Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Lawyer Yuan Yulai Sues Government For Confiscating Books

On March 8, 2016, the state sponsored Global Times published an article entitled “Publication Watchdog Sued Over Book Seizure.” Some excerpts:
A lawyer from East China's Zhejiang Province sued the local publication watchdog on Monday after 14 books that he bought online and that were published by Taiwan or Hong Kong publishers - some of which are about the Bible, Marxism and North Korea - were confiscated on suspicion that they were "illegal publications."

Yuan Yulai, a lawyer at Zhejiang Zhixing Law Firm who has taken on several cases against government bodies, told the Global Times on Monday that he has filed his suit with the People's Court of the Beilun District in Ningbo, Zhejiang and will receive a reply within seven days.
. . . .
According to Yuan, five people including law enforcement officers from the culture, radio, television, news and publication bureau of Ningbo's Jiangdong district and local police officers came to his office on March 4 and informed him that books in an unopened package were illegal publications. Despite his protests, the officers opened the package and confiscated all 14 books.
. . . .
A search of Chinese e-commerce website taobao.com showed that some of these books were still sold on the platform as of press time.
. . . .
Yuan is also known as an online celebrity who had over 20 million Sina Weibo followers before his account was shut down in late 2015. He started an online campaign in April 2013 encouraging people to stop visiting the town of Fenghuang, a popular tourist destination in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Central China's Hunan Province, after local authorities began charging entry fees to the town, prompting a backlash among local store owners.
On March 9, 2016, the Global Times published an article entitled “Local Govt Says Book Seizure was Lawful Operation.” Some excerpts:
The local district government in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province said Tuesday that the local publication watchdog's confiscation of a lawyer's books on suspicion that they were "illegal publications" was a regular law enforcement operation and the results of the investigation will be released through proper channels.
. . . .
Yuan argued that the operation's procedure was illegal because the law enforcement officers confiscated the books, which goes against the country's Law on Administrative Penalty.

According to that law, administrative organs may obtain evidence through sampling. Under circumstances where it is likely that the evidence may be destroyed, lost, or difficult to obtain at a later point, administrative organs may - with the approval of their leading members - first register the evidence for preservation and make a timely decision on its disposition within seven days. 

"If they had merely registered the evidence for preservation, I would still have these books in my hand and would have no need to file a lawsuit," said Yuan.
This screenshot was taken on March 13, 2016, and shows that Taobao would not allow users to find results for "The Girl With Seven Names," one of the books confiscated from Yuan's offices.

This screenshot shows, however, that the same search with the final character removed returns many results.
A full translation of Yuan's complaint is available here: http://blog.feichangdao.com/2016/03/translation-lawyer-yuan-yulais.html

Translation: Huang Xuqin and Wang Jianbing Inciting Subversion Indictment

On June 14, 2024, the Twitter account "Free Huang Xueqin & Wang Jianbing 释放雪饼" (@FreeXueBing)  posted a copy of the last two p...