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Chinese Lawyer Detained After Defending Falun Gong Member

The Chinese law community is up in arms after prominent human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang was detained at Jinjiang court in eastern Jiangsu province after defending the case of a Falun Gong practitioner.

Wang was ordered to remain in judicial custody on April 4, 2013 for 10 days for “disrupting court order” during the trial. He was released two days later.

The Falun Gong spiritual discipline, which has been persecuted by the Chinese Communist Party since 1999, is one of the most sensitive topics in China. Wang is known for daring to take on difficult cases such as these. Last year, he was dragged out of a court in China after he tried to defend a Falun Gong practitioner.

News of Wang’s detention spread quickly on China’s most popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, with many lawyers calling his arrest an abuse of the court's power and a move to suppress lawyers.

Lawyers urge for Wang's immediate release in front of Jinjiang court(pic from Sina Weibo)

Lawyers demonstrate for Wang's immediate release in front of Jinjiang court. Photo from Sina Weibo.

The next day, a group of lawyers travelled to the court to demand an explanation for Wang's detention. They signed a letter [zh] to the court that reads:

如果不立即纠正,将会在国内国际造成极其严重的负面影响,严重损害中国司法形象,并将极大的打击甚至摧毁人们建设法治国家的信心。

If this case is not immediately set right, it will have a very negative impact nationally and internationally, It will harm the image of the Chinese judiciary, it will undermine or destroy the people’s trust in the nation under the rule of law.

After Wang was released, the Jingjiang court explained in online statement posted on its website that it had cut the 10-day sentence short because the detention had already served its purpose as a punishment.

But many lawyers believed the court released him because of public pressure. Wang announced [zh] on his Weibo account that he had asked for a judicial review of his detention. He also wrote:

本人在正常履行职务的过程中,遭遇司法拘留,这不仅是个人权利和自由遭受的侵害,更是中国执业律师环境恶化的一个缩影。

While peforming my duty legally as a lawyer, I suffered judicial custody, this is not only a violation of individual rights and freedom, but also a microcosm of the degradation of the working environment for Chinese lawyers.

Wang’s release didn't stop many lawyers from worrying about the country's legal reality. Lawyer Yang Xuelin commented [zh] on Weibo:

王全章律师被释放,我感到欣慰,但无法欢呼。因为从抓人到放人的两天多时间,法治途径已被堵死。为何抓人?为何放人?都是法律之外的因素。特别是放人,官方竟然说是“已起到惩戒作用,无继续拘留的必要”,这玩笑开大了。没有汹涌澎湃的民间死磕,鬼才相信你会主动放人。

I was relieved after Wang's release, but I'm not happy. From Wang's arrest to his release, the rule-of-law approach has been blocked. Why arrest him? Why release him? All because of factors other than the law. Especially the official release says “[It] has served its purpose as a punishment without the need for further detention. This is such a big joke. Without the public pressure and lawyers’ protest, who believes that they would have taken the initiative to release Wang?

Law professor Zhang Yibin confirmed [zh] Yang's thoughts:

律师没有胜利,法治没有胜利。自始至终法院不敢公开事实真相,从未承认错误。如此蒙混过关,难保以后变本加厉打击报复。这次事件全凭律师自发救援,网友自发声援,自始至终未见律师主管部门司法部和律协发挥应有的作用,如此现状,令广大律师寒心,难道每次维权都要采取这样的方式吗?

Lawyers have no victory, the rule of law has no victory. From the beginning to the end, the court did not dare release the truth or admit its mistake. If they get away with it this time, there is no guarantee that this not going to intensify retaliation in the future. This incident solely relied on the lawyers’ and netizens’ spontaneous rescue. Neither the Department of Justice nor the Lawyers’ Association played its due role. Such a situation makes lawyers chill, do we have to defend our rights this way every time?

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