Sunday, 21 November 2010

My Father is Li Gang

It is sad to see justice in China comes down to money.
Last month a female university student was knocked down and killed by a drunk driver on Hebei University campus. When guards tried to stop the young driver, he sped away and shouted out, "My dad is Li Gang!"
It turns out the alleged murderer was Li Qiming, and his father Li Gang is the deputy police chief in the city.
The son's arrogance infuriated many Internet users who came up with creative poems written in a classical style to incorporate the catchphrase, "My dad is Li Gang!" Now it is a sarcastic term used to shirk from responsibility for even the most mundane chores.
At first the family of the victim, Chen Xiaofeng called for justice, hired a lawyer and tried to get witnesses to come forward.
But then it seems the university pressured students not to say anything, and Li Gang's colleagues visited Chen's family, offering to strike a compensation deal to avoid going to court.
Chen's family was recorded by artist Ai Weiwei in an apparently moving call for justice. But strangely that video posted online was taken down several times.
And in an illegal move, China Central Television was able to interview Li Gang and his son, both apologizing profusely in the hopes of swaying public opinion, but many thought they were crocodile tears. The interview was illegal, because in Chinese law, the media are not allowed to enter the detention centre -- only police, lawyers, and legal workers.
"CCTV only cares about the upper class and not us victims," Chen Xiaoming's father Chen Guangqian said. "If they found and talked to Li Gang, then they should have found and talked to me too."
It seems the State is doing everything it can to protect Li's family. What recourse did Chen's family have, with no guanxi let alone being from a farming background.
Chen says Li Gang visited him twice in his hotel room, as Chen rushed to the city as soon as he heard about his daughter.
"My first impression was that he was an honest guy, easygoing, apologizing and apologizing," Chen said. "And he bowed. But he didn't cry like he did on TV."
In the end Chen's family severed ties with their lawyer and instead accepted 490,000RMB ($69,000) for compensation.
Their former lawyer wasn't surprised. "That's how China is," he said.
Meanwhile there are questions how Li Gang was able to cough up so much money in a short period of time where policemen in the area are supposed to be modestly paid.
There are also concerns of whether Li Qiming will get any kind of punishment at all.
Unfortunately Chen Xiaofeng's life is only worth 490,000RMB. But to her family it is a lot of money. And trying to be pragmatic and probably caving into pressure, they accepted the compensation.
What lessons does this teach people about rule of law in China? Many parties will try to intervene to prevent cases from going to court. And if they do go to court, much of the time the verdict has already been pre-determined. How is that rule of law?
It would have been interesting to see the case go to court. But with the lack of witnesses willing to come forward, it made it harder for Chen's lawyer to have a strong case. 
When will the law protect the helpless? When will justice be served?

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