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12 Chinese Legal Professionals’ Letter of Appeal for the Review of Jia Jinglong’s Death Penalty

November 14, 2016

About one and a half hours ago, Chinese state media announced that Jia Jinglong had been executed this morning – they killed him faster than we had time enough to translate this appeal, which should still be read and contemplated. – The Editors

 

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Respected president of the Supreme People’s Court Zhou Qiang (周强):

As law professors and attorneys long concerned with the development of the rule of law in China, we believe that the Supreme People’s Court’s review ruling in the Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙) case does not conform to the applicable standards and policies for the death penalty as determined by Chinese law, and that the review procedure did not fully safeguard the right to appeal of the defendant and defending counsel. We herewith issue a joint, solemn appeal that the review ruling of Jia Jinglong’s death penalty not be implemented, and that a collegiate bench be assembled to examine the case. We hope that this case will become an opportunity for improving the Supreme People’s Court’s review procedures for death penalty cases in order to uphold fairness in the judicial system and justice in society.

I. The review of Jia Jinglong’s case did not take into consideration the particular nature of the legal institutions surrounding village assets; it did not consider the impact of traditional customs; it did not consider the phenomenon of corrupt governance of local regimes in village areas — all of which led to serious errors in determining the basic facts of the case.

Regulations governing rural households and leaseholding farm households are a large portion of China’s civil law. In the case of Jia Jinglong, the usage right of the homestead implicated in the case, although registered in the name of household head Jia Tongqing (贾同庆), was controlled by the village’s “one residence per household” regulation, and the right to use the homestead actually resided in all members of the household. After Jia Tongqing tore down the single-storey home and rebuilt a multi-storey home, his son Jia Jinglong expended his own money and labor to personally decorate the second storey. Article 34 of the Property Law of the People’s Republic of China (《物权法》) stipulates: “Legally constructing or demolishing a house, or similar conduct, establishes or extinguishes property rights, effective from the point of the completion of the activity.” As such, title to the property should reside with the household collective of Jia Tongqing, Jia Jinglong and other family members. In rural areas there is a common custom for adult sons to only separate their assets from those of their parents upon marriage; given that Jia Jinglong had not yet married, his rights to a share in the family property are not affected. The village committee’s failure to obtain the consent of Jia Jinglong, instead forcing his father to sign an agreement and then demolishing the home that Jia Jinglong prepared for his marriage to his fiancée, is not only obviously illegal, but also violates the basic guidelines of the “General Principles of Civil Law” (《民法通则》) which call for adherence to public order and common custom (公序良俗).

During their rule a number of responsible individuals holding positions in both the village and Party committees acted in the absence of supervision and checks and balances, concealing public matters of the village from their superiors and deceiving their subordinates, intercepting, stealing and embezzling, doing as they pleased, and governing the village in a highly corrupt manner. Because there are no mechanisms for safeguarding the rights and interests of villagers, and the channels of legal redress are ossified, this sort of corrupt village governance often sparks grassroots grievances and rage, with constant mass petitions and violent protests across the countryside. In Jia Jinglong’s village of Beigaoying (北高营村), the village committee and Party committee, in the name of “remaking the old village,” coercively confiscated the rural residential land, designated a portion of it that had buildings demolished “clean land” for later government levies, and later used it for real estate development. This violated the set of legal institutions governing land management, and is a classic example of corrupt governance at the village level. The reason that the case received so much attention is because of how deeply felt the yearnings are for property rights and equal protection under the law by China’s vulnerable groups.

II. The Supreme People’s Court review ruling ignored Jia Jinglong’s forthright confession and guilty plea in evaluating the severity of punishment, violating Chinese criminal legal regulations about the standard for applying the death penalty, and the policy to “kill fewer and kill cautiously.”

Jia Jinglong’s commission of homicide took place for a reason; the means of the crime itself were not, compared to regular homicide cases, in any way special. Following the crime, Jia gave himself up, submitted himself to legal punishment, and there was no possibility of further criminal conduct. The “three extremes” determined in the Supreme People’s Court’s review ruling have no factual basis and are not based on objective evaluation.

