Exclusive Interview with Attorney Yang Zaixin–Walk Along with Attorney Gao
On January 26, 2005, human rights attorney Yang Zaixin, who has been involved in a series of defense cases for villagers rights, activists and Falun Gong cases, received a dismissal letter from the Guangxi Province Zhongchi Law Office, where he worked. Before that, he had been constantly followed by police, kidnapped, searched and even dropped off in the middle of nowhere after an interrogation.
Attorney Yang accepted an Epoch Times interview on the day of his dismissal. He said he could understand why the Zhongchi Law Office made the decision to dismiss him, because of the tremendous pressure from the local authorities, and he had no regret for his personal loss, because the persecution of Falun Gong is indeed a tragedy, many families have been broken, and many people were tortured to death. Unfortunately, few among the over 100,000 lawyers in China dare to raise their voices in the defense of Falun Gong, because this is a sore spot in Chinese legal circles.
Dismissed Because of “Pressure from the Top”
Journalist: “How are you attorney Yang? I heard that you were dismissed from the law office where you work. Can you give me more details?”
Attorney Yang: “The whole story is like this. In December 2005, I defended a Falun Gong practitioner, Nong Youyue, in Guangxi province, Pingguo county. During the hearing, I expressed my views without any reservation. On January 12, 2006, when I was in Jinan city, Shandong province, representing another Falun Gong practitioner, attorney Liu Ruping, to appeal his labor camp sentence, I received a phone call from the former chief of our law office, Chen Yongcai.”
“He asked me why I did not inform the law office that I was working on Falun Gong cases. The court has already sent my defense presentation to my law office, and also sent it to the Provincial Legal Office. He said to hurry back and give them an explanation and write an official letter to them explaining what happened. Besides, law office Chief Lin Tao, wants to terminate your contract with the law office.”
“At that time, because I did not know how long the Jinan city case was going to take, and I still needed to submit the administrative review application for the labor camp decision of Guangdong province Sanshan county villager, Chen Huiying's case, I told them that I might need several days before I can return.”
“On January 13, 2006, I returned to Guangzhou. When I deplaned at the Baiyun airport in Guangzhou city that afternoon at around 4 o'clock, I was immediately taken by Foshan city police who had been waiting there for me. That night, they brought me to a hotel in Foshan city for interrogation and even made a video record.”
“The interrogation lasted until one o'clock in the early morning of January 14. The police drove me out of Guangdong province, where they escorted me to an intersection between Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, and left me there. The place is in the middle of nowhere. I walked on the highway for several kilometers, until 5 o'clock that morning, when I arrived at Shankou town, Hepu county, Guangxi province.”
“Within two days after my return, I filed a document for Falun Gong practitioner Nong Youyue's case, with the procurator's indictment, court's decision and attorney Gao's three open letters attached, and sent all the documents to the Guangxi Provincial Legal Office, and one copy to the law office where I was employed.”
“Since then, the Zhongchi Law Office has never talked to me, and never sent me any notices, until the letter dated January 23, which I received only today.”
The content of the letter is as follows:
Attorney Yang Zaixin, the contract to appoint you as a full time staff member has expired, because you have never renewed your contract with us, you are no longer an attorney in our firm. Beginning February 1, 2006, you will not continue to work with the title of Zhongchi Law Office attorney. After you receive this notice, please return the following documents: include your Attorney's Certificate registered under our office contract of representation that is in effect, and permission to attend hearings, to our office before February 21, 2006.
Zhongchi Law Office
January 23, 2006.
Journalist: “Do you think the reason for your dismissal is what the letter stated?”
Attorney Yang: “It is obvious, they used 'you have never renewed your contract with us' as an excuse, in order to dismiss me. It is definitely because of pressure from upper level authorities. First, it is the pressure from the Guangxi Provincial Legal Office, and it is very possible there is pressure from an even higher level.
I started my career as attorney in 1993, and started my contract with the Zhongchi Law Office in 1996. Up until now, nearly nine years have passed. My relationship with this office was always very good. Now, they suddenly use this as an excuse to dismiss me, there must be something wrong.”
