When Jiang Tianyong first arrived in Beijing to work as a lawyer, he was in the same firm as Li Heping and Li Chunfu. Heping and Jiang Tianyong were from the same town, and had been classmates; Heping always called Jiang, “Old Jiang.” Sometimes when they disagreed they would argue; Heping would get utterly exasperated, and shout, “Jiang, you old codger!”
As the number of human rights lawyers in the firm increased, the Bureau of Justice repeatedly applied pressure. Finally, in 2009, the firm’s human rights lawyers faced the reality of having to switch firms. I remember at that time Heping said to me: In the future, out of all these lawyers, the one who will become a great lawyer is Jiang Tianyong. At the time, Old Jiang had only been working for five years. In fact, there were a number of lawyers from Li Heping’s firm who later became great lawyers (Li Xiongbing, Li Chunfu, Jiang Tianyong, etc.). Some people might think the definition of a “great lawyer” depends on how much money one makes and how famous one is. I, however, believe that great lawyers are those who abide by their conscience.
Old Jiang and I became “enemies” because of human rights cases. I had been doing what I could to oppose Heping in representing those cases. I had tried every possible way to discourage him, but he wouldn’t listen, and I felt anxious and helpless. Back then, it seemed that Heping and Old Jiang had so much to talk about that they could never stop talking. Whenever they were together they would just talk and talk, all about cases. When I heard them I got really angry, and felt that Old Jiang was ruining Heping. It was only that I didn’t have the chance to express it.
One time when Heping had gone out, I tried to call him but couldn’t get through. I got really anxious, and began calling his fellow lawyers. When I phoned Old Jiang I couldn’t mask my fear. Old Jiang was really annoyed, and he said, “Do you have to be so afraid?” I was upset and agitated, so I hung up.
From that point on, I did not speak to Old Jiang for three years, and I refused to let him come to my house. Every time Old Jiang came to see Heping, they had to meet downstairs and talk by the side of the road.
Later Heping complained to me: “You’re like a wolfdog by my side, biting all my friends and driving them away.” But when others came to complain about me, Heping was determined not to give in! Heping’s motto was: She’s my wife, and I’ll take the punches for her.
If it weren’t for 709, I would have continued to believe that I was right: not understanding Heping, and actively shielding myself from the truth of vicious incidents in our society.
As soon as these vicious incidents happen, they would sufficiently horrify civilized society. However, we actually choose to be numb, and to avoid it!
Looking at the earth-shattering news that Old Jiang has once again disappeared, and thinking about how Heping and Chunfu disappeared for nearly one year and five months without any information [from the authorities]—make me realize how wrongheaded I had been in treating lawyer Jiang Tianyong as an enemy, and how worthless my role as the “big wolfdog” was.
So, thank you, 709, for finally clearing my blindness and enlightening me.
Wang Qiaoling, 709 Family Member
November 30, 2016