Reflections on the termination of my representation in Chen Xiaofeng’s case
By Zhang Kai
On November 3, against great pressure, I continued to help Chen Xiaofeng’ family. I even helped Chen Lin (Chen Xiaofeng’s brother) by instructing him what to say sentence by sentence when submitting the application for reevaluation.
On November 4, I suddenly found I could not get through to Chen Lin on the phone. When I got through to his father, I was told I had dialed the wrong number. Sensing there was something wrong, I immediately posted a message on the Internet looking for Chen Lin. At 8 o’clock in the evening, I finally got into contact with Chen Lin. He said many people had visited him (in Baoding) and his grandfather had also come. The family had pressure from various sources and there was a lot of disagreement among them in the family.
On November 5, again I could not get through to Chen Lin on the phone. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I got a phone call from his father who said: “Lawyer Zhang, I thank you on behalf of my whole family. We will visit you at your house in the future. Our case is now solved.” I asked him: “How did you solve it?” He said: “It’s not convenient to talk it.” Half an hour later, I got a call from the law firm that Chen’s family had gone to the law firm and terminated our agreement.”
From then till now, I could not get through to Chen Lin or his family on the phone. Neither Wang Keqin the reporter nor I could find them. Pretty soon, there have appeared various versions on the Net as to the whereabouts of Chen Lin.
Just as I predicted at the time of accepting their case, the Chen family would eventually secure an agreement in private with Li Gang’s family, dismiss the lawyer and close the case. I knew the case would end like this on the first day I saw Chen Xiaofeng’s father. For this, we made a special deal. I told them: “We will surely meet a lot of pressure in this case and I myself will also meet a lot of pressure. If you ask me to represent you as your legal counsel, I can do it for free, but you must not hold negotiations with the other party in private when you meet pressure and that even if you reach a reconciliation with the other party, you must fully communicate with me on this matter.”
Cases that attract much publicity in the past few years such as those of Deng Yujiao, Yang Jia and Tang Fuzhen that have aroused our indignation seem to have long followed a pattern: the incident first occurs; close attention from the netizens; involvement by rights defense lawyers; report by news media; legal opinions from lawyers; the case becomes a hot topic again; media are harmonized; lawyers are asked to have talks with leaders; the client terminates the agreement with the lawyer; family members are made to disappear; forums on the Internet are banned; the government assigns lawyers for public trials but one can’t attend the trial as a visitor and the whole thing is soon forgotten by the public.
For such a result, I certainly don’t have any intention of blaming the clients for their weakness. There seems to be no reasons why we should demand that they must take responsibilities in the social aspirations for fairness and justice. Yet, in this weird ring of the society, netizens, reporters and lawyers time and again bang the table in indignation and excitement, my question is: “Have these brought any upgrades and changes in our law? If not, is there any value in doing so?”
These popular cases carry with them social aspirations. When a case attracts the popular attention, its social value far exceeds its value as an individual case. The full embodiment of such a social value is beneficial to the enlightenment of the people, the upgrades and corrections in the rule of law and it has an impact on the dated and outmoded social system. Meanwhile, there seems to be a huge tension between the individual aspirations and the social aspirations. What the individual seeks is usually the maximization of one’s own interest while the society seeks the manifestation of justice. To guarantee the materialization of one’s own aspirations, the individual may even kidnap the social aspirations. However, once he or she finds the social aspirations may come into conflict with his or her aspirations, they would certainly abandon the social aspirations. In this duo, one seeks a price and the other seeks a value. Though this type of cases happens one after another, yet what we find on our road to rule of law is we have ended up where we started. The only difference these cases make is our excitement and hyperactivity gradually wane as this pattern unfolds.
I think Li Gang case should be a starting point where the entire population in China should do some retrospection, or even repentance.
The fault of the government: Because one sentence aroused the indignation of many, it obviously caused the pains in the nerves of the ruling bureaucrats who faced such pains. We saw the governor of the province deliver a speech, a special interview by CCTV, pressure exerted on the lawyer, dismissal of the lawyer, media harmonized and loss of voice of the victims. Can all this really heal the wounds and kill the pains in our hearts?
The fault of the people: When we pound the table and lash out at the ruling bureaucrats, who among us dares to say with full confidence: “I never collaborated with them, never colluded with them or catered to their wishes. When they did evil deeds, I was not silent.” Meanwhile, they don’t know that the quality of the people determines the quality of its government.
Now that Li Gang’s case is ending in such a harmonious manner, we won’t exclude the possibility that with the pressure of the public, Li Qiming will be punished or even severely punished. However, is this the only thing we want to achieve?
Read the PDF version of Zhang Kai’s Reflections HERE
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