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Gao Zhisheng on China’s Persecution of Rights Lawyers

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Gao Zhisheng  |  China Change

This article was first publish in China Change web site on July 14, 2016

Gao Zhisheng (China Aid)
Gao Zhisheng (China Aid)

The legal profession is weak under the tyrannical Chinese Communist Party, yet there has been no lack of individual lawyers who stick to the law and principles. Because of their profession, lawyers witness or experience countless incidents of injustice or suppression bred by the cruel system itself. As the saying goes, the great waves sift the sand. In the face of this injustice and suppression, most lawyers simply try to get on with their lives. Some, acting as puppets, even join forces with the tyrants for selfish gains. But there is one group who instead have developed the towering wish to change the fate of the Chinese nation and people, and shoulder the special historic role of relieving the country of its current, heavy yoke. My friends, lawyers Li Heping  and Wang Quanzhang, are firmly in the latter group.

Li Heping is considered a moderate in the Chinese legal community, and he has a wide circle of friends. He is a good friend of mine whom I have known for a long time, and one of the Chinese lawyers I’ve had the most interactions with. Given that our frequent interactions occurred when the authorities were terrorising and devastating myself and my family, his association with me made him more of a threat in the eyes of the authorities.

The deepest impression he left me with was how he was always so full of vigor, participating in nearly every gathering held by colleagues. Amid sharp disputes, he would be smiling and watching from the sidelines. Even when he himself was attacked, he was always able to mitigate the often emotional confrontation, and he could always be relied upon for insightful criticism or an opposing viewpoint. He is mild, rational, and compassionate. The two of us worked on a series of high-profile cases in early 2000s, including the appeal of Mr. Yang Zili (杨子立) , and the forced expropriation of private oil fields in northern Shaanxi province. I teased him whenever we met, and he always just laughed, never returning a blow. We became the best of friends despite our opposite temperaments.

I’d said on different occasions previously: if and when the mild-mannered Li Heping is arrested, the darkest days in China will have arrived, and the dawn for a new China will also be around the corner.

Most outsiders think that I’m the first Chinese lawyer to take on Falun Gong persecution cases — but that’s not so. Before me, Wang Quanzhang had already begun to help those kind-hearted victims.

The head of Beijing’s secret police in 2010 once suddenly asked me: “This fellow Wang Quanzhang, do you know him?” This was a clear sign that the Communist Party already saw him as trouble.

Wang Quanzhang and I only met once. In April 2006 when I was kidnapped by the Party’s thugs, there were strong calls of protest in a number of cities that left a deep impression on me. Among them was the Shenzhen policeman Wang Dengchao, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012; the police officer surnamed Wei in Xi’an (I don’t know his later fate); and also Wang Quanzhang.

In 2007, the same personnel that subjected me to torture and ill-treatment also abducted and savagely beat Li Heping, simply as a way of retaliating against him for his insistence on visiting me.

Quanzhang was practicing in Jinan, Shandong, at the time, and he rushed to Beijing, to the Xiaoguan Police Station in my neighborhood, to demand my release. Quanzhang was the only person I met with then, and it was our only meeting. He was intelligent, dashing, and had an understated yet firm and direct style of speech, a manifestation of his internal righteousness. I exhorted him: following my path will endanger your life. He laughed and said: “However stupid I am, I know that much.” All these years later, I still remember those words.

As a Falun Gong practitioner from Shandong, who had come to Beijing to petition, put it, Wang was a good, brave, and compassionate man. He had many Falun Gong friends who’ve been victims of persecution, and has all along quietly worked to give succor to that kind-hearted group of practitioners who’ve suffered barbaric political violence. This is in fact how we came to be friends, and develop such regard for one another.

When Quanzhang came to Beijing to practice law, I was struggling with the government thugs and couldn’t meet. But every time I thought of him, I wondered: for a kind and just soul like him, it’s only a matter of time before he’s ensnared in the prison of the Communist Party. I knew how much suffering this would bring to his daughter and wife, Li Wenzu, and this pained me.

