of that atmosphere of terror because they could seek the assistance of these lawyers and get some moral support. If we had gone to the public security bureau for help, they would have kept locking us up one after another. We could have gone to the procuratorate, but they even wanted to arrest my wife. How about the courts? They were all set to hand down a swift and heavy sentence!

Without the help of our lawyers, I don’t know whether there would even be a Dawu Group today. Whether the Dawu Group committed any crimes will be a question for history to decide—the facts are there to see. No matter what, at the time it was a sensitive case. Thanks to the help of our lawyers and support from the public, the Dawu Group was able to weather the storm and become the company we are today, with more than 3000 employees. If we had been sentenced to an actual prison term, the company would have collapsed. What good would that have done society?

I’m also reminded of the violent actions of people like Yang Jia (杨佳) and Hu Wenhai (胡文海). If they had had lawyers petitioning and protesting on their behalf, would it have moderated their situations at all? In other words, would it have helped to reduce these types of violent crimes? If we eliminate people with different opinions and get rid of these rights lawyers, when there are sensitive cases in the future and the public falls silent, won’t that be the beginning of an era when everyone is muzzled? Won’t these violent crimes escalate into a violent revolution? Doesn’t the Communist Party’s own revolutionary history demonstrate how successful revolutions begin like this?

I’m a businessman. I don’t want to see violent crime turn into violent revolution. I want social stability and the ability to resolve problems in a lawful and orderly fashion.

In his final court statement in 2001, Hu Wenhai said: “I have always aspired to be an honest and decent person. To this end, I have continually worked hard to realize my goals. However, in recent years one village cadre after another has been corrupt and tyrannized the people, dividing up the more than 4 million yuan our village coal mines and other enterprises were forced to hand over to them. I and other villagers went to the relevant departments to file complaints, all to no result. The public security bureau, the procuratorate, and officials at all levels gave us the cold shoulder and ignored us. . . . But you want us to discuss things rationally with them? Who is going to take care of things for us? I went to file a report with the police and those civil servants who only know about drawing their salaries swaggered about their car worth 300,000 yuan but did absolutely no work on the case and even colluded with the village officials to tyrannize the people. . . . I could only answer violence with violence, and I have no regrets!”

To this day, these words can still make a deaf man hear and a blind man see!

Corrupt officials and people with special privileges don’t believe in the law and won’t care one bit whether or not there are lawyers. They live and die by the party organization. But ordinary people want their society to be well ordered. In the past, when they had an economic dispute, a divorce, or were involved in some criminal violation, they might have gone looking for connections or someone powerful to protect them. Now, the first thing people will think of is getting help from a lawyer. This is social progress and represents ordinary people’s awakening!

I don’t know when being a lawyer started to become such a risky profession. Two of my three lawyers from back in 2003 have since been arrested. Zhu Jiuhu was released, but Xu Zhiyong is still in prison. The third, Zhang Xingshui, has turned to Buddhism.

When I read lawyer Yang Jinzhu’s statement on his way to Beijing, I truly worried that he too would wind up in jail. So I would like to issue the following statement of my own: I will not financially support Yang Jinzhu, but I will give financial support in the amount of 100,000 yuan to the next lawyer who steps up to defend Yang Jinzhu.

It is agonizing and discouraging to see these lawyers heroically go forward one after another, and it makes one want to cry out for help. After all, there is still some conscience left in society. But when we are faced with terror, what can we ordinary people do? Opening one’s eyes in horror and letting out a cry is both animal instinct and what remains of modern people’s conscience. Even more, it is the last recourse of humans seeking to survive—the freedom that comes from being without terror!

In 2003, people surmised that I had been arrested because of things I’d said. I hope that saying these words now will not bring me or the Dawu Group trouble again. But if I must be punished for the things I’ve said above, it’s enough to punish me only. Punishing me as an individual is not terror!




A Chinese Robin Hood Runs Afoul of Beijing, the New York Times’ report on the Sun Dawu case, August 24, 2003

Biographies of Lawyers, Staffers and Activists Detained or Disappeared in the July 10 Nationwide Raid Against Rights Lawyers, China Change, July 23, 2015.

Crime and Punishment of China’s Rights Lawyers, Mo Zhixu explains why Chinese government is out to get them, China Change, July 23, 2015.


(Translated by China Change)

Chinese original 《孙大午:面对恐怖你能怎样》


4 responses to “What Can You Do in the Face of Terror – A Chinese Entrepreneur Responds to Arrest of Rights Lawyers”

  1. […] What Can You Do in the Face of Terror – A Chinese Entrepreneur Responds to Arrest of Rights Lawye…, Sun Dawu, China Change, July 24, 2015. […]

  2. […] the mass arrest of lawyers on July 10, Sun Dawu wrote to express his support for rights lawyers: “Corrupt officials and people with special privileges […]

  3. […] had an affinity to human rights lawyers because of the 2003 incident, wrote an article titled “What Can You Do in the Face of Terror.” He said, referring to his own sudden arrest in 2003, “If Sun Dawu is the one who committed a […]

  4. […] What Can You Do in the Face of Terror – A Chinese Entrepreneur Responds to Arrest of Rights Lawyer…, Sun Dawu, July 24, 2015. […]

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