In-Court Arguments for the Jiang Lawsuit End; Plaintiffs Say Diplomatic Considerations Should Not Override Legal Justice
(Clearwisdom.net) On the morning of Thursday, May 27, 2004, the first oral arguments in the appeal of Falun Gong practitioners' class-action lawsuit against former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin were heard in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Dr. Terri Marsh, the plaintiffs' attorney, stated that there were mistakes with the original court's dismissal of the lawsuit based on head-of-state immunity. She requested that the appellate court overturn the federal court decision.
Plaintiffs' lawyer: defendant cannot be forgiven for crimes committed during his tenure of office
During the 40-minutes of oral arguments, Dr. Marsh explained that the original court decision to dismiss the lawsuit because Jiang enjoyed head-of-state immunity was wrong. She stated that immunity is not the same as impunity. A head of state cannot be exempt from prosecution for individual and non-governmental acts.
The suggestion by the U.S. Department of Justice that Jiang is a head of state and therefore enjoys immunity is ineffective, because Jiang is no longer a head of state, having left office as the president of China, and he therefore no longer enjoys immunity.
Plaintiffs' lawyer emphasize importance of rule-by-law
Another point of discussion in this case is that due to political pressure from the Chinese government, the U.S. administration is worried this lawsuit will set a precedent for allowing private lawsuits to be served against U.S. presidents while they travel abroad.
In response, during her closing remarks Dr. Marsh quoted former President Bush who, when signing the Torture Victim Protection Act into law, addressed the arguments put forth by letter: "The dangers that U.S. Courts may become embroiled in difficult and sensitive disputes in foreign countries is real, ... But these potential dangers, however, do not concern the fundamental goals that this legislation seeks to advance. In this new era, in which countries throughout the world are turning to democratic institutions and the rule of law, we must maintain and strengthen our commitment to ensuring that human rights are respected everywhere." Dr. Marsh said that especially since the U.S. has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in helping Asian countries build a democratic legal mechanism, protecting human rights through strict legal processes is critically important.
A representative from the Department of Justice admitted China's human rights persecution against Falun Gong, but emphasized diplomatic and political considerations instead
Department of Justice attorney Douglas N. Letter began his arguments by emphasizing the United States' condemnation of the persecution of Falun Gong. However, he said the U.S. government has also to take into account various diplomatic and political considerations.
China expert, policy advisor (and Falun Gong spokesperson) Mr. Erping Zhang said, "First we welcome the Department of Justice re-emphasizing the U.S. government's condemnation of the Chinese government's persecution of Falun Gong practitioners' human rights and also acknowledging the severity and scope of the persecution. However, diplomatic and political elements cannot transcend principles of the Constitution. In a democratic society, the constitution is higher than political, administrative and diplomatic concerns. If the State Department allows any state head to come to the U.S., would they allow Hitler to come if he was still alive?"
Another Falun Gong practitioner said, "According to previous cases, immunity does not equal impunity. The late Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos was served with a lawsuit in Hawaii, and exiled Chilean president Pinochet was sued in Europe. People are equal before the law and they should meet with justice if they violated the law. It would be sad if diplomatic concerns are allowed to replace justice."
Plaintiffs' advisor: other than legal concerns, the Jiang lawsuit is also upholding basic moral standards
Mr. Erping Zhang continued, "The law grants the administrative department certain powers, but these powers are limited to certain areas and they obey the Constitution, which by definition is rule-by-law. Otherwise, it would be rule-by-man as it is in Mainland China, where the constitution becomes the administration's political tool. This lawsuit against Jiang stands its ground in the U.S. Constitution, Chinese Constitution, international law and universal justice. Even the constitution of China states that people have freedom of belief and freedom of expression. In a U.S. court, our lawyer provided legal evidence, material evidence and witnesses that strictly and fully conform to the U.S. law. This lawsuit against Jiang is not only important in terms of upholding rule-by-law, but also guarding the basic moral standard."
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals yet to reach conclusion
After the oral arguments ended, the judges said they would make a decision based on discussion of the lawyers' statements (case number 03-3989).
Jiang's regime continues to assert pressure
People have noticed that in the past few days, the number of spies around the court and where Falun Gong practitioners clarify the truth to people have increased significantly.
Falun Gong practitioner Yang Sen said Falun Gong practitioners around the world will continue to clarify the truth about the persecution in a deeper and more thorough manner, and they will treat the Jiang lawsuit with a benevolent and calm mindset as well as strong righteous thoughts.
According to sources inside Mainland China, Jiang was extremely nervous about today's court arguments, and Jiang's regime even threatened to attack Taiwan in an effort to interfere with the court proceedings. On the other hand, lawsuits against Jiang around the world have attracted increasing attention and discussion, as have reports of corruption surrounding the activities of Jiang's son.