There have been lots of changes since Bo Xilai took over the reigns especially the sweeping anti-corruption drive, the closure of black jails that local governments used to lock up petitioners and informers, the imprisonment of thugs who intercepted petitioners and the payment of compensation to illegally detained petitioner.
For me, however, the most important change is the quick decision after Xi took over of a case in Beihai City where four defence lawyers were wronged and put under house arrest for defending innocent clients.
Since Bo Xilai persecuted defence lawyer Li Zhuang, persecution of criminal case defence lawyers has become a national trend. As a result, except for a small number of lawyers who bravely fight for the rule of law and human rights, few lawyers dare to act as defence lawyers in criminal litigation.
A war to defend the rule of law began. On the one hand, the National People’s Congress (NPC, China’s parliament) led by Wu Bangguo, a Shanghai faction heavyweight, revised China’s criminal procedure law to protect lawyers’ right of defence. Wu’s action was the earliest sign of the power struggle related to the rule of law between Bo Xilai and those who wanted the rule of law, including the Shanghai faction and Qiao Shi’s faction
On the other hand, in order to prevent Bo’s malpractice of persecuting defence lawyer from spreading to the whole nation, dozens of rights lawyers formed the well-known “Beihai Lawyer Group” to defend lawyers’ right of defence in the notorious Beihai Case in which Yang Zaixin and other three lawyers were arrested for their defence of their five clients.
According to Ming Pao and SCMP, the fact of the Beihai Case was very clear: in November 2009, A youngster Huang Huanhai disappeared after his group of youngsters quarrelled and then fought with another group of youngsters. The police took the group of five who fought with Huang’s group and regarded them as suspects. Five days later, Huang’s body was found and the five suspects were accused of Huang’s murder.
It was reported: No evidence was found to accuse the suspects of Huang’s murder, but in order to obtain the achievement of breaking all the homicide cases within the year, the police forced the suspects to admit that they killed Huang with a knife. However, no knife wound at all was found by autopsy in Huang’s body.
The suspects’ four lawyers including Yang Zaixin defended the suspects and told them to refuse to admit what they had not done. They thus offended the police and prosecutor who had been used to disallow any objection since Mao era. Infuriated, the police and prosecutor framed up the lawyers’ crime of instigating the suspects to commit perjury.
In June 2011, they detained the four lawyers. Yang Xuelin who defend Li Zhuang in Li’s case and other lawyers in the country, were worried that Bo Xilai’s malpractice of persecuting defence lawyer Lizhuang was spreading to the whole nation. They organised the above mentioned “Beihai Lawyer Group” and raised 450,000 yuan ($72,300) funds for the four lawyers’ defence. They hoped that by so doing, they might prevent the spreading of Bo’s malpractice of persecuting defence lawyers.
Through their efforts, three of the lawyers were soon released, but Yang Zaixin remained in custody until he was placed under house arrest in March 2012.
What the group did roused media concerns and the group’s actions were described as “Defence of Law in Beihai”. Their example was later followed by other lawyers who organised groups to protect defence lawyers in Guiyang City, Guizhou Province, Changshu City, Jiangsu Province and others.
After three years of deadlock, on February 6, 2013, Beihai Intermediate People’s Court finally gave the verdict to release one of the suspects and give fixed-term imprisonment to the other four for another crime of creating disturbance. As the four had been detained for a term longer than their terms of imprisonment, they were all immediately released.
At the same time, all the four lawyers accused of instigating the suspects to commit perjury have reveived notices from the court that their cases had been withdrawn.
Yang Xuelin told Ming Pao that Beihai Case was a milestone for China’s criminal defence lawyers and “laid foundation for criminal defence lawyers’ position and role in China’s implementation of law.” He said that had Yang Zaixin not persisted in the defence, some of the defendants might have long been put to death.
Yang Zaixin will apply to the state for compensation for the detention and house arrest he wrongly suffered and plans to sue the police and prosecutor for their liability in persecuting him. Yang Xuelin and others have helped the four convicted for creating disturbance to appeal for their innocence. Now all the clues to the murder case have been lost as the police focused on framing up the defendants right from the beginning, and thus lost the opportunity to find the clues through investigation.Sources: Ming Pao, SCMP
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