Friday, 30 November 2012

Mocking the Rule of Law

The Chinese government exacted its punishment against blind activist Chen Guangcheng today for creating a diplomatic crisis when he managed to escape from house arrest in Yinan County in Shandong province and found refuge in the United States' embassy. It wasn't until US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton intervened did Chen manage to leave China for New York where he now lives.

At 2pm Hong Kong time today, Chen's nephew was unexpectedly put on trial at short notice so that no foreign journalists could attend even though the court claimed media were invited. He was charged and convicted of intentional wounding, when officials stormed into their home looking for Chen Guangcheng when he escaped.

Chen Kegui, 32 claims he used a knife as self defense, but prosecutors alleged the young man hacked officials with the knife after he and his parents were beaten.

Prior to the trial, his parents were not notified about the indictment nor were they allowed to see him. It was only when Chen Kegui's court-appointed lawyer contacted his parents about today's trial did they rush for the bus and journey one and a half hours to the courthouse.

They were eyewitnesses to the incident, weren't even allowed into the courtroom to testify on their son's behalf.

And so in a quick trial where Chen Kegui was denied his own lawyer, was convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. He was apparently threatened not to appeal, even though his father told the media earlier he would because it was his legal right to do so.

This perversion of justice has angered Chen Guangcheng's mentor Jerome Cohen, an esteemed law professor of New York University, that he wrote a frustrated statement in capitals:

THIS IS THE ULTIMATE EXAMPLE OF JUDICIAL FARCE IN CHINA, NOT A HAPPY EXAMPLE OF HOW HUMAN RIGHTS WILL BE PROTECTED BY CHINA'S NEW LEADERSHIP! THE "TRIAL" WAS HELD IN WAYS GUARANTEED TO PREVENT ANY POSSIBLE DEFENSE OR ANY POSSIBLE OBSERVER TO ATTEND. DEFENDANT WAS DENIED HIS OWN LAWYERS, NO WITNESSES WERE ALLOWED IN HIS DEFENSE, NO FAMILY PERMITTED TO ATTEND AND, ALTHOUGH OSTENSIBLY "OPEN" TO ALL INCLUDING JOURNALISTS, HELD IN CIRCUMSTANCES THAT ASSURED NO NEUTRAL JOURNALISTS COULD ATTEND. MOREOVER, NO OPPORTUNITY FOR DEFENDANT TO EXERCISE HIS RIGHT TO APPEAL. THIS IS WORSE THAN EVEN THE TRIAL OF CHEN GUANGCHENG HIMSELF IN 2006. INDEED, THE STAGE MANAGERS HAVE LEARNED FROM THEIR DIFFICULTIES IN CONVICTING CGC IN 2006. SARCASTICALLY, ONE CAN CONCLUDE THAT CHINA IS DEVELOPING ITS CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM CASE BY CASE DESPITE THE FORTHCOMING IMPROVED CRIMINAL PROCEDURE LAW!! WHAT KIND OF JUSTICE CAN BO XILAI EXPECT? AN IMPROVED VERSION OF THE GU KAILAI PROCEDURE?

Cohen has worked so hard for many decades to push China towards adhering its constitution of rule of law. However, this verdict is a major setback for Cohen and one wonders whose decision it was to proceed in such an illegal way? Is this case considered under Chinese President Hu Jintao's watch or incoming Xi Jinping? Or is the central government going to plead ignorance and not know how things are done (il)legally at the county level?

Who is going to be accountable for this biased verdict while a man languishes in jail because he had an unfair trial?

Just before the trial, Chen Guangcheng feared for his nephew's fate.

"This has shown clearly to the whole world that people should not pin even the littlest bit of hope on this system," Chen Guangcheng told The Associated Press. He said authorities in his hometown were acting "unreasonably, illegally and in violation of humanity."

He knew there would be retribution towards his family for his legal activism and then his own daring escape that entailed climbing over walls and running long distances without much guidance.

Is this fair to Chen Kegui who would not have been caught up in this mess if his uncle hadn't been involved in campaigning against forced abortions?

This is the moral issue human rights activists face in China. Many do it taking the risks, and hope that their family will be proud of them for doing what is right, but also pray for forgiveness for putting their loved ones in such a dire predicament.

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