Barefoot lawyer Chen guangcheng sentenced for 4 years

2006-08-25 - oiwan

Chen Guangcheng lost his sight when he was very young, but he has been searching for lights all these years against darkness. He is a peasant living in Shangdong province, Dongshegu village.

Even though he is blind, he studied very hard to become a barefoot lawyer and has been giving legal advice to disable people since 1996. In 2005, he revealed the illegal forced abortion practice in Linyi County to Time magazine and the National Family Planning and Population Commission was forced to launch an investigation in August 2005. A month later, several Linyi officials were detained.

Chen disappeared in March 2006, and found out being detained by local government. Until June 2006, the local government annouced his formal arrest under the charge of destruction of property and assembling a crowd to disrupt traffic. He was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months imprisonment yesterday by the court.

Chen was on trial on August 18, however, on the eve of the trial, his lawyers were arrested by local police accused them of stealing from local gangster group. In the end, his lawyers could not represent him and the court designated another lawyer for him.

According to Chen's lawyers' defending statement (full version in Chinese), all the evidence against Chen was from 4 local villagers, who were detained and could not be reached by lawyers. Yet, their statement against Chen appeared to be contradictory. After the trail, the 4 villagers who took action to break the glass of a car were released.

As for the disruption of traffic, numerous villagers proved that it was the local police who took action to block the car rather than Chen.

The lawyers also pointed out that the the investigation were illegal. Chen were illegally detained from March-June 2006 and recieved death threat from investigation team. The local polices used all excuses to stop the lawyers from getting evidences. They were detained by polices several times from June 2005-August 2006, beaten by local gangsters and falsely charged of minor crime such as stealing. Chen was denied of his rights to meet his lawyers before the trial.

At the end of the statement, the lawyers pointed out that the local officials should be on trial, not Chen.

Prof. Jerome Cohen of NYU Law School commented that (quoted from the Chinese Law Prof Blog)

The extremely harsh sentence for Chen Guangcheng confirms not only the lawlessness and vindictiveness of the authorities of Linyi City but also the determination of the national Communist Party Political-Legal Committee to intimidate and suppress the country's rising generation of human rights activist-lawyers. There was no valid basis for the charges against Chen. That is why all legal procedures were thrown out the window in his "trial". Otherwise his lawyers, who were never allowed in the courtroom, would have exposed the process as the farce that it was. Moreover, even if this idealistic and peaceful blind man who has led an exemplary life had been genuinely guilty of the charges, as his wife pointed out, the sentence is wildly disproportionate to the alleged offenses. It is another shameful demonstration by the highest leaders in the country - not merely the Linyi authorities - that all those in China who take seriously the regime's policies and legislation trumpeting "a socialist rule of law" do so at their peril. Chen's is not an isolated case, of course, but is related to the current campaign against lawyers, journalists and others who stoke the fires of the nation's increasing rights consciousness. But Chen is a justifiably famous person whose case will become a worldwide symbol of injustice in China. I will take my Chen Guangcheng T-shirt to my opening class on "Law and Society in China".

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