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China Change, August 13, 2018
On August 9, the Beijing Justice Bureau issued a decision to cancel lawyer Cheng Hai’s (程海) license. Six months ago in February, the bureau cancelled the registration of his small Beijing Wutian Law Firm, claiming that the firm had not accepted the annual review on schedule. According to China’s Administrative Measures for the Practice of Law by Lawyers (《律师执业管理办法》), a lawyer’s license is revoked if they’re not hired by a firm for six months.
On August 10, lawyer Cheng Hai filed an Application for Administrative Review, which shows that the authorities were committed to having him disbarred, and refused to view contrary evidence. The application shows that Cheng Hai signed an employment contract with the Beijing Liangzhi Law Firm on July 30, and delivered his proof of new employment to the Justice Bureau of Beijing Mentougou District, which oversees the new firm. On August 5, he again mailed the same proof of employment to the Beijing Justice Bureau via EMS. His mail was returned. The authorities, by returning his documents, claim that they received no proof, and thus acted to disbar him.
The disbarment of Cheng Hai is part of the Chinese government’s broad, systematic effort to take human rights lawyers off the field. Those implicated in the 709 Crackdown, whether the detained lawyers or lawyers who signed up to defend their detained colleagues, have been the primary targets. Cheng Hai has represented lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who has been held well over 1,000 days now without trial.
The Beijing Justice Bureau is using the same method to keep lawyer Wang Yu (王宇) and her husband Bao Longjun (包龙军), both 709 detainees, from returning to practice: their previous firm, the Beijing Fengrui Law Firm, is no more, and new firms intent on hiring them were pressured not to accept them. Once the six-month period expires, they will also lose their licenses.
Since January 2018, at least 20 human rights lawyers have been disbarred — including Sui Muqing (隋牧青), Xie Yanyi (谢燕益), Li Heping (李和平), Wen Donghai (文东海), and Yu Wensheng (余文生) — or caught in limbo and unable to practice, such as lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原).
The 64-year-old Cheng Hai is known for his dogged pursuit of the law as written, and he holds the authorities to it. He will exhaust all options provided by the law to defend his right to practice and to expose the unscrupulous behaviors of the government.
Cheng Hai was originally trained as an economist and later began practicing law in Beijing in 2000. In 2008 he was one of the five lawyers who called for direct elections at the Beijing Lawyers Association, and over the years has taken part in elections of district-level people’s representatives as an independent candidate. He has defended clients in many religious freedom cases, and has challenged rulings of reeducation-through-labor cases. During the New Citizens Movement trials in 2013-2014, he represented Ding Jiaxi (丁家喜), a lawyer-turned-activist.
One lawyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, commented on the wave of disbarments that has been striking against and eroding the community of human rights lawyers in China: “If there is no fundamental progress toward the rule of law, these brave lawyers who dare to defend human rights will inevitably be eliminated. The newer regulations on the management of lawyers are meant to remove those who seek change, and keep only those who submit to the authorities. You can’t really call them lawyers.”
War on Human Rights Lawyers Continues: Up to 16 More Lawyers in China Face Disbarment or Inability to Practice, China Change, May 14, 2018.
Detention and Disbarment: China Continues Campaign Against Human Rights Lawyers in Wake of 709 Crackdown, China Change, January 24, 2018.
China Change, August 8, 2018
Until recently, David Missal (@DavidJRMissal) was a graduate student at the School of Journalism and Communication, Tsinghua University, on a two-year DAAD scholarship (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst; or German Academic Exchange Service). Two months ago, Missal told RFA, he applied to the Exit and Entry Administration of the Beijing Public Security Bureau for the renewal of his student visa. Under normal circumstances, it takes about 10 days to complete the process. But last Friday, the bureau notified him that his renewal was denied, and he was ordered to leave China within 10 days. The reason they gave is that Missal has engaged in activities not in accordance with his student visa.
Missal believes that the denial of visa and expulsion has to do with the topic he chose to work on for his journalism study: the study of human rights lawyers, in particular those targeted from July 9, 2015, onwards. (This is despite his advisor approving the research.)
In April, when 709 lawyer Wang Quanzhang’s wife Li Wenzu and a group of activists started a walking trip to Tianjin to highlight the predicament of Wang Quanzhang, who had been disappeared for over 1,000 days, Missal accompanied them as part of his field work.
On May 2, Missal accompanied lawyer Lin Qilei to Wuhan on the latter’s trip to visit his client, veteran dissident Qin Yongmin. Missal was taken away by police for several hours for questioning. In a video he shot with his cell phone, police can be seen repeatedly stopping him from filming.