“Besides that, the contract management at this office is always quite loose. Actually I had brought up the contract renewal during a recent meeting, but they said that they were too busy, and asked me to wait a few days, when things settle down, then they would send the paper work to me.”
“Now, without any official notice, without a phone call, it is unreasonable for them to dismiss me with the excuse that I failed to renew my contract.”
Journalist: “Can you still carry on you career as attorney after this dismissal?”
Attorney Yang: “In my estimation, it is almost impossible for me to work as an attorney the rest of my life. Although just one law office dismissed me, I would expect that no other law office would dare to accept me. Because of instructions from upper level authorities, the directive from the Provincial Legal Office, or even higher authorities, who control all of China's legal system.”
“Even if some law office is brave enough to accept me, the authorities would also create trouble for them. If the situation in China does not change, I would expect that it will be impossible for me to work as an attorney the rest of my life.”
“Even if I could set up my own office, they would also cause trouble for me as they are doing to attorney Gao. They would definitely do evil to the very end, causing me to disappear from the lawyer community, and they will do that, although I have not seen it at this time, but I would expect that.”
Defending Falun Gong Practitioners
Journalist: “Just now, you mentioned it is an excuse, what do you think is the real reason? Why do they want to suppress you?”
Attorney Yang: “It is very obvious that this is because I defended Falun Gong practitioners. I was told this by the former Chief of the law office, Chen Yongcai.”
Journalist: “Besides your defense of Jinan city attorney Liu Ruping, and Guangxi province practitioner Nong Youyue, have you defended other Falun Gong practitioners? How many of them? And when did you defend them?”
Attorney Yang: “There are a total of three of them. I represented Liu Ruping's case this month, and defended Nong Youyue this last December, besides that I also represented Guangxi University Professor, the former Guangxi University Administration Section Chief Li Jiankun, in May 2005.”
Journalist: “What was your main defense in the Nong Youyue case?”
Attorney Yang: “First of all, from the detailed facts, it is an injustice that the authority persecutes Falun Gong, because it is a belief. In recent years, from my observation of the Falun Gong practitioners around me, I did not find that they kill, self-immolate, steal, rob, embezzle, or bribe because they practice Falun Gong. They are not vicious as described in China's news reports.”
“Second, from the nation's legislative point of view, it is against China's Constitution and the International Human Rights Convention to persecute Falun Gong, because it is a belief. It is unreasonable that the authority persecutes Falun Gong – a group of people that believes in Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance and without any illegal conduct, at the level of fighting a political battle. Many Chinese citizens that practice Falun Gong were sentenced just because they are Falun Gong practitioners or spread the Falun Gong creed, this goes against the basic “rule of law principle” of any modern civilization.
“Third, it is unlawful for China's 'Supreme People's Court' and 'Supreme People's Procuratorate' to interpret the law in a way that it is a crime to distribute or provide persecution information of a so called 'cult organization.' The behavior of Falun Gong practitioner printing and distributing 'truth clarification' material should be classified within the context of 'expression,' Chinese citizens have the right to express their ideology and their views, the right of expression should not be restricted with any conditions. What the law should control is behavior, but not belief, don't even talk about criticizing belief. This kind of policy obviously shows the cruel and inhuman nature of the persecution, and the interpretation of the law is obviously unreasonable, barbaric and inhuman. Any Chinese citizen with a conscience and justice cannot accept it. Since China's 'Supreme People's Court' and 'Supreme People's Procuratorate' chose this way of interpreting the law, instead of going through a legislative process, it is obvious it exceeded its authority.”
“Fourth, in None Youyue's case, the procurator's accusation that Nong's conduct constitutes a crime is groundless. In terms of the subjective component of the case, the practice of the law of 'disturbing the nation with a cult organization' was imposed. In terms of the objective component of the case, we never found any evidence that shows Nong used a cult organization to disturb the nation's execution of the law. What Nong revealed was false, evil and ugly [the persecution], what he promoted is truthful, kind and beautiful.”
Journalist: “I know it is not easy to become an attorney, you study very hard, work very hard, and have accumulated a great amount of experience to stand out among the others. Now, over ten years have been spent on establishing you career, and then seeing it destroyed in a single night, do you think it was worth it?”
