China’s Criminal Defense Lawyers

When I was in Nanjing I spent some time at the Nanjing Labor Law Legal Aid Center, one of China’s too-uncommon places for low-income legal help. They were pushing back against bad and illegal labor practices, a difficult task in China’s legal system in particular. Over at The Atlantic, Thomas Stevenson details hazards (some similar, some less so) faced by another group of public interest lawyers in China—criminal defense attorneys:

For several months, on Skype, I helped him unpack and understand the capital punishment literature and experiences of other abolitionist organizations in Asia. On a few occasions he has interrupted our sessions, apologetically, to answer the door. While the video call continues, the camera aimed at the white-washed wall of his apartment, I can make out his painfully polite conversation with the policeman off-screen: “No, I won’t stay in Beijing throughout the Party Congress. Don’t worry. I will leave tomorrow for my hometown. I’m sorry, I can’t talk now. I have an English lesson. My teacher is waiting. I’m sorry.” Mr. Liang tells me the police “invite” him for coffee every couple of weeks to inquire about his movements. …

Unlike Liang Xiaojun, Mr. Gao was never shy about his political opinions. While the two were colleagues, Mr. Gao excoriated the government in one open letter after another, published a memoir detailing his weeks of detention and torture, and urged the EU and U.S. to boycott the Beijing Olympics. His free speech spree ended as they typically do in China — with imprisonment and more torture. Because of his ties to Mr. Gao, the Bureau of Justice forbade Mr. Wen from taking any more “special cases.” However, when Mr. Wen began his search for a new law firm, rejection after surprise rejection drove home the truth of the matter: the Bureau had blacklisted him for good measure. After a period of being unaffiliated, Mr. Wen was stripped of his license, as per Chinese law.

This entry was posted in China, Law. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.