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District Court Judge Upholds Service of Human Rights Lawsuit on Former Chinese Premier on Behalf of Tiananmen Square Survivors

August 9, 2002

Press release issued by:
RIPTIDE - Communications for Change


District Court Judge Upholds Service of Human Rights Lawsuit on Former Chinese Premier on Behalf of Tiananmen Square Survivors

August 9th, 2002 - Late yesterday afternoon, District Court Judge William Pauley III ruled that a human rights case could proceed against former Chinese Premier Li Peng. The U.S. Government had challenged the legitimacy of the service of process on the former Premier. The case before the court charges the former Premier was responsible for human rights violations in the Tiananmen Square protests as a direct result of his proclamation of martial law on May 20, 1989, the date of the uprising. The complaint, filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of four Chinese nationals and their families, seeks unspecified damages for summary
execution, arbitrary detention, torture and other acts that resulted in thousands of casualties.

In his opinion, Judge Pauley stated that the function of U.S. State Department security is to protect foreign officials, like Li Peng, from "physical harm, not service of process."

CCR attorney Jennie Green said, "Judge Pauley carefully and clearly held that the legal standards allowing a plaintiff to begin a lawsuit will not be suspended just because that lawsuit is against a foreign official.

People such as Li Peng cannot avoid responsibility for human rights atrocities such as the Tiananmen Square massacre by hiding behind their U.S. State Department Security detail."

Zhou Fengsuo, one of the Plaintiffs and a student leader during the uprising said "This has been a long wait, but we are one step forward. This lawsuit against Li Peng demands accountability and legal responsibility from those with bloody hands."

Xiong Yan, another plaintiff and also a student leader added: "This is a powerful warning to those Chinese officials who brazenly commit crimes. We hope LI Peng's case will be heard in court soon, and we will ultimately prevail."

CCR Legal Director William Goodman stated that, "The decision by Judge
Pauley comes at a critical time in our national history. While making every effort to fight terrorism on all fronts, it is significant that the U.S government has sought to protect Li Peng and block justice for those who suffered at his hands during the Tiananmen Square uprising."

The case against Li Peng was developed in conjunction with Human Rights in China, the preeminent international non-governmental organization founded by Chinese scientists and scholars in March 1989 to promote universally recognized human rights and advance the institutional protection of these rights in China.

Human Rights in China's Executive Director Xiao Qiang, called the Court's decision "a confirmation that China's rulers are not immune from claims for international justice."