Despite the Chinese regime’s recent rhetoric about the so-called “rule of law,” all manner of obstacles have been thrown in the paths of human rights lawyers who dare to defend practitioners of the persecuted spiritual practice Falun Gong.
Chinese courts have served as aids of state oppression ever since the Communist regime started its unconstitutional repression of Falun Gong in July 1999. Defense attorneys seeking to defend the rights of Falun Gong practitioners in China’s courts are often sidestepped by judges violating the law to derail their efforts.
When a lawyer, citing police regulations, demanded the shackles that illegally restrained his client be removed for the duration of trial, the judge responded by having the lawyer thrown out of court and detained.
“Who cares if it’s illegal?” the presiding judge reportedly said.
But lawyers pressed for their rights and the rights of their clients. On April 21, around 60 lawyers collectively issued a statement condemning the illegal ruling that ordered the defendant shackled and the lawyer detained.
The statement holds the presiding judge, Sun Wuzheng of Feng County Court of eastern China’s Jiangsu Province, liable for his criminal acts. It also vows to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of lawyers and eliminate the embarrassment such actions create for the Chinese legal system.
Rights defense lawyers challenge the system on a regular basis.
Just a week after the shackle incident in Jiangsu, on April 28, a pair of lawyers filed a formal complaint in northern China’s Hebei Province for what they described as the groundless charges mounted against their clients, four Falun Gong practitioners who had sent text messages telling people about the 16-year-long persecution.
Rule of Law
The lawyers are speaking out on behalf of and taking risks for Falun Gong practitioners partly because they admire their will in the face of state brutality, which has resulted in imprisonment, unemployment, torture, sexual abuse, and in thousands of confirmed cases, outright murder.
Tang Tianhao is one of a group of 15 lawyers who united to defend Falun Gong practitioners in northeast China’s Liaoning Province.
In January he told Minghui.org, a website that serves as a clearinghouse for information about the persecution suffered by Falun Gong practitioners: “Every contact with Falun Gong practitioners gives me inspiration. They remain positive when facing persecution and do not even resent the judges who intentionally follow the policy of persecution and sentence them to prison. These kindhearted people are frequently persecuted in China.”
The lawyers also do this because they recognize that in defending the rights of practitioners, they are defending the possibility of genuine rule of law in China.
Wang Guangqi is a lawyer who has also defended practitioners in Liaoning Province. “In today’s China, law enforcement officials violate the law to persecute good people,” he told Minghui. “It is a full-blown human rights crisis. What people say and believe can be used to charge them with a crime. It is a serious blow to China’s legal system and causes suffering for the Chinese people.”
Lawyers Defending Lawyers
A case in the far northeastern province of Heilongjiang helped spur China’s rights defense lawyers efforts to protect each other.
On March 21, 2014, lawyers Tang Jitian, Jiang Tianyong, Wang Cheng, and Zhang Junjie were arrested when trying to provide legal counsel to family members of Falun Gong practitioners who were held at a brainwashing center in the city of Jiansanjiang.
The four lawyers were brutally beaten by police. Together, they suffered 24 broken bones: Tang Jitian reported 10 rib fractures, Jiang Tianyong 8, Wang Cheng 3, and Zhang Junjie 3 spine fractures.
On March 25, another group of 17 lawyers and concerned citizens went to the detention center and held a hunger strike there, demanding to meet with the detained lawyers. On the morning of March 29, the entire group was arrested, with many of them also traeted violently.
On the morning of April 2, lawyers Tsai Ying, Hu Guiyun, and Dong Qianyong delivered a letter of appeal to the All China Lawyers Association in Beijing. They demanded that the Association defend the rights of lawyers to practice law and investigate the arrest, beating, and humiliation of the lawyers.
Rights defense lawyers understand, however, that the Lawyers Association in fact serves the interests of the regime, not those of lawyers who are its members.
In June 2014, 40 lawyers signed a Letter of Intent for Mutual Support Among Chinese Lawyers. The letter provides for lawyers to aid one another when oppressed by the authorities, including helping jailed attorneys cover their family’s expenses.