Many Criminal Defense Lawyers Jailed in China

The Philadelphia Inquirer today has a disturbing article about the jailing of outspoken criminal defense lawyers in China.

Lawyers viewed as troublesome, or those who vigorously toil on civil-rights or criminal cases, can face obstacles unknown in the West. They're beaten, disbarred, threatened and otherwise harassed. With surprising frequency, they follow their clients into the maw of China's prison system.

On the surface, China has the scaffolding of a functioning judiciary, with prosecutors, law schools, a tiered court system, and even occasional jury trials....scholars say there's less than meets the eye on protections of basic civil and legal freedoms. The presumption of guilt looms over all those accused of crimes.

The article provides a revealing glimpse into China's legal system.

Lawyers who defend crime suspects are viewed with particular suspicion. About 70 percent of the accused never find lawyers to defend them. But any lawyer can become a target under vague laws invoking national security. China's lawyers routinely are accused of wrongdoing. The Law Journal, a professional publication, said earlier this year that "at least 500 lawyers" in China had been detained, indicted or otherwise charged from 1997 to 2002, the most recent period for which figures were given.

As one lawyer puts it:

"If you choose to seek justice, speak truth, and fight for the disadvantaged, then you will lead a miserable life."

[hat tip Peter G.]

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  • Re: Many Criminal Defense Lawyers Jailed in China (none / 0) (#1)
    by wishful on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:18 PM EST
    It is not difficult to imagine that the Bush regime aspires to just such a judicial system. In fact, they seem to have made significant progress in the past five years or so.

    That's totally consistent with what I hear from a good friend working for a lawyer in solo private practice in a large city in northern China. This lawyer does financing work, and has no experience in the criminal realm. According to my friend, there are two types of criminal defense lawyers in China: the kind who concedes every aspect of the government's case, using the technique of pleading for leniency; and the kind that's in jail for (moderately) zealously representing his or her client. My friend's employer, when he gets drafted to serve as counsel in a criminal case, makes it a point to fall into the former category.

    Re: Many Criminal Defense Lawyers Jailed in China (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:20 PM EST
    China, yet another place where we completely fail to use our imaginations. If we can't imagine better than the Chinese government, and grab the imaginations of the Chinese people, then what has all our freedom gotten us? Complacency?