China: Gao Zhicheng, lawyer | Letter

Re: Gao Zhicheng, lawyer

To: Hu Jintao (President of China)

From: Clive Ansley

Date: 2005-04-07

I very much regret the necessity to record that since our last letter to you, the abuses committed by your government against Chinese lawyers and other Human Rights advocates has greatly increased both in terms of number and of severity.

Lawyers have had their licences to practise confiscated on patently specious grounds; lawyers and other human rights advocates have been intimidated, beaten, and in one case very nearly killed. There is every reason to believe that these outrageous acts, calculated to ensure that the Rule of Law cannot be implemented in China, are the direct result of conscious policies approved and implemented by the Government of China and the Chinese Communist Party.

In the near future, LRWC will be writing individual letters to you concerning each act of persecution committed by your government as part of your central policy to prevent the Rule of Law in China, of which we have been made aware.

LRWC is particularly gravely concerned for the safety of Lawyer Gao Zhicheng and all the lawyers who practised in the Cheng Zhi Law Office, and for the acts of intimidation perpetrated against them by your government and the Chinese “Justice” Ministry, acts which are calculated to prevent these courageous lawyers from carrying out proper advocacy on behalf of their clients.

I am writing, as the China Country Monitor for LRWC, in response to information obtained from a wide variety of sources. It is abundantly clear from these sources that all the intimidation against Lawyer Gao and his colleagues has occurred as a direct consequence of the open Letter to you which Mr. Gao published and disseminated widely. Your government’s public announcement that Mr. Gao’s office had been closed for alleged failure to comply with certain local office registration requirements would be laughable, were it not for the serious implications inherent in this draconian move for the future of democracy and legal due process in China.

It is abundantly clear to the entire world that this retribution against Lawyer Gao and his colleagues was triggered solely by his courage in invoking the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Chinese Constitution, but routinely ignored by the Chinese Government. Mr. Gao’s only “crime” was to write the truth about the barbarity of the persecution against Falun Gong being carried out by the Chinese Government.

The conscious, systematic persecution in China of all lawyers and human rights advocates with the courage to stand up against illegal and undemocratic acts of government, and indeed against the perpetration of mass murder and torture by the Chinese Government, shocks the conscience of lawyers, jurists and legal scholars everywhere. These acts by the Chinese Government are in violation not only of every relevant international convention or covenant to which China is a signatory, but of Chinese law itself, conspicuously including the Chinese Constitution.

China has a responsibility to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life, livelihood, and physical safety of Lawyer Gao and of all lawyers in China. This duty arises from China’s membership in the United Nations (UN). This same responsibility also arises from many UN conventions and covenants to which China is a signatory including: the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, especially Article 1 of that document, which states: “every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international levels”.

We ask that the Chinese government apply, and proceed in accordance with, the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998.

China, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, is also bound by the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers”, welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 1990.

Article 16 of that document states that:

“Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”. Clearly there could be no clearer contravention of this provision than the acts which have been perpetrated against Gao Zhicheng.

Article 17, furthermore, states that

“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”. In this case, it is the Chinese authorities themselves which are committing the violations.

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders further requires (see Articles 9(5) and 11) your government to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the shocking actions and coercive measures taken against Lawyer Gao and the other lawyers of the Cheng Zhi Law Office.

Article 12(2) creates the mandatory responsibility of member states to protect lawyers in the practice of their profession: The recent acts of the Chinese “Justice” Ministry are deliberately designed to accomplish the opposite. That is to say, these acts prevent these very brave lawyers from legitimately practising their profession.

Failure to protect and investigate violations of the rights of Gao Zhicheng constitutes an egregious breach of China’s duties under binding international laws and principles set out in several international conventions to which China is a signatory.

China’s systematic violations of the rights of Gao Zhicheng, his colleagues, and of all effective human rights lawyers in every part of China, make a complete mockery of China’s frequent claims to be implementing the Rule of Law. Clearly there can be no Rule of Law, and no legitimate legal system deserving of international respect can exist, in an environment where lawyers are routinely deprived of their livelihood and professional status, and even incarcerated, solely for taking on cases of which the Chinese Government or the Chinese Communist Party disapproves.

LRWC respectfully urges your government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other relevant international and regional pacts and covenants ratified by China. The Chinese legal system can never hope to achieve the respect of the international community so long as the Chinese government, courts, police, and Justice Ministry continue to routinely violate virtually every international convention to which China is a signatory.

Arbitrary arrest and detention without charge are not legitimate acts of state. Neither are arrests on charges couched in vague, subjective, and undefineable terms.

I respectfully remind you that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which China is a party, sets out a number of minimum guarantees to ensure fair trial standards. It is unfortunate that to date, the standard procedures of China’s police, prosecutors, and courts have not come close to the most minimum standards set by the international community.

In addition, any torture or ill treatment is strictly prohibited by both the ICCPR and customary international law.

We also refer you to Principle 16 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, which states that ‘Governments shall ensure that lawyers…c) Shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognised professional duties, standards and ethics.’ It is undeniable that China’s actions against Gao Zhicheng have violated every word set out in Principle 16.

We see these continuing arrests and imtimidation of lawyers in China as evidence of a total failure by the Chinese Government and the Chinese Communist Party to implement the Rule of Law in China.

LRWC calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the closure of the Cheng Zhi Law Office, for the results obtained to be made public, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. LRWC also calls upon the government of China to take swift and effective action to ensure the security of all human rights defenders in China so they can continue to carry out their legitimate and important work of defending human rights.

Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of China is taking to:

1. ensure the present and future safety of Gao Zhicheng and other members of the Chinese legal profession, and;

2. immediately returning the properly registered approval certificate for the Cheng Zhi Law Office, and restoring the practice licences for Lawyer Gao and all the other lawyers in his Law Office .

LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.

Yours truly,

P. S.

I have copied the Prime Minister of Canada in on this letter. That is because he is one of the few people around the world who has never been informed of the fact that the Chinese “judicial” system, and human rights, are moving backward at such a rapid rate in China.

Indeed, Mr. Hu, I would like to suggest that when you initiate illegal actions against lawyers and members of various religious minorities, you should at the very least apprise Mr. Martin beforehand. He is after all one of your most loyal supporters, defenders, and friends; yet he is apparently completely ignorant of what is happening in China with respect to democracy and the Rule of Law.