The Attorney Pu Zhiqiang (part 1)

As the 25th anniversary of Tian’anmen Democracy Movement approaches, a small group of people, consisted of Tiananmen mothers, scholars, dissidents, writers, held a seminar in Beijing on May 3rd to remember the event, discuss its impact and consequences, and call for truth finding and resolution of remaining issues. Less than two days after the seminar, multiple disappearances have been reported.
Among them, lawyer Pu Zhiqiang 浦志强 was detained under the crime of “disrupting social order”. puzhiqiangnanfangrenwu
The following is my translation of a 2012 article published by South Metropolis Weekly (in Chinese) about Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang.

Haer Lawyer Pu Zhiqiang written by Jia Lingjiang, Tang Ailin

Pu Zhiqiang is 188cm tall and weighs 110kg. He speaks in loud voice and looks tough and strong. He makes many feel a bit under pressured standing together with him.

His weibo account profile is a portrait taken by the ESQUIRE magazine: square head, black suits, white shirt, handsome, healthy and strong, but with deep dimples making him a bit sweet.

Appearing on the ESQUIRE, Pu is so proud that he boasts that he will work hard towards the showbiz, and to start by “taking some small roles”.

He did appear in a 2009 documentary (Laoma tihua by Ai Weiwei, Pu appears at 17 minutes onward) and got quite many fans. However, he insists that he was already popular before the documentary. He got famous for defending for the media and individuals and their freedom of expression in defamation cases.
He calls himself “Haer”, “Hamou”, which means straightforward, pumpkin head, and says that he “knows politics, has techniques, but very bad in law”. This is for sure self-mockery. Born in 1965, Pu Zhiqiang graduated from Nankai University and the Chinese University of Political Science and Law, and he started to practice law in 1997.

In this year (2012), his working focus is Chongqing. He provided bona fide legal service in Fang Hong’s reeducation lawsuit, and a similar lawsuit where the university graduate village cadre Ren Jianyu got reeducation for his posts online. In total, he is the representative lawyer in 6 reeducation lawsuits, which are all about “freedom of speech and freedom of expression”. He points out that reeducation cases mostly concern the grassroots, and the common people’s lives are treated as the grass.

On one wensite, he is positioned as a “shameless western slave”. The website says, Pu Zhiqiang is good to act a tough guy, but he is so narrow-minded and only focuses on “rights defense show”.
Pu never hides it, to take lawsuits is for fame, “some police officers ask why I always pay my own money to take lawsuits, my answer is to be famous, why I tell the media, it is hyper-up.”

He never mentions that he is an idealist. His friend, writer Tujia Yefu 土家野夫 considers that Pu looks sincere, acts sincerely, holds justice, and bears the old tradition of a high moral world. The writer Zhang Yihe 章诒和 thinks that Pu’s most characters are: underscoring promises, disregarding life and death, with the style of literati’s sacrifice, generosity and justice.

“In this society, there is no new morals, and no old morals, it is a society that lacks morals. Pu’s personality is very rare.” Zhang Yihe tells journalist of Nandu Weekly that she thinks Pu is a good person from the perspective of personality and humanity.

“I write better than Yu Qiuyu”
On June 10, Pu Zhiqiang went to Daxing Panggezhuang Seniors’ House to visit his mother. Last June, he sent his mother to this Seniors’ House before he went to Xianning to defend for the taxi-drivers. His mother has got the Alzheimer’s Disease for six years, and has the difficulty to find a good home nurse. On that day, his 88 years old mother looked happy. She knew his son’s name, and thought that he got a stable job. “My mother always thinks the planned economy way, she is always worried that I do not have an identity. A lawyer fights in court, is not stable job, sometimes has meals to eat sometimes not, can’t be compared to be a teacher.” Pu says.

Last year, his business income is 4milion (RMB). In early years, he did make his families feel insecure. In 1991, he obtained his Master degree from the Institute of Legal Ancient Books from the Chinese University of Political Science and Law. His first job is a secretary in a vegetables and fruits wholesale market in Haidian District in Beijing. He got the job with the reference of the then Rector of the University Jiang Ping.

Later, he did some jobs as a paralegal, but he did not get his “red book” (Lawyer’s Certificate), so he worked “not in complying with the law”. At that time, he still wanted to work in a university, got an assigned house and start to settle down. When he was 30, he took the bar examination in order to “make a living”.

