On September 30, 2010, Yang Jinzhu (杨金柱), a well-known criminal defense lawyer in Hunan, posted an article online, titled “If One Dares to Ask – What Reigns Supreme in China?” (敢问哪个至上, 金柱律师将敦请王胜俊先生引咎辞职), in which Yang asked the President of the Supreme People’s Court, Wang Shengjun (王胜俊), to resign. Yang charged that the Court, in authorizing the September 26 execution of Fan Qihang (樊奇杭), an alleged crime boss in Chongqing, while ignoring evidence that Fan’s confession was obtained through torture, blatantly violated provisions that the Court itself issued on evidence. Yang also announced a non-violent protest campaign that he will begin on October 8. (See below for HRIC’s translation of Yang’s article.)
Yang is aware of the potential consequences of this public stance, but stated: “If we lawyers do not stand up and speak out when we witness the death of the rule of law, there is no hope for our country.” Yang’s call underscores a mounting furor, particularly among the legal community, over a case that is widely believed to be politically motivated and rife with serious violations of China’s Criminal Procedure Law. The lawyers involved in the case allege police brutality, denial of access by defendants to their lawyers, and confessions obtained through torture. The allegation of torture was brought to public view in a video posted online, in which Fan detailed to his lawyer how he was tortured.
Based on public statements by defense lawyers in the case, Fan was among the first 34 men and women detained in the summer of 2009 during Chongqing’s high-profile campaign aimed at cleaning up the city’s criminal underground. During their nearly six-month detention, all of the detainees were kept incommunicado from their families and lawyers. And it was only in November that Fan’s lawyer, Zhu Mingyong (朱明勇), was allowed to see his client and they were only allowed to read a few pages of the prosecution’s 109-volume case file.
At trial, Fan, along with other defendants, said that he had been tortured into confessing crimes he did not commit. Fan was convicted of multiple crimes including murder and sentenced to death in February 2010 by the Chongqing Municipal No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court (重庆市第一中级人民法院). The sentence was upheld in May 2010 by the Chongqing Municipal Higher People’s Court (重庆市高级人民法院), which then forwarded the case to the Supreme People’s Court for final review, as required by law.
In July 2010, Zhu sent to the five Supreme People’s Court judges in charge of review of death sentences copies of a videotape he recorded of Fan describing the torture he suffered. (Chinese law permits a lawyer to videotape his meeting with his client with the client’s consent.) Zhu made a formal request for a meeting with the judges and an investigation into the case based on the new evidence. After Zhu posted the video on the Internet, more than 100 prominent lawyers, writers, and activists signed two open letters to the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate calling for further investigation.
Zhu has not received any response from the Court. But on September 26, Zhu received a phone call from Yang, who had just read in the news that Fan had been executed. By its own regulation, during a death penalty review, the Court should meet with the lawyer upon request or when new evidence is submitted.
“This is an alarming, egregious case of abuse of individual rights and violations of law by the country’s highest judicial authorities,” said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of Human Rights in China (HRIC). “The Chinese authorities must take immediate actions to demonstrate to the Chinese people and to the international community that they respect and will enforce their own laws.” HRIC urges that National People’s Congress initiate a full and transparent investigation and hold those responsible to account for the documented acts of torture and abuse in this case.
Are the Chinese leaders listening? Send a message via the Direct Line to Zhongnanhai (Chinese only)
For more information on the Chongqing crackdown and Fan Qihang’s case from the international community, see:
- Paul Mooney, “Chongqing Execution Raises Political Spectre,” South China Morning Post, October 3, 2010
- Jerome A. Cohen and Eva Pils, “China’s Criminal Justice and Chongqing’s Anti-triad Campaign: Law v. Practice,”U.S. Asia Law Institute, August 31, 2010
- Frank Ching, “In China, a Tortuous Road to the Rule of Law,” The Globe and Mail, October 6, 2010
- Amnesty International, “China: Execution Risk after Forced Confession: Fan Qihang,” August 6, 2010
For more information on Fan Qihang’s case, see:
- Real and Fake Anti-Corruption Measures: A Symposium Looking into the Chongqing Anti-Mafia Campaign Beginning with Fan Qihang (part 1) (假打黑，真黑打——从樊奇杭案看重庆 “打黑”法律研讨会) (Chinese only)
- Extorting Confessions through Torture Is a Smear on the Justice System: A Symposium Looking into the Chongqing Anti-Mafia Campaign Beginning with Fan Qihang (part 2) (刑讯逼供乃司法之黑——从樊 奇杭案看重庆“打黑”法律研讨会) (Chinese only)
- Open Letter Requesting that the Supreme People’s Court Immediately Open an Investigation into the Use of Torture in the Chongqing Anti-Mafia Campaign (敦请最高人民法院对重庆樊奇杭涉黑一案启动非法证据排除程序的公开信)
- Open Letter Requesting that the Supreme People’s Procuratorate Immediately Open an Investigation into the Use of Torture in the Chongqing Anti-Mafia Campaign (敦请最高人民检察院立即对重庆打黑运动中的刑讯逼供问题依法调查的公开信) (Chinese only)
- Videos released by Zhu Mingyong showing how Fan was tortured:
Part 1: Quarrel in the Detention Center (看守所风波)
Part 2: Mystery of Tieshanping (铁山坪之谜)
Part 3: Evidence of Suspense (证据悬疑)
Transcripts of the Videos (朱明勇：樊奇航死刑辩护多媒体材料文字版) (Chinese only)
- Zhu Mingyong’s defense statement in the death sentence review procedure (朱明勇：关于樊奇杭死刑复核案的辩护意见) (Chinese only – cached, as the original has been deleted)
- Zhu Mingyong, “Take Care on Your Journey, the Heavens Have No Torture” (朱明勇：一路走好，天堂里没有刑讯), Chen Youxi’s Blog, September 29, 2010 (Chinese only)
- Zhu Mingyong’s Defense Statement in Fan Qihang’s Trial in the First Instance (朱明勇樊奇杭案一审辩护词) (Part 1) (Part 2) (Chinese only)
For more information on Chinese lawyers and scholars commentary on Chongqing mafia crackdown and Fan Qihang’s case (Chinese only), see: