[ Editors' Note" On the 15th of August Gao Zhisheng was kidnapped by members of the CCP security force. He has not been heard from since and his condition and whereabouts are currently unknown. This letter was compiled from audio recordings made two days before he disappeared ]
Recently I received many letters from fellow lawyers who suggest I should criticize particular law firms. I thank their confidence in me, but I have some apprehensions.
Every time I mention the hostility and cowardice of Chinese lawyers, my friends would say, "Morale should be boosted, not dampened." They would tell me that exposing the dark side of this profession is divisive and does not help advance human rights in China.
I really can't identify with this kind of logic. It is too much like the communist party's slogans that "stability is the overriding priority" and "consider the overall situation" that they use to brainwash people into thinking of the communist party above all else.
I know the situation of lawyers in China very well. Recently a newspaper asserted, "The morality and conscience of lawyers these days is below average." There is a reason behind this saying. Throughout my career, I have witnessed much disloyalty. Their disloyalty is born out of a judiciary system that is not civil or righteous. My intent is not to expose the sad state Chinese lawyers are in today. But words can't describe the grief I feel deep in my soul about the state of the law profession in China.
In the brutal and high-pressured environment of China today, lawyers feel a disproportionate amount of this pressure. It is lawyers who, in this modern world, dominate almost all aspects associated with the normal functioning of society — they are the force that check the forces of power and protect those who could be harmed as national forces vie for power. The forces behind communism understand the role that lawyers play and, for this reason, have targeted them.
The pressure lawyers face not only comes from supervisors and the lawyers association. Pressure comes the most strongly from the Chinese Communist Party's national security system — composed of people who do not understand the law. Our national security system is a group of thugs who drive cars without license plates. They control the country like chess pieces and cover every corner of China. Modern information technology has increased this group's evil energy. They control almost every Chinese lawyer who shows any ounce of righteousness and conscience. They systematically insult, coerce, and intimidate.
Lawyers are suppressed the most brutally in Beijing and Shanghai. The situation there is even known by people outside the legal profession. In 2006, the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Justice illegally postponed dozens of lawyers' registration process. The lawyers on their list were those who are known for their good conscience and speaking out against injustice.
Another pressure for Chinese lawyers concerning their reputation comes from their professional "associations." China's lawyer association has special requirements on the characters of its practitioners. The nominal responsibility of these so-called associations is to defend lawyers' legal rights, yet in reality, their main responsibility is to monitor lawyers' words and actions, so that they can report to their employers any lawyer's "violation of regulations."
The apprehension I mentioned at the beginning of this article is not the whole barrier causing my hesitation in criticism of the present dark actuality in my profession. Today's darkness and immorality in the attorney trade is not unique to this trade. It is a natural part of China's dark society today. I pay more attention to putting more effort in exposing and criticizing the despotic system that provides survival and growth conditions for this dark situation.
However, I would like to take this opportunity to tell fellow attorneys in China to not continue to judge today's China with insights formed from the past. Some rapid changes in the Chinese society in the recent few years can be described as shocking. Not long ago, the "New Politics of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao" had raised hopes in the majority of responsible Chinese with conscience inside and outside of the system. In a short few years, what have Hu and Wen become? They have become the anger and despair for Chinese outside the system, and moreover, they have become the worry and disappointment for the majority of responsible Chinese with conscience and far-sight inside the system.
One can assert that except the few influential ones, today not many people, including most of our fellow countrymen inside the system, can understand and agree with Hu and Wen's unreasonable fear and resistance to the achievement of human civilization, which is the value of freedom, democracy, rule by law and constitutional government.
Very few of today's Chinese people, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the system, still place their hopes on Hu and Wen for the peaceful turning of Chinese society. The sudden publication of The Selected Works of Jiang Zemin in fact completely eliminated people's unrealistic expectations of Hu and Wen.
In Chinese society, the central government has already lost substantial control over the local powers. Each local government does things in its own way now. What has become especially apparent since May is the frequency, scale and extent of the incidents in which groups defend their rights and fight against violent repression. A change rarely seen in the past is the apparent support for these rights - defending incidents from those healthy forces within the system. The information we gathered through our own unique channels indicates that the majority of cadres at the grassroots level look forward to civilized reform in China just like we do, and the most evident point is that they no longer place such hopes on Hu and Wen.
China's attorneys should be able to keenly notice this kind of change already taking place in the Chinese society, and adapt to it at times. While workers, unions and women's federations in China all take a rare attitude to highly advocate defending one's rights, Chinese lawyers still set their eyes on profit, yield to the enlarged fears in their hearts, and remain silent on the aspect of defending one's rights, establishing the value of autonomy in one's profession, and the growing movement in rights defending and struggle against violent repression in China. This will inevitably bring historical tragedy beyond redemption for both the attorney profession and the individuals in the future.
According to Mr. Fan Yafeng, a senior researcher at the Institute of Studies on Law at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the law of operation for today's Chinese society has already reached a corner. On the other side of the corner is the vitality and hope for tomorrow's China, yet at this side of the corner is the starting point for the new value and hope of every Chinese, which of course also includes Hu and Wen.
August 13, 2006 Dongying City, Shandong Province