On Monday May 22, New York Times reporters Joseph Kahn and Jim Yardley received the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, for their coverage of the Justice system in China.
Among the winning articles was one about a father who went so far as seeking to sell his eyes to pay for a fair legal defence for his son. Entitled “Desperate Search for Justice: One Man vs China”, the article tells the story of a man, whose son was rushed through a politically charged trial in Chaohu city, Anhui Province, and convicted of a savage knife attack.
However, the judiciary lacked evidence, while the legal proceedings were airbrushed to ensure a conviction. The lawyers had no chance to question witnesses or examine the evidence.
“…in 1996, facing international and domestic pressure, China introduced reforms that expanded a criminal defendant’s right to counsel and sought to create a more impartial judiciary” says the article by Jim Yardley.
“Yet today the inadequacy of those reforms, and the reluctance of the ruling Communist Party to make meaningful change, is abundantly evident. The criminal trial of Mr Xie’s son was one of 770,947 adjudicated last year. Of that total, 99.7 per cent ended in convictions.”
The eight articles by the award-winning journalists were written between September and October last year. The works paint a grim picture of deceit and corruption within China’s developing judicial system, where power struggles lead the way, and the common man is a voiceless puppet.
Also included was an article about outspoken Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng struggling to uphold the rule of law in a society where Communist Party officials “draw the line at any fundamental challenge to their monopoly on power”. Since his outspoken defence of repressed groups, like land reform victims evicted from their houses, persecuted Falun Gong practitioners, AIDS victims and other minorities, Mr Gao has been harassed and monitored, at one point almost being killed in a staged car accident.
In another recent occurrence Human Rights in China (HRC) reported on May 18 that two unidentified men broke into the Shanghai home of Chinese lawyer Zheng Enchong, who was imprisoned for representing residents of Shanghai evicted in urban development schemes.
The men left when confronted. Zheng’s wife, Jiang Meili, reported the incident but has heard nothing further from local authorities.
Also nominated as finalists in the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting: Steve Fainaru of The Washington Post for his powerful accounts of the deadly violence faced by American soldiers in Iraq: and Sebastian Rotella of the Los Angeles Times for his well crafted reports on restive Muslims in Europe that foretold riots in France.