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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Defiant Chinese lawyer relishes defending citizens rights

justiceI think Xu Zhiyong ,the Beijing lawyer that the Manila Times calls "charismatic " in the linked article, might be barking up the wrong tree in his belief that two of his clients are victims of "testing the limits of China's tightly controlled media".

Xu is defending Yu Huafeng, former vice chief editor of the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolitan Daily), who was sentenced in March to 12 years in jail for graft.

He is also representing Cheng Yizhong, the former editor in chief of the same paper, who has been formally charged with corruption.

This much celebrated case of alleged payback by Chinese officials for the editorial staff of the SMD overstepping the mark in exposing a SARS cover up and the police death in custody of a migrant worker has organisations such as Reporters without Frontiers up in arms.

It has seemed to have escaped them however that investigations into claims of significant corruption at the Southern Metropolitan, a leading and highly profitable state owned newspaper group, were instigated by Chinese officials well before these incidents that are supposed to have spawned their current ire.

So significant was the apparent corruption problem that a leading Hong Kong property developer backed out of a multi-million dollar joint venture with the group to develop a shopping mall well before either of these two reporting incidents occurred.

But that aside the person really testing the limits is Xu. The Manila Times attributes, among others, the following quote to the 31 year old lawyer expressing some very forthright views :

"Some people accuse me of not respecting the independence of the justice system," he said.

"But the difference to developed countries is that this independence does not exist in China, and we must fight against the forces that prevent it from existing."

A quote that is sure to prick the ears of officialdom and hopefully will not come back to seriously bite this obviously courageous man in the future is his remarks about the Communist revolution:

"China needs lawyers who fight for the rights of the citizens," he said defiantly, while acknowledging that a glaring opportunity has already been missed.

"During the last century, China was at a crossroads between reform and revolution. Unfortunately revolution was the choice."

I admire your courage and am bouyed by the thought that you feel the system has changed enough for you to expres such opinions without fear of reprisal, but, then again, the ink is hardly dry...

The Manila Times Internet Edition | OPINION > Defiant Chinese lawyer relishes defending citizens� rights