In 1997, he was 32 and became a lawyer. He took commercial cases, which were introduced to him by friends, and started to develop his law practicing.

At that time, Pu Zhiqiang has already started to take some cases relating to freedom of expression. He regards the writer Hu Ping his life mentor. Around 1975, Hu Ping wrote On Freedom of Expression. 20 years later, Pu read it and highly praised it. In 1996, Pu bought his first computer and started to practice typing with WPS, and input the whole article of 60,000 words into his computer word by word.

In 2003, Pu Zhiqiang took the defamation case of Yu Qiuyu suing Xiao Xialin 余秋雨诉肖夏林名誉权案, and acted as the representative lawyer of Xiao Xialin. For the first time, he used the concept of “public figure” from the “New York Times v. Sullivan”, and raised up the issue that famous people, or public figures suing the media or individuals for defamation, there must be the act constitutes actual malicious intention.

Talking about his defense statement, Pu Zhiqiang self-praised, ”I think I wirte better than Yu Qiuyu.”
In February 2004, Pu Zhiqiang went on a business trip to Zhuhai and read the book of Will the Boat Sink the Water?:The Life of China’s Peasants, The suffering of peasants in the book makes him “tearing like raining”. In the same year, the party secretary of Linquan County used “defamation” to sue the writers Chen Guili and Wu Chuntao of that book.
When knowing this, Pu offered to provide free legal service to the defenders. He prepared to make the case the Chinese “Sullivan”, and asked the court to protect the right to criticize government officials.

Under his tough appearance, shows Pu’s sensitive and gentle personality. Man shall not talk about tears, however he says frankly that every time when he read The Common World he becomes tearful. The Washington Post China journalist Philip Pan videotaped the trial scene of the defamation lawsuit of Will the Boat Sink the Water?: the common people kneel on the floor, crying and shouting grievance, Pu Zhiqiang stood up suddenly from his seat, tears filled up his eyes.

“The society shows its generaous love to me”

Pu Zhiqiang often writes about his mother on his weibo. “My mother has the status of “all the four elements are void (Buddhism) . Last month when asked what is her son’s name, she said, Zhiqiang, a lawyer. Then when I just told her that I am Zhiqiang, she suddenly said, oh, that is my nephew!”
His mother is indeed not his birth mother, but his aunt. Pu was born in Luanxian Hebei Province, the fifth child in his family, with two elder brothers and two elder sisters. He was adopted by his uncle and aunt who do not have their own child.

Born in a rich peasant’s family, Pu Zhiqiang said that he suffered from poverty in his childhood, but never being hungry. His father (uncle) was denounced in the village, Pu went to deliver meals, this did not affect him too much. He had very good grades and was treated well at school, “your dad pushes around my dad, I will not let you copy my homework, do you still want to live?”

In 1982, Pu Zhiqiang was accepted by the History Department of Nankai University. He had wide communications, and participated in the “Luxun National Characteristics Seminar” , all these have affected his world views.

In 1986, he graduated from Nankai and took the Master entrance exam to study Legal Ancient Books at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law, but only got 40 in English and failed. Later he was assigned a job in Hebei Materials College, teaching Chinese Revolution History. In 1988, he took the exam again and got 50.5 in English and was accepted.

In 1991, Pu Zhiqiang graduated from his Master study but became unemployed. He felt hopeless and went to Mr. Zhang Xianyang of the Marxism and Leninism Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. It happened that Gao Ertai was there too, Zhang hold Pu’s hands, and told him never give up, “a man loyal to his belief and friends will never be defeated.” Zhang’s words helped Pu.

Bo Xicheng, the then Director of Beijing Tourism Bureau, after receiving Pu’s job application letter, sent people to contact the Chinese University of Political Science and Law several times, but still did not get his a job due to the planning assignment system. In January 2011, Pu Zhiqiang met Bo Xicheng for the first time, and expressed his deep thanks.

Pu Zhiqiang thinks that the society is generous for him. In 1991, the rector Jiang ping gave him 100yuan to buy food. He took it and later returned to Jiang when he got some commission for his articles. Jiang refused, Pu said, “you take it not, I will borrow it again when I need.”
“Many friends and teachers have helped me. I can’t repay them all, to do my things well, to push the society go forward is the best return.” Pu says.

“Going off the point is on purpose”
In court, Pu Zhiqiang uses attacking strategy and makes his counter-parties in jeopardy.
In October 2010, Pu Zhiqiang appeared in court of the Yichun Guangming Corp Corruption case, representing the corporate chairman of board Feng Yongming. Feng found that a prosecutor who once beat him severely was in the court to hear the trial, so he stood up and tried to show his body injuries. Pu Zhiqiang rushed to the public seats section and wanted to take the prosecutor out. A dozen court polices stopped him. The court went chaotic and the trial was adjourned.

On May 27 2011, Xianning taxi drivers strike case opens. Pu Zhiqiang and Shanghai lawyer Si Weijiang were the defense lawyer for Zhou Bin, one of the defendants in the case. Hubei Xianing city government planned to take back the taxi business license and was boycotted by the drivers. Zhou Bin, an insurance man, helped the drivers to write petition letters, post information online, and was charged with disrupting social order.

During the trial, Pu Zhiqiang criticized the prosecutor, “you are the representative for the state, and you even dare not to take the files! How can you serve the country like this?”
Liu Yuanxiang, another defendant in the case, was abandoned by hierlawyer half way through the trial. During the evidence questioning period, Liu pleaded to the judges, “is it ok to have the Lawyer Pu of Zhou Bin to act as my lawyer too?”

Zhou Bin remembers that when knowing the family situation of Liu Yuanxiang, “Lawyer Pu cried.” Liu was more than 40 years old, her husband died of liver cancer, her two children, and parents in law all depend on her taxi business to live.

Si Weijing thinks, compared to Pu, he is still belonging to the type of “able to be educated”, since after the trial, the chief judge invited him and other two representative lawyers Wu Pengbin and Yu Zhiyuan for night snack, but not Pu Zhiqiang.

Zhou Bin said, because of the power of Pu and Si, there were quite a few adjourned periods during the trial. During the trial, the drivers for many times applauded. On June 3, 2011, when Pu and Si left Xianning, a convoy of more than 100 taxies accompanied the two lawyers out of the city to the Jingzhu express entry.

Pu Zhiqiang likes this scene, “I have not been welcomed by the common people for long”. Last time, it was when he took the defamation case of the book Will the Boat Sink the Water?

In 2004, the authors Chen Guili and Wu Chuantao of Will the Boat Sink the Water made their decision to have Pu Zhiqiang as their representative lawyer for the reason of “a canon is needed”.

Pu Zhiqiang did not fail them. Until now, he feels happy and satisfied with his bravery in the case, and telling us each detail in the defense full of conflicting scenes. “I was 39 years old then, likes to rival with people, never hides myself when speaking. Brilliant!”

Chen Guili tells the journalist that at that time, Pu had already got diabetes, each time before the trial, he ate two big tomatoes, and then posted the trial online, he was indeed a workaholic that does not care about himself. Many friends got the information about the case from the Internet, and said that they “got a good lawyer”.

However strangely, 8 years later, members of the trial panel have been relocated from the court, Pu Zhiqiang still did not receive the judgment of the court.

In 2009, Pu Zhiqiang took the defamation case of Duan Lei in Shandong Caoxian. Duan Lei reported the local party secretary of the County government on the Internet and was charged with defamation. Duan Lei’s father is illiterate, he told Pu, “if you can save my son, I will ask him to be your god-son.” After Pu got involved in the case, the media started wide reporting, less than one month, Duan Lei was released.

In July 2007, when the charge of Duan Lei withdrawn, villagers in Henan Qinyang were charged with defamation for disseminating materials whistle blowing their village party secretary’s corruption. In August, Zhang Baozheng and other families of the villagers went to Pu Zhiqiang. Zhang remembers that when they arrived at Pu’s office, Pu was eating jiaozi, seeing them come, he did not touch the left half, and asked the restaurant to send more jiaozi for them.

Zhang says, that case, since Pu’s participation and media report, less than one month, eight villagers were released out of the detention house. When villager Zhang Zhongfang and Zhao Mancao called Pu to thank him, “Lawyer Pu cried in the phone knowing the grievance suffered by the eight villagers.”

Although Pu Zhiqiang thinks that his defense is occasionally brilliant, his friend Si Weijiang (斯伟江)points it out directly that his expression is sometimes long and boring, likely to pull dots to be lines.

For this, Pu also acknowledges. He likes talking, and likely to pull off the point. However he explains, sometimes going off the point is on purpose, “when needed, I shall go off the point, going to the direct where it is needed.”

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