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Reflections on Laws and Legal Community in China After Reading Lawyer Gao Zhisheng's Open Letter

March 02, 2005 |   Written by Yu Qing, Scholar of Law

(Clearwisdom.net) After reading Gao Zhisheng's open letter to the National's Peoples Congress, a body of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), I cannot find the exact words to describe my feelings of the CCP's use of the law to persecute its own people.

For hundreds of years, the people of China have been exploring a proper political system for their nation. The Cultural Revolution in the 1960's sadly had the Chinese people experience the ruthlessness of not being governed by law. From the Chairman of the State to the common people, no one escaped the pain of the revolution. After that, China went through a period of serious reflection and chose to be governed by law. In the past twenty years, China has established a relatively complete legal and judicial system, joined the WTO and signed two human rights treaties. One would assume that China had realized the importance of integrating with the rest of the civilized world, choosing the law and abandoning dictatorship and violence.

Since the summer of 1999, however, the Chinese are again witnessing anti-law violence. The law is being manipulated and violated at will to persecute a large group of innocent people. The fragile legal concept of people working together within a judicial system has been completely wiped out. All of the past efforts to construct a fair legal system have been destroyed and turned into an empty dream.

In his open letter, Mr. Gao reveals that, in dealing with Falun Gong practitioners, "The attitude of law enforcement in China is to view the law to be as worthless as a pair of worn-out shoes." What they are doing is against the law, but yet they are doing it in the name of the law. The whole legal system, according to Mr. Gao, "Has become numb toward the law, human nature, and human dignity. They are completely irresponsible and deal with everything randomly."

The practice of Falun Gong is completely an issue of faith. People who follow Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance are like a clear current in the muddy tide of Chinese people who have lost their faith and moral restraint. The noble character of Falun Gong practitioners positively influences the people around them and attracts more people to the practice. Yet in China, at the end of the twentieth century, an unprecedented and absurd persecution is occurring against Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. It is the most base and cruel persecution that has ever occurred in the history of China.

As for Mr. Gao's client, Falun Gong practitioner Huang Wei, there are thousands like him. In the detention centers and labor camps, many people have died under torture. They are from all walks of life and of all ages, some younger than 18 and others over 70. One case I know about is of a 62-year-old lady who was arrested by the police while walking down a street. She became very ill at the police station and was sent to the hospital for "treatment." Her family asked permission to stay by her side but were denied. Several days later, her family received a notice informing them that she had committed suicide. The family members asked to see her body but were refused permission. Two days later the family only saw an urn with her ashes in it. During the whole process of the case, the police station didn't follow any legal procedures or abide by any legal principles. When the woman's family filed a lawsuit, no government institutions responded. Both the police department and the prosecutor gave the same excuse as those in Huang Wei's case, "No legal procedures are provided and Falun Gong cases are not accepted in the court of law." The woman's incident took place in August 2002. Her family is still on their long journey of appealing to higher offices.

Take another example. Two years ago Sun Zhigang, a college graduate who went to Guangzhou to look for a job, was put in the "Collection Center" because he didn't have the special ID issued for temporary stay in the city. The "Center" is where "floating" people in the city are detained before being sent them back to their hometowns, most likely in rural areas. In Sun's case, he died in police custody after being at the center only a few days. His case received extensive attention and provoked heated discussions. As a result of the incident, the "Collection Center itself," whose creation violated the constitution in the first place, was formally abolished. Nevertheless, the abolition of this system was not accomplished through legal procedures. In today's China, how many inhumane things are happening in the name of law! So many kind-hearted people die from police abuse and torture, actions discarded by civilized society a long time ago. So many people with noble character are being sent to jail in the name of law. Freedom of belief, which is clearly stated in China's Constitution, is trampled on. The principles strictly stated in the Code of Criminal Law are deliberately misinterpreted. The state and legal systems have become tools that evil gangsters use at will for their own benefit. The judicial system that should be protecting the people is completely turned against them.

According to China's current legal principles, any state institution that exercises its public rights shall follow the constitution. Then, what is the 610 Office? In which article of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China can one find a definition of its power, duty, nature, and status? This notorious "office" rides above all state institutions, illegally sending citizens who practice Falun Gong to labor camps, brainwashing centers, and prisons; levying heavy fines; arbitrarily arresting and torturing them; and even ending their lives. The 610 Office is above the law. Where does it get such great power? Where can one find the dignity of the state law? Where is the people's will? Where is justice? How is it that one can one make rules and regulations but not abide by them? Why can law be used to persecute but not to protect? Looking at the history of China and other countries, is there any system as evil as this one?

Law can only restrict people's action, not their minds. This is a universal principle of the law and why the constitution of each country grants the right of freedom of belief. China's constitution, too, states it clearly. On the issue of Falun Gong, however, China's government uses the law to forbid the practice.

The damage to the legal system and the nation is more severe than the Cultural Revolution. After all, the legal system in China was not well established during the Cultural Revolution. The judiciary system had already collapsed. Today, however, the legal system is relatively stable, and a complete judicial system exits in China. Still, the law is violated at will and people who enforce the law act as assistants to the evil. The people's representatives pass the laws in the People's Congress Hall on behalf of the people and the whole nation. It is promulgated in the name of the People's Republic of China. It is a rule meant to protect every citizen. When it is violated, is it just the law that's been violated? The evil is treading on the entire nation and the will of its people. They are in defiance of the law and human dignity.

How can the Chinese people tolerate the existence of such evil? How can the Chinese law be trampled on so easily?

I remember an article on the Law and Mind website, titled "The Grief of Law." Since the summer of 1999, the legal system in China has become a catastrophe. If such harmful violence is not stopped, not only will the legal system in China suffer, but the whole nation will slide into an abyss.

This is a terrible shame Any true scholar of the law and anyone who has faith in upholding the law must be deeply saddened. How can someone sell his or her soul to the authorities by "waving the banner of law" while following the evil instigators to persecute and lie in exchange for a little personal benefit? The law is merely a tool for governing.

During the past few years, apart from several scholars who have conscientiously criticized such phenomena, like the legalist Mr. He, most people shamefully keep quiet to protect themselves. Mr. Gao's letter highlights the shame of the legal community.

In the face of such disaster and violence, keeping quiet is silently encouraging the evil.

We cannot keep silent anymore. We have to condemn the persecution, for such condemnation is critical to the dignity and spirit of law. It is also critical to the development of the country and the construction of the legal system. It is a moral issue and an issue of basic human values. If the law of a country cannot protect the basic rights of its citizens and the basic dignity of humanity or cannot stop the abuse of power, then that law should not be called a law.

To uphold the dignity of the law, to encourage China to develop along a healthy path, to enable justice to prevail, to stop all unfair treatment to kind-hearted people, and to be responsible to your own conscience, please speak out your condemnation of this current state of affairs.

Here may I suggest that all those legal scholars who still have a conscience co-sign a letter to the People's Congress to abolish the labor camp system. We need to improve the legal system and stop all the violence that is against our constitution. The dignity of law needs to be restored. The dignity of the nation needs to be restored.

Written on February 1, 2005