Monday, May 12, 2014

Global Times: Lawyers Need to Learn Their Place, China Prohibits Commemorating June 4, 1989

On April 8, 2014, Hu Xijin (胡锡进), editor of the state sponsored Global Times, published an editorial under his pen name “Shan Renping” (单仁平) entitled “‘Die Hard Faction’ Lawyers Should Not Over-Estimate Their Political Clout.” (“死磕派”律师不可政治上自我高估). A partial English translation of the article was also published under the title “Legal Activists Must Also Respect Rule of Law.”

According to Hu:
Pu [Zhiqiang] is one of the activist lawyers who are committed to protecting civil rights. Their actions have contributed to the improvement of China's rule of law and social equity.

But activism has become a double-edged sword for these civil rights lawyers, empowering them to breach their code of practice and even express strong political viewpoints. Judicial means are not the only method they would like to use to protect civil rights, and mobilizing online public opinion and even supporting and joining illegal activities have become their new favorites.
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It was reported that Pu was detained after he attended an anniversary event to commemorate the June 4th incident. Whether there is a connection has not been officially confirmed, but it is obvious that such an event, which is related to the most sensitive political issue in China, has clearly crossed the red line of law.
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[T]hese lawyers themselves have lost the ability of self-introspection. They must regain self-awareness and realize that they are not the commandos or authoritative forces to improve China's rule law.

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The English version departed from the English version in several respects. First, in the Chinese version almost every reference to “Pu Zhiqiang” is instead a reference to the “Die-Hard Lawyer Faction.” According to one source, the origin of this term is as follows:
During the "Beihai Case" of June, 2011, four criminal defense lawyers gained notoriety when they were arrested for perjury. Indignant lawyers from across the country came to Beihai to defend and demand justice on behalf of the jailed lawyers. From the beginning of the "Beihai Case," the lawyers traveling to Beihai met with significant difficulties and obstacles. Chi Susheng, a National People's Congress representative from Heilongjiang, was unable to restrain herself, and flew from the Northeast to Guangxi. Lawyer Yang Xuelin recalls that when Chi Susheng saw lawyers being surrounded and beaten by unknown assailants, she said "Never Yield." This was the birth of the “Die Hard Faction."

Another difference between the Chinese and English versions of Hu’s editorial is that, in his English language version Hu says Pu “crossed the red line of the law” by attending an event commemorating June 4, 1989. But in his Chinese version Hu referred to the incident as the “89 Political Disturbance"  (八九政治风波) and went on to say that participating in a commemoration of the event is “prohibited”: “But it is immediately obvious to discerning people that those kinds of activities are prohibited in China.” (但明眼人一看就清楚,那样的活动在中国是被禁止的)

Hu did not say pursuant to which law commemoration is prohibited.