Regarding the unlawful “709 incident,” I recently heard an interesting comment: “Since the crackdown, there have been no discordant views in China, but how long this quietude will last is hard to say.” I told my interlocutor: Silence is just the other face of turmoil, a different read of what’s brewing.

Silence means a dead world — but for idiotic dictatorships, it’s a dream world.

Using coercion and violence at every turn is the clearest proof of the savagery, fatuousness, incompetence, and failure of the rulers. Apart from simply adding to the long list of sins and crimes, they’re also further isolating themselves from the civilised, law-abiding world. At the same time, they’re engendering further resistance to their rule by committing crimes against humanity, again and again. They will gain nothing from their despicable acts.

A stubborn fixation on stopping dawn’s arrival is not only foolish, but also destined to fail.

This new emperor, splashing money around the world, is only succeeding in ingratiating himself with a few people in and outside of China who’re happy, for now, to praise him to the heavens. But the reality is that normal people are simply astonished at the complete lack of understanding he demonstrates of the true complexity and multifacetedness of human society; his intellectual quotient seems to be less than that of Kim Jong-un.

Just as with all the techniques of stupid dictators, they’re only considering what’s in front of them, and not what lies ahead — they’re simply trying to get out of the current trouble, but not thinking of fundamental resolutions to the problems. There’s no consideration for the disaster that inevitably approaches. This is the tragic end common to all dictators.

Obsessively, they demand conformity among the people, and that is what most of daily conflicts are about. In a world in which everything is the same, one small deviation seems to offend the eyes, bringing down the fury of suppression, and even the impulse to eliminate.

One of Napoleon’s subjects once told him: “My Lord, you can do anything you like with bayonets, except sit on them.”

It’s one year on since the large scale of crackdown on lawyers, but the government has not succeeded in subjugating the rights defense community. The opposite is true. China’s arrogant rulers have further entrenched themselves in a war against the basic values of civilization, and are edging ever closer to their own collapse. Like a reckless gambler with nothing to lose, everything they’re doing simply brings them nearer to that inevitable fate.

Alexis de Tocqueville believed that lawyers, as a collective, were if not the only force to bring an equilibrium to democracy, at least the strongest force able to do so.

Of the 52 signatories to the “Declaration of Independence,” 25 were lawyers. Of the 55 representatives in the meetings held to draft the U.S. constitution, 34 were lawyers. Of all U.S. presidents in history, over half have been lawyers. In all civilized societies of the world today, lawyers with proper training and character are active in affairs of state and almost all important segments of society, fighting for the best outcomes in politics, rule of law, and social issues.

The liberty accorded to, and level of development of, the legal profession is a reflection of the overall degree of civilization of a nation. The history of all communist regimes on earth have shown clearly that they are the mortal enemies of normal politics, rule of law, and other universal values. As a profession that arises from civilized justice systems, lawyers have never been tolerated by communist regimes — this is clear through history. Recognizing this obvious historical phenomenon requires seeing clearly two pre-conditions: the first is that totalitarian regimes cannot accept the rule of law; the second is that communist regimes are fundamentally totalitarian. Failing to understand either of these statements always results in confusion.

After 1978, the Chinese communists came up with a trick that has fooled the world: “reform and opening up.” The rest of the world seems to have really been taken in by this, as the communists don Western suits and leather shoes, conning their way into the international community of civilized nations. The legal profession in China was originally meant to be a mere showpiece, an indication of how confident they are in their ability to control and deceive. But there were some lawyers that didn’t appreciate this, and refused to go along with it. This is a major inconvenience for the Party, and so in the end they couldn’t stop themselves from openly attacking the rights lawyers, using all of their scurrilous means and shocking the world.

History always records, honestly and diligently, just as it always punishes the evildoers in the end.  

The 709 arrests add to a long list of atrocities following the Tiananmen Massacre and the brutal persecution of Falun Gong. These barbaric abusers of human rights will be brought to justice, one by one, in special courts after 2017*.

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