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. Continue reading

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The Attorneys

Ding Jiaxi 丁家喜 is a Chinese lawyer, he is a member of the New Citizens Movement in China. He called for the disclosure of government officials assets by giving public speech and spreading banners Beijing and he was then charged with the crime of “disrupting public order”.

Photo of lawyer Ding Jiaxi

Photo of lawyer
Ding Jiaxi

On April 6, the trial day of Ding Jiaxi in Beijing, Wang Quanping 王全平, a Guangdong lawyer drove to Beijijng to support the Lawyer Ding Jiaxi. Wang painted some sarcastic words on his car: Ridiculous if guilty to ask government officials to disclose assets? We welcome people to disclose their assets, no need for public servants. Please, public servants, do not disclose your assets.

People, please disclose your assets. Public servants, please not disclose.

People, please disclose your assets.
Public servants, please not disclose.

Around 4pm on 8 April, Lawyer Wang arrived the Beijing Haidian District Court and planned to listen to the trial, but he was taken away by some unidentified people, and then was cut off contact with his family and friends. Until the afternoon of 10 April, the outside world was informed that lawyer Wang Quanping was detained under the crime of “causing disturbance”. So in China, no matter to ask government officials to disclose assets or not to disclose assets, both can constitute “crimes”.

The detention of lawyer Wang Quanping caused anger and support among Chinese laywers. Many lawerys started their campains “Do you want to defend for the dignity of Constitution and law? Do you want to defend for lawyer Wang Quanping?” There have been already over one hundred lawyers who participated in defending for Wang Quanping. (In Chinese) Continue reading

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An interview with Zhang Qingfang about the trial of Xu Zhiyong (4)

(About why kept silent during the trial)

Most Chinese people will understand why we kept silent, but not western people, since they believe that the court is a place to argue and reason; criminal court is the place that argument and counter-argument shall be the most violent, and everyone speaks out his opinion, then the court can make a just decision. However it is clear that Chinese court is not a place to reason, especially a case like his. The reason why we kept silent is because to speak the truth needs those who know the truth to be present. Those who know the truth are either detained in detention house or controlled at home by police and not allowed to be present in court. When the truth is blocked out of the court, how can we prove it in the court? Since the court did not give us the chance to prove the truth, so we protested with our silence. This is an expression of our attitude. There is a saying: trying to explain is to give a 50% acknowledgement. Facing such an unjust trial, speaking could lessen the influence of the tragedy. Only by being silent, we can show our protest and anger.

During the trial, the judges did not care what is the truth, or guilty or not guilty; they only want to hurry to the end of the performance, to complete the task assigned by their leaders, to make it end as soon as possible. That is it.

Ai: Do you have pressure to be the defense lawyer in this case?

Zhang, My friends within the system told me, “if you want to take the case, only talk about law, but not politics.” However even if it is as such, I also plan, this year, I will take more rest, and make less contact with people within the system. If I get in touch with them, I will give them pressure, this is not good. I will take some rest and let this case pass for a while. When the case is decided, I will be quiet for a while, will not talk about it anymore. But now I must talk about it, because it is the time for the public to know Xu Zhiyong. When this is done, what is left for us to do is to help Cui Zheng, after this period. I will do it, to help as a friend.

Until now, I still think, it is not time for a big change to happen yet. I persuaded Xu Zhiyong and Ding Jiaxi, before they were arrested. I told them that they should give some time to the new leaders and let the people see if they would launch real reforms. They, esp. Ding Jiaxi, were very optimistic, believing that a democratic society was coming immediately. I think it needs another seven or eight years’ time. I have more contact with people within the system.

I told Zhiyong that I wanted to defend for you, however I had never thought it came so soon. But life is not designed. Sometimes it is time for us to stand out, then we must. When this happens, we must do what we shall do, even if there is pressure. But I do not have the courage to be Zhiyong the second.

To Cui Zheng, she thinks the same. She understands Zhiyong and supports him, however their child must be separated from politics. This is why we did not release any photo of the baby, we do not want her to be a child of politics. She will have her own life. To Zhiyong, we will still provide our help.

However that fact that we do not dare to do does not mean that no other person is willing to sacrifice. I know, today in China, there have been too many people who are willing to sacrifice for political change. So it is difficult for the government to control everything since they have been done too many things that cannot be put on table. There has been too much extreme injustice existing in this system. If the government does not want to change it, how can it make others not to fight for change?

Even with regard to the system, there will be change within it. I told Zhiyong, no rush, gentleman waits in peace till his mission comes. He came to power, everyone watches. He shall be given some time. When the time passes, he still does not change, or what he does differs from what he says, then his reputation will decrease quickly. Thinking about Hu & Wen, what a high prestige they got at the beginning. It lasted for a few years, until about 2007, public opinion was positive. The economy was growing, together with the growing world economy. Many people really thought that China could develop as it did, it was hopeful, it differed from the messy western democratic political system, we were developing well. The leaders were also very optimistic at that time. However once the economy slowed down, the accumulated social problems emerged, the historical evaluation of them was different.

The current leadership is the same. We do not doubt their goodwill and determination of reforming. However before they came to power, the existing system could not have the opportunity to make them have the full capacity to steer the country. The worst thing is that they do not clear mind: knowing that they come to power without going through competitive and just election, instead depending on their family power or some other protection power, they still have a strong will to control everything, create enemies everywhere; this will lead them go into trouble sooner or later. When this happens, will they be in a dilemma of having difficulty to go either forward or backward? Then how shall China do, it is difficult to say.

Epilogue: Four days later, the court judgement was out. Dr Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years imprisonment. At present, he already requested for an appeal.

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An interview with Lawyer Zhang Qingfang about the trial of Xu Zhiyong (3)

(Journalist: I heard that he was interrupted when he talked about the basic principles of New Citizen Movement?)

No, when he talked about disclosing officials’ assets. He said that in this world more than 100 countries have established the assets disclosure system, why cannot China do it? What are those higher up there afraid of? What are you worrying about? Then he was asked to stop.

We remained silent during the whole process of the trial, we will write out our opinion gradually after the trial.

Ai: How do you think about Xu Zhiyong, esp. through being his defense lawyer this time? Continue reading

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An interview with lawyer Zhang Qingfang about the trial of Xu Zhiyong (2)

Ai: How do you think about the New Citizen Movement initiated by Xu Zhiyong?

Zhang: This is a path that China must go. Of course at present many people still think it is a sensitive issue, and not everyone agrees that he should do it. Chinese people have been under the authoritarian education for years, many people think if you promote it and it will cause chaos, which will affect stability, then what shall we do? How about our normal lives? In fact China cannot always be like this, the civil society must start to be encouraged to participate in state governance. This society is so complicated that no matter how wise one is, he cannot be wise enough to make all decisions right and find correct answer for every question. In fact the solution of our problems itself is a process of collisions, during which, different opinions shall be freely expressed, and answers are pursued in our communications and even arguments. There might be some social instability during this process, it is possible since there has been too much contradiction accumulated for years that is controlled but not solved. Continue reading

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An interview with lawyer Zhang Qingfang about the trial of Xu Zhiyong (1)

When the Leaders say it is a horse, the court dares not to say it is a deer

On January 23, 2014, Professor Ai Xiaoming interviewed Lawyer Zhang Qingfang, the defendant lawyer for Xu Zhiyong whose trial was conducted on January 22, 2014. During the interview, Lawyer Zhang was also answering other media interviews by phone, these answers were also written down by Professor Ai. Questions and answers belonging to the phone interviews are put into brackets for clarification. The complete interview can be read here (in Chinese). (I will try to translate part of the interview in the following days. The following is the first translation)

Ai: What is the situation of yesterday’s trial?

Zhang: The trial is ridiculous. During normal trials, the questioning to the defendant is very important, the prosecutor needs to ask, and the defendant lawyer also needs to ask questions. However if this process of the interactions between the prosecutor and defendant is missing, it will not be a normal trial, it becomes a monologue played by the prosecutors. They were just repeatedly reading the written records already prepared by the police. The witnesses were not allowed to show in the court, since they were afraid that the witnesses would tell the truth then it would prove that there was no violation of the law. It is just a single-party’s play, performance, it is as such. Continue reading

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Those Beautiful Flowers

Ai Weiwei flowers
艾未未 Ai Weiwei ‏@aiww 7h
Ai Weiwei ‏@aiww 7h
Since Nov 30, 2013, each morning, I put a bundle of flowers in my bike basket out of my studio at Caochangdi No.258, until I gain my right to travel freely. The 62th day, January 30, 2014.

Today is the Chinese New Year, or, Spring Festival in China. Families stay together, eat jiaozi, greet each other happy new year, celebrating the coming of spring. Alas, being detained or imprisoned for their different opinions, for their endeavor to change the country for a better place, there are so many even cannot see their loved ones. In January 2014 alone, prisoners of conscience in China were added by at least 25 people, noted by one Chinese activist on twitter. Continue reading

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