Though Jia Jinglong’s self-confession was interrupted, after he was arrested and brought to trial he made a full confession of his crimes, admitting his guilt and repenting. According to Article 67, Section 3 of the Criminal Code (刑法典), he should be accorded lenient punishment. Article 36, Section 3 of the “Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Examination and Judgment of Evidence in Death Sentence Cases” (《关于办理死刑案件审查判断证据若干问题的规定》) issued by the Supreme People’s Court stipulates: “Circumstances that would make an evaluation of sentencing of the defendant more lenient cannot be excluded; extreme caution should be exercised in death penalty sentences.” Refusing to authorize the death penalty in this case is in complete conformance with the explicit stipulations in the law and the criminal justice policies of balancing leniency with severity in sentencing. As precedents in judicial practice dealing with weighing punishments of cases of homicide following forced demolition, there are, at least, the cases of Wang Maling’s (王马玲) homicide in Jiangsu, and Ding Hanzhong’s (丁汉忠) homicide in Shandong, both of whom were either not sentenced to death or did not have their death sentences authorized. Refusing to authorize the death penalty in these cases is a consensus in judicial practice.

Yet in the case of Jia Jinglong the Supreme People’s Court ignored the legal circumstances of the fault of the victim and the frank confession of Jia, artificially raising the evaluation of the severity of criminal conduct, hastily concluding a review ruling in favor of the death penalty. The absence of legitimate grounds for this decision has aroused questioning and criticism from the community of legal scholars, led to widespread attention from all walks of society, and impacted the judicial prestige of the Supreme People’s Court.

III. Supreme People’s Court Review Ruling Procedures Should Protect the Rights of the Defendant and the Defending Counsel

The Supreme People’s Court spent a mere 9 days in issuing its review ruling after defending counsel submitted its legal opinion; after providing defending counsel with the relevant case files, it allowed only 5 days for the submission of a written legal opinion. Such a short deadline prevents defending counsel from fully expressing its legal opinion, does not protect the right to be defended of the defendant, and as such fails to ensure that the case is being heard fairly and justly according to the law. Jia Jinglong also stated when meeting with his counsel that the judge presided over a rushed and hasty trial, and that prior to that point the court had not even received the letter of attorney entrustment.  

We believe that the Supreme People’s Court should squarely face the specific problems in the work of death penalty review, reiterate the principle of judicial caution, abolish the provision and evaluative criterion that death penalty sentencing reviews be completed within three months, and substantially reform the practice of ignoring the rights of counsel to mount a defense.

IV. Our Account and Appeal

On the tenth anniversary of the Supreme People’s Court regaining control over review of death penalty sentences, we wish to give an account of this particular case, call for a stay on the application of the death penalty to Jia Jinglong, and urge that a new ruling be rendered. We hope that judicial organs will respect life, put the people first, place equal weight on the limits of applicability of the death penalty against corrupt officials as against ordinary defendants, and truly follow the principle of “equality before the law.” We recommend that the Supreme People’s Court attach importance to the role of the legal opinions of counsel in the death penalty sentencing review process, listen in-person to the opinions of defending counsel, and reform testimony procedures so that lawyers and prosecutors can all participate, and so that the legal opinions of lawyers can be more fully heard. We call for the Supreme People’s Court to further reform the death penalty sentencing review process to safeguard fairness in the judicial system, and to uphold the fundamental spirit of the rule of law.

 

November 14, 2016

 

Jointly signed:

Jiang Ping (江平), tenured professor, China University of Political Science and Law
Guo Daohui (郭道晖), consultant, Jurisprudence Research Group, China Law Society
Zhang Sizhi (张思之), nationally-prominent lawyer
Zhang Qianfan (张千帆), professor, Peking University School of Law
He Weifang (贺卫方), professor, Peking University School of Law
Xu Zhangrun (许章润), professor, Tsinghua University School of Law
Li Xuan (李轩), director, Legal Aid Center, Central University of Finance and Economics
Liu Zhiqiang (刘志强), professor of law, Guangzhou University
Wei Rujiu (魏汝久), director, Beijing Wei Rujiu Law Firm
Bi Wenqiang (毕文强), director, Beijing Shengting Law Firm
Zhang Peng (张鹏), partner, Beijing Zhongwen Law Firm
Ding Xikui (丁锡奎), lawyer, Beijing Mo Shaoping Law Firm

 

 

 

China to Put a Young Man to Death, and It’s Not About the Law

Tang Yinghong, October 23, 2016

On August 31, the Supreme People’s Court of China approved the death sentence of a young man named Jia Jinglong (贾敬龙). The decision wasn’t conveyed to Jia’s lawyers until October 18. Since then, legal scholars, lawyers, journalists, writers, and netizens from all walks of life have spoken out on Chinese social media about the injustice in sentencing Jia Jinglong to death. Readers can seek out the lawyers’ written defense and discussions about the legality of the forced demolition of Jia’s home and the larger issue of social justice, but here is the story of Jia Jinglong. – The Editors

 

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Jia Jinglong stands on the second story of his home attempting to stop the demolition.

 

Jia Jinglong is a young man from the North Gaoying Village, Chang’an District, Shijiazhuang (石家庄市长安区北高营村), a capital city of Hubei Province. In 2013 his girlfriend of four years agreed to his marriage proposal, and the wedding date was set for May 25 that year. In preparation, he went about renovating and refurbishing his old family home for their new life together. Every day as he went about the construction work, no matter how busy he was, he kept a smile on his face and never fatigued. As his sister remarked: “He often works late into the night to renovate and decorate the new home for his bride.”

Jia loved the house so much that he cleaned out the dust between cracks in the floor with a moist rag. As part of the interior decoration, he framed the words “I Love My Home” made out of one-cent coins that he had painstakingly collected, and hung it in the living room.

jia-jinglongIn the early hours of May 6, 2013, black sedans swarmed on Jia’s home, and the men who got out of them began pelting bricks at it. The following day, at 5 p.m., the head of the village He Jianhua (何建华) ordered a demolition team to destroy Jia’s house, while he stood on the second floor and tried to hold them at bay. But the men abducted his father, then beat bloody two of his cousins, forcing him to surrender. When he came down from the second floor, the thugs held him to the ground and began smashing his head, resulting in profuse bleeding. After his sister called the police, he was brought to the Gaoying police station and gave oral testimony until 3 a.m., May 8. His home was demolished in its entirety, and everything in it, including all that was to be part of Jia and his bride’s new life together, was buried in the rubble.

Two months after the destruction, Jia’s fiance relented to the demands of her father and broke up with him. Jia Jingyuan (贾敬媛), his sister, said: “The home that was demolished had been carefully, lovingly renovated. Every decoration in it was his hand work. New furniture was bought for the approaching wedding. Who would have thought that the ending would be so cruel.”

In the time that followed Jia Jinglong wrote numerous letters of complaint to the Chang’an District Procuratorate and the Office of Letters and Appeals — to no result. After having his home demolished, and being held down and beaten and humiliated, his efforts to discuss compensation with the village head He Jianhua also came to naught.

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A new high-rise apartment building in place of where Jia Jinglong’s home once stood. 

On February 19, 2015, New Year’s Day on the Chinese lunar calendar, Jia Jinglong approached He Jianhua at close range and killed him with a modified nail gun.

On August 31, 2016, the Supreme People’s Court authorized Jia’s death sentence. Jia Jinglong, a mere 29-years-old, is to be put to death, any day now, for killing the village chief who had ordered the destruction of the new home for him and his bride, beating and humiliating him and his family, and refusing to give any compensation.

Many people, out of a sense of righteous indignation, have called for Jia Jinglong’s life to be spared — and some are even suggesting that the abolition of the death penalty might begin from Jia’s case. But the root of all this isn’t a “legal” matter: the communist authorities are simply using the name of the law, and legal mechanisms, to tell the Chinese people: The conspiracy of interests represented by He Jianhua and his like, and their ability to do whatever they please, will be protected, and those who oppose them and threaten those interests must be punished.

 

Tang Yinghong (唐映红) is a psychologist and writer living in China. This is an unauthorized translation of an excerpt of his essay “Signs of our time: Jia Jinglong, a victim of forced demolition, and the accountant who sells sex to pay mortgage” ( 被强拆的贾敬龙与卖淫的女会计,代表了我们生活的时代》).

 


Related:

China to Execute Xia Junfeng, September, 2013