Socialist rule of law

At one level I feel sorry for the Chinese Communist Party when people complain about its horrific record on the rule of law. The CCP has never promised what we understand by rule of law. It is only committed to ‘socialist rule of law’, which is why the Party calls it that. Socialist rule of law means that the interests of the Party — or what it thinks are its interests from day to day — come before everything else, including stuff like evidence and what the written law says.

If you followed the recent trial and conviction of private investigator Peter Humphrey in Shanghai, then Georgetown University law professor Don Clarke’s analysis of the court transcripts is well worth a read. Humphrey’s case was high-profile but essentially low level. It gives a good idea of what to expect if you are a gweilo who gets ensnared in China’s ongoing campaign to give multi-national companies (and anyone connected with them like Humphrey) a periodic kicking.

The standard features exhibited by the court proceedings are:

1. Expend most court time ‘proving’ facts that are not in dispute by either side. This makes the proceeding look like a legal case. (Even then, the case only took one day.)

2. Bend the law under which the case is being prosecuted into whatever shape you fancy. Here, Humphrey was prosecuted under a law designed to punish government and public sector workers for selling private information to which they have access. Humphrey was the recipient of such information. He has been prosecuted. The providers have not.

3. When passing sentence, don’t worry about sentencing precedents if you have a point to prove. Humphrey got 2.5 years for a relatively small number of transactions. As Clarke shows, in other recent cases in Shanghai other defendants got only suspended prison terms for massively greater infringements.

As typically happens in these cases, Humphrey made a grovelling public admission of ‘general’ guilt before the trial, almost certainly on the advice of his lawyer. The idea is that you will get leniency. I am not sure about this argument. The maximum term prescribed by law is 3 years. I would have preferred not to do the ‘confession’, stand up in court and point out the hypocrisy of the proceedings (in the politest possible terms) and take the extra 6 months.

Meanwhile, lest you feel sorry for gweilos, spare a thought for recently released human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng. According to his wife, after his 3 years inside, he can’t even speak intelligibly any longer. Now that is your old-school socialist rule of law…


Gao Zhisheng’s wife wants him to seek treatment in US after ‘horrific torture’ in Chinese jail

Wife pleads with China to let her ‘underfed and psychologically abused’ husband travel to America to seek medical help and be with his family

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 12:40pm
Agence France-Presse in Washington

Chinese rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng suffered malnutrition and psychological abuse in prison, his wife said as she called for Beijing to let him seek treatment in the United States.

Gao, who has defended some of China’s most vulnerable people such as underground Christians, aggrieved miners and members of the banned Falungong spiritual movement, was released last week after serving a three-year prison sentence.

His wife, who fled with their two children to the US in 2009, said on Wednesday that she learned Gao had lost 22.5kg in weight after being fed only a slice of bread and cabbage each day.

Gao can no longer speak intelligibly after being deprived of any interaction with people and kept in a small cell with little light and no reading material or television, she said.

“I am completely devastated by what the Chinese government has done to my husband. The only thing I feared more than him being killed was his suffering relentless and horrific torture and being kept alive,” the wife, Geng He, said in a statement.

Gao remains under round-the-clock surveillance of Chinese authorities at his sister-in-law’s home in the western Xinjiang region, where he was imprisoned, according to Freedom Now, a rights group that is offering him free legal representation.

Saying that Gao has been prevented from seeing a doctor since his release, Geng urged the United States to press China to allow him to come to travel.

“If President Xi Jinping has any sense of decency or humanity, after crushing my husband both physically and psychologically, the least he could do is allow me as a devoted wife to care for him,” Geng said.

Despite Gao’s release, China still imprisons a number of high-profile critics including Liu Xiaobo, the writer and democracy advocate who won the Nobel Peace Prize.