‘Like Suing Hitler’: Chinese Lawyers, Scholars Talk About Lawsuit Wave Against Former Communist Party Leader Jiang Zemin

June 5, 2015 Updated: June 23, 2015

In the last few days, a series of criminal complaints have been lodged against the former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, most of them by practitioners of Falun Gong, the spiritual practice that he led a violent persecution of in 1999. Some of the complainants have been arrested by the authorities, and others left unharmed—an unusual development. As the political atmosphere around the persecution of Falun Gong continues to shift, lawyers and academics in China are weighing in on the affair.

Zhong Weiguang, a Chinese scholar based in Germany, compared the lawsuits against Jiang to “the suing of Hitler for crimes against humanity after World War II.” He characterized it as almost a historical inevitability.

Guo Lianhui, the founder of Chinese law firm Jiangxi Mingli, said in an interview that the attempts were a “great thing” because, Guo said, Jiang “brought disasters to China and the Chinese people, as well as brutal persecution to Falun Gong practitioners.”

“Those who do bad things will get retribution,” he added.

Zhang Zanning, a law professor at Southeast University in Nanjing City, Jiangsu Province, urged Chinese courts to accept the complaints and indict Jiang, given the regime’s promotion of the “rule of law” in recent times. “I believe suing Jiang Zemin is very appropriate from both the standpoint of the law or justice,” he said. “My colleagues and I all believe that suing Jiang Zemin is a very encouraging phenomenon. It shows that Chinese people’s legal awareness is improving.”

Practitioners of Falun Gong—a traditional Chinese meditation practice that incorporates moral teachings—have filed at least 70 criminal indictments from around China against Jiang from May 28 to May 30 in China, according to Minghui, a Falun Gong website that carries first-hand reports from China.

Jiang is being targeted in the suits because he initiated the persecution of the practice in 1999, and saw that the entire Party and state apparatus was concentrated on the campaign. An unknown number of Falun Gong practitioners—but likely over 100,000, according to statistics and estimates from researchers—have been tortured to death in custody or have been harvested for their organs. The actual death toll is impossible to know, given controls on such information in China.