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ATTORNEY URGENT  ALERT

 

CHINA

8 January 2010

Beijing lawyer

Li Zhuang    

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convicted and sentenced 

to   two and a half years

for fabricating evidence and interfering with witness testimonies by the Chongqing Jiangbei district court.

 

 

Source : China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group (CHRLCG)  

 

 

Beijing lawyer Li Zhuang  , 48, with the Beijing Kangda Law Firm, has been convicted and sentenced on  8 January 2010 to two and a half years for fabricating evidence and interfering with witness testimonies by the Chongqing Jiangbei district court. The court said Li had instructed Gong to falsely claim that police tortured him for confessions, directed another lawyer to bribe police and incited Gong's wife and his employees to give false testimonies. Li  is expected to appeal and he said that "even if I don't appeal, 160,000 lawyers in China will do that for me".

The lawyer, Li Zhuang, of the Beijing Kangda law firm, is one of several high-profile criminal defense lawyers brought in to represent some of the alleged top gangsters in the Chongqing crackdown, which to date has resulted in the arrests of more than 800 people. Li was representing Gong Gangmo, who faces a long list of charges including murder, leading a criminal organization, drug dealing and gun-running. Li Zhuang is alledgely reported to have promised him lighter punishment if he lied about his confession.

He was arrested and criminally detained on 13 december  after defending Gong in Chongqing on suspicion of “falsification of evidence” and “obstruction of justice” after he visited his client Gong Gangmo in Chongqing. According to sources, when Lawyer Li visited Gong, the meetings were under the surveillance of the Chongqing public security. The authorities had also ignored Lawyer Li’s right to meeting his client and reading legal bundles. 

The scandal began a week after Chongqing No.1 Intermediate Court delayed Gong’s courttrial, which was scheduled to be held on December 7. A new trial date has not been set. According to reports, Gong reported to the public security and Lawyer Li was accused of abetting his client to provide false evidence and conspiring with other witnesses and abetting his client to provide false evidence that Gong was beaten under interrogation. However, public security officers were present during Lawyer Li’s three meetings with Gong and four public security officers were present during the last meeting. The last meeting was videotaped. As the meetings were under tight surveillance, it was suspicious how Lawyer Li would commit the crime as an experienced lawyer. It is apparently another example that the procuratorate authorities use Article 306 of the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China to curb on lawyers’ right to collecting evidence.

Lawyer Li was not only under tight surveillance when he met with Gong and in fact, he was not allowed to meet with Gong for many times before, which violated Article 33 of the PRC Law on Lawyers and Article 96 of the PRC Criminal Procedure Law. Lawyer Li was also repeatedly not allowed to read the legal bundles of the case, but was only allowed to photocopy the “major evidence” which apparently violated Article 34 of the PRC Law on Lawyers that stipulated that defense lawyers had the right to read and photocopy all the documents related to the case being handled.

Li's lawyer, Gao Zicheng, who represented Shanghai's former Party chief Chen Liangyu in his corruption case, said Li will plead not guilty. The trial is expected to last eight days, reported Southern Metropolis Daily today.

All eight witnesses, including Li's client Gong who reported the matter to police, will not appear at the trial because they refused to testify in court, Gao told the newspaper.

Gao said it was strange that the court rushed the case into trial only one day after the prosecutors filed suit. He said it left him little time to conduct his client's defense.

Chen Jiuhong, vice head of Chongqing Jiangbei District Prosecutors, told China Youth Daily that there was no material evidence that Li advised his client to lie. The arrest was based on Gong's testimony, he said.

Li's arrest attracted controversy as he was the first lawyer to be brought down in Chongqing's crackdown on criminal rings. His case also raised concerns of judicial independence in the massive campaign.

Lawyers nationwide have heavily criticized a 5,000-word article in China Youth Daily on Dec 14 as it branded Li a liar before he had a chance to clear his name in court.

Li's treatment has infuriated a group of mainly Beijing lawyers, who have written a letter demanding police from outside of Chongqing be bought in to investigate the case, which they say has defamed their entire profession. 


The Beijing Lawyers' Association (BLA) called for calm in the capital and in a press release said: "A person's guilt is judged by the judicial authority on the basis of facts and law."
A group of 20 lawyers are calling on Beijing to investigate the arrest of a defence lawyer representing an alleged gang boss, and to take a closer look at the massive crackdown on organised crime in Chongqing. The letter was signed by lawyers in Beijing, Guangdong, Hebei, Shandong, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Sichuan, and was mailed to the government-sponsored All China Lawyers Association and Beijing Lawyers Association . The letter was sent to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and the Ministry of Public Security one day after a five-person team from the Beijing Lawyers Association (BLA) arrived in Chongqing on December 15th to investigate. The team left after telling the local public security bureau and procuratorate that "the association hopes and believes Chongqing judicial authorities will deal with Li's case in accordance with the law". The authorities did not allow the Beijing team to meet Li but assured them that the accused lawyer was "physically healthy and emotionally stable", according to a BLA member quoted in Beijing News. BLA and Kangda Law Firm have referred a defense attorney to Li's family, the association said.

The letter said Chongqing authorities violated laws by detaining the lawyer while many facts of the case were unclear, and demanded authorities recognize Li’s rights. Li Fangping, a Beijing lawyer, said lawyers were just one group who had lost their rights since Chongqing began its crackdown on gangs. Early last year Chongqing launched a 100-day campaign, during which police arrested 10,000 people - 100 per day.   In his letter, signed by 20 other lawyers, Li Fangping urged Chongqing to heed advice that "the crackdown on gangs does not mean cracking down like gangs".

Li Xiongbing, one of three draftees of a letter to Beijing, said Li Zhuang's arrest marked the lowest point in the crackdown. Li Xiongbing told the South China Morning Post that Chongqing police should no longer handle the case. "[They] have taken too many illegal steps during the crackdown and this case was their nadir," he said. In the letter, the lawyers said Chongqing police had repeatedly rejected Li Zhuang's application to see his client before the trial. When he was permitted, four officers were present and the conversation was taped. Li Zhuang was also prevented from examining all the evidence.

The letter said Chongqing  police should notify the local lawyers association of a detention within 24 hours, but the Beijing association knew nothing about it […] In response to questions over why officers were present when Li Zhuang met Gong, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun said police were merely following Ministry of Public Security guidelines for organised crime cases […] Gong has said Li Zhuang winked at him to suggest he lie about being forced into a confession. Gong and his co-defendants are accused of involvement in four murders, possession of 15 firearms and loan-sharking, among other crimes.

In the letter, Beijing lawyer Zhang Kai claimed he and another lawyer Li Chunfu were illegally detained and tortured by Chongqing police in May.

Chen Youxi, vice-president of the All China Lawyers' Association's constitutional and human rights committee, wrote on the association's website last week that the story had "irresponsibly and ignorantly defamed Chinese legal practitioners". The paper's staff had turned a news report into news commentary that showed self-importance, violating the basic principles of journalism, he said.

The  Kangda law firm is a leading law firm based in mainland China, whose history can be dated back to 1988. Since its founding in Beijing, the capital of China, Kang Da has been committed to building a seamless nationwide network of branch offices.   Recently, Kang Da has also devoted its efforts in building strong ties with a number of world-renowned firms based in US, UK, France, Australia, Singapore, etc.

Originally, it was directly under China’s Ministry of Justice. With over 100 licensed lawyers and 10 branch offices, Kang Da has been actively involved in a wide range of legal services, as well as the very front of China’s legal reform.  Its founder, Fu Yang, the senior partner of Kang Da, is the son of Peng Zhen, chairman of the National People's Congress in the 1980s. Mr. Fu Yang  is also the Vice President of All China Lawyers Association.

Li's arrest has dragged Kang Da Law Firm, one of the country's biggest, into the spotlight. Fu has declined to comment, but Xing Jun, director of the firm's general office, said Kang Da supported the crackdown and would tighten internal management […] Li Xiongbing said the arrest was a warning to other defence lawyers, and a way to protect police against illegal actions in the crackdown.

It was reported that the Beijing Lawyers Association (BLA) was very concerned about Lawyer Li’s case. It should be the obligation of the BLA to protect its members’ interests. Lawyer Li’s case is currently under investigation. Jiang Junlu, vice president of BLA, said if found guilty, Li will lose his license and membership. But if Li was only doing his job as a defense lawyer, the association will defend him. If Lawyer Li would be convicted, his legal practice license would be suspended, which meant he will no longer be able to continue his legal practice.

Because Chongqing authorities have a direct interest in the case, national authorities should have granted jurisdiction to an outside police bureau, but Li’s appeal to the local court in Chongqing asking to move the trial outside of the southwestern municipality was turned down. Li Zhuang will soon stand trial in Chongqing on allegations of fabricating evidence and disrupting a gang-related trial, a local court official said.

The lawyers, many of whom were already in the hot seat, have been sharply criticized since Li’s case broke. Many of them have been condemned by netizens as “evil advisers” and some bloggers hailed Li’s arrest as an “uplifting moment” and said he deserved it. Qiu Geping, a professor of criminology at the Shanghai-based East China University of Political Science and Law, said lawyers who choose to defend suspects face considerable pressure caused by the local government’s stance.


Just one week after Li's arrest, the director of Chongqing's justice bureau, Lin Yujun, required about 1,000 lawyers from nine urban districts of the city to attend a conference  to "consider the general political situation and comply with discipline during the special gang sweep".

Approximately 500 lawyers were detained between 1997 and 2002  for any reason, and more than 100 lawyers have specifically been accused of violating Article 306 by fabricating evidence. Of these Article 306 cases, more than 90 percent have been cleared. This statistic implies that the statute is often invoked improperly or misused by officials attempting to silence defense lawyers. This has resulted in both imprisonment and the revocation of lawyers' licenses to practice. For example, Ma Guangjun was convicted of fabricating evidence in 2003 and detained for 210 days because the witnesses he produced changed their testimony and admitted to fabricating evidence after being interrogated by the police. Article 306 unnecessarily singles out lawyers in light of other Criminal Law provisions regarding fabrication of evidence.

 

 

TAKE ACTION NOW !

PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Chinese or your own language:

- calling on the authorities   to abolish this law to protect lawyers’ rights.

- urging them to ensure he has access to legal assistance of his choosing, his family and any medical attention he may require;

- urging the authorities to guarantee that Wang Yonghang will not be tortured or otherwise ill-treated;

- calling on them to end the use of vaguely-defined charges relating to "state secrets" to crack down on human rights defenders.

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS TO:

Director of the Liaoning Provincial Department of Public Security

LI Wenxi Tingzhang

Liaoningsheng Gong'anting

2 Qishan Zhonglu

Huangguqu

Shenyangshi 110032

Liaoningsheng

People's Republic of China

Salutation: Dear Director

Director of the Liaoning Provincial Department of Justice

Zhang Jiacheng Tingzhang

Liaoningsheng Sifating

28 Jia Chongshan Donglu

Shenyangshi 110032

Liaoningsheng

People's Republic of China

Fax: +86 24 86906792

Salutation: Dear Director

 

And copies to:

Prime Minister

WEN Jiabao Guojia Zongli

The State Council General Office

2 Fuyoujie

Xichengqu

Beijingshi 100017

People's Republic of China

Fax: +86 10 65961109

Salutation: Your Excellency

 

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

 

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