Attorney Yang: “You are right, it is not easy for us to obtain an Attorney Certificate, it took many years of hard work. Besides that, I am quite capable in this field, I am very familiar with my work and I have achieved many good things. But now, it has all disappeared, my personal loss is very great, it is a pity, I do feel a little pained over the matter.”
“But, thinking from the other side, if you look at this society, this system, it is so suppressing. Dealing with the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, nobody dares to stand up to speak for them, this is indeed the sadness of this society, the sadness of the Chinese lawyer circle. From this point of view, I have no regrets, I have stepped forward, and have made my insignificant contribution.”
“We stood up to speak for them, even I myself sacrificed something, but we made a big step forward for this society.”
“Among the over 100,000 lawyers in mainland China, few dare to speak for them. At first, we had attorney Guo Guoting, after that, we have attorney Gao Zhisheng, now it is my turn, only several of us dare to speak for them, whoever wants to do that, will be persecuted.”
“For those in power, but not thinking of the country or the people, how could they still face this world, to stand there and make speeches? They are the same as gangsters. We did nothing wrong, but they use illegal means to persecute us. Isn't that gangster behavior?”
“Although I lost my career, I believe that I have the support of all people around the world that love peace. I especially have the support and sympathy of Falun Gong practitioners. So I am not alone. I feel that around the world there are many supporting me with their strength, many eyes looking at me. So I feel I am lucky and I am grateful.”
“I made my small contribution, and they feel this is very precious, I am proud of that.”
Be a Righteous Man
Journalist: “What is your next step?”
Attorney Yang: “First, I will write a letter to my law office to express my view, and then I will apply for a review at the labor department, besides that, I want to bring an administrative lawsuit against them. I will definitely finish it through a legal process.
“I also want to try to find a place in a Beijing law office, although my hope is very small, but I won't give up.”
“Even there, if I fail to find a position, I will work hard and wait for an opportunity. I will keep close contact with my friends Zhao Xin, Hou Wenzhuo, etc. I will continue to make my contribution to China's democratic movement.”
“Maybe I will adopt attorney Gao's ways to do some investigative work, to do some good things with my capabilities. We will use our action, and first hand information, to unveil the authority's crimes to the whole world, to pressure them.”
“I hope people around the world will understand us, and support us in any aspect. I hope we can unite together, although we use different methods and walk on different paths.”
Journalist: “Among over 100,000 lawyers, only three of you dare to stand up, why do you have so much courage?”
Attorney Yang: “First, attorney Gao's thinking influenced me. Second, I am the kind of person who likes to help people when unjust things happen. Third, I have been persecuted by the autocratic authority, I have been jailed for half a year, and have a clear understanding about the nature of this authority. Fourth, now, the rights activities inside and outside of China are just like a rising storm, we must stand up and do something for this society, this is the goal of my life.”
“The Falun Gong group has suffered too much, even I have sacrificed something. As a righteous person, I should speak out for them.”
“I Will Stand Up Like Attorney Gao and Speak Up for Them”
Journalist: “Inside mainland China, many people misunderstand Falun Gong because of the CCP's propaganda, especially during the early stages of the persecution. Can you tell us how you went through the process of understanding the persecution of Falun Gong?”
Attorney Yang: “You definitely need to go through a process to understand what happened in 1999. I heard that the authority started to crack down on Falun Gong, they were arrested, sentenced or sent to labor camps, the atmosphere was like what happened during the Cultural Revolution.”
In 1999, the persecution of Falun Gong was just like a storm attacking all of China. The authority implemented a large scale propaganda campaign to defame Falun Gong. They said that practitioners committed suicide, taught people do bad things, were anti-social, hated their family, their spouses, etc.
Because I had never had any contact with a Falun Gong practitioner, and because of the intensified propaganda, I believed what the media told us.
In 2001, I attended a hearing in Hepu county, Guangxi province, to observe the trial of a Falun Gong practitioner, she was a young girl. At that time, I watch her like watching a rare species, while she quietly sat on a stool.”
“I asked her, in the way shown on the China's Central TV (CCTV) station, 'you believe in this kind of thing, you would definitely commit self-immolation?' She answered, that was a lie, I said, how could it be a lie? The CCTV reported it. She said, “They defame us, we are innocent.”
Although she explain this to me, it was hard for me believe her at that time, I said, how could the CCTV lie? Actually, many people in China still hold this view even now, they believe the CCTV's propaganda is the truth.”
“So for many years, I had a bad impression about Falun Gong practitioners. In June 2003, when I had been defamed by the authority and locked in a detention center, there were some Falun Gong practitioners detained there with me. One of them was a Hepu county high school student. He was arrested, because he posted Falun Gong materials along the street.
After we came to know each other, we had discussions regarding Falun Gong topics. And I know that he believed in Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. After having contact with him for some time, I found he did follow the principles, he was a good and centered person. He continued to do his exercise practice even in the detention center. I admired him. This was the first time that I had close contact with Falun Gong practitioners.
After the half-year labor camp sentence, I was released at the end of 2003. I started to surf the internet in 2004, and had access to a lot of information from overseas sites through the Dynamic web. I continuously read for several days, I wanted to read even when eating and sleeping. I not only browsed topics regarding beliefs, but also other aspects of China's politics, I am interested in these things, because I like to know what's happening around the world.
For so many years, I only heard what the CCP said about any matter. In the past, I had no doubts about its propaganda. Suddenly, exposed to so much overseas information, I could compare what is right, to what is wrong. Now, I can judge for myself.
I like the articles written by attorney Gao, every one of them is full of philosophy, there is soul in those articles. I like to absorb the things inside his articles. Besides his articles, I also like to read articles written by other attorneys, such as Guo Guoting, Pu Zhiqiang and Mo Shaoping etc., and the interests I browsed was getting wider. Basically, I have formed my own opinion after summarizing the opinions from democratic movements, Falun Gong, and the lawyer community.
At the end of 2004, Attorney Gao wrote his first open letter regarding Falun Gong. At that time, not many attorneys stood up with him, someone said that he was very lonely, or in other words, not many people responded to him. At that time, I thought that I should stand up in this situation, otherwise, I would not be true to myself.”
“At that time, I didn't have a convenient way to contact him, so I left my phone number on the internet. That is how you contacted me the first time, and that was your first interview with me.”
Journalist: “Yes, when I saw that you signed the petition to support attorney Gao, I was very moved by your courage, so I made phone contact with you.”
Attorney Yang: “At that time, my view was that everyone should have their rights protected by the law, no matter what kind of person or to which group they belonged. If the law in China allows me to defend them, then I should do so.”
“At that time, because I said some things justly, I saw two phenomena.”
“On the one side, Falun Gong quickly circulated this news, searching the Internet, you could find many stories regarding me, they were very happy, because finally, there were some lawyers willing to speak on their behalf. I was very moved by their joy.”
“I just did a little thing, they felt this was so precious, so I think we must do more for them. They have so many people, and are so united, and have suffered so much, so I must stand up like attorney Gao to speak up for them.”
“One the other side, the CCP's side, the Provincial Law Office immediately asked me to have a talk with them, and write a report. The officials even came to Hepu county by themselves to investigate me … they were so nervous and fearful, just like the sky is going to fall. I just said several normal words, which would appear very normal to any person outside China, but they became very nervous. The people inside the Provincial Legal Office are just like a bunch of flunkies, they have no character, they only know how to listen to the Party.”
“I feel pity and sad for them. I am embarrassed to say that, because I was not so brave at that time either.”
“At the end of 2005, attorney Gao wrote his second open letter for Falun Gong, I publicly supported him again. This time nobody came to talk to me, maybe they were becoming numb. What attorney Gao did is just, and it opened a hole in the CCP's tuff barrier. Hopefully, after that, everyone will walk into this forbidden area, then the CCP will not have a position to hold onto.”
“During the process of representing Falun Gong cases, I had the opportunity to contact many Falun Gong practitioners and their families. I also had a chance to discuss with and understand them. I never found that they did anything like killing or self-immolation, such as described in the CCP's propaganda. They are good people, their conduct is good.”
“So it is reasonable that this process caused my view to change.”