Sunday, May 9, 2010

Playing by its Own Rules

On paper, China's laws guarantees people the access to lawyers if they need to be defended in court.

Whether or not your defense lawyer is good, is another story.

However, now the government is being picky about who lawyers can defend after it permanently disbarred two for trying to defend members of the Falun Gong.

The Beijing Bureau of Justice said Tang Jitian, 42, and Liu Wei, 33, had their licenses revoked for "disrupting order in the court and interfering with proper litigation procedure," according to a notice on the bureau's website.

They were accused of walking out of the court proceedings when Liu and Tang say they were filmed illegally in court and protested to the judge, but their protestations were ignored. The bureau says they failed to follow the judge's instructions.

Although Liu has yet to receive an official notice from the bureau, she plans to appeal, but doesn't expect much change.

"I don't think there is much hope. If the government acts illegally, it acts illegally all the way through," she said in an interview with Reuters.

"We will try every avenue. If we don't succeed, we'll have to accept it. But I believe someday, there will be a reversal."

Liu and Tang belong to a loose group of lawyers who are walking a fine line when they take on provoking cases in order to challenge Chinese laws and official decisions.

There were already only a few lawyers willing to represent Falun Gong practitioners, especially after they were outlawed by the government in 1999 when they managed to surreptitiously form a giant protest at Zhongnanhai, the Communist Party's headquarters in downtown Beijing, shocking senior government officials.

The legal system in China does not follow the rule of law -- it isn't decided independently by judges who have seen the evidence and heard the arguments for an against -- but by the government that decides who is guilty and who isn't.

And now it wants to further manipulate the system by barring lawyers from defending people who by law must have access to a lawyer.

How is this in any way legally progressive? For a country that is eager to be accepted on the world stage for its economic might, it sure is insecure when it comes to the law. It seems to have more to hide than defend.

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