On July 10, the same day that Liu Xiaobo’s widow, Liu Xia, was allowed to leave China for Germany following intense international pressure, Qin Yongmin was sentenced to 13 years in prison for subversion – the most severe sentence for a dissident in over a decade.
Missal has spent time with a number of human rights lawyers for his study, according to Lin Qilai, a rights lawyer. But everywhere they went, domestic security police would intervene and stop him. Retaliating against a foreign student and sever his academic career for studying human rights, Lin argues, doesn’t help China’s international image.
Missal asked the Chinese police which of his activities violated the rules for foreign student visas, and the police responded, “You know yourself!”
Tsinghua University’s international student center declined to comment on the event. The Beijing PSB’s Exit and Entry Administration failed to answer RFA’s calls.
Missal started his two-year program last September; he is now contemplating completing his studies in Taiwan.
China Change, August 1, 2018
On July 24, Unirule (天则), the liberal, beleaguered economic think tank in Beijing, published a 10,000-character essay by the Tsinghua University legal scholar Xu Zhangrun (许章润) which has lit up the Chinese internet at a time when the voice of Chinese intellectuals has been dying out.
The text, deploying all the rhetorical potency of literary Chinese — even in its length, the ‘Ten Thousand Word Petition’ having a specific valence in Chinese political history — has captured the zeitgeist of revolt against the China that Party leader Xi Jinping is busy constructing. Since being republished on the website of the Hong Kong-based Initium Media, the article has been widely shared and reflected upon by intellectuals and scholars inside and outside the country.
Initium wrote in a tweet that “this text carries out a systematic critique of the retrograde tendencies in Chinese social and political life, in particular since the end of 2017. It explicitly points out and warns against the danger of the return to totalitarianism, and calls for a stop to the cult of personality and the resumption of term limits on the post of the state chairman. The piece has become one of the few direct criticisms of contemporary ills in China among the intellectual class.”
Below we offer an outline, followed by a small selection of picant excerpts from the essay, aimed at giving readers a flavor of the whole. China Change understands that Geremie Barmé will be publishing a full translation of the essay on the website of The Wairarapa Academy of New Sinology (http://chinaheritage.net/) in due course.
Xu Zhangrun’s essay, titled ‘Our Dread Now, and Our Hopes’ (我们当下的恐惧与期待), is composed of four parts: ‘Four Bottom Lines,’ ‘Eight Forms of Anxiety,’ ‘Eight Hopes,’ and ‘The Interim.’
The four ‘bottom lines’ — i.e. the fundamental assumptions on which CCP rule has been based for the last 40 years — that Xu identifies as having been breached are:
- The maintenance of basic social order and a clear direction for the country
“The cessation of successive ‘political movements,’ the end to ‘no protection from law or heaven,’ as well as the constant ‘strike hard’ coercive rectification campaigns, the prevention of social anomie, the safeguarding of social order, and attempt to realize social harmony, have all significantly contributed to the basic living conditions of regular people, and has for 40 years been the bottom line for the legitimacy of the current political system…”
- Allowing limited private property rights and tolerance of citizens’ pursuit of wealth
Xu writes that economic reform allowed unprecedented growth, and that this has been a key element in the citizenry’s tolerance of continued Party rule.
- Limited tolerance of personal freedoms
Xu writes that for more than the last decade, mere sprouts of civil society have been crushed through political campaigns, thus severely stunting the development of civic consciousness and a real understanding of politics among the public. Chinese people are encouraged to “amuse themselves to death” while getting rich without scruples, Xu says.
- Political term limits
Here Xu is directly targeting Xi Jinping’s abolition of term limits for the post of state chairman, effected at the most recent meeting of the National People’s Congress in March.
Xu writes: “For thirty years, the essence of the matter is that — despite salient increases in social pluralization and political tolerance — the entire political system has seen no substantial or meaningful progress or change. In its bones it’s that same set of banal and brutal ideas about political struggle and dictatorship, topped off with the disgraceful avarice of kleptocrats who consume the country’s patrimony.”
In light of this, he says, the Chinese people had some minimal comfort that the constitution contained basic rules limiting the tenure of Party leader to two terms, and the system observed some adherence to constitutional norms.
The abolition of term limits “is like scrapping 30 years of political reform with one flick of the pen.”
Xu’s then enumerates the eight fears of the Chinese everyman:
- Fear for the safety of personal assets
- The rise of ‘politics in command’ and the abandonment of economic development as the basis of national policy
- The reemergence of class struggle
- Shutting China off from the world once more, getting into a stalemate with the United States (and the West more generally), yet warmer ties with North Korea and other ‘evil regimes’
- Excessive foreign aid, leading Chinese to have to tighten their own belts
- Increased repression and thought reform of intellectuals
- Becoming trapped in a new armed race, war, and new cold war
- The end of opening up and reform and the comprehensive return of totalitarian politics
A sample translation by China Change of some of these fears follows.
- Asset Dread. Can the wealth accumulated over decades, no matter how much it is, be guaranteed safe? Can one’s current livelihood be maintained? Will the property rights proclaimed in the law be guaranteed? Or will it be that because you wrong some individual who really holds power (including the director of the Village Committee), your company is driven to bankruptcy and your family is out on the street? This and so many other questions have, in the last few years, with the passage of time become far more indeterminate, and people up and down the line are in a state of constant panic. The first ones under attack are those who already gathered their treasure during the tidal wave of reform and opening up; and the response of the rich is mass emigration…
- Class Struggle Once More. The official media and managers of ideology once again raising class struggle in recent years has everyone panicked. The direction of the current administration over these years has led people to doubt as to whether we’re going to see yet another round of Stalin-Maoist class struggle campaigns… In the first place, writing protections of private property and human rights into the constitution, accompanied with the custom of abdication of Party rulership after two terms, created hopes that China was slowly and gradually heading in the direction of a normal country, meaning that we no longer need to deploy the ‘struggle’ rhetoric — but the actions of the last few years seem to be going in completely the opposite direction, and everyone is naturally scared witless.
- The Totalitarian Revival. Though this phrase ‘reform’ has already been besmirched to some degree, and in the end tyrannical governance continues while hiding under its name, in the discourse of contemporary China, locating ourselves in the midst of a yet-to-be-completed grand transformation, with just one final push needed, is still better and more stable than a regression into volatile revolution and extremist leftist politics. Reform spinning its wheels, and perhaps even going backwards rather than forward, has already been going on longer than just these last few years, extending far beyond one term of office. Given this tendency, whether or not ‘reform and opening up’ has reached its end and totalitarianism will return is yet unknown; but at this very moment the entire Chinese people have no greater fear…
The remainder of the essay is dedicated to Xu’s eight hopes — all of them going to the heart of the CCP’s system of rule and control:
- Stop wasting money abroad
- Stop wasting money on ‘sportsground diplomacy’
- Abolish the privilege system for retired high-ranking cadres
- Abolish the system of Special Needs Provisioning (the enclosed system of food and other supplies for Party officials)
- Legislation forcing disclosure of official assets
- Immediately put a stop to the cult of personality around Xi Jinping
- A return to term limits on the post of state chairman
- Overturn the political verdict on June 4
Geremie Barmé provided translations of items three, four, and six on China Heritage, which are reproduced below.
- The Party Nobility: Elite privileges for retired high-level cadres should be eliminated. The system of the present ‘dynasty’ 國朝 allows for the state to provide inclusive retirement-to-grave care for high-level cadres according to a standard that is far and away above that allowed to the average citizen. These cadres retain the privileges they enjoyed during their careers, including health care and access to luxury resorts for rest and holidays. Everyone is aware of the extraordinary burden and financial cost this places on the people; the details are never released for fear of sparking public outrage. This system continues the kinds of prerogative given to the Imperial Zhu Family Lineage during the Ming dynasty [founded by Zhu Yuanzhang in 1368CE] and the emoluments permitted to the families of the Eight Banners [exclusive Manchu military and administrative groups that contributed to the founding and rule of the Qing dynasty in 1644; the privileges continued until the end of the dynasty in January 1912]. This is not merely a betrayal of the self-advertised ‘revolutionary spirit’ [of the Communist Party], it is also in breach of modern standards of civic life. What’s all that talk of ‘the remnants of feudalism’? This is a perfect example of it! People are outraged but powerless to do anything about it; it is one of the main reasons people hold the system itself in utter contempt. On one side of the hospital, Commoners face the challenge of gaining admission for treatment, while everyone knows grand suites are reserved on the other side for the care of high-level cadres. People despise you for it. Every iota of this bottled up anger may, at some unexpected moment, explode with thunderous fury.
- Special Needs Provisioning: Eliminate the system of Special Needs Provisioning. Starting in Yan’an some seventy years ago, this system continued unimpeded even during times of mass famine and deprivation. It continues even now as the Countless Masses are ever increasingly concerned about [the quality of and access to] dairy products for their babies and the hygiene and safety of their everyday foodstuffs. The Special Needs Provisioning system allows the high-level Party nobility access to a vast range of speciality products beyond the dreams of the average person. Apart from a few totalitarian polities, there is no other country that does this like China. The luxury afforded these people is only outdone by the shamelessness of their indulgence. Of course, inequalities exist in all societies and disparities in ability and wealth are natural, but they are a result not due to the fact that the ideal playing field imagined by our citizens does not include a level starting point; that doesn’t even take into account the outrage of allowing a small group of Party grandees to be continuously supplied from the coffers of the state. As long as this system and ‘No 34’ [originally ‘Number 34 Provisions Store’ in Beijing, a restricted-access shop established as deprivations created by the socialist planned economy became more acute and Party privileges more jealously guarded; the term later came to indicate regulations covering special access to necessities and luxury goods for the nomenklatura] remain unchecked, real food safety in China will never be realised; no side will really be assured of its long-term security.
- The New Personality Cult: An emergency brake must be applied to the Personality Cult. Who would have thought that, after four decades of the Open Door and Reform, our Sacred Land would once more witness a Personality Cult? The Party media is going to great lengths to create a new Idol, and in the process it is offering up to the world an image of China as Modern Totalitarianism. Portraits of the Leader are hoisted on high throughout the Land, as though possessed of some Spiritual Mana. This only adds to all the absurdity. And then, on top of that, the speeches of That Official, formerly things that were merely to be recorded by secretaries in a pro forma bureaucratic manner, are now carefully collected in finely bound editions, printed in vast quantities and handed out free throughout the world. The profligate waste of paper alone is enough to make you shake your head in disbelief. All of this reflects the low IQ of the Concerned Official and his craving for fame. More importantly, we need to ask how a vast country like China, one that was previously so ruinously served by a Personality Cult, simply has no resistance to this new cult, and this includes those droves of ‘Theoreticians’ and ‘Researchers’. In fact, they are outdoing themselves with their sickeningly slavish behaviour. It’s as though hundreds of millions of Chinese are oblivious; people tolerate the New Cult and allow it unfettered freedom; they are powerless in the face of all those arse-kissing bureaucrats [literally “those who would lick carbuncles and suck abscesses” as rendered by Donald Clarke]. It goes to show that China’s Enlightenment is far from over. Every generation must champion rationalism in public affairs painstakingly making a way to the future. Moreover, the New Cult is evidence that China faces a long struggle before it can claim to be a modern, secular and rational nation-state.
It’s clear that Xu has little faith in Xi Jinping. “You are touted for being a can-do man,” he wrote. “We’d be very happy if you could do one of the eight. If you could do three or four, we’d be convinced of your ability. If you do all of them, well then, the whole world will rejoice.”
Speech is dangerous, and Professor Xu Zhangrun knows it. But he seems to be at a point where if he doesn’t let out his thoughts, they’ll turn into kidney stones and kill him. He ended the essay with great relief: “I’m done talking; I leave my own life and death to destiny, the rise and fall of the nation to Heaven.”
That’s how disproportionately significant a matter it is for a Chinese intellectual to speak his mind in 2018 — a circumstance we find breathtaking.
Xu is currently on an academic tour in Japan, according to a news source. There is no word yet on what awaits him when he returns to China.
As China’s Woes Mount, Xi Jinping Faces Rare Rebuke at Home, the New York Times, July 31, 2018.
China Change, July 27, 2018
Xu Lin (徐琳), who described himself as “a dissident, poet, singer-songwriter and senior construction engineer in mainland China,” was put on trial in the Nansha District Court in Guangzhou on July 27, where he faced charges of ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’ (寻衅滋事) for a series of songs about sensitive political topics that he composed, sung, and posted online.
Xu pleaded not guilty to the charges. The court did not deliver a sentence at the end of the trial.
Xu Lin was arrested and criminally detained in September 2017 while visiting his sick father in Hunan. Among the list of his supposed crimes were the songs he composed supporting human rights lawyers targeted in the July 9, 2015 crackdown, as well as articles he wrote.
The authorities initially said they would reserve two seats in the court for Xu’s family members to witness the trial, but this was denied on the actual day, according to a Ms. Wang, Xu Lin’s wife, who was interviewed by RFA immediately after the trial.
“The trial has just finished, and there were definitely major issues with it. It was completely unfair to Xu Lin. Right now, whatever they say goes. You can’t say anything. And even if you do, they won’t listen,” she said in the interview. Ms. Wang was in the end able to observe the proceedings through a closed video feed in the court house.
Two defense lawyers, Lin Qilei (蔺其磊) and Liu Hao (刘浩), pointed out the procedural irregularities of the case, and stated that citizens had the right to express themselves, to criticize the government, and to produce creative work that commentates on current affairs. The lawyers argued that Mr. Xu’s case is a case of persecution.
Mr. Xu himself was anything but repentant. He said in his court statement that he was merely exercising his constitutional rights. “If I am found guilty, shame on you, not me.”
Public security authorities had made extensive preparations for Xu’s trial, staging paramilitary and uniformed police in the streets within a two or three kilometer radius of the court, according to Xu Kun (徐昆), an activist who managed to get into the court house. He was quickly apprehended by seven or eight officers and dropped off at the train station, he said in an interview with RFA.
“The police seemed to know that people would be coming [to watch the trial].”
Liu Sifang (劉四仿), another activist composer who worked with Xu and was also arrested late last year, says that Xu may have been able to avoid prosecution if he expressed his penitence, declared guilt, asked for the favor of the authorities, and promised not to re-offend. It’s a course of action Xu declined to embark upon.
Xu’s commitment to his ideas are clear from his blog posts and lyrics.
On April 9, 2016 — his 52nd birthday — Xu reflected on the meaning of his activism and the significance of imprisonment, and even death, in the service of his commitments. He wrote:
“What can I do outside of jail? I don’t organize, and even less join violent movements. I also don’t have the ability to call everyone to rise up and oppose the authorities at key moments. The greatest skill I have is song composition. Though many people rate my songs very highly, if they’re not heard by 10 million people, then no matter how many I write, it won’t have much of an impact. If my imprisonment leads to my songs being spread much more widely, and wakes up more people, who rise up and resist, well then I’m ready to go to jail. I’m even content to die.”
Xu also wrote in 2016, “Popular songs are one of the most powerful weapons for mobilizing people… everyone’s brave resistance to this dictatorship is an endless fountain of inspiration for my works.”
Xu’s songs include “The Secretly Detained Human Rights Lawyers,” with the lyrics: “Mother, father, forgive your son’s filial failure. I couldn’t be with in your older years, because my comrades have disappeared for two years.”
Trained as a construction engineer, where he worked as a senior manager, Xu has pursued his activism through writing and song for nearly two decades. He has composed works about the June 4 massacre, the political persecution of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo, the plight of petitioners in China, and other topics. He was part of the 2013 Southern Street Movement in Guangdong, and has composed poems about the persecution of dissidents since 2010.
His August 2015 energetic, rock-tinged composition “Song of the Righteous Lawyers,” appeared to infuriate the authorities, leading to a month-long detention.
“We are brave rights defense lawyers. We bear the mission of safeguarding fairness and justice,” the chorus says.
Xu Lin had previously been threatened by Guangdong authorities, in a particular thug-like manner as he recounts in a December 2015 video on YouTube. “One of the police officers said that the station was really sick of me, and that someone in the public security division threatened to find someone to break my legs. Every time I made a post, they’d come and get me, until I was dead. They said the same thing to my wife.”
If the goal of the intimidation was to stop Xu Lin from posting his songs and poems online, it didn’t work. “They don’t frighten me,” he said in the same video. “This simply demonstrates all the more that this evil system has to be abolished.”
July 19, 2018
Lawyer Wang Quanzhang (王全璋), who was disappeared on July 15, 2018 in the Chinese Communist Party’s infamous 709 Crackdown on human rights lawyers, has been held incommunicado for just over three years now. Until recently, almost nothing was known about him, including where he was being held, the conditions under which he was being held, and what charges are likely to be brought against him. Whether he was even dead or alive was unknown until recently. Following are two updates on his situation translated by China Change. The first comes from Wang’s newly appointed lawyer, Liu Weiguo (刘卫国); the second, expressing great concern over Wang’s health, from his wife Li Wenzu (李文足). — The Editors
An Update on Wang Quanzhang’s Subversion Case From Lawyer Liu Weiguo
- In late June, 2018, Wang Quanzhang, being held in the Tianjin No. 1 Detention Center, formally submitted to the chief procurator his authorization that I serve as his defense lawyer;
- In July, the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate Court informed me of this commission. I expressed my willingness to accept the commission and made two suggestions: firstly, that the arguments presented by the defense lawyer must conform entirely to the wishes of Wang Quanzhang himself; secondly, that while representing his case, the lawyer must be able to maintain all necessary communication channels with his family;
- On July 12, after receiving an affirmative response from the authorities with regard to the above stipulations, I traveled to Tianjin and in the morning obtained from the chief procurator’s office Wang Quanzhang’s power of attorney. I met with Wang Quanzhang without difficulties in the afternoon;
- Wang Quanzhang was in good spirits and appeared healthy during the meeting, and he thanked the outside world for their concern and help for himself and his family;
- Upon the conclusion of the meeting, I returned to the Tianjin No. 2 Intermediate Court and it became clear in the course of discussion that there was disagreement between myself and the court on the scope of Wang Quanzhang’s case files that I could photocopy and retrieve. For this reason, I decided to temporarily withhold submitting the paperwork for Wang’s defense, while waiting for the court to study the matter of the case files and respond to me, upon which time I would make a decision;
- Because the matter of whether or not I would represent Wang Quanzhang was ‘to be decided,’ I have not until now publicly disclosed the aforementioned matters;
- After receiving the Tianjin No. 2 Court’s affirmative response that I am able to make copies of all related case files, today (July 18) I rushed to Beijing and in the morning met with Wang Quanzhang’s wife to discuss the situation. Li Wenzu asked me to convey to Wang Quanzhang the family’s deep concern for him as well as the attention his case has received around the world;
- Today, in the afternoon, I returned to Tianjin and was able to meet with Wang Quanzhang and exchange ideas on the next stages of the case;
- I have already made a full set of copies of the case files. The trial date has not yet been set.
July 18, 2018
A Second Annoucement on Wang Quanzhang by Wife Li Wenzu*
After Wang Quanzhang was disappeared three years ago, I’ve finally learned that he is now alive, and appear “normal mentally and physically.” When I heard this news, I let out a sigh of relief. Many friends were also excited to hear the news.
I have made an effort to communicate with Lawyer Liu Weiguo for the last few days, in my hopes of understanding the circumstances much better.
What I’ve learned is as follows:
1. Doctors said that Wang Quanzhang was suffering high blood pressure, and made him take medication.
Here I have to say: Quanzhang didn’t have high blood pressure before he was arrested! Of those lawyers who have traveled with him on cases, has anyone seen him taking blood pressure medication? He takes cold showers in winter, and used to carry me on his back up seven flights of stairs without stopping.
Other 709 victims have also been found to have high blood pressure, and then forced to take unidentified medication. Li Heping (李和平) was forced to take as many as six tablets per day; Tang Zhishun (唐志顺) took as many as 21 per day. After taking this medication, they got headaches, their vision was blurry, and they had the sensation of insects crawling all over their bodies. The 709 victims who’ve been released have a commonality: black spots over their whole face. A doctor of Chinese medicine who treated them said that it’s the result of liver damage from prolonged consumption of medication. Quanzhang has been forced to take this medication for three years, so how badly has his body been harmed?
2. When Quanzhang met Liu Weiguo, he was extremely frightened and didn’t dare speak loudly, sometimes even silently miming words to express himself. This led to Liu Weiguo not being able to accurately determine what Quanzhang was trying to say.
Liu Weiguo is the attorney commissioned by Quanzhang himself, so when they met, Quanzhang should absolutely not be in a state of fear if he was in a normal state!
3. Quanzhang told lawyer Liu Weiguo that he made the firm demand that lawyer Cheng Hai (程海) and his wife Li Wenzu (myself) be his defense lawyers, but the authorities categorically refused.
Yesterday I asked lawyer Liu to tell Quanzhang the following:
Firstly, myself and Quan Quan [泉泉, the couple’s son] are doing very well, and so many people have been helping us;
Secondly, Quanzhang, you shouldn’t be afraid of being overheard, you should say whatever you want, and you should speak as loud as you like with lawyer Liu Weiguo;
Thirdly, I hope after you’re released you’ll continue being a lawyer;
Fourthly, Quanzhang, you should not accept a suspended sentence, and I support you in not compromising and not pleading guilty!
Even though I now know that Quanzhang is alive, as the details of the situation continue to emerge, I feel more tormented. Lawyer Liu Weiguo’s simple description of Quanzhang’s demeaner is not the Quanzhang I know. It’s clear now how severe was the torture and suffering Quanzhang has been put through!
I will post updates on Quanzhang’s situation periodically.
I thank all of the friends who have shown so much concern for us!
July 19, 2018
*The first announcement, made on social media on July 13, acknowledged that she had received news of her husband and that he was alive and appeared “normal mentally and physically.” — The Editors
709 Crackdown Three Years on: A Tribute to Wang Quanzhang, Yaxue Cao, July 8, 2018.
709 Crackdown Three Years on: Keynote Address on the Second China Human Rights Lawyers’ Day, July 8, 2018, New York City
Terence Halliday, July 9, 2018
Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.
In the last days of June 2015 I spent many hours in coffee shops and hotels and restaurants and offices with many of China’s notable rights lawyers.
Wang Yu (王宇) and I discussed the extraordinary nationwide attack on her reputation.
Yu Wensheng (余文生) described his unbearable torture in the hands of the security apparatus.
Jiang Tianyong (江天勇) talked about the emotional pain of being separated from his family and having no permanent place to live.
Li Heping (李和平) imagined a society where compassion and justice and religious freedom were embraced by all leaders and citizens.
In those last days of June, 3 years ago, what was their state of mind?
They all knew that clouds were gathering.
They all had suffered in the past and they knew they might suffer in the future.
They all had hope that signs of deepening repression in the near future would be temporary. They all looked in the far future to a new New China which respected human rights, protected basic legal freedoms, allowed for an open political society and the rule of law.
Yet, none expected how quickly a great storm was about to break over their heads.
On 9 July, 2015, exactly three years ago, a massive storm swept them all away. It began with Wang Yu’s disappearance in the middle of the night. It spread rapidly over hours and days and weeks and swept away more than 300 rights lawyers and activists across all of mainland China.
Today we remember the 709 crackdown. But we do more than remember. This is not an historical incident that is fading in our memories.
It is not a monument to the past, only to be recorded in history books.
This Second Day for China Human Rights Lawyers’ shows that the 709 Crackdown is present in this moment. It reveals to China’s citizens, to lawyers across the world, to rights activists and the defenders of minorities, to international organizations, to states that still champion global standards of liberal constitutional orders, that a mighty struggle continues.
The end is not near. Indeed, the struggle deepens inside China and across the world.
And so today, we must ask: What does the 709 Crackdown and its shockwaves tell the world about China and its rulers? What have we learned about China’s rights lawyers and the struggle for freedoms? What of the future?
I. What Does the 709 Crackdown Tell Us About China and Its Rulers?
What does it tell the world about the real China, not the propaganda China, not the mythical China, not the face of China that the Party likes to show the world, but the actual China, the empirical China, the China that free scholars and free media and free international observers report without censorship?
The world is waking up.
The world is waking up to the dark side, the cruelty, the brutality of China’s rulers, and we can see these in the way it treats rights lawyers.
A China where a single person, such as Wang Yu, is humiliated nation-wide in the state-controlled media
A China where brutalized lawyers are forced to make public confessions and mouth wooden words far removed from the values they expressed in my research on China’s defense lawyers
A China where authorities arbitrarily replace a lawyer’s chosen counsel with a government-friendly substitute.
A China that has expanded its repertoire of torture, intensifying and reinforcing the ways it seeks to break the ideals, the minds, even the bodies of rights lawyers
A China where lawyers are disappeared for weeks, months, years in so-called “designated residential surveillance” sites so they are completely removed from families, lawyers, observers, and exposed to extreme psychological and physical pressure, some of it medieval in its primitive methods.
A China where lawyers are subjected to new tortures, not least being forcibly injected with excruciatingly painful disorienting drugs to alter their minds and leave scars for the short-term or long-term or the rest of their lives.
A China where brothers are compelled to pressure brothers, or children are used against their parents, or parents are pressed to change the minds of their children, or where wives are refused access, even knowledge, about their husbands.
A China that has ratcheted up the charges and sentences for detained lawyers.
A China where secret trials have become a new norm for lawyers who most implausibly have betrayed “state secrets.”
The world is waking up to the recognition that China is a country that runs on the fuel of fear.
China’s leaders fear their own people.
When we view China through the eyes of its criminal defense and rights lawyers, we see a fragile China. Across China enormous grievances accumulate for hundreds of millions of Chinese. Pollution, property-takings, religious persecution, suppression of minorities, forced abortions, magnifying inequality, exploited labor, rampant corruption, unjust treatment by police, tainted food.
China’s leaders are afraid:
— civil society
— of Uyghurs
— of Muslims
— of workers
— of Tibetan Buddhists
— of unofficial Christian Protestant churches
— of women
— of unofficial Roman Catholic churches
— of Hong Kong’s fight to preserve its legal freedoms and open civil society
— and of Taiwan – a country which shows that ethnic Chinese, that inheritors of the Confucian tradition, that non-Han indigenous peoples together can build an open political society that adheres to global norms crafted in part by a pre-revolutionary China,
— of foreigners who care about the dignity and freedom of China’s people
The 709 crackdown has cast a long shadow. The world now sees it is one notable move against lawyers as part of many other “againsts.”
The world is waking up to the recognition that China is a deviant state.
It deviates from global standards on arbitrary arrest and detention, on torture, on disappearances, on fair trials, on an independent judiciary, on access to lawyers, on freedom of speech and association and religion.
The world has woken up to an awareness that this mighty nation, a nuclear power, a state flexing its military muscle, and an economic and geopolitical giant, nevertheless is afraid of these few lawyers and the 1000s of other lawyers who share their values.
II. What Does 709 Tell Us Today About These Rights Lawyers?
We’ve learned that activist lawyers are now spread across the country. Once they were largely concentrated in Beijing. Today they are everywhere.
We’ve learned that the struggle for basic freedoms is now nationwide.
In every region ordinary people cried out for justice, for dignity, for their children, for safe food and clear water and pure air, for their property, for their religious beliefs. And rights lawyers responded.
We’ve learned that rights lawyers fight for a core of ideals fundamental to all peoples in our 21st century world. They fight for basic legal freedoms.
- They demand procedural protections for their clients, such as freedom to choose or meet with a lawyer, protection of clients from coerced confessions
- They insist on standards of fairness in court such as seeing and cross-examining evidence.
- They want fair trials and neutral judges.
They fight for an open civil society where there is freedom of speech and association, including the ability of lawyers to form bar associations independent of state control.
They struggle for freedom of religion and protections for all believers, including the savagely repressed adherents of Falun Gong. They want open exchanges of views and beliefs where citizens are freed from stifling censorship.
They fight against the tyranny of a one-party state where all power is concentrated in the hands of supreme rulers. They insist that political power be divided. That the tyrannies of absolute state power be checked by law and other centers of power inside the state and outside of it.
We’ve learned that lawyers’ ideals are so strong they will suffer terribly to maintain their ideals. We’ve seen that wives and daughters and sons – including those joining us today – have stood up to cry out for the most basic standards of justice and human decency.
And, most important, China’s activist lawyers have shown the world that inside China’s beating heart there is an impulse for justice, for freedoms, for a normal society. It is a society where rulers are not afraid of their own people but welcome their views, where leaders do not fear lawyers but welcome their peaceful respect for a just legality.
Inside China’s beating heart there is a tiny minority that gives voice to wrongs and gives vision for the future.
III. What of the Future?
I submit to you that we already know the end of this struggle but we do not know when or how.
For 25 years social scientists, legal scholars and historians have investigated the role of lawyers in the creation of open political societies. These are societies where rights are embedded in constitutions and constitutions are implemented in practice.
Again and again, across history and across regions, lawyers stand in the vanguard of change. In Britain in the 1600s, in France in the 1700s, in Germany in the 1800s, in India and Brazil in the 1970s, in Egypt and Pakistan in the 1990s, in Zambia and Kenya, and, not least in South Korea and Taiwan over the last generation, and in many other places.
Lawyers have fought against absolute monarchs, Big Man regimes, military dictatorships, communist parties, fascist regimes. Lawyers wave the flag of legal rights, civil rights, political rights.
Time and again lawyers and their allies – workers, women’s groups, religious believers, the media – have been defeated, and time and again they have fought back from defeat. The struggle is never over, even in countries where lawyers’ ideals have been instituted for decades or centuries.
Hope is still alive among China’s activists. Now is a dark hour, a moment when defeat seems possible. The darkness may last a long time, years, decades, longer, but the end is never in doubt. Victories and defeats have already been the experience of China’s lawyer activists. And defeats and victories will continue.
Today, the Second Day for China Human Rights Lawyers’ keeps hope alive.
This event expresses a solidarity that crosses nationalities, that goes beyond citizenship that binds together persons of every ethnicity and believers from different religions, that crosses continents and knits together peoples and organizations and states in every place.
It is not only China’s hope but a universal hope – a hope in human dignity, in human flourishing, in legal freedoms, in an open political society, in a future where all may worship as they choose, where every person may speak the language of her or his childhood, where all may honor the cultural traditions in which they are embedded.
This hope is maintained by China’s lawyer activists and sustained by those that stand with them. Today we honor them by standing with them for China and for all peoples who long for freedom and justice.
Terence Halliday is a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, and co-author of Criminal Defense in China: The Politics of Lawyers at Work (Cambridge U Press